Archive for the ‘Racing’ Category

Tidewater Traverse AR

The Adventure Family Race Team has been at it again! Don and Patrick teamed up with Chris K as support crew to compete in the 2008 Tidewater Traverse, a 16 hour adventure race near Williamsburg, Virginia put on by HR Adventures. This race started at 8pm on June 28th, so much of the race was in the dark, which was fine because the daytime high was predicted to be about 100 degrees!

Also racing in this event were Brain T and Marcilynn as “Team GoofyAss”. They’re from the TrailBlazers RDU chapter too. Todd and Christine of the “Isotopes” were racing. Daiwai, Carmen and Missy raced as “Our People Don’t Run”. I saw a number of other familiar faces from the southeastern AR community there as well. There were over 100 racers participating.

At race checkin, we were given a big map and coordinates for the last two thirds of the race. The race started with teams being divided up into three groups and being sent on a scavenger hunt throughout Chippokes State Park. We had to find a series of five locations where we answered a question and got the next clue’s location. The fifth clue led us back to the start area where we were given the coordinates of the first third of the race, and a supplemental map for that section.

We started out on bike and headed for CP 1. Brian and Marcilynn soon passed by us as we headed towards the park exit. We tried momentarily to keep up with them, but then remembered our plan to run our own race. As we got closer to the exit, we came upon a spot where, on the way in earlier, we had noticed a riverside greenway that paralleled the road. The grassy area separating the two was mowed and only 50 feet across. While all the other teams, GoofyAss included, continued up the road, I led us over to the greenway. We took off down the greenway and soon realized that no one had followed us – good. Now, where were we going? Oh yeah, CP1. The only clue was the word “beach”. The only map of this area that we had was the skimpy park map. It had “Beach access” up in one corner, near where we were, but it wasn’t specific. So we rode along looking for something. There was a buffer of brush and trees between us and the riverside beach. A little further on we saw a path through the brush. At the second path like that I stopped. The greenway beyond here curved away from the beach and headed up a bluff. I suggested to Patrick that one of us ought to go look up and down the beach to see if we could see anything, before we climbed up the bluff. He volunteered and took off. About 20 feet down the path, he stopped and said “Don come look at this.” I did, and was surprised to see the orienteering flag for CP1 hanging off to the side of the path. What luck!

We quickly punched our passport and quietly headed up the path towards the park exit. At the top of the bluff we saw a half dozen or more teams heading off in all directions. Many were headed out of the park. We stopped briefly to check the map, and to look like we were as confused as everyone else, and then we left the park too.

As we were heading down the road to CP2, Team Clip and Clipless passed us. We felt bad because these two ladies were smoking us on the bike, but we had to remember to run our own race. We passed them at the next intersection while they were checking their map. I remembered the intersection from our ride in earlier in the day, so I convinced Patrick it was the right turn. We continued on until we were out of sight and then pulled over under a church security light to consult the map again.

As soon as we pulled out the map, a group of about 25 racers rode by. Where is the world had they come from?! We hadn’t seen anyone close behind us when we last looked. Along with them were three pickups full of hootin’ and hollerin’ local teenagers. We let that circus pass and then started our ride again.

We found the bridge where CP2 was supposed to be located, as well as a few other teams. Everyone was looking around for the flag. Our clue was “bridge”. We met Clip and Clipless there, and someone said something about CP 1. I asked if they were looking for CP 1, and they said “yes”. I gave them the bad news that CP1 was back in the park. That meant they had to backtrack several miles and basically start over. After we had about 5 teams combing the area around the bridge, someone found the flag over at a shed about 100 feet from the bridge. It was pretty dark by now, so you had to use your headlamps to find whatever you were looking for.

CP3 was fairly easy to find – the answer to that question was on a sign at a church. CP4 was on a sign at a monument along another road. About this time the caravan of support crew vehicles passed by us. That was pretty unnerving for all of us because we were on a narrow unlined road with broken edges.

