2006/11/11 – Bend or Bust Adventure Race 2006


Colorado Bend State Park

What Is It?

Too Cool is at it again. The long awaited Colorado Bend State Park Adventure Race is back! With over 5,000 acres, this Texas state park offers some of the most beautiful scenery around. Expect this one day race to show case most of the park’s treasures. It’s Bend or Bust baby!!

This years race will be a 10-15 hour event with the following disciplines:

  • Mountain Biking: Dirt roads, jeep trails, and single track
  • Trekking/Navigation: Navigation throughout all disciplines
  • Flat water Paddling: Bring your own boats
  • Ropes: 100′ Rappel
  • Special Team Challenges: With a “Too Cool” Twist

Team Name: Team O.U.C.H (Obviously Unprepared, Confused and Hurting)

Team Mates

Captain: Pamela Ferguson
Lead Nav: Steve Mertz
Back Up Nav: Alan Henson (To become Lead Nav)
Pace Counter Extraordinaire: Josh Thompson


4 Person Coed


8 out of 9!

Bend or Bust Results

Bend or Bust Results


First off. Thanks to my great Team Mates. Pamela for putting together and doing all the foot work of making it possible for us to do this race. Alan for taking over the nav duties when I pretty much lost my head on it. And Josh for your awesome pace counting, helping everyone out in TA, and your sleeping bag after you left!

This was my first long adventure race. It was promoted as a 10-15hour afterwards many thought that 15hours was too short for what this course entailed. It was a very hard naving race. And it started off badly.

Race start was 5:00am. We were up and at the prerace meeting at 4:30am, and then went back to make final adjustments to our gear waiting to see what we would be doing first. At 5:00 we went to the start line, they handed out the coordinates and rules for the first leg of the race. We bolt back to TA to plot the points and get things ready. There were three points to find. We struggle to figure out how to plot the points as there were numbers missing from the Eastings and Northings. We finally figure out that they dropped the last number, rounding everything up to 10m. Once that is figured out we quickly plot the points and decide to head out on the bike for the first point, and we will tackle the other two points via kayak. We decide based on the state park map we got and the little bit of info we gathered the day before by driving the road, we would head to one of the hiking trails, drop the bikes and run in to the point.

To get just about any where on the bike, you first have to climb up, about 350 feet in around 1.5 miles, with the first 200 feet of that in the first 1/2 miles (9.5% grade). For those of you in the mountain areas, that may not seem like a lot. But for the flat landers of Texas, it’s huge! So we start climbing this hill and my legs are screaming at me to stop. And this is just the first 5 minutes of racing! I am not looking forward to this race at this point knowing that we have to climb this hill multiple times. I don’t know at this point how my team is doing as I’m just struggling to keep making circles up the hill to get to the point where we drop off the bikes.

We finally get to the trail head after passing a couple of other people’s bikes who dropped them off at various other points along the road. We drop the bikes, and bolt down the trail. This is where I screwed up big time as lead navigator. Instead of looking at the map, taking a bearing and keeping track of where we were and where we were going, we just blindly ran down the trail, not really knowing if it went the way we wanted it to. It is still dark out (5:45/6:00am ish) and we are running around. Finally we decide the trail is going too far to the left of where we wanted to go. So again, without taking a bearing we turn off the path and end up going down hill, like we wanted to, but no idea where we were as there were lots of down hills from the point we started at. I start to look at the map and realize I have no clue what so ever where we are, where we came from or where we were going. Breaking rule number one. Always stay found!

We decide to turn around and try to find our way back. Of course not knowing where we came from really we just headed up the hill. We can’t see much around as it’s dark and the juniper trees in the area are really tall. We are also trying to avoid the cactus in the area so we don’t get stuck with those. Finally Alan has an idea of where we might be and he manages to lead us out back to the road not too far from where the bikes were. Good job Alan. At this point I’m mentally in a very bad place and decide to let Alan become lead nav as I don’t have what it takes today. My first race with real naving, and I cracked, and it’s what I’m supposedly really good at. So those dark thoughts haunt me through out the race. We decide to not get this point and move onto the next point. The race rules state that to be an official finisher, you must get one point in each leg of the race. So we decide the others must be easier and head back to TA.

