Thankfully, MISSION is a super fun race, and I was once again racing with my crazy strong Alpine Shop teammates, Jeff and David. These guys are just so much fun to race with and I knew they would motivate and inspire me to perform well. In the weeks leading up to the race, we learned that in addition to traditional adventure race disciplines of trekking, mountain biking, paddling, and ropes, we would also have the option to use scooters or roller blades. I borrowed both from local adventure racer Yvonne who used them in several Wild Onion races. We had a few practice sessions on the 'blades and I was kinda freaked out by them. I can skate just fine (after all, a girl from Minnesota should know these things), but sharp turns were a little tricky and stopping was extremely unreliable. We planned to bring both scooters and blades to the race but then I forgot Yvonne's scooter in my basement, whoops. Thankfully, Jeff had 2 decent Razor scooters that we brought in addition to David's badass scooter. Game on.
For anyone aiming to race at USARA Nationals this October 4th, you should probably know some things about race director Brian's style, since he is directing Nationals this year. First, he likes to not distribute maps until the race starts. Second, he likes to start with a short, crazy prologue before maps are handed out. Third, he likes to base the race around a central TA/HQ, having teams complete loops and then return to HQ between each loop or segment. Fourth, he likes to make teams plot CPs and route plan on the fly. This year's MISSION would be a classic example of a DINO race. Another thing that Brian and DINO are known for is taking excellent care of their racers. Our race fees included on-site lodging Friday and Saturday night, and pre- and post-race meals. This made race logistics really easy for us and we really appreciate it!
Jeff, David and I left St. Louis Friday morning and rolled into Camp Pyoca just minutes before pre-race dinner was scheduled to start. That was enough time to check in, get our race packets (passport, numbers, and shirt) and learn about making duct tape bracelets for TeamSOG's Scott Pleban who was seriously injured after being hit by a car on his bike commute. We grabbed a table and chowed down on delicious lasagna and THE MOST AWESOME brownies I've ever had. Right there, my weekend was a success because of those brownies. Thank you, Camp Pyoca chefs!! We had a quick pre-race meeting after dinner and Brian hinted that the course just might be clearable for a fast team. Boom. There is our carrot we need to chase tomorrow. We spend the rest of the evening prepping gear, interrupted a few times by brief rain showers. Finally we're ready to go and head up to the cabin. Everyone else is asleep already so we do our best to quietly get settled. Turns out, that is all in vain because there are two other people in the cabin who SNORE almost the whole night. I seriously got about 2 hours sleep total before our 0445 wake-up call. Suboptimal!
My alarm goes off right on time and in order to make my cabin exit as quick and quiet as possible, I grab all of my stuff and head down to the main dining hall to make breakfast and get dressed there. I head into the basement and turn on the lights - accidentally and abruptly waking up three people who were sleeping! I feel really bad and tell them I'll go upstairs, but they are racing the 18hr as well so they would've been up in a few minutes anyway. Then I hear..."Um, I think I know you. Are you Emily?" That's probably the last thing I ever expected to hear before 0500 on a race morning, but I do acknowledge that my name is in fact Emily and the sleepy questioner turns out to be my twitter friend Dan! Ha! So it's cool to get to know him and his team, Dandies Vegan Marshmallows, as we all fumble through pre-race breakfast and clothes prep. And for some reason, my standard breaky tastes weird and gross, which is highly unusual since none of the ingredients are that perishable. But my taste buds tell me something's turned strange, so I sadly dump it out and put together a makeshift replacement breakfast of Ensure, donuts, and fig newtons. At this point, calories are calories.
I join up with Jeff and David at the van for the rest of pre-race prep and for some reason my mind is very foggy. I find myself way behind schedule and scrambling to get all of my gear together before Brian calls a pre-race meeting at 0555. I hustle up to the meeting place with my teammates and we get the first set of instructions: our maps are located on the opposite shore of Lake Pyoca, approximately 250m away, and each team must send one person to go get them. There are two ways to get there: run around the lake, or paddle across it. Except, anyone who chooses to paddle is not allowed to use an actual paddle...they must use their hands and/or feet for propulsion. THE RACE IS ON!!
PROLOGUE ("paddle" or trek)
|Super zoom-in of the map. We started in the triangle. Maps were at "M".
Which way is faster...right, left, or straight?
|Can you see the red blinky straight across the lake? That is where Jeff was going.
|Entire BIKE 1 route. We went counter-clockwise.
|We started at the triangle, then biked to CP4...
|...then to CP1, CP2, CP3...
|...then to CP8, CP6, CP7, CP5, and back to HQ.
|See the northbound jeep road after CP6? We didn't.
