25 February 2013

2013 LBL Challenge 18hr AR Details

Hey! Have you seen my new Schedule, Results, Reports page? I combined a few older pages to put everything in one spot. You can check out where I'll be in 2013, as well as read previous race reports and AR tips posts. I'm still working on filling in information for the older races, but most of the links are accurate.

In transition at CP A. Photo by Suzanna Renner.
I've said it before, but I'll say it again...the main reason I started this blog was to help raise the profile of adventure racing. When I did my first race in 2009, I scoured the interwebz for information and only found a few sites with useful information. So when I write race reports, I also like to do a follow-up with some lessons learned for anyone who's interested. Here are some thoughts from the 2013 LBL Challenge.

I really wanted to do this race with my 10L pack/vest. It's small, light, and has tons of pockets for snacks. I pinned my number on it Friday night and started stuffing it with everything I would need for the race. Everything fit (since I wasn't carrying any team gear) but it was a tight squeeze. I talked things over with Doug and he agreed to carry shoes or anything else I had extra during the race. Thanks, teammate! But, the more I looked at the tightly-packed vest, the most I started second-guessing myself, and finally made an eleventh-hour switch back to my normal AR pack, a 24L GoLite that evidently isn't in production anymore. This was the right decision. The extra roominess of my 24L pack helped speed up our TAs because I could take care of my own gear, including shoes. The boys were already carrying enough extra stuff (paddles and team mandatory gear) and I was pleased to be just a little self-sufficient.
The boys' packs are much larger than mine.
I have been training lately in an Alpine Shop favorite, the Brooks Cascadia trail shoe. This shoe is a little less aggressive than the Salomon Speedcrosses I wore at the SHITR, but still plenty of tread and a really supportive last for the longer races. I brought both pairs of shoes with me to LBL and, much like the pack situation, found myself staring at them on Friday night unable to make a decision. The Speedcrosses were great over shorter, on-trail distances but I was concerned that longer off-trail treks might hurt my feet. But, I didn't have any frame of reference for the Cascadias since my longest run in them had been 90ish minutes. I eventually solved the dilemma by using visualization. I took a few quiet moments to picture myself running through the woods on the way to a CP with my teammates. I visualized the terrain and then pressed pause to "look" down at my feet. They were wearing the Speedcrosses. So that's what I raced in and they were excellent.
Speedcrosses tucked safely in my pack. Photo from CP B, the canoe take-out.

I usually target 250 calories/hour when packing for ARs, but end up eating only 175-200 cal/hr. Not at LBL - I ate almost everything I brought. This was a combination of Probars, Snickers (regular and peanut butter), peanut butter crackers, Nutter Butters, Oreos, CarboRocket, EFS Liquid Shot, Clif and Honey Stinger gels, beef jerky, turkey and cheese sandwiches, Coke, and Honey Stinger protein bars. As you can see I favor variety. I shared a lot of this food with my teammates, and they shared stuff with me (nutty bars, yogurt-covered pretzels, sour cherry balls, Reese's crunchy bars, etc). I think it's important to offer your food to your teammates because it reminds everyone to keep eating, especially the navigator who is often more preoccupied with the map than food. And, sometimes the best food is the stuff you didn't even bring.
Pre-race shopping binge.
OK that's it for LBL! If you have questions or suggestions for other race info, just leave a comment! Pin It

21 February 2013

Race Report: 2013 LBL Challenge 18hr AR

As I mentioned earlier, I am substitute racing on Alpine Shop's adventure racing team this season because Carrie hurt her knee in a mountain bike crash and needed surgery to fix it. While she recovers, I'll be racing with Jeff, David, and Doug. Here is the first installment of the season, the Bonk Hard LBL Challenge 18hr Adventure Race.

