The Myriad Ways of the Race

The course is totally laid out now, so no more blabbering on about that.  Once I show you the last three sections, I’m done, so your various body parts can stop exploding because I’m all into the world building at the moment.  It is fun, though:  you can’t imagine what it’s like until you do this.

So, last three sections:

Let's start here, shall we?

Let’s start here, shall we?

This happens not long after coming off Hamlin Peak, and it sees the last of the big, fast climbs–in this case, about 450 meters up to North Brother, one of the smaller peaks on the whole mountain complex.  It’s at North Brother Switch that the fliers are at 1219 meters/4000 feet for the last time, and after this, from point 3 to point 10, it’s an 800 meter/1600 foot flight downhill, with position 10, Splash, sitting at an elevation of 430 meters/1410 feet.

Then we go–



We’re flying straight north and pretty much flat out for most of it, as points 6 and 7 act as a chicane for the racers.  Not a lot of variation in the terrain now, save for the little up, down, up at the West Butte/Hollow/East Butte combination.  This section is really where the racers start to pour it on for the finish, and point 7 sees a fair share of crashes due to people getting a little too excited near the end.

And lastly:

We're just about home--literally.

We’re just about home–literally.

The final sprint back to the Start/Finish line.  You’re pretty much out of the hills here and rushing towards the end, and the fast turn combination of Wrap Around and Final offer a final passing opportunity before starting another lap or finishing the race.  And given the size of this track, those last two turns are big, so one can carry a lot of speed through them if you don’t mind the gee forces.  But Kerry knows how to beat that . . .

That’s it:  all done.  The course is laid out.  Now–we are back to the Ready Room, where Vicky is getting the fliers, um, ready:


All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015, 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)

“There are four way a racer will find themselves in this race, and each of you meet one or more of those four points. For you new people who may have been asleep for a year or more, here are each of those points—

“First: you are in the top three of over-all A Team individual standings among all covens. For the first time in a while the three students in the top three are from separate covens: Mórrígan, Åsgårdsreia, and Cernunnos. And for one of those fliers, this is her first time here because of her standings. Congratulation.” Kerry and Alex quietly gave Penny, who was third in those standings, soft fist bumps.

“Second: if you aren’t here because you’re in the top three, then we take next two best fliers from their individual A Team coven standings. For Ceridwen and Blodeuwedd, this means their first and second place fliers are here, and for the other three covens their second and third place fliers are present. There are several new people here this morning, all due to the efforts they’ve put forth on the track.” Penny took that moment to point her thumbs toward the team members to either side of her: her dorm mate Alex, who was second in the coven standings, and Kerry, who was third.


There you have it:  the top three racers in Cernunnos are Penny, Alex, and Kerry, in that order.  Quite a difference from the “You guys suck, stay out of our way” routine they got at the start of the season from Manco and Darius.  And fist bumping–did you ever see anyone on a quidditch team fist bump?  No, you didn’t.  Because my kids are like real kids, only they know magic.  And they’re gonna race on a big ass mountain.

But there’s more!


Vicky paused a moment to collect her thoughts before continuing. “These first two rules ensure we always have a minimum of thirteen racers on the course. We haven’t had the minimum start the race since 1996, and given the level of talent coming up, I don’t expect that to happening again any time soon—mostly due to these next two points—

“The third way to gain entry into this race if you don’t meet the criteria set forth in Points One and Two, is to win a points paying A Team race from the time of the first scheduled race after the last running of this event, up to the last scheduled race before this event. Today we have three racers here because of this point. We have Soroushi Amouzegar from Blodeuwedd, who won a race in November—” She pointed at the D Level girl from Iran sitting with the rest of her team mates. “—Manco Mamani from Cernunnos, who won back in April during the 2011/12 Season—” She nodded at him, sitting at Kerry’s far right. “—and Anna Laskar from Åsgårdsreia, who managed to win last week’s Grand Melee.” The German girl grinned as she was playfully hugged by one of her team mates.  “Congratulations: you couldn’t have managed a bigger win than that.

“And fourth and last: if you are a past winner of this race, you are automatically entered in this event, and that ruling remains in place up to a year after you graduate. We had a graduate who was eligible to participate in this event, and she respectfully declined—which is fine. Unless you’re keeping your racing skills sharp after you leave school, you probably don’t want to tackle this course after a year away from any track.


