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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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Michele and Beau teamed up with Beau’s boys to race in the May 3rd Impossible Panther Adventure Race. They did well, taking first place in the 4 hour coed division!

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Just getting to the starting line of this race was an adventure, or should I say a series of unfortunate events. I first lost a teammate to appendicitis, instead of to more obvious shoulder problems. Other potential teammates fell to the flu, a torn LCL, and at that point I refused to let anyone else consider it, for their own safety. I had my own share of unfortunate events in the last few weeks – a run-in with barbed wire on an O-course, endo’s off of my bike, and endo’s while trail running. The day before the race, just hours before I hit the road, I learned the accommodations for a group of us were double booked and I had to find another place. On the drive to the race, I faced torrential rains and high winds. About an hour from the check-in, I had to take a detour to a dealership to figure out why my truck had suddenly started to cough and sputter when I tried to rev beyond 2,000 rpm. But eventually I made it to the pre-race checkin – with just 8 minutes to spare.

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Steve Morrone, the race director, was kind enough to give us the race maps and most of the UTM coordinates the night before. That enabled me to stay up much later than I would have otherwise, to prepare for the race, of course. The map was a thing of beauty in itself. It was bigger than any table in my hotel room. Maybe bigger than most tables anywhere in the hotel. And certainly bigger than the hood of my truck. Like most racers, my map case will hold one sheet of 8.5×11 paper. If it’s thicker than that, it can’t be quite that wide. How do you spell origami?

Race day dawned with more rain, but at least it was relatively warm – mid-60’s. The forecast called for temp’s to fall during the day, down to the low fifties by evening. That was about perfect. The high wind forecast – 30 mph with gusts to 50, wasn’t so appealing. By the time we arrived at the start, the rain had stopped. Steve had announced the night before that the high winds were too dangerous for the paddle section, so it was being dropped. We were getting some extra biking mileage to get to what would have been the paddle to bike transition area. He had marked on the maps the route we had to bike to that TA, in order to stay off of heavily traveled US 17. Travel along 17 was prohibited – we could only cross it. Fair enough.

I hung out at the start line with fellow TrailBlazers RDU chapter members Sheila and Shelly, Team “Slow and Steady”. Bruce Dale and Dale Long were there to, racing as Team “Five-O Racing”. Matt Tabor and his team “NC Adventure Racers” were also there. I know there were others from Raleigh, but I’m not sure if there were any other TB-RDU members there or not. There were just over 100 racers in attendance, many of whom I’ve met briefly at the races I’ve put on.

Steve started us off by having teams use their 10-20 feet of 10mm rope to tie each teammate to the other members of the team. Solos had to wrap the rope around our necks. We were all given a map of the historic district of McClellanville and directions to 6 checkpoints. We had to run to each CP, write down a letter-number code found there, then come back and use the code to find 6 letters off of a chart. Then we had to unscramble the letters to answer a question before we would be given our passports for the rest of the race.

The passports were nice. They were 8.5×11 sheets of paper laminated with a coating as stiff as a driver’s license. It was probably bombproof. I almost strained something trying to fold it in half to fit it into my pack. It certainly wasn’t going to return at the end of the day looking like a soggy wad of paper pulp – which makes life easier for whoever has to verify results (been there).

Having already plotted all of the CP locations, except for the orienteering course that we would do from CP 12, several of us were thinking of doing the course in reverse order from how they were numbered. That would put the foot section earlier in the event, while our legs were fresher. Steve nixed that idea because he might not be able to get volunteers out to CP 12 and set up before racers would arrive. So after the historic run, teams pedaled off along the same route. The sun was starting to chase away the clouds by this time, and it was looking like a great day. The westerly winds were directly in our face, as they should have been. I was just hoping that it would blow in the same direction for the afternoon’s ride back along this same road.

The paved road eventually gave way to a sand road. It gave way shortly thereafter to a soft sand road. A few miles of that, with more headwind, and some of the teams were starting to lose steam. I had planned to hang with Sheila and Shelly for a good part of the race, but the adrenalin of being able to pass other teams got to me. Sheila had already told me to go ahead if I wanted to, so I didn’t feel too bad about it. I was racing in a different category from them anyway.

