21 April 2013

Non-Race Report: Team Virtus's CAC2

Okay, Kate won the non-race report non-race, but I've still got something to say! Plus, I've got to get through my back-blog (ha..) of posts before telling you about some amazing times at Tour of Hermann and the OGRE. So, first of all, if you don't know Team Virtus, you should. This adventure racing team is what the sport needs more of - darn cool people who explore their home terrain, get super excited about it, and decide to invite all their friends to explore it with them and drink beer afterwards. Guaranteed fun, no? And since this non-race is all about fun, I wanted to participate not as a member of super-speedy Alpine Shop, but as a helper/coach/guide to some people who love adventure racing but might not be as experienced. So that's what I did, just showed up on Friday night at Pine Ridge Campground and asked around for teammates for the next day's race.

I like fire.
I paired up with Dave B who has participated in some of Bonk Hard's races as a member of team Mapping the Miles. I was excited to non-race with a new face! I've been lucky enough to race with several different people in my short "career" and I love learning new things from each person or team. It was really fun hanging out at the Friday night campfire, complete with delicious beverages and awesome people. Adventure racing really does have a great community of folks and I was so grateful to share in it.

Saturday morning started about 2.30am when some nimwit with a really loud truck (and probably a really small...) decided to drive through the campground repeatedly. Ugh. But I was able to fall back asleep and woke back up in time for breakfast and gear prep before the maps got handed out about 8.00am. Note: to anyone non-racing future non-races with Tardy Rooster's Dave, don't trouble yourself bringing any camping implement of any kind. The guy brought basically an entire camp kitchen and was happily frying eggs and sausage over the fire, plus toasting hash brown patties. He cheerily shared some eggs with me and they were delicious! Thanks Dave! Also thanks to Bob for helping with my JetBoil's finicky starter.

About breakfast time, Young Ben from my mountain bike team showed up! I thought he might be coming but also that he might have been in Honduras. I raced with Ben at the Castlewood 8-hour and he took meticulous care of the passport all day long, running and biking extra distance for punches. He's a natural at this adventure racing stuff and I was stoked to see him at the non-race. I suggested that he join up with me and Dave B and he agreed, but I think that was mostly for his mom's peace of mind because took off guns-a-blazin from the start! Anyway, we got our maps, spent some time copying the CP locations from the master map, talking route strategy, and then loading up for the drive to the start. Everything was a little frantic towards the end because I didn't have all of my gear sorted before maps got handed out. And everyone knows that if you give an adventure racer a map, they won't stop looking at it until the race starts. So I had to sort of rush through gear/food/clothes tasks and then caught a ride with Carrie and Jeff to the race start at Carrington Pits.

TREK 1 (only 1.5k and it took an hour!!)

The whole crew of non-racers just before the non-start!

Trek 1. All we had to do was go to PP. 
Since this is a non-race, the start and cutoff times are "suggested". So when Luke of Team Virtus had announced a start time of 9.00am, he really meant "sometime after 9.00am when everyone gets there and is mostly ready". Today that meant closer to 10am. No worries! We start off running down the road and then  make a left turn into the Carrington Pits campground. From there, we hike headlong into the woods which are filled with briars rivaling anything Gerry Voellinger has ever sent his racers through. Poor Dave is in shorts so we carefully pick our way through the nasty sections. Very quickly, the map starts not making sense, but I attribute it to the extreme lack of detail that all 1:24k maps have. The intricate terrain we're in just doesn't show up on USGS maps. So I keep heading generally south, figuring that since there are other teams around us, we should be good. Plus, the thorns are slowing our pace, making it seem like we've gone farther than we actually have.

Uh...that's okay to think for a while, but pretty soon it's obvious that we're nowhere near the passport pickup. Not only that, but I don't have a good idea where we are in general on the map. And I'm supposed to know what I'm doing! Dave and I have picked up Travis and Robby from Team Virtus (non-racing as a duo) so the four of us relocate to a nearby field and try to figure out just where exactly we are. We finally trek all the way back to the campground (after I incorrectly guess which reentrant we're crossing...oh and Travis WAS RIGHT!) where Luke takes pity on us and points us down a mostly-briar-less trail that leads directly to the CP. Wow...how did we miss that!??! Anyway, we all get our passports and return to the campground where our bikes are waiting.

BIKE 1 (8.5 miles)

Dave and me ready to roll out on BIKE 1.

Dave and I hop on bikes and take off to CP1. It's a pretty straightforward ride and we get there easily, mostly because of the insane tailwind coming out of the south. Then it's time to go to west, okay that's fine, and then the southbound leg is really hard!! Thankfully my biking legs are ready to work from all of my OGRE/DK200 training so I try to block the wind for Dave as much as possible.

Towards the end of the bike I am doing a lot of mental math. Before the non-race, Jeff measured the upcoming trek to be about 8 miles. Because we took forever on the opening leg, it is going to be very difficult to get all the CPs and return to the TA before the non-cutoff of 3:45pm. So I start thinking about ways to attack the course and which CPs to drop if we get in trouble. Dave and I also talk race nutrition and pretty soon we are rolling into TA ready to drop our bikes.

Rolling into the TA after BIKE 1. Photo bomb by WTFAR. WTF.

