Archive for May, 2008

The Adventure Family enjoyed the 14th annual MemDay paddle trip this year. (Unlucky #13 was planned and packed for, but postponed after Captain Morgan had an incident with some stairs and a door.) We paddled on the Lumber River this year. More details to follow shortly.

Michele’s pix Don’s pix

Starting in the rain

Luau on the Lumber!

View from Buck Landing campsite

Spider lilies

Snacking?! Not us!!

The gang's all here!

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IsoSeries YukiJoy AR

Iso-Series Yuki-Joy 12 hour Adventure Race Report

Pilot Mtn State Park, NC – The Adventure Family Race Team was at it again on May 17, 2008. I teamed up with Patrick Downie, another adventure racer from the Triangle, to compete in this new race.

Friday evening started off with race check-in at the Yadkin River North section of Pilot Mtn State Park. I had to go drop our boat at the Rockford bridge. Bruce Dale from Cary nearly ran into me as I pulled out of the park entrance. Several teams caravaned to the drop site, including the Scheidt brothers from Fuquay-Varina. The drop site was in a nice field just downstream of the bridge. Future campsite? I noted the hills and convenience stores on the 25 minute drive over. Might use that info during the race.

Saturday morning dawned crisp and clear. We got our maps and half of the UTM coordinates at 6:30 am. We finished plotting the points just in time for a brief briefing at 6:50 and at 7 am we were off! The first TA was at the southern edge of the mountain section of the park, where the corridor horse trail begins. We were to drop bikes there and then get the four mountain CP’s on foot. Several teams got on the road ahead of us. On the way up, Patrick and I picked up the CP’s scattered between the start and TA1. The Scheidt’s caught up to us at one of these CP’s but we apparently took a different route after that and lost sight of them.

By the time we reached TA1, there were a depressing number of bikes laying around. Lots of teams were ahead of us! We switched to trail shoes and took off, heading up the Mountain Trail. We climbed up and found CP4 right on the trail. A little further up we met Dwight from Asheville, the lone solo racer, coming down from the mtn already. He said he had all four mtn CP’s. We wished him luck and acknowledged the fact that he was in a class way above us!

A little further up the trail, just beyond some big boulders, we caught up with two other Triangle teams: Barnacle Nuts (Brent and Davie), and Bushwhackers (Jeff, Bob and Bob). They were all searching for CP5. Our UTM coordinate placed it on the west slope of the mtn amidst a sea of non-descript contour lines. The park map had trail lines but Todd, the RD, already told us they were not proportionally accurate. The other teams had already searched past the two trail intersections above and were coming back down to look around again. We looked with them. We looked back at the boulders, and off in the woods on either side of the trail.

After 15-20 minutes of fruitless searching, we decided to move back up towards the intersections. From there, Patrick and I chose to head out northward around the mtn on the Grindstone Trail. We soon met team El Presidente (Bruce and Dale) coming up the trail. They had been to get the summit CP and were returning to look for CP5 again. Team Bushwhackers came up behind us then. We all continued down the trail until we reached a blue-blazed trail coming down from the summit. El Presidente had just come down this trail. They went further down the Grindstone Trail while the rest of us made the decision to give up on CP5 and go to the summit CP. We hiked up the blue-blazed trail to the summit parking lot. At the top, we met Barnacle Nuts and the Scheidts, who had taken the Ledge Springs Trail to the summit parking lot. The Scheidt’s were the smartest and decided the quickest to give up on CP5. Our four teams then headed over to grab the summit CP, which was on the east side of the big rock outcrop. From there, it only took a few minutes for all of us to decide to bushwhack down towards the last of the four mtn CP’s.

The descent was steep and briary, but manageable. There was some butt-sliding involved. Near the bottom, Patrick and I split off from the group and tried a direct bearing towards what we felt like was the location of CP7. We had no solid nav clues to go on, so it was truly some instinctual navigation. We soon hit a road bed where we started looking for the spot where the map indicated a pond (a blue oblong rounded shape). We thought we were further north than that spot, so we headed south on the roadbed. We passed an open field and then a little further on we met several other teams coming up the trail – Barnacle Nuts, the Scheidts, the Bushwhackers, El Presidente, and one of the coed teams. We went back up the road to the field and decided it should have been a yellow field, not a blue pond, on the map. We headed off into the woods on the east side and saw lots of flagging all over the place. The Scheidts soon found the CP and we tried to slip over quietly to punch it. Before we could get too far away, some of the other teams saw us and/or the CP and headed over.