So Manco is there because he won a race almost a year earlier.  He’s probably feeling quite humble right now, as he was in this race the year before on position.  I should point out that Soroushi is in her second year of racing, but her first full one on the A Team, and Anna–well, we know Anna.  And she seems to be happy because she scored the last win possible that would get her into this event.  No wonder she’s all smiles.  Probably did it to spite Lisa for taking her out just to get to Kerry.


“And the Mount Katahdin course is unlike any any of you have ever tackled. For seven of you, yesterday’s cruse-through so you could familiarize yourself with the track and placement of elevation gates was your first time here, and you are going to be surprised. Maybe people have said this course has the speed of the Green Line, the variation of the Blue, and the technical difficulty of the Red. Even so, this course is nothing like what you’ve run before.

“Three laps of one hundred kilometers each for a total of three hundred kilometers. That’s huge, but for you new people who watched the race last year, that only means if you want to win, you have to fly flat out. Since 1989 there has been only one flier who won with a time of greater than seventy-five minutes, and they did so with a time of 75:24. Every other winner has has beat seventy-five minutes, and we’re getting closer to beating the seventy minute mark—thought for a moment we were going to do it last year.” Nearly everyone in the room cast a glance towards Rivânia Suassuna, who won the race the year before with a time of 71:07. “This means covering four kilometers every minute, and that means an average speed of two hundred forty kilometers an hour.

“I know what you new people are thinking: that shouldn’t be that hard. And it isn’t—until you fly into a switch back at two hundred, that is, or sail over a hump at over two-fifty, or do the five hundred meters drop off from High Dive to Basin Ridge at better than three hundred kph, and then you’ll probably begin to wonder what the hell you’re doing zipping around a mountain in Maine on a cold Saturday morning.” She looked over her shoulder at the Astronomy instructor. “That feeling is probably going to start as soon as you hear the weather report for the course. Harpreet?”


Should point out that Nadine is in first place in the standings, and Rivânia is right behind her. so there’s your Mórrígan and  Åsgårdsreia people in the top three.  But Rivânia holds the course record, so expect Nadine to go after that today.

As you can summarize, the majority of the tops in the listings have the majority of the wins, if only three people outside the top two or three in a coven are racing here.  Which makes sense, because the top thirteen people there will have nearly all the wins, because they are the best.  And in case you’re wondering–and I know some are–in third place over on the Mórrígan coven team sits Emma, and she probably as happy as Kerry to have made the show.

Sure, I gotta do some running around tonight, but . . . the briefing is near the end.

And then we can get to the good stuff.

In the Mountains of Breifing

Yesterday was a crazy day full of work and emotions.  I managed to get through both okay, but still–there were a lot of things I could have done without that happened anyway–but you know, that’s life, and there ain’t shit one can do about that.

Now, there was writing last night.  I can even prove that last statement–

There are words in the word count. I must have started.

There are words in the word count. I must have started.

But there was writing, there were pictures, there were updates to the time line . . . I was all over the place.  Lots of research and map building–and the map building is what I’m getting to first.

Yesterday I was also playing around in Google Earth with my “little” race course, because using Google Earth you can get three-dimensional views of areas, and one of the things I learned is that you can actually lay out directions and see them overlaid on those dimensional views.  Which is what I did yesterday.

The middle of Maine in all its 3D glory.

The middle of Maine in all its 3D glory.

That view there is pretty much all of the course as I laid it out yesterday, and as if you can see by the indicated in the middle bottom, it’s about a third of the length of the course.  But you have the Start/Finish on the left, and the last turn combo on the right, and a bunch of hills in the upper middle and right.  It looks like a lot, and seems a bit difficult.  Well, it is a lot, but difficult?  Nope.  We’re getting to that before we get to the writing.

Picking up where I left off above, we start getting into some of the hard stuff–kinda.  This is the lead up to the climb into the big peaks, and the one thing that’s nice is that it’s sort of level.

This . . . looks easy.

This . . . looks easy.

