United States Adventure Racing Championships
This past Weekend Mari Chandler, Matt Hayes and I went out to Missiouri to bring back the trophy to the pacific northwest. We gave it our best and came close to pulling it off. but in the last few hours of the race a key navigation error cost us first and second place.
I wasn't sure what to expect. I have raced large races before like PQ but these usually have the best in the world because of the huge prize money. This race had a large field of 80 three person coed teams. Some I knew were good most were unknown to me. since this race is so late in the year, it is hard to be in peak condition for it. At the end of
September, I was completely burned out. October would not be a month to inprove my fitness, I would need to just not lose it. This together with some weight gain had me worried that if a top team showed up in there best condition, I might have a real dissapointing race.
I surrounded myself with a great team. Matt is unbelievable on the bike and Mari is a driver on foot. And these are just their strengths. Their weaknesses are better than most other teams strengths. I have raced with both of these mates before but this was the first time that we all raced together. knowing both of them, I knew that there wouldn't be any problems (either physical of personnal).
We flew into clear cold blue sky Missiouri on Thursday. The race was organized by Jason Eberhart and his Wife Laura of Bonk Hard Racing. They put on the Might Mo last year. This guy puts on a great race. Well organized, great volunteers and a good course design with no control placement problems. I wanted to do this race because i knew it would be well done and we would be able to go up against some of the best amatuers in the nation. It is easy to think you are real good when you just stay in the PNW and never face off against new teams. So we were off to terst our metal.
Thursday we checked in, assembled our bikes, went to the prerace meeting, and had a great dinner. Maps were to be handed out at 5 AM so there was really nothing to but socialize. I tried to talk to as many teams as possible. I wanted to catch up with some old friends from ATP, EMS and other teams. I also wanted to meet new teams who i am sure have heard of DART before and now could see who we are. I tried to do what Cyril would want and made the team wear their jersies and be nice.
So after a long night of sleep we got our maps. A short paddle on the lake, short o course, bike, run, paddle, run, bike. 18 hours, 25 controls (plus 10 O controls) and no bins for gear. Everything you needed you carried with you from the start. I was tempted to go light but I remembered that RVG packed well at the 4th DAR race so we all used the ISO and didn't skimp. It was cold out there and it was going to be cold and wet the next night. I was glad I brought my Arc Teryx set up. I wore my full kit and in my drybag I put an extra pare of gloves, my Tau, and Alpha SL. The SL may have been overkill because no rain was expected but I knew the when we got out of the boat, we would all be cold and wet and this is a great all around jacket that serves me well as a heavy windbreaker.
The start had us running. Matt and I to the boat and mari up a road to get the o course control card. We got to the bopat and I raced around and just yanked one into the water. I think that I shocked everyone with my unglamourous yank into the water. And we were off. Matt and I have been OC paddling for the past month to get ready for this race so once on the water we just rocked the place. It was dam cold and foggy. By the time we got to the end on the lake to meet Mari, the boat and paddles were covered in ice and we couldn't move our fingers. We attempted to put Mari's seat into the boat but our hands were like clubs. These boat were wider than the ones we had been training one and it requires some adjustment that we just couldn't do. Finally we got it loosened up. Thank goodness I had reiforced the seat with two quick relase buckles otherwise we would have been dead last. RVG you are going to really like the new setup.
Once we were all in the boat, we were in the middle of the pack and only a short paddle to the next CP. This means that if we arrive to the cp in the middle of the pack, we would be waiting in line to punch the control. We all knew this and we dug deep and hammered. Matt is a real easy going quiet type. Since he was in the back, be was supposed to call the switches with a loud "HUT". This is ment to keep us together but I like the intimidation factor of closing and dropping other teams to the steady cadence of HUT. But because to boat was shorter and wider that we trained in, it was even more difficult to keep straight so matt was back and forth and Mari and I were opposite and in sinc. so not hearing the cadence i took over to keep Mari and I together while Matt paddle on whichever side was needed to keep it straight. And the paddling practise paid off. We were passing team like they weren't moving. We finshed this three mile paddle in about 5th place and we were off on the O course.
We could get the controls in any order and we went off in a clockwise direction. in hindsite, counterclockwise would have saved us about 500 meters running. I hit all the controls but one. I went up the wrong rentrant and it cost us about 10 minutes. We say Mike Binton Taking pics along the way. It was great to see him. we finished about 7th with golite and we were off on our bikes with a fast TA in 5th.
The biking was great fun. There were great trails in open hardwood forests. Lots of small ridges and hollows. Lots of small but continuous ups and downs. We reelled in our first teams at the second control. We had caught EMS and Springfield bikes and proceeded to drop them. now we are talking. This is where we should be. there was some funky control were they sent us to another control. When we got close MOAT caught us. They were in the lead but made a bad turn. right on now were are in 1st time to put on some distance. NOT...we made our first couple of nav errors that cost us no more the 15 minutes and were were quickly put be in 8th. OUCH. Hammer time. All great trails fully ridable and nice technical swoops and we just worked it. We came into the next TA tied for second with EMS, ATP, etc and left on foot.
This spot and trail section was part of the mighty mo race and I recognized it. We needed to run down a road and get on a the Ozark Trail. As we were going down, I was getting my maps and crap together so the other three or four team were 100 meter ahead of us and they blew right past the trail. I quietly said to my mates, we are taking a hard left up here and hitting it hard and quiet. Back in second and feeling great. We nail the next three controls and arrive at the boats to find ourselves in first place.
We were warned that there was going to be alot of hike a boat because if the low water. We had 20 minutes on MOAT when we started but our lack of coordination allowed them to caught us after 2 hours on the water. As they went by we watched as they were able to get over logs and shallows were we had to get out of our boats. Finally the water was deeper with more paddling and less dragging and we would catch up while paddling and drop behind over obsticles. It was very frustrating but we finished together. It was just getting dark and it was cold. I broke out the Arc Teryx and was thankful I brought it along.
We had about 10 miles and 6 controls of this trek back to our bikes. We nailed the first 3 but I chose a longer route on road and MOAT went straight up a creek bed to the fourth. In Washington, travelling in a creek is never advised but in open hardwood forest, it is fine and we were now back in second but strong. It was shaping up to be a mountain bike race until we got to the last control. EMS had also caught up and now the three of us were looking for this last trek control. However, I made a significant nav errorand our race was over. We were no an hour behind and there was only a two hour mountain bike back to the finsh. The nav wasn't real difficult on this section so there wasn't any chance of closing the gap.
The team was clearly deflated. We had the ablitiy to win this race. We were just as strong but I couldn't close the deal. After the race, Robin Benecassa said she was hiding at the control in the dark as we passed within 50 meters. I will bring the trophy home to the PNW next year.
I want to thank our many sponsors that made this all possible.
Hammer nutrition fed me with perpetum and tropical gel and kept me strong with race caps, mito caps, and anti fatigue caps.
My Gregory ISO pack fit great and held all my gear
My Montrail Hardrocks were a perfect fit for this race's conditions
Arc Teryx kept my warm and dry throughout
Michelin Dual compound AT tires provided unmatched grip and no flats while other teams had multiple flats