TREK 2 with a plan to get all CPs. We only got 2, 3, 5, 4, 7 and 6.
After we put on trekking shoes, we head into the woods. Non-race non-rules state that we must go to CP2 first, and then we can go in any order for the rest of the leg. The trek to CP2 is long and even though we're on a mostly clear, downhill doubletrack, we are mostly hiking. WTFAR and TV are around us too so I watch where they're going in relation to the map. Since we're hiking, I decide to take us directly to CP2 instead of the around-route on the doubletrack. This involves a really steep descent into a creek that is probably not the best decision since Dave tweaks his ankle. Sorry!! We cross the stream gingerly to avoid more ankle mishaps and are soon cutting through a thick cedar grove. It's not easy getting through the pokey trees so eventually we bail back onto the doubletrack and take that straight into CP2.

From there, we head straight over a big spur to CP3, which I'm not very clean on the nav and we have to contour around a little before finding the flag. We join back up with Travis and Robby here and all work together for CPs 5 and 4. These are two really cool rock formations! Thanks Bob for putting CPs here! After we punch these two CPs, we know we are going to have to drop some of the remaining CPs to make it back before the cutoff. We decide to still go for CP6 and then check our time once we're there. But, as we're hiking on the a road, Dave reports that his ankle is still acting up and that he wants to go back to the TA. Oh no!! I feel really bad that my teammate is hurting. I also want to keep on trekking and find a few more CPs. Since we're with Travis and Robby, we have a short conference and Dave decides to head back on his own, letting me keep on trekking.

He is confident with the nav to get back and I am excited to have a chance to see a few more cool things in the woods. So we sadly part ways and I glom onto the duo of Travis and Robby for the remainder of the race. Even though it's a non-race, we decide to respect the cutoff time and only go for CPs 7 and 6 with our remaining time. We take the trail to CP7 and run into some really really polite equestrians! Cool! (side note: I know mountain bikers and equestrians will forever be two warring factions but I happen to be a former horse owner and absolutely love them). Along the way, we talk nav strategy since we all have maps. This is something unusual and REALLY AWESOME about the CAC...everyone who wants to pay for a map gets one. Normally, in adventure races, only one set of maps is issued to each team, so there is some amount of follow-the-leader happening. However, today we all have maps so we informally take turns narrating where we're going. I'm having a lot of fun with Travis and Robby and the last two CPs go well.

After punching CP6, we bushwhack back to the doubletrack we took in the first part of this trek. We stumble upon a really neat, barbed-wire-fortified campfire circle and wonder who hauled all those containers of tiny gravel particles uphill (answer: sandbaggers). Once we hit the doubletrack it's an easy hike back into the TA. However, we are surprised to find our friend Dave on the side of the trail looking sad. This makes my heart sink...I thought he was in okay shape when we parted ways 2 CPs prior. However, his ankle has taken a turn for the worse and he's having trouble walking. I bust out the ACE bandage from my pack and we get him fixed up with the wrap and a walking stick, and continue progress back to the TA. Travis, Robby and I make it back first and we give Luke our version of the Thousand Mile Stare. Then, several things happen: Luke offers us meat, we eat Luke's meat, and I run with some of Luke's meat back to Dave who is only a few hundred meters back on the doubletrack, and Dave eat's Luke's meat too. Yay meat.

End of TREK 2, doing our best TMS.

After all the meat-eating, we get back onto our bikes for the return to Pine Ridge Campground. It's still very windy but these roads are more protected and we can smell the barn. Bob and Luke pass us in their adventure vans, do their best to intimidate us with yelling out the window, and then we all meet up again at CP11, site of the mystery event!

Hokay. So. Let's talk mystery challenges in general. I think they're awesome, until they aren't. They have to be very clear, organized, and well-directed by the race staff/volunteers in order to be effective and, most of all, fair. When you get in a really tight, tense race situation, a poorly-run mystery challenge can win or lose the race for a team, and I don't think that's an accurate representation of a team's adventure racing skills. But, in a non-race situation like this, I LOVE mystery challenges. Love them. They are fun and a cool way to add variety and personality to an event. And that's exactly what this challenge does. It involves memorization, legos, and knowledge of human anatomy. We nail it.

After we successfully pass the mystery challenge, we just have a short ride back to the campground/non-finish line. It involves a sweet bit of singletrack that Bob himself personally leaf-blew a few days prior, and it is BUUUUUFFFF. Bob, you are awesome. There are some challenging techy bits that make me remember how fun the SegSlayer is to ride. We shred right along, punch our last CP (12) at an abandoned house, hoist our bikes over barbed wire, and then arrive at the non-finish. Being a non-race, there's not really much going on back at the campground, so we put our gear away, change clothes, and cheer on the rest of the non-racers as they finish.

The atmosphere back at the campground is awesome. There is still lots of Luke's meat left over, so as more and more non-racers finish, we all chow down and share stories from the day. Several people elected to ignore the cutoff and instead go for all of the trekking CPs, which sounded equally challenging and rewarding. Eventually we all shift over to the campfire and Bob is in the finest of forms. And we eat more meat. Life is good.
Sunday's ride.
Thanks to Team Virtus for hosting a super chill, super fun adventure weekend. I really enjoyed meeting new people and getting to race with them!! On Sunday, I got to meet even more new people and crushed out 100 miles of Cock Gobbling gravel on the Battlefinch with Aaron and Jim and Dave ...OGRE here we come!!
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  1. Great report! I'm so glad you made it to the non-race. You TOTALLY got the spirit of the thing and were a lot of fun to hang around with.

  2. I love reading race reports, thank you for keeping up to date! I also can't believe I made it into Emily's blog...oh yeah and yea meat!