Mike G and I decided to race Bonk Hard's Castlewood 8-hr AR as a 2-person coed team when our regular navigator, Bill L, put himself on the DL list with a foot injury. Neither Mike nor I had navigated an AR before, but with a few orienteering meets under our belts, and a daytime race, we figured we couldn’t get ourselves into too much trouble. The weekend prior to the race we participated as a team in SLOC’s Turkey-O race, a 3hr score-o format. There, we learned a few valuable lessons about team running when I decided to wander off and Mike thought I had fell into a pit, cracked my head open, and died. Sorry! Anyway, with our egos firmly in check, we arrived at racer check-in at Alpine Shop on Friday night, collected maps, agonized on how to spend the 30% off coupon (final answer: these poles), and chatted with other racers. After all this, we made the short trip over to Bill’s house to work on the maps for tomorrow’s race. Even if our navigator wouldn’t be able to race with us, we still wanted his input and advice. Bill graciously offered up his ping pong table for plotting and highlighting, and made copies and printouts of anything we asked! Thanks Bill! We received locations for the first 22 checkpoints, which would take us in a large loop starting & finishing at the Wyman Center, where we guessed that we would receive an unknown additional amount of checkpoints to complete the race. Maps organized, routes highlighted, and about 9pm we were able to depart to our respective abodes for final packing and some sleep. Once I was at home, I decided to make my own map of the bike course since I wanted to avoid shuffling the 4 maps we were given.
The next morning, Mike and I meet at the bike drop in Greensfelder to...drop off our bikes! We consolidate gear into one car and drive to Wyman Center for the start. We do the usual last-minute gear packing, coffee drinking, and deciding on layers, hairstyles, and hydration levels. Since this is a local race for us we know several of the other competitors so a good deal of time is also spent wishing everyone luck. Soon enough, new Bonk Hard owner Gary gives last-minute race announcements and leads everyone in singing the National Anthem. Then, a hush falls over the crowd as we cluster behind the start line...
|I'm in the green sleeves. You can't see Mike but he's just behind me. Photo by Fredrik G.|
We’re off! I squeeze through the inflatable arch start line and we immediately climb a sizeable ridge to start our race. We have decided on attacking these points as 2-1-3-4, but really any route choice mandates that teams haul themselves over this big hill so we have lots of company. And it just...keeps...going...up. I hang onto Mike’s pack for 10m stretches at a time to force myself to keep his pace. Finally we hit the road and are able to descend into a reentrant to punch CP2. We continue descending onto a limestone doubletrack path which allows us to fly until we have to climb again to CP1. From there we turn left up the ridge and use the paved road to hustle to the woods around CP3, which requires a furious descent and almost immediate ascent up a reentrant whose contours are much steeper than indicated on the map. Hard work!
|(decide amongst |
We arrive in third or fourth place, with enough time to catch a brief glimpse of Alpine Shop departing and hear Bushwhacker coming in behind us. Mike and I change shoes, arrange maps, don helmets, and hightail it out of the TA onto the gravel path we scouted this morning. We are nearly 50m down the path when we simultaneously hear shouts and I remember that we didn’t punch CP4. Mike rushes back to get the punch from the volunteers and then we skedaddle.
BIKE 1A (15?mi, CP5-15 in order)
|I used a printed GORC map for the singletrack and my own pre-drawn map for the rest of the bike & paddle|
|Photo by Fredrik G's unmanned GoPro camera!|
BIKE 1B (4.5mi, CP 38-42 in any order)
|We planned to go 39-38-40-41-42. We went 39-28-42-41-40. Probably the best route is 42-31-40-38-39.|
TRANSITION 2 @ Route 66 State Park Boat Ramp
As we pass CP15 for the second time, we are rewarded with a punch and a wave from Bonk Hard volunteer Pilar. It looks like she has her hands full with mid-pack teams arriving and we are glad for the space in the front of the pack. We ride our bikes as far as possible to the water’s edge, then ditch our packs and race back uphill to grab a canoe, PFDs, and paddles. Our bike transport system requires front wheels to be removed and we ratchet the frames upright into the boat. This goes pretty quickly for not having practiced and soon we shove out onto the water, with Bushwhacker 3-5 minutes in front of us.
|A good view of our bikes in the boat (even though this is at the end of the paddle). Photo by Fredrik G.|
Less than a kilometer into the paddle and I have my first on-water navigational panic. I’m still working on my hand-drawn map and all I can remember about CP16 is it’s on the left-hand side of the river, at the first in a pair of bridges. Well, we paddle under I-44 and under an abandoned railroad trestle and no CP. We can see Bushwhacker ahead, who doesn’t appear to have punched either, so Mike offers to paddle while I dig out the real map and check. The real map calms me down as it shows we have about 2km to paddle before another bridge pair, where the CP is actually located. RELIEF! Gary, Bonk Hard’s new owner, has hung the punch actually IN the river (on an old piece of rebar shoved into the sand) which makes punching easier than it’s ever been from a boat. We keep paddling until the river starts making a right-hand turn and I have another panic..CP17 is supposed to be BEFORE the bend! Ah! Again, we watch Bushwhacker ahead and they don’t appear to be approaching the bank. Mike paddles solo again as I fish out the map (now at least closer to the top of my map case) and try to figure out what’s going on. I can’t. I hand the map over to Mike to read. He looks at it for all of two seconds and says “we’re not there yet, it’s before the SECOND right-hand bend.” Oh. Right. Roger that. We keep paddling. After punching CP17, are are close to Bushwhacker and pass them on a slightly risky line through the deadfall. About this time I realize I need to pee. Bad. REAL BAD. At first Mike tries to convince me to just pee in the boat. Not funny. Then he starts talking about deserts. Also not funny. I clamp down mentally and physically to paddle as fast as I can to the take-out, which is only about 3km away. I am tempted several times to beach the canoe, but each time we seem to get closer to the take-out and I just grit my teeth and hold it. Finally, Sherman Beach appears and I know I can make it. We beach, I sprint behind a pile of driftwood, and by the time I return back to the canoe Mike has unstrapped the bikes and removed his frame.
TRANSITION 3 @ Sherman Beach
In addition to re-assembling bikes, we have a gear check so this TA takes more time than usual. To complicate matters, the beach is full of sticky mud so our bike shoes and tires are coated with the heavy stuff, making clipping in difficult at first. We leave alongside Bushwhacker and Dirty Guys (a 2-person male team) and they quickly outpace us.
BIKE 2 (10km, CP 19-22 in order)
We are sad to see Bushwhacker go but we want to take this bike section a bit easier to let our legs shake out from the stillness of paddling. It’s easy to let Dirty Guys go ahead as their foul mouths are no fun to be around. We keep our own pace and catch Bushwhacker at a stoplight before crossing 109. From there, we stay on the pavement and climb Alt Road the hard way, north to south. I am on tow but Mike is already working hard to deal with the unexpected heat so I try to keep pace under my own power as much as possible. We are able to stay ahead of Bushwhacker as we cruise back into Camp Wyman.
TRANSITION 4 @ Camp Wyman
As we roll back to the starting line, we are handed another clue sheet (as we suspected) which contains the last 8 CPs of the race, all in one trek. We ditch the bikes, swap shoes, and hustle up to the pavilion to plot away from the other teams who are plotting at picnic tables. After we plot, we take the time to highlight our exact route (choosing 28-26-23-25-24-29/3-27/2-30-F) because it worked well for the opening trek.
TREK 2 (5.8k redline, CP 23-30 in any order)
|As my notes indicate, we went CCW. The top two teams went clockwise. I think the best route might be 30-29/3-27/2-25-24-23-26-28-F.|