CP 5 was in Pipsico Scout Reservation, up a long dusty dirt road. Some of the support crew vehicles mistakenly drove up that road, adding to the dust level. At this CP, we had the choice to transition to foot and do an o-course, or go bike a singletrack route. Patrick suggested we do the bike because we were already geared up for riding. I tried to quickly copy the trail lines from the master map to our unmarked copy. Staffer Mark said we just needed to follow the trail. We were looking for 6 markers along the route. Patrick got restless waiting for me to copy the lines, but we finally got underway. As it turned out, the route was well marked with flagging at the turns, and we only tried to use the map once. I’m not sure if it proved helpful or not. I don’t think it did, but that was probably because in my haste, I couldn’t be super accurate.

About a third of the way through the trails, GoofyAss caught up to us. We tried to keep up with them for a while, but they were stronger riders than us and left us about 2/3 of the way through. We finished up and as we were switching shoes for the run, Patrick told me he had just seen Brian there. Apparently they had missed marker #5 and had to go back and get it. They later admitted that when they got to #6, a local racer told them that the RD’s were usually pretty good about letting you pass on a missed control like that. The staffer at the TA disagreed so they had to backtrack to get that one.

The foot o-course had 8 controls. Any five were required, the remaining three were worth 30 minutes each as bonus time. We decided to get them all. We chose to go to the closest one first – #6. Despite 3-4 other teams being in the area looking for it, we managed to find it in the dark leafy brush and move way without anyone else noticing us. We did meet Christine about 100 yards away and advised her to head back to where it was. From there we simply trudged through the woods in the dark, following our compass bearings, and picked off the rest of the controls. Seemed simple to us, but many teams apparently struggled with this section. At one point we could see #8 across a small lake, only 150 feet away. We thought about swimming, but chickened out. As we hiked around the end of the lake, we contemplated a canoe sitting there, but couldn’t find any paddles. Brian later said they had the same thought!!

Patrick ran out of water before we found the last of the controls, but made it back to the TA just fine. They were out of water too so he had to tough it out until we got to the main TA. We just had a 3 mile ride to either the main TA and our support crew, or the ropes challenge.

The 3 miles passed quickly and before we knew it we were in the midst of all the support vehicles, spread out in the field at Chanco. We hadn’t see an obvious sign for the ropes course on the way into the facility, so we rode around searching for it. We followed another searching team and slowly eliminated all the dead end roads until we finally hit the start of our challenge. They had a few tiki torches set up at the beginning end of a zipline. That was pretty cool – zipping through the trees over a ravine at 2am. It was over quickly and we ran on to the next challenge. It was a series of seven 1′ wide boards hanging from a wire like swings, about 5 feet apart. We had to start at opposite ends and work our way from one to the next, passing each other in the middle. I think our long arms and legs helped with that. The third challenge consisted of two wire cables suspended about a foot and half above the ground. They crossed in the middle to form an X. The wires at each end were about 5 feet apart. We had to start on one end, with one of us on each wire and hold hands over the middle to balance ourselves. Then we had to move to the other end while keeping at least one foot on our own wire. It was simpler than it looked (or sounds).

From there we quickly rode back to the TA area and found super-support-person Chris. He and Rob chatted with us while we downed our leftover subs and changed into paddling mode. Chris refilled our hydration packs and pointed us in the direction of the river. Just before we left the TA, I remembered to ask if there was a CP there. There was! We almost forgot that one, but soon found the ladies sitting off to the side, in the dark.

After a steep portage down to the river, we loaded up the kayak. We shot a bearing from the map and discovered a tower with red flashing lights to aim for across the river. The river was fairly calm at that point, so we struck out with high hopes.