The next section we are about to do is the kayaking. We were using tandem Necky’s for our kayaks. And being the tall guy I am, I barely fit in them. When I need to get in and out, I have to wiggle a bit to get the legs in, at which point they get pinned between the seat and the wall that divides the two cockpits. Because of this, I can’t use the foot pedals to use the rudder, so I have to steer these things with just the paddle, and Necky’s don’t like turning. This comes back to haunt me later in the race…

We get back to TA and I pass nav duties to Alan who reluctantly accepts them. Letting me know if I feel I get my head back in the game to let him know and he will give them back to me. So we swap out of the bike gear and head off to the kayaks to find the next checkpoint. We kayak about 1000m to where the second checkpoint was to be, in a draw. So we land, and head up trekking in a bit, keeping tabs on our pace counts and where we are on the map. We learned from our first mistake of the day already. We get to where it’s suppose to be and don’t see anything. Great, we are 0 for 2 in finding checkpoints, and we head back to the kayak to regroup and figure out what’s next. On the way back Alan figures we missed the draw it was suppose to be in, although we didn’t see any other draws, creeks, or other dents in the ground to indicate flowing water on the way to this area. We get back to the kayaks and look across the river, and there is CP3! YES! FINALLY A CP! We paddle over there and Pamela jumps out to punch the passport. It was CP3, but the CP said 11. So she punch CP11, this is important for later in the story. But Alan told her no it was CP3 and to check the coordinates that were on the punch to double check and yes they were for CP3 and so she punched CP3.

We paddle back to TA to get the coordinates and rules for the second leg. We are still official as we found our “at least” one checkpoint for the first leg of the race! Game On!

This next leg of the race is a bike/trek leg. We are suppose to bike to the various areas where the CPs are and then trek to them since some of them you can’t get to via the bike directly. We all hum and haw on whether to take our running shoes or not, and the crew decides that it’s best not to, so we can ride light. But I also decide that I should probably take mine in case we get into some gnarly trekking that could be fairly long as I have ankle problems and trekking in bike shoes is usually a bad idea for me.

We head towards the hill and in the back of my mind I’m thinking about the first climb up and I’m dreading this climb. We hit it and amazingly I feel good. My legs feel strong and I just hammer up the hill no problem. Much better than the first bike up it. We get to the top and head along the road, going almost all the way to the park entrance, but first we are going to hit up CP11 since it’s on the way to the rest of them and should be fairly easy to find. So we get to the dry creek bed we wanted and the clue was over look, so we knew we were going to be climbing up. We start heading up the hill that was there and get to the top and now that we are there we need to find an over look. We spread out a bit walking along the ridge line (as best as we can due to the thick brush) and I spot something that looks like an overlook and call out to the team. Alan and Pamela make their way over there and presto! CP11! Meanwhile they call out to me to not come out, because there is a small area to stand on and they know I’m not too fond of heights. But they mention that the view was very nice.

We climb back down the hill to the bikes and head off to the bike/hiking trails which are mostly jeep trails to find a some more check points. I don’t really remember the order or how many points we got here. I need to look at the map for this area. There was one point where it was a long a fence line and a group was already there looking. And they asked us about it, we told them it was 340m down the fence line, they replied back saying they just came 400m from that direction. We all started to walk together. Josh was doing his pace counting and we kind of let the other team go while we did our own thing. Then right where it was suppose to be, there it was! Good Job Josh! Alan, smartly called for a regroup right away so that we didn’t give away it’s position and we waited for the other team to get further away, then Pamela went in and punched the pass port and off we went.

We got some other points (I think?) and then realized that we may have used the wrong punch on the CP11! That dreaded CP11 we were having nothing but problems with. First it’s spot gets punched with CP3’s punch, then we may have used the wrong punch on it when we were there! So we had to go back to CP11 and recheck it. This time Josh and myself went out on the overlook so we could have a peak at the view. It wasn’t anything scarey, and I’m not really intimidated by things like that and told them afterwards to not worry about me on things like that. Just the jumping off (rappelling.)

