19 August 2016

Summit Adventure Racing/Team Commie at the Krista Griesacker 12hour Adventure Race

Race Report
Krista Griesacker 12hour Adventure Race
Team Captain:  Dan "Bait" Schaefer

Team Beast:  Chris Farrell

Team Mule:  DJ Angelone

Heat, Hydration and Humbling—these best describe the challenges of the Krista Griesacker Adventure Race. Leading up to the race we received several e-mails from the Rd that warned us that things will not go as planned and that we should expect the unexpected. We arrived at the Civil Air Patrol training site—which accommodated DJ’s awesome camper—and received a pre-race briefing that basically gave us no information. 

The race would begin 15 minutes after reveille was played in the morning, and we could expect to hear reveille sometime between 0400-0700. They provided no information on what to expect other than to be ready for anything. One of our biggest concerns was a note in an e-mail that said boats “may or may not” be available. Generally in adventure racing we run/trek, mountain bike and canoe/kayak/raft. Recently there’s been a trend to include swimming so we assumed that’s what we’d be dealing with in this race. 

We racked our brains trying to decide if we should buy rafts or inner tubes or what but ended up deciding to wing it and see how things played out. We packed our gear into our packs (food, headlamps, climbing harnesses, water filter) and filled the two 25ozwater bottles that we were allowed to carry. That’s right, hydration bladders (a staple in AR) were forbidden. Each of us was only allowed to carry a total of 50 oz. of water at any time. Made things interesting because there are no water stops on an AR course. 

After stopping at Wendy’s for our traditional baconator pre-race meal, we went to sleep in our race gear—the camper was comfortable and I was out like a light (especially after sleeping in a tent all week at scout camp!).  Dj and chris were not so lucky given that most of camp seemed to be awake at 230 and frequently shining flashlights into the camper waking them up.

At 0415 reveille sounded. We jumped out of bed, ate a quick breakfast and, headed out. The prologue divided the team into two elements. I would ride mountain bike time trial on a 5 mile road course while DJ and Chris had to find three foot check points. What they didn’t tell us was that once DJ and Chris found their points they would be ‘captured ‘and that after the bike I would have to find and ‘rescue’ them. I enjoyed the bike section and finished in about 16 mins. After that I went looking for DJ and Chris. I found Chris first and together we found DJ. Both footpoints required a bushwhack using an unremarkable map in the dark and it was a taste of fun to come….

After the prologue we finally received our race map and coordinates for the first checkpoint, it was the namesake of the town of Deer Lake, PA. Along the way we had to ride up and over Hawk Mountain—we neared 45 mph on the way down but the climb up was brutal. The ride was all on road and when we arrived at the CP we learned one teammate would have to swim to the middle of the lake, retrieve a coconut, open it and we had to drink the coconut milk and eat the meat. Chris and DJ did an even/odd thing to see who would swim across the duck pond while I refilled our water. Chris “won” and retrieved the coconut. 

It was a nice treat and after we completed the challenge, we received our next set of coordinates and headed towards the Port Clinton Gap. This is where the Schuykill River cuts a gap in the Blue Mountain and is about1500 feet on either side. Our next Paws at the bottom and once there we dropped the bikes and headed up to the top of the west side of the gap on foot. The mountain here is basically a pile of microwave size rocks covered in brambles and as Chris would say “sticka bushes”. We shed a lot of blood getting to the top and DJ was almost attacked by a black snake. The temperature and humidity were rising as we climbed up to the top but we found the next CP without a problem. Unfortunately, things would start going sideways after this one. 

