Tommy Lingbloom’s report from his third Quest race:
One year ago, I laid in the grassy field alongside Roche Harbor, drinking Gatorade and coke, and said to Kevin, “I’m pretty sure this was the most fun day of my life.”
It was a long wait to get back, but boy was it worth it!
Our adventure began Friday night, as Kevin’s buddy Brandon had offered to take us from Bellingham to Roche Harbor in his boat (“uh, yes please”). We met at Squalicum Harbor and loaded the boat down with our gear, then made haste to get the trip over before dark. The ride across Bellingham Bay was… turbulent. Captain Brandon cut his teeth sailing on whichever ocean Tennessee lies on, and as such brings that rare level of warm kind-heartedness, especially in contrast to the reputation of your typical seafarer’s reputation. Let’s just say that Brandon is an awesome sailor, but I would not describe him as “salty”.
We slept on the boat and woke up at 3:45. Given that I was basically sleeping in a two person coffin with Eric, I was pretty happy to get going. Our first misstep of the day came when Kevin went to put on his running shoes.
Upon reflection, I think the most disturbing aspect of this incident is how unsurprised I was. With Kevin I suppose we should just be grateful that he grabbed a right and a left!
We loaded up the vans and drove to the mystery remote start, which turned out to be American Camp (totally called it). I absolutely love the moment when Brent hands out the maps, it’s like Christmas morning. We dove in and planned our route, but apparently a little too tediously. We ran out of time and later would need to plan our route for the second bike leg on the fly.
At the start, we immediately ran for the beach. I was a little concerned about this choice at first, because it seemed as though almost every other team took off in the opposite direction. But then I realized that two other teams were with us: our buddies on the very capable Adventure Race Virgins team, and the dominant race favorites, QUEST. In our previous two races, we had finished in third, literally hours after QUEST. Dusty, Emily and Annie are just so good at this. I was interested to see how long it would take for them to drop us.
The answer? Not long. We reached the first CP with them, but they left before us. As we jogged down the beach after them, I could visibly watch the gap grow. It’s pretty clear that they are simply a superior team. But getting spanked by QUEST at every race is great for Team Tall, it allows us to see how inefficient we are and therefore improve at a much greater rate than if a team like QUEST wasn’t around. Anyway, as I (carrying the passport) yelled to Kevin (carrying the map) asking where exactly we were headed, QUEST moved as one unit taking a trail I hadn’t even noticed up to the bluff at the second CP. Maybe I just didn’t want to be seen as a follower, because I certainly would not have known to make that turn, so instead stuck to the beach a little farther and led us up a much steeper and sketchier trail. Stupid. But at least we were at the CP.
This was the first punch CP, and I wanted to make sure I got it right. I carefully lined up the punch with T6 on my passport, and double checked for several seconds. Don’t want to screw this up. But what’s that strange tingling on my legs?… BEES!!!! I was standing on top of a nest and had already been stung a dozen times before I realized what was happening. By the time I got away, brushing the bees off of my legs as I ran, I had been stung over twenty times (I didn’t stop to count, but did an inventory later that night). Fortunately I don’t have a terrible reaction to bee stings, so if anything it got me fired up. I even paused to get some photos of the guys.
We saw QUEST leaving the lighthouse and then never saw them again. A few minutes later Eric saved our bacon as Kevin and I almost wrote down the wrong direction on Mt. Finlayson. Close call! We clipped along through the rest of the first trek pretty much side by side with the Virgins. Every now and then one of us would have a small goof and the other would catch up, and we entered the TA together. Learning from our past mistakes, we were prepared to get moving quickly, and were gone in three minutes.
A road ride! This was an incredibly eye opening experience for Team Tall. I was eager to try out my homemade bike clipboard for carrying our map and navigating more efficiently. I attributed some extreme screw ups in Teanaway this summer to having my map folded up super tightly in my back pocket, and was determined to do a better job. I was pretty proud of my contraption. The best part was that I found a use for those $0.50 foam remnants at Hardware Sales.
