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!