Monday, November 5, 2007

Adventure Race National Championships

We just returned from the Adventure Racing National Championships in Potosi, Missouri. Our official placing was 19th, which was not what we were hoping for, but you never know what you're going to get with adventure racing. Our lackluster performance wasn't due to lack of preparation or fitness, rather it was all due to some poor decisions I made as the team navigator. On the upside, the course was really fun, had some great mountain biking, and we didn't have to work nearly as hard once we were "out of the hunt."

We were given maps and directions at 5 am the morning of the race so I had to quickly plot and come up with our route. There was no time for excessive strategizing or putting distances on the map. I finished the map work well enough, was happy with our o-course strategy, so we bundled up and headed to the start.

The race started off with a short prologue where one team member had to run and pick up the passport while the other two paddled the canoe to the far end of the lake where we would pick up our runner and then complete a 1.5-2 mile lake paddle. The boat pick up was complete chaos..there was a row of 25 canoes stacked 3 high. People were grabbing boats and pulling them down on top of each other. James grabbed a canoe, and I grabbed pfd's and we made a pretty fast getaway to go meet Bo. This whole section was kind of evil as it was 25 degrees outside and the gunwales and paddles had ice on them. We were in the top 5-6 teams to pick up our runner and somewhere in all that chaos, I managed to lose my paddle so we only had the two guys paddling. It didn't seem to matter, as we held our position and were in the top 5 coming off the water.

Next was the o-course, which I opted to do counter-clockwise to save about a half mile of running. The attack points weren't as good, but I was confident I could get us through. We hit the first few points no problem and then disaster struck. I did not take a careful enough bearing as we whacked to a CP and we ended up on the wrong spur. There was a really good road at the top of the spur which looked like it just had to be the one on the map so I was completely assured we were in the correct location. I was so confident that I didn't take my compass out and check the direction of the road. We headed into an overgrown reentrant and spent a considerable amount of time looking for CP with no luck. After about 30 minutes we decide to reattack from a nearby hilltop. I knew where the hilltop was on the map, and it even had a "YOU ARE HERE" idiot-proof sign, so I was confident with the location and all we had to do was pace count 200 m to our reentrant and attack again. I was still so sure that I knew exactly where I was that I didn't verify the road direction with the compass. We pacecount and end up in the same reentrant. This time we walked all the way down it and then back up another until we were back on the hilltop. At this point my head is spinning and Bo and James had me convinced that I was looking at the wrong hilltop, despite the big "YOU ARE HERE" sign. Finally up at the hilltop again, I pull my compass out and throw it down on the map. Suddenly our mistake becomes crystal clear. The road we assumed was the one on the map was actually not shown and we were attacking from the completely wrong road. I still can't belive I made such a stupid mistake but the pressure of racing seems to have that effect on me. So after about two hours of running in circles, we FINALLY found the point and moved on. We hadn't seen anyone else in over an hour, and I expected our bikes to be the only ones left at the TA when we arrived back there.

Ours weren't the ONLY bikes still there, but there weren't very many...maybe 10 or 15 teams worth. I think they said we were in 65th place and over two hours in the hole. The wind was officially out of my sails but I was excited that we were going to ride the Berryman Trail, and you never know what will happen in AR, so we headed off on our bikes in decent spirits. We passed 30 or so teams on this section, and thoroughly enjoyed the sweet singletrack. By far the best biking I've done in an AR. We completed this section with no issues in 3.5 hours, which was the same pace as the top two finishing teams. We then headed out on a 8-10 mile straightforward trail run on the pretty Ozark Trail, where we reeled in a few more teams.