The high temp for the day was 91 and the humidity was94%. We were only allowed to carry 50 ounces of water and there were no water sources on top of the mountain (there was beautiful river at the bottom but there was no way we were going back down just for water). Being slightly dehydrated at this point I started getting some bad cramps in my hamstrings. We all downed a couple salt-sticks and that helped for a while. Our next point was about a third of the way down the mountain but we had a lot of trouble finding it. After about 90 minutes we finally did but only after we climbed up and down and sideways and up and down and back to the top to start over. We were relieved to find the CP and found that it was the first of 2 rappelling sites. We rappelled down a 40 foot cliff under the expert supervision of the CAP search and rescue crew.  I love doing this stuff! Once down we headed downhill little further for a much higher rappel. 

Chris's form was apparently a little off as noted by the volunteer ("butt down") although between us, he may have trying his best "spider man" impression.  After that it was back to the river. We were overheated and thirsty—fortunately there was a diner on the other side of the river so we waded across with our bikes and got a cold drink. I think Chris drank 8 large Pepsi’s. DJ and I downed leftover cheeseburgers and some lemonade we found in a cooler outside. I think we may have downed close to 100oz in just a few minutes.  Feeling better we started up the other side of the Gap on our bikes. The climb was over three miles and we were pretty spent. The heat was oppressive and we felt like we were melting…. At the top we met with the RD and he gave us a couple beers. I was in heaven and started getting a little giddy. 

Unfortunately, the beer came with a downside and we found out that they were short coursing us.  We were told to skip a foot orienteering course and continue on the mountain bikes. There were trails all over the place, but none were marked on the map. This proved to be a challenge and my giddiness took us off course on along descent that was fun to ride, but we cursed as we pushed our bikes back up as it was the wrong trail. We fumbled around and eventually found the next point and thought we found a shortcut to the next one. OF course, this shortcut led us way past the CP and we were starting to fall apart. It was hot, we were frustrated by the nav errors and we contemplated just calling it a day. But that’s not the Commie Killer way and we kept trying to get to the next CP. Eventually, we ran into the RD who was cleaning and was stuffing the CP in his pack when we found him.  

We punched and then rode out of the woods. We were smoked and had hoped to find a shortcut back to the CAP base but in the end we had to ride up and over Hawk Mountain again. It was a great moment when all three of us pedaled to the top and then bombed down a 3 mile descent at over 40mph!  We arrived at the finish line after 14 hrs. 30 mins of racing….bloody, thirsty and exhausted. We figured we were in last place so we cracked a beer and tried to wrap our heads around what happened during the race. While we were doing so we were called up by the race organizers and found that we had placed 2nd in our division!! Through a technicality, we were only one of two teams to make it back to the CAP base without needing a ride! We certainly learned a lot about ourselves and our team dynamic that day and we’re all looking forward to Nationals! 

24 July 2016

Summit Adventure Racing/Team Commie Bar finishes Adventure Racing World Series Cameo Cowboy Tough

Commie Bar successfully completed the ARWS Cowboy Tough on a hot, windy, and looong course from Caspar, WY down the North Platte river and back through the Medicine Bow range in 3 days, 4 hours and 46 minutes.  In an extremely competitive field the team placed 1st in their division (4-person male) and 22nd overall of 36 teams.

The route Commie Bar took started on Day 1 with a 30 mile road bike ride to the North Platte river.  In our planning we thought we'd go fast on this, but had no idea how fast!  The leaders took off at a blistering pace and Commie Bar hung in there travelling around 20 mph for a good chunk of the ride.  A 75 mile paddle on the North Platte river and Glendo reservoir was waiting -- and it was everything and more (much more) of a grueling experience. The river was running well and we averaged about 7 mph on the river portion - about 60 miles.  Along the way we got out twice for some foot challenges that included hauling buckets of water up a hill, and stopping in Douglas, WY to get a few foot-O points.  One of which was a shot of Wyoming whiskey at the College Inn (a historic bar).  Just before the reservoir there was another foot-O course and we got out and nailed all 5 points, then settled in for what we thought would be a 15 mile flat water paddle on a clear moon-lit night into the TA. In our hubris we even considered digging out some speakers and playing tunes from the iPod to accompany the team -- but the mix of rock and punk would have soon been be out of place and in need of a switch to Wagner's Flight of the Valkyries (Apocalypse Now reference ...).  This was one hell of a crossing ...

