Wednesday, July 28, 2010

1Day Roanoke Adventure Race

If one of the races I have done describes all facets of Adventure Racing, this is it! Our team experienced the lowest low and the highest high in 24 hours. Nothing of this race could be described as easy and nothing was predictable, which made the race an interesting challenge.

The 1 day Odyssey Adventure Race started on Saturday, July 23rd at 12pm and went until Sunday 12pm. It was about 96 degrees at the start time, no question that the heat was a determining factor how well teams will do. 41 teams signed up for the race taking the challenge to survive heat, 100mi racing, and an elevation change of 25,000 feet.

After we got the maps at 8:30am on Saturday, we planned our race. The race looked like the following: 2 miles running prologue, 40 miles mountain biking, 27 mi trekking, 15 mi paddling, 19 mi biking, orienteering. The numbers are estimated because as I will describe later, we never made it to the paddling section! The race director gave us a cut-off time for the first mountain bike part. We had to be done with the first section at 2am; that meant 14 hours to bike 40 miles. We thought that was plenty of time to bike 40 miles. But we learnt soon enough that a lot of team struggled with that cut off.

Our team started with the prologue running the 2 miles and we finished as one of the first teams. We put our biking gear on and started our 40 mile bike leg around 12:30pm on Saturday. We estimated to be done in around six hours. As it turned out, it took us ten solid hours to complete 40 miles of biking.

The mountain bike section started with a half an hour steep climb up a mountain followed by a two hours not-so-steep uphill part. If I recall correctly, basically we climbed the entire time, I do not really remember downhill…maybe because they lasted only 30 seconds while the climbing part took us forever.

We made a very good time in the first three hours and were third or fourth place that time. Unfortunately, the heat cooked us and one of my teammates started cramping (quadriceps)…so badly that he couldn’t even do a pedal stroke anymore. That meant walking for him. Despite massage efforts and rest times, his leg did not cooperate. However, he kept a cool attitude and we kept on moving…though slow.

Realizing that we were losing a lot of time, we doubted we could finish the race. We felt the heat and our slow progress challenged our high spirits. The terrain was rough…jeep trails with very rocky parts that made it impossible to tow someone. Our goal was to finish the mountain bike part before dark. That didn’t happen. We made it to a check point that was located at a lookout. We reached the lookout right at sunset so we had a great view when the sun went down. However, that also meant that we had to keep going in the dark. After two hours riding in the dark we finally made it to the transition area…at 10pm after 10 hours ride and hike-a-bike.

Ahead of us were 20 miles of trekking. At the transition area, we changed into our trekking gear and got water from a creek. We all ate good portions of our food. I realized that I had too little food with me so I had to plan carefully how much I ate the next hours. We still had 14 hours left to race. We left in high spirits and were able to set a fast pace the first five miles. I was celebrating that we got one fourth of the trekking section done when our navigator recounted the miles on the map realizing that it was actually 27 miles instead of 20. This would take longer than we thought. Moreover, our pace slowed down because the paths were overgrown and we had to bushwhack.

The next checkpoint was six miles away. With an average speed of 2-3 mi/hr we would take at least 2-3 hours. I think it actually took us 4 or 5 hours because the navigation was tricky to get there. We did not see any team until we actually got close to the next check point. We were wondering what other teams were doing because it became obvious that the race course was way too long for 24 hours. We knew that we were in the front somewhere so we were wondering if other teams even made the 2am cutoff for the first bike section.

Having finally arrived at the checkpoint, our goal was to get to the next manned checkpoint as quick as possible so we can get out of the woods at 12pm. We knew we will never finish the trek section or any part after that. It was about 5am when we were heading about 2 miles to the next checkpoint which took us again longer than expected. The following checkpoint was not easy as well and the sun came up.

At about 7am we arrived at the last checkpoint before we saw volunteers who could transport us out of the woods. It took us another hour or so to find finally the volunteers in a driveway. I was anticipating a van transporting us to the finish line and real food waiting for us. However, the volunteers told us that the van will drive us to our bikes which we have to take for 19miles to the finish line. Ok, not really what I expected. We barely slept during the night. I fell asleep for two or three minutes when navigational choices were discussed but that was it.

One of the volunteers drove us to our bikes where we saw another team leaving the transition area. Being exhausted we did not try to speed up to catch them. We took our time to mentally prepare for another 19 miles. We left around 9:15am and had 2:45h to make 19 miles. No problem, one would think. Not if the first miles was basically bushwhacking through brushes….with bikes. This killed my mood.

However, after that arduous mile we could ride on a paved road. But it was 10:30am and we still had 14miles to go. We sped up and made good time. At the last mile, we suddenly saw the team which left the transition area when we arrived two hours ago. Both of us sped up the pace and raced to the finish line. After 23.5 hours racing basically a time trial pace was quite a challenge. We arrived about five seconds before the other team and thought we won.

What we completely forgot was that we could get points in the orienteering section because we still had 20 minutes left until the race would be done. So, we quickly plotted the points and left to do the orienteering. The other team seemed to do the same. After we found the first checkpoint we called it a race and headed back and we found the other team hanging out at the finish line never having left to orienteer. That meant we got more points than them.

Since no other team has arrived at the finish (out of 41 teams) we waited until 12pm with the hope no other team would arrive because that would mean we would win. At 12pm, sure of our victory we went to get food when another team pulled in. They were originally ahead of us during the trek part and apparently received time credit for being ahead of us, which we didn’t know. So they were declared as winners. After 40 minutes the team, which was ahead of everyone arrived. Despite their time credit they came in late and were disqualified.

