On September 18, WEDALI teammates Scott, Scott, Molly, and Justin prepared for the last Wild AR of the 2009 season; a 24-hour near Carlton, MN. This was also a USARA Nationals qualifier and the last race in the 2009 Minnesota Adventure Race Series, so an important race in our schedule to say the least.
We took a bus to Nemadji State Forest for the 5pm start. Wild's race directors, wanting to get things off to a good start, began the race with a 17.5-mile trek on mostly gravel roads with a bit of sand, forest, and two-track paths. This was a tough go for our team, as the Gnome Hunters pushed the pace from the very start. We kept up despite the effort, not wanting to fall behind on the first leg of the race. We stuck together as a team, traded packs to whomever was feeling up to it, and pushed/pulled each other through the section in about 2 hours and 52 minutes.
We made a quick transition to our bikes for an off-road section of trails, mostly ATV and OHV. Doing this at night added to the technical element. Biz did an endo over his handle bars at one point, for which Scooter gave him a 10. We passed the Gnome Hunters on this section, but we knew they were hot on our tails. We then popped out onto the Gandy Dancer gravel trail, which took us northeast out onto pavement at Patzau.
The road ride from Patzau to the boat launch on the west side of New Duluth was fairly uneventful, taking County Road B to County Road W to State Highway 23. We tried to push the pace on this section to create a gap, but really had no idea how much faster we were going than the other teams. We arrived at the paddle TA in decent shape, but our TA was a little slow at about 20 minutes.
We then paddled from a boat launch west of New Duluth into St. Louis Bay. Our team ran into some problems on this section with leaky boats, stomach issues, and a 20-minute navigation error. This section wasn't our highpoint, and we lost a bit of time and effort.
We transitioned back to our bikes and rode from the boat launch at Smithville onto the Munger trail heading west.
After a short ride to the TA, we tended to some foot issues and made our way on foot to Ely's Peak for a bit of ropes fun. We hike up to a railroad grade and went east to a tunnel under Ely's Peak. After Molly reached the top of the ascent, The Beautiful People showed up and started to get their gear on. After Scooter was up, the Gnome Hunters had shown up as well. Ascending takes a fair bit of time, but having both of these teams catch up to us while Erl and Biz still needed to get up the ascent made things interesting.
We knew we had lost a bit of time on the paddle, but more so we realized that we would have to keep up a strong pace to finish well. We passed Orion on our way back to our bikes, further emphasizing the competitive nature of the top teams through the race thus far.
We rode on Munger trail west to Jay Cooke State Park, including a quick 1.5 mile loop on dirt trails along the way to pick up two other CPs and prepared for the final major leg of the race; a 12-point rogaine section set by members of the Minnesota Orienteering Club.
We knew we had probably a 30-minute lead over Gnome Hunters and the Beautiful People (since neither team had shown up at the rappel while we were on our way out), but we weren't moving too fast at this point and had no idea how far behind us the other teams were.
After getting the three O-points to the north, we caught up to Beautiful People since they had just headed out on the southern O-section less than 7 minutes ahead of us. That being said, we figured our lead was slightly under an hour over the next teams, as we knew the Gnome Hunters would be right behind BP and would be likely to do the O-section faster. With their strong navigation and faster run pace, we knew nothing was a given and had limited room for error. After clearing the orienteering section in a little under 4 hours, we were relieved to find that no other teams had come back to the TA. We hopped back onto our bikes and rode west from Jay Cooke back out to Munger Trail and State Highway 210, finishing at the Black Bear Casino Resort in a total time of 17 hours and 15 minutes.This race definitely pushed our limits, and it was a team effort to come out on top. We had a bunch of issues to deal with, but stayed tough and got 'er done. We were definitely impressed with the Minnesota teams that showed up to race - truly a competitive event. Hopefully more teams from out-of-state will join the mixer in the future. Rumor has it that this race will be part of the Checkpoint Tracker series in 2010....
WEDALI - 17:15
Gnome Hunters - 18:05
The Beautiful People - 19:11
Orion - 21:18