All the racers have to do is climb about one hundred and twenty meters and make a nice, easy, breezy left hand into the combo called Ready, Steady, Go.  Why that?  Well, Ready lets you get your speed up, Steady lets you build up your nerve as you swing into a hard right hander, and Go is just that–you have a straight, wide open, kilometers and a half/one mile, clear as hell path ahead of you.  Oh, and a 300 meter/1000 foot drop off as you blow out of Steady.  The lake and land below Go is a full thousand feet lower than the course, and as you come out of Steady there’s nothing but air below you.

Needle is a 70 meters lower than Steady, so you descend a little as you head into it, then you turn right and head into Clench and rocket right down 200 meters into Gully, which is just that:  another creek gully.  Then you hit Sixty Up, make a sixty degree turn to the left, and start climbing . . .

Into this.

Into this.

This isn’t a big section, but it’s hairy, full of fast turns and narrow areas that get fast.  Bump is 230 meters over the turn that gets you there, then you go up another 200 meters and go right over a gap and drop 500 meters.  Flare is called that because you “flare out” your broom–make it level like you’re coming in for a landing–or else you’ll slam into the ground.  High Sweep is a fast turn over some of the most level, regular ground in this are, then you carry a lot of speed up a 120 meter climb to Approach before roaring through the narrow Annis, which is named after a stream.  Then another 200 meter drop, at high speed, before reaching the fast turn Fade Away.  At this point you’re on the final approach to–

The mountains, kids.  Welcome to the mountains.

The mountains, kids. Welcome to the mountains.

Now we get into the highest, most technical, and in some places the fastest part of the course.  Going fast through Cliffside Valley and Basin Squeeze before hitting Harvey, which is named after Harvey Ridge.  Here, at the first right hand turn, you’re at 902 meters, and by the time you’ve gone left and right again, you’re at 1110 meters:  a 200 hundred meter/700 foot climb in a short distance.  Not for the faint of heart.

Now it’s all the way to the top.  4K is named such because the fliers cross 4000 feet, or 1220 meters, for the first time.  And that takes you up to the Hamlin High Dive, the highest part of the course at 1435 meters/4710 feet.  At this point you go right over the edge and hug the mountain until you’re at Basin Ridge, a half a kilometer lower, then around to Campground and Saddle Climb, which follow a trail but do so above the trees–the only point on the race where this is done–and then a jink to the right and up the ridge again to Katahdin Wave, where you can see Mount Katahdin to your left if you’re lucky.  Katahdin Wave is at 1294 meters/4245 feet, and this is the last time on the course the racers are this high.  Then you skirt the flanks of the mountain on Hamlin Thirty-six (3600 feet, hence the name) then over to Klondike (the name of the pond) before reaching Confluence at 779 meters/2555 feet.  You’ve not dropped another half a kick and are ready to climb again.

And how does that section of the course look?  Like this:

As you come in from the back, and up over Harvey.

As you come in from the back, and up over Harvey.

And then:

As you go over, down, and back up once more.

As you go over, down, and back up once more.

I should point out that when I say it’s a five hundred meter, or half a kilometer, drop, I’m talking about dropping almost seventeen hundred feet, or the length of five and a half American football fields, or probably three large stadiums laid end-to-end.  And you’re sailing down and up over this at probably 250 to 300 kilometers and hour, or 155 to 185 miles per hour.  On a flying mountain bike.

And speaking of those kids on their flying mountain bikes, they are finally getting ready for the race.  And we’re seeing it through Kerry’s eyes, because he’s there, he’s early, and he’s . . . well, there.


All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015, 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)

Kerry was one of the first racers to enter the Flight School Ready Room. He took his normal seat in the front and set his helmet and gloves in the seat to his left so one no sat there. He didn’t bother looking about the room to see who entered after him: walking in from the locker room he spotted the ones he knew and cared about, acknowledged their presence, and continued towards his seat. Though this was his first time sitting in on this particular pre-race briefing, he wasn’t trying to be too cool for the room: he simply reminded himself that he’d been a member of the Cernunnos Coven A Team for almost the entire season, he’d won three races, and finally managed to gain a podium position for a Red Line race two weeks before—

He wasn’t a rookie. And since he was about to enter the biggest race of his first season, now wasn’t the time to act like one.