We all arrive at Kentucky Dam Village, site of the pre-race activities (check-in, dinner, meeting, cabins) and are given really nice Columbia fleece vests as part of our race entry. Thanks, Bonk Hard! Jeff's reserved an "Executive Cottage" which is probably the nicest pre-race accommodations I've stayed in - tons of room for all of our gear and bikes, a kitchen, and a great table for map prep. We do some bike fiddling and then go to eat dinner where Carrie is bombarded by questions about her knee. She has been a fixture on the AR circuit for so many years, and racers want to know what the story is. We all finally manage to feed ourselves (2 servings of the bread pudding for me, thanks!) and go across the street to the pre-race meeting.
Clue sheet!
Gary starts the pre-race meeting and the course is quickly revealed to be one of the most interesting ARs I have ever participated in: 45 checkpoints, all rogaine-style (meaning you can visit in any order), and only 3 are mandated as paddling. We can get the other 42 CPs via foot or bike or more paddling. This is truly a choose-your-own adventure and allows every team to play to their strengths...are we better bikers? Runners? Paddlers? Navigators? Game on.
Planning in the Executive Cottage.
As it happens, Alpine Shop is pretty dang good at each AR discipline, but I'd say the biggest strength we have is experience. Or rather, the biggest strength the boys have is experience, since I am a newcomer to the team. We return to the Executive Cottage and plot all 45 CPs efficiently. Then, we start looking at route options. I trust David and Jeff's wisdom and we start piecing together a sweep route. It comes together gradually and in chunks but pretty soon we have a good idea about how best to complete the course. But, once we put some time estimates to it, we realize that sweeping the course (getting every CP) will be tough. So we revisit our route, giving ourselves some time cutoffs and identifying good CPs to jettison (word of the evening, along with mint gum) if things are going poorly. We finally wrap up map and gear prep about 1:30am, which barely gives us any time to sleep before the 3:30am wake up call for the 4:00am departure, the 4:15am bike drop, and the 5:00am start.
Doug, David, me, Jeff just minutes before the start. Sorry about the headlamp glare and Jeff's weird grin.
We arrive at Race HQ (Hillman Ferry Campground) with about 30 minutes before the start. We huddle in the warm van and debate glove choices. I try the Executive Cottage coffee in my mug and it's really, really bad. But thankfully Bonk Hard Racing has provided hot coffee at the HQ so I fill up on that. It's a delicious luxury and very much appreciated at a winter race. We say hi to our AR friends/competitors and are treated to an AMAZING performance of the National Anthem by one of the racers.

TREK 1 (CPs 6, 5, 23. 2mi. 5:00-5:40)
We started at Hillman Ferry Campground.
On the way to CP23 (aka the bike drop aka North Welcome Station) we picked up CP6 and CP5.
Did I mention, we are doing this in our bike shoes? It's such a short trek, and we are going almost directly to the bike drop at CP23. When we first planned this I was not amused. But, as I thought about it, it made lots of sense because our feet would already be in warm gear once we hit the bikes, and we could get out onto potentially bottlenecked singletrack with more speed. So, Gary counts us down and we clomp off into the pre-dawn woods. We have a little nav bobble on the way to 6 but David corrects it quickly and we run into the bike drop in good spirits. My bike shoes weren't nearly as uncomfortable as I thought and now my feet are toasty as we quickly transition.

BIKE 1 (CPs 4, 3, 2, 1, 11, A. 12.5mi. 5:40-7:45)

Picked up bikes at CP23. CW loop of the Canal Loop trail, punching CP4, CP3, CP2, CP1.
Then onto the paved Trace Trail to CP11 (off the map).
Our first order of business is to crush some of the sweet singletrack LBL is known for. It reminds me a lot of Council Bluff Lake, except without as many rocks. I'm on the new SegSlayer and it is one amazing machine. David leads out the team and sets a perfect pace - it has me hustling to keep up but doesn't trash my legs. The sun rises while we are still on the Canal Loop and it is beautiful. I'm so thrilled to be outside, racing on awesome trails with an awesome team on an awesome bike. Life is good. Except when David gets a flat on the singletrack. But we execute a lightning-fast change (seriously...less than 5 minutes...I timed it) and are back on the trail with minimal interruption. The rest of the singletrack is wonderful and soon we hop onto the paved North/South trail, where we are able to tow and GO FAST. We have a little trouble with CP11 which requires a short out-n-back run in the woods off of a fire road, but again David corrects us and we are able to keep pushing. We see Rachel and Dylan from Bushwhacker just after we punch 11 and that motivates us to hustle to CP A, a manned transition area where we have a gear check and the canoe put-in. Despite the general disdain that most adventure racers feel about bikes in boats, we decided the night before that the most efficient route requires us to bring the bikes with us on the 12.5mi paddle. So after we pass our gear check, we break the bikes down to the shore, lash them to the canoe, and shove off into the chilly waters of Lake Barkley.

