The race was the Odyssey Adventure Racing 24 hour Blue Ridge Bear Epic...
This race came onto the schedule after the decision to back out of the Equinox Traverse 48 hour race that was going on the first week of July.
The team roster going in was me and Chris Farrell and we were hoping to get perhaps Andy Hershey or Dan Schaefer for a third. By the beginning of July neither one of these racers would be available. Hmmmm.....
I then got introduced to another racer from Virginia named Tamir Klaff and we spoke and we decided to invite him to race... The drama is not over and we haven't even started yet. Literally 4 days before the race he called and said he had injured his leg and may have to pull out!!! Ultimately he made the decision to race and that was a good one!
I rolled into area (Fincastle/Buchanan, VA) on Friday about 6pm. We were supposed to drop all paddle gear at the outfitters but when I met Tamir there he said it didn't look like we could leave gear there overnight. Okay, replan number #1.
We planned to meet up at Race HQ the next day at 0545 when we could get Chris's gear and then shuttle it up to the outfitter.
We checked in about 6am and got our maps and race book. Right off the bat it looked like a mountain bike intensive course. Tamir shuttled our paddle gear up to the point on the map where we'd meet up for the paddle put in. Chris and I planned the routing.
The first segment was an orienteering prologue that we could do on bike or foot. They gave us the maps at 5 minutes prior to start and we had one hour to get as many points as we could and get back to the main start. We decided to proceed on bike and nailed about 4 points on the O course. We got back to the main area and turned in our map and passport and got a new punch card for the main course. It looked like a long climb on the first section up to an area where would nail a couple mandatory points. From there we dropped the bikes and made our way down through a major re-entray to pick up optional points. We were doing very well.
On the way out of the valley I started to not feel so good. It was over 90 degrees and I was suffering from the heat. It started to get a bit perilous because I had also ran out of water. The bike slog along the ridge seemed to take forever and never begin to drop off the high ground. I was reduced to pushing my bike along with my teammates for a long long time. Finally the road dropped off and we descended to the town of Buchanan where the paddle section would start.
Thank God that in the town there was a convenience store. I bought a coke, a gatorade, and a Giant Slurpee that I took with me on the paddle. The mountain bike section had taken a lot longer and we arrived at the check in for the paddle with only 20 minutes before the official cut off of 6pm. We had been on the bikes on the mountain for 8 hours!!
We quickly pulled wheels off the bikes and loaded all the bikes in the canoe with our other gear. Tamir was in the front of the canoe and me in the back with a stack of three bikes in the middle. Chris hopped in a kayak and paddled alongside alone.
The first 20 minutes of the paddle were reserved to recovery. It was a lazy float down the James River. I slurped on my slurpee and popped electrolyte pills. Everyone was a bit smoked from the ride.
Slowly we began to paddle and about the same time a vicious thunderstorm came through that forced us to the bank and to tie up the boats and seek cover. This actually helped my recovery as well but we lost another 30 minutes on this.
The paddle was uneventful and after about 10 miles or so we hit the take out point. We found out that there were many, many teams that didn't make the cut off of 6pm at the paddle put in. Everyone underestimated the time on the bike.
Our transition at the take out point was slow. We were still recovering and had to rebuild the bikes.
Eventually we got on the bikes again and started the long climb up to CheckPoint 16. Thank goodness I felt pretty good and the team moved well and quickly up the gradual climb. At CP 16 we moved to foot and began a clockwise move through the woods to start getting optional points on foot. It was now dark and we were moving pretty good through the darkness.
These are the times I love Adventure Racing. I'm standing on a mountain top somewhere COMPLETELY off trail knowing that no human ever has stood where I am standing. I stop and listen to the darkness. The only site visible is the head lamps of my teammates crashing through the underbrush.
We picked up 6 optional points before dropping back down the mountain to mandatory checkpoint 17.
We knew we had another LONG, LONG mountain bike slog back to the finish line so we all decided as a team to stop looking for optional points and make sure we started back by 3am.
We got back to CP 16 to pick up our bikes at 2:30 am. We changed back to bike gear and the guys manning the CP gave us a cold Coke!! That was great.
The first 5 miles of the MTB were downhill back to the river. We then began a hike a bike segment for about 5 miles to get two mandatory CPs. From there we continued the bike slog and ultimately dropped back down to a town and poached across some trails to hit the roads that would take us back to the finish.
We crossed the finish line strong with all the mandatory CPs and over 14 optional points.
That was good for 1st place in our division of 3 man elite and also good for 4th OVERALL out of 29 teams that started.
A really good race for the Commie Killers......