A few minutes after he sat Penny and Alex entered and took their seats to his right. They were both aware of his feelings that no one other than Annie sit to his left; Penny even joked on one occasion that it was his Siege Perilous, and anyone other than Annie who sat there would die. About a minute after the girls took their seat Manco entered the room and joined them, sitting on the far side of Alex. Kerry looked down the line and smiled at everyone; Manco looked back and returned the smile, giving him a slight nod before sitting back.

As soon as all fliers were in the room and settled Vicky entered and headed for the central podium. With her was something Kerry had never seen in a pre-race briefing: all the coven leaders—who technically were the leaders of their respective coven race team—as well as Isis and Professor Bashagwani, followed Vicky to the front and took seats on either side of the podium. It was only after seeing all these women and one man situate themselves before the gathered students did Kerry finally feel the enormity of what was coming . . .

Vicky cleared her throat and spent a moment looking over the room before starting. “Good morning, everyone. This is the pre-race briefing for the Mount Katahdin Cross Country race. There’s no need to check to make sure you’re all in the right spot—” She glanced over at Isis. “All of you have checked in with our Director of Security at least a couple of times tonight.

“This race holds a special place in the school’s history. For well over a hundred years—from the first event in 1707 until 1829—this was held on Ostara weekend, and it was seen as a wild, exuberant celebration of the coming spring. Back then the course was different and much larger, but after two hundred years, in 1927, it finally turned into the course we still use today. This is the only race we hold during the regular racing season where all covens are represented on the course at the same time. It’s also the only race where the top ten point, and the only race where certain criteria must be met in order for a team flier to compete.


And what is that criteria?  You’ll find out tomorrow after I write it up.  A couple of interesting notes:  first, Manco is there, so four of the five Cernunnos A Team is present.  Two, Penny is calling the spot to Kerry’s left the Siege Perilous, and I wonder if he could just curse the seat so people who aren’t Annie die if they sit there?  That would be interesting, though it’d probably get him kicked out of school and into Cloudland.  And three, we know Kerry now has three wins and he managed to get on the podium of a Red Line race two weeks before, so even though he’s twelve, he’s moving up in his abilities fast.

So, tonight:  drop off some packages, have some dinner, and finish laying out my course before writing some more.

Man, I have so many things ahead of me.  Just like Kerry . . .

Prepping the Course

One of the things that comes from building the world that you can have a little fun creating people, places, and things.  Some of the things I’ve put together for this world go back to 2014 or 2013, and there are some things that go way back beyond that–like to middle or late 2011.  One of those things was the original layout of the school; another was the course of the Polar Express that Kerry would take if and when he decides to try that event in his C Levels.

And then there’s the Mount Katahdin Cross Country race.

I started working on this race back in August, 2011, and there was a reason why I picked this location for the big race–and to show why, I have to go back to about March of that same year to show you something.  Ready?  Here it is:

Yeah, it doesn't look like much now, but just wait.

Yeah, it doesn’t look like much now, but just wait.

That was the original location of the school.  At this time my friend, the original Annie, and I started putting this together as a role play, we needed a place where our little witches could do magic without being bothered but nosy normal people.  I’m not sure how this location actually came to be, but in the retelling of the story, the first Salem school was closer to the town that now bears that name, and at some point around in the late 1600s–1683 to be exact–the witches moved north into Maine and established a new, more remote location just to the west of what is now the Appalachia Trail.

(In the image above the trail actually follows that stream near the lower right point of the black outline, so I’ve sort of drawn over it, which is a mistake on my behalf.  Normally the wall would end before the stream, and the Trail would follow just outside the wall.)

Now, the huge peak to the right is Mount Katahdin, or simply Katahdin, since that’s just about what everyone calls the summit.  And because of the witch’s proximity to this site, every year around the Vernal Equinox they’d have a huge race on their brooms, flying around the area to show the other witches who was the best out there.  Because even if you can do magic, you wanna still have bragging rights about who’s the best on a broom.  People are people, even if they are magical.

When I finally moved the school southward closer to the local from which it takes it name, I kept the course in mind simply because having a bad-ass race far up to the north, where people would continue holding a race that had been run for centuries–it felt like a good idea.  And that’s how we’re at the point in the story we are today.

