We Eat Dust And Like It

June 25, 2009

Iowa Games Adventure Race Victory

Jason & Andrea, racing as SDK (the initials of their 3 children), traveled to Iowa State University in Ames, IA for the Iowa Games Adventure Race on June 14. With a few FEET of less rain for the 3rd annual AR (and one less broken toe), this year looked much better from the start.
In typical fashion, we showed up an hour before the race start and found out that the "surprise" pre-race task was plotting half of the 30 checkpoints, which made for good transition training. No fear though... Andrea and Jason made it to the start line with almost a whole minute to spare. No sense in standing around, right? So off to the races!
The first 13 checkpoints could be had in any order and it appeared that almost everyone figured that CP 2 was the way to go. With a 5-8 hour race forecast, it seemed like a lot of folks were ready for a sprint. We stuck with the man-teams for the first couple of CPs before heading north looking for CPs 3-7. Andrea loves the semi-urban aspect of this race (not so much), but whatever kept us out of the Ames area stinging nettles and poison ivy couldn’t be all bad (we still bear poison ivy scars from the 2007 race....).
Many teams ran into problems around the Ames Laboratory, which contained tricky terrain and a maze of chain link fences. Being a bit over-anxious ourselves, we ended up overshooting three CPs in a row before finally getting to the inner tube pickup and floating down the river.

At that point we were approximately ten minutes behind the leading 3-person man-team, floating down the river with Phil Nicolas and Adam Wheelock from Mantis. The water was quite chilly after the latest rains, but we were only on the water for 1.5 miles before getting out and doing the sprint to the climbing wall at the ISU recreation center.
This is where Andrea had made a great call.... We had decided to pack our own harnesses because the race directors stated that any team that did would have a dedicated rope once they got to this section. Arriving simultaneously with the 3-person team and Mantis, we slipped our harnesses on, climbed, and got out of there a good 2 minutes up.
After the ropes, we were on and off bikes for the remainder of the race - in and around the city of Ames and a stop at a shooting range for a little air gun target practice (which later proved to make the difference). Somewhere in there we met up with Bike Iowa and raced together pretty much for the last hour. However, one checkpoint before the finish we decided to split up, and it proved lucky for us, because we got to the last CP and Bike Iowa was nowhere to be seen.
We sprinted into the finish (well, Andrea sprinted and Jason did his best to keep up) and arrived approximately four minutes in front of Bike Iowa to finish first.
BUT, and it was a big "but," during this race, there was also a scavenger hunt to collect different items along the way. Collecting certain things gave you time bonuses and others merely kept you safe from time penalties. We collected about half of the items, so we knew our placing could go either way. The target from the shooting range was a time bonus for how close you got to the bulls eye and luckily Jason was inside the first ring from the center on the target. After everything was added and subtracted, we finished with a slim 5-minute advantage. Since Andrea had to sit out last year with the bum toe, this one made up for it!

June 20, 2009

Wild Spring Sprint is a Sprint to the Finish

Scooter, Erl, Mo, and Biz, a week after their 34.5-hour soiree in Indiana, competed in Wild Adventure Race's Summer Sprint, a 6-hour adventure race out of William O'Brien State Park on June 13, 2009. Wild AR mixed up the format by trying a score-O for the entire event, including both mandatory and optional checkpoints, on each of three discipline sections - trek, bike, and paddle. Teams had the option to choose the order of events for their team and how much time to spend on each discipline. The kicker was that if you were late, even by one second, your team was disqualified. We decided to start off on the bike leg, an event that we figured would be fairly straight forward. After receiving the maps and heading out on the trail, Biz realized that there was no way that he could possibly organize a route to all of the points, both mandatory and optional, while biking.... We had been given six legal-sized sheets of paper that overlapped in several locations, so we laid out the maps and made sure that our route contained all of the CPs - our goal was to get all of them on this section, but every minute planning was a minute not biking.... After a brief hiatus, we were back on the bikes and able to complete the ~30-mile loop in good form, returning to the TA in roughly 2 hours.
We transitioned to paddle, to give our legs a rest, and the cool water provided a bit of relief to the warm temps that had been creeping upward. We paddled downstream first, obtained one optional CP, then turned north/upstream and collected the remaining mandatory CPs. Two optional CPs remained and we had been out ~1.5 hours on the paddle, so we went for the closest optional CP, less than half a mile upstream. Unfortunately, the round trip took us longer than we had hoped (~25 minutes for this CP only), time that would have been much better used on the trek. On the return trip, we decided to portage our boats a quarter mile to save about 2 miles of paddling, and this strategy paid off. All of us were pretty smoked after carrying the boats and our packs, but the choice appeared to save us at least 10 minutes, coming into the main TA at just over the 4-hour mark.

