24 June 2014

Race Report: 2014 Goomna 6hr Urban Adventure Race

Last year, I raced Goomna 6hr Urban Adventure Race with Alpine Shop and we won. So I was more than happy to make a return trip back to Highland, IL for another go at this fun race. Mark from the Highland Parks & Rec department is the race director, and he does a great job at creating a unique race out of local terrain. The race is meant to be beginner-friendly and is famous for its special challenges - last year we had to do a bunch of CrossFit-type stuff (pull-ups, tire flips, etc) along with swimming and "slacklining" - so we were excited to hear what Mark had thought up this year. Well, Jeff and David were excited. These short races make me nervous because they HURT. And I would much rather go through all-day type hurt than sprinting-type hurt. If that makes sense. At all. I'm weird.
Before the pain. David, Jeff, me. Photo by Carrie Sona.
Anyway, drove over the Highland, IL on Saturday morning, piddled around like the piddling champions we are, and then got ready for the start at 0900. We had one 1:24k USGS map, and Mark had a master map showing 4 CPs which we copied onto our map. Our instructions were to bike to the (non-numbered) CPs in any order, and at each one we would get additional instructions/challenges. We had some speedy competition, too: Off the Front (2nd place last year), Team MTZ, and Michelob Ultra. Our strategy was to watch Team MTZ at the start, and then go the opposite direction as them. We line up, see Melisa, Todd, and Zdenek's bikes pointed east, so we point ours west and when Mark shouts "GO", we zoom off to our first CP.
RD Mark with a pre-race selfie!
I'm on the back of the Jeff and David train and almost immediately I'm hurting, in the redlining sort of way. Today is going to hurt for sure! We ride the paved roads into the town of Highland, cross the train tracks luckily without delay, and then go to where we think the CP is. It's marked close to a gymnastics gym where we had a CP last year, so we ride there, expecting a similar challenge. As we pull up to the gym building, we see Team MTZ approaching from the opposite direction. What?? This was not our plan! No time to contemplate, when we don't see any race staff I jump off my bike and try the gym door. Locked. What? We must be in the wrong place. David checks the map again and decides to backtrack a little west. We follow him and are soon seeing the neon green shirts of race staff in a city park. And there are a bunch of teams already there. Crap! We check in and get instructions to "run to Weinheimer Center". Um, where's that? Since we aren't local, the race volunteer hands us a map, we change shoes, and take off.

It's about a 1k run to Weinheimer Center and we hustle. Like almost sprinting. I see a team up ahead and so I watch their route, comparing it to what David is telling me, and we make great time despite running through an actual carnival! When we get to Weinheimer Center, it's pure chaos.
Weinheimer chaos! Photo by Lucy Wellen.
There are teams and basketballs everywhere. We check in with race staff and they try to explain the challenge over the noise - each team member must make 3 free-throws. For each miss, you have to do 5 sit-ups and 5 push-ups on the stage. It's all pretty much on the honor system because there are way more teams than volunteers. We get to work shooting baskets. Jeff makes his three almost immediately. I have a couple misses but get mine to drop as well. When I'm done, David still has to make one more, but Jeff coaches him and together we get out of there, but it seems like we are still behind a fair number of teams, including MTZ. We sprint back through the carnival and back to our bikes.
David dribbling, Jeff coaching, Greg from Off The Front doing penalty push-ups. Photo by Lucy Wellen.
It's back on the pain train for the sprint to our next CP in Merwin Park. We are able to pass Off the Front on the town roads, and exchange cheers. We roar into Merwin Park and check in with the race staff - this time we are instructed to run to a nearby playground. Again, we have no idea where this is, but the race staff gives us a map and we take off.

The map is sort of hard to read since the ink is really light-colored. There seems to be a shorter route to the special challenge, but we can't tell for sure, so we take a slightly longer route. Once we get to where the challenge is marked, we can't see anything so we run around for a while looking for race staff. Off The Front catches us and turns out we totally blew past the playground we needed a couple hundred meters back. Whoops! We turn around, run back, and are instructed to do 45 pull-ups on the playground bars. My worst nightmare, I'm horrible at pull-ups! But thankfully Jeff and David are better so we each do as many as possible, I think I got 4 total with rest breaks in between. Once those are done, we run back to our bikes and get a split on MTZ - 9 minutes down! Yikes!

We do our best to cut into MTZ's lead on the bike north. Sprint!!!!!! The next checkpoint is at Highland Middle School where we drop our bikes and get instructions to run to the brand-new hospital across the street for further instructions.

