Greetings! I have a race report for you, except not written by me. This one's
penned typed by Mike aka "The Garrison" of WABAR fame, and I'm just double-posting it here for you, my lovely readers. We asked Mike to navigate for us (Team Alpine Shop) because David had a family reunion to attend that weekend and, despite the common misconception that we train 24hrs, we actually encouraged him to leave us because family is important!! So Mike wrote most of this, but I added some color commentary. Be warned, Mike got really wordy, so this is actually going to be a multi-parter. Yeah. For a 16 hour race.
Trek 1 – Don’t Try To Be Funny When You’re Clumsy
(CPs 1-7, 3.5k, 0:41) As with most AR’s the start was a mass start under the banner. This first leg was point to point, so everyone was heading the same direction, to the same control. That control was located about 300 meters downhill from the start. I was racing with people I knew, but as a (fil in) member of Alpine Shop for the first time.
Put all this together and what do you get? Mike running. Mike running fast(ish). Mike actually running at the front of a large pack of racers. Yeah, that was pretty fun.
HA! I get to take over the comments in red italics now! Hopefully I will be as witty as The Garrison was for the Cowboy Tough race report.
|Calm before the storm|
Fortunately despite my frenzied dash down hill the team managed to stay together and as we popped out on the gravel road on our way to CP2 we were jogging along with WEDALI/Bushwhacker (heretofore to be known as the WhackaDALIans).
These first few controls would surely not make or break the race but everyone is, as usual, pretty amped up while we roll along at our “EZ” pace. Mike and I have developed a joke about running. I think it happened in the woods at POCAR 2014, I was pretending to run slowly and he had a hard time keeping up with my “EZ” pace. So now whenever we are running fast we just say that is is EZ. NBD. Why are you breathing so hard? OK, Mike commenting on the commentary. I have two speeds basically. Crawl and sprint. Emily was getting snarky (I know, shocking) about her EZ pace at POCAR so I sprinted by her saying something along the lines of “how’s this for EZ?!?”. And then I kept it up just long enough to get her a little worried about how long we’d have to go at that pace. Now, dead sprint is “EZ”. We dive into the woods and snag CP2 with no issues. On our way down hill towards the ridge with CP3 I catch/stub my toe and almost face myself into a tree. Unfortunately this is pretty common for me, especially when running the maps.
On the way up the aforementioned ridge I slip on a rock and go down for real this time. Luckily, falling uphill is not all that painful so I shrug it off. Again, pretty normal for me. Plus, having your face buried in a piece of paper rather than watching where you are going is likely to cause some issues. (So, now that I’ve established myself as clumsy…)
We crest on the ridge at CP3 and head another 40m or so up to the punch. At this point we’re running close to the WhackaDALIans and Fusion/Kuat and one other team I think.
|Opening trek section|
I choose to take us along the ridge to the SE that will drop us almost due north from CP4. In hindsight I’m not sure I like this choice. There was no real distinct attack point there, so I should have probably just taken the beeline route. Wish I could think a map through while racing as well as I can 3 months later while sitting on the couch.
As we jog downhill, the terrain starts to get a little rocky and I’m pretty sure I yelled out to everyone to watch their step because, you know, one of THEM might fall and hurt themselves. I’m a very considerate teammate that way. We near the bottom and I check the map one more time to make sure I haven’t missed something before leading everyone uphill.
That’s when I spot it. A chair just sitting in the woods. Although not as humorous as a toilet, (You’d be surprised how often you come across a toilet just sitting there in the woods while racing in the Midwest. And the weird part is that it’s not always near any kind of civilization. I would love to hear the discussion that led up to one or more people lugging a porcelain potty out into the woods…) this is for sure a comedic opportunity that I can’t pass up.
|It was super easy to find a toilet in the woods pic.|
I’m ahead of everyone else, but I still don’t want to cost us any time, so I speed up (EZ-ily) to get to the chair for a good “photo” op (we have no camera, so there will be no actual photo). Buuut, instead I just catch my foot on a vine and do a full face plant on the rocky terrain that I had just warned everyone about.
Ouch. Like, big big ouch. Like, I’m pretty sure I just ended my race by doing something REALLY stupid and breaking my wrist ouch. Jeff asks if I’m OK. I unconvincingly say “yes?”.
Ahhh a dream come true. First race with a new team and I DNF the team by trying to be funny and falling on my face instead.
Fortunately as I stand and shake myself off I realize that I probably didn’t break my wrist, but just gave myself one heck of a bruise that I’ll no doubt be feeling tomorrow, (I actually wouldn’t, but that’s another story).
As Jeff catches up to check on him I hear him say “Hey, check it out. A chair.”
Yup. A chair.
Now that I’m bleeding, the racing can begin in earnest. (And this is why I love it when The Garrison writes race reports. They’re so stinkin funny!!) We grind our way up the hill to punch CP4 then turn to the SE to head for the road. Another team (Kuat I think) was there with us and headed due east downhill. I was worried about missing the road to the north and fighting unnecessarily through the weeds at the bottom of the hill, so I stuck to the SE route.
|One of many cool running pics, only one with all of us.|
Turns out there was a really nice N/S road at the bottom of the hill that the other team grabbed and took off on while we fought our way l to the corner of the main road. We lose sight of them here, but it’s early, so nothing to be too concerned about. (Still frustrating though. Stuff like that really erodes any feeling you have of being super clean on the nav.)
