The Patch is Mine

POCAR is an orienteering race that is put on by Purdue Outing Club. It's held every year in southern Indiana on MLK weekend. Most years, only about 10-20% of the teams finish the race. For most, the only racing is that of trying to finish before the cut off time (48 hours). This was my third attempt at POCAR, and finally we finished it. Out of everything I've ever competed in (marathon, summiting high points, 1/2 Ironman, cycling centuries), this may be my biggest athletic accomplishment to date.

What makes it so challenging are the multitude of factors that come in to play:
- balance of sleep
- caloric intake
- use of daylight
- orienteering experience
- gear quality
- team dynamic
- weather variables
*Having the will to push on for so many miles is a must; however, any one of the above can cause for failure.

Our 2010 POCAR stats include hiking 50 miles, locating all 23 check points and being out for 40 hours (3 hours of which were sleep). The race was held in the 200,000 acre (over 300 square miles; all of which were fair game) Hoosier National Forest. The race is built to make you want to come back each year until you complete it. For that reason it's very uncomfortable and unforgiving, yet super empowering. People who have experienced it talk about it in a mythical sort of way, if that makes sense. The tricky part is that you only get 5-10 points at a time. Therefore, you never really know when the madness will end until it's over, which forces you to trudge through the cold, dark and hilly woods at night. You're also forced to plot UTM coordinates no matter your mental state or time of day/night.

The defining moment of the race was sleeping in the woods, not out of sleepiness as much as not knowing where we were. We became very disoriented (mental fatigue and darkness of night) with the ravines in a certain area, which caused us to spend 3 hours searching for a point in an area no larger than a few football fields. Since we couldn't see more than 100 feet and needed to see the land contours to determine our location, we slept from 4-6am. Since we were packing light (no tent or sleeping bags), everyone put on all of the clothes they were carrying and lied down in a group, like a wolf pack. Having camped many times before, I'm very familiar with the setting up camp process. This was unique in that we simply laid down from where our feet were planted once the decision was made. No other means of business necessary.

Another nice race highlight was the comic relief of our team name: 'What'd You Say?' This was definitely an unplanned victory that took the edge off when we were hurting. At the 3 manned check points, where you needed to present your passport and team members, they would always ask, "What's your team name?" Without fail, each time our team would go back and forth with the volunteers 4 plus times (straight-faced on our end; mounting frustration on their end) before they got it.

4 items that got us through the race:
1) Physical fitness and preparation - Surprisingly, running is not sufficient training for hiking of this intensity.
2) Orienteering experience and comfort with the outdoors - Had we not all been comfortable sleeping as is, there would have been a DNF.
3) "Blowmeyer" - Race volunteer Brian Lowmeier (email: blowmeier@...) gave our team a common evil to bond against and blame any race obstacles on. Crawling up a muddy 1/4 mile hill in the woods at 3am would cause someone to yell, "That ass-hole Blowmeyer put this dirt here!"
4) "So Fucking Easy" - This was the comment that one of our overly-cocky Purdue triathlon club members used to use (less the F'ing part, which we added later to emphasize the idiocy of it), despite ever demonstrating said ease. As we limped through cold creek water, judging if 20 miles was half way or not, and wondering if we had packed enough food someone would blurt, "This race is sooooo fucking easy; I wish they would've made it harder." It was equal parts humor to lighten the mood, tricking the others in to thinking they were being wusses and perspective enough to realize what we weren't going through (i.e. cancer; war; refugees).

Through stubborn determination, we earned the completion patch. What better day to do so than on MLK Day.


Let's Make this a Tandem

I'd like to get a tandem bicycle and ride around town solo on it to see what friends I could make. Either ride it to work as a form of (mass) transportation (networking too) or in your free time to get in exercise (go team!).

1 - You automatically know that if someone saddles up that you have something in common - adventure, meeting people, bikes.
2 - You can also discover your trust in them, depending if you let them steer/brake. (The only problem with letting a mere stranger steer your bike is that they could simultaneously steal your bike and kidnap you.)

"Random-Tandem," as I may want to call it, affords the benefit of deciding to keep this new friend or not, since once they are at their location and get off the bike, you can keep going or stay and hang out (OR, better yet, keep riding AND hang out).

Why stop at 2? Get a "tandem" 5-seater. You could ride it to work and pick up fellow commuters going your direction (mass transit). There'd be incentive to get on a 5-seater with 4 in the saddle, since your added effort would be much less. Although, beware of social loafing. There'd also be incentive to be soloing a 5-seater, rather than a normal (onsey) bike, since each added person adds to lowering each subsequent rider's work output.

How empowering?! Once I get a fivesey I'll let you know how it goes.