At about midnight we noticed the wind was picking up and some ripples were forming in the water.  We were within maybe 5 miles of the TA.  Another 30 minutes and the ripples had become waves, but the canoes were handling it and we were making progress -- we were on azimuth for the final stretch and in daylight we would have been able to see it, but the reservoir became much wider at this point and the waves really struck.  3-4 foot with a strong headwind meant it took all we had to just keep the boats in the same place and upright.  After what may have been 2 hours of struggle without the ability to eat or drink as we had to keep paddling, we headed to the nearest shoreline.  This turned out to be a 'sunken forest' of trees submerged by the high-water, so not ideal, but gave us some time to eat, drink, rest and prepare for another push to shore.  Fortunately a beach campground was within a short paddle beyond and with great relief we made dry land, pulled up the boats, changed into some dry-er clothes, and debated next steps. After a fruitless search for a road to get us to the TA, we resolved to wait out the wind and make another attempt at the crossing in the morning.  Maybe 30 minutes of rest and then we were back in the boats at 5:30am.  This time there was still wind and waves but we managed to push across the final stretch to the take-out.  Day 2 begins ...

The TA offered some options -- had we been able to make the Glendo crossing unmolested we would have had time for an optional Bike-O course and another 25 mile paddle - but we had lost too much time and energy on the crossing and opted for a 35 mile direct route (but still on full course) by bike to the next TA.  This took us across the flats of WY from the reservoir to the Eastern edge of the Medicine Bow Mountains National Forest. Here we switched to the only real trek of the trip -- a 13 miler along a gnarly river bed thick with undergrowth.  After a false start on the trek the team headed on target to the next TA.  It was a tough slog and in the end no one wanted to ever see the South Roaring Fork river (creek really) again, but we made it into the TA about 1 am, got 90 minutes of 'sleep' (if you can call a cold windy place on the ground with a space blanket 'sleeping') and hit the next section (a 40 mile bike) while still dark.  Day 3 begins ...

The bike was pretty fast along hard-packed dirt roads in the open range of WY.  Along the way we saw some wildlife and lot's and lot's of cattle, and then suddenly an ATV appeared with a woman flagging us down frantically.  It seems we were headed right into a real-life cowboy's-on-horseback round-up!  She told us to hop the fence immediately and settle down for awhile as their ranch was bringing in their stock for branding.  Within 10 minutes hundreds of cattle came storming down the road and we sat by and got a true taste of WY ranch life as about 10 cowboys whooped and rode around the rowdy herd and corralled them on by us.  A truly unique experience anywhere - much less for an Adventure Race!  Getting back on the road the team sped through the miles of road covered in what cattle do when they are scared and with slightly soiled bikes, clothes and grins we pulled into the next TA for another foot-O section with a ropes course.  It was full daylight now and very hot and windy - the hottest and windiest day so far.  The team found the ropes area right away and each member did a 140 foot ascension on 70-80 percent grade cliff faces, then rappelled down.

From there we picked up one optional foot-O point up a high draw and moved back to the TA.  By now it was 3 pm, burning hot and windy, windy, windy and we were looking at a long 45 mile bike across open range and then through the western portion of the Medicine Bows.  We decided to wait out the sun and wind and start the ride at 6 pm.  We watched as the other teams headed out on the ride while we rested.  Turned out to be a good call, as the next bike ride was grueling up and down ride that took us 9 hours to complete even with slightly favorable weather conditions. We caught up with several teams and saw others camped out on the side of the road.  This section took several teams out of the race and left others drained - 11 teams did not fully complete this race.  We made it to the next TA at 1 am and after a very brief rest headed out on bike again for the second to last section of the race --- 45 miles for the start of Day 4 ...

