Monday, June 26, 2006

At sunset, top teams finishing canyoneering section of Primal Quest

(A compass hangs at the ready for a racer's consultation along the route. Photo by Side Light/John Nantes, courtesy of Side Light, Nantes and Primal Quest.)

Two teams have now dropped out of Primal Quest due to injuries and exhaustion. Two more have lost team members to exhaustion but decided to press on unranked. The heat was up over 95 degrees today. Racers have now been going for about 38 hours.

None of this shows in the leading teams. After starting out with a whitewater swim this morning and switching to a long kayak down the Green River, they started a trek through the desert at about 2 this afternoon -- the hottest part of the day.
After almost three hours of cross country rambling, they jogged to a point where they had to rappel 330 feet down a sheer cliff to a canyon below.

The top five racing teams arrived at the rappel station at almost the same time. As they waited in line to get onto the ropes they seemed very calm, relaxed, even energetic. Most of the top racers have been doing big events like this one for years and know each other, so when they get together it's a reunion of old friends. Even though they had just clocked more hiking miles than most people will in a year, they spent their time at the station chatting just as friends would who run into each other at the store.

How's your wife? Did she get that job? Did you hear about so-and-so getting together with what's-his-name? Hey, nice bit of navigation back there, by the way, would you like some cookies?

There was no hint they were about to drop off a 30-foot cliff, then walk through the night, and in a few days, maybe reach down and scrape up the last shreds of their will to push past the person next to them and snag the $100,000 first prize that is the biggest in adventure racing. No hint at all.

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