After 10 minutes or so of paddling I started to notice that it was harder to keep the boat straight than it should have been. For the next hour and half we dealt with increasing steering trouble due to following waves, too much weight in the bow, and overwash into the cockpits. The sprayskirts were safely tucked away in the holds, of course. One wave almost dumped us, washing over the deck between us and making me lose my breakfast. I almost reached out to grab the sport bottle as it got knocked out from under the bungee, but that would have tipped us over for sure. So somewhere out there, the James River has flushed my bottle of breakfast drink out to sea. Patrick said we didn’t have time to stop and retrieve it, so I let it go. 😦

Once across the James, we entered the mouth of the Chickahominy River. Just before the bridge across the Chicka, we heard voices and realized that GoofyAss was behind us. We were still struggling with the steering, and they passed us again. We eventually pulled over and in the brightening pre-dawn light, we rearranged the portage wheels (which had been dragging in the water the whole way – thanks Rob!) and moved more weight to the back. That helped tremendously. Another boat passed us during this pit stop. We got underway again and took off. A third boat gained on us as we paddled furiously up the creek towards the TA. We fought hard but they caught us about 50 meters from the TA. Turns out it was a three person kayak!! No wonder we couldn’t shake them!

At the TA we met GoofyAss as they were heading out for the next foot-O section. We switched to orienteering mode and were off shortly after they got out of sight. The first CP was close. From there we spent about 3 seconds confirming our previously discussed strategy – do we take the obvious route to all the points, which formed a large backwards C shape, which would have to be backtracked, or do we make it a simple O and work our way around clockwise. The catch was that from the first control to the second we’d have to cross two arms of the creek/swamp, which were wet enough to be shown as blue water on the quad map. We chose the wet way and took off.

The shoe-sucking mud, waist-high vegetation, sawgrass, and briars were tough, but not impossible. We had more trouble figuring out where we were on the map. We’re very used to all the contours we have to work with in the Triangle! We also had a few issues with the actual CP placements. The CP’s were close, and the coordinates had been GPS verified, but I’ll bet that the info on the map was not GPS verified (or exactly accurate) and that’s all we had to work with. We eventually found them all, some by blind luck, some by help from other teams wandering around looking for them too. We helped a few teams out as well. We reached the give-up point at least three times and were actually walking away from CP’s, ready to skip them, but somehow we always managed to end up going back or finding it or running into someone who just found it.

When we finally found the last one and were headed out to the road, I felt sure we had blown whatever good placement we had managed to build over the first part of the course. At the road, we had about 2.5 km to get back to the boats. We walked the first km, eating and refueling. At the top of a hill I convinced Patrick to jog down the other side. We would have stopped for the next uphill, but there was a team coming down it so we had to keep running to keep up appearances. At the next hill, it wasn’t as steep, so we kept pushing along. We ended up jogging the rest of the way back to the boat.

Once there, we were amazed to see GoofyAss’s boat still sitting there! That fired up the engines and we quickly loaded up our boat and got ready to paddle the final stretch back to the finish. Patrick wouldn’t even let me stop to grab a hot dog or bbq rib from volunteers!! We hit the water and paddled hard until we got out of the creek and onto the Chickahominy River. Looking back there was no one in sight. We paddled steady then heading straight for the finish beach about a km away. It seemed to take forever to get there, and we kept looking back, but no one was back there yet.

As we approached, we could see the dock lined with patiently waiting support crews. They pointed us to the takeout spot. We then had to lug the incredibly heavy kayak about 100 meters up to the parking lot and then run through the playground, past the monkey bars, to the picnic shelter and check in with Pam and Mike at the finish. We handed in our passport 14 hours and 15 minutes after we had started the race!!

We had cleaned the course, finding all of the CP’s and all three bonus controls on the first O-section. We soon discovered that the two teams that had finished just before us did not get all of the CP’s or bonus controls, which meant that we had a good chance at being first overall. A few minutes later, after verifying our passport results, Mike confirmed that for us. First place overall by 10 minutes, once our bonus time was figured in! Wahooo!!

Despite all the mistakes we made, and despite being passed so many times on the bike and paddle, we never gave up and kept steadily at it. I guess the O-sections made the difference. In the end, we had saved enough minutes here and there and earned enough bonus time to finish on top, but just barely.

Overall, it was a great course and I for one had a great time. Our team worked well together. The race staff was great, the other teams were great. I’ve finished long races before where the top teams had already flown home by the time I dragged myself into the finish area. It was a nice change to be able to shower and eat and rehydrate while we waited for the other teams to come in. Congrats to all for making it a great adventure race experience!!!

Some more pictures are 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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