Sunday, April 11, 2010

Blue Ridge Mtn Adventure Race

This years race start featured all three team members being dropped off in different locations and we would then converge on Horseshoe Bend Park via different modes of travel. We figured the solo paddle would be the limiting factor, so pre-race the plan was to not break a sweat on the run and bike to the park. Yeah right....

I opted for the more directionally intensive run since we didn't want James to get lost, and Kevin was the only one of us so who was proficient at paddling a canoe solo. The run started on a downhill, so it felt easy, but it seemed like the pace picked up pretty quickly. There were a couple of guys who went off the front and then a couple of girls came up to the front. By the time we hit Copper Hill, it felt like we were at 7:00 to 7:20 min/mile pace. I knew it was just a complete waste of energy, but the competitor in me couldn't stand the thought of seeing a punch of peeps in front (especially other women), so I kept my pace high, got all sweaty, and then had to stand around and wait once we got to the park. James had made it without issue as well, so it was 8:25 and all was well.

Kevin was the first paddler to arrive at the park, so we loaded up and headed out. Despite having 500+ lbs of weight in the boat, we didn't get stuck on any rocks and stayed in the fast water. The portage at the dam was a little tricky, as the water was up and there was a lot more current on the sides of the river. James took a step out of the boat and there was no footing beneath him, so he took an unexpected morning swim. Looking back, we probably could have easily run the dam since the water was up and the drop was much less than it was at Nationals a couple of years ago...but it appeared that those behind us were portaging too, so it really didn't matter. We kept the lead in our Penobscot until we hit CP2. We had to spend about two minutes searching around at the creek/RR intersection and by then a floatilla of kevlar boats had caught up to us. We still got out first but had the fleet of kevlar attack crafts right on our six. Somehow we managed to hold our own until the take out, and while we did eventually get passed by 3 kevlar boats, we maintained contact and kept within striking distance. We were 4th out of the water and then 2nd out on bikes.

Mmm...bikes - now it was our turn to dance. Within about a minute we took the lead on the bike section and quickly got out of sight. The next section of the course appeared to be the crux of the race, and had a variety of route choices and enough uncertainty to keep me up half the night. The big question was whether there was actually a trail from CP6 to CP7 and what condition it was in...

Based on pre-race planning, these were our options:

A) Ride bikes to CP5 and CP6, then come back out to the road. Ride to CP10, then CP9, then CP7 as an out and back, then ride to CP8, then continue on the singletrack ridgeline trail to pick up the bonus CP, then CP11. This eliminated the uncertainty of the "maybe trail" to CP7. I was secretly hoping that if there was a road or trail, that it was covered in a thatching of deadfall that would bring death by a thousand pokes to any teams that attempted to go through.

B)Ride bikes to CP5 and CP6. Then take a chance and pray trail continues to CP7 without some heinous bikewhack. Pick up CP7, ride to trail intersection, then pick up CP8 on foot, then ride to CP9 and CP10, then take FS Road to CP11.

I've taken gambles before and many times they haven't paid off, so we opted for Option A - hoping the conservative route might end up being the better way to go. Before I go any further, I'll just say right now that this was WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!

Back to the antics...Since we were just doing an out and back anyways, we dropped our bikes on the way to CP5. We picked up CP5 fairly quickly, but on the way to CP6, I somehow made a 90 degree error on my bearing and we headed up the wrong drainage. I don't know how this happened really, and in retrospect, you'd think we would just follow the creek or old roadbed..piece of cake, right? When we ended up on a ridgeline, we incorrectly assessed where we were (because there was just NO WAY we headed NE when we were supposed to be heading SE...) and reattacked into the wrong drainage. We kicked around there for a while, hoping to find a CP and trying to make sense of the map. I finally figured out where we actually were and we headed back up to the hilltop where we came from and reattacked again. The narrow ridgeline we were on looked nothing like the wide and flattish topo on the map, and I was about to bail again and just go back to CP5. Kevin convinced me to go a bit further and sure enough, there was the elusive CP6. We had just wasted 45 minutes though...ughhhh.

We ran back to our bikes and high-tailed it down the road to pick up CP10, then CP9. We then rode the out and back to CP7, knowing there was a good trail on the ridgeline. When we reached CP7, my heart sank when I saw the fantastic gravel road that came up, presumably from near CP6...double ughhhh.

So back out we went, having to see many teams coming through from the route that we did not choose, obviously following option B. After about 100 yards on the singletrack, we bailed on the idea of riding to CP8, and then just picked it up on foot and rode back to the road. After seeing the condition of the trail later on in the trek, this was probably the best decision we made all day.

We made it to the trek in 5th or 6th, feeling strong, but a bit frustrated with our route and me still wondering how I screwed up so bad at CP6. James forgot his running shoes, so he was wearing his Sidi's for the entire run, which I'm sure wasn't very pleasant. We picked up CP12 first, then the bonus CP, then CP15 and then CP14. We wasted 10 more minutes at CP14, as the plot seemed to be lower down in the reentrant, below a convergence of reentrants, rather than where it was hung along an old roadbed, further up the leftmost reentrant on the hillside.

I should know by now that this race generally involves what I call "in the ballpark nav" versus precise nav. The clues are generally more helpful in finding the points than the actual plots are on the map. Being reminded of this, we stayed on the trail to the next CP, since it was at another trail intersection. Right about the time I said, "Hey, keep an eye out for any trail intersections or old roadbeds coming in", we ran right past where the CP was hung. We hit the FS road, reassessed where we were, then attacked the CP again from the road up a rhodo-infested drainage where the point was plotted. I didn't mind crawling through the thickets, but my two giant 6'+ tall teammates were probably none too thrilled. We kicked around in some nasty $hit for about 30 minutes and about the time I was ready to raise the white flag, Kevin spotted an old roadbed. We followed it and it lead right to CP13. Another 20 feet and we were back at the same trail we had run down earlier. You have got to be f#%cking kidding me! Three ugghhhs and Enduraventure is OUT! The race gods were clearly NOT smiling down on us today!

So back down to the road and we ran it back into the bike drop, with James clicking along in his bike shoes. The only thing that made me feel better about that last CP is that another team that was near us ran right past it as well and was having to reattack the same way we did.

So we arrive back at the bikes, I think in 5th - which is amazing considering how poor our execution was on the previous two sections - then take off down the hill on our bikes. It was fun to bomb that downhill and when we hit the pavement, James had us motoring along at 30 mph..on mountain bikes! I'm happy to say that we did not have anything go horribly wrong on the last bike in, but we were a bit too far behind to catch anyone in front of us. Oh, and the ride on the RR tracks sucked a$$!

We finished 5th overall, which wasn't horrible considering how much time we left out on the course through mistakes and poor route selection. We DID have to work very hard to make up for all our hiccups, so I can't complain about not getting in a good workout.


chris said...

Really glad race report, we did not go for CP's 7 and 8 (I think) because we could not figure out a way to get them (in time.) That last downhill to the pavement was AWESOME! While waiting at the end of that run for our 3rd teammate who doesn't like downhills, another girl came down and endo'd on her bike and her bike hit my already eff'd up arm and she didn't even apologize, so sloppy! And oddly, I loved the RR tracks! I just got a new bike and it floated across those tracks or the side of the tracks nice!

It was my first real AR and I sure appreciate the efforts of the fast teams a whole lot more. Next time you will be in the top 3 for sure. Thanks for sharing!

chris said...

By the way, I am on Chris' computer but the previous comment was from me, Brigette. :)