That is, if the round trip for Frodo and the gang had been a mere 71.5 miles! The adventure race was a great success and I feel our team did extremely well, especially for the overall lack of experience. Our motley crew, dubbed Team Grit (since 3 of 4 were rugby players and the big ol' annual rugby match is called True Grit), came in 6th of 7 pro teams to actually complete the entire race course. There were several other teams, who fell out of the race for many reasons, such as fatigue, overheating, cramping, and banging their heads against very sharp limestone cliffs, needing several stitches. However, all the teams did very well and it ended up being a pretty close competition for those in the lead.
We started off the race at 5am on the beach in Tumon Bay, the most developed area on the island. Our first leg involved coasteering (meaning keeping within 90 feet of the coast at all times) about 3 miles to a cave where we had to pick up a code word and head back to the starting point. Our team then split up, with Brent and I in a kayak, Sarah and Phil on mountain bikes. Brent and I proceeded out of Tumon Bay, around a point, and over to another point near chamorro village, a total journey of about 4 miles. Meanwhile, Phil and Sarah biked up Nimitz Hill, probably the longest steep hill on the island (one I've biked up many times on my way to Anna's house). They then had to head down into a forested valley, pass a dam, climb up a hill, and head back into the valley to make their way back from whence they came. We all met up at the second checkpoint, switched places, and both pairs did what the others had done before. The only difference being that Sarah and Phil went further down the coast to the third checkpoint, while Brent and I biked up the other side of Nimitz Hill. Not quite as steep, but longer.
After completing that onslaught and meeting at checkpoint three, we all got on our bikes and went back up the longer side of Nimitz Hill. We proceeded all the way to the top of the road, near a place called Mt. Alutom, from which we cruised by overgrown jeep trail to checkpoint four at Mt. Tenjo. This was an unmanned, remote checkpoint to which every member of the team had to go. We picked up the code word and headed back down the trail, down Nimitz, and on to a gas station where we were to receive a sticker on our passport.
Now, the passport is an item onto which we received various little stickers, markers, etc. to indicate that we had actually been to a checkpoint. We didn’t know what any of these little items would be, so there’s no way of faking them. Well, when we arrived at the gas station just ahead of two teams, one from Japan and another a group of military guys from Guam. I was inside first, but Phil, soon behind, had the passport. When everyone arrived, I motioned for them to come inside ASAP so we could get the passport stamped and move on quickly. In briefly checking his bag, Phil realized that he had given our map, and our passport, to our support crew… who were now several miles away at checkpoint six, where we started the race. SON OF A…!
So, after some frustrated cursing, we called up Rory, our intrepid support man, via payphone to let him know the bad news. Soon after, Sarah, Brent, and Phil headed on to checkpoint six to wait, while I stayed on at the Shell, ready to bike over to meet up with them once we got our sticker. Rory violated several traffic laws in getting to me (including the flattening of some innocent pedestrians), but he made it very quickly. The only problem was, once there, we couldn’t find the passport. It was nowhere to be found in the truck. “@%$#ing @%!$ &*!@^ piece of @%!$ing @&%$!!!” So, Rory went BACK to Ypao to find that Phil, quite accidentally, had the passport in his possession the entire time. Now, I was admittedly pissed off at this point, however, Phil felt horribly and beat himself up more than anything. Rory once again ran a few Sunday drivers into the guard rails on his way back to the Shell station, but he made it in lightning speed. I got the passport stamped immediately and hauled ass to checkpoint six.
We stayed at checkpoint six for another 10 minutes following my arrival, but by this time we were far behind most of the teams. That was okay, especially given that our main goal was finishing and actually having a good time. The passport incident was behind us and I felt better now just knowing we hadn’t lost the damn thing (which would lead to our disqualification). However, I decided to keep it on me for the remainder of the race.
The next two legs were long coasteering portions heading up the west coast of Guam from Ypao to Uruno beach. This is a stretch that, straight line on the map, is about 10 miles. However, when you’re hugging the coastline and following every little cove and inlet, it’s probably a lot more than that. This coasteering section was beautiful and really nice to see since most people never venture through any of those areas. Once of the main reasons for this is because it’s often incredibly treacherous or totally impassable. We lucked out, however, in that we were coasteering during low tide and the tides now are some of the lowest I’ve seen since coming to Guam. The weather was gorgeous and the water was surprisingly calm. All of this lead to lots of exposed limestone shelves to walk on and small waves that boosted us up onto places we needed to go, rather than smashing us against the cliffs.
