*warning: this shit’s really long. Sorry. TL;DR: we raced, it was fun, here are some pictures.
After racing Smithville last year, then Castlewood this year, Justin and I are becoming pretty legit adventure race (AR) partners. I’d say we’ve moved past the experimental phase to going-steady. We met last winter, then realized we’d both been wanting to try more ARs, and could both probably handle the physical aspects (and riding bikes, duh). I had done one AR previously, and I’m sure Justin had done similar things with the Army. All this is build-up to say that we did surprisingly well at Castlewood (2nd in our division! What what?!) despite taking probably 1 hour or more at the transitions and getting lost (like, actually pretty lost) on the last orienteer. We typically approach racing as a way to catch-up and chat… not necessarily a “fast” strategy.
Anyways, after that we decided we could probably do a little better if we planned a little better. Sidenote – our team name is “Overeducated and Underprepared” based on the fact that we’re both in Dr programs (I’m in a PhD program, he’s in med school) and we usually just decide on a whim to enter races, as opposed to, like, training (people do that?). Following Castlewood we had a series of facebook chats and email chains thinking about how we could have done better – leading easily into thinking about what our next race would be.
The Chill fit the bill (yeah, it rhymes), so we signed up! As you may know, I’ve been training for the GO half marathon, and was feeling pretty pumped on my 2nd place finish at quivering quads the week prior. Justin, however, had a week stuffed with exams just prior to the race, and I’m imagining not a whole lot of sleep or good food. Such is life, I suppose. We met at his parents’ house in Washington, MO to drop off my car, then I drove us down to race check-in in his big ol’ truck Yolanda while he caught some extra zzz’s.
We picked up packets, then had about 30 min until the pre-race meeting… just the right amount of time to check out the Tan-Tar-A Resort (very Missouri style – there was a shopping mall INSIDE the resort). Luckily, they also had a bar, so we decided to sit down and have a beer to be really prepared. We arrived back at the (now fairly full) meeting room to find that my stuff (with our food drop bag and race number) had somehow migrated away from the chair I’d left it on. Whoops. Note to self – just carry your crap. The pre-race meeting was filled with little details on the course (one section of river termed “the gauntlet” that we’d be riding, details about TAs and bikes, etc). I eventually had to submit myself to public shaming and asked if anyone had found my bag – it had made it all the way up to the front row (no way I’m sitting up there – I’ve been in school long enough, I know these things) but we recovered it easily – thanks to someone (maybe on 35 down?) who grabbed it!!
Our original plan had been to camp for the night in Justin’s truck, but after looking at the map we realized how nice it would be to plot points and plan in a hotel room. Not to mention getting some real sleep (and waking up a little later since we wouldn’t need to pack up a tent and extras before leaving). After the meeting we took off to pick up food from lil rizzo’s, and just happened to miss the turn by a block or two, turning instead into the parking lot for the crow’s nest hotel. Whaddayaknow, it’s actually the race hotel, and they have rooms available. Done. We grab our food and get to plotting!
As we’re going through a final gear check, Justin realizes he doesn’t have a space blanket. I’m glad we opted for the final run-through, and he jumps over to wally world to pick up some final supplies. I transfer the extra trail detail maps on our one (huge!) 1:24000 topo map and we work out a course for the morning.
This race is set up a bit different from the other AR’s we’ve done… from what we can tell, it’s a pretty distinct paddle-trek-bike (not much in the way of flip-flopping between disciplines). The bike also appears to just be on roads (no singletrack, sad day). Justin, the gear whore that he is, found us some collapsible kayak paddles to try for the canoe section. While I’m terrified that this means we’re somehow legit, the morning of the race (and actually today, writing this) I’m SO happy we had them.
We start the race in a free for all – we’re allowed to get to CP1 however we want (and we don’t have to stay within 100′ of our partner). We originally think to hike over the hill portaging the canoe, but after driving in, it looks pretty intimidating. I know my legs will stand up to it, but we have a long day of hiking ahead of us. We switch plans to instead paddle out around the point (probably 3x distance), hoping that the time spent now will save us some legs later in the day. Gary says go and I run off toward the passports while Justin grabs us a canoe and takes it to the put-in right by the start arch. We quickly realize we should have thought this through… most teams are carrying canoes to the passport pick-up site (a flat, ~300m walk). We would definitely have been faster walking that section than paddling, but whatever. We get in the river and go!
The paddling checkpoints are pretty straightforward. Due to the mass start, we see a lot of teams on the river. It’s sorta nice (lots of greetings and making new friends) and sorta claustraphopic (I’m not the best paddler, and the river isn’t huge, so trying to get around other teams is a bit of a chore). We make it through to the takeout at CP4 and realize we’ve been on the water about 3 hours. So much for an 8 hour race! We pass through a gear check and it’s clear Justin’s struggling. We chalk it up to cold legs (he’s opted for knickers, while I’m rocking the tri shorts, blurr pants, AND gaitors) and get to a few quick hiking CPs before hitting the first TA.