We then took off running through the woods south towards the trail and road on our way back to the TA. Most of the teams soon caught up with us and we were all in the TA together as we loaded up to bike back out. As Patrick I pulled out of the parking lot, I heard Bruce cussing and looked back to see him dropping his gear to fix a flat tire. That sucks.

Patrick and I had already picked up the other CP’s in this area, so we only had to return to the start area and head out on the second part of the course. The ride back was mostly downhill, ok at least some of it was downhill. We had some headwinds that made the level sections seem uphill. When we cruised into the HQ area, the morning chill was gone so I traded my long sleeve shirt for a nice red hawaiian shirt. We ate a quick bite as we refilled our camelbaks and then took off towards the river parking lot. About 100 yards from the HQ area, we hit a real mother of a hill. Probably the worst one on the entire course! We pushed our bikes up this gravel road and then rolled on towards CP10. At CP10 we greeted the volunteer and chose a PFD from the pile. We had to wear it until we reached CP11, on the other side of the river.

We were in Pilot Mtn SP, so we couldn’t ride our bikes. We ran down the horse trail to the river rolling the bikes along beside us. After two river crossings, knee deep, we met RD Todd walking up the trail toward us on the middle island. He had a large paper bag with him. Turns out he was setting the CP’s for the orienteering section. I didn’t find this out until after the race.

After two more river crossings we met Jimmy, the volunteer at CP11. He took the PFD’s and we pushed our bikes up the second worst hill on the course on our way out of the park. From there we began a long grind of a bike ride over to the TA2, at the Rockford bridge. The wind was always a headwind, and was stronger now, and the hills were just a relentless gradual uphill. It was about 7 hours into the race at this point, so our first wind was giving out and we were just waiting for our second wind to kick in. Ok, not waiting, we kept going and wondering when it would kick in.

The final downhill to TA2 was fast and filled us with relief at being able to get off the bike. It wasn’t until after a minute or so of talking to Christine (race staff and Isotopes team member) that we realized we were not ready to paddle yet. We still had a four point bike-O section to do!! Looking at the map, the obvious way to these CP’s was to ride back up the hill and follow an unpaved road down a ridge. I would rather have run the whole thing than pedaled the bike back up that hill! We chose to take off down a riverside mud road and then see if we could bushwhack up the ridge and find these points. Since it was a bike-O section, it made sense that we should be able to ride to these points. But the quad map didn’t show many roads or trails in the area.

When we got about a km down the road, we started seeing four-wheeler tracks heading up the hill side. We started up one of them. Just then we saw Dwight coming flying down through the trees on another trail about 50 meters to the right of us. We hopped over and pushed our bikes up his trail to the ridgeline. We were really tired of the bikes by now so we decided to hike the two CP’s that were within a few hundred meters of this spot. There were four-wheeler trails leading to both of them, so they were pretty easy to find. Especially once we started to trust that the RD had put the CP’s on a trail.

From there, we rode down the ridgeline to where the third CP was. We found it off the trail on top of a knoll, then we dropped downhill towards the river for the fourth CP. The trail down the hill was a little slick with mud and very steep. I finally chickened out before my butt went flying over my head. I walked/slid down the rest of the way. The trail dumped us out at the riverside mud road and we found the CP right on the riverbank at the water’s edge. Then we headed back along the riverside road to the TA. Halfway there we met El Presidente coming towards us. They were just starting on the bike-O section.

Back at the TA, we happily ditched our bikes and shoved our canoe towards the river. The Scheidt brothers showed up about then and were talking about not even trying to get any of the bike-O CP’s. We waved at them as we headed down the river. I think they were sitting down at the picnic table as we disappeared downstream. It was 3:55pm as we laid into our paddling rhythm.

The first paddle CP was on the left up a small creek. Easy to find. We stopped for a minute to have a quick snack. The second CP was up the Ararat River, past the first rapid. We pulled the canoe over just below the rapid and Patrick ran the 100 yards up to get the CP.

From there we started looking for a CP in front of a hill. We were expecting to see it on the bank, but did not. When we had paddled to the far end of the knoll and the terrain flattened back out, we turned around and paddled upstream about 100 meeters to where I thought the point might be. Patrick jumped out, climbed the bank and found a trail. He followed it to the right and soon found the CP, well out of sight of the river. I think this was near a small cave, according to the post-race discussions with Todd.

We briefly enjoyed the view of Pilot Mountain from the long straightaway on the river.

The fourth river CP was on the right up another small creek. This one gave us some trouble. It was in a tree about 8 feet up the bank from the water. We looked behind the tree at the waterline and then paddled upstream another 50 meters, looked around, and were backtracking when I finally saw it.