Speaking of the cliffs, those damn things are sharp! Much of Guam’s northern coastline and interior limestone forests are composed of limestone that was once coral and other living material. It’s now razor sharp spits of rock, which, on the coast, often overhang and jut out in menacing ways. We had to be very careful when jumping over gaps in the shelves to not run head first into the limestone overhangs. One of the teams had two people sustain nasty head gashes from hitting those beauties, but luckily they just needed a few stitches.
After a few hours and a steep climb via trail from the coast, we made it to checkpoint seven at around 5:20pm, twelve hours from the time we began the race. We didn’t have a lot of daylight left, but we still had another long section of coasteering. Our goal was to get through as much of that portion as possible before nightfall, especially given the potential danger along the coastline. After refueling with Gatorade, water, and food, we were out from the checkpoint, back down the cliff, and onto the coast. It was during this portion of the race that we made up a lot of time by speeding down the coast to get through the worst sections by dark.
All our rushing down the coast paid off because we made it out of the worst sections just as it got dark. We were still surrounded by the limestone, but the cliff line was now set back. This prevented us from having to duck down or become concerned with cracking our skulls on the outcrops. It was as the last remaining light vanished that we arrived at the first noteworthy stretch of sandy beach. From there on out it was mostly beachfront, interspersed by much milder points of limestone to evade.
It was around this time that I encountered a brown treesnake crawling around on the coral shelves on which we were walking. It was funny enough seeing on of these guys (since, despite their incredible density in some places on island. They aren’t seen very often), but to see one directly on the coast seemed especially improbable. Feeling curious, Brent suggested I chuck the serpent into the ocean to see if it could swim. Obediently, I tossed the little bugger in and, indeed, it swam very well. Who knows what it was doing there. Odds are it was conspiring with an octopus to steal Brent’s wallet.
The stars that night were gorgeous, probably the best I’ve seen on Guam. We enjoyed attempting to find the southern cross while on the last section of beach before checkpoint eight. Once at Uruno, we were all relieved to hear the victorious cheers of Rory calling us in for rest. Accompanying Rory were the support crew of the last team to pass through, plus several friendly (albeit drunken) landowners. We made sure to enjoy a few slices of pizza, a change of socks, and some time to sit before making out way onto the last checkpoint before our home stretch.
Upon departing from checkpoint eight, we biked down a dirt road that heads towards the wildlife refuge, where I work. This road lead us to the base of Ritidian Hill, for us a mile long section of unwelcome climbing at the end of a long day. However, we all made it up without incident and rode the remaining 8 or 9 miles to checkpoint nine, which was at the same spot as our first coasteering checkpoint (only this time we came to it from the top, not via the steep trail from below).
It was just before checkpoint nine that we encountered the group of military guys who had snuck past us during the Shell station debacle earlier in the day. We decided we could take ‘em. So, we checked in and out of the final checkpoint with all due speed, stopping only briefly to rehydrate. Two miles later, we passed them on the maze of trails marked out above Two Lovers Point. They weren’t really in a racing mode at that point, so it wasn’t a big deal for either team. I know that, at least for Sarah and I, we didn’t want to be dead last of the pro teams to finish. That being said, it’s not like that would have been a bad thing. Obviously merely completing a race like this as a whole team, all in one piece, is one hell of an accomplishment. I guess seeing another team right ahead put the spirit of competition in me.
Our final path took us through downtown Tumon, past the colorful lights of strip clubs, TGI Fridays, Planet Hollywood, The Sand Castle, and all other fabulous establishments of the bustling, tourist driven areas of the island. We all hooted cheers of relief, joy, and satisfaction as we pulled into Ypao at 11:30pm, seventeen and a half hours from when we began that day.
It was at the finish line that we learned Jenn’s team- composed of Chili (the unstoppable man mentioned in past entries), Eric (fitness director for a Navy program here), and Al Morrison, brother in law of our teammate, Sarah- were the first to cross the finish line, around 7pm that evening. Due to some time penalties from a couple errors, they received second place, which was disappointing for them, but deserved. The winning team, a group from Saipan that included my friend Nate (head of the Saipan brown treesnake crew), did a fantastic job and had an amazing comeback after loosing a bunch of time early in the day for kayaking way past the second checkpoint.
Following the race my weekend is essentially a blur. When I got home that night I passed out and slept until 12:30 the following afternoon… and that’s merely because my alarm went off. I went to the awards BBQ at 2pm, stayed until 5pm, and headed back to the house (not before stopping to pick up a half gallon of cookies and cream). After downing a large bowl of ice cream, I took a nap starting around 6:30, which turned into a longer sleep from which I awoke at 11pm. At that point I though, well, why stay awake now? So I slept until 6am Monday morning. Ah, 23 hours of sleep with a mere 6 hours of consciousness: now I know how a bear feels.
Posted by Isaac at May 18, 2005 8:54 AM