At the end of the road we were on, we should have found US 17, and been able to cross it into Buck Hall Recreation Area where we would pick up the Palmetto Trail. There were some side roads that cut the corner, so I decided to try one of them. Another team was coming back up towards me, so I figured they were thinking the same thing. When we got to 17, we could see the entrance to Buck Hall, but it was a quarter mile away to the right. They turned around instead of traveling along 17 to get there. I made one of my impulsive moves of the day and crossed 17 and went down a dirt road on the other side. If I was where I thought I should be, I would find a small road to the right that would lead me to the trail. I didn’t find the side road, but I did find a pit bull and a golden retriever who thought it fun to bark and chase me down the road for a quarter mile. I eventually yelled at them enough that the golden stopped running, at which point the pit bull did too, thankfully. That left me near a powerline, which fortunately had a well used trail under it, heading in the direction I wanted to go. So I followed it.

The powerline trail brought me out on the road into Buck Hall, and I saw a couple of teams riding down the road towards the location of TA 2, which was no longer needed. I continued along the powerline and found more teams at the trail/powerline intersection, studying their maps. I already knew I wanted to go right on the trail, so I just rolled by them and headed off down the trail. The Palmetto Trail here was really nice, pine needle covered tread winding through a palmetto and pine forest. I soon came to a small bridge over a creek – neither was on the map, and met a team of three who were dismounting their bikes. Because they stopped, I did too and that’s when I noticed the control hanging under the bridge. We’ll call this “race magic”, when a fortunate bit of being in the right place at the right time occurs and saves you from making a big mistake. I would have missed the control had they not been there. Turns out one of the guys was Jack, the RD for the Poker Run AR, another race in the this year’s TrailBlazers Sprint Series.

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I rode with these guys most of the way to the next CP, but left them when they stopped to map read at a turn in the trail. I think having my map folded and hanging where I could read it and ride helped save me some time. I saw a lot of people stopping to read maps during the day. The next few CP’s were hard to miss. With three of four teams’ bikes and people milling around, you couldn’t miss the turns to the CP locations. Had I been the only one there, it would have been much more difficult to spot the right locations, so I’ll call this more “race magic”. Most of the control placements were out of sight of the main trail, and the 1:24k scale maps were not exactly full of landmark details.

After our train of teams crossed back over 17, and contined along the Palmetto Trail, the nice pine needle covered trail changed to root soup. We had puddles, no, sections of trail that held standing water 4 to 8 inches deep. At least the bottom was solid and we just splashed through, throwing black water all over us. There went the dry socks! I passed a few more teams who were map reading as we made several more road crossings.

Eventually I reached a trail intersection that wasn’t clearly marked on the map. I knew I was near an option to leave the trail and hit some roads to save time. Instead of hesitating with the group of teams, I took a left turn and zipped away on my own. A few of them followed me shortly, and caught up as I realized this just brought us out to 17 and the road we were looking for was to the right several hundred meters. This team had raced the last Gold Nugget and knew me. We reluctantly turned back and rode the trail back to the last intersection before going the other way. We didn’t want to risk a DQ for traveling on 17. The fact that there was a trooper, with blue lights flashing, parked in the middle of that few hundred meters might have helped us decide to behave.

At the next road crossing, I decided to go left and continue my earlier plan of using the road to save time. It was longer, but the trail could be slower, especially if it was rooty and flooded like the previous sections. No one followed me. Along the road I found even stronger headwinds than before. I think that killed any advantage I might have gained. As I neared the spot where the trail came out, I saw teams that were just behind me on the trail earlier. They were just ahead of me now. Oh well – mental note to self to think about wind direction before taking open road section again.

At the next CP I passed some teams as they dallied at the CP. The teams I had been closest to didn’t dally, but they weren’t busting it on the ride either. I passed two of them and kept rolling. By now I had been out for almost 2.5 hours and my 2 hour bottle of Perpetuem was empty. I thought about continuing on, but knew that I would need the energy later. I stopped and mixed up another bottle, and watched these teams pass me again. I don’t think I caught them again, certainly not before the O-section. Note to self – find a faster way to refill the bottle.

CP 7 was along a creek, between two roads that met at angle. There were several teams there looking for it with no success yet, so I went around the corner to the other road to attack it from a different angle. Their numbers prevailed and they found it before I did, but I heard the shouts and soon had it punched too.

The next CP was about 9 feet off the ground. There was a wire ladder, with 6″ long rungs, stretched between the tree and the ground, at almost a 45 degree angle. If I’d had a teammate, I could have hoisted them up to punch the card. As a solo, I would have had to hang from the ladder with one hand, hold the passport with the other, and operate the punch with … Ok, so here’s a good reason for a bombproof passport – I could hold it in my teeth while I jumped up, grabbed the one tree limb within reach, wrap my legs around the tree, lean over with my head and get the passport within reach of the punch. Voila.

