Near midnight, the team pushes mountain bikes to the starting line. Moonlight filters through the dense evergreens, glancing off patches of snow in the mountains into which the racers will climb.
The basics of adventure racing are thus: Coed teams of four must climb mountains, cross glaciers, paddle rivers, navigate deserts on camels, and so on, for days and nights on end, sleeping just a couple of hours in every 24. Team members must never be out of sight of one another. Members are allowed to carry each other's gear - and each other, if need be. Support crews meet their teams at some of the designated checkpoints along the way, providing food, fluids, and the necessary kayaks, snowshoes, and whatnot. The champions of adventure racing are typically in their 30s and 40s - experienced enough to weather the emotional hazards of pain and exhaustion.
Steephollow Creek, Saturday, 2 a.m.
Team Seagate misses a turn on the map. Forced to bushwhack through a vicious tangle of manzanita bushes, they shoulder their bicycles. Bill's pants tear open as his shin meets a gnarled branch. Cary complains so vociferously that Craig leaves his bike and comes back for hers. At 4:45 they spot the flashlights of the support crew waiting on Route 20.
As his teammates wolf food, Pat asks for an electrolyte tablet, of which none can be found. His legs are cramping. Team Seagate has tumbled from the top third of the pack to the bottom third. Bill picks up his bike. "Craig just kept going," he says with admiration. He scans the darkness. "Okay, guys! Gotta go!" Craig hooks the back of his bike to the front of Pat's with a rubber towrope before they lurch back onto the course.