Sunday, October 05, 2008

No Country for Old Men

Allow me to share a few photos from Roxy's Big Adventure. On Saturday, October 4, my partner Matt Dickson and I set out for Wetumpka to compete in the Coosa River Challenge VI. There are actually a few crazy people who have done this SIX times. It was a first for Matt and me. We took it seriously by training for about 3 weeks. Three years would have been about right. I will not take time to list all the challenges but the main ones were a 4 mile trail run on a hilly, rocky woods trail followed by an 8 mile mountain bike ride over similar trails. Don't read quickly over the word "hilly". It makes a difference. Then we ran a little over a mile where we traversed a "boulder" field course. After that we drew a chip to determine which team member would rappel (Matt) and which would swim back upriver to where the boats were stored (Roxy). We both would have preferred switching roles but were not given an option. Then we paddled a two person sit-on-top kayak 7 miles to Wetumpka. Along the way we had challenges-I mean besides turning over at every set of rapids and bouncing off rocks like a pinball. FYI, rocks under water are not any softer than rocks out of water. You can get hurt doing this.

One challenge was to find "Dead Beaver Island" and beach the boat at the right spot. We climbed an embankment using a rope while carrying our paddles. The paddles went everywhere we went. We ran down a trail that led to the "mud pit" . This was a pit about 12 feet long with two 50 gallon plastic barrels side by side and about 4 feet down were two more. They were submerged except for about two inches in chocolate, muddy water. We had to swim through these barrels and exit the other side. Then we followed a trail that led down an embankment to a stream. It took a while to figure out where to go from here. We had to walk down the stream to where some markers indicated a trail going back over the island to our boats. More paddling, more spills, more rocks.
On river left is Corn Creek Park where the next challenge is. Look, there is LaWanna waving. Hey, LaWanna! Shoot, we turned over again. Now we are being carried by the current past where we are supposed to go. After righting the boat, climbing on and gathering paddles we had to circle a grassy island and paddle upstream to the landing. More rope climbing with a paddle in one hand. More running (really mostly walking now). This is called "Back to school island" by the wicked, wicked race director. As we ran around a winding woods trail we came to tables where we had to solve puzzles, spell words with cards, and draw on a magna-doodle. These things any first grader can do, begin to be a challenge after three hours of exhaustion. More running. We come out of the woods at the sheriff's shooting range where I shoot a small bow and arrow to determine how many division problems Matt has to solve. More running. Back in the boat. More paddling. Past the Hwy. 14 bridge. Past the Bibb Graves bridge. We paddle to the locks and beach the boat. Now it is time to swim against the current with the paddle to the steps of the lock. Climb the steps. This sounds simple. Try to picture that for over 5 hours now you have been running, peddling, paddling, and bouncing off rocks. Muscles are pulled, bruises are everywhere, and that big toe may be broken. Now you have had to swim against a strong current AGAIN, pushing a double blade paddle. And guess what? The steps are one foot high. Doesn't seem like much, I know. But go to your front porch and measure your steps. About half, huh? Hey, I stumped my toe on a three inch rock 5 hours ago! You think I can lift my feet one foot now? At this point, the paddle has become a walking cane. On top of the lock you look down on the river about 1000 feet below. O.K., it is only about 16 feet. But it seems like more. Toss your paddle and don't think about it--just jump. Resurface about 7 minutes later and swim back to the boat--paddle in hand. Board the boat paddle across the river, dismount and run a short distance to the Red Bull arch. That's it. Piece of cake. That is the story--at least the highlights. Here are a few pictures of the sequence;




Here we are at the MANDATORY 7:30 a.m. meeting where we were told the same things that we heard Friday night at 9 p.m. Note to race director; this is 2008, e-mail the rules and requirements or post them on the website. Receiving instructions should not become part of the endurance test. It was fairly cool when this meeting started. It was very warm when the race started.

But everybody waited and listened patiently and politely.


Because we all understood that this is a dangerous sport and should be taken very seriously.



Well, maybe some were less serious than others?


The bikes were transported to Swayback Bridge Trail head via U-Haul trucks. The participants were transported by school buses.
Once there, we had to find our bike. "I am sorry sir, that $4000 Felt bike is mine, yours is this $200 Wal-mart special."

I was told to "be careful" so here I am signaling a left turn into the transition area after finishing the 8 mile mountain bike leg. Actually, I was waving to one of my many fans.


This is the transition from the bike to the second run which took us to the "rock jungle"--a marked course over large boulders that was a sort of rock-climbing-at-a-jog. At the end of that we waded through part of the river and headed to the rappel. Matt drew the chip for rappelling and I had to swim back upriver to get our boat and paddles, then paddle back to pick him up. We both wanted it to go the other way on the draw, but you take what you get. The lady was not interested in "best of three".


We took the time to refill our hydration packs before hitting the river. This picture is probably too small to see the blood on my left leg from the bike crash. Just let me say men are much more polite competitors than women.




