Dave answered. He was looking at racing the Boonecrusher 12hr in Iowa with his Gnome Hunters teammates. I responded with a gleeful "Yes!" and was happy to have at least one race on my calendar. Then, Carrie from Alpine Shop got hurt, and all of a sudden I had several more races on the schedule. But I didn't mind, I love adventure racing! Here's the story of my 12 hours as a Gnome Hunter.
I drive up to Boone, IA on Friday afternoon and, after a couple of delays, finally meet my teammates for pre-race pizza at Belluci Pizza House in Boone. Despite my late arrival, the boys were able to pick up maps for tomorrow and get this...they are already DONE plotting and route-planning! So efficient! They give me the scoop on how the race will unfold and we start strategizing about water and paddles. The pizza at Belluci's is really, really good and it's a great omen for the race tomorrow.
|The Boonecrusher II: Go for broke or be broken!|
TREK 1 (13.5k, 1:11)
|Point A is the start. Point B is the first CP. 3.6 miles in between. Ouch.|
|A good mantra for just about any endurance event.|
|We are transitioning in the background - look for Pete and Dave's orange packs.|
We hop on the bikes and get rolling onto the singletrack at Seven Oaks. Right away we're faced with a switchbacky climb up and over a very steep ridge, and then another switchbacky descent down its backside. These trails aren't especially rooty/rocky like we have in MO, but they are tight, twisty, and filled with tiny kicker climbs that force you out of the saddle. There is some residual dew/moisture on the dirt so it's almost impossible to get good rear wheel traction while trying to clear these. As a team, we struggle here. It's always hard to ride singletrack with new teammates, and we have a variety of different bikes and comfort levels to adjust to. That, plus the CP numbers aren't exactly making sense so we are a little hesitant in the middle of this section. We catch WEDALI as they are changing a flat, but they soon ride away from us, and we are in the mix with several other 12hr and 8hr teams. Near the end of the trail, Brian endos pretty hard and we all ratchet back the pace to help him recover. We finally pop out of the woods where the trail is covered by erosion/backfill and are a little unsure of where to go next. I look back to see if there are teams on our tails and just happen to spot the last CP flag hanging at the trail exit. That was close! We get the passport punched and then get to ride down the grassy ski hill, thoroughly enjoying the free speed.
|I really love it when race photographers catch me walking.|
|I'm not exactly sure of the route, but this is close.|
TREK 2 (10k, 2:48)
|Obviously the route inside Ledges is way off - I don't really remember where we went. |
The yellow sections are where the guys carried my pack.
PADDLE 1 (9mi, 1:43)
|Approximately 9 miles of paddling downriver (south).|
|Gnome Hunters setting out on the paddle...me, Dave, Brian, Pete.|
As we are in the process of unloading the boats and preparing for this trek, the race staff informs us of something we don't usually think about: a cutoff. Racing with a team this experienced and fit, you'd think we wouldn't be in danger of missing cutoffs in a 12hr race. But, here we are, with only 75 minutes to complete a 5k trek. Normally, this wouldn't be an issue, but I'm not operating at 100% speediness, plus the day is getting rather warm. Thankfully, it doesn't look like the nav is too terribly difficult. As we're running out of TA, we see WEDALI returning from the same trek we're starting. They are having trouble changing another flat and we offer them one of our tubes. They tell us that the trek took about an hour so we know we have to hustle to make it back in time.
It's one of those "shut up legs" moments as we try to run as much as possible. I'm positive the guys took my pack for stretches here too but I can't remember where exactly. The bridge we're trekking over is extremely cool - you should go check it out sometime - but at the moment the concrete path is absolute torture to my knees and hips. Due to our elevated vantage point, we're able to see the 2nd place (NSPIRE) and 3rd place (Wild Hares) teams as they return to the TA. I feel like we're in Primal Quest, filming from a helicopter or something. It's really, really cool. Pete continues to rock the maps and we have no troubles punching each CP. Then it's back to the TA a comfortable 21 minutes before the cutoff. Sweet. This gives the team a big morale boost as we hop on bikes to knock out the last three sections of the race.
BIKE 2 (12.5mi, 1:08)
We now have a mostly northbound bike with a few CPs on the way to a 4H camp. Dave continues to rock his singlespeed and I am feeling good enough to take the passport for a few CPs. We focus on keeping a steady pace and are gradually gaining on Wild Hares as we progress through the Iowa countryside. We are all running low on food so we share whatever we've got left to get us to the end of the race.
We roll into the 4H camp ready to transition to a short trek, but the race staff informs us that this last trek has been changed to a bike, in order to speed teams up. Evidently everyone is taking longer than the race organizers thought. It's not just us! This news is really, really good for me. It means I'm (mostly) done trekking, where I've been the weakest, and can focus on biking where I'm feeling a bit stronger. Plus, I just love riding the SegSlayer. So after filling water bottles, we launch off to collect 3 CPs on the bike. The first one is very auspicious - we spot Wild Hares' bikes, but their team is trekking in the wrong direction. We quickly punch and leave the area, gleeful that we've just moved into 3rd place. On the next CP, we join up with Rib Mountain Racing, which is a conglomerate of the Blind Squirrels (friends from 2012 CPT Nats) and folks from the team formerly known as Green Paw. We work together to locate the CP, deep in a reentrant filled with downfall and boulders. Then we start the attack on the last CP at the camp before we can head for home.....when.....we have a flat. Dave's rear tire is the offending party and it requires a speedy change. However, we only have one 29" tube (mine) because we gave the other one away. And, to make matters worse, mine is a road tube since I had to use my 29" spare last night when I was switching wheels. So first we try to patch Dave's original tube; no dice. Then we try to use the road tube; something is wrong with the valve and it won't hold air. Then I think we tried a re-patched original tube, or maybe we didn't, I can't remember. But eventually we had to use Pete's 26" tube, carefully stretched around Dave's 29" wheel and inflated to rideable-but-still-very-squishy PSI. We spend a lot of time dealing with this debacle and have to ditch the final 2 CPs (one on this "trek" and one more on the impending bike to Seven Oaks). Finally we get ourselves back on the road with under an hour to cover 12 miles. Oooooooweeeee, it's gonna be close.
BIKE 3 (12.5mi, 1:42 total Bike 2B+3)
POST-RACE (11:59 total race time)
The post-race vibe at the Boonecrusher is awesome. There are tons of racers hanging out, sharing stories from the long day. The staff presents EACH racer with their OWN pizza, AND cookies, AND chex mix, AND beer or pop or water. These people really know how to welcome their racers home. The weather is pretty great too, and it feels wonderful to stretch out on the grassy lawn, stuff my face with pizza, and hear about how other teams' day went. The story of Dave's rear derailleur has already been making the rounds. It's great to catch up with our buddies from WEDALI who pulled off the overall win. Our final placement is 4th in the 4-person coed division and 4th overall, which puts us out of the running for any prizes. But somehow Erl scores an extra Boonecrusher visor which he gives to me. Thanks!
|Pile o' Gnomes!|
Finally, thank you to Dave and Pete and Brian for being superb teammates. I was frustrated I couldn't be more of an asset to the team, but they absorbed all of my weakness and kept everyone happy and moving forward. There is a certain language that experienced adventure racers speak, and I could tell they were extremely fluent right away at Friday night dinner. I am proud to say I have Hunted the Gnome alongside some awesome dudes! Pin It