I woke up Thursday with Christmas-morning apprehension, as did my fifty fellow participants of the adventure race starting at ten. We knew that the next twenty-four hours were going to require us to push ourselves to the limits, but few specifics of the race. We had maps with checkpoints and breakpoints marked, but no idea how we would be required to get each one. I had been sick all week, and fighting to get well enough to not kill myself with twenty-four hours of physical exertion. By Wednesday night I felt well enough to tell myself that I would go if I felt better or the same when I woke. I still felt crappy, but backing out would have been too much of a let-down for my team and myself to even consider it.
After the final info meeting, Anders said “GO!” and we set out for Manna on bike. There were immediately some map-reading issues: one team didn’t make it to the first checkpoint, and many teams (mine included) took some accidental detours, but we didn’t lose too much time.
Once we got to the stream park in Manna there were a series of tasks to complete. First, we had to move a couple of gallons of stream water to a bucket through one small cup. Then, we had to guide one blindfolded team member on a mountain bike around an obstacle course. Each time we touched them, or they touched the ground or hit an obstacle, we got a time penalty. Then we had to shoot three balloons with five BBs. We managed to pop all three with our first two shots, but less lucky teams had to run one hundred meters to fetch extra BBs, and could only get one at a time. The last task was to run down the road to a local farmer’s silo, and send one team member up to rappel down.
The time was still running and the pressure was still on. To get to the next checkpoint we had to canoe downstream for about ten kilometers. It took me a couple of minutes to reremember “the J stroke” for steering a canoe, but once it did it was pretty easy to pass a few teams that were zig-zagging from one side of the stream to the other. Once we reached the checkpoint in the river we had to carry the canoe for a couple of kilometers to the next checkpoint, which was pretty tough. From there we had to run as a team to the first break point. I was feeling a little better to run than my team members, so I followed some advice from the first week of school and gave them some of my energy by running with my hand on their backs. I had to communicated with my team that it wasn’t pushing in a bad way, so it worked well.
We got to the first break point, and tore into our lunches. We had a few tasks to complete at this point, including climbing a rope to touch a branch, putting a kid’s puzzle together, and doing a mini-ropes course. Once all of the groups made it to the break point we found out that the next leg would be on inline skates. I don’t think I’ve ever tried inline skates, and I’ve only ice-skated a few times in my life. I got pretty confident after a bit, though, and only crashed once. Skates are a perfect example of technique over power. It was my teammates’ turn to push me (vocally), since they both had much more experience and technique. They stuck with me and cheered me on, and we were able to maintain our position in the rankings.
The next checkpoint was orienteering, with a map and compass. We quickly fell into specialized team-roles for this task. Tine was “The Cartographer,” interpreting the map and giving me distance estimates to the upcoming landmarks. My jogging stride is pretty darn close to one meter, so my role was “The Odometer,” measuring distance by counting my steps. Once I got us to the approximate location, Pernille had a supernatural knack for spotting the red stamps for our punch-card, so she was christened “Eagle Eyes.” Our system did us well, and we were able to finish the orienteering in good time.
The next checkpoint was ten kilometers up the beach on bike. There waiting was the first and only nasty trick of the race, a wild-goose forbidden-fruit chase of golf balls in the ocean. No groups found any, so we probably shouldn’t have tried, but the free minutes were too alluring. It wasn’t all bad, though… we got a cold footbath out of it, and we didn’t let the waited time bother us too much. The required task at that checkpoint was to find five golf balls in the sand, and we had much more luck at that. It probably helps that there are no currents up on the beach. From there was a ten kilometer Bike & Run to the second break point. With one bike for three people, each team has to decide the best method to trade bikes around. I was feeling good to run, so my teammates traded the bike between them to keep up with me, which worked out well. There was an added challenge for this B&R: if any teacher or helper came within fifty meters they could command us to run back or, worse, drive us back up the beach for a penalty. I ran a good distance along the top of the dune, out of car’s reach. Some people even ran into the ocean to evade capture, but I wasn’t about to go that far. Running on the beach, the sunset was beautiful. We made it to the break point just as dusk was starting to fall.
