17 December 2016

Team Commie Bar at the Two Rivers Adventure Race - Team #1 Two Person Coed Race Report

First from our coed team 5 hour team at the Rootstock Two Rivers Race...

Team Captain:  DJ Angelone.....

So do you want to run an adventure race in December?  Sounded like a solid plan back in March when I was making my list (and checking it twice). Rootstock racing had put some place holders on their website for their inaugural season.  The little bit I saw sounded pretty cool.  I had a long list of potential races and a 12-hour to top off the season sounded awesome.

Fast forward to November. Coming off my first Nationals (30 hours), I was riding high and feeling great psychologically.  But physically, my body was feeling the aftermath of the long race and the long season. I had anticipated racing with Mike Scott from the team, but ultimately decided to pass on the 12-hour version and opt for the 5-hour with Bonnie and Sarah (the newest member of the TCB women’s auxiliary).  Rootstock races had been awesome thus far and I really looked forward to supporting Brent/Abby in their endeavor.

With the semester in full swing, my training had been minimal, my focus miniscule, and the winter sinus congestion heating up.  Two days prior I taught Bonnie how to pace count (setting up a tape measure down the hallway) and began a regular regimen of night/day-quil.  The night before we started packing the gear and got a call that Sarah had a family emergency and had to bail.

After a good night sleep, we awoke, and headed out to the race (I do love an 11am start time!!).  We set up shop at Pachella Field just inside the famed Wissahickon.  It had been years since I road in the Wiss, and my memories from pre-racing days recalled deep exhaustion and dehydration on a mountain bike trip (I didn’t know enough to bring water, and actually had to beg a guy on the trail to drink from his camelback bladder!).

The RDs provided our maps and basic logistics.  We sat in the warm car and developed our plan of action.  The race was split into 3 segments.  After a brief prologue on foot, we would have the option of engaging any of the 3 segments in any order.  One was on foot and near Pachella encompassing more of the northern Wiss.  The other two were on bike, the first was more of the southern wiss, the second was outside of the park, on to the road and into the Laurel Hill Cemetery.  The unique element of this race was that you could trade in your bike passport or foot passport at any point and engage (or re-engage) any of the segments (for those unfamiliar with Adventure Races, you generally are required to “close out” a segment and cannot accumulate any additional CPs after you close out a segment). This twist added an interesting strategic decision point.

Nonetheless, we mapped out a plan to head out on our bikes first.  We would ride south, hit points in segment 2, and leave the park for the cemetery and segment 1.  The cemetery, while distant, seemed like an easy way to hit 16 points in a condensed area with zero bushwhacking.  We would then head back to the park and take a counterclockwise position heading back north to the TA.  We calculated about a 3-3.5 hour trek, and that would give us about 90+ minutes to get out on foot.  As such, we left our bladders, packed 50 ounces of water on our bikes and headed out.

The riding was pretty quick, not much in terms of climbs, with a fair share of rock gardens.  I took on the Nav and once we got our initial bearings for distance, began hitting CPs pretty quickly.  My one mistake was meeting up with a solo racer and allowing him to talk me into taking an alternative route to the next CP