PADDLE 1 (CPs 10, 26, 8, 25, 24, 12, 14, 27, 28, B. 12.5mi. 11.5mi. 7:45-11:00)
I'm in the boat with Jeff, paddling with my Christmas/birthday present, a new Epic 4-piece carbon paddle inspired by the one I borrowed from Brian of Epic Machinery for the 2012 MNOC Adventure-O. This paddle gives me great feedback from the water and makes me look like I actually know what I'm doing (hint: I'm not a very good paddler...yet). So we start paddling our way to CP 10 and before I know it, the wind has picked up and I start to get cold. No worries, I tell myself, just paddle harder. It doesn't help that I'm getting wet from paddle splashback, and it's barely 25F. Then on the way to CP26 I start to realize I might be in trouble. Jeff seems to sense this and starts asking how I'm feeling. Um, pretty cold, but I think I just need to eat something, can you hand be a probar from my bike's bento box? He does, and I chow down while David and Doug complete a mini-portage, punch CP26, and return to the lake. We are faced with a really strong headwind on the way to CP8. The chop on the lake picks up and there's nowhere to hide from the gusts. Jeff does an incredible job guiding the boat through the waves, but the situation is such that I forget about the race and just focus on not dumping the boat. At least it helps take my mind off being cold. And I am REALLY COLD - the worst I've felt in recent memory. There are Coast Guard safety boats on the water and we speculate if they will call off the paddle due to dangerous conditions. I am in enough discomfort that I hope they do. But, no announcements are made as we pass them (very slowly), so we just keep paddling. We make a plan to full stop at CP25 and put more clothes on me and Doug while Jeff and David punch 25 and nearby CP24.
Doug's wheel and David's fork at the take-out. Cold.
We beach kind of in the middle between CP25 and CP24 (they are on 2 separate but close islands) and when Jeff gets out of our boat to punch, he can hardly walk from his legs being so cold. But he soon shakes it off, goes and gets the punch and comes back with my rain pants which were in Doug's pack. I put them on along with my fleece and shuffle around the beach to try and get my heart rate up. Doug does the same and I imagine we look like waddling penguins to the other approaching teams. No one ever said adventure racing was dignifying.
Alpine Shop at the take-out, wearing just about every piece of clothing we brought.
Back in the boats, the horrific headwind has turned into a terrific tailwind, and we are able to make up some time on our self-imposed schedule. I am warming up significantly and as we pass the Coast Guard safety boat, this time I hope they will let us keep paddling despite the bad conditions. They do. We get the rest of our CPs with minimal fuss (I even punch a few, which entails more waddling). But, as we are approaching the last two CPs, we know we are behind schedule so decide to drop CP27, a longish out-n-back paddle into the wind. It is a tough decision to make this early in the race, but we are committed to our plan. As we approach the take-out at CP B, we see Carrie's van there since she is volunteering. It's nice to see a friendly face after such a painful paddle. We assemble the bikes, break down paddles, and are thankful for the steep hill out of transition that helps us start the long warming-up process.

BIKE 2 (no CPs, <1mi, 11:00-11:15)
Me back at the take-out, feeling like an Easter egg.
We only have a short distance to ride before we find a spot in the woods to stash the bikes before we set out on our first significant trek. We've dubbed this the "north o-loop" and transition as quickly as possible with frozen extremities.

TREK 2 (CPs 17, 19, 18, 20, 21, 22. 6.5mi. 11:15-2:00)
The first few CPs on this loop are completed on frozen feet. Since 5:00am, we have been racing in bike shoes which, at least for me, have been soaking wet since 7:45am. Now that I have my dry trekking shoes on, my feet finally have a chance to thaw. My body is warming up too; at each of the first few CPs I'm removing various items of clothing until I'm down to my base layers and the new 2013 Alpine Shop jersey (still can't believe I get to guest race on this team!). I don't really remember much about this section except David nailing the navigation and the team moving very efficiently through the woods. We're not sprinting, but we're not stopping either unless it's at a CP. Constant forward progress helps us make up time on our schedule and we are back at the bikes with a smaller deficit than when we started.

BIKE 3 (CPs 16, 15, 13, 40, 35, C. 11mi bike + 3.75mi trek. 10mi bike + 1.5mi trek. 2:00-3:30)
We return to our bikes that we stashed a few hours earlier and find that our spot has turned into a mini TA. Several other teams have left their bikes next to ours and it's sort of humorous to see them all in this random spot in the woods. But there's no time for laughing, AR is serious (ha!) business and we transition back into biking gear and back onto the fire road. Although less severely than before, we are still behind our self-imposed schedule, so we decide to drop CP15 and CP40, two CPs that would have required a longer out-n-back run from the road to collect. We're all warmed up and we fly through this section. The boys tow me when the road is good. We even run into a few 8hr teams and exchange shouts and cheers.