However . . . stickler that I am, while I have a course, I don’t have a lot of nice names for the various location on the course like one would have for like, you know, a Normal race course.  If you pulled Annie’s dad aside and asked him, “What’s that first left-hand turn after you return to the old section of track?” and right away he’d say, “Blanchimont.”  Because that’s what all the drivers call that section of the course.

The same thing would be true here.  Over the years the fliers would give various sections of the course names, normally turns and memorable straights.  So when Kerry heads in for his pre-race briefing before being turned loose on the track, he’s not gonna hear, “Okay, by turns 1 and 2, you need to watch the drop in the middle,” he’s going to hear something completely different.

That’s what I was doing last night.  I began going over the course and started labeling it.  And guess what?  You get to see what I’ve done so far.  Keep in mind that I haven’t marked the whole course, so what you’re going to see today is like a fifth of the track.  You’ll see what I mean at the end.

Let’s see then what I have in my Scrivener project.  Here’s the first section I put together, and this is how it looks when I’m writing.

My first attempt at boring the hell out of you.

My first attempt at boring the hell out of you.

Notice if you will that I not only have sections names, but I’ve given the elevations.  Because this is a course that is as cross country as it gets, and there’s a lot of going up and down over hills and dales.  So lets get started.

The Start/Finish is 260 meters/850 feet above sea level, and is in deep, dark Maine forest.  The first turn, really a “S” chicane, is called Trout because that’s the name of the stream the course crosses–just as Crossing is named after a nearby Normal location, and South Branch is named after the creek just to the left of the course.  Twelve Cut is named so because it’s the first part of the track to cross twelve hundred feet, and it was named so back in the day before there were metrics, so that name has stuck.  Barrell Around is named after nearby Barrell Ridge, and Twin Peaks because you go between those two peaks.

Here points 9, 10, 11, and 12 are a fast yet technically difficult area because of the elevation changes.  North Climb starts out at 543 meters/1780 feet, heads up to North Pass at 712 meters/2335 feet, or 170 meters higher, and then the fliers shoot right down the other side to Howe Drop–named after the creek there–which bottoms out at 404 meters/1325 feet.  Then you follow the bed at high speed to Cut Side, a climbing right hand turn situation 832 meters/2730 feet above sea level.  So in that area you have a fast, easy climb, then you drop at high speed 300 hundred meters and then climb back up another 400–all of this while probably zipping along somewhere between 250 to 300 kilometers and hour, or 155 to 185 miles per hours.  On a flying mountain bike.

Now comes the next part:

Still with me?  Good.

Still with me? Good.

Point 1 is Point 12 from the last map, so you have a point of reference.  You go up and over the ridge and then skirt along the mountain on East Terrace, located 648 meters/2125 feet up.  This leads to another hard left, East Slide (670 meters/2200 feet) which then drops hard and fast to Ford, 200 meters/950 feet lower.  Wading follows another creek bed and starts at 488 meters/1600 feet, and continues to Tip Over, at 985 meters/3230 feet and then on to Pogy (488 meters/1600 feet) and Notch Bottom (370 meters/1215 feet).  Though you go up for 500 meters and then back down for just over 600 meters, this is a flat-out section, where hitting 450 kph/280 mph isn’t out of the question and is usually the norm.

Now you have a nice little chicane section in 9, 10, 11, and 12.  First is Squeeze Through at 451 meters/1480 feet, and then a left turn and up 90 meters to Climbing Water at 544 meters/1785 feet, which leads to a right and then a left, climbing all the while, to Tiny Tip, 850 meters/2790 feet up, making for a 400 hundred meter, or quarter of a mile, climb from points 9 to 11.  Then we dive down into Hard Right, which is exactly what that is, at 610 meters/2000 feet.  If you go straight at Hard Right first you hit the safety enchantments, and then you hit trees and rocks, and while you probably wouldn’t hit the later, the inertia you lose when you hit the barrier isn’t going to leave a flier feeling one hundred percent.  Like they say, the enchantments are there to keep you from getting killed, not injured.

And there you have what I have so far.  And how much of the course is that?

Just this much.

Just this much.

Everything inside the black is covered:  like I said, about a fifth of the track.  That means I need to get the rest of the track in place, and then write about what’s happening in the briefing as well, and that all happens tonight.

Man, do I have a lot of work ahead of me.