We then book it down the road to the stupid trail we originally went off on first thing this morning that we got lost with, and road some fabulous technical trails. Everyone did an awesome job getting through it, it was very hard. And as always, my and my large momentum caused issues and I couldn’t take the corners like everyone else, my bike wanted to keep on going straight! So I struggled with that a bit but we all got through it safe and sound, no spills (that I know of.) We did pass some people who for whatever reason left their bikes at the top instead of riding the trail, meaning they had to not only walk down to the bottom but then walk back up! Silly! We get going towards the next CP and a team of two kind of hooks up with us as we go along. They stop to try to think about where it was and we keep going and see a bunch of bikes on the ground and a CP. Great! The checkpoint! But no, it wasn’t! It was for the next leg. A couple of the guys from Team Peanut Butter (and friends to us!) let us know that it wasn’t it and that it was back a bit and pointed to where it was. So we head back and read the directions, something about looking for the green flagging to the opening. We get there, find the flagging and it’s a cave! Time for some spelunking! But it wasn’t big nor deep so Pamela just headed in punched the passport and away we went back to TA.

Leg three of the race was a bike to a certain point where we were to drop off the bikes and trek to the rest of the CPs. This also was a troublesome leg for us. We start off fine biking to the bike drop, where we originally though CP12 was CP13, back by the caves. We drop our bike gear, lace up the running shoes and off we go to find the first CP of this leg. There are a couple of teams that are around us as we travel on to CP14. We go down the road to the creek where we had to start walking up the creek bed to find the CP. There is a HART team around us searching what seems to be kind of blindly. Josh does his pace counting magic, and we go up the creek.

We get to where we think it should be, even a little past it. Alan double checks the map and it shows that it’s not actually in the creek bed, but up on the edge of it, which is about 100 feet up. So we do a search pattern walking back with my at the bottom of the creek, Josh up a little bit, Pamela up a little bit further and Alan up at the top. I suddenly hear Alan calling Pamela out to help him check the map, at which point Josh and I realize they found it and we wait for them to come back down. Meanwhile the HART team was still looking around and ask Josh and I if we had any luck. Truthfully we didn’t, our team mates did! We were going to go back to the beginning and redo our pace count we told them, and as they milled about a bit more, we head to the beginning and on to the next CP!

More CPs from Hell follow this first one. The first thing we have to do is trek along the river to find a place to cross over. We start trekking, trying to find a path along the river or a jeep road that is shown on the map, there is a bit of a path that we follow that looks like was made by everyone else who was in front of us (thanks!) So we follow it. Basically a path cut through some reeds, very thorny vines (that really hurt and are good at drawing blood) and hidden barb wire fences. We finally see a group of people crossing the river up ahead so we find a way down to where they are only to see that it was the HART team we left back around CP14. We still don’t know how they leap frogged us like that! We wade across the river to the other side and start looking around for a draw like feature. We decide that a little further down the river is where we need to go. So we start heading down that way and HART seems to follow. We find a draw and make the same mistake we made with CP1. We charge up it without taking a bearing or doing any real pace counting! We climb up the hill and lose contact with the draw, and just get confused as to what’s going on. We decide to go back down the hill and start over. We find our way back to the bottom and find a different, more defined draw and take a bearing, and pace count our way up. Just as we are about to get to CP16, STAR – Reborn comes up behind us. Wow! Hanging with a high quality team! They also found Alan’s tow rope and returned it to him, and continued up and found the CP right around where we figured it was going to be. And they holler out that they found it making it easy for everyone!

We get to the CP and decide that the dead reckoning is really working for us so we headed off to do it to CP15. Juniper, Mesquite and Cactus HELL! This is what we bush whack through. It’s so thick we can’t just take a bearing and walk in that direction. We basically leap frog our way through. Meaning one person goes up ahead, and stands at a point where Alan said was where we needed to go. Alan would then walk up to that person, take their place and then do it again. We all got stuck with Mesquite and Cactus quills. At one point I was being the bearing holder, turned around and my knee went right into a cactus, about 200 quills stuck into my knee. I had to stop and get them out.

We had 750m of this mess to traverse and it was brutal. I got stuck in the back by mesquite thorn, legs trashed by the cactus and juniper trees. It was actually a little bit miserable. When we got to the fence we were looking for we were so elated I think we all did a little jump for joy! We took a breather kind of looked at where we were and tried to find the CP. We spent the next 45 minutes trying to find that CP that was suppose to be on the fence! It was no where to be found! After all that bush whacking and no point! We were not very happy about it and decided to head back along the fence.