The next CP was up on a hill on the south side of the river. We paddled down to where the reentrant below the CP location met the river, and then followed the reentrant up. We soon found a trail and followed it right to the CP. Piece of cake.

We reached TA3 at about 6:30pm. This was located at the public river access on the south bank just above the Shoals. Volunteer Jimmy waved us on and told us not to stop since it was too late to start the foot orienteering section. We were supposed to have been done with the foot-O by 6:15. Since we had not seen anyone behind us on the river yet, we were ok with missing the foot-O section.

We had one more CP to get on the north bank. It was a little further downstream. We pulled over, climbed up to the railroad tracks and found it about 100 feet away. As we returned to the canoe, we saw El Presidente go floating by. Not far away was Barnacle Nuts. We raced back to the canoe and took off in hot pursuit. The Shoals were the typical maze of rocks and ledges. Trying to race through them was a mix of adrenalin and frustration. The rocks eventually snagged the other guys often enough to let us slip ahead of them. Patrick keeps talking about my superior canoe steering skills. I was just happy to be heading through there in a canoe not overloaded with camping gear. Maybe all those past trips through here paid off after all!

We were looking for a manned CP on the river’s edge, but didn’t see anyone. We found a spot where the horse trail came out, maybe. There were some people with boats up at the railroad track, but I wasn’t sure if they were racers or not. In my endorphin haze, I felt like there was a better spot further downstream. I knew the parking lot was further downsteam anyway, so we went on. About 100 yards down I realized that we were further downstream than the steps on the big island, and that didn’t seem right. We pulled over and I got out to climb the bank and see if I could tell where we were. I ran back up the trail along the bank for 100 yards or so and that’s when I saw everyone hauling boats up the trail to the parking lot. Where that trail came down to the river was not obvious from the water. We had missed it. I ran back towards the canoe and yelled for Patrick to get out. It was time to portage! We hooked up the shoulder straps and started the long trudge up to the parking lot. What is normally a pretty light canoe felt like lead after our long day!

We finally reached the parking lot and set the canoe down for the last time. Everyone else was out of sight already. We grabbed our passport and map and started up the road. We walked the uphill part, until it started leveling off. My legs were starting to cramp again, so I popped another 3 Endurolytes and when the road started to level off, we started a slow jog. We looked at the time and realized that we could probably make it back in time to be under one hour past the 7pm cutoff. We couldn’t make it in under 45 minutes past the cutoff. So we were expecting a 3 point penalty – one for each 15 minutes late.

At the top of the last long hill, we started running down. The legs were not as limber as they could be, so I felt like I was running on stilts. We neared the bottom of the hill and charged straight through the steam crossing. We ran up to the picnic table and handed our passport to Todd. He was calling out the race time as we approached – 12:59 and 53 seconds! As he wrote our time down, his watch alarm went off. Woohooooo!!!! We made it to the line in less than an hour over!!

Several of the other teams were already there with burgers in hand and/or in mouth. I caught my breath and then grabbed a burger myself!! What a great day!

It wasn’t until during the awards presentation about an hour later, after all the teams had returned, that we discovered the finish time had been extended an hour! We had really come in with 7 seconds to spare. No penalties at all! That’s a great lesson in “never give up”!

Dwight was able to get to the foot-O section in time to go get at least one of those CP’s. I think there were 8 of them in all. No one else got there in time to try. I don’t think any of the teams behind us on the river got all of the river points. We ended up with 20 points, out of a possible 30. Dwight had 22. El Presidente had 18. That put us in first place in the 2 person male team category!!!

Some of our top finish was due to luck. We managed to spend time getting CP’s before the mountain section while the other teams were searching for CP5. That let us catch up to them and not spend as much time on that search. But every other team had the same option to get CP’s on the way. They probably chose to go straight to the mtn while they had fresh legs, which was not a bad approach. We chose to get two of the CP’s that were close to the river while we were paddling, instead of getting them from the bike. They were listed with the other bike CP’s, but the rules said you could get them in any order you wished. The rules did not say you had to get them by bike. Many of the other teams rode the extra miles to get them by bike while we walked about 200 yards to get them from the river. The RD agreed after the race that they could be gotten in any order.

Overall, I think it was a great course. It would have been a wonderful 16 hour course. There was just too much fun to pack into 12 hours, or even 13 hours as it turned out. The terrain there was awesome and we got a good tour of the area. I hope the Isotopes put on another race in that area, or using some of the other parks in the region. I’ll definitely sign up if they do!

Don Childrey

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