This bike ride was surreal.  Pitch dark in the middle of the WY wastelands.  The monotony of the ride was literally putting the team to sleep on their bikes so we called a 30 minute safety stop and curled up peacefully on the side of the road nestled among the sage brush and rodents.  After that on again through the night to day-break where we came to the 'final' turn-off before the next TA.  This was the ride that wouldn't stop going uphill.  On Day 1 or 2 this would not be an issue, but by Day 4 this was a gut-tester.  The team made it with a lot of support for each other and got to the TA with 3 hours to make it to the finish line - a 15 mile bike ride with one more climb to the top of Caspar Mountain and then a screaming descent into the city.  We blew through the TA in record time, then saddle-sore and weary pushed up the hill and down to the finish!

Individual highlights:

Mark 'bull dog' Bolyard keeping everyone focused on getting the most points possible and guiding the team through the difficult trek along the Roaring Fork River.

Darren 'freight train' Steinbach hauling ass at every stage and actually riding faster towing than when on the bike alone!

Mike 'true grit' Flanery gutting it through the last two days with a pair of feet wracked with pain from a rash, but actually getting faster as the race went on in spite of it.

Jon 'white boy' Gamm stripping down to his jersey to escape the heat of the last day and push over the final climb to the finish.

This was a team of four people who had never raced together, with different ages, experience levels and personalities -- and they completed one of the toughest endurance events out there together.  A true testimony to individual character and determination.

10 July 2016

Team Commie Bar heads to Wyoming for Cowboy Tough World Series Expedition 3.5day Adventure Race.....

Summit Adventure Racing/Team Commie Bar toes line at the Cameco Cowboy Tough Expedition Race this 14-17 July in Casper, WY....

Proud to introduce the team that will be racing........

Summit Adventure Racing & Team Commie Bar is a nationally ranked adventure racing team based in Deep Creek Lake, MD in the epicenter of adventure sports.  The team competes in expedition and multi day adventure racing both in the U.S. and internationally in Europe, and is composed of athletes from MD, NY, CO, PA, MI, NC, SD, WA and France.  Team Commie Bar’s Cowboy Tough 2016 team is a four-person male from all over the US:  Mark Bolyard (NC), Darren Steinbach (WA), Mike Flanery (SD) and Jon Gamm (CO).   

Mark is an Adventure Racing veteran completing four 72-hour events and with several USARA Nationals appearances.  He is also an aspiring American Ninja Warrior with multiple obstacle course races under his belt.  

Mike is an outdoor enthusiast who took the AR plunge last year at RAID Gasp├ęsie and is back for more this year as part of Team Commie Bar.  Mike’s day job is instructing South Dakota National Guard Blackhawk helicopter pilots.  

Darren lives in his Sprinter van traveling around the country in search of climbs, whitewater, and events to test his mental and physical endurance. He is a strong runner, mountain biker, paddler, and climber, and has a positive attitude when things start fall apart... which is good, considering he likes to get lost too.  

Jon is team captain, and in addition to numerous Xterra and traditional long-distance triathlons he has completed Equinox 48, Sea-to-Sea 72, and RAID in France 90 hour ARs.  He is also team medic and morale officer with a ready supply of medicinal Grappa on hand at all times.  We are all new to Cowboy Tough, and looking forward to sharing a fantastic experience in the wilds of Wyoming!

27 June 2016

Garrett County Gran Fondo!!

Always fun to have a great training ride in your backyard with about 1000 other riders!!!
That's the Garrett County Gran Fondo!!

I had signed up for the 100 miler but because I was working with Race Across America the whole weekend I only had time to go out and knock off the metric century.  And not having the time is a big excuse because trying to do the full century with 12,700 feet of elevation gain would probably not have been in the cards.  That said the 8,400 feet on the metric was plenty.....  I felt pretty daggone good the entire ride even though I had only gotten about 1.25 hours of sleep the night prior because of the riders coming through Time Station 47.  The ride took me about 5hours and 20 minutes which was less than what I was forecasting.  So a pretty straight forward race/ride report.  See below for more on the action at Deep Creek Lake this weekend.

