Tuesday, January 19, 2010

North Georgia Adventure Race

The North Georgia Adventure Race has always been an event that I'd consider a "character building experience", that separates the weak from the strong and discards those that come ill-prepared, whether it be in training, gear selection, nutrition, or navigational acumen. This year was no exception. 18,000 feet of elevation gain coupled with nearly 20 hours of steady rain made for some epic conditions.

After going through 3 different teammates who decided they weren't prepared for the challenge, Kevin and I got a call from Chris B. the day before the race saying that he was in...so we finally were a threesome with James and Goble as our support crew. My expectation going into the race was to navigate well, keep moving, and minimize any would-be mistakes. Though I've been riding 10 hrs a week for the last month or so, my runs have been limited to an hour and a half max and I have done NO paddling since May. Chris claimed to be out of shape, and also hadn't paddled in eons. Given these circumstances and a fairly stacked field, I guessed that we'd be able to land in the top 5, but didn't think we'd pull out a win unless there was some tricky nav that we ended up nailing. Going in with this expectation made the beginning of the race much less stressful.

Kevin was our runner on the prologue, and was probably in the top 5 back to the boats. By the time we got on the water and got moving, I think we were in 6th place. We basically slogged through the paddle, losing a couple positions in the process to other teams. By the time we arrived at the last paddle checkpoint, we were in 8th or 9th place. We opted to portage there, and thus the guys threw the boat over their heads and hoofed it up the steep road to the ridgeline of the peninsula. We ran down the road until we saw water in the inlet on the other side and at that point slid the boat down the hillside and got back on the lake. We had about a mile of unobstructed view on the water and didn't see any of the other boats that were in front of us...weird... As we rounded the bend into the main channel, we expected to see a bunch of other teams...no one except for one boat a good distance ahead of us. We spent a few minutes pondering what happened to the other teams and then decided it wasn't worth speculating and that we'd find out soon enough at the take out. I believe we were the 6th boat off the water. We did a full clothing change and hopped on our bikes to make our way towards Fort Mountain State Park, now being in 4th place among the coed teams.

We bombed down the hill and I immediately regretted my decision to forego glasses as I was getting tons of mud chunks in my eyes. Once we hit the paved road we formed a paceline and motored along. For the first time in a long time, I felt well within my limits on the bike. Kevin said not to take any long pulls, but I felt good and we accidentally dropped our other teammate at times. The climb up Peeples Road seemed easy and here we passed another team. Further on down the road we passed another team, so when we hit the Pinhoti Connector, we were the 2nd coed team. This climb wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and was mostly rideable except for a couple of sections up high. We arrived at Ft. Mountain in good spirits, did a quick transition, and checked in at CP 8.

From CP 8 we picked up the Gahuti trail, which was an uphill hike-a-bike, to the 301 trail. In retrospect, I wish we would have just whacked down to the 407 trail..I don't think it was really that bad...and it was ALL downhill. I ended up running a lot of the steep downhill as my 20 lb pack with all my gear for Windy Gap was making me super top heavy and that didn't instill confidence. I definitely didn't want to eat shit while we were doing well, and I think I ran down that mo-fo faster than I usually ride it anyways. We picked up 407 a little ways down, which was a mistake...should have just stayed on 301 because 407 sucked. We eventually ended up bushing down to the 301 anyways and it was a quick ride to CP 9 and CP 10. Out the backside of the park to the pavement and whoo hoo...here comes the RAIN!

We arrive at Windy Gap in 2nd and find that Nuun is still there..cool. We get shoed up and head out towards CP 12. We opted to run most of the road, then take a trail that cut the corner. It worked out pretty well except the road was at a lower elevation than shown on the map, so we had to drop down to it. The whack to CP 13 on Grassy Mtn was pretty decent, although my teammates who were wearing knickers through the briar patches may tell a different story. We ran into Nunn on the way up and arrived at CP 13 before them, however it all came back together at CP 14, where we really took our time to ensure that we stayed on our bearings so we wouldn't miss the small high point. The Milma and Windy Gap trails back to the bike drop were a sloppy mess and I'm amazed no one from Enduraventure or Nuun busted their asses as we jogged a pretty good pace to the trailhead.

We took a bit of a long transition and Nuun got out before us. My teammate wasn't feeling the love on the gravel roads, so we lost about 10 minutes to them on the way to Mulberry Gap. Once there, I asked for a Coke and my wish was granted. Chris had one too and it seemed to give him a boost, as we rode a decent pace up Pinhoti 3 and 4. As we neared the top of Pinhoti 4, I saw the lights of Nuun going the wrong way on the old roadbed. I told my teammates this and we quietly snuck by and headed to CP 17. We got more Coke at CP 17 (whoo hoo) then had to contend with the cold and windy as hell Tatum Lead Road. It was a bit chilly on the downhill and then we hit the Pinhoti trail which, while still downhill, got us off the exposed ridgeline. Lots of little creek crossings on the trail, most rideable and one with ice chunks still in it. By the time we reach CP 18 we're pretty cold and anxious to begin the Pinhoti Connector climb to warm back up.

Back at Ft. Mtn, the first thing we do is get dry and warm. Goble plotted our points and laid out a route for us while we took care of getting warm and eating. I think we stayed in the TA for 45+ minutes and no sign of Nuun...that was comforting. Since we started this section at 3:45 am, I took fairly conservative routes to the first few CP's, utilizing the trails whenever possible. The fog made our lights useless for spotting long distances, so whacking was risky. Goble had made us a second O-map so that Chris could help out with this section which was great, as my brain was starting to get a little foggy too. We worked out out attacks to most of the points and were nailing them. I do think I was on the outs on this section for a little while when I broke up a "M&M picnic" between Chris and Kevin and also when I insisted we crawl straight up a hillside to avoid going around the long way. Sometimes tough love is necessary, and I figured a win would void those memories from their minds. After we hit our 6th O-point, daybreak hit and we started to move a little faster, picking up the two points south of Hwy 52 pretty easily, and then making the final climb to the radio towers to nab the last point. Wouldn't ya know, we had issues with this one, in the form of we walked right by the point...twice! We saw a small hole on the ridge, stopped there and hmmmed and hawwed, not noticing the huge gaping hole over to our left where the CP was hanging. We ran around in circles for about 15 minutes doing our WTFs until another team was kind enough to give out a yell when they spotted the point. Yup, sure enough it was about 20 feet from where we had walked by...twice..but we didn't notice it since it was kind of off to the side of the ridge. With that final punch we were outta there and just had a 1.5 mile jog back to the finish on the paved road. We arrived at the finish around 10:45 am and didn't see any other teams hanging around. When we heard the cheering as we ran into the cabin, it was confirmed that we had held onto our lead and won the 2010 edition of the North Georgia Adventure Race.


Neal said...

Great work! That was a a fun read ;-) Cheers, Neal

Carey said...

Great to be back at it, eh? Well done!