Sunday, October 4, 2015

Endeavor Team Challenge 2015 : Race Report Team Ryan Ross, Robert Finlay

Overview Map, Endeavor Team Challenge 2015
Overview Map, Endeavor Team Challenge 2015

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul. *

* The first stanza of the poem "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley, the other stanzas will follow throughout this report. This poem would follow us, all the competitors of the Endeavor Team Challenge, throughout the competition. Invictus is a good word, meaning; invincible, unconquered, undefeated, unconquerable.  

Friday night, 11/12 September, 2015, my teammate Ryan Ross, my wife Rebecca, and I have a room in the Bear Valley Lodge. It is midnight. I am nervous and anxious and cannot sleep. In the morning, Ryan and I will begin the athletic event known as the Endeavor Team Challenge. At 6 AM, after months of preparation, we start. I have never, in my entire life, been apprehensive before an athletic event. How did it get to this point?

The Endeavor Team Challenge (ETC), basically involves teams of two facing 30 hours and 40 miles of mountain summits, obstacle courses, lake and stream crossings, physical challenges, multiple long movements of undisclosed distances of 10 to 20 miles, climbing and rappelling, kayaking, various mental challenges and stress, memorization and recitation, problem solving, extra equipment to carry, limited sleep, day and night orienteering, a final run, and at an undisclosed place and time during the event, a challenge called the battle drill. All that sounds pretty good to me. 

There are five main events; the Crucible Footmarch, a road march with pack with all one's gear, The Competitor Field, with five sub events that include an obstacle course, a strength event, a problem solving event, a climbing event, and day navigation, Night Navigation, The Final Run, and the Battle Drill. Obviously, this is a very good test of all around fitness. 

In 2013, Ryan and I had entered and finished and though we didn't think so at the time, we had actually done quite well in this event. We placed in the top ten in each of the five main events and we had finished sixth overall. We had a great time, creating a great memory, and we intended to return. Here is our report from that year; Ryan Ross, Robert Finlay ETC 2013

This year, 2015, we would finish 13th. In the end, we would not be disappointed with that result.   

This past year, I had been training fairly hard and continuously since December when my son, Druce, and I began preparing for the Everglades Challenge. This is an approximate 300 mile small boat race that occurs annually in early March along Florida's western coast. We have entered and finished this race six times. We have taken first place three times. We enter in Class 2, kayaks without downwind sail, paddling a triple seat kayak. This year the race was cancelled by the Coast Guard in the first few hours, but that didn't stop us from continuing and completely the event anyway. Here's a good sea story of that experience, Everglades Challenge 2015

Meeting and training together two or three days of every week, Druce and I had trained hard for the Everglades Challenge, a good thing, since we ended up paddling against headwinds for 210 miles out of the 266 miles of our course. Here's a lively video of our training for that challenge. 

Let me tell you - every time we beached up for a good meal and some rest - arms ached! Mine did anyway. That is a lot of upwind pulling! So, given that it was my intention to sign up for and get stronger for the next Endeavor Team Challenge, it now became painfully obvious I needed to get my arms, shoulders, back, and chest a lot stronger, and of course at the same time, continue to improve my running, agility, and endurance. 

After returning from the Everglades Challenge, I rested a few weeks, and then in early April I bought a BowFlex machine. I figured this machine would allow me to work on all around strength, flexibility, and range of motion of my joints, to which I would add in other exercises, usually super-setting a bowflex exercise with a more traditional exercise such as various versions of push-ups and pull-ups, or with traditional dumbbell or barbell exercises. 

I continued to mountain bike, I continued to run. Then in mid April, in the middle of a 20 mile mountain bike ride, day dreaming on a down hill, which is never a good idea, and going a bit fast, go fast, take chances - I crashed. After 35 feet of careening down the slope out of control, my left knee came to an abrupt rest under the weight of my body and bike and bent just a little wrong. I had just severely sprained or perhaps torn my medial collateral ligament (MCL). I did finish the ride though. 

I took a month off from riding and running. In mid May, about the time of my birthday, my 62nd, I resumed training. It seemed as though I was back to 'square one' with my running. On my feet, I did not feel athletic; I felt slow, awkward, and not the least bit agile, and my knee was still in pain. But - I still had four months to prepare. 

