We Eat Dust And Like It

August 30, 2011

Bring Home The Thunder Rolls

On August 26, Scott, Justin, and Molly toed the line at the 2011 edition of the Thunder Rolls Adventure Race.  The Race HQ was the Luthern Outdoor Ministries center, located just SW of Oregon, IL.  Racers were given their packets with UTMs at approximately 8pm and were informed of the midnight start.  Below, our crew plotted checkpoints and determined routes in preparation for the race.

The race would start with a speedy O-course on foot, and teams gathered with paddles in hand in a cool,  dew-covered patch of grass as we awaited the 12am signal to go.  Despite the course being an A-Z route through the entire course, chaos erupted as teams scattered into the woods in different directions.  Teams passed each other running in opposite directions looking for the same checkpoint.  The night nav gave many of the navigators a tough challenge to the start of the race.  The vegetation was thick and often filled with stinging nettles or raspberry bushes, which also punished those who like to take short cuts through the woods (like us!).

The O-course, which also traversed through Castle Rock State Park, led out onto a paddle on the Rock River, where we traveled upstream to a farmers field after a brief 8km effort. We then ran down the farm driveway and up and onto Devils Back Bone, a precariously rocky and thin ridge of land that we rappelled off on the southeast side.  With teams hot on our tail, other crews like Bushwhacker and Alpine Shop arrived at the rappel as we were going down.  Our lead was still slim and the ropes afforded little chance to gain an edge as the first team through

We then hopped back in the boats and paddled downstream to Grand Detour, the birthplace of the John Deere plow.  We completed a solid bike leg on rural country roads on our way out to the Nachusa Grasslands, a  3,000+ acre restored prairie owned and operated by the Nature Conservancy.  Another trekking section in this area provided an opportunity to explore subtle grassland terrain, an area where buffalo used to call home. Over 700 native prairie plant species dot the landscape and the grasses grow 8-10 feet tall in the summer. This can often provide a challenging bushwhacking element of reduced visibility, even in broad daylight.  Alpine Shop would continue to tail us during this leg, and we would see them occasionally running across the open fields.

After leaving the grasslands, we proceeded on bike back over the Rock River and through Grand Detour on our way to the White Pines Forest Nature Preserve.  A quick CP gathered there and then a final push back to Race HQ for the finish.  Alpine Shop was hot on our tails again, and we passed them on our way to the finish - our gap estimated to be roughly 10-15 minutes.  With a short 10 mile bike back to the finish, we clinched the win with the aforementioned narrow margin.  Alpine Shop pushed hard throughout, and our crew was lucky to fend them off in the final hours of the race.  Bushwhacker had a solid effort as well, and came in less than an hour back. Although the race was short for a 24 hour event (we finished in under 15 hours), a lot can be said for each team doing the same exact course (and for sleeping the night after the event!).  It was a hot day in the prairies of Illinois and you can see the relief on our team at the finish line. A strong field of Midwest teams made the victory well earned.


August 10, 2011

RTNX - Photo Highlights

In late July, Scott and Justin teamed up with Midwest AR couple Rachel Furman and Fredrik Goransson (Bushwhackers that hail from Dunlap, IL) to tackle Raid the North Extreme - a 7-day expedition race in the West Kootenays of British Columbia, Canada.  Although Scott and Justin have participated in expedition racing before, this would be the first opportunity for the Bushwhacker duo. With a lot of persistence and teamwork, along with the camaraderie of the Checkpoint Zero squad, the crew pulled down a top finish at the week long event. Below are some photos of their journey, which at many times felt less like a race and more a test of will and character.

Race tub packed and ready to go - a portable oasis for a week.

Pre-race photo op the night before. Stunning backdrops await.

Pre-race meeting - lots of smart racers.

First bike leg up and up - little did we know how much we would push instead of ride!

First trek leg up the side of a snowy mountain face.

Lots of side-hill trekking sometimes requires a moment to enjoy the view.

Sketchy water crossings were common while navigating the deep valleys.
Teams often piled up early in the race

First morning after sleeping in the bush with CP0.
Space blankets are not as cozy as real blankets and ferns do not provide warmth.

Day 2 trekking - the views often offset our struggles with the thick undergrowth.

Checkpoint Zero teamwork in action at high altitude.

Climbing the glacial valleys is breathtaking in more ways than one.

Biking had contrasting elements.
Climbing over passes involved arduous ascents of pushing and granny gear mashing.
Descents were white knuckled with the smell of melting disc brake pads and numb feet.

