National Championships Race Report by Bait and DJ
14-15 October - US Adventure Racing National Championship Now That I’ve had some sleep, and little time to collect my thoughts, I realize that the only downside to a long race is the corresponding length of the race report!! Chris, DJ and I met at DJ’s house in NJ at midnight Wednesday. From there we drove through the night to Augusta, GA. Despite initial thoughts of sleeping on the ride, the excitement of our first nationals as a group had us chatting like school girls. The one time Chris got some shut eye he sprung awake when I hit the brakes and uttered a four letter. Lots of coffee and cheap mini mart egg burritos fueled us to the destination.
Upon arrival, we had a million things to do—gear check (and last minute purchases), staging our bikes at a park 30 mins away, team meeting and recon on the finish line. We had a nice tour of Augusta sporting good stores and a sense of the heavy outdoor lifestyle. We chatted up a few locals and went on a brief walk around the Savannah Rapids park area. It felt great to get a sense of the locale but each minute put us further and further from a nap.
After the team meeting, DJ and Chris opted to stay at the hotel while I met up with Roy for dinner at 2130 Thursday. We had a great meal at Cracker Barrel and I hit the hay around midnight. At this point we’d all been up close to 36 hours minus the short naps we got during the ride down.
We were up at 0500 for breakfast then we headed for the finish line where we received our maps. We had about an hour to plot 55 check points and come up with a strategy for the next 30 hours/100 miles of racing! With no time to lose, we boarded a school bus that would take us to the park where our bikes were stored. Once everyone arrived, the race began.
We started with a prologue on the International Disc Golf Association Championship Course. We connected with the coed Team Commie bar and hit the course together. It took us 25 minutes to run three disc golf courses and collect 12 CP’s. Apparently Disc Golf is a little more laid-back than adventure racing… From there we headed to the first paddle section on a beautiful lake. As we left the dock a bald eagle soared overhead and everything was right with the world. We deliberately decided to skip the four paddle points that were farthest away in order to build a time cushion for the rest of the race. This made sense after the RD discussion the night before suggested that only a few teams would clear the course. This cut about 12 miles off our paddle. We had no trouble hitting the other 4 paddle points and we headed back to do some mountain biking.
The trails in this area are pretty sweet—very little rocks, a few roots and lots of whoop de doos. The trails are well-maintained and we found evidence that they had been used in the National Mountain Bike championship earlier this summer. We blasted through the next mountain bike leg which took us to another park and then we were back on foot. The navigation was fairly easy, except for one point we mis-plotted on the map. Fortunately we recognized the mistake quickly and were able to grab it. Then it was back on the bikes and back to the first TA. DJ started having some knee pain and single leg peddled for a bit. But in true team tradition, we attempted to push him on straight aways to ease the energy expense. We also noted that we were all much more tired than usual at the 8-10 hour mark. Putting our heads together, we realized the decision to drive through the nigh and lose the sleep was a mistake. Best to start a race fully fueled on sleep, not cheap burritos!
Once back to the TA, we headed out on foot again this time in the dark. We donned our head lamps and began the traverse. DJ had never raced in the dark, save a few practice sessions in the last few weeks. While initially tentative, he grabbed the maps and took over. Our nav was solid all day and this was no different. It felt real good to be eating up check points at a pretty good pace. The lake was really low and we were able to use the shoreline to move quickly through the area and hit a couple of CPs that seemed tricky. We did learn to avoid that Georgia clay mud! Almost lost my shoes!
After these points we were back to TA to load up all of our remaining gear so we could head out to the next TA on our bikes for the signature piece of the race: 18 miles of sweet singletrack at 0130! Its worth noting at this point that DJ and I had recently purchased new headlamps. The specs looked good and the price was amazing (bright eyes.com), but always a little skeptical about this sort of combination Well, the lights worked really well, super bright and long lasting. But that’s not all…DJ noticed prior to the race that the light might not have been charging fully. So a week out, he contacted their customer service, a guy named Don. Lets just say that at the end of the day, DJ received replacement parts for his whole set up, and the company even overnighted some stuff to us at the hotel…Don if you’re out there, great work!!
Anyway, the Bartram trail flowed like a dream and it was over before we knew it. The trail was so amazing I was actually disappointed it was over. At the end we crossed the top of the Strom Thurman Dam into South Carolina (add another state to my list!). In SC there were 6 foot points that were all bushwhacks. At one point we were stopped in our tracks by a wall of briars that must have been 15 feet tall. We struggled a little in this area (we’d been up for 24 hours at this point) and we missed two of the CP’s. There were no trails in this section just a whole bunch of reentrants, which also served as the primary clue. At about 0500, I fell asleep standing while DJ and Chris checked the map. I asked for a brief respite, hit the ground, and started snoring instantly. Despite telling them 5 minutes, I think Chris and DJ felt bad so they woke me at the 8 minute mark.
“Fully rested” and ready to go, we noted the upcoming time cutoff to make for the next section. Chris was getting a little salty, which he later said was his “anxiety” (good thing DJ is a licensed psychologist!!), even calling out my “dime store compass” and yelling at DJ for putting on some tiger balm. Once the sun popped, we decided to try and hit one more CP on our way out as we hustled to the final paddle section. After success, we got onto the water which was a really interesting leg of the race. We could hardly keep my eyes open we were so tired. A few of us noted that passing out and falling into the water was not only a fear, but a welcomed experience So we started chatting. Chris began to pose some thoughtful questions and while I couldn’t tell you the answers now, they clearly worked.
|Credit Rev3 Adventure Racing|
We worked our way down the Savannah river and ended up in a sea of grass. Chris led us to a super tricky point on an island. The half swamp looked like it could be an alligator alley, but his solid nav made for a quick grab and go. The only negative is the 8 teams that caught up with us and possibly rode our tails to find the CP with ease. After that, is was smooth sailing to the final TA. As we pulled up to the boat launch, Roy was waiting for us. It was awesome to see him and he was really encouraging!
The final leg of the race was mountain biking the fabled Savannah canal towpath trail. After 26 hours of racing, we averaged 15 mph on the rail trail and crushed the final leg. As luck would have it, on the last check point we met up with the Co-Ed Team Commie Bar and all 6 of us finished together. At the finish line I met up with Roy again and eventually Hydro stopped by. It was the perfect ending to a long race!
|Credit Rev3 Adventure Racing|
After packing up our gear and heading out to the hotel for a quick nap, we made it to the banquet. The beer tasted sweet and we had a chance to reminisce with familiar faces and meet some new ones. It was only fitting that DJ won what seemed like a lifetime supply of Tiger Balm and a T-shirt, which he prominently displayed for Chris. As we drove home the next day, we pondered our success: 12th out of 26 in open division. Our team was solid, supportive, even fun. We proposed some ideas for our 2017 race schedule, discussed a team fishing trip, and how DJ plans to secretly rub tiger balm on every ounce of Chris’ gear!!