Friday, August 3, 2012

The Broken Bones Relay

Watching these 2012 Summer Olympics brings back a memory of my own “Olympic” moment or rather a competitive relay race I signed up for. 

During my summers off from University I worked out at Dinosaur Provincial Park. The park employed Interpreters, Conservation Officers, Maintenance, Lab Technicians, Paleontologists, and Information Officers also known as front desk staff.  I was an Information Officer ready to inform you about anything you needed know in relation to park information, dinosaur history, Alberta campgrounds, highway information, local flora and fauna etc. 

Every summer the park hosts The Broken Bones Relay which brings teams from various Alberta Parks including our own to participate in.  Us Information Officers decided to enter a team and compete in the three part relay.  The relay included a 3.2 km run around the public loop road, a portage down The Little Sand Hill Creek on foot with a canoe in tow to the Red Deer River, an upstream row around a sandbar and back, followed by a 2 km bike ride up hill to the View Point of the park.  Each team had four members; one runner, two canoers, and a biker.  Our team, “The Information Officers of Ecstasy” (which I believed we called ourselves after attending the strippers a few nights before) had two Information Officers from our own park and two Conservation Officers (Jason and Mark) from a neighboring park. 

My coworker Tracy and I “trained” for our leg of the race, which was canoeing, for about a week every night after work which we believed was enough time to get ourselves ready.  Jason was our runner and Mark was going to take us home for the win with his biking skills.  We were set!  The day of the race came and teams from other Alberta parks were all there ready and hungry for the homemade trophy which I believe was made out of a pair of deer antlers.  The team we feared was the Paleo team.  Their team name was “Death” and they all wore bandanas with skulls on them.  The Paleos were used to intense physical activity in extreme heat from being out in the field excavating and extracting dinosaur bones all day long in crazy remote locations.  They felt no pain.  Our team also raised a few eye brows not only because of our racy name but Mark showed up in true Olympic biking attire for the race. I remember thinking he must have been a professional cyclist and I felt confident we had the race in the bag with a “stacked team”. 

We were all in position, the gun went off, and away Jason went for his 3.2 km run in the scorching sun.  The first man to come in was Aaron from the Interpreter team; the second was a Conservation Officer and his dog from team Writing on Stone, and then Jason from our team!!  Tracy and I piled...fell into the creek below with our 300 pound canoe and began the portage down the creek towards the river. A portage is carrying or pulling watercraft. When training we left out the “running” part so I was slipping on rocks, soaking wet seconds into the race, losing the canoe rope constantly, tripping over my feet as Tracy was pushing from behind.  Of course we were passed by the Paleo team running past us like a pack of Orcs with their canoe over their heads.  We reached the mouth of the river and piled…fell into the canoe only tipping it once and began rowing up stream trying to recall any kind of form we had practiced to get the thing actually moving forward and not in circles.  The Paleos were already long up stream and around the sand bar while other teams were passing us by the second. I must not have given it my “all” while training because I was so exhausted that it tasted like blood in my mouth.  There was a single moment while heaving the oar into the water and using every bit of strength and energy I had left, that I considered bailing out of the canoe and drowning myself right there.  I was beyond exhausted but I pushed on.  When we reached the sand bar there was another team barely in front of us and something evil took us over in our attempts to get ahead of them. The sand bar required us to get out of the canoe, run across the sandbar, and jump back into the canoe to finish the leg.  I remember at one point clothes lining a girl with the rope of the canoe in order to get in front.  We finally reached the shore and off Mark went in attempts to gain some ground and redeem what we had lost.  There was a bus on site that was bussing the other team members to the View Point to meet up with the bikers.  Tracy, Jason, and I hopped on the bus after I lay in the grass for awhile regaining my strength.  We saw many bikers still riding up the hill but did not see Mark.  We figured he was already at the top of hill waiting for us.  Victory was only a short bus ride away!  When we got up to the top there was no sign of him.  Team after team rode in but no Mark.  Finally after every single team had come in we saw Mark walking his bike towards the finish line.  He looked pained.  Turns out Mark had swallowed a bumble bee only seconds into his leg of the race. He was coughing and hacking.  He sure looked good though.

It was an incredible experience and The Information Officers Ecstasy entered the following year and came in dead last again but we had a blast doing it.  Team “Death” won by the way.

Check out this KOOL new site that features the talented Carol Iwaasa’s wool collection.

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