We ended up being second place which is incredible considering what we went through. 12 hours before, we were considering pulling out of the race and now we got second. We were told that more than half of the field gave up in the first 12 hours and even more pulled out as time went on. I don’t know what happened to those who are still walking in the woods trying to find a manned checkpoint.

It was a tough race, mentally as well as physically but that is what adventure racing is about, you never know where you are until you finish.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Giro di Coppi Race Report 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010
Category 4, about 20 racers including four NCVC women: Patty, Sheila, Rebecca and I
Time: 1:10pm, 37 miles
Temperature: boiling

The Cat 4 Women race started at 1:10pm when it was 90+ degrees outside. 3 hilly laps without any flat parts IMHO were waiting for us. Each lap was about 12 miles long. The finish was on top of a two step climb.

Right after the start, I managed to stick with the front, usually 4th or 5th wheel. The race started with an easy to moderate pace, which was totally fine by me because I knew that the last lap will kick my butt either way. The entire time, our pace was quite comfortable; there were no attacks or major pace changes. Nevertheless, Patty and Rebecca did a great job to keep the pace high but noone wanted to test her limits against the heat and the hills. So we rode along for an hour or so without any newsworthy incidents.

I did not know that we dropped half of the field when I suddendly realized in the second lap that the motor kit drove behind me and I was the last rider. I quickly made my way to the front again because it did not feel quite right to be last. I was very happy to see all my teammates in the group.

The third lap was not that much different from the first and second lap except that we all now worked together by rotating in a pace line. I anticipated the uphill sprint to the finish would decide the winner of this race and I anticipated right. After another lap in the boiling heat, the end was near, just on a different horizontal level. To get ready for the sprint, I positioned myself as second wheel and waited until someone would start sprinting. The racer next to me started to push the pace around the 200m mark and I came around the first rider and was head to head with the girl who started to push the pace. We were both sitting and our wheels were parallel with each other.

It was a matter who could last longer and finally I was able to push harder. At that point I was ahead of everyone. Unfortunately, another rider came around me standing. She was much faster that I had no chance to get her. I was worried that when I stand up I would blow up so I stayed seated and hoped that noone else would pass me standing. Fortunately, no one passed me in the last meters and I took second. All NCVC women in this race placed top 10!

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900 mi drive, 20 mi hike, 77 mi road bike ride in 42 hours

As preparation for Untamed New England, a 3 day adventure race and qualifier for the Adventure Race World Championships, my teammates and I planned to drive up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire to train in the terrain, where the race will take place. The training involved 20mi hiking across the White Mountains with about 15,000ft of climbing. We planned on climbing eight peaks of the so-called Presidential Traverse. After this estimated 12 hours hike, we would jump on our road bikes and cover another 77mi hilly road. To make this possible, I sped up a car purchase on Thursday so I was able to drive up to Connecticut. I planned on leaving on Friday 6am to arrive at 1pm in Connecticut where my three teammates live.

The execution of the plan looked a little different since the NYC traffic delayed my arrival time by three hours. Having finally arrived in CT at 4pm, Ernie, Ben, Fritz and I drove with two cars up to the White Mountains, which took another four hours. At around 8pm we left one car at one side of the mountain range, where we would arrive after our hike. After another 50min drive to our starting point, we started our hike at 10pm. The first part of the hike involved climbing up 5,367 ft to Mt. Madison, followed by Mt. Adams (5,774 feet), Mt. Jefferson (5,712 ft), Mt. Washington (6,288 ft). We arrived at Mt. Washington at about 5am or 6am and enjoyed our breakfast (soaked wraps with unidentifiable stuff in it) on a small bench.

We definitely couldn’t complain about heat (Washington, DC had 100 degrees) because it was around 40 degrees up there. We were already behind schedule and I take full credit for this. I hardly would define the paths on this mountain range as trails but more like as clustered rock formation, which asks for sprained ankles. After ten falls I stopped counting and I again proved to myself that balance is not high on my skill set list. After Mt. Washington, we headed towards Mt. Monroe (5,372 ft) realizing that this hike endeavor would take longer than anticipated. On Mt. Eisenhower (4,780 ft) we unanimously agreed to head directly back to the lodge since the prospect of breakfast at the camp lodge was threatened. Breakfast closed at 10am and we had about 1.5 hours to make the cutoff. So we took the fastest way down the mountain.

Finally, at about 9:30am we arrived at the parking lot and made our way to breakfast. After having taken advantage of all-you-can-eat breakfast, we got ready for the 77mi road bike ride, which was known not to be flat. I was actually looking forward to the road ride because I would consider biking my strength in adventure racing. However, after 10 minutes into the ride, having not slept for 30 hours and being physically exhausted, I revised my feeling of enjoyment and decided that misery would describe the bike ride better. The road ride course was basically a square. The first 20mi was easy, primarily downhill, which we smoked in 20 minutes. The second section was the worst because it was mainly everything uphill, which we went downhill before.

Since I was mentally in a different world, I have no clue how long it took. The third section was rolling hills, which could be described as pleasant again…not sure though. I stuck to the wheel of my teammate and we made a good time. We made some stops on the way. I felt increasingly better because my legs actually started working again so the last 17mi were fun. We spent the last two hours of our ride in the rain but we finally made it back to the car at 4:30pm. After a dinner at a local restaurant, we drove back to CT….very sleepy. I volunteered to drive for an hour until I saw everything double. After 42 hours non-stop action, we finally arrived in CT. The training weekend served its purpose: We were able to train as a team at the race venue. I am excited for August 12th! Check out the race at
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