Monday, June 30, 2008

The beginning of the end

As much as it would have been nice to be stationed at the Storm Castle TA very close to Howie, there are definitely some advantages to hanging out at Ennis Lake (CP30/TA14). We have phone and internet access, we get to send people toward the finish line, it’s a beautiful location, and we have met some really interesting locals. John says it reminds him of East Texas. Well, without that finish line thing.

We’re at a campground with other tent and RV campers, and it’s first-come, first-served. PQ's plan for setting up the TA was apparently to show up and hope there was a campsite open. There wasn’t (it was Friday night) so our easy-ups are set up next to the camp bathroom. It’s not as bad as that sounds, we actually have plenty of room and it doesn’t smell. Parking of crew RV’s will be challenging when we get more than 3 or 4 of them here, but we’re taking over camp sites as people leave. So far we MIGHT be OK as we get busier.

We’re here with Franklin again plus a nice gal named Marianne who had been at TA6 previously. She helped answer some of my questions about what kind of signs were posted there – and she wasn’t the TA captain, but now I know who to blame for some of the miscommunication between there and TA7.

The locals are mostly very nice people who camp and fish here, a few riding 4x4s with no shirts on, drinking beer, putting gasoline on their campfire – they might be rednecks.

We are seeing white pelicans flying around. They were on the lake right in front of us the first morning, but haven’t come back that close since. Maybe we smell.

We can see Lone Mountain from here and it’s very pretty from this angle too. The finish line is close!

Team Nike was obviously the first team to arrive, complete with the pre-arrival media frenzy. We tracked their Spot all day and started providing updates to the media and crew. It seemed to go on longer as we checked more frequently. We got a call from HQ asking if Nike was there, because their Spot had stalled for maybe an hour. Although the last Spot update was still 9 miles away, so I can’t imagine what HQ was thinking. They are superhuman, but they don’t fly. Spot restarted, Nike is still coming, still coming, moving just a bit every 20-30 minutes. The camera crew set up on the road about 3 miles down, then finally they saw them, and a while later the team came walking into our TA.

The team was moving OK, not fast but with no obvious problems. Mike Kloser jumped into the lake to cool off and almost started an incident with a local camper when he stepped on the man’s homemade boat while getting in/out of the water. John was awesome in dealing with the irate boatman and our race/local relations are still intact. I wrote it up in the incident log, I expect that’s the end of that.

And then Nike was on their way, riding up to the finish line. Congrats!

More waiting, which is awesome at this point. It has been really, really nice to be able to relax, sleep!, eat, work on the laptop, and recover from TA7 madness. I heard there were supposed to be 100 volunteers but there are only 70 here. There are 24 CP people, which sounds like a lot until you start adding up 3-4 people per TA and 2 people per CP. When there were teams spread out from CP16 through 30, that comes out to about 34 people needed at the same time. Maybe we are doing better now, since teams are starting to finish and I expect they are closing CP’s at the back of the course. I hope so. Life is good here, in any case. We got pizza a couple nights ago : ) and there is an RV place with showers down in the town of Ennis.

Mark Macy is here to support his son Travis who is racing with team Merrell. He came over to chat with us (our laptop is a big draw) and it turns out that he is awesomely funny. We swapped stories from Borneo, including the time our teams had 2 people traveling together over the first set of islands to meet our teammates with the Perahu boats. A bunch of teams got stuck trying to go over one island in the middle of the night. We kept getting cliffed out, slipping and sliding around in the muddy jungle. We saw Mark and Marshall Ulrich but did our own thing – later we discussed how stupid it was not to follow them. Mark apparently had his own discussion later with Adrian Crane about how all these teams were following HIM (he claims not to be a good navigator). We explained how we went around the island saddle and how it did work (he had looked at that as a route option). A brush with greatness – too cool!

Merrell came in limping on Sunday morning. John tracked them overnight and they were almost always moving, just slowly, slowly. We heard they slept an hour and a half on the trail and struggled to get through the trek. They went into their TA and collapsed on the ground for a while. They all looked OK as they departed on bike, although Robyn didn’t want to unclip her feet for gear check, so she just hung onto the med van instead. They made it to the finish with the fastest bike split so far.

There was a cameraman following Merrell all the way across the final trek last night. It turned out to be Rick Baraff from team Silly Rabbits, so I couldn’t help taking his picture. Cool!

While we waited for the next couple teams, we had a friendly discussion with Marianne about who we are rooting for. She has friends on team DART-nuun, while obviously we want MOAT to do well. It looks like she won that battle, oh well!

We have a bunny rabbit living near us. He runs across the road, even with a dog playing obliviously nearby.

You can see how much more laid back this TA is when I’m talking about bunnies and not snowshoe debacles.

We have heard that the orienteering course is set up with bonus time per checkpoint instead of penalty time if you miss any (not sure if there is a required minimum or not). Crews ask if we know how much bonus time each team has, but I don’t have that info on the PQ website and I’m certainly not about to call with that question!

We watched the Spots as DART-nuun caught up to team Bones on the trail coming toward us. Their crews wondered if it was going to be a race. A couple TV guys came down, including Rick again who went out on the trail to find them. It started to look as though the teams were traveling together. Someone theorized that Bones had gotten an extra orienteering point (and the racers apparently also said so when they arrived). I guess the teams figured that a 2 hour bonus was too difficult for DART-nuun to overcome, and neither team was in any shape to race each other. So they came in and left together, although for some reason they didn’t finish together. They did have a faster transition than Nike and Merrell.

Team MOAT just came in this morning (Monday). They had been hiking at a good rate until the last third of the last leg. Then it seemed to fall apart on them. Leslie reported tendonitis issues as she moved gingerly toward the MOAT Mover RV, Shaun was limping (although his thigh bruise is healing), and Wink wasn’t saying much. Dave just looked tired. We talked with Shaun for a couple minutes and he wasn’t exactly coherent. The team slept for 30 minutes and they just rode out, looking glad to be on bike. Go MOAT!

Gear check update: We are telling crews what we will be checking. We settled on a minimal and (we think) reasonable gear check. However, teams are still digging through their packs for whistles and a cell phone. So far MOAT was the most efficient with the gear check. My impression of Nike and Merrell is that they are fairly disgusted with all the gear checking; they are not in any way taking it out on us, but they aren’t helping much to make it happen easily – like pulling teeth. The bear spray is still easy!

OK, I’m going to try to post this while I can… more TA30 stuff later!

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