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud. 
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

With the exception of one or two weekends, Ryan and I would meet and train at least one day, but sometimes both days, of every weekend for the next 4 months. On these weekend training evolutions, we always ran and we always worked on upper body strength. During the week, on our own, we ran and we worked on our upper body strength. We trained and we trained and we trained. In Ryan's words, "I have never prepared so much for a race...".

My evolution in returning from the knee injury was slow. Despite what the poem says, I found myself at times writhing on the ground, wincing and whining. But, every week saw improvement. We were running better. We were getting stronger.

With about six weeks to go, our running became more oriented to speed hiking and running with packs. One such training day saw us speed hiking the 21.5 mile round trip distance of North Loop to Charleston Peak in the Spring Mountain Range of southern Nevada. The starting and finishing point is at 8440', the summit of Charleston is 11,918', total elevation gain is 5600', and most of the trail stays along the ridge above 10,800'. We pushed ourselves hard and this kicked our ass, especially mine. But a good training run it was, as most of this trail is above the highest elevation we'd see at the challenge. Our legs and lungs were getting ready.

With about four weeks to go, I put aside the Bowflex machine and concentrated my strength training on hanging strength, pull ups, and shoulder presses. I built a set of monkey bars in my garage and added that to my strength training. Getting ready for the Endeavor's strength challenge, I would do a set of 75 lb. barbell shoulder presses, returning to the ground with each press, then shoulder the barbell and run around my circular driveway, a loop of 170 meters. Or I would do a set of kettle bell swings and shoulder presses and with each 16 kg kettle bell in hand, I would again run around my driveway. My knee was still bothering me, but I was getting stronger.

During the final training weekends, a typical training day at my place looked like this; a 12 mile run with packs from my house out into the White Hills of Arizona, in the middle of the run a couple of top roped rock climbs and a few laps on my training rocks. Then back at my boat house/shop/office/work out cave; various types of push-ups and pull-ups, monkey bars, barbell and kettle bell presses and runs, some pulls of the weighted power sled, and some archery practice. We were getting stronger.

The Training Cave
The Training Cave

Yes, we were getting stronger and getting ready. But the problem was, my knee still bothered me. Sure, once I got it warmed up and moving, it would work fine more or less. But, I was not really running the way I wanted to. I really didn't have the agility I wanted. I did not have the power on hills I wanted. I did not have the sled pulling power I needed. When I stopped moving, such as when I spent too much time sitting at my desk, or sitting in my kayak (I kayak a lot, my business is Kayak Lake Mead), or when I lay down to sleep at night, when I got up - I was limping. So, though I was getting ready to the best of my ability, I had weaknesses and therefore reservations.

And then three weeks out from the event, Ryan twisted his ankle. I mean, he twisted it bad. In his words, "I have never prepared so much for a race and been so anxious and nervous because of my ankle obviously. I didn't want to let my teammate down. If it were a solo race honestly I am not sure I would have raced".

So, here is the team. Ryan Ross, he is about the best teammate anyone can hope for. He is tough, one of the toughest guys I know, he endures, he will endure deprivation and misery beyond belief, he is selfless, he contributes everything he has, and his only agenda is to push himself as hard as he can. Myself; I will not throw in the towel.

It is now Friday night, 11/12 September, 2015, the night before the Endeavor Team Challenge begins. Though I have complete faith in Ryan, I lack confidence in myself. Saturday 4 AM comes around and I snap out of it (the lack of confidence thing). I get up with scarcely a limp. It was time to dress, eat, hydrate, throw our packs on our backs, and report to roll call.  

Roll Call and Briefing (Saturday 0500 hrs.):
We show up a couple of minutes late but not too late to announce "Here!" when our team number 38 is called out. Positive energy is everywhere. Our confidence waxes strong. We take off on a little jog to warm up.

Greg Hastings and Kent Kiersey, the directors of the event, give a good pre-event briefing. You can hear their excitement. You can see it in their demeanor. Greg gives us some new information; the brick we were issued at check-in the day before, we will be carrying that throughout the two days. Kent assigns us our homework; as a team, we will need to memorize the poem 'Invictus' and at some point during the event we will need to recite the poem, flawlessly, before being allowed to continue.

So, with about 15 minutes before The Start, Ryan and I reach into our packs, grab our Competitor Handbooks. I ask Ryan if he wouldn't mind taking the first two stanzas, I take the last two. We begin memorizing the poem, walking back and forth, sipping coffee, anticipating the start. I am reciting to myself, "I am the captain of my soul".