The hippies did well. And had more fun than anybody else.



Here we are approaching the sheriff's shooting range where I shot archery to determine how many division problems Matt had to solve. Thankfully, his math is better than my shooting. Yes, he really is that much taller than me. Yes, we had to carry our paddles everywhere. Yes, that makes it difficult to pull yourself up on a rope.
Later that same day;

Yes, we did finish thank you. Yes, it was still Saturday. Yes, it was still daylight. That is Matt's son Aiden next to the finish line. He announced that when he got home he was going to run a mile. No, he decided--he was going to run two miles. Matt told him he would have to get mom to run with him.


After the race, it was time to survey the damage.

Does this look right? I can't show all the injuries on the internet. This one occurred about 30 minutes into the race so the last 5 hours were after this "Coosa tatoo".

Here are two of my heroes; Donna Putnam and her daughter Leanne Armstrong (no relation to Lance). They made up team Put-Strong and had t-shirts with that team name. All the family that came to support and cheer for them had matching t-shirts. Although I teased them all day by calling them team "But-Strong", I am VERY proud of these two women for accomplishing what they did on this day. They set a goal nearly a year ago and worked hard to get to this Red Bull arch. Donna and Leanne placed themselves at the very back of the last wave to start the race and finished ahead of a couple of teams. They deserve a standing ovation.




This is another hero. I do not know them, although I see them eating in Wetumpka at times. I think it is a mother-daughter team. When they got to the last challenge-swimming to the locks and jumping off, the younger team member made it to the steps but mom just could not. She swam valiantly for minute after minute, at first seeming to swim in place as she battled the current and eventually sliding backward as she grew weak. I hurt for her so much as I watched her swim to the shore, fatigued and defeated. Her little girl shouted from the opposite shore "Go, mamma!" Mom walked up the shore to her original beginning point. She sat and rested a few minutes and tried it again. Again she battled the current. Don't give up we all were thinking. Somebody help her. The rescue boat had been called and was standing by. Come on guys, they are last--give her a lift to the steps. She could not do it. Her partner jumped and swam to the boat and paddled across the river with mom hanging on to the boat. It was all they could do to walk to the finish line. Bravo! I went to shake her hand. I am much more impressed by the courage of this lady than by the lean, young guy who finished in half the time. Actually, he is pretty impressive, too.
So it was over. But not really. The Coosa River Tatoos will be with us a while. I may not be able to do a sit-up for a few days. And besides my partner and my friends who raced and the 100 or so volunteers who made the race possible, there is one more person to thank. Her name is LaWanna and she is amazing. LaWanna got up early and put on her Roxy t-shirt. She was ready to leave at 6 a.m. and did not show any disappointment when I told her I was picking Matt up and he was riding with us. She took pictures which is why we have these to share. When the battery died on the digital she went to Wally world and bought a disposable. She made friends all along the route and wherever I arrived, people cheered for Roxy. Some I knew but many were people she had recruited to be my cheerleader. What other wife would do that? She was there until about 4:30 p.m. When I moaned and groaned, she never said "Why do you do this to yourself?" Do you know what she did? She massaged my back. And she is VERY good at massage. She has training and a portable table--give her a call. She may not do it for you but I can't tell you how thankful I am that she was that giving at the end of what was also a long day for her. Bravo. You are my hero also, humble servant. Bravo.

22 comments:

kwishum said...

And you wanted me to do this!?
What a day! Congratulations on finishing and surviving relatively intact. I knew you could handle the running, biking, paddling, falling parts of this - but math problems?
Way to go!

lawanna said...

Ditto! and 1-4-3!
wanna

Jamey said...

Pretty amazing if you ask me. It always makes it that much easier when you have such great support!

Kathryn said...

This sounds like a perfect way for me to end up in the hospital. Cripes!!!


Seriously though. This is a amazing stuff. The story of the mother/daughter team with the mother battling the current had me in tears. The human spirit is awesome. I love it.
Thank you for this story!
And CONGRATULATIONS!!!!
You rock!

---- and so does your wife. :)

imbeingheldhostage said...

Brilliant post. I don't know how you found me, but I'm glad you did-- this was such an inspiration (although I found myself thinking "this is supposed to be a good time?" through the first half) ;-)
What an amazing accomplishment, congratulations!

Hilary said...

I think I could have gone without seeing the toe...

Congrats on finishing the race!!

Roxy Wishum said...

Trust me, Hilary, some other injuries would scar you for life.

Lerra said...

Ew, what if your toe falls off?!

Congrats!! This is a big accomplishment.

BabyJ20 said...

My dad rocks!! (And NO that's not a pun!!)

PS- I'm putting the rocks on notice that my mother and I have met Chuck Norris, therefore, he automatically knows what they have done and will be in contact... they should be afraid of said contact!!

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