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N. Carolina Team wins 300-Mile Race

June 24, 1998

CLAYTOR LAKE, Va. (AP) _ Gary Macintosh was on the verge of collapse as he pushed through the final stage of a 300-mile hiking, biking and paddling race in the Allegheny Mountains.

``I was drowning, man,″ said Macintosh, whose North Carolina team won the Beast of the East Adventure Race on Wednesday in 80 hours, eight minutes. ``All I could think about was putting one foot in front of the other.″

Macintosh and teammates Norm Greenberg and Tracyn Thayer, who work together at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City, N.C., arrived at the Claytor Lake finish line covered with scratches, bug bites and poison ivy. Their competitors looked as bad or worse.

Kent Davidson, his tongue hanging out as he helped two friends lift their canoe out of the water, was sunburned and his feet were badly blistered. His only sleep since Sunday morning were brief catnaps. At times he was hallucinating and talking nonsense to his teammates.

``Man, that was brutal,″ said Davidson, shaking his head and accepting congratulatory hugs and handshakes for his Little Rock team’s second-place finish, an hour behind the winners.

The Beast of the East is one of six major adventure races this year, including two other U.S. races in Montana and upstate New York. But organizers said the Virginia race is the first to include no mandatory stops and to allow solo racers along with the traditional team competition.

After 40 miles of canoeing along the New River, including several stretches of rapids, the racers climbed a 150-foot cliff, rappelled down another, hiked and biked 220 miles and then finished with another 40-mile leg of canoeing.

Five of the 20 teams dropped out from exhaustion, dehydration or injured feet.

Greenberg said a key to winning was crossing over 5,550-foot Whitetop Mountain just as a thunderstorm hit the ridge behind them. The teams trailing them were forced to take cover for hours.

``It was crashing down right on top of us,″ said Greg Engemenn of Sacramento, Calif., whose team finished third. ``As soon as we saw lightning we heard the thunder.″

Lynchburg physician George Wortley said many of the racers could barely walk when they reached his medical station at Bear Creek about halfway through the course. At one point Tuesday, five athletes were getting intravenous fluids while he taped their feet and support team members fed them.

After resting from 30 minutes to a few hours, ``They would get up and say, `I feel great, doc.′ And off they went for another 100 miles,″ Wortley said. ``But everyone lived and most continued on with smiles on their faces.″

As Thayer pulled the bandages and duct tape from her toes and Greenberg pulled a tick off his leg, they explained why they put themselves to such an extreme test.

``It’s one of those things that you want to prove, that even when things are really bad you can push yourself through it,″ she said.

``We like to challenge ourselves,″ Greenberg said, ``We don’t like to lead easy lifestyles.″

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