I saw the team there before me head off to the east on an old nearly overgrown track, but it wasn’t on the map, so I backtracked to the last intersection and followed a road that was on the map. It came out on a paved road, as expected, but there was another sand road across to the right. The map said it should have been left. Two other guys disappeared up it, so I took a chance and did so too. I was starting to drag at this point, so I never caught them. This was about the time I decided that four Endurolyte capsules per hour wasn’t enough. I had a few muscle cramp tweaks every now and then, so I decided to up the dosage. It helped, and I kept going.

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I think the next section involved a long grinding ride of 5 or 6 km’s to get to a few more CP’s before we reached CP 12 and the TA. With no one to talk with to help pass the time, this was not a particularly fun section. It eventually passed, but not before having to face killer headwinds that nearly stopped my in my tracks. I took a great picture at CP 10 where the wind was blowing the control flag out sideways from the branch it was tied to. It was disheartening to watch my bike speed drop by a third in a split second just because of a wind gust.

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At the TA, we had to stick a tossed tomahawk in the target twice before they would give us the O-course UTM’s. I messed up the first three tries, but on the fourth I got the technique right, and the fifth try stuck too. I tried for number six to see if I really had it, but it bounced off. Don’t get cocky.

We had 5 UTM’s to plot for the O-section. One of the other racers there asked if they had to be done in order, and the answer they were given was yes. I learned that many other teams did it in the opposite order, which might have been easier, but who knows. I went in numerical order, and the first leg was a straight shot about 2.5 km down a road. My legs were not recovered enough to run yet, and my back was feeling a bit tight, so I alternated some jogging with fast walking. At that first CP, I met the team from the Gold Nugget again, and we went together to the next CP. It was another case of “not all roads are on the map”. The UTM plotted 500 meters from any road, but there was a road bed that led to it. We saw Bruce and Dale coming out as we went in to it.

From there we could bushwhack 1 km to the next point, or run 5+ km around by the roads to get to it. Another team there said they’d just spent 15 minutes and couldn’t get through the brush and briars. We tried for 10 minutes and then decided to go back to the last major road and try another old roadbed we’d seen. It soon gave out but we were closer, so we tried to punch through again. The briars just got too thick for us, so we would go a little further left and try again. We repeated this until we finally found a thinner spot we could scratch through. On the other side the vegetation opened up and we looked for the backstop road we were expecting. We kept going and didn’t see the road, and didn’t see the road, and didn’t see the road. By now it had been about 40 minutes since we left the last control. Then we spotted the control up head!! Then we saw the road bed. What luck!! Had we punched through the briars sooner, we might have missed the road altogether and really wasted some time. In the end, I’m not sure we gained any time on teams that ran back around, but it was fun to have lived through the briar bushwhack experience, and to feel the elation of coming out right on the CP. I wasn’t up to running anyway, so it worked for me.

At this point, the team I had bushwhacked with kept walking and I decided to jog again. The slower bushwhack pace must have loosened me up and rested my legs.

At CP 16, I had the option to bushwhack a half km, or run roads for 2km. The map placed a symbol for swamp in between, and after the last bushwhack experience, I chose not to try it. Bruce and Dale did it, and reported than the water was only mid-shin deep. I missed an opportunity there. Oh well.

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I passed two teams on the last jog back to the TA, and left out just before them. I stopped briefly on the road to chat with Sheila and Shelly as they were heading to the last O-course CP. The other teams passed me but I caught up again and drafted with them for a while. I lost some ground against them at the next CP’s, partly because I had to take my pack off to get the passport out, and partly because I was starting to drag again. I pushed on as much as I could, trying to not to cause a cramp and still trying to keep up with them, although they weren’t in my category. They were just a good measure of my progress against the clock.

As they headed off on a side road to get the last CP, I enjoyed a final emotional boost. I had picked up this CP on the initial ride out, so I didn’t have to stop for this one. This gave me the chance to get several minutes ahead of them and out of sight. The homestretch adrenaline kicked in at this point and I hammered the pedals as hard as I could. Ok, it was more of a hard push with some worry about cramping, but it was close to all I could give at the time. I noticed that I managed to maintain a higher speed than I had all day, despite some headwind, and that encouraged me too. I did stop once to pop four more Endurolytes before I crossed 17 for the final 2 km to the finish. The headwinds picked up even more in the last 500 meters, just to whip me one more time, but I made it in anyway. I did it!