Paddling on Slocan Lake morning of day 3. Epic.

Trekking in Valhalla Provincial Park
Beatrice Lake - Beautiful but foreboding. The next 7 hours consist of bushwhacking and crawling through tough veg - at dark we realize we averaged about 1km per hour.

Cliffed out on the south side of Beatrice Lake in the dark, we're forced to stop for the night.
We start a fire, which brightens our spirit and dries our clothes.

Cheetos are passed and we try not to melt our clothes by getting too close to the fire.
Sleep is not restful, but without fire, this would have been a tough night.

Fredrik is in good spirits the next morning!

Calm alpine views of the Demers Lakes.

Teams climbed out of this alpine bowl along the falls to the left of Justin's head.
He found that rain jacket along a creek and returned it to the owner after the race.

Boggy peat areas full of mountain flowers were in abundance toward the top of the chain of lakes.

Fredrik and Rachel at the top of a pass just north of Urd Peak.

After a route choice error by CP0, we team up again to tackle the remaining mountain trek south.
We're only half way done so far and we have an urgency to push on before dark.

Glissading, or sliding with control on your feet or bum, was a skill well tested on the trekking descents.
Our destination is over the snowy pass 1/3 of the photo from the left.
We would not arrive before dark.

Alpine glacial lakes are more blue than the sky.
The goal is to not slip and slide your way into an icy bath.

The next few days were a blur for our camera man....
Logistical issues by the race staff
A bit of sickness
A 12-hour TA sponsored by other teams totes and volunteer racers
Jumping into Upper Arrow Lake to test the waters
Lakeside hotdogs from locals
Pushing bikes more
Riding the local rails to trails - the best segment of biking at sunset ever.

The final biking leg home at sunrise, about 10 miles from the finish.
The dawn of the next day feels blinding after only a 10 minute nap an hour prior.

At the finish our crews cross the line together.
A great moment of fellowship.

All 8 and a driver pack into a minivan clown car style.

First stop - Subway
Biz is astonished.

Post race ceremony.
We sit with CP0 and eat food and share triumph and heartache with the other teams.
Pasta was just the first course, thankfully not the entire meal.

Post-dinner ice cream party, curbside at the 7-11 with CP0, ImOnPoint, and others.
Doesn't get much better than that.

The road trip home - double rainbow for luck.
Definitely a journey for the spirit.

July 22, 2011

Raid The North Extreme (RTNX)

July 23-31, WEDALI will be competing in the Raid The North Extreme 6-Day Expedition Race in British Columbia's West Kootenay.  Follow the race live at:


June 30, 2011

Tri-Loppet Me Again

One June 25, Justin, Kelly, Scott, and Tom made the not-so-long trip to Minneapolis to compete in a home town triathlon event consisting of an 8k paddle, 5k run, and 13k mountain bike.  The crew joined a lot of other Minnesota Orienteering Club folks for the event, which gives the race a great community feel.  Below are some shots that WEDALI teammate Molly Moilanen took at the event.

Scott and Justin coming off the paddle after navigating Lake
Calhoun, Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake, and Brownie Lake.
 Justin running hard through the fields and hills of Theodore Wirth Park.
Erl hot on his heels hitting a huge patch of clover flowers.
 Tom in hot pursuit coming out of the run-to-bike TA.
 Justin hammering the final stretch with another racer 10 meters behind.
 Tom giving it all he's got with 200 meters to go.
 Final shot with WEDALI members and the rest of the MNOC crew.
The Tri-loppet was another successful off-road event and our crew pushed it hard for some top spots.  Justin, Scott, and Tom took 4th, 16th, and 43rd in the Men's division, respectively. Kelly won the day with a 3rd place podium finish for the women.  This is an event that our crew will definitely have on the calendar again next year!

