Friday, February 20, 2009

Follow the Bleater

So I'm way behind on posting up events. The Arrowhead post previous is complete. There will be another one reviewing what worked, what didn't, and what I'll do differently next year coming up.

Arrowhead was on Monday and Tuesday, Feb 2-3. I recovered on Wednesday, went to work Thursday and Friday till noon, and then met up with Deb Wood to head for the Bonk Hard Chill 12 hour adventure race that was on Saturday.

Adventure racing is completely new to me, sort of. It seems every ride I do ends up being an adventure race(breaking a frame in half 20 miles into the 60 mile Ouachita Challenge and tying it back together to finish, having a half dozen flats tires at 12miles of Hell and somehow having five random sized tubes in my pack but no patch kit, Having an equal number of flats and almost running out of patch glue at both the Dirty Kanza and Sylamos revenge and finishing, Breaking my bottom bracket in half halfway through the Porcupine Rim loop and riding the rest coaster bike style, fun with tubeless tires at -35deg F at Triple D, TransIowa in general, ect.) I've come to believe that I may be misusing my skillset, so I started seeking a race to test my theory and a partner to keep me from getting in too far over my head. All the beginner races and camps are all way off in April or May and that's just way too far out there, but I found this race down in the Ozarks. Trekking, paddling, and biking around Lake of the Ozarks in February. Heck it's gotta be a good ten degrees warmer down there right? Alright. I've never plotted a map, too antisocial for the boy scouts, so I better find someone with some experience there or I could be lost for days. The only person that I know that has done any adventure racing is Deb Wood, and she had expressed some interest in some of the other frigid and/or foolish things that I've been doing, maybe she'll be up for it. Turns out she's had her eye on this race for awhile, but never found anyone else willing and/or foolish enough to attempt it. Good deal, we've got a team!

The plan was hashed out to meet up for some training sometime before the event after New Years eve. I'd been busy since September trying to gear up for Arrowhead and somehow the team training just never happened, so I studied up on the UTM guidebook as much as I could and hoped for the best. The thought that it was three days after Arrowhead was maybe a little concerning, but I've pulled that sort of thing off before so I wasn't too worried. It's not like we were trying to win the thing, basically we were out to prove that we could both do this and learn for future events.

Friday came and Deb met me in Keokuk to reload the van and carpool down the rest of the way. She announced that she had poisoned herself and almost left her mountainbike behind to add some challenge to the event. Perfect. She had also recently spent a day walking in knee deep snow to properly adjust herself to the suffering mindset. We spent the drive catching up with goings ons and trying to recuperate from our respective tortures. Moods were generally positive, considering.

We made it to the race check in with a less than an hour to spare and headed for the gear check. After gearing up for Arrowhead, gearing up for this adventure race was a cakewalk, once again I was carrying way more than needed, except that I had forgotten my emergency blanket at home, doh! And we were informed that all the local stores had already sold out, as I was apparently not the first person to forget gear. Luckily Deb had loaded her emergency "everything I own" gear box in the van, and seconds later the issue was resolved. The race is called Bonk Hard Chill because it's in February and it's supposed to be cold, but it was 60 degrees outside, so we got to drop the mandatory heavy fleece jacket and gloves.

The race meeting felt strange as we were in a room full of athletes of which we knew not a one. After being part of the cycling community for a decade or so it's rare to go to a race without knowing someone. But this is a little different group. Maybe if I were more of a runner or paddle-er it would be different.
Thankfully maps and half of the coordinates were given out so we could plot them tonight. Neither of us are entirely confident in our navigation skills, but we double check each others work and work out a plan of attack. Race starts at 7am but we'll need to be up at 5am to get bikes dropped off at the checkpoint and get to the start on time.

Racing starts after the national anthem and the sun rises, then it's a mob of people running through the woods. My knees aren't too happy to be running quite yet, so we compromise with a brisk walk. The first few checkpoints really are more follow the leader than read the map, but soon enough people are of on different routes to the same locations. It seems you can run all you want but if you don't know where you're going or you end up sliding around at the bottom of a gully you're not going to beat anyone, so we take time to stay on route and read the terrain for easier routes to the checkpoints. Amazingly enough we do seem to be staying ahead of a few groups of runners.