The Start Line: (0555 hrs):
Despite the trepidation I've expressed for this event and the doubts I have of myself, once I am on a race start line, any start line, I look left and then right, and I ask myself rhetorically, "Who is going to beat me"? I believe there are 43 teams at this start line.    

The Crucible: (0600 hrs):
This will end up being an 18 mile speed march with packs with about 4700' of elevation gain. Our packs have all the required gear for the ETC which includes our sleep system, all our food for the next 30 hours, along with 3 liters of water which we are required to carry.

Ryan and I spent some time dialing down and perfecting our packs. Without food and water they weigh only about 8 lbs. We can wear them and go swimming without any transition. They are versatile and they are light.

Basically our packs are a back panel with smart wing pockets and mesh, but with no main compartment. The main compartment you provide as either a utility bag or what we do is use a dry bag or a double dry bag to insure they're waterproof if we're swimming. Of course this year, we didn't need to wear these packs while swimming. But, should we have needed to, they are capable.

Designed by Scott Gibson, these packs are from Wingnut Gear. My original Wingnut pack, the 'Adventure', a day/day plus pack, has been on my back almost daily for 8 years now and has seen a lot of abuse. In addition to being smart packs, they are tough.

Three liters of water weighs 6.6 lbs and our food, though we didn't weigh it, probably weighs about 3 lbs. So, our packs are about 18 lbs. It turns out, we were carrying more food than we would eat.

The first 4 miles from elevation 7100' to 8500' goes quick. Two years ago we lead the field to this first hilltop, today we are struggling to maintain probably 12th position. We are marching as fast as we can, but this is a fast field of competitors.

At the bottom of that first hill, about 5 miles into the march, it is announced to us we have arrived at the Battle Drill.

The Battle Drill (approx. 0723 hrs):
The Battle Drill this year consisted of five events; a heavy lift, a weighted sled pull, a weighted sled push, a heavy ball throw, and a weighted carry. Though I kind of dig these types of events, I have no power in my legs for this. During the Battle Drill the clock for The Crucible will keep on ticking. The Battle Drill will be difficult.

The Heavy Lift is the lift and placement of a boulder to the top of a tree stump. There is a selection of boulders to choose from. Ryan and I choose the heaviest. We chose poorly. We cannot lift it to the top of the stump. Before our time runs out, we quickly select another boulder and lift that successfully. We end up placing 11th in this sub-event.

The Weighted Sled Pull is a two part team effort. One teammate does the actual pulling of the sled, the other pulls the sled's 2.5 inch diameter by 50' long rope (guessing at the diameter and length) until it is stretched out, which must be done before the sled can be moved. The effort is 50 meters one way and 50 meters back. I pull the rope, Ryan pulls the sled. My timing is off at the turn around and Ryan must wait briefly before he can begin the return run. We place 25th in this sub-event.

The Weighted Sled Push involves both of us pushing a weighted sled 100 meters, turning around a small shed and then returning 100 meters. The push to the sled is on relatively even ground, the ground on the way back slopes slightly to the left. I am on the left. My effort in this push lags behind Ryan's, so we keep veering left, and Ryan must keep lending a hand in pushing my side of the sled. We place 34th in this sub-event.

The Heavy Ball Throw involves throwing a classic leather medicine ball with feet static to the ground. My throw is not as far as Ryan's. We place 25th in this sub-even.    

The final sub-event of the Battle Drill is the Weighted Carry which involves each of us grabbing a weighted sack and running 300 meters; 150 meters out to and around a traffic cone and back. One sack is heavier than the other. My ass is feeling kicked. I ask Ryan to grab the heavier. We run with these sacks hoisted onto our shoulders behind our necks. We place 21st in this sub-event.

Our performance is 25th place in the Battle Drill competition. We had blasted through the Battle Drill in about 20 minutes. We had the option of course of resting more between events, but I don't think that would have helped us much. That was all the raw power I was going to get from my knee. Besides, resting more in the Battle Drill would not have aided our time in the continuing Crucible.

Anyway, I was glad that was behind us! We continue marching on with The Crucible in 12th position.

The Crucible continued (approx. 0743 hrs):            
Our next 4 mile task is to gain the summit of Mt. Ruba, another approximate 2000' of elevation gain. We keep 12th position to the summit, lose it momentarily as we begin the descent, regain 12th right away, and keep it for the next 4 miles to the slopes of Osborne Hill, where we are passed and we drop back to 13th position.

