I kind of signed up for this at the last minute as Team Commie Bar needed a 3rd male and the race was only an hour from my house (this is the closest to home I've raced since April). If you've ever driven on the PA Turnpike and seen that big wooded mountain ridge that runs most of the way across the eastern end of the state, that was our race course. Well that one and the two other similar mountains north of it...
I met the team at 2200 Friday night. I checked in late bc I worked all day. We headed into town to go over the race plan. Donny and Chris are two very cool racers. They are the antithesis of the triathlon types. They loaded up on double cheese burgers and chicken mcnuggets and fries while we plotted our route on the map. After that we stopped for beer and got to bed around 0100. The race started at 0600 with an hour bus ride north.
Once there two teammates had to find the bikes that we had previously loaded into a trailer while the third teammate had to do a one mile trail run to retrieve the passport. They seemed to think I was the better trail runner so I got that assignment. It was 1/2 mile uphill, but coming down was nice. It was a good warm-up.
Next we got on the bikes and hit the MTB trail. This part of the course was marked, which is rare in adventure racing. We rode about 10 miles/2 hrs of groomed trail then hit fire roads. After Waypoint 1 we were on our own. I navigated us to the first CP using a map just for that area. Once we hit that CP, we were on the BIG map, and headed south. We bombed down the mountain on the road--my tires were humming! 3 miles later we pulled into a public hunting area (called Game Lands in PA) and met a grumpy warden who wouldn't let us on the property and had removed the CP flag. Fortunately the RD arrived and kind of sorted things out.
We had to divert along the road to get to the next CP but they gave us a time bonus (and no one went to jail, always a good thing). The next CP was a TA to foot. We headed up the mountain on foot in a bushwhack and nailed 7 CP's. Our navigation was spot on for all but CP 5, but we worked together as a team and nailed it. The woods were beautiful and the blueberries were getting ripe. I'm surprised we didn't see a bear.
Expect for a quarter mile on the AT, we did not use any trails while on foot all day. Next we got back on the bikes for 3 miles and headed to the paddle TA. We dropped bikes but had to carry helmets and bike shoes the rest of the race (packs were getting very heavy!). The small river we were on was running low and we had to drag the boat a couple times. Three guys in a canoe is never fun but since I'm the tallest and heaviest,
I always get the back (and I'm not complaining!) The canoe was only 6 miles and towards the end, there were close to several other boats. In a stroke of genius (luck actually) we went river left around an island that everyone else went right. We ended up passing everyone! At this point we were the 6th boat off the water and were having a great race. Once out of the boat, the rest of the race would be on foot. A quick change of shorts and socks and we headed up the mountain. This was by far the hardest part of the race. No trails, no level ground. The mountain is basically a gigantic pile of boulders so we hopped boulders up and down. We had 15k to go and were really feeling it going up the mountain. It was so humid that sweat was pouring out, almost like I was in a rain shower. I ate a pack of jerky, took some enduralytes and was drinking Nuun. I knew that if I was going to bonk this is where it would happen. Fortunately, none of us bonked and we made it to the CP at the top, called Dan's Pulpit. It's one of the better scenic overlooks on the AT and the breeze and view were fantastic. But we had to move on. The clock was ticking and we had 90 minutes for 10k bushwhack. Working together we scrambled down the mountain. We had a couple falls but no one got hurt.
It was so slippery from the humidity I felt like I had Armor All on the soles of my shoes. We eventually found some old washed out double track and followed that down the mountain to the last CP. All we had to do was get to the finish. 4k and 40 minutes--did we bushwhack up and over the last mountain (saving 2k) or use the road and go around the mountain? The sounds of rifle fire on the mountain helped out decision and we took the road. We ran it in to the finish line with 10 minutes to spare!
Since the race was at a Civil Air Patrol base, they had an obstacle course that we could do for a bonus point. I never like to pass up bonus points and we were off the clock, so we did it. IT was great! Monkey bars over water, rope swings and climbs, wall climbs, inverted ladders, it was Boelker's wet dream (but no burpees!) A couple other teams had people fall in the water but we finished strong. We turned in our passport and immediately started re-hydrating with beer. We finished 2nd Place in the 3-Male category (they merged the Elite (us) and Masters divisions and a Masters team beat us by 2 points). Overall this was a super fun yet challenging race. This could have easily been an 18-24 hour race. Only one team hit all the points.