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.