We're riding along, making the best of the sloppy trail conditions, when we comment on the machine tracks that are everywhere. It seems like there's a logging operation going on. Soon, we see Phil and Kevin up ahead, except they are riding back towards us. What?? That's strange. They stop, we stop, and Phil and David put their heads together to talk about the map. Turns out we missed the trail we need and instead we're on an unmapped logging road. This is sort of bad, but it could have been much much worse if Phil hadn't stopped to tell us. We follow the Silent Chasers back along the road and together we find the correct trail we need for CP5. It's cut almost straight down at least 20 contour lines. I'm riding completely behind my saddle and I think I can smell my brake pads. Eeeeeeeeeeek!!! But we all make it safely to the bottom, and to CP5. Then we have a slight route choice back to camp...the Silent Chasers go right, we go left. Which will be faster? Ours is a screaming paved descent that almost shoots me off the side of a cliff. Who said Indiana was flat??
We roll back into the main TA at Camp Pyoca, about 45-60 minutes later than we thought we would, only a minute or two behind the Silent Chasers. We collect the UTMs for the next segment and Brian issues us a caveat...CP10 is not open yet. It is the ropes course, and we are instructed to visit it when we get back to TA in about, oh, 4-5 hours. This is a concern for us because ropes courses, while extremely fun, can be a huge bottleneck in an AR. Right at this moment, if the ropes were open, there would be a short-to-nonexistent line because we are in the lead pack. Who knows what the line will be like when we get back to camp! But, we have no choice so we plot the next CPs and learn that we can use our wheeled-objects-of-choice to get there. The camp road has me scared to use 'blades (hilly and very few places to bail) so we decide to use scooters. Get ready for hilarity!!
WHEELED OBJECTS 1 (CP 11, 6k)
|Now I'm using pink highlighter to show our route from HQ to CP11.
PADDLE 1A (2.5k up + 5k down)
+ WHEELED OBJECTS 2 (CP13, 3k)
+ PADDLE 1B (CP14, 10k down)
|Love those banana boats!
|CP11, CP12, then take out at the arrow, scooter to CP13, scooter back to the boats, paddle to CP14.
|We scootered into Fort Vallonia. I wonder what the early settlers would have thought of that?
WHEELED OBJECTS 3 (CP15, 6.5k)
|Take-out at CP14, then scooter to CP15.
|Let us scooter into the light!
|Entire TREK 1, starting at CP15 and finishing back at Camp Pyoca (upper right corner).
|First part of TREK 1.
After we punch CP18, my stomach is growling but I discover that both of the hip pockets on my pack are empty. I swing my pack around to my front and check the main compartment while still trekking. Only my mandatory gear is in there. I am officially out of calories. How embarrassing! Um....guys? Do you have any extra food? Yes, yes they do. Jeff and David stock me up for the rest of the trek with mini Almond Joys, Wheat Thins Sticks, Clif gels, and pepperoni. With a delightfully full belly, we attack CP19 and then run on the same road as this morning to CP20.
For some strange reason, CP20 is tricky for us. We canvass the area and are not finding the reentrant we want. As we are searching, the Silent Chasers live up to their name and show up like AR ninjas right behind us. I keep an eye on them as they proceed to march straight into the CP. Phil tips me off that they've indeed found it and I call over to Jeff and David. We punch CP20, and now we are chasing the Silent
We run back to Camp Pyoca, certain that the Silent Chasers now have a healthy lead, and for that matter Rev3/MK might be ahead of us too. We get our passport punched at the scoring table and they tell us we're in first. WHAT??! Crazy, but also incredibly motivating this far into the race. We get our next set of bike UTMs and instructions, and now it's time for ropes!
ROPES 1 (CP10)
There is some confusion amongst the race and camp staff about whether or not the ropes course is open. We explain our situation, and after some debate, we finally determine that the course IS OPEN, and we need to do that before hitting the next biking leg. We decide to plot the biking points we have, complete the TA, and then hit the ropes course on our way out onto BIKE 2. We fly through transition without seeing Silent Chasers or Rev3/MK. This is a good sign! As we ride over to the ropes, there isn't a staff member in sight. We have a slight panic attack that we got bad information earlier, so we start hollering "Hello? Hello? Anyone here?" Turns out the ropes course we are doing is hidden a little ways back in the forest, and the camp staff are indeed there eagerly awaiting our arrival. And best of all...no lines! Sweet! We throw on our safety gear (harnesses, helmets, lobster claws) and it takes me back to my days of working the high ropes course at TPOC - I love this stuff! David starts first with the 30' tubular cargo net climb, then me, then Jeff. I'm halfway up the net when I hear hollering from the camp staff - apparently David is taking a highly unconventional approach to the first element. It's hard to explain. I really wish I had pictures of this. You'll have to check back later, hopefully DINO posts them!!
