A couple months ago, Adrian and Jonathan Owens had emailed me, asking if I was interested in racing the Bitter Pill as their teammate. Adrian is on the US Ski-orienteering team with me, and I did a short little practice race with him last summer. His twin brother Jonathan is also an adventure racer, he's on some big team out in California, and used to be a pro mt biker, and he skis, so I know him well enough too. I know they've done this race before, a couple times, but often they do it as the two-person team, and all the glory is in the three-person coed category. I figured it couldn't be that bad, although I was pretty leery about the swim part. Anyway, Jonathan convinced me I'd be fine, and Adrian convinced me that I wouldn't be slowing them down too much, so I signed myself up.
Although I've done a 12-hour adventure race before, with Ken and Greg, I had an inkling of a suspicion that this one would be a little harder. Faster-paced, a little more competitive. We corresponded a lot via email before the race, mostly it went along the lines of me reading the mandatory gear list, and then emailing Adrian and Jon to see if they had extra things that I didn't have. I was able to pull everything together in time for the race, and I drove up to Craftsbury on Friday to do some paddling with the guys and practice getting towed on a bike, since I was pretty sure I didn't have enough power in my legs to keep up. I made a minor detour to Kingdom Trails on the way, and the place was as awesome as always. I needed to do that, you see, because ARs don't have any technical mt biking, and my bike gets cranky when I only ride her on roads. Bike abuse.
So, I got to Adrian's house, and we fiddled around with bikes and canoes and paddles and eventually went off to Stowe to register and go through the mandatory gear checks. They mandate the gear checks because a lot of it is safety stuff, I guess, like the mirror, the lighter, and the first-aid kit. I had checked the weather before I left and I was a little worried about how cold it was supposed to get overnight - it would only be 42F by the time we started the race at 4am. If they made us do the swim first, I would be one unhappy camper for a while afterwards. We didn't know the order of the events, but we knew there would be biking, paddling, trekking, and swimming, in some order, throughout the day. Its all done with a navigational component, you have to find your way from checkpoint to checkpoint, like in orienteering, except that the race directors don't necessarily put the checkpoints in the right spot, and the maps are not necessarily up to date - there will be trails and roads in reality that are not on the map. As Ken said, adventure race maps are mere suggestions of reality. This frustrates the orienteer in me.
Anyway, we got out of the gear checking room by 8pm, which was good, because we had a 2:30am wakeup the next morning. Cruel and unusual punishment.