After our 10 minute mandatory boat cleaning, we headed out for the last leg of the race, an orienteering loop in William O'Brien State Park. We had about 1 hour and 45 minutes to gather all the CPs that we could, but we had to push the pace knowing that we had spent so much time on one paddling CP. Our nav was spot on and Scooter's extra energy was put to use, sprinting to each control. With 45 minutes to go, we decided to skip one outlier CP, a half mile dogleg out and back that we just didn't have time for. We figured that with our distance to go and the time we had remaining, we would be able to clean the rest of the course.
Continuing to push the pace in the heat of the day, we scrambled to locate the last 2 CPs on the course. CP A - located on a hilltop - was thought to be in a patch of thick woods, briars, and vegetation, and our team searched for about 10 minutes around the hilltop with no luck. Since this was an optional CP, we started talking about skipping it to make sure that we made it back before the cutoff. Biz hates giving up on CPs, so he begged us for just one more minute... and then one more again. With everyone starting to get pretty nervous, we agreed to let it go and proceeded to head down the hill to the final mandatory CP, located near a trail where we started our run home (we later found out that CP A was misplaced).
At this point, our time check had us at less than 10 minutes, and we still had a long distance to run to the finish - approximately 1.5 miles. We were cutting things a lot closer than any of us had hoped, and we all had to give eveything we had to even think about making it to the finish line in time. After almost 6 hours of racing and a solid effort in each of the disciplines, we were sprinting as fast as we could, holding hands to keep us all together to the finish. Cramping, stomach aches, and bonking were the norm 15 minutes ago, but in those final moments, we could only think about breathing and the general fuzzy feeling all over our bodies. Each one of us gave everything that we had left, and then found a bit more to pull us home.
We finished 8 seconds shy of the 6-hour DQ cutoff....
It was a painful and emotional finish that included some collapsing, some crying, some "I need a minute before I can talk to anyone," and a lot of relief. In the end, we finished with the most optional CPs, which gave us the 1st Place win, but we all felt a bit lucky to have escaped the DQ cutoff.
In related news, Dan Williams and Rebecca Lundberg, longtime race directors for Wild Adventure Race and Minnesota AR pioneers, announced at the end of the race that they will be passing off the torch to Jason & Gayle Perreira. We can't thank Dan and Rebecca enough for all of their hard work and leadership over the years. The new race directors for Wild AR will have big shoes to fill, and we wish them the best.

June 10, 2009

Planet Adventure "Old School" AR

Erl, Scooter, Mo, and Biz represented WEDALI at the Planet Adventure "Old School" adventure race near Rusk, Indiana on June 6, 2009. The race directors warned racers that the course was a bit longer than they had expected (originally billed as a 24-hour), and everyone went into the event planning for 30+ hours of AR fun - and this race delivered!
After picking up Scoot at the Indianapolis airport Friday afternoon, we drove the rest of the way down to Rusk, checked in, did a short ropes skills check, and futzed with gear until the 9pm pre-race meeting where we would be given maps and instructions. We soon found out that the race would start at midnight, giving teams a little over two hours to plot points, choose a route, and finalize gear. Biz and Scooter focused on maps, while Erl and Mo worked hard to prepare food and mandatory gear for the team. Mo was able to catch a short 1-hour nap, Erl "rested" for 20 minutes, and Scooter and Biz would work on maps until ~15 minutes before the start.

The race started off at 12:07am with a short road trek to the bikes and a short ride (including a bike-whack) to a river crossing on foot for CP1. The water was pretty chilly and was an "adventurous" way to get things going before 1am on Saturday.
Another decent bike leg was followed by a tough night score-O section. With only a few minor mistakes, we made our way to the front of the pack and were the first to emerge at the swim section, which entailed another cold effort half a mile downstream. We trekked back to the bikes and then hopped on our steeds for a ride through Shirley Creek Nature Area and on to CP8. A trek to CPs 9-14 yielded an awesome ropes section: a zipline across a 100' deep sinkhole.
After the trek, we hit the paddle just before dark and hopped in for a ride downstream. The team was able to break up in 2s to obtain 2 additional CPs, so Scooter and Biz trekked while Erl and Mo paddled the canoes the long way around on the river. Before the end of the paddle, a 100-foot rappel awaited, just off the north side of the river. We finished the paddle (just after the 24-hour mark) and the race directors were nice enough to serve up a bit of warm soup.
Back on the bikes, we made our way into Martin County State Forest. A maze of trails greeted us, but we gradually made our way through to the TA, where we transitioned to another trek. After bobbling one of the CPs for over an hour during the witching hour before sunrise (and after two sleepless nights), we made our way to the TA with haste, not knowing where the other teams were at (since a supported 24-hour AR was being run concurrently). We arrived with news that all of the other Old School teams had been short-coursed around the trek that we had just finished - fantastic! As long as we would be able to make it to the finish before the cutoff, we would be the only team to complete the entire course. On the bike ride home, Molly rallied the troops as Scooter, Biz, and Erl struggled with sleep depravation and stomach issues. We made one stop on the way to the finish for an ascent up a 60-foot overhanging rock face, which was frosting on the cake.
We crossed the finish line at 10:32am on Sunday, 34 hours and 25 minutes after the start. It was a tough race, not only due to the course length, challenging terrain, and competitive teams, but also from the lack of sleep two nights in a row. We were all happy to pull off a 1st place finish.