TREK 3 (CPs 37, 36, 41, 42, 39, 38, 34, 30, 33, 32, 31, C. 9mi. 3:30-8:30)
CP C is a manned CP at a fire tower. As we arrive, we are finally ahead of our self-imposed schedule and ready to gobble up as many CPs as possible before the sun sets. We also get access to our gear drop bags which hold delicious treats - Coke, more sandwiches, and some EFS LiquidShot for me. I fill my pockets with calories and we jet off into the woods. The first 4 CPs are flawless. We are running really hard, spot on to everything. Things are jamming and we are happy (How happy are they, Jimmy? Happier than an adventure racer that doesn't have to paddle any more!) So happy, in fact, that we start chatting and get distracted as we trek right past CP39. Like literally 10 meters away. Pretty soon David realizes what's up and we take some time to relocate under the rapidly-setting sun. Thankfully, there is a fireroad we can use, but it's still sort of confusing and it takes some time to get things straightened out. But, we soon do, and are more focused for the remainder of the trek. The sun completely sets now and we switch on our lights, but our pace through the woods and enormous calorie consumption keeps us plenty warm. We decide to drop  CP30, because it looks really hard to attack on foot, in the dark. It is close to a trail and we plan to instead get it on our final biking leg. For all our worrying about CP30, David is absolutely spot on for the remaining controls, including a really tricky attack on CP33 that he just nails. Solid. Jeff starts singing a custom version of:

BIKE 4 (CPs 30, 29, 7, 910mi bike + 1mi trek. 7mi bike + 1mi trek. 8:30-10:49)
Once we return to the fire tower, we are surprised to find out that no other teams left their bikes there like we did. We frantically consider alternate route options for a few seconds and then have to dismiss the distraction and focus on the business of transition. Everyone's shoes are frozen and it takes extra time to cram our feet into them. The zippers on my shoe covers won't work either, so I am just going to have to cross my fingers that they don't get caught in my cranks. David, Doug and I finish transitioning just a few seconds before Jeff and are lured to the fire to warm our hands up. Approaching a warm fire in the middle of an adventure race is dangerous. Fires have magical abilities to lull racers into never leaving a TA. Jeff is aware of this and yells at us to get moving. We snap back to attention and depart the TA down a steep gravel hill. I chant IlovemybikeIlovemybikeIlovemybike because the windchill is really cold. We have a short bikewhack, then cross the Trace, then set out to get CP30, the one that we dropped from Trek 3. It's a little tricky with some new singletrack being built in this area. On our way to CP30, we pass Bushwhacker riding the other direction and it scares us. What if they have a better plan? We hustle even more. David is fairly confident on our attack to CP30 and we strike off into the woods. He and Jeff thrash around for a good chunk of time without finding the CP. This is not a good sign. Finally Jeff takes a closer look at the map and sees that there are two similarly-placed gridlines. We might have used the wrong one when plotting the night before. We check the cluesheet quickly and his suspicions are correct - CP30 is misplotted. Fortunately, the actual location is only a few hundred meters away so we are able to fix our mistake quickly and are back on the bikes, once again behind schedule to make the final 11:00pm cutoff.

We blast down the singletrack and I start to get nervous. Racing against a team is one thing, but racing against the clock adds a whole 'nother level of stress. We pick up CP29 after a short out-n-back run. We stop at the attackpoint for CP7 with 42 minutes left on the clock. We know CP9 is impossible at this point, and we estimate we need 30 minutes to get from here to the finish line. So we give ourselves 12 minutes to hike up the reentrant, punch CP7, and get back on the bikes. Let's do this. We strike off into the woods, Jeff and David leading the way, until our headlamps ping the reflective tape of the control flag. Perfect! Jeff flies up to get the punch as we all start picking our way down the dark reentrant. We complete the out-n-back in 9 minutes. Now we have 33 minutes to bike the remaining few miles of singletrack back to Hillman Ferry Campground and the finish line. Those are some tense miles, I'm checking my watch every time the trail smooths out for more than a few feet. Pretty soon, we can see the campground lights filter through the woods. We use a short bikewhack to get onto the access road and start to hear Bonk Hard's signature cowbell greeting. It's such a relief and we cruise into the finish at 10:49pm! 