I live in the most beautiful place in the world for adventure sports.
This weekend alone we had Race Across America come through our town.  We hosted the Gran Fondo for 1000 cyclists and on Sunday we had the world's toughest 400 meter foot race up The Face at Wisp  Resort.

You can check out all our action and posts and pictures from RAAM by visiting our Facebook page at
Race Across America Time Station 47

Here's some shots from RAAM.

12 June 2016

Cradle of Liberty 14hour Adventure Race Report - Team Commie Bar

Team Commie Bar/Summit Adventure Racing
Race Report
Cradle of Liberty 12hour Adventure Race
Author:  Dan Bait/SWAT Schaefer.....

4 June Cradle of Liberty 14 hr Adventure Race 
bait (Sorry for the delay--been a busy week and every time I want to use the computer, someone was doing homework...)

Here Goes: Coming off a runner's high from the Dirty German 50K, I focused on getting in a few MTB rides before the Cradle of Liberty and it certainly paid off. This race was shrouded in mystery. We registered over a month ago but they didn't tell us the start location until about a week before we needed to be there. The roster for Team Commie Bar was me, DJ and Chris. The instructions were simple: Show up at 0500 with all the gear you'll need to run, mountain bike and canoe for 12 hours. 

At 0600 we boarded a school bus and headed out--still with no idea of where we were going! The RD told us that we would receive maps and instructions once the clock started. I really enjoyed the lack of info--that meant every team would start the race in the dark and would not have time to plan routes (generally we get our maps the night before so we have time to plan). An hour later we got off the bus in a park along the Lehigh River in Northampton, PA. The rules and maps were spread randomly on a baseball field and when the RD yelled GO! we had to find our and the race began. The first leg of the race was a prologue--we had to plot three points on the map using UTM coordinates. Usually this is simple but the grid for the first point was cut off and we made plotting this point a little tricky. We figured it out and next thing I know I'm swimming across the river. It was surprisingly deep, and cold, and swimming while wearing shoes really sucks...I got the first point and swam back to the team. 

Next DJ ran to a point that was downstream, but on land. Finally all three of us met at the final prologue point which was the beginning of the Canoe section. We appreciated the current and made fast work of the first 5 miles, grabbing two checkpoints along the way. Although parts of the Lehigh are designated as 'scenic' this section is decidedly not. We passed sewer plants, steel mills and old factories in Allentown. There must have been a hundred rusted out shopping carts along the entire section. We made good time on the paddle and worked well as a team--sometimes paddle sections can be really miserable but this time it was great. After 10 miles or so we hit the transition area and picked up our bikes.

 We dropped all of our paddle gear but were required to bring our PFD's. We rode through a section of town and then paralleled some railroad tracks. There was a little dispute among us and other teams about when and where we could cross the tracks--the rules were a little vague so we made the best call we could. After crossing the tracks we did a MTB section on some pretty decent trails. It was very humid so some of the rocks were super slippery so we rode conservatively. We worked our way up the side of the mountain to the very top and then bombed straight down to the next TA. One thing that was awesome about this race is that we all took turns navigating and everyone did well. At the bottom of the mountain we put the PFD's to use during the Swim section. In the middle of the river were a series of islands with checkpoints on them. We swam from one to the next and really had fun with this part. The water felt great and it's not often we swim this much in a race. At this point we'd hit nearly every point offered, expect for a couple we intentionally skipped as part of our strategy. We made our way back to the TA and spoke to the RD. He gave us a couple suggestions about upcoming points and sent us on our way. 

Back on the bikes sans PFD's was nice and we headed into town. First stop was 7-11 where we grabbed some water and a coke and a pretzel and some peanuts and I think someone even had ice cream--that's the fun of self-supported racing!! Too bad they don't sell single cans of beer in PA!! 