Close to the summit of Osborne Hill, I am having minor black out spells. Twice things begin to fade just a little, twice I stop, bend over and grab my knees. At the time I'm thinking, "What the f..k"? During the second of these little spells, we are passed again, dropping us to 14th position.

At the top of Osborne, I can look down the trail and see that team that just passed us. As we descend Osborne, we reel them in, exchange a few pleasantries and pass them.

With about 1.75 miles to go, the trail twists and turns and undulates up and down. Ryan and I charge every uphill and run every downhill. We keep 13th position to the finish of The Crucible at around 11:30 AM.

We are in 19th position overall after The Crucible and The Battle Drill.     

The Crucible Aftermath:
The entry to the Competitor Field begins with two short Australian rappels i.e. the facing forward rappel technique. Hank Kiersey (Kent's Dad) is manning the first rappel which essentially is a brief lesson of this technique. I tell Hank, "Now Hank, don't give me any coaching". My skill on this first rappel, under Hank's supervision, is a bit flawed but good enough. Years ago I Australian rappelled down abandoned elevator shafts for time, smashing in to stacked mattresses at the bottom or off of bridges spanning rivers and flying off the end of the rope into the water. Anyway, after Ryan and I finish the second rappel, it is time to sign in to the Competitor Field.

But first we need a break. We wander over to a faucet so we can replenish our water. We are both shot. I am fried. Spectators are allowed on the field. Rebecca and Druce show up. It is good to see them. Druce has unbounded enthusiasm, but I can't interact very well. I just need to lay down and recover. I sit up to drink some more water with electrolytes and my hands are shaking. It doesn't do Rebecca much good to see that.

During this rest we are also working on our homework, our poem memorization. Pacing back and forth, memorizing and reciting to ourselves. Reciting the words...

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
 Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
I get a little emotional. I am prone to do that.

Recovering from The Crucible
Recovering from The Crucible, photo by Druce Finlay

The Competitor Field (approx. 1230 hrs):
After recovering it is time to engage the Competitor Field which consists of five sub-events. We tackle these events in this order; mountaineering, team reaction course, obstacle course, a strength event, and finally day navigation. The field will close at 7 PM at Alpine Lake which essentially is the far end of the day navigation course. That dictates that the day navigation will be last on our competitor field agenda.

Mountaineering Event:
The Mountaineering Event has three sub-events; a Tyrolean traverse, a rappel, which are just pass or fail events, and the rock climbing event, which is scored.

In 2013 Ryan and I took 2nd place in the Mountaineering Event, but it was scored differently. We chose a moderate climb and we did it fast.

This year we will only place 18th in this event. That will be due to my poor decision making.

This time points are awarded by the difficulty of the climb. I choose one of the highest scoring climbs. It is a crack climb and I have a lot of experience climbing cracks. I cruise it scoring 3 points, the maximum points an individual can score in this event. I encourage Ryan to climb this same climb. In my mind, you plug a crack and are solid, solid is very good if you are climbing without a rope. But of course crack climbing is really about technique, practice, and experience. Ryan is highly capable with everything he does, so I encourage  him to go for it. It is not my practice to tell Ryan he can't do something. But he does not have a lot of climbing experience, especially on cracks. Ryan ends up, working his ass off up there, tearing his hands up, getting frustrated, and he comes down with no points. This is my fault entirely. I should have coached him to a more moderate climb where he would have still netted some points.

Ryan Ross after his rock climb...
Ryan Ross after his rock climb, photo by Druce Finlay

Teamwork Reaction Course:
So, off to the Teamwork Reaction Course where we will only place 29th. This reaction course is fun. We get to communicate verbally using no hands and build Lego models, each of us reversing roles as builder and communicator. We get to fire off a few arrows, where Ryan scores and I do not. Using an avalanche receiver, we get to run around in the woods for a few minutes to find an avalanche transmitter. It is all kind of fun and not strenuous at all, but I guess were were kind of slow, i.e. dumb.

Team Reaction Course Puzzle 2
Team Reaction Course Puzzle 2, photo by Druce Finlay
Obstacle Course:
Now to the Obstacle Course which actually is a lot more than just obstacles. It is 1.6 miles in length and depending upon how you count them, probably includes 10 sub-events total. The course starts off with six obstacles, spread over a 300 meter distance, all of which require team work to negotiate. I would wager that only a few teams went through these first six obstacles faster than Ryan and I. Our teamwork was impeccable and our speed not too shabby.