At a little before 5 pm we arrived at the canoe put in for the "river" paddling section. When we finally get to the "river" it looks like the teeny-tiny spring fed creek in my backyard. It was less than 10 feet wide and had brush and logs strewn everywhere, with an average depth of about 4 inches. This section was a real test of patience for us, as we were riding low since we are a fairly heavy team. We were out of the boat every hundred yards it seemed dragging or hitting some god forsaken log. The level of frustration was high and there was lots of grumbling, yelling, and throwing of paddles. This went on for a while..paddle, scrape, push, srape, push, bail water, push, scrape (notice not much paddling), until we finally reached the first and only CP along the river. It was just getting dark and all these cows were crossing the river and mooing at us. It was fairly creepy. We knew the CP was at a "wire bridge" that was near a powerline. I looked around for the CP for several minutes while the guys put on their waterproof gear. The cows were looking more menacing up close, especially with their glowing eyes from my HID. I'm looking here and looking CP..WTF???? Then I look up at the heavens and wonder why the hell I do these crazy races and THERE IT WAS!!! The CP was hung about 20' up on the wire bridge pole. We get the punch, bail the boat, pack up and head out. This was probably a 20 minute stop (something we'd never do in "game-on" mode), but we didn't see anyone so we were content to lollygag. After another 5 miles on scraping, paddling and pushing, we finally get off the river. Once we stop paddling, everyone gets really cold and we do something else we NEVER do, which was go and sit by the fire. Any good A-racer can tell you that a campfire is the first step to a DNF..NEVER, EVER, EVER sit by a fire if you intend to finish a race. Its warm and toasty for a few minutes, but then you freeze the minute you walk away from it. Fortunately, after a very lengthy TA, we were able to pull ourselves away and head out on the second running section of about 10 miles. We warmed up quickly and the nav was pretty easy. We were slowly still picking off teams, but I never really saw anyone. This section started nice an clean but then I made BIG MISTAKE #2 when we were looking for CP 20. Instead of playing it smart and following a bearing through the woods from a KNOWN attack point, we ran along this ridge trail like a bunch of lemmings, not paying attention to the fact that it very slowly broke off to the northwest and put us on the wrong ridgeline. We ran around in circles here for over an hour until I finally figured out my error and we headed into the correct reentrant. We then whacked back to the campground to pick up our bikes for the final bike section.

We started out with a few more miles of singletrack, which was still fun, but we were all becoming a little less coordinated, so we weren't as fast as during the daylight. We completed the final bike section cleanly and arrived back at the finish a little bit before 6 am.

All in all, I thought the course was pretty fun although it definitely wasn't as physically challenging as an NGAR, Overmountain, or CPZ race. I thrive on misery, and this race didn't seem to have any of that, other than our self-inflicted running in circles because I had my compass up my arse. For the most part, I'd say the navigation was pretty easy. I'm pretty confident my mistake on the O-course wouldn't have happened if we chose to go clockwise, since even if I still wasn't thinking straight, there would have been enough teams running around to make me think to stop and take out the compass. CP 20 was tricky, but that was really the only place where I think many teams had real issues.

As a team we raced well, and stayed pretty positive the whole race, mainly due to the "fun" nature of the course design. Congrats to all those that landed on the podium, and also all those that finished. See everyone at CPZ - I'll have my compass glued to my hand.


Namrita O'Dea said...

great report! how far was the drive? i'm considering a trip to the ozarks...for riding it worth the trip for a week?

Lisa said...

It took us 9 hours with stops driving 70-80 mph on the interstate. Once you get through Kentucky you end up on all these horrendous back roads though to actually get to Potosi. The Berryman trail was fun - 24 miles of rolling singletrack, but it didn't have the wow factor. There are plenty of trails around here that are very similar. There are a good number of trails around there though.

Lorna said...

Great job Lisa. Sorry it didn't turn out as you had hoped but I'm glad that you still managed to have fun and make the most of it. As you say, bad day on the trails is better than a good day at the office. I love that!

Julia Radmann said...

hey Lisa!
Sorry to hear your race didn't go so well, but sounds like you made the best out of it. Let's catch up and ride soon.
P.S. I had a good race at XTerra, dropped about 25 min off my time from last year and came in 11th. I got my payback though.. being outsprinted right at the finish line by the girl who got 10th. :(