May 31, 2011

A Wild And Wonderful Odyssey

Next on the docket was Odyssey's Wild Wonderful 24-hour AR, May 21-22.  The trio of Tom, Kelly, and Justin teamed up with last week's rival navigator from Checkpoint Zero, Peter Jolles, to rehash some stories and to throw down on some of the local teams in the Virginia area.  We thought Peter looked pretty good in the jersey pre-race, but he actually wanted to breathe during the event, so wore a slightly better fitting kit for the race.
The race started off with a great paddle on the New River Gorge.  This was a great opportunity to test our bravery on some class IV - V rapids on the swiftly flowing water.  The area had received a decent amount of water recently, so things were flowing good.  Our team plowed through the section, paddled when we could, and held onto the boat tight when needed.  The mass start put us in wave 3 of 3, so our goal was to try and put us toward the front by the time we exited the water. therfore giving us a 5-10 minute advantage on the teams in front of us.
 Sometimes we worried about speed, but sometimes we had to focus on the task at hand.  Kelly certainly enjoyed the ride the most, as a few of the sections looked pretty mean!
 After exiting the water, we completed a decent trek along the bottom of the Endless Wall, one of the best climbing destinations on the east coast area.  Trekking involved a lot of route finding and creative bouldering.
 At times, the cliffs would rise straight above us for up to 150 feet!
 When we finally found the breakdown in the wall that would lead us to the top of the wall and a great lookout.  That CP offered us a great view of the New River Gorge that we had paddled down just an hour or so before.
 Our crew pushed the pace and the hot sun took it's toll.  The course rolled through some great low mountainous terrain.  We biked and trekked well, refilling on water when the trails and roads crossed a few streams from above.  Many of the features that we followed were old railroad grades and mining roads, a historic jaunt past an old mining establishment kept us aware of our surroundings in what must have been a very different place a hundred years ago.  The crux of the race came in the last Rogaine section, where we needed to claim all of the CPs and move on to be assured of a top ranking for the event.  Our crew did really well, but had issues with one point, located along a less than distinct "ridge" filled with logging slash.  We looked for over an hour, but couldn't find the point, so decided to move on with the thought that the point was misplaced.  The rest of the trek went well and it took us from day into night.
We returned to the TA and discussed the CP location with the race director.  In doing so, the race director told us that we were not allowed to return to the CP, even though doing so from the TA would be a high cost in time.  Our lead was significant at this point, roughly 3-4 hours, so not being able to revisit the CP area would essentially cost us the race if another team was able to garner all of the checkpoints.
We left the TA on a down note and biked to the finish without urgency. We finished rather unceremoniously in first, but knew our lead was tentative with so much time before the final cutoff.  IN the end, ImOnPoint and a solo racer would garner all of the CPs of the race, finishing 3-4 hours after us. It was a great event and the crew had a great time socializing with the other teams from the south.  ImOnPoint put together a great race, and in the end there persistence paid off with a win.  

The trip to the deep south for Tom, Kelly, and Justin didn't yield a win in the results column, but all were grateful for the race experience, camaraderie, and general awesomeness of a road trip well done.  The teams that we met along the way were class acts, and made the trip even better.  We're looking forward to catching up with them again (on and off the course) later in the season!

May 20, 2011

Atomic AR Blowout

Tom, Kelly, and Justin traveled to the southeast U.S. via car to race back-to-back events in two weekends. The May 14-15 Atomic AR, which took place near Amicalola Falls State Park, was our first race of two, and we were excited to start off the trip in the big hills of northern Georgia. The race was definitely one that we won't forget, although not for the best of reasons. Here's a shot of us before the start, preparing for the hoopla.
This event had a few "glitches," most of which are outlined very well by Peter Jolles of Checkpoint Zero in his race report entitled "Atomic AR or Atomic Bomb." Misplaced CPs, a paddle section involving a packraft over rapids, and a few other logistical details led to a less than satisfactory experience.  After our boat hit a stick within 30 meters of entering the river, we took a spare from the TA and headed out on foot to cover the paddling leg.  To skip a thick section of woods and to give us a break, we blew up our second boat and drifted down stream.  The outer chamber held for a few sets of rapids, but the floor blew out and we had no way to get water out of the boat after going through rapids.  Needless to say, drifting along the river in chilly water was a recipe for hypothermia, and we got off the water to generate some heat.

A few of the CPs later on had a tough time staying on the trees!
Later that night, we started to hit the wall and get low on food.  The course had us on a gnarly bike-whack late in the course, and it was a tough moment for our crew.
After a final orienteering section of a few hours, we hopped on our bikes and coasted down hill to the bottom of Amicalola Falls where, as in previous years, the finish was at the top of the falls!
One more trek to the top and we were cooked.  It was a long race and one that we pushed hard throughout and battled some less than ideal conditions.  Checkpoint Zero came into the finish a few minutes after us, but had obtained one more CP than us earlier in the race, and so the win went to them.  Another close race for us in the hilly woods of Northern Georgia.