The eye opening portion of this leg was our head to head match-up with Darrell and Scarlett of the QUESTionable Newbies. Don’t let the name fool you, these two mean business. As the leg progressed, we passed them between every CP (we had a rotating paceline of three people) only to get passed by them again at every CP. It was maddening! They were so much more efficient than us. Even with the clipboard for navigating, we still had to dig out the passport to read the next clue and write things down. We rolled into the TA at Lime Kiln alongside QUESTionable, gaining no ground for this race but learning a lot for the future.
Basically a 30 minute run through the gorgeous Lime Kiln Point State Park. I’d never been here before, and it is beautiful. One thing I love about these races is discovering new amazing places right in our backyard. It was wonderful. I plan to bring my family out there next summer.
Hard to believe it’s only 10am, eh? We decided to put both the map and the passport on the clipboard, and next time will bring TWO clipboards for the biking portion. Kevin is our number one stunner on the mountain bike, so he had the punch paper. We started off strong on the roads, trying not to burn too many matches before we hit the singletrack. I finished mapping out our route now as we cruised.
We were pretty efficient on Mitchell Hill, but QUESTionable turned a slight advantage into almost half an hour by the time we finished. I’ll need to look over the map and see if there was a better route, but overall we did great. A couple quick holes of disc golf and it was time to get in the boat!
Well, this is where it all went south for us. I had the currents backwards in my mind, so we headed south to start, when we should have headed around the north end of Henry Island. Doh! We then searched in vain for a mural that wasn’t there for fifteen minutes, when we should have called the search off at 5. Doh! Then we decided to go back north to K1 to take advantage of the currents when really we should have just stuck to our route, as the currents were never going to be that strong. Doh! We finally made it to the backside of Henry Island and because I misread a clue, paddled 15 minutes past a CP before turning around and paddling another 15 minutes to get it. Doh! Doh! Doh! By the time we got K6 the current was really moving against us through Mosquito Pass, costing us more time. Doh!
This year Kevin and I added Eric Paige to our number, primarily because he’s tall, but also because he is a beast in the water. I think Eric put as much force into that paddle as Kevin and I combined, and I shudder to think of what the experience would have been like if it was me and Kevin alone. My little stick arms don’t add much to the team in this discipline. We’d probably still be out there!
The numbers speak for themselves here. QUEST on the water: 2 hours, 14 minutes. QUESTionable: 2 hours and 6 minutes. Team Tall: 3 hours and 12 minutes. Ouch. I think we could have had a similar time without all the screw-ups.
I came out of the water soaked and shivering, and we all ditched our jerseys for coats. I really wanted to run. Fast. It was go time. I think this my favorite part of the entire race, and Eric described me as “An eight year old boy hopped on sugar during an Easter egg hunt.” This is pretty accurate, and I grabbed both the map and passport and led the charge. The quarries around Roche are so cool! I may have been a little too excited, as I received a nasty gash on my leg while trying to climb up to a CP I had spotted. Calm down, Tommy! Too many CPs to describe here, but I gotta hand it to Brent to putting a punch on a buoy in the middle of a pond. Well played sir.
Did I mention that everybody in this Adventure Racing community is incredibly nice? It’s really amazing. After all that racing, we were only 3 minutes (…and two hours) behind QUEST. They saw my leg, and while I stood around eating chips Dusty ran off to get a first aid kit form his car. The wonderful Caserias then had me sit down while they cleaned me up. Emily literally told me not to bother to put my chips down. By the time they were through with me my leg was clean, sanitized and very well bandaged. I look forward to many more years of many more races getting thoroughly stomped by these wonderful people.
Unfortunately daylight was waning, so it was back on the boat sooner than we would have liked. But what a great way to end the day, cruising back through the islands, the diem thoroughly carped.
April is a co-founder and former co-Executive Director for Recreation Northwest. She has a passion for place and loves exploring, experiencing and sharing the beauty of the pacific northwest. She is currently working with Ocean Conservancy to protect our oceans, specifically the Arctic.