Steve had a guy with a laptop taking the passports and verifying results and entering them in on the spot. They had a 30 inch monitor set up so you could see the results. Very nice. It showed me that I was the third Solo to come in – even nicer!! That was pretty amazing considering all the training I had not done. Can’t wait to see the final numbers to see if I would have had a shot at 2nd if I had not made all the mistakes I did. My watch said my total time on the course was 8:28.

After a change of clothes, I hung out with the other finishers and ate cookies, drank gatorade, and tried to stay in the sun and out of the wind as much as possible. We clapped for the other teams coming in and waited for the shrimp creole to be served. I know I made several mistakes on the course, but I think you have to go make them in order to learn from them. It was a lot of fun, even if I did have to race solo, and I’ll probably do it again next year. Maybe we’ll get to paddle then!

Official results 

May the Adventure continue!

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Sheila and Shelly finishing!

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Gold Nugget AR

The Adventure Family Race Team fielded a new crew for the 2007 Gold Nugget Adventure Race, held October 6th in Morrow Mountain State Park and the Uwharrie National Forest. Volunteers turned racers as this coed team of four took on the Treble Hook four hour course. Ironman, Katy, Marion and Flex did well for their first adventure race, bringing home a second place finish in their category!!

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More pictures from COP.

The race course included a canoe paddle on the Yadkin and Uwharrie rivers, with bikes in the canoes. A climb up a ropes course tower, mountain biking, and an orienteering section. We’re hoping to get more details from the team about their experience out on the course. Stay tuned!

Other Family members who have raced under the Adventure Family colors also did well. Mighty Mouse (Marcilynn) raced with three guys on team 20-30-40-50 (aka “15 minutes late”) and brought home a first place coed finish in the Crazy Eight 8 hour race, despite breaking an arm, dislocating her shoulder and probably fracturing her clavicle, not to mention some scrapes and bruises.

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Infoman pulled Race Director duty for this race. COP and Cap’n Morgan ran the Pirate Express buffet, feeding the volunteers and chasing Kevin and his buddy around.

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Infoman’s sister Debbie worked as an EMT. Several new friends were made and hopefully we’ll see them out on Adventures soon!

Click here for a link to the race webpage and more pictures.

MTAC!

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9-1-1 Adventure Challenge

The 2007 9-1-1 Adventure Challenge was held on Saturday September 22 in and around Umstead State Park near Raleigh. The Adventure Family Race Team was seen in action again in this adventure race. Infoman raced with new Family members Lady D (Deena) and Mighty Mouse (Marcilynn) as a trio. I am proud to report that we had more fun on the course than anyone else – I am sure of it! There were 27 teams/solos racing, with 64 racers in all.

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Check-in started at 6am, and the Race Director had told us he would give out maps and passports at that time. Most adventure racers live for getting their maps/passports as soon as possible, but I was indirectly threatened with certain death if I required my teammates to be there at 6am. There was a pre-race safety briefing at 7:30, with the race starting at 8am. So we agreed to meet at 6:30 to check in and get the maps. At 6:45 we checked in. 😉

During the pre-race briefing the RD threw out a number of red herrings, intentional or not, including a recommendation to use the trails on the run, and a compass on the O-course.

Our first leg was a mass start run out to two CP’s and back. We held back in the pack towards the rear and let the main pack follow the road. They went left, but we went right, taking a bushwhack to save a few miles. Another solo and a duo (training friends of mine) also took this shortcut. We weren’t the fastest runners, but this navigation trick worked well and we made it to the first CP well ahead of the main pack. By the time we had punched the second CP and were headed back to the Transition Area, a number of teams had caught up to us.

No worries, I had another shortcut in mind. When the pack turned up the main road to the right, we went off on our own direction again. Our duo team of friends also took our route. We had a little creek to get across, which cost us dry socks and shoes, but with all the sweating to be done later, it was inevitable anyway. I only wasted 2 seconds hesitating on that decision before plunging in. Besides, we were just a few hundred yards from the TA at that point, and we’d be switching to bike shoes then. We ended up making it back to the TA in second place overall to start the bike section.