At CP7 (TA) we pick up a big passport and are given 23 points to plot and map. I get to plotting while Justin refuels and adjusts things. We swap roles and I take a bathroom break while he starts mapping out our route. Trekking (more specifically, land navigation) is probably our biggest weak point. If nothing else, this course is great practice for us, with a significant number of points and distance covered on foot.
We settle on a route after some discussion – we’ll do a northern loop CW, then pick up bikes at CP7 and ride the quick distance to CP8 before heading out on another trekking loop, cutting off CP’s if required by time. In another attempt to improve our nav skills, we take a bearing between every CP and measure a straight-line distance. Some checkpoints count for 2 points, so I decide to mark these with a square around the circle, in addition to writing “T” (for trek) for the points on the big passport. I know how talented I am at mis-reading and mis-marking things, so I want to make sure we know exactly where we are (future note – my handwriting could use some improvements. Also, invest in some skinny sharpies instead of pen – things are a little hard to read).
We don’t bother marking out a route for the southern loop, mainly because by this point teams have come and gone through the TA, and we’re getting anxious. I thought plotting the points took long enough (all on me wanting to make sure I get them right)… much less working out the bearings and distances! I think we probably spent about 45-50 min in TA. Despite our best efforts… that is just too long. But Justin had a chance to warm up and recover, and we both had a pretty solid handle on our plan of attack. We headed first to CP T11… only to totally ignore the topo marks and wind up and the TOP of a bluff, instead of at the BOTTOM of it. We decide to abandon that approach, and instead head out to the western-most points T6 and T4. And… it takes us a LONG time to find T6. We hadn’t mapped out a straight-line distance here, since it looked like there were trails and contours to follow. Once with do finally hit T6, we know where we are and head up to T4, hitting it pretty solidly and running into a few other teams – we might be heading out while they’re heading in, but hey, I’m stoked to even be close!
We find out later that we’re actually all running roughly the same course – since the paddle was so dense, there are still a lot of teams clumped together. We end up trading spots and passing people along the way. It’s a nice walk in the woods, and we get our groove going a bit. Our nav is definitely better than at Castlewood (minus the first point, oy) but we’re still just hiking (no running here yet). Might as well have safe footing… although we both twist an ankle, and get seriously slowed down by thick underbrush (mostly spiky nettles) dropping in to T8. Ouch! Justin’s poor exposed shins… I’m glad for the many layers I’m wearing (despite sweating through multiple pairs of shorts). We pick up T15 dropping off a trail, and see the tiny trail ninjas (the only other 2 person coed team… and eventual 3rd place!) running away from us – and I’m psyched! They’re super duper fast… I’m floored that we’d see them on course at all. Justin is still struggling to eat enough food and keep energy up – I’m thankful for all my training (and rest), and I’m just so happy to be outside, I keep talking at him and he probably wants to kill me, but I’m having a great time. We grab our last point (T12) off a trail and head back in to CP7 to pick up bikes and head to the south loop.
Despite the luxurious night in the hotel, we managed to get a late start dropping bikes, and in our pre-race panic (get to the start! get to the start!) we couldn’t find the jug of water we had bought to leave in our resupply bag (left at CP7 with our trusty steeds). As we were walking up, we were discussing our options – head back down to the lake to get some water to purify? Find the visitors center a few miles down the road? Justin was totally out of water and I was close, with just a bottle of gatorade sitting in my bike. Luckily, the volunteers at CP7 told us that they’d have water at CP8! Thank goodness. We rode out – down a quick hill, then up a little hill to CP8 (foreshadowing of the hills we’d face on the remaining bike section… I was happy to have gears).
Before the race, I wanted to hit every CP. It’s clear by CP8 that is not going to happen. There’s a time cutoff of 17:30 (at CP8), and we roll up around 16:00. We decide to take the trail and try to grab T18, T19, and T21 while making sure we have enough time to get back to CP8 and also bike the remainder of the course within time limits. Starting the trek here is when I realized just how toasted Justin was. We kept up some status checks for food and water, but it’s never easy to eat enough during an AR. At this point, I was super proud of myself for eating a lot, then realized I’d eaten a total of 3 waffles, 1 thing of shot bloks, and ~2 rice balls for the nearly 10 hours of racing we’d done (if I had to guess, I’d say that works out to about 900 calories). So much for that idea. We opted to just grab T18 and leave T19 in favor of a 2 point bike CP near the end of the course (which we didn’t end up getting, meh). We hit CP8 and turned in our big passport, then changed into bike shoes and got riding!
