Before we left Ohiopyle on Saturday afternoon, Sue sent me a message asking how the Yough had turned out. My response: “Pretty dismal, pretty demoralizing. May be looking for redemption tomorrow, may be willing my lungs to function.”
When I fell asleep that night at the Hampton Inn in Frazer, PA, I had no idea what the next day would bring. I was set to link up with Jon and Sue as Team GOALS Girls Gone Wild for the six-hour Savage sprint race on Sunday morning. Muscularly, I felt reasonably fresh considering our seven hours in the woods that day, but my lungs were still raspy and I seemed to have developed a cold on the drive back across the state.
Thanks to Bruce’s smart thinking in booking us all a room near the start of the race, saving us 45 minutes off the drive back from western PA and 45 minutes on the other end the next morning, Brent and Ali and Bruce and I awoke Sunday at the glorious hour of 7:30 AM. My stuffy nose had cleared up, and after a couple of puffs on my inhaler, my lungs began to open. We headed downstairs for a leisurely breakfast care of the hotel’s free spread, and meandered over to Hibernia State Park at 9:00 AM.
For the first GOALS sprint of the season, Jon volunteered (was volunteered by his lovely wife?) to race with me and Sue (said lovely wife) as GOALS Girls Gone Wild. Jon’s been recovering from a back injury as of late and wasn’t quite up for racing with the legit GOALS crew, and we were happy to have him as a clutch fill-in for Denise, also nursing an injury.
Though teams had six hours to complete the course, we were anticipating a four-ish-hour outing, and I was eagerly anticipating the fresh soft pretzels and steaming hot chocolate that would be awaiting us at the finish.
The race began at 11:00 AM with a short sprint separator, where one team member was to run barefoot through the soggy grass to claim the passport and learn the order of events for the day. Thankfully, Jon volunteered to get wet early, and when he returned, we headed off for a brief trip to the obstacle course before starting on the run.
Hibernia is a pretty tame park, with little elevation and only short stretches of technical terrain – a welcomed change from Saturday’s Sugarloaf Mountain. Though the trails were sloppy, we moved well on foot, Jon manning the maps and leading us through the woods. The pace was consistent, but not overwhelming, and my body was holding up surprisingly well as we ran from checkpoint to checkpoint. Jon’s route took us through a healthy mixture of trails, roads, thorny brush, and creek crossings, and because of his spot-on navigation, we were able to keep pace with some significantly faster teams.
We headed into transition to grab our paddles and PFDs, and were surprised to learn that we were neck-and-neck with Team Tryad, strong competitors in the GOALS sprint races every year. We knew they would be far quicker on bike and didn’t expect to see much more of them, but it was nice to cross paths with those guys a few times.
My own stupid navigational blunder on the water cost us at least 10 minutes, as I left the boat to snag a checkpoint, only to overshoot the trail and end up back near the race start – half a mile out of my way. I eventually righted myself and made it to the point, and thanks to Jon’s booming voice, I reunited with my teammates to head back for our final leg.
At the start of the race, Jon mentioned that he was hoping to get on the bikes early to avoid the mud that was fast accumulating that soggy, rainy day. And sure enough, by the time we pedaled off, the trails were a sloppy mess from all the bikers and runners that had come before. We made the best of it, riding as much as we could, pushing our bikes at points, and sticking to the roads when the course allowed. It was on this last leg that I began to feel the effects of racing the day before. My legs and lungs hitched a bit as we headed up hills, and my suspension-less bike groaned from two days of mud and muck. Overall, though, Sue and I managed to follow Jon from checkpoint to checkpoint, maintaining a steady – if not blistering – pace.
Three hours and forty minutes after the race began, we rolled into the finish, punched our final checkpoint, and dropped our bikes in the grass. We ended up finishing fourth in the coed-three division – nothing to write home about, but not a bad performance considering we’ve grown accustom to the competition of the female-threes.
Obviously, it was a different kind of race from the day before – gentler in terrain, gentler in pace, gentler in competition, and gentler in pressure. Still, it felt good to race competently (save the navigational snafu) and to be an actively participating member of the team.
I had no idea what I meant when I told Sue that I was looking for redemption for Saturday’s fiasco, but as we packed up our gear and changed into dry clothes after the race, I was happy with our effort, and ready to put the Yough behind me and think about the next adventure. I guess that was redemption enough for me.
That, and those glorious soft pretzels and hot chocolate at the finish…