Once we get to the hospital, we get instructions on a multi-part relay that we have to do. For the first leg, Jeff wheelchairs across the parking lot while I do burpees and David holds a plank.
Hospital Relay Leg 1, 1 teammate wheelchaired, 1 teammate burpeed, 1 teammate planked.
For the second leg, David and I sprint down to Jeff, I get on a stretcher, and the boys carry me further down the parking lot.
Hospital Relay Leg 2, carry 1 teammate on a stretcher
Then we carry slosh pipes across a balance beam, and are presented with a word puzzle. We have seven cans, each with a letter on them, and we have to spell a word out of them and stack vertically. We all look at the letters, and after a few seconds I blurt out "RESERVE" and we stack it up. But the race staff says "Nope, that's not the word!". Ah! Panic! More looking at the letters, and, aha! We stack them again to spell "REVERSE" and the race staff finally approves. Then we are instructed to reverse the relay legs and do everything again. Cool! We race back through the challenges and then run back to our bikes.
Hospital Relay Leg 3, slosh pipe on balance beam
Hospital Relay Leg 4, word scramble. then we did reverse, doing legs 3-2-1 again.
We are still behind Team MTZ, and there might not be much race left! We sprint, again, the short distance to Silver Lake Park for our fourth CP. As we're riding in, we see MTZ running so we think the gap is somewhere around 5 minutes. Close! We arrive at the CP and race staff gives us instructions - run 0.4 miles on a 260-degree bearing for the special challenge. David takes an extra second to mark up our map, so we can take roads instead of staring at the compass for 0.4 miles. We take off in pursuit of MTZ.

The 0.4-ish miles passes quickly, and without seeing MTZ, but when we arrive at the challenge the race staff tells us we're in first. What? Where did MTZ go? No time to contemplate that, because we have to complete 60 box jumps as a team on abandoned concrete blocks. We rip through them without MTZ arriving and then take off back to our bikes. When we get there, the race staff confirms we're first back, and gives us directions to the second special challenge in Silver Lake Park. We sprint, ecstatic to be in the lead but knowing that MTZ is super strong so we can't waste any time.

We spot race staff for the second special challenge and hurriedly drop out bikes. They tell us that we have to catch a fish in order to get credit for this. What? A FISH?!?! I moan out loud that this could take ages! But there are two kids helping out at the CP and their enthusiasm cheers me up. They show us the fishing poles already with worms on them, so we all grab one and cast into the lake. Not 5 seconds later, David shouts "I've got one!" and sure enough, pulls a squirming bluegill out of the lake. Awesome! Any doubts I had about adventure angling are erased as we run back to our bikes for the next set of instructions.
David caught a fish! Photo by Carrie Sona.
Race staff tells us our next task is to run 0.6mi on a 0.5-degree bearing, punch our passport, and run back. Again, David takes an extra second to mark up our map and we take off. Carrie is on her bike so she follows us with cheering and encouragement. We run north and find a trail in the direction we want to go, sweet! We just run the trail until David tells Jeff "the CP should be just around this bend", which it is, so he punches our passport and then we run the same route back. On the way back, we see MTZ running out so we know for sure that we're in first, but not by much. Exciting!
David leading the charge! Photo by Carrie Sona.
Running! Photo by Carrie Sona
BIKE TO RACE HQ - 2.2 miles
Having completed special challenges at all four CPs, we jump back on our bikes for the return trip to Race HQ at Korte Rec Center. Once we get there, Mark has another map showing 3 more CPs. David and I mark up our map for the final bike leg while Jeff gets everyone cold sodas out of the cooler. Yum! There are a couple off-limits roads to avoid, so we quickly plan a route and then hustle without seeing MTZ come in. Sweet!
Plotting the last 3 biking CPs
FINAL BIKE - 20 miles
From here, it's basically a long road ride on flat Illinois country roads, some gravel but mostly paved. We execute this in classic Alpine Shop style - lots of towing, lots of chatting, lots of working hard. David keeps the nav clean, Jeff punches with panache, and I keep looking over my shoulder for MTZ. We all keep fueling and hydrating too, just in case things come down to a last-minute sprint, or there are more instructions when we get back to Race HQ. But we are able to keep our lead, and roll into the finish line after 3 hours and 20-some minutes of racing as Goomna 2014 winners!
We only wait a few minutes for MTZ to roll in. They ran a great race and really pushed the pace. Kudos! Turns out they had trouble with the 260-degree bearing in Silver Lake Park, which was where we passed them. We all chat about the day as other teams roll in. As usual, the post-race food is amazing, and it's also super nice to have showers on site.

As we were loading the cars up to return to St. Louis, another competitor asked us about other adventure races in the area. Awesome! It's also a dangerous question because Jeff, David, and I love to talk adventure racing and will yammer on for hours if you let us. So, Goomna competitors, feel free to check out my Schedule page for a list of races I've done. There are a bunch within driving distance, and many of the longer (i.e. 24-hour) races have a shorter (i.e. 12-hour) companion race running simultaneously that you can try out. Also let me know if anyone has any questions about getting into adventure racing, I'd love to answer them! Just leave a comment below.

my Strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/153638149
Race photos by Lucy Wellen https://www.facebook.com/lucy.wellen/media_set?set=a.10152072186660951.1073742010.719750950&type=1
Race photos https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.797019773652093.1073741830.511145188906221&type=1
SuperKate http://kate-my-mind.blogspot.com/2014/06/goomna-guest-race-report.html

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