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Hometown Team Completes 10-Day Adventure

Hometown Team Completes 10-Day Adventure

Racers, please join us in congratulating local team “Big City Mountaineers” for a great race in the Badlands of South Dakota. An epic 10-day adventure that is not for the faint of heart! Below is a team writeup from their adventure. Enjoy!

Time to Race!

PQ-Photo-2Our team, Big City Mountaineers, was comprised of members Angela Woodland (Bozeman, Montana), Doug Jones (Lawrenceville, Georgia), Brad Prater (Rome, Georgia), and Gerrad Delatte (Baton Rouge, Louisiana). Gerrad Delatte, Team Captain, assembled the team and was careful to select members who embraced a common goal. The goal was to simply complete the race and cross the finish line. No worries about a top 10 or top 20 ranking, just finish what we would start. This epic wilderness expedition adventure race was scheduled for 10 days and 600 miles of non-stop running, trekking, mountain biking, caving, swimming, kayaking, orienteering, and ascending/repelling with ropes throughout the Black Hills National Forest, Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, and Badlands National Park of South Dakota.

Day 1 – All racers were loaded on buses at 3:30am and driven to the start location north of Rapid City. When two cowboys on horseback started blasting their six-shooters at 5:30 am, the race had begun. We started with a simple marathon run through the plains of South Dakota….yes…26 miles…. just to get us warmed up. After the marathon, we were sent on an orienteering section in the hills where we opted to save time and only hit some of the checkpoints. Though early in the race, we were content with the resulting penalties because our strategy relied on us gaining time whenever possible. We knew we had to make strategic decisions to make our goal a reality and this was the first one of many. We transitioned to mountain bikes and were off to the Bethleham cave site for our spelunking encounter. We completed the caving section and decided to get a few good hours of sleep at this transition area (CP4/TA4).

Day 2 – We were on our mountain bikes for most of the day hitting checkpoints at Butcher Gulch and Schipke Castle Tower. When we arrived in the town of Deadwood, it started a deluge of rain and we were fearful of possible hail that was reported just a few days ago, so we ducked into a local tavern/grill. We were able to change out of our wet clothes, warm up, and get some much needed race food. We feasted on hamburgers, fries, and Cokes. After the rain let up, we proceeded through the town of Lead and to our last checkpoint of the day CP9/TA5 at Eagle Cliff – Bratwurst Trailhead. We were the last team to make the time cut-off so we were happy and thus still official and ranked. However, our happiness would soon turn into a shivering nightmare. This was unmistakably the hardest night we would face. The temperatures dipped in the lower 30’s and we were totally unprepared. Some of our team found refuge in a U-Haul truck and others simply slept in the grass shivering with teeth chattering. We didn’t get much quality sleep on this particular night.

Day 3 – We continued mountain biking and hit checkpoints at Sunny Meadow, Crooks Tower, Flag Mountain, Deerfield Lake, and finally Silver City (CP14/TA7). At Silver City, we were greeted by locals that cooked for us and provided much needed moral support. Per the race rules, we could not accept free food so the hamburgers and brownies were sold to us for a nominal fee. We were unable to reach CP14 for the time cut-off so we were now short coursed. With the news, we decided to pitch our sun canopy and get a few hours of sleep.

Racing Hard

Day 4 – We settled back in the seats of our mountain bikes and picked up our next checkpoint at Slate Creek Dam. While looking for the checkpoint at Coad Hill, we met Team Spanos (Steve Peppard, Doug Holley, and Lauren Liden). They were down to 3 team members due to a medical issue with one of their teammates (Steve Leonesio). We decided to look for this checkpoint together and while riding down the trail, a stick got caught in Lauren’s front wheel sending her over the handlebars and crashing. We immediately stabilized her head, neck, and back and called for an emergency medical evacuation. Once Lauren received medical care, we called race headquarters to ask permission for the remaining Team Spanos members to join our team. By race rules, a team is not permitted to continue with less than 3 members.

We were informed by accepting the additional members, our team would become unranked. This was an easy decision for us to make and we left the accident site as a six person team…Team Big City Mountaineers/Spanos. Since we lost time due to the accident, the race officials sent us directly to CP18/TA9 at the Crazy Horse Monument. We transitioned to trekking and proceeded to find the next checkpoints. CP19 provided challenges for our team so we pushed forward to the next checkpoint where the famous climb site, Little Devil’s Tower, would await us. We hiked as fast as we could but missed the time cut-off. We were terribly disappointed that we would not get on the ropes. This was going to be one of the highlights of the race and we missed out. In adventure racing, you can’t let things like that get you down. You must push those disappointments aside and move on to the next challenge. That’s exactly what we did. We continued trekking down a very remote trail but lost the trail markers. Since we were in total darkness, we took a bearing and went in the general direction of the trail. Knowing we were not making good progress, we decided to stop and sleep until sunrise.