We run a little too far on the main road before I turn us across the big field to CP5 located in a silo. Literally IN the silo. Poor Jeff does a lap with the punch card before we think to look inside and spot the CP. But on the plus side, this allowed the race photographer to get plenty of shots of us looking confused. At least he made up for it by getting some really awesome pictures of us (and everyone else in the race) running across the big field in the misty morning.
|Watcha doin’ Jeff? Control’s right here!|
From the silo it’s a quick run down to the river and along the river for CP7. (This was originally a paddle CP, which had everyone a little perplexed as it involved us going for 2-300 meters the “wrong” way on the river to get the CP before continuing downstream to CP8. However, as we arrived at the actual put-in Gary advised us that it was now a trek CP. I never did ask why this was adamantly a paddle CP before the race but then got changed to a trek anyways. I can help you out here. The boat rental folks showed up quite late to the race, so Gary (the race director) made an on-the-spot change to allow the rental folks a bit more time to unload boats before racers started attacking them.
We make a respectable transition to the boats and are off.
Paddle 1 – A Brief Study In ROI (can you tell Mike is a CEO?)
(CP8, 6k, 1:13) I know at least three (possibly four?) teams are neck and neck at the front at this point. Pretty common result for the first hour of the race. So far so good.
|Nav for this section? Stay wet.|
Time for some insightful wisdom (that is neither all that insightful nor wise for anyone that actually knows anything about paddling). When a team is right in front of you in the boats, or right behind you for that matter, it’s really hard to resist paddling harder to catch (or stay away from) that other team. Thing is, the return on the investment of paddling harder, especially in a short race, is garbage. Sometimes it feels like you can put in 200% as much effort for about 1.68% improvement on your speed.
Then again, I’ve not always raced on the strongest paddling teams? I mean, we’re not bad, but compared to Canadians (who all seem to be frighteningly good at paddling), we’re average at best.
Anyways, we paddled to CP7. Sometimes a little harder, sometimes not so hard. In the end, we got there. Not much else to say. Jeff and I were in a different boat than Mike and David, and we thought we had an excellent paddle. Fusion/Kuat was in the lead and we felt that we gained a little bit of time on them, which is awesome because Fusion/Kuat are great paddlers. Of course, just as one of us mentioned that, we ran aground on a small sand bar and Jeff had to get out to push. Just another day racing with Alpine Shop!
Trek 2 – Time to SHINE*!
*Yes that’s an acronym, read on for the definition.
*Yes that’s an acronym, read on for the definition.
(CPs 9-24, 15k, 4:28) Now it was time for the first true nav/trek part of the race. When we inspected the maps the night before, the sequence of controls had seemed pretty obvious, it was just a matter of which direction we would attack them (clockwise vs. counter). Since we were the second team in behind Kuat, we quickly agreed that whichever direction they went, we would go the other. We felt reasonably confident that we would be strong on this section and didn’t want to get tangled up with another team.
|For real trek #1|
They chose counterclockwise so we took off to the north for CP18 to complete the loop clockwise. All in all things were going pretty well for us in here. The temps and humidity were rising, but we seemed to be keeping up a pretty good pace. Although not perfect, my nav and route choice were reasonably solid. I would say in the first 12 controls I didn’t have more then 15 minutes of total time loss due to little slips or overshots. In particular I remember Garrison successfully relocating on some pretty subtle terrain towards the northern end of this trek. He got a bit nervous, slowed up, then hopped over 1 small reentrant and BAM! There was the flag! This stuff is definitely not as easy as it looks and he was crushing it.
Not enough for us to be confident of coming out of this section with a lead by any means, but I hadn’t cost us the race.
Then came CP23 and with it my time to SHINE (Suck Hard IN Excess). At one point I would have sworn that this control was attached to the back of a wild hare that was just running all over that spur. It was that bad. I was sloppy with the first attack and the sight lines were not great. Not an uncommon mistake, even for an experienced navigator, but one that should be recovered from quickly and efficiently.
I did neither.
The safest bet would have been to head back north to the trail we attacked from originally and start over, but more carefully. Instead, we reset and re-attacked from the fence line to the south. THREE TIMES.
(I know that woods all start to look the same after a while but I swear that all the of those attacks felt like Groundhog Day moments.)
|What I’m pretty sure we did at 23|
We also tried attacking from (what I thought was) a small re-entrant to the west. All with no luck. (I should have been freaking out at this point. New guy on the team taking over for a trusted and highly accomplished friend/teammate/navigator in David Frei, and now I’m bumbling like mad through the woods. But, everyone kept their cool and helped me talk through the options. In the end I think it was Jeff or Emily that said “let’s try doing it this way”, and that ended up being the trick. The best (good teammates) and worst (SUCKING at nav) of AR all wrapped up in a nice little package.) Even when Mike started to get a little desperate, we all stuck together and kept trying different things. Jeff is probably one of the best “navigational consultants” around because he can always suggest a logical sequence of solutions, and doesn’t make you feel stupid in the process.
So it’s down to the wire and we do one last reset. (one last before having to move on the next control then decide whether or not to use THAT as our next reset point. A grim proposition at best.) All the way south back to the fence, then west and north up the huge re-entrant. Even though things don’t look right at the start we stick with it and sure enough, at the top of the small re-entrant (that we thought we had used 25 minutes prior, turns out we didn’t) we walk right to it.
At this point I’m struggling with overwhelming feelings of relief and anxiety. At least we found it, but the big question is how much time did it cost us?
The last two controls are easy and we make our way to the TA to get back in the boats. Which is where we discover that we’ve lost over an hour to the WhackaDALIans, and about 45 minutes to Kuat.
Ugh. I felt the same way too. Not upset with any of my teammates AT ALL...just fearful of the amount of pain we were about to put ourselves in chasing these two speedy teams, with no guarantee that we could ever catch them.