At 10pm the rules of the upcoming game were explained to us. A couple of kilometers up the beach were dozens of German WWII-era bunkers, which fall from the dunes to the beach below as the years pass. Hidden in the bunkers were a bunch of bags of white powder “drugs,” and about a dozen four-digit codes. We were to collect as many of these as possible, and each one would give us some minutes subtracted from our time. “Police” in reflective vests could search and seize our precious cargo, and “kidnappers” in black could take us out of the game completely, so the game was a pretty intense version of treasure-hunt meets hide-and-seek meets flashlight-tag. I went into a pitch-black bunker pretty early in the game, straight into a kidnapper’s trap. There were four others from other teams imprisoned, so I didn’t feel too stupid. We were able to buy our way out with three codes. There were pretty funny stories from the game, one police officer chased a player for about a kilometer up the beach, but when she finally caught her the player didn’t even have anything to lose from being searched. She had just ran because she was scared. Another player tried to evade two teacher-police by running into the ocean, but that slowed him down enough that they could just jog on the beach, trapping him there.
The game was to end at a certain time, but nobody had watches (taken at the beginning). One everybody got back there was plenty of stories and laughing, waiting for the results up to that point. My team got the best rank that we did for the whole race, fourth of fourteen, so we were pretty happy about that. I think we got ahead during the orienteering, and just maintained during the rest of the tasks.
With the time still paused, we were given the next checkpoint: back to Manna. Everybody was to take their skates, shoes, and one bike per team. Our team got a little lost, so the fourteen kilometer leg became about twenty, but we weren’t too stressed about it, because the time was paused. I skated about twelve kilometers and rode the bike the last eight. There was no moon, and the sky was crisp and clear, giving us an amazing view of the stars. Back in Manna, I crashed under the stars, which were beautiful even blurred by my sleepy naked eyes. I crashed hard, and woke two hours later to the sound of busy preparations,,, my only clue that time had passed was Orion’s seemingly instantaneous movement of thirty degrees from the horizon.
We canoed upstream this time, our head-mounted flashlights keeping us from running into the sides of the stream. On the first canoe leg Pernille had been the cheerleader and pace-setter, but this time it was all she could do just trying to keep from falling asleep and into the the water. A sliver of a moon rose as dawn’s colors slowly started to creep over the horizon and up the sky. About three hours upstream we finally saw our people waiting for us at a bridge ahead.
After getting our canoe out of the stream we had to run back to the school to complete the last task of the race: climb the climbing pole, stand on top, and yell our team member’s names and team number. I saw one group’s climber forget to say her own name and have to stand up again, which isn’t the easiest thing to do on top of those poles. It felt good to be up there and finished with the race.
Our team’s goal was to survive, have some fun, and push ourselves. We came in ninth of fourteen teams, but accomplished our goals, so we were happy about that. All in all, it was a good opportunity to look inside myself and see how I deal with pressure and no sleep. I signed up for another adventure race in a couple of weeks. That one will only be eight hours, cake after this one…
10km – Start – bike to Manna
– Check-point – silo rappelling, blind MTB, balloon shooting, water to bucket
10km – Canoe downstream
2km – Carry canoe
3km – Run to camp site
– Break-point – rope climb, puzzle, mini ropes course
5km – Time starts, inline skating
– Check-point – Orienteering
10km – Bike on beach
– Check-point – look for golf-balls in ocean, then beach
10km – Bike & run to Løkken
– Break-point – drug search / flashlight tag in bunkers on beach
14km – Bike & skate (untimed) to Manna
– Sleep til 5am
8km – Time starts, canoe upstream
3km – Run back to school’s base-camp
16m – Climb the pole, shout team member’s names & team number to stop time.
Total – 80km, 23 hours