Although at one time my standing broad jump was 9' 2'', I can't jump. So, at each wall type obstacle, I climb on Ryan's thighs and then onto his shoulders whereupon I can reach and climb over the top of the wall, turn around, bend down the wall as far as I can, and extend a hand. Ryan jumps, grabs my hand, I lift, and we continue.

At the obstacle called the 'Rope Climb-Monkey Rings-Rope Descent', I squat down, Ryan climbs onto my shoulders, reaches the first monkey bar, and he's off. I climb the rope and instead of hanging and swinging from the bars and rings, I climb to the top and walk across. Ryan is already on the ground on the far side and he helps me with the rope descent by insuring I don't touch the frame marked in red (don't touch red) at the bottom.

After the sixth obstacle, we have about a 600 meter uphill run to the top of the dam. But, I am completely gassed. It is important to run now but I am done! I can't breath, I certainly can't run. I grab Ryan's belt and he literally drags me to the dam. We walk the 60 meters to the dam's top, grab two pfd's, walk the 200 meters across the dam, swim the designated 300 meter course, run down the pavement to the 7th obstacle, negotiate that, and then run the final 300 meters to the finish. Whew!

We place 12th in the Obstacle Course.

Obstacle #2: The technique we used for walls, Ryan gets me up, I turn around, extend a hand, extend a hand, Ryan jumps, I lift...
Obstacle #2: The technique we used for walls, Ryan gets me up, I turn around, extend a hand, extend a hand, Ryan jumps, I lift, photo by Druce Finlay

Strength Event:
OK, now to the Strength Event which I have been dreading all day, been dreading it since last night. This is a cool event which normally I would like to fully engage. But my knee is hurting and it is going to hurt worse carrying heavy objects on the steep inclines of this event. I ask Ryan how his ankle is doing and he tells me it hurts. So, here we go...

Displayed before us is an assortment of items arrayed in a specific manner. Our task is to carry these things up the granite slabs about 70 meters, cache them there until all the items have been moved, and then once the items are all in place at the top, return them to their starting position in the exact array in which we found them. This is a timed event.

The items are; a plywood box/cube, 2' x 2' x 2', not heavy but awkward, two light weight logs, one medium weight log, a heavy 'log' actually a railroad tie, and two 5 gallon buckets filled water, with a line below which you cannot spill water.

We take a look at these things and develop a plan. Obviously the railroad tie is a team carry. Our plan is good. We move the items up the slabs and then back down in a logical and efficient manner. Our speed is consistent but not really very fast. We finish the event in 26th position.

So far this day we have sort of been wandering around and getting our asses kicked.

Strength Event: Ryan and Robert with railroad tie...
Strength Event: Ryan and Robert with railroad tie, photo by Druce Finlay

Day Navigation:
Now off to Day Navigation! It is 4 PM. Our task is to get as many navigation control points as we can before 7 PM, the cut-off time. There is an array of land navigation control points, each worth 1 point, and one water/kayak navigation control point, worth 2 points, which we will be assigned if we opt to do it. We want to use every minute available, but we don't want to be late. If you're late, your score card goes to zero. At a normal orienteering event, you lose a few points for each minute late, here you lose 'em all. I love that, adds in some potential desperation.

Spectators are encouraged on the Competitor Field, which the Day Navigation is part of. So Druce, after receiving Kent's permission, accompanies us. He doesn't have his own pack with water, etc. so he only travels with us to our first two check points. Druce and I have accompanied each other, i.e. have been teammates with each other, and sometimes with Ryan, on overland and on the sea navigation endeavors, some of them hundreds of miles in length; in Scotland, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Florida, South Dakota, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California. I think that about covers it. I love that he is here hanging out with us. Druce himself is an excellent navigator, with superb map to terrain and terrain to map association skills. He is always super enthusiastic, so he too is a great teammate! But here, he must just be the photographer and restrain himself from talking nav.

Day Navigation: Second checkpoint found...
Day Navigation: Second checkpoint found, photo by Druce Finlay

Ryan and I navigate across the landscape very efficiently moving and acquiring point after point. But we have to climb over the shoulder of Osborne Hill again and I am moving very slow. Hills are really starting to bother me. I am moving like a snail.

We gather 7 land points, get to the water, and acquire our water control point for 2 more points or 9 points total. This gives us a 3rd place finish for Day Navigation.

Thus, we finish 20th in the Competitor Field competition. We don't know where we are overall but probably around 20th.