David, me, Doug, Jeff, and the new Alpine Shop jerseys!
Carrie is at the finish line to greet us and we take lots of pictures in our new jerseys. I see a few other teams around but not as many as I expected. How did we do? I feel sort of funny asking but Carrie sees the question on my face and confirms that we won by a few CPs. Awesome! After the energy of finishing wears off, it's clear we are all very tired and very cold. I feel more sleepy than anything - racing 18hrs is hard enough, let alone doing it on 2 hours' sleep. So we all put on dry clothes and eat some of Bonk Hard's delicious post-race food. I have been dreaming about those bbq sandwiches and baked beans for the last few hours! There is a great fire going too so we catch up with other racers while staying warm. I really start to fade about midnight, but we stick around for the awards ceremony since there are awesome prizes to pick from. However, when we are called up to the prize table, my brain can't really make sense of anything so I pick a small red blinky light as my prize - completely passing over nice winter jackets, packs, watches, etc. That is race brain for you!
A different team approaching CP B later in the day. Racing is beautiful.
The LBL Challenge was a great race to kick off our season. It was a really unique format that allowed teams to push themselves as much as they wanted in the cold weather. We made a good plan, dealt with really horrible conditions at times, adjusted our plan as needed, kept our stomachs happy, and managed to finish on time. And we all still like each other. Win!

Link to more race details. Pin It

15 February 2013

Throwback Race Report: 2010 LBL Challenge 24hr AR

Note: I wrote this in 2010 after finishing the LBL Challenge 24hr adventure race, my first ever 24hr race of any type. For awhile it was posted on the Mid-Rivers Adventure team website but now that has gone away so I'm posting it here.

Team - Mike Cooper, Mike Geiger, Emily Korsch, Bill Langton
We took two vehicles down to Paducah, Kentucky for a quick dinner and then zipped over to LBL. We arrived at the HQ, checked into the hotel room, and went up to the race check-in for get our numbers and attend the meeting. Bonk Hard's owner and race director, Jason, revealed a start time of 7am for both courses (12hr and 24hr races would happen concurrently). We received 2 1:24k USGS maps and a clue sheet with 44 checkpoints. We headed back to the room for plotting, route selection, food organizing, gear packing, and eventually some sleep around 12.30am. Race morning we were up a little after 5am, out the door by 6a driving first to Star Camp for a bike drop, then to Birmingham Ferry campground for the start. 

TREK 1 (CPs 1-9, 7a-9a, 10k redline)

Our plan for the daylight hours was to push as hard as possible so we would minimize trekking at night. In this first leg, we did just that, punching all nine checkpoints, ROGAINE-style (in any order), within 10 minutes of the leading teams. The woods were in good shape with most of the area runnable. The pace was high but sustainable, the sun was out, and it was going to be a great race

TRANSITION 1 (10min)
Quick stop at Star Camp to grab the pre-dropped bikes. One of our goals for this race was to minimize transition time so we hustled through and hit the road.

BIKE 1 (CPs 9-18, 9.10a-2.10p, 50k)

The first biking leg starts with a brief road ride, then a steeply down-hill bikewhack to access the North-South trail. We head northwards for a few controls located on singletrack. Most of the biking controls on this leg are a punch with a cable - no flag. We ride right past the first two controls because we are looking for the flag. Thankfully Bill notices our mistake right away and only have to backtrack for about 50m each time. Soon enough we are onto the paved Hike/Bike trail where we break out the tows. Geiger leads out the train, which works great for a few kilometers before the twisty trail freaks me out and I let go of the tow at a sharp downhill. The loop slingshots out of my hand and right into Mike's calf...sorry!!!  I also run out of water early on this leg because I didn't fill my bottles before the bike drop - rookie mistake, but the guys cover for me until we reach the North Welcome Station which has a spigot. A quick refueling and we roll back onto the Hike/Bike trail (this time WITHOUT tows) to continue northward along the Canal Loop and Nickell Branch campground. Later in the singletrack we descend a great hill, all of us catch some sweet sweet air, and shouts of excitement ring out. Check onto the Hike/Bike trail for the second time back south. At this point we transition onto the jeep roads to cut across LBL headed towards Taylor Bay. Bill starts having leg cramp issues on the rolling hills that take him off the bike for a spell here - we do our best to tow him but the unpredictable road conditions make it difficult to keep a good pace. We continue to make progress as best we can and even though we are slow, Bill's nav is clean and we are still keeping up with our plan. We pull a clever trick by stopping at the Furnace where Bill remembers a water spigot from the 2009 race. Everyone is in serious need of hydration and we don't think there will be water at the Taylor Bay transition. We spend a few minutes refilling bladders and a team-mandated 1-bottle chug before hitting the paved road for a short few climbs into transition.

We are right - no water available at Taylor Bay so the previous stop saved us some pumping time. We drop the bikes and have access to our pre-loaded gear bags for the first time. Everyone restocks their packs with calories and adds a trekking layer to protect from the undergrowth.