David absolutely FLIES through each element, I think there are at least 10. He's through the final zipline before I'm even halfway done, and below us I see Silent Chasers and Rev3/MK have arrived. The race is ON! I get stuck on the swings element - I lose momentum in the middle and can't reach the next swing. Jeff has to swing over to me and give me a kick so I can grab it. Thanks, teammate! I finally make it through the course and we high-tail it out of there as it starts to rain, with 2nd and 3rd place breathing down our necks.
BIKE 2 (CPs 27-29, 22km)
|Entire BIKE 2 loop. We went clockwise.
TREK 2 (CPs 31-34, 7.5km redline, 9.5km our route)
|TREK 3, the final one! We DID NOT revisit CP25 here...went 34, 33, 32, 31.
|In transition before the final trek!
Fortunately, we discover an unmapped jeep trail following the ridgeline we need. It helps us make great time and keeps the nav simple now that the sun has set and we've switched on our headlamps. As we're jogging along the jeep trail, we see a set of headlamps up ahead. Could this be the Chasers or Rev3/MK?? We nervously approach them and it turns out to be Madcap Racing, a coed team who had massive bike mechanicals earlier today so they're on the trek for fun. So awesome! We chat with them for a little bit and learn that Ashley sang the National Anthem at LBL...this girl's got pipes! After exchanging nav tips and "good luck"s, we jog up the trail and straight into CP33. Despite our elevation, there's not much to see from Pinnacle since everything's dark. We set off in search of CP32 which turns out to be very tricky. We exceed our pace count but David's good nav sense keeps us going for a few extra meters, and suddenly, we are staring at the CP. Only one more CP left, it's really close to camp, we haven't seen any other teams, and we have plenty of time before the midnight final cutoff. Things are looking good.
The trekking to CP31 is tough. The area is full of undergrowth, thorns, and deadfall, and we are making extremely slow progress. It's hard to judge our progress on the map since the features in this area are all very small and similar. Eventually, we lose track of our spot on the map and hold a quick team conference to come up with a relocation plan.. Throughout this entire trek, we've been listening to the stock car races from nearby Brownstown Speedway (shown on the map as "County Fairgrounds"). As we study the map, we notice that the track is almost directly in line with CP31, so we decide to follow the sounds of the racecars through the woods until we hit either the lake or the road. We are all in agreement and not 500m after we start moving again, streetlights come into view and we are able to relocate ourselves definitively on the camp road (orange highlight in the picture). From there, it's a quick jog over to CP31's spur, but once we're there, we can't spot the CP. Madcap Racing (the team we met in the woods earlier) told us they got CP31, so we know it's here somewhere, but it's extremely nervewracking to search for it. Jeff suddenly starts sprinting away from me and David, hollering that he found it, but then stops when he thinks he just saw a weird leaf reflection (these things happen in the woods with bright headlamps). But just to be thorough, he scans the area a bit more and PING!!! CP31!!!!!! We are all very relieved and happy, it's just a short run back to the road and then into the finish line.
As we approach the scoring table, we spot Rev3/MK already inside, relaxing on folding chairs. Our stomachs flip over. Rev3/MK must have had a superb trek to overcome our time advantage, so we head inside to congratulate them. As we enter the doorway, we hear cheers and shouts instead. "Here come the winners!" says Brian the Race Director. What? We won? We find out Rev3/MK returned to TA without all of the final trekking CPs, so if our passport passes inspection, we've won. We wait a few tense minutes and are then, after 17 hours and 10 minutes of racing, are confirmed the winners of the 2013 MISSION 18hr Adventure Race. Huzzah!
POST-RACE (17:10 total time, 35 CPs - cleared the course)
We are really, really happy to come away with the win here at MISSION. We wait for Silent Chasers to come in and hear their struggle with the nighttime navigation. Phil and Kevin helped us SO MUCH on the course, it's heartbreaking to hear that the good karma they shared didn't come back to them at night. Rev3/MK also pushed the pace all day and it's fun to share stories with them. Best of all, Camp Pyoca has SHOWERS in the same building as the scoring table. And they are HOT. After cleaning up, all we have to do is go upstairs and the buffet line is full of my absolute favorite post-race food...BAKED POTATOES!!!!! I am in total heaven. We are able to catch up with our new friends from Dandies Vegan Marshmallows who won their division and were 5th overall. Awesome job guys!! I guess that me waking them up early didn't hurt one bit.
We are especially thrilled to win this race because it means Alpine Shop's ticket is punched to USARA Nationals in October. This is always a goal for the team and it's great to have accomplished it early in the season. Thanks again to the folks at Alpine Shop for their awesome sponsorship of the team - we couldn't do it without you! Thanks to Brian and his DINO staff for a fun and challenging race with plenty of variety - I've never scootered in an adventure race before and I'm sure the entire town of Brownstown is also thanking you for the spectacle. And thanks to Jeff and David for being the special teammates that they always are - helping me out with calories, towing, and entertainment all day long. Pin It