It is about 6:45 PM and it is time to eat, reorganize our packs, and rest. We are just carrying too much food. We have been pushing ourselves hard all day, you need food to push on, but when you're pushing this hard it is hard to eat. We each discard a bunch of food to the trash bin. I hate to waste food but I just can't carry it all. Our new food rations will work out just fine.

We lay out a tarp and lay down for some very needed rest. The Night Navigation Event is not scheduled to start until 9 PM, which means the briefing will probably begin at 8:30 PM. We have an hour and a half to sleep. The night nav doesn't start until 9:30 PM, so we end up with a little more rest.

Night Navigation (2130 hrs):
Greg gives the pre-event briefing; explaining out tasks, outlining safety concerns, that sort of thing. We are tasked with gaining one of the day navigation points from the previous event and one night navigation point. After that, we may collect as many optional points as we like.

Our assigned day nav point, CP 2, is one we had already visited today not far from the start. Our assigned night nav point, CP 12 is at the southern end of the night navigation area. All the control points are associated in the vicinity of roads or trails. This event is basically navigating roads, navigating to an attack point from which to leave the road, navigating to the control point, and returning to the road. So, this is basically a road march. That doesn't mean it will be easy.

Our plan is to grab CP 2  head south, grab a couple of CP's on the way to CP 12, and then see how many more we can get before the cut-off time of 4 AM. We acquire CP 2 quickly and then begin the road march south. On this long road march, Ryan spots a little Ring-necked snake, cute little thing. I move it off the road some yards to hopefully prevent it from getting hurt in the onrush of foot traffic.

We pass through the Night Navigation Finish around 11 PM and head southwest on a road leading to CP 7. Down in the vicinity of CP 7 my thinking gets a bit fuzzy. It is mapped in the middle of intermittent body of water. Once down there, I can't tell which side of the reservoir the cp is actually on. It appears to be on the far side. Ryan and I are not sure about the approach to the far side. In retrospect it may very well have been on the near side. The terrain was confusing. It confused us. Though we've walked about a half mile down to the vicinity of CP 7, we decide to cut our loses and bail on this one. It is about 11:30 PM.

We head down the road to CP 10. CP 10 is mapped on a ridge and measures only about 125 meters off the road. But, a direct bearing to it appears unlikely due to cliffs and heavy Manzanita vegetation. It is a ridge but the ridge is very crag like. Again, the terrain is difficult. We head generally north along an old, only partially mapped road, that parallels the ridge. We gain access on the northern end and work our way back along the ridge to CP 10, and success! It is about 12:30 AM.

We're back to road marching to CP 12. CP 12 is easy. It is just a matter of putting in a couple of miles. Miles though, do seem longer between midnight and 4 AM.

On the way back to the Night Navigation Finish, we grab CP 14. That gives us only 4 control points to our credit. Believe it or not, we finish the Night Navigation competition in 8th place. Night navigation competition is fun. One of the funnest things, hilarious really, is watching the other teams. It is natural to assume they are doing better than you. But, you have no idea what they're doing. Whatever problems you've encountered, it is very possible that they are dealing with even worse problems. Anyway, it is just very interesting watching people move around in the night.

Could we have done better in the night nav? Yes, I think so. We arrived back at the finish around 3:15 AM leaving 45 minutes on the table. Those 45 minutes might have been used to acquire CP 15 or 16. By map inspection, those cp's seemed easy enough, but you never know. One thing is for sure, you do not want to be late and lose all you points. If we had not wasted time with CP 7, certainly we may have had enough time to get one or more of CP 15 or 16. It's all conjecture now.

On the road back to the Finish, we utilize our time, working on memorizing our assigned homework while we march. Sure enough, before we can bivvy (short for bivouac, or camp/sleep) and get some rest, we must recite 'Invictus'. It takes us a few tries but by 3:45 AM we are finding a spot to bivvy down, eat something, and get some sleep.

Early Sunday Morning (0630 hrs):
It is 6 AM or so and teams are rustling about in their bivvys, doing I don't know what. Ryan and I remain laying down until 6:30 AM when we hear the wake up call, the soundtrack to "The Last of the Mohicans". If you saw that movie, they are always running across natural terrain. I find the music inspiring. We get up, organize our gear, eat some food.

We turn in our packs to a waiting trailer, not our bricks though, they stay with us. We pull our small break-a-way hydration packs out of our main packs, put 1 liter of water into our bladders, slip the brick into the mesh pocket. We are ready.