All the checkpoints are found and we head off to the bikes. It's a short reunion, as we're only riding from the top or the hill down to the beach for the canoe section. I guess I should mention that I took my Pugsley as my race bike. It's really the only MTB I've got put together at the moment and I've really come to love the thing. Plus it'll float if it happens to fall out of the boat later during the crossing. I should also note that this race contains the biggest collection of vintage 90's MTBs I've ever seen, first edition Marzocchi forks, Girvin Proflexs, Softride MTBs, you name it. So we roll down to the canoes. Wow theres alot of folks out there already.
I should also mention I've never been in a canoe before. I've got plenty of time in kayaks, but thats different. Pretty hard to eskimo roll a canoe.

Anyways, we get out in the water, Deb's steering in back and I'm up front. It's a little tippy at first but soon enough we're moving. Slowly, but we're moving. It's kinda windy today, so we spend alot of time wondering if we're actually moving or not. That's the thing with canoes, the difference really isn't that much. Gives me a better appreciation for snowbike racing. At least when I'm walking next to my bike I can tell that I'm moving. The leaders are flying around using kayak paddles. Lesson learned. By the time we finish up the water checkpoints I'm starting to get the hang of the canoe paddling thing, but I can tell this is my biggest weakness. We are the second to last team back to shore.

Once we get to shore we have to load our bikes on the canoe and paddle about two miles over to the other shore. Now we have a tailwind, so no problem right? Turns out tailwinds are worse tha head winds. Every five or six strokes the boat gets blown sideways. There are already 8-10" swells in the water, being blown sideways in them gets to be a bit concerning a couple of times. My mindset is annoyed but I know that if you bang your head against a brick wall long enough, eventually it will fall down. Deb is a bit more than annoyed. It takes us 37minutes to go the 2miles to the other shore. I'm not sure I like canoes.

Finally the bike section, something we are somewhat accustomed to. We ride up the paved road and head for the first checkpoint. Ride, ride, ride. We find a volunteer and a bunch of bikes, but it's not the first checkpoint. Now we question our map reading skills, and roll on. Up and down a bunch of hills. Eventually we come to a T intersection. Crap. We missed the first checkpoint. Go back or skip it? Skip it. The bike section is all pavement and gravels. There are a few hills but for the most part it's pretty fast, so we have to stay alert not to miss checkpoints. You can tell that this group of athletes is primarily runners and paddlers as many of the gravel hills have footprints walking up them. At one point we are almost outrun by a beagle, but we nail all but one other checkpoint on the bike leg, and make decent time to the next trekking section.

In the middle of the bike section we recieved the second half of the checkpont coordinates and we spend some time plotting, checking, and routing the rest of our checkpoints. Theres a ton of checkpoints in the second treking section and we're running short on daylight when we arrive at it. We chose to just hit the close ones, which there is really only two of. The first checkpoint is no problem, but the second one is nowhere to be found. Dangit. Daylight's wasting and after the canoe crossing on the way over here we'd rather not have to tackle that in the dark, so we skip the rest and head back to the canoes.

Still alot of canoes on the shore, so there must be a bunch of people still out on the trekking section. The wind has died, the water is calm, and the sun is setting. A much nicer crossing on the way back. Not a curse word to be heard. Unload the bikes, cruise up the hill from the beach, and an easy cruise to the finish.

Food, awards, and damage accounts taken. We're not really all that tired, just out of time. Wasn't really too hard of an effort, but then again we weren't moving that fast either. We both learned that we can plot coordinates and read land features pretty well. I definitely have some paddling work to do and likely some run training to do.

The days following the event would reveal some tight muscles and unhappy joints from overdoing it between Arrowhead and Bonk Hard Chill. I've got a knee that's still not too happy. I think it was from jumping into riding platform pedals for two weeks and too much float. I need to simplify my race kit and work on cross training a bit more to prevent some of these funky aches. From what I'm seeing of these events, even though the specify that you need a MTB, you could darn near get by on a road bike. I'll prolly put together some sort of mutant road bike that looks like a mtb to lighten the load.

I've signed up for the High Profile adventure camp so I can hone my navigation skills and scare the crap out of myself with climbing. Hopefully I can do a couple more of these races this year. Maybe even try doing one quickly.

Many thanks to Deb for guiding me through this one and not throwing me out of the boat or anything. You know I've heard she's a violent person ;)


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