The bike was fairly uneventful, except for punishing Justin. I believe his comment at one point was “I haven’t suffered this much on a bike in a long time. Maybe ever.” This, coming from a dude who spent some time racing bikes in europe, and generally knows pain from the perspective of a bike seat. Man, I’m glad I was there to push you and witness it, but that really sucks. I can only hope you’ll be nicer to me the next time I bonk during a race… because I felt awesome at this point. Here I was, riding a bike, with my friend (and new friends!) in the rolling Missouri hills, picking up some punches here and there, and loving life. I really did try to give my wheel, but for a while it felt like we weren’t moving fast enough for it to help. And then I’d inevitably get distracted, and wind up too far up the road, just bumpin’ along to my own tune. I am not a fan of the tow rope (my other team name suggestion would be “no tow”), but my perspective on that is starting to change a little. Don’t be surprised if you see me one day with one of those stupid little tails trailing my beautiful Stanley (the bike)… maybe I’d be ok with it, so long as I’m the one doing the towing. Meh.
I could tell Justin was getting a bit of a second wind as we ripped down a few hills. Rounding a bend towards one of our last CPs was a nice downhill, followed by a seriously steep and sharp corner uphill. Descending the road I decided to let loose a little (still allowing Justin to set the downhill pace) when I heard a little whisper, almost as if I’d caught a leaf in my derailleur… sure enough, it was still there come the uphill and as I got off to walk (yeah, I do that occasionally) my fears were confirmed – I flatted out my rear tire 😦 I got out my tools to change it, but in my race-moment panic had trouble getting the tire off the rim. Scraped my knuckles on the spokes a few times, then finally it came free (bloooood. my day was now officially complete). Rounding out the “Underprepared” of the team name, I realized that the tube I had grabbed was a 26×1.5-2.1 …not ideal for a 29er MTB tire (why did I have a tube like that just lying around my house?! 26’rs are for chumps, err’body knows that). I borrowed Justin’s (correctly sized) tube, and got everything back in place. On the bright side, I learned how to use a CO2 canister from the bike man himself, so that’s cool!
We hit the remainder of the CPs on the main drag, but decided not to do the quick out-and-back to the 2 point CP 13 – toasted legs and low light meant we just wanted to be done. At the final CP we were offered the option of bonus points (ha! thanks) but politely declined. We rolled through the blow up arch right around 19:55, for a final team time of 12:17:20, good for 10th overall! It was fun racing near the Momentum/Alpine folks, and our new friends from Mad Tortoise who we shared a table with for some tasty CHEESY POTATOES!!!! Mmm I love me some cheesy taters. Also, the Mad Tortoise dudes wound up 2nd in the 2 person male category – awesome job guys!! Hope you grabbed some cool schwag!
For a blown tire and a crushed Justin, we still managed to do pretty well. I’m stoked for MOAR RACING! This summer is shaping up to be fun and fast 😀
And finally, the last tragedy of the day… as we were pulling out (heh) of the parking lot, we realized that Yolanda’s front passenger tire was totally flat. As I was reminded many times (thanks Justin) I’m a terrible blogger (hey, I’m new to this) and didn’t take nearly enough photos. I should have probably taken one of the tire… or of any of the roughly 10 people that came over to help us fix it. Thanks to team Alpine Shop and Momentum peeps who first (1) help us get the spare lowered from the back of the truck, and (2) helped us try to loosen the wheel after getting the lug-nuts off. Funny enough, the Alpine mobile also had a low tire, so we lent them a bike pump to get back up to rolling pressure (which is apparently around 44psi for a minivan?? Man, my lil’ subie tires only run about 32… but I’ve gone the bike- pump route before). Unfortunately for us, Yolanda’s wheel was really stuck… I called AAA, and after everyone had left we took a mini nap (but not before Gary and Ellen gave us a big wrench to hit the tire with, and checked in to make sure we’d call and let them know we survived. We did! Thanks!!!). The tow man showed up around 11:30 and got the wheel loosened (a bigger jack and a few solid knocks with a hammer popped it right off), then put on the full-size spare, and we motored sleepily back to Washington, arriving around 2:30 AM (after waking up at 5:45 and running and adventure race… yeah, it was rough).
So, another race in the books! Things learned from this one: we still need to be better at nav. On the bright side of my packet mix-up, I met a lot of fans of superkate (no, I’m not her, and sadly no, I’m not that awesome) but I did get to meet her and pass along the love. (She’s got a few awesome posts on ARs recently, and totally building on that, I’m not-so-secretly hoping to be added to the adventure network… hehe). As always, bonk hard put on an awesome race (and we literally bonked hard) – thanks to everyone that made it possible, and made sure we got out of there alive!!