We headed out through town and even rode through a drainage tunnel under an interstate highway. At this point we'd been racing for about 6 hours and we were heading to another wildcard--the Hide and Seek section. In adventure racing usually all the checkpoints are on the map and you use your map and compass skills to collect them. Checkpoints are usually orange and white kite like flags that have a hole punch attached to them that you use to mark your passport. Well, the Hide and Seek section turned all that on its head! 

The first point was marked but from there on each point was just a compass heading and distance to the next. Amazingly we were only one of three teams to nail every point of this section!!! The points weren't far apart but the terrain was challenging--lots of rock piles and old mining holes and a couple of small cliffs. Really cool area. Next up was the final bike section. After a road ride through town we hit the trails. This part of the course was tough to plan because of the placement of the mandatory points. They were all in a corner and once we got there there was nothing close. We ended up dismounting from the bikes and running up the side of the mountain to grab our final point. We ran down, got on the bikes and headed back through town to get to the finish line. We finished with 10 minutes to spare!!! We were soaked and muddy but had a great race. This was definitely the most urban adventure race I've ever done and it was a blast! We came out in first place in the three man division and secured a spot for USARA Nationals! Lookout Roy--The Commies are coming to town!!! 

Blue Ridge Adventure Race - The challenges of Adventure Racing

Quick link to Val Hardin's recap of the Blue Ridge Adventure Race
Photos courtesy of Blue Ridge Adventure Racing and Florida Extreme.

From Val Hardin/Team Commie Bar
The day started out great, good weather, about 30 teams, and we were bused about 45 min to an unknown location.  Mark and I were racing as a C2.  We started out with a 15 mile run/trek up a mountain and then across a ridgeline where we ran over several peaks, then back down to cross a waist high river to a TA.  

We were with 4-5 other leading teams.  Next leg was mountain biking on mostly double track, up and around the mountains.  Again, staying with lead teams until the first of many challenges presented themselves.  About 8-9 hours in to race, Mark got a flat, his tire had a huge hole in it.  After that was fixed, his bike map carry case on the bike broke.  This could not be fixed.  We had to give up some CP's on this section.  We made our way to the next TA, where we got on the river....now a bit behind all leading teams.  It was about 7:30 pm when we started the paddle.  The river was very rocky and challenging in some spots.  We ran head on in to several large rocks, had to back paddle furiously to keep from going over a fall, navigate more white-water at night,  and ultimately lost a paddle which got sucked in whitewater.  Luckily, we only had about another 1/2 mile on river.

  We were happy to get off at about10:00.  Off on a trekking section, we did really well, and got to the next TA for more mountain biking.  Another challenge when Mark had a fall that seemed harmless, but it knocked his seat out of alignment.  When trying to knock it back in place, he knocked it right off the post.  He fixed it using those plastic tie downs.  Mark was definitely having a rough race, but kept positive and we just kept moving on.  The last section was a flat water paddle to an O-Course.  We were able to get a few more CP's then had to head back on a 7 mi bike to finish in time.  We ended up 7th out of 30 teams.  We thought we would place top 3, but were happy with our result after dealing with all our mishaps.  Mark did a great job navigating, and we were one of very few teams that did not get dunked in the river.

13 May 2016

Team Commie Bar/Summit AR to the Blue Ridge 24 Hour Adventure Race 21 May

Team Commie Bar tackles the next in the 2016 series of ultra endurance and adventure racing circuits at the 24 hour Blue Ridge Adventure Race in Blue Ridge Georgia on 21 May.  Heading up the team will be Mark Bolyard and Val Hardin
Mark Bolyard....  destroyer...
Val Hardin
Both racers recently completed the Shenandoah Epic 26 hour race in April.

Check out the website for the race here:  Blue Ridge 24 hour Adventure Race

You can check out a trailer video for the race here: