I've raced with Erl a few times before, and each experience is a highlight of my short AR career. There are very few people who know how to support and foster teamwork the way Erl does, and I was so excited for Jeff and David to get to experience that. We've been able to hang out a bunch this fall in conjunction with other races (Berryman and Perfect 10) and each time I've gained more and more appreciation for Erl's experience and perspective on adventure racing. So, basically, I was super excited to see him again!
Erl rolled in to the Alpine Shop around 4pm just as the place was starting to bustle with friends and family and adventure racers. We got all checked in with Bonk Hard and then picked up my traditional pre-race meal of Dewey's pizza before heading to David's workshop to prep maps. However, we didn't have any CPs to plot and only information on the first 2ish hours of the race. The biggest decision we had to make was which shoes to wear for the start...trekking or biking? Trekking shoes would be faster on the opening 2mi run, but would take longer to change after the paddle. Biking shoes would be a bit slower at first but then faster in TA. We hemmed and hawed and eventually (much to my relief) decided on trekking shoes. Then we ate a ton of pizza (seriously...the four of us polished off two 17" pies) and toured David's shop.
Then Erl and I went back to my apartment and piddled with gears, a classic Alpine Shop habit. I took some time to look at the race area on Google maps and noticed there were two parks on the south side of the Meramec River (West Tyson and South Castlewood) that had orienteering maps. I guessed that maybe we would be given a surprise map sometime early in the race, and texted Jeff and David to let them know. Thankfully, we had already planned to wear trekking shoes so it wouldn't be a big deal either way.
|Jeff, Erl and I at the bike drop on race morning. Photo by Stacey Hagen.|
TREK 1, 2mi, CP 1-3, 0:15
|Team Alpine Shop among the top 5 teams at the start! Photo by Mary Welter.|
|Jeff, Erl, and not-a-serial-killer David running to CP3 with Nathan from Toporadicals. I'm just out of the picture. Photo b y Patrick & Donovan Feder.|
PADDLE 1, 4.2mi, CP 4-5
|At the put-in. Steamy. Photo by Patrick and Donovan Feder.|
TREK 2, 2mi, CP 38-42
|This is the map we were handed at CP3. I added the orange arrows showing our route. Also ignore the red scribbles, that was from later in the race.|
|Our friends on Team Virtus running through the field on Trek 2. Photo by Bob "Lifeskillz" Jenkins.|
|Jeff and I finishing out the paddling section. Photo by Patrick and Donovan Feder.|
|At the take-out, with AMTZ hot on our sterns. Photo by Stacy Hagen.|
|Getting ready to start riding, I'm helping Erl put on his glove. Photo by Donovan and Patric Feder.|
As we approach the shelter, we spot AMTZ already there, so we know we're a few minutes down in second place. We punch CP14 and the volunteer hands us a map with instructions for 8 trekking CPs, 3 of which we have to plot ourselves. This isn't a big deal, until David digs around in his pack for our plotter and discovers it fell out at the gear check! We allow ourselves about 5 seconds of panic, and then Jeff tells me to make a plotter out of paper like we did at the Berryman 16hr. I rip off a piece of the map and use the printed scale to make a rudimentary plotter. David calls UTM coordinates and we slowly get the 3 CPs transferred onto the trekking map. I'm not even sure if they're right, but we have to leave NOW if we're going to have a chance of catching AMTZ.
TREK 3, 3.5mi, CP 15-22, 0:45
|The map for Trek 3. We ripped the bottom of the map off and used it to plot 17, 18, and 19.|
|Here is a different team crossing the creek at CP20. We had crossed earlier in a deeper section, and then crossed here as well. We were not this careful. Photo by Patrick and Donovan Feder.|
Back at the shelter, the volunteer hands us an entire packet of maps for the remainder of the race. It contants four 8.5x11 maps, double-sided, with 12 CPs scattered among them. It's really confusing to make sense of everything and plan a route to the finish line. David and I work together to get everything sorted, reading the clue sheet again and again to make sure we're doing everything according to the rules. Meanwhile, Erl and Jeff complete their TA and then help change David's and my shoes so we can leave faster. Finally, we think we've got it all figured out and hop on bikes, leaving in 1st place!
BIKE 2, 23mi, CP 23-34, 1:46
We know AMTZ is stacked with really strong bikers, so we organize into a towing paceline and hustle out of Castlewood State Park. The first three CPs (23-24-25) must be found in order, and David guides us smoothly to each one. Then we have a bit of a route choice, and, after further analyzing the map as we're riding, David decides to change his original plan and go 27-28-29-30-26, and then head into the west side of Castlewood for 31-32-33. We ride across Ridge Rd and descend down the paved Rock Hollow trail to CPs 28 and 29. On the way down, we actually see CP30 hanging in the woods, but race rules say we must bike to it (no bike-whacking allowed on this land) so we ride down to the Zombie trail head (CP29) and then take the singletrack uphill to the flag. This singletrack is newly-built by GORC and it's a really fun ride. We get the punch, ride the trail back down, and then take the Al Foster path to CP26 and continue into the west side of Castlewood.
The three controls on the west side of Castlewood are really fun. The singletrack is straightforward and fast, and we're all still feeling decent. David guides us smoothly to each CP and we're out of there in a flash. Once we're back on the Al Foster, we know we just have a mile to the CP34 and the finish line. Time to empty the tanks! The boys each take turns pulling while we absolutely fly down the path. Pretty soon, we spot the iconic orange and white Bonk Hard Racing inflatable arch signifying the finish line. We ease the pace just slightly to make sure everyone's together and cross the finish line with huge smiles.
|Big smiles at the finish line. Photo by Mary Welter.|
It is so great to see a huge field in an adventure race, and we enjoyed the intense competition from several speedy teams. Everyone was so positive and encouraging, even when we were trying to rip each others' legs off. That is the spirit of adventure racing! Something else pretty cool happened, a group of students from Mizzou was at the race, filming and photographing and later interviewing racers for an article on the sport. I'll post the link to that as soon as I have it, and hopefully we can draw even more athletes into our AR community! If you are a beginner racer and have questions, please use the Contact button at the top of the page to get in touch with me. I love talking to new racers!
Official results/splits: http://bonkhardracing.com/castlewood-8-hr/castlewood-8-hr-results.php
Ludicrous Speed gps track: http://www.strava.com/activities/219665728
Toporadicals gps track: http://www.strava.com/activities/219662739
Team Fusion/Kuat gps track: http://www.strava.com/activities/219958260