TREK 2 (CPs 18-32, 2.30p-7.10p, 13k redline)

Not our team, but we headed into these same woods, except with pants on.
We know this is going to be the longest trek and, although it was advertised as ROGAINE-style, only the first half of the checkpoints offer route choice, with the second half requiring a fairly predictable route around Energy Lake. We start out walking to ease Bill's legs into the trek and chose very direct routes to compensate for our pace. This leg covers a great variety of terrain for LBL. We have a chance to refill bladders and rest at a creek, cross a swamp, and even get some nice little climbs. Our pace still isn't great but again the nav is clean and we continue to race the sun to the paddle. Once we have the canoe put-in in sight we stop at a campground to again refill bladders. Cooper has a few stomach issues near the end of the leg but we all make it to the canoes together.

One of the highlights of the day comes to us at the Energy Lake transition. The canoe provider brought kayak paddles and there are still some left! As the sun sets we select paddles, boats, and PFDs and get set for a night paddle with no wind and clear skies.

PADDLE 1 (CPs 32-35, 7.30p-8.50p, 11k) 

The Mikes (Cooper and Geiger) take the first boat with Bill and I following. We immediately hook up the tow so Bill can nav without our boat losing too much ground..er...water. The first three checkpoints are located in Energy Lake. Our strategy, similar to many teams on the night paddle, is to enter the correct inlet and then use Geiger's bike headlamp to scan the shore and hopefully light up the checkpoint. This works flawlessly and very soon we find ourselves finishing up the lake loop.


Again, not our team, but shows what pigs these boats are. Also, we did this portage in the dark.
Even though the boats are fairly comfortable to sit in, they are heavy and it takes a good effort to haul them across Energy Dam to the riverside. At this point we receive word that the top teams have absolutely smoked the course and are finished. We have nothing but admiration for these speed demons, but at the same time are a little frustrated we are still paddling, and will be for a while. Nevertheless, we continue to beat our estimated schedule so there's no panic among the team.

PADDLE 2 (CPs 35-37. 9.00p-10.45p)

This paddle is quiet and uneventful, just the way my grandma likes her airplane rides. We hit the checkpoints in style and arrive back at Taylor Bay for a gear bag stop.

Food re-supply, bathroom stop, and we are back on the water.

PADDLE 3 (CPs 37-40, 11.00p-1.20a, 13k)

This leg is a long out-and-back, and was considered this our bail option if things were going badly. But we're still going well so decide to clear the course. Bill helps me with my kayak paddle technique and I see improvement immediately. Now I can definitely see how carrying kayak paddles are an advantage. We have to creatively navigate over a few sand bars but everyone stays upright and mostly dry, even Cooper with his avant-garde rain gear (really wish I had a pic of that). 

At long last, the canoe take-out arrives and there was much rejoicing. Here we are, almost 2 in the morning in the middle of the woods and the volunteers are still rocking the fire and gear check. Where Bonk Hard finds these brave souls I do not know, but I'm so so thankful for them. Gear check is completed quickly, we stash the canoes (which sadly have not lost any weight) and head out for a short trek. 

TREK 3 (CPs 40-42, 1.50a-2.50a, 5k redline)

We only have to navigate to one checkpoint, but the middle of the night can make any task challenging. I focus on putting some calories down as Bill takes a clean route to 41. We are able to jog a little on the trails and that puts everyone in a good mood.

We are reunited with our bikes and food for the last time on the course. Barring a huge crash or mechanical, we know we will finish the course and that makes us all a bit complacent in transition. Or maybe we are just reluctant to head towards home and end the race.

BIKE 2 (CPs 42-44-FIN, 3.20a-6.20a, 24k)

A good combination of roads and singletrack to finish out the course. I unknowingly start to bonk in the first 8k, but thankfully I speak up ("my head feels really weird and dizzy") and the guys instruct me to eat, eat now, and eat a lot. I throw two Ensure's down the hatch and a few km's later I'm back in business. The rest of the roads are a challenge because I am getting sleepy, but once we hit the singletrack it's much easier to stay awake. There are some confusing bits to the trail that do not match the map, but nothing catastrophic and as the sun starts to rise we know we are on the right track for home. 