We start the walk back and come to a pretty steep down hill. Some may even say it was almost a cliff, but it was easily passable so we start the descend. We get about half way down when suddenly Pamela lets out a yelp and sounds like she’s about to cry, I get down there to see blood all over her face. First thing I think is “FUCK! How are we going to get her down if she can’t see!” I get to her, and we are standing on this little ledge with only about a square foot each to move around on and a bush in between us. I take a quick look and it’s not that bad, just a typical head wound with lots of blood but nothing serious. I get out the first aid kit and get the gauze pads, first thing is to stop the bleeding so I get a large pad out, roll it up and put it against her cuts. I put her hand on it and tell her to hold it so I can go about cleaning up the rest of the blood and seeing if there are any other cuts that need addressing. Three 3 x 3 gauze pads later the blood is cleared enough to be able to see her skin and that it was just two punctures. Looked a bit like a snake bite, which is ironic since it was a Snake Plant that did this to her! The bleeding seems to have stemmed a bit and I get another 5×5 gauze pad and roll it up so it will cover the two wounds, tape it up. And of course the tape won’t stay because of all the sweat and blood that is still there. But Pamela comes up with putting her sun glasses back on (thank God she was wearing those when this happened, else she would be down one eye!) and it holds the gauze in place, perfect! She was quite a trooper through the whole ordeal, it was a scary amount of blood that came gushing out. We finally get to the bottom of the cliff, and are only about 20 feet from where we originally crossed so we head back and clean some of the blood off ourselves in the process. As we are crossing Alan says we need to come up with a new nick name for Pamela because of the injury. And I thought for a moment and said “No, her nick name is Captain Morgan already, she just needs an eye patch!” And everyone burst out laughing and agreed! It’s good to laugh after serious hardships like we just went through there!

We start the trek back through those reeds, thorny vines, etc. I don’t know if I can run as my big toes were hurting with what felt like ingrown toe nails. But after a bit, I just wanted to be done with that leg so I say lets give it a shot. We have to stop for Alan to pull some cactus quills out of his shin that he was putting up with for the past hour or two, then we continue on. We finally get back to the bike drop and see that we are the last ones there since there are no more bikes. We put our bike gear on and head back to TA. Leg three completed.

We get back to TA to find out that the Rappelling section has a 7pm cutoff and there is pretty much no way we will be able to make that. At this point I am feeling very bad mentally. Thinking, if I hadn’t gotten us so lost on that first point, then we probably would have made it. And knowing how much everyone else really wanted to do the rappelling just compounded those feelings. Through out the race we were doing the numbers system. Where you call out how you are feeling based on a scale between 1 and 10. For most of the race I was physically a 7-8 or higher. After getting us lost I was mentally about a 4. At this point, I was probably close to a 1 mentally.

Even though we can’t do the rappel, we can still get an official finish. We grab the coordinates and info for Leg 4 and run back to our TA to plot and figure out what we need to do. We just need one CP to be official for this leg, so we plot the points and head off to the kayaks to get the closest one. I bet the paddling would have been really nice in the day light! At this time it is getting to be dusk and it’s past 5pm so it is getting dark and we can’t see much as it is getting dark.

We paddle down to where CP17 was going to be at the bottom of some water falls, which probably were really nice to look at … Again in the day light! Pamela and Josh jump out of the kayaks to search around for the CP and finally find it. The hop back in and at this point we are just trying to stay official. Going back to how the Necky’s don’t like to turn, I am having a heck of a time trying to get the thing to go straight! I have no idea what was going on and I struggled so much that I actually pulled the muscle in my upper back to the point it really hurt to paddle. But I wasn’t letting down so we could make it back to finish! We get back to TA, get the info for the next leg of the race.

