DQ and Don’t Care

A 2017 Dawn to Dusk Report by Michelle Fletcher

[Ed note: Michelle and her husband Martin started doing these races on their anniversary. Talk about the couple that suffers together, stays together. Oh wait, it’s not about suffering!]

17 miles of deep & squishy sand running, 6 miles of ocean kayaking, 100 meter ocean swim, and 9 miles of biking for a total of 32.67 miles in 10:21:12. We didn’t make it to the mountain bike portion before cut off so we DQ’d and rode our sad bikes on the road to the finish in the dark.

The route: minus the mountain biking portion. We arrived to our bikes about 20-30 minutes after the cutoff time.

Happy pre-race faces! — with Martin Fletcher,Danilu Lourdes Ramirez and Christie O’Hara.

At 6a.m. We received our map and began plotting our coordinates. We only had to plot optional check points (and not all the mandatory) this year.

1st sheet of Rules of Travel

Watching an engineer folding a freshly printed map with no pre-fold lines was oddly entertaining for me.

The swim from that rock to that sandspit is my biggest fear of this whole race. It’s not the distance or that it is open water but it’s the cold. When water is too cold my lungs seize, I can’t get air into them. The air just sits in my cheeks and I can’t push it down to my chest. We are welcome to wear wetsuits however whatever we bring across that water we must carry through 11 miles of sand running. I opted for no wetsuit and as I stare at this shaking from the cold wearing a jacket, I am regretting my decision. I’m worried that this is where my race will end.
Getting bussed to the start. One of the busses never showed up so this bus must shuttle us in two groups. Start time is an hour behind which will bring us additional challenges when the Ebb Tide comes in and again when the sun goes down.
The waves we will not have to kayak through! Instead we just have to run the portion we would’ve kayaked. 6 miles of sand running to start! [Ed note: we were able to change the open ocean paddle at the last minute when waves were forecasted to be double overhead.]

It’s the end of the 6 miles and I never found my rhythm. Every step was work. I come off this sand feeling incredibly defeated and realizing I am not well trained enough for this. The inconsistent work outs, late nights and bad eating habits are all coming to a head right now and I have over 10 hours of racing to go.

To run 6 miles through deep sand and then fix yourself in a rigid seating position to kayak 6 miles while being splashed with cold ocean water is a small torture. It’s so hard to not cramp and when you finally get out every muscle in your legs is stiff.

Cut off for the swim is 12:00. The ebb tide comes in and it sucks everything out to deep sea. As much as I don’t want to get in that water I still want it to be my choice and not Mother Nature’s. We are a half mile from the kayak checkpoint, if we go for it we will miss cutoff. If we turn around we have a chance to continue however we know we will be disqualified for missing a mandatory checkpoint. We turn around and kayak 6 miles instead of the 7 we are supposed to. We arrive at 12:11 but we are told the cutoff has been extended to 1:00. I am a mix of emotions. [Ed note: ARRGH!! We were trying to account for the race delay, but they did a great job deciding to keep in the race vs maybe miss a cuttoff. AR is all about this stuff.]

The ebb tide has arrived. We are bordered by coast guard boats and they are close, very close! They are watching everyone with hawk eyes. One guy is getting worked by the current and grabs a bouey/dingey at the half way point. They ask if he’s ok, does he need help? His answer.. “I don’t know.” Seems about right, we don’t know our threshold, that’s why we’re out here. What is our wall and would we know it if we were up against it? He made it to the other side and continues his race.

When we cross we need to carry our packs so we are swimming with an average of 5 lbs in tow. The dry sack we have our bags in allow it to float. I ask the race directors what is the best way to tow it. As soon as I get my question out I realize I can’t talk anymore or I’ll cry. I am genuinely scared. I think of my kiddos, is this how they feel when they have to do something new and they are uncertain of their abilities? When they see everyone around them pushing through and wonder if they can …or should? I make a promise that I will be far more understanding of their fears in the future. I tell myself I can make it across by the time I count to 500 and jump in. I made it across before I hit 300

Once we are out it’s time to get warm. Everyone is on the rocks and shaking… hard! I’m used to seeing girls shake from the cold but it was odd to see all the guys shaking so hard too.

Now that we’re dressed it’s time to run on sand again but I don’t have it in me. I know we have so many miles, we decided to walk it as quickly as we can. Pressure is off, we are already DQ’d from the kayak. We make our decision to just enjoy our day together.

We know we must be getting close, time to check the map.

Eureka! We found it.

Once we walked from Morro Bay to Montano de Oro, we had to navigate all these little rabbit trails. It was very hard to determine the right ones and often backtracked once we realized our errors.

Once we walked from Morro Bay to Montano de Oro, we had to navigate all these little rabbit trails. It was very hard to determine the right ones and often backtracked once we realized our errors.

If we thought we had escaped the sand when we left the beach we were sorely mistaken.
The view from checkpoint 3. If anyone is wondering the answer is: Zuggy and Tuie
Checkpoint 4: The crew told us that they had only seen 40 teams out of 150. We are pretty sure we won’t make it back for the bike cutoff so this is a nice little pat on the back! 

[Ed note: shoutout to SLO SAR for their constant support. <3]
Checkpoint 5 Found! Now just to find our way out of here!
Team Sole Mates & Team Adventure Nation are the last 4 bikes in the transition area. We are all mountain bikers at our core sooo this is a particularly hard pill to swallow. We are informed that we missed cutoff and our race is done. We are to ride our bikes on the roads back to the finish. It will be dark so we get our lights on our bikes and pedal back. Other racers coming off the trail meet up with us on the main drag of Morro Bay and even though every muscle on my body aches, I still feel a little jealous.
Tacos & beer at the finish is a nice reward!
My bad ass friend Danilu Lourdes Ramirez. This is the part we missed when we didn’t make cutoff time. Missed the tryolean traverse in May when I busted my knee open & now I missed this one. Once again the carrot is left dangling in front of me for 2018.