Cooper, Geiger, Langton, me! After being out there for 23:15.
After a short jaunt down a paved road, we arrive back at Birmingham Ferry campground and the Bonk Hard finish line. By now it's light enough to turn off our lights, and quickly get the requisite finish line picture before diving into the baked potatoes. I finish my spud quickly and basically slump into a camp chair near the fire. The guys eventually convince me that it's time to pack up and leave. After showering at a nearby campground, we hit Cracker Barrel for an adventure of the high-caloric type and hit the interstate to return to St. Louis. Pin It

14 February 2013

Planning the 2013 Season

Planning for 2013, the first half of it at least, is finally complete-ish. As with most big decisions, I rely a lot on my gut feeling and this year, my schedule took a while to really come together. Mostly, it was my indecision regarding triathlon. I love me some swimbikerun, but I got a taste of top-level adventure racing in the fall of 2012 and I had a hankering for more. Trouble is, adventure racing is a team sport, and I was all by my lonesome. I knew I could pick up races here and there as a substitute (teams are almost always looking for female racers) but that stresses me out a little, and I'd prefer to keep any and all forms of stress at a minimum. So I kept peeking at individual events like triathlons and mtb races, even asking facebook what I should tackle as a BHAG for 2013.
After much deliberation, both extro- and introspective, I decided to focus on a race format unique to the Midwest: the gravel grinder. A gravel race is an endurance biking event held almost entirely on backcountry gravel roads. The course is only minimally marked or sometimes not marked at all except for a paper map/cue sheet. Race distances span from 100 to 300 miles and beyond. Most people use cyclocross bikes, but some have been known to ride modified mountain bikes for increased comfort as the miles stack up. Most races/events enjoy a very dedicated following and they focus on a grassroots atmosphere that calls to my soul.
Now THAT is a man-train. 2012 Cedar Cross.  Photo from http://karenholtmann.blogspot.com
So there I was, signed up for two very intimidating gravel events: the OGRE 150-miler in April (with Jeff from Alpine Shop) and the Dirty Kanza 200-miler in June. And then, my friend/inspiration/hero/all-around badass Carrie from the Alpine Shop AR team hurt her knee and asked me to sub for her at Bonk Hard's LBL 18hr AR. Then she got an MRI and found out she would be on the sidelines for longer than just LBL. And BOOM...suddenly my schedule filled up with more adventure races than I had ever thought possible. With a team known for speed and good sportsmanship. If it weren't for Carrie's injury, I'd say it was the perfect scenario. But hopefully when she recovers there will still be a team out there with a spot for me!
Alpine Shop teammates Jeff and David before the 29(mile)r.
They wore the EXACT same clothes without planning it. Nerds.
In the meantime, here's where you can find me in 2013, confirmed races in BOLD:

16-Feb: Bonk Hard LBL Challenge 18hr AR (with Alpine Shop, 4-person coed)
16-Mar: Bonk Hard Chill 12hr AR (with Alpine Shop, 4-person coed)
6-Apr: CAC2 (tentative, still putting together a team, email me if interested)
13-Apr: Tour of Hermann Gravel Stage Race (tentative)
20-Apr: Bonk Hard OGRE 150mi gravel race (with Uncle Perv, 2-person coed)
27-Apr: The Boonecrusher 12hr AR (with Gnome Hunters, 4-person coed)
4-May: Cedar Cross 100mi gravel non-race (tentative)
11-May: DINO Mission 18hr AR (with Alpine Shop, 3-person coed)
18-May: Planet Adventure 24hr AR (with Alpine Shop, 4-person coed)
1-June: Dirty Kanza 200mi gravel race (individual)
24-August: Thunder Rolls 24hr AR (with Alpine Shop, 3-person coed)

As you can see, April and May are PACKED. The only reason that Cedar Cross is tentative is I'm worried about excessive fatigue and wanted to give myself some breathing room in case my legs are fried at the end of April. What happens after Thunder Rolls is anyone's guess. It depends a lot on Carrie's knee, and some race schedule conflicts. But stay tuned here and you'll be the first to know! Pin It

11 February 2013

I Turned 29.

I turned 29 a few days weeks ago. TWENTY-NINE YEARS OLD. Dang. It makes me wonder if I have any of those "if we're both single by the time we're 30..."-type deals out there. Speak now! Or forever hold your peace! Anyway, I'd been scheming of a way to celebrate living longer than I ever have before. Swim 2900 yards? Welllll, I'll let you in on a secret, I haven't been in the pool since July. Bike 29 miles? Eh, sounds fun but not exactly a challenge. Run 29 miles? Now we're talking.