We plot the point to the bike drop, several people milling around tell us that we may not have enough time to meet the 8pm race cut off to get to CP20 and back. We didn’t care, we were determined to get there and back so we could have an official finish! We get all our bike gear on and head out, back up that big hill! And on the bike I’m feeling the best I felt all day, I just fly up that hill, keeping some tabs on where the others are and trying not to get too far ahead. But then I suddenly hear Josh holler out to hold up, so I stop. I wait for them to catch up and they let me know that Alan stopped for a nature break and that they were going to go up to the top of the hill to stop. Thinking to myself that they all agreed on this, didn’t think twice about it, and go on back up the hill, and I kind of keep back a bit so that I can see if I can see Alan coming back any time soon. Finally he does and catches up to us, moves up to the front and tears into us for leaving him. He had every right since we shouldn’t have left him. It was dark, and on a hill, and if he had a problem we wouldn’t have known about it. He continued on about team awareness knowing where everyone is and how they are all doing. He was quite irate. And then while talking about all this all of a sudden a wild pig bolts right in front of him missing him by a few feet. This changed the mood quickly from a somber one to one full of adrenaline and “Holy Crap! Did you see that?!” All we could do was laugh at the pig that almost caused us a crash! We finally get to the top of the hill and to where we needed to turn off the road.

We go down the road a ways and see where people have dropped off their bikes, and like lemmings we do the same and start walking down the road. Meanwhile Alan is thinking that this isn’t right. The bike drop off was suppose to be further down the road. So we go back to the bikes and go down the road on the bikes, passing some people who were walking both down and back up the road. The team ends up dropping me as I struggle around the corners and trying to navigate in the dark. I get to the bottom and see they found the CP and are getting ready to head back up already so I turn around and try to go up, but unfortunately I was at the back of the pack and they were going a bit slower than I can handle while climbing to keep steady. So I fell a bit back so I could just get my own pace up the hill going and back to TA we soared!

And to all those nay Sayers that said we wouldn’t be able to get to CP20 and back before 8pm all we had to say was HA! With thirty minutes to spare! And thanks to the one team that DNF’d we didn’t finish in last place!



Team OUCH calculating our next move.


Here are the maps that we used for the race. These maps are huge, so please be patient if you download them.

Google Earth

Google Earth mapping of the checkpoints! You can select a leg of the race, and click the play button to see how we went through the check points for that leg.

Get the file Here.

Final Thoughts

It was definitely a long race. Especially since it started off so poorly. The Assistant Navigation Coach, and he gets the team lost right off the bat. It was (and still is) hard to over come that. I went in with better expectations of myself and failed them. I probably shouldn’t have set those expectations so high since this was my first long adventure race and my first race where I did any nav at all. So I was bound to have some problems. But I will chalk this up as experience and know better for next time.

The team dynamics were great. We all got along well, there was no real fighting, bickering or animosity towards anyone each other, that I saw. I would love to race with this gang again, any time.

We all looked really good at the end, like we could have gone longer if they would have let us to get all the check points. I don’t think anyone ever thought (or at least said out loud) the Q-Word (quit) while we were out there. Sure we were wishing some parts of it to hurry up and be over, but not quit.

Days Later… (2006/11/14)

Wow, can’t believe it’s been four days since the race already. I was still picking quills out of my arms and legs yesterday. I’m not overly tired or have any muscle fatigue from the race. My feet are still numb though which bothers me a bit. But I did go to running practice last night and they didn’t really bother me there. Coach Ashley said that her feet were numb for a while after she finished Nationals, so I won’t worry too much about it yet.

I am still feeling a bit bummed about screwing up that first check point. I know, I know, I shouldn’t. It’s just hard to shake it. And I will hopefully do so this weekend at the Jail Break where we will have some more naving and hopefully I can hit all that bang on and rebuild my confidence.

I am also bummed about the not being able to rappel. I wasn’t really looking forward to it to start with. But the closer it got the more excited about it I got. I think I am more sad about my team mates not getting to do it since they were really excited right off the bat about doing it. We all went out and bought new gear just for this, and to be told we wouldn’t be able to do it, because they race director made it too late in the race was a real downer. The only thing that comforted us all over that was we set out to finish the race and we did.

It was a good race though. We all got through it more or less healthy, just scrapes, bruises, cactus quills to deal with. We all learned a bunch, about each other, ourselves, the sport and the dynamics of it all. I don’t think I would have changed any thing we did other than that first check point, thinking back on the entire race. We really should have taken a bearing and did proper pace counting there. But other than that, we did the best we could and got the important Official Finish.

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