The leader board is posted showing us in 15th position overall. Kent gives the pre-event briefing. He lets us know that there will be a swim during this final run. He answers the question with, "Yes, you do have to take your bricks". He warns us the descent off of Inspiration Point is loose and potentially dangerous. To me that means a possible advantage. Ryan and I are good on loose, dangerous terrain. The Final Runs begins promptly at 7 AM

The Final Run (0700 hrs):
The run starts and people/teams seem fast. I don't seem fast. It is a long way up Slick Rock Jeep Trail and to the top of Inspiration Point. It is not that far, only a bit less than 5 miles. But, I am slow on hills. I struggle up Slick Rock Trail. Everyone seems to have passed us, the majority of the field anyway.

We get into a little conversation with Team 50, two gals. I ask where they're from, turns out Ventura and Oakland. I know a little about Ventura, I've hiked some in the mountains nearby, kayaked on the coast a little. The Bay Area I know fairly well. I finished high school in San Mateo, would bike up to Pt. Reyes or along Skyline Blvd. to Big Basin.  

The trail to Inspiration Point is beautiful. Ryan slips though when crossing the little stream of Silver Creek. It seems bad. When Ryan voices pain, it must be. A half a dozen times now in this challenge Ryan's voice has indicated excruciating pain. I wince and pray he's OK every time. The gals from Team 50 express genuine concern, I tell them to keep marching on, "we've got this". But Ryan, true to form lets his ankle rest and recover, for all of about 15 seconds. We're moving again forthwith.

The girls seem long gone. We come across another team. This is the team that caught us on The Crucible at Alpine Lake back in 2013. We all remembered each other. Back in '13, I asked where they were from, Vermont. I call them the Green Mountain Boys. It's fun to meet people on a race course.

We struggle up Inspiration Point. When we crest out, we see a whole herd of teams. Our pace along the summit trail picks up. At the crest of the downhill, we pass 2 or 3 teams. One team scolds us for being reckless. In our defense, we hadn't knocked anyone down or dislodged any rocks yet. Besides, we had just checked ourselves at the first of two narrow defiles each with a supervising race official. True enough, if they were perceiving dangerous behavior, the team scolding us was right to do so.

Anyway, we passed another team between the defiles, another one before reaching the grassy slopes below the rocks, another team in the grass before reaching the trail, two more teams on the trail, and two or three more teams at the lake. We had just passed 9 or 10 teams, maybe more.

We were running now and now at the lake, we were swimming. Our transition to swim takes zero time. We walk into the transition area, each of us were handed pfd's by a volunteer, Hank Kiersey takes the Spot Tracker off of Ryan's pack. Ryan jumps in the water. I need a moment to loosen the straps on my pfd so I can get it on, and I dive in behind him.

A pack of teams are in the water and closing the distance. We get to the other side, walk up the granite slab, and keep walking. We need no transition. Once clear of the lake and back on the trail, I put down a speed marching pace that has Ryan jogging intermittently to stay with me. I'm back into my own now. On the way to the climb of Osborne Hill's shoulder, we speed march the uphills and run the downhills. Our climb up the shoulder of Osborne is not too slow, no one passes us, and on the descent all the way to the highway crossing, we are running. From the highway to the finish line, I keep the brutal speed march going and we run the final 100 meters. We finished The Final Run in 10th position.

Once across the finish line, Ryan just lays down. Volunteers bring him ice. He has brutalized his ankle in a typical manner for him, in an unbelievable manner for anybody else.

In the end, in two out of the five main events, we finish in the top 10. This gave us a finish of 13th overall out of the 30 teams that finished, and I guess that ain't so bad. Could we have been in the top 10 overall if we had both scored 3 points on the rock climb or if during the night navigation, we had acquired 1 or 2 more control points? I don't know, maybe.

But, we'll be back.

It matters not how strait the gate, 
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

But for now, it's time to have a few drinks!

Celebration at The Finish, Endeavor Team Challenge​, photo by Rebecca Buchholz Finlay
Celebration at The Finish, Endeavor Team Challenge​, Druce Finlay, Ryan Ross, Robert Finlay, photo by Rebecca Buchholz Finlay


  1. Replies
    1. Oh not really, a good 'ol fashioned 30 hour adventure race is probably harder. What's good about this event is; it calls upon so many skill and strength sets, not all of which I'm 'up on' anymore.

  2. Wishing I could participate this year. Good luck to you.