The trails were a little muddy and slick and we lost a little ground on the bike leg over to Lake Crabtree. Even though Lady D is recovering from a dislocated shoulder and fractured protuburis (shoulder part), she still swam faster than me and ended up towing me, just like KLK did the last time AFRT won this race. Unfortunately we did not pass any other teams in the water this time. It’s a great morale booster to pass someone while you’re being towed across the lake by your teammate. I don’t think there were many racers ahead of us to pass. =)

After the swim we had to bike back to the main TA. The route was straightforward without much nav skill required. We did notice that our system of having Lady D carry the passport and being responsible for punching it at the CP’s worked smoothly. We rolled up, she punched, and we rolled on, leaving several other teams still standing there. I think we did a pretty good job of not wasting much time at the CP’s that way.

We had dropped to 5th place overall by the time we returned to the main TA, but we felt ok. We only had the O-course left. I think the gals and I were all looking forward to the O-course. A number of cracks were thrown around about that. The whole day was pretty much like that – wahooo! The girls had been touting my nav smarts all day and planning for this to be the section we shined on. No pressure, right? At the pre-race briefing, Bruce, the RD, jokingly said that teams could do the O-course without a compass if they wanted to. He laughed, as did most people. I didn’t. 🙂 After a transition to running gear again, we headed out on the O-course to find the 9 controls. It was up to us to choose our route and the order in which we looked for the controls. Apparently most people chose to go clockwise through the map, but I chose counterclockwise, for no real reason. Maybe it’s the whole counterclockwise trend we’ve noticed in mtb trails. I left the compass in my pack.

One mistake I made was not slowing to eat as often as I should – the gals haven’t gotten to know me well enough yet to push me harder in that regard. I could have used KLK there! We had such a good pace going that slowing to eat seemed inappropriate, so I just tried to maintain the pace, not wanting the gals to show me up too much. My mistake started to show as we worked our way through the second half of the O-course. They started feeding me Clif-blocks and gels. We were moving, but it wasn’t top speed. As we headed to the last control, we had a long stretch of uphill bridle path to cover. I wasn’t quite up to jogging it, so after briefly trying to summon some testosterone-laced pride, I succumbed and let them strap a bungee between them and around me and off we went, jogging up the hill. Teamwork. It was beautiful thing, being tied between two sweaty gals out in the woods! I have no manly pride at all, but most of you know that already. These gals rock, and they pulled me up the hill!

From the bridle path we dropped down an old trail, followed the stream downhill, Mighty Mouse scampered down to punch the control and then rejoined us, and we made our way down to the edge of a small lake. From here it was a few hundred feet to a trail that let back to the finish. We ended up walking most of the trail uphill, but managed to summon enough strength to run in for the last 200 yards, so that everyone could see us finishing strong. Ok, so some pride had returned, it was a race after all. Unfortunately, there weren’t many people to see us – we were only the third team to finish. The first was a solo, the second a duo, and that put us in as the FIRST PLACE TRIO!!! Wahooooooo!!!

Notice that I called it TRIO. This year, they grouped all the teams, male/female/coed, into categories by number of team members, so we actually beat out all of the all-male trio’s as well. Wahoooo!!!

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If you can’t tell, it was a very satisfying day. We laughed a good way through the whole thing. Sure, we had the expected amount of exertion-induced pain. Each of us had moments when we weren’t the strongest, and moments when we were. I held the strong position throughout the O-course, but the gals were  happy to let me lead them through that, especially when they never saw me pull out a compass and I would say things like “it’s over that ridge, down the gully, and …” boom – there it was. I was apparently “on” with my nav that day, and we just lost maybe 5 minutes on one CP. (Actually, that cost us 2nd place overall, but that’s ok.)

Even better, I raced the whole day wearing a hawaiian shirt – my new summer workout wear. Rayon is the new/old performance fabric! (These pictures are post-race clean-clothes shots.) I know others thought I couldn’t be taking the race seriously if I was dressed like that, but I’m ok with that. The gals called me called Deceptive Don. That shirt looked pretty good from behind, and that’s the view most other teams had all day!

I can’t say enough about these two wonderful ladies. They are excellent teammates, great racers, and fantastic friends. I would race with them anytime, anywhere.

May the Adventure continue!!

Infoman

Waiting for the other teams to finish

Waiting around for the other teams to finish. Jeff Thompson is on the right, he raced with the Adventure Family Race Team in Utah in The Adventure Xstream Expedition AR in 2004. Jeff was volunteering at this race.

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