Day 5 – Trying to find your way through the Black Hills National Forest during nighttime is tough. Making the decision to stop was a great call. With the sun in our face, we were able to get back on track. However, it was a very long day on our feet. We hiked out of the National Forest and into Custer State Park. We were on our way to our next checkpoint (CP26) at the Wind Cave National Park and pushing hard. We wanted to reach the checkpoint so badly that we lost track of time, did not eat properly, and started to get delirious on the trail. We had hiked all day and night to reach Wind Cave. Around 2:30 in the morning, we basically collapsed on the trail and knew we had to stop even though we were so close to the checkpoint. This is when Gerrad had his first hallucination in an adventure race. Gerrad envisioned 4 adventure racers huddled together with their headlamps shining brightly while discussing their next move. Their bodies started to illuminate and glow while each one started spinning in place. Finally, they floated away down the trail. Gerrad knew at that point, that he had to close his eyes and sleep.

Day 6 – At sunrise, we proceeded directly to the checkpoint which was only a few hundred yards away, just past a coiled rattlesnake. We continued trekking and hit CP27/TA10. We transitioned to mountain bikes and picked up CP28 at Buffalo Gap and CP29/TA11 at the Angostura Reservoir. Strategic decision time had arrived again. The next checkpoints involved swimming and kayaking in the Reservoir. Since we were already short coursed, unranked, and needing to catch up time, we decided to skip these checkpoints. We got a couple hours of sleep and left the TA before sunrise.

Home Stretch

Day 7 – We biked to the next checkpoint and transition area (CP31/TA13) at the Oral Bridge where we started the now infamous prairie paddle. We inflated our rubber kayaks and paddled down the Cheyenne River. We estimated the paddle would take approximately 8 to 10 hrs. That is if we strictly paddled. This was not the case. We spent over half our time getting out of the boats and pulling them over rocks and gravel due to the low water levels. After 16 hours of being wet, cold, and plain miserable, some of our team members started showing signs of hypothermia. We immediately got on the river bank and built a fire to warm up and dry off (and accidentally scorch) some of our clothes and shoes. We ate and slept next to the campfire.

Day 8 –
Being physically and mentally beat up by this paddle section, we continued on to reach our destination CP32/TA14 at Red Shirt. Glad to be out of the kayaks, we transitioned to trekking and began a full day and night hiking along the Cheyenne River. We passed just north of the Badlands National Park and began to see the treacherous terrain ahead. We reached our final destination of the day at CP37 in the town of Scenic. We were very excited at this point for we knew that after we slept for a couple hours, we would wake up and only have a bike ride to the finish line.

Day 9 – Our team was looking forward to this day! We were excited to have made it this far and determined to make it the rest of the way. Once again, we mounted our mountain bikes and took off down an old abandoned railroad track. We were dodging cactus and crossing dilapidated bridges until we reached the main trail that would put us in the middle of the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands. The sun was in full force and started to bake us even though we soaked our bodies with sun screen. The Grasslands must be home to the largest population of grasshoppers on the face of the earth. As we were biking, swarms of grasshoppers would jump on us and seemed to either pinch or bite us. We constantly had to swat them from our legs. As we made it out of the Grasslands, we knew that only 30 miles stood between us and the finish line. We biked hard and it took its toll. We were getting tired and sleepy and at one point, one of our team members ran off the road and into a ditch. He was sleep biking! At CP38 Mystic Forest Service Office, they told us the finish line was our next stop. We biked into Rapid City to the finish line at Memorial Park. We crossed the finish line at 11:39pm in jubilation and felt a since of pride and accomplishment. We started the race as a team of 4 but finished as a team of 6. Steve and Doug from Team Spanos were instrumental in helping us reach our goal. Not sure if we would have made it without them.

The race course had taken its toll on our bodies. Our feet were blistered and ankles swollen. We were hurting from shin splints, IT band problems, and fractured fingers. However, we overcame these physical problems and no one complained about them (much). This experience was so much more than a race. We found out what we’re truly made of. We were tested and we passed. We made some great friends. We relied and depended on one another. We were family. To sum it all up……we experienced LIFE!

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