Here’s where the real fun part of the story begins. The actual race.
We all lined up at the starting point and my team kinda stayed to the side and the back. Whitney (the leader of our team and the only one that had done this before) told us people take it a little crazy and getting ran over could be a possibility. We didn’t care to partake in any of that so we stayed out of the way.
The first leg of the race was a short walk to the river. Maybe a quarter of a mile. It was on cobble ground that was hard for me to wheel through so we decided the best bet was to let Lindsey backpack me. I got on her back, Loretta stayed back with us, and Whitney and Erica went head to claim a boat for us and start crossing the river to get the first checkpoint word.
Once we got to the river our other teammates had claimed a boat that I was put in. Loretta and Lindsay waded through the freezing water to tow me down it. I sat there completely helpless and really thought about getting out and swimming to make it easier for them! But we quickly met back up with the other two and they helped tow me and bit faster. We had staged my handcycle at the beach that we would come to. So from there, they got me on my bike and we went to the camp spot where we had staged their bikes and our bags and supplies. We supplied up and it was time to go into the wild.
The first stretch of the race is what slowed us down the most. The very first trail we had to go up was one in which I was unable to make it up on my own I most definitely needed a push or a tow. We decided to hook me up to their bikes so they could help tow me. This took some time for us to figure out so the first lesson was learned right there at the beginning. Next year, we will have a better plan for our towing system! The first stretch was sort but steep. But once we made it past that the long road was next. Trough road. The road we drove in on while on the bus. Whitney had told us on the bus we would be cycling this road in the race but I had no idea how that incline was going to be so noticeable in handcycles. This was the most uphill battle I have ever done. It wasn’t steep, but it was long. We were on this road for 4 miles. I think once or twice we went downhill and those spots came in clutch because those were the moments your brain was making you doubt yourself the most but then a little hope blossomed with the declines.
Again, at this point, we were slow-moving. It’s not because of the lack of ability or the lack of effort. We couldn’t decide to keep me in tow or not. I struggled because I didn’t want to cause more work on them and I wanted to be able to do it without help but over time I learned that doing almost anything alone on this race was near impossible. The whole “I can” mentality, doesn’t really work out there.
Next year, I will willingly stay in tow for the betterment of my teams pace! Teamwork makes the dream work, that’s my motto so I better stick to it at all times!
From this road we went back into the the wild on more off road trails. This is when it got a bit more fun for me in particular I had no idea the capabilities of that bike I was on. A trail in the mountains of Colorado can be treacherous and impossible on a wheelchair. But on that thing, I soon felt like I could go ANYWHERE.
We finished the 1st day on the raft. I was most excited about this part because I have never been rafting and I’ve always had the dream of rafting down the Colorado River and camping along my way. I was kinda getting to do that because I was indeed rafting to my campground! Sadly, I was absolutely NO help the first day. I had no balance and we didn’t have enough room for me to sit in the bottom. I tried a few times to see if I could figure it out and our raft guide literally told me to stop. I was most likely just slowing us down! Thank goodness we only went a few miles down the river that day aaaand we had the help of Steph, one of the volunteers that was at the last checkpoint before we got on the raft. She needed a way back to camp and hopped on with us and she was LOADS of help to our poor little team.
When we got back to camp everyone was there to welcome us. We got our stuff situation and got some food! I think it was barbeque they had for us that evening and it was delicious! That was the one night I went over to the house that had wifi because I wanted to check in with my mom and I wanted to know how my volleyball team had done at their first game. I found out they won and mom replied so back to camp I went. That night we met again and they gave us the maps and details about day 2. About that time a bad thunderstorm came down! Thankfully about 5 minutes after my team was discussing our plans there was a break in the rain. We bolted off to our tents to get in them before it picked back up. It was pretty early so I took about an hour or so and got my stuff organized inside my tent. I had trash in there, I had clothes and gear all thrown in my suitcase, and everything pretty much just had no organized factor about it. I also decided to actually put on the thermals I brought so I wouldn’t be so cold again on night two.
The rain had slowly picked back up and I knew it was the perfect noise to put me to sleep. I think the moment I laid down and got tucked away in my sleeping back I passed out. I slept soo much better on night two, although, I was woken up by one of the most intense thunderstorms I have ever heard. I laid there wondering how many people were scared or how many people were sleeping straight through it and missing out on all the energy that was exploding around us. I think it was one of those moments that made me feel the most alive. It literally sounded like lightening was popping around our campsite but I never once felt scared. It was like I knew if it was going to be my time to go it’d have to happen in my sleep because I knew I had another long and hard day the next day. So I said a few little thanks to Man above for giving me the life he had given me so far, shared my appreciation of how awesome our lives really are and I rolled over and went right back to sleep. The next time I opened my eyes, it was the start of Day 2.