Four Winds 2002
Day 4 - Danny gets up first and sets to taking care of the sick teammates. He breaks out the stove and cooks up freeze-dried eggs. It's amazing how good food in a bag can taste! It's moments like this that make me realize that we really are a team and we're all working to get the entire group through the race together.
We get back on the trail at 9:30, 12 hours after we stopped. Colleen is still feeling pretty rough, but she finds the strength to keep moving. We’ve been on this bike leg for 29 ½ hours and my odometer reads 40 miles. We’re facing a 2000’ plus climb, followed by a brief downhill and a drop down a canyon on a single-track trail. The blazing sun is baking us. We’re hiking along talking about what we would want when we get back to camp. Both Colleen and I are dreaming of an ice-cold soda.
A few minutes later, two hunters pass and I spot a cooler in the back of the truck. “Got any sodas in there?” Three cold Cokes later and the day has suddenly turned around.
We top out on this trail and we’re excited about the possibility of a good, fast downhill section through Wardsworth Canyon, until we actually get there. The trail turns out to be an insane jumble of rocks, roots, downed trees, overgrown trail, stream crossings, and the occasional precarious cliff face. While a considerable portion of the trail is certainly rideable, we frustratingly walk to keep the group together. What we had originally expected to last 45 minutes, and in reality should take about 2 hours, ends up taking over 9.
Like other areas of trail we had been through so far, we hear and see cows here too. But this canyon holds a special memory, and will forever be know as Dead Cow Canyon. We arrive at a river crossing about 3 miles into the canyon. I’m leading as we come through the bushes and I’m staring eyes to udder with a cow, freshly fallen, rigor mortis set in and laying on its’ side in the river. Eyes open, legs stick straight, and a really funny sight, in a morbid sort of way. Colleen is right behind me as I reach the river and she asks, “What is that”, just to be sure she’s not hallucinating. “A cow”, I tell her, and we continue on without a word.
The arduous canyon trek ends at midnight at CP 15A where we find a bottle of fresh water and a note from the CP staff left 12 hours earlier, wishing us luck. We’re now 44 hours into the bike leg. At one point in the canyon, Danny and I pulled out the maps to check the mileage remaining. Forty-one? This can't be right. We can’t bear to tell the others. Tom takes a look at the maps at this point so he too can get an idea of the upcoming terrain and distance. We’ve gone about 4 miles since Danny and I counted and Tom comes up with 37 miles. My fear has been confirmed…we were right. We thought we were almost done and now we have an extra 20 miles to deal with. We feel like we’ll never make it.
Another uphill grind. It’s late and everyone is getting sleepy and not doing a very solid job of fighting off the sleep monster. Less than an hour into the hike after emerging from the canyon, Danny announces that he would like to take a nap. We stop by the side of the road for a much needed stop. I continue to insist that we need to be careful of our stops. Nobody wants to hear me talk about this anymore, but I’m truly concerned about the possibility of being removed from the course due to time cutoffs. Less than an hour later the sleep monster visits again and everyone begs for sleep. I agree that sleep is necessary through the race and that pushing too far without sleep is unwise, but we've had 12 hours in the last 24 and I try to reinforce the fact that I’ve been trying to make all along. You don’t need as much sleep as you think, and averaging 2-3 hours per night means that you might not sleep some nights if you need to push through. You'll make up the sleep time later. Right now, we’re in danger and we need to push through but reasoning is lost on sleepy brains. “Half an hour,” I ask. There's no answer as the team dig out sleeping bags and settles into the side of the hill for what looks like a long nap. Sleeping bags are a sure sign of trouble because you get too cozy and never want to come out. My frustration at our too frequent rest stops shows as I tell them about the danger we face. “You’re amazing, that you can keep going without sleep, I just don’t get it,” Danny says to me. I’m flattered, but also disappointed that they too don’t see that it’s possible. I refuse to get too comfortable, instead sitting on the hill behind them sulking in my frustration, waiting to begin moving again.
It’s cold outside, probably in the 40’s, and the body’s natural alarm clock, the shivers, wakes me up after 30-45 minutes of rest. I’m up and ready to go. After 10-15 minutes of coaxing, we’re all on our way.
Somewhere in the night around this time we break out the mandatory radio and try to let race management know we’re alive since we've been out here much longer than we expected. But I might as well be carrying a brick as we can’t reach anyone. I’m thinking about how Randy and Jerry must be concerned about where we are, do we have enough food and water, is anyone hurt? If only they knew that we were OK, they could relax and get some rest. I imagine that crewing is almost as tough as the race itself. I hope Kellie is OK. What can Randy tell her? This has got to be driving her crazy!