29 August 2012

2012 Thunder Rolls 24hr AR Details

The T-Rolls race report is still a work in progress...so much to write about! As a teaser, here's my standard post-race download on lessons learned. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I think more seasoned adventure racers need to write about the nuts and bolts of adventure racing to help the new racers out. And I still consider myself a new racer, specially when teaming up with someone like Erl, who has been adventure racing for ALMOST 10 YEARS!!! What a pro. Anyway, here are some observations from Thunder Rolls.

Organizing food in my kitchen on Thursday night.
I packed about 5000 calories, a number that is pretty standard for me (I use 200 cal/hr as a starting point for all of my races). They consisted of High Protein Ensure, beef jerky, Snickers bars, CarboRocket Half-Evil drink mix, chocolate-covered espresso beans, Birthday Cake Oreos, peanut butter crackers, First Endurance LiquidShot, and ProBars. Basically a wide variety of flavors and textures to try and keep food appealing throughout the race. I did a pretty good job of eating too, but late in the race I was getting the calorie blues. I know myself well enough to recognize the pre-bonk feeling, so I mentally ran through my food options, trying to get my appetite to latch onto something and devour it. No dice. But then I remembered Erl bringing different snacks, specifically bite-size Nutter Butters, Peachie-Os, and Coke. Each one sounded way better than what I had in my pockets, he offered to share, and my tummy was happy. Thus proves the Adventure Racing Rule #1 - the best race food is whatever your teammates bring.
Manna from heaven indeed.
And oh, the Coke. I've read countless Ironman race reports where triathletes gush about Coke, calling it "manna from heaven" and "magic juice" and other exalting terms. I tried some myself at Rev3 Knoxville HIM and Ironman CdA. It tasted fine, but nothing special happened to my legs. But then at Thunder Rolls, Erl shared a Coke at CP38, and I felt my mojo shoot through the roof. I even said out loud to my teammates, giddy after 15 hours of racing, "Guys I feel so awesome right now". It was all because of the Coke.  We had 1 more bottle to dole out before the race ended, and I made the decision (with really taking any team input, sorry) that it would be shared at CP50 on the last trek. Punching CPs 45-49 was hard, but each one got us closer to sips of Coke, and when we finally punched 50, I was about to do cartwheels on the trail because we got to drink about 4 ounces of warm Coke. It didn't quite revive me to CP38 standards, but it did give me a boost that lasted for the rest of the brutal trek.

The aftermath. I spent ONE FULL HOUR picking burrs out of my clothes when I got back to St. Louis.
Coasteering clothes on the left, race clothes in the middle, socks on the right.
Minimalism has its place. While racing, especially on a team with GearJunkie in its name, we try to be fast and light. And I tried to be smart about the gear I brought for the race, especially since I was getting a ride with a different team, I didn't want to pack everything and the kitchen sink. Well, turns out I should have packed a little more in duplicate. I got lucky that I had an extra race-worthy outfit (bike jersey, 3/4 tights, and spare shoes that I just happened to throw in the car) to use while coasteering, which allowed me to blissfully change into dry clothes for the remainder of the race. I had to borrow two (2!) headlamps because I only brought 1 heavy and 1 dull one, nothing that fit the Goldilocks balance of "just right" weight and lumens. I had to borrow a drysack because I was too lazy to pack my own (I have 3 or 4 at home). I didn't bring ANY spare race socks (wtf was I thinking?!?!) and my feet paid the price late in the day. A spare pack and bladder would have been useful too, to use in the coasteering section and then transfer mandatory gear into a dry main pack for the rest of the race. So lesson learned here...if you can manage to own and bring duplicates to a race, do it.

Erl picking up maps at the pre-race meeting.
Once again, Dr. Dre managed the maps for the entirety of the race, and once again, proved his surgical accuracy in locating checkpoints. One thing he did more of this race that I really appreciated was provided a little bit of running commentary:
"OK guys, we're gonna go over this huge spur, hit the creek at the bottom, turn left, and then go down 100m and the CP will be right there at the creek junction" 
"OK guys, we've got 2k left to go on this bike and the checkpoint will be on the left at the intersection"
Those aren't his exact words, but we had several similar exchanges throughout the race that really helped me stay focused on getting each leg done.
blurry phone photo of the leg from CP45 to CP46.
Andrei may be awesome at navigation, but this picture is terrible! 
My favorite nav story during the race happened in the middle of Trek 4, navigating to CP46. I was handling the passport at that point, and we were fast-hiking up a trail. I was in my own little world of craving Coke (remember this is pre-CP50), wishing my feet would stop macerating, and whistling Blitzen Trapper songs to distract myself. Andrei kept turning around and looking my direction. Finally I asked "Dre is my whistling bothering you? I will stop if you want". He replied "No, I'm just judging distance to the next control. Do you have the passport? It's right here, 10m off the trail, go get it." So I obligingly climbed up a short steep embankment on the right side of the trail, and BOOM...there was a shallow pit with the control flag hung nonchalantly in the bottom. I punched. No big deal. I rejoined my teammates and complimented Dre on his stellar nav, which had been a theme for the day. Dre got sort of flustered and said something like "Guys I have a map. The controls are marked on the map. It's just like reading a book, you look at the map and it tells you where to go. It's not that hard. Just read the map."

...yeah Andrei, it's simple. Uh huh. Pin It


  1. I discovered the secret to staying awake over night while I was racing in Scotland last week - cadbury milk chocolate bars! Break off a piece and suck on it 'til it's gone (and whatever you do, don't chew it). Works wonders.

    1. Yum! I love chocolate! Although in the heat of this race I ended up not eating my chocolatey things, and ate mostly pb-flavored stuff. weird.

  2. I love your post-race lessons. I always learn something. usually several somethings. I brought several pairs of socks, but would have been better off without the wet ones I wore last. I feel your pain, only my feet were sore for a far shorter time. Great job out there!

    1. You should write some post-race lessons yourself! Every little piece of info out there helps grow the sport :)

  3. Thank you Emily for sharing your thoughts. I love to hear what other racers experiences. For me the sitting around sharing stories is almost more fun than the race itself. It is not very often that us pedestrian racers know what goes on at the front of the pack. Great job!

    1. Thanks TR! I thought the post-race atmosphere at T-Rolls was incredible. I have to be honest, the stories from the "pedestrian" racers (your words not mine) were way better than ours. And I appreciate you sharing them :)

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