Essence of a Good Team
The two wheel track across the field just petered out. I silently panicked inside. To pull out the map right now at the start would just be a sign of weakness. I could just imagine the thoughts of all those headlamp wearing runners behind us, “look at him, he is lost already”. Damn, I am supposed to be the king of racing in the dark. I just kept going and pretended to know where I was going. I had a pretty good idea as I glanced over to a faint ridgeline coming down in the field. The sun was a hour out but twilight was setting the sky a deep blue and we could see the horizon.
“Lets jump the fence”, Dave suggested, and we did. Then we were on the right path. And then we were not on the right path. And then we found the “Ice Hole”, a culvert under route 200 that I came through last year and almost killed myself on. Beyond the tunnel we ran down what I believed was a trail to the Blackfoot River. Dave had not been on that section and it was up to me to navigate us through it.
“Um, lets cut across that field”, which gave away the fact that I was panicking and bailing out. My memory was failing me. Dave calmly suggested we keep going until we hit the river. I agreed and decided to take my place as the wimpy team mate that needed to be nurtured through this thing.
I had other problems. The lack of “bathroom duties” before the start had rendered my lower intestine a tornado of death. I was certainly glad I had a stash of Action Wipes in my pack. I was going to need them. I didn’t want to slow down the team so I kept it to myself and quietly suffered. And then we found the river.
It wasn’t long before we got to the bikes at River Camp Transition Area. As long as I have known Dave he has been pretty laid back and if it were not for his casual non-running hike the damn adventure style I would of never made it through the MESSS last year. So I expected maybe he would take his time getting on the bike and I could sneak in a quick run to the port-a-potties. Not so, he seemed determined to get out of the quagmire of panicking people as soon as possible and started out on his bike. Another panic set in.
In adventure racing you can not get separated from your team mates by more then like 300 feet or so. Running to the bathroom without Dave could get us disqualified. This would be the true test of a team … a team that shits together is a true team indeed. I was glad we were not co-ed.
But that was not my current panic. My current panic is that Dave was on his bike and pedaling away. I did everything I could to keep the legal distance. I was throwing on a backpack, putting on clothes, and running with my bike like a frantic baby duck keeping up with mommy duck. Finally I just jumped on and started pedaling. Exploding intestine, bare hands, and all. I started just following him. This was not going well.
Soon I was ready to just throw it all in. My hands were exposed and the below freezing temperatures combined with the wind speed of a speeding mountain bike just made life a living hell. I had one more idea before I let Dave in on my predicament. Here I am this expert adventure racing 24 solo big shot and I was falling apart at the seems. My last chance would be to get my hands out of the wind. I pulled my jersey (wasn’t even wearing a coat) sleeves out and tied them off. At least my hands were protected. The biggest drawback of this technique is that there is no way to shift or break.
I figured that if I crashed it would be spectacular. I would launch over the bars and my intestines would explode at the same time. It would be like the fourth of July fireworks show. I just kept his pace which was quite fast. Next thing I know we rounded a bend and he declared, “This is it”.
I hadn’t even been thinking of doing my part as a team mate. I wasn’t checking our navigation, heck I didn’t even know where we were. I think Dave sensed this. Maybe that later on I might just come in handy. That or he was wondering why he hooked up with a wilderness wussy. In any case a good team is like a good family or relationship. Not everyone can be on their game. But there is always someone that just leads the way until you get back on track.
It was time to get off the bikes and start our orienteering hike. I sensed a good idea coming on.
“Dave, check the maps and get a some coordinates … um … and … I’ll go behind this tree and …”, I was going to come up with something like hide the bikes.
“Yea, no problem take your time”, Dave said calmly as if this was just another hike in the woods.
Moments (no pun here) later I was re-set, my hands had gloves, and I was certainly glad to have brought Action Wipes.
To be continued …