Mountain Bike 14:00:00 
Stage 6: MTB
We headed out again on the MTB. Huge props to JD on these sections. He had the maps (I forgot to mention I had the wrong bolts for my map holder and forgot I could have zip tied it) and I did direction and distance. I thought they seemed tricky, especially when a solid line wasn’t always a real road, and sometimes there would be a made up road, or the road curved funny. Well, anyway he was very deliberate, while continuing to keep a pretty light mood. I have never ever laughed this much during a race. He would get me laughing, and then he would laugh because I was laughing so hard, and then the guys would laugh having no idea what we were laughing about. Oh my.
I realized I haven’t talked much about Jorge and Uli and I think it’s because it wasn’t until about this point in the race I didn’t know them very well at all! They are both in their late 30s, and love mountain biking. Jorge met JD in Australia, and when they wanted to do Nordic Islands they called him. They don’t know anything about navigation because there aren’t opportunities to do that where they live. They are quite nice guys, very capable bikers, sought out how to be helpful, and later in this stage, I learned how much in tune they seek to be with teammates. They were always willing to offer a tow, give me a little push, asked how I was feeling, and were very complimentary. Very, very nice indeed. At several points all of them would call me “la madre” or “farmacia.” LOL
I also missed another story from the previous MTB leg. JD saw what he called a “super secret squirrel trail” that he wanted to take. I wondered if it was a good idea, but before I had a chance to say anything bikes were going over a fence onto a steep-ish motorcycle trail. OK! We trekked up that trail to another fence where we met with another Guarani rancher/farmer. And, in typical fashion, motioned for us to come closer to his house, got us water and set off to get neighbor/friend/family member that speaks Spanish and Guarani. I must admit, the only time I was weepy (good kind though) was watching Jorge, JD, the farmer and his friend talking about the map, the roads and the race and laughing. Of course this was all in the middle of the night. JD says he will remember this section of where he lost his spare Ay Up battery! It was pretty amazing. They also gave us some of their green oranges. It’s a thing, really! And soooooo good. So the farmer and friend led us to the end of the entry to their property and it was back on to the crummy road we had left quite a bit ago. Uli started swearing and yelling in Spanish. JD said “Hey! At least we didn’t lose elevation!” I had to laugh.
Back to the chronological story….So we set off on this section, and it was an immediate climb to higher ground. And once up there, the fog and mist was so thick we could barely see more than a couple of feet ahead of us, so it was definitely slow going. We were all looking forward to dawn when 1) we would have the chance of the fog burning off and 2) it would be light. We seemed to get through that section and down the mountain without too much trouble, remaining as deliberate as we could be to not make any wrong turns. We went through another few Guarani sections, and they offered us water and fruit. I did get to see for the first time some of their stone ovens. Would have loved to have learned more about those. At the bottom of the mountain was, you guessed it, a tienda. We went in and the guys were excited to see three huge bottles of Miller. They all said at once “Miller time!”
After completing this refreshment (I had a coke) we got on the bikes, and then Uli shared with me that he didn’t feel well, and I inquired further and he said he thought he might be drunk. Jorge overheard this and starting laughing very hard. JD ask what was up, and Jorge could barely speak so I shared what was happening. This takes the cake. Uli hopped on my tow. We started climbing up a hill and after about 2k, JD realizes that we didn’t need to do that and headed down the hill. Uli’s obscenities streamed like water on the Huron River.
Once we got through that, we started to book it to get to the Kayak. It started to get warm, then all of a sudden, I got two hot flashes just minutes apart (yeah the menopause ones—that was interesting to explain to Uli and Jorge earlier in the race) and they cooked me. I started to fall behind. They slowed, I grabbed Jorge’s tow, and we proceeded. We stopped to check a turn, and Uli approached a woman in front of her house/tienda and I had guessed asked for water. He came for both my bike bottles. We went and sat in the shade. It was a little time, and I looked at my watch. Uli shared that he asked if she had ice because I was overheated and he was worried. That was very kind. I could hear her chopping the ice. And, in fashion, drank it in front of them and when on our way. I felt much better and was grateful for their looking out for me.
We got into the town for the kayak TA. We saw the referees, which by this time (despite the warnings) were really cheering us on. The race staff said “Nice to see you, why are you here?”
JD and I burst into laughter. I mean really, wasn’t that the question we had been asking oh, since Monday? Anyway, they didn’t expect we would want to do the full paddle, but we had decided since we had the time why not? (Insert ominous music here)
Paddling activity 10:00:00 
This stage started with a trek to river (10kish we were told) and I wasn’t sure how much water would be provided for the paddle, so I carried some and brought extra food. We were told that the river was moving rapidly and the paddle would go quicker than thought. After what we had been through, I wasn’t really willing to gamble. The heat was so intense, and I could tell we all felt a bit frayed, except JD seemed a bit livelier than the rest of us. We got kudos and headed out of town on foot.
We made our way to the river and the behemoth sit on top was waiting for us. While we were situating gear and such things, they race volunteers made us a burger. I joked “cena final.” We got our last adjustments and headed off. We did make a couple of changes once we got going. Night fell soon after. Then, all of a sudden, there was a cord across the river. Then another. Then another. Basically, we were having to lift fishing cord over our heads and paas them back to get through. At one point, there was some confusion on where to go, and Uli and found ourselves parallel to one of these “lineas” and all of a sudden I couldn’t speak Spanish to explain what we needed to do! Boat flipped. I had my paddle and then it was gone. I wound up swallowing some water which caused me to lose my breath for a minute or two but I came around quickly. JD and Jorge quickly circled the area to see if they could find the paddle, but we think it got sucked into some trees that we were buttressed against in the river. Other than the paddle, we didn’t lose any gear, but this was the beginning of me being very cold for the rest of the race. I was dumb that I didn’t pack my merino baselayer—I have Raynaud’s and often can get very cold. I did have my rain and regular layer, but that just didn’t cut it. I also used the 2 space blankets I had. We kept going rotating who had a paddle and kept the tow in place.
Once we got going again, I joiked with Jorge, when was something going to happen with him? Seemed like it was his turn. Then, almost on cue, out of nowhere in the middle of the river, he got stung twice in the arm! I really can't make this stuff up!
After a while, a pretty strong storm kicked up. The water was kicking up so much we couldn’t see the lines, so we pulled off and slept for a while. We used the sail as a “roof.” I woke up shivering a couple of times, and the guys would try to get closer to warm me up. At daylight I said “OK time to go!” and JD said “15 more minutes?” I started to pull emergency blankets off everybody. OK, maybe that was cruel. Just couldn’t get over how cold it was! I was dying the day before and then it dropped like 20 degrees F. Crazy!
We got going and rotated the paddling tried to keep some kind of pace going. Later on, we talked to some of the fisherman, and learned that we had quite a distance to go. I was really ready to be done. So we just plain dropped the hammer. Uli and I really started to get going, but JD and Jorge on a tow and I think for a couple of hours kept a pretty good pace. As darkness fell, I couldn’t’ really consult with JD on the maps mostly because of the splashing noises and not wanting to interrupt momentum. I was worried about the parallel channels and was sorry to see he got sucked down the first channel. Portaging wasn’t much of an option because the boats were really heavy and the trail might have been sketchy. Once we got to the finish, I needed help to get out of the boat! My legs were very cold and very still and the disease I have makes it challenging to move in those situations. So once they peeled me out of the boat, I did a few squats to get the blood flowing and we headed into the Finish! Finally!
What an adventure. I learned a lot. I went in with no expectations, only wanting to learn about international XPD racing, learn about Paraguay and have a little fun. I checked all the boxes.