Since my actual day of birth fell on a Tuesday, I decided to run on Sunday the 27th. I picked the Chubb trail because it's fun to bike on too, so if people weren't quite trained enough to run an ultra, they could ride some sweet singletrack instead and still be part of the celebration. I wrote an invitational blog post, made a Facebook event, and started packing in some long training runs. I found out that Jeff (of Alpine Shop fame and my teammate for the OGRE) turns...wait for it...50!!!! on January 30th so he decided to run 50km, which is 31 miles, so he would just start a little earlier with a road out-n-back and the run with the group from there.
route aka "the question mark then the lollipop"
Wellll, Sunday rolls around, and turns out the weather is not cooperating with anyone who wants to ride a bike. The skies are spitting rain, and the cold temperatures have created a thin layer of ice over any stationary surface. This includes parked cars. My heart sinks when I first look out the window - anyone planning to bike is out of luck. These are terrible conditions for biking because they would just tear up the trails. But the temperature is decent for running so I pack a few extra layers and drive out to the Lone Elk trailhead. But not without a stop at Walgreen's for some delicious AR treats...I kind of went overboard...please don't tell HolisticGuru....
OK, most of this is for LBL.
Arriving at the trailhead, I see Jeff already on his pre-run, but nobody else is in the parking lot. Granted, I'm early for once in my life, but WHERE ARE THE PEOPLE? As I start getting my layers sorted, cars start rolling in. We have a grand total of 12 smiling human faces and 1 smiling dog face. My Pfoodman teammate Maddie even shows up, ever the optimist with her bike, but decides to can in based on trail conditions. Smart move, chick! We all warn each other to be careful on the initial descent and then just, start. Running. 29 miles. Let's do this.
Jeff, Irwin, David, Mike, Mitch. Eric, Justin, TJ. Doug, Sunny, me!
Gunner's somewhere running already.
The first section, the "question mark", is super fun. The pace is a touch faster than I would personally take, but there's no harm in pushing limits on a fun run. And if I explode, I have lots of treats in my pack and in my car to nurse me through the remaining miles. So I just hang in, chatting away, enjoying the company of badasses running in miserable weather. Once we hit the climb up to the picnic table, the boys in front ascend like mountain goats and I take a slower "more disciplined" approach. Then it's downish to the West Tyson parking lot, where we see the first of many inspirational signs made and hung by the indomitable Carrie, Jeff's wife and my hero, who is sidelined with a knee injury otherwise she'd be out here crushing it too. I'm running with Mike here and he lets me tell just about the entire tale of my Kilimanjaro climb. We complete Leg 1 (see route photo), regroup at the picnic table, and then retrace our steps for Leg 2. About mile 10, I'm second in the conga line behind Eric, and I'm thinking I could really get used to this ultra-running thing. Trails are awesome! People are awesome! Life is awesome! Wheeeeee!

Towards the end of Leg 2, we meet up with Rudy who is on his cross bike! He hands me a birthday chocolate bar and it's delicious. I share it with everyone when we get back to the parking lot. I change my gloves and hat but everything else is doing okay. Jeff shares some signature mini-donuts and then we hit the trail again for about a half-marathon remaining. We see more signs that Carrie has posted and it's really fun to give Jeff a hard time about being old. Leg 3 is starting to get a little more difficult. For the first time I can remember, I don't really feel like eating. This is a new sensation for me. But I know that it's probably a beginning sign of bonkage, so about Mile 18 I cram down a powerful combination of Oreos and Nutter Butters and keep running.
My favorite sign!
The cookies do their job, but it's now my fitness that's on the ropes. I've only run more than 20 miles a few times in my life, and just once in specific prep for today, and it's starting to show. My training philosophy has evolved to favor more resting over more training and it's clear that I undershot my preparation by a few hours. Well, there's that lesson learned, and nothing left to do but gut out these last 9 miles. I'm not in horrible condition by any means, but walking the uphills becomes a necessity and my hamstrings exhibit their familiar tightness. I run a few miles by myself in this state which is actually kind of nice because as an endurance athlete, I've gotten good at struggling solo, and it almost wouldn't feel right to have a day without a little bit of uncomfortableness.
Who's just run 29 miles and has one thumb? THIS GIRL!
As I make the last climb up to the picnic table, Jeff, Mitch, and Justin are there waiting! How nice! We make our way down the Tyson climb for the last time and onto the flats where we catch David. The boys keep the conversation going, allowing me to hang on their words instead of my sore muscles. The last few miles are tough but we all gut it out and get 'er done. Bam! 29 miles with 3,900' of climb to celebrate my 29th birthday!
Hot-n-honey motivation!
I clean up super quick and head over to TJ's Wings where the post-run party is. I had boasted to people that I could eat 29 wings as well. I sorta stopped keeping count but I think I finished up somewhere around 20. Their hot-n-honey sauce is seriously. SO. GOOD. We order lots (I think 125+) of wings and more than one pitcher of beer. Our table is right next to the fireplace which feels amazing after being cold and wet for so much of the day. People seem to keep joining our table which is awesome. Carrie made "old people" masks for everyone and that is the last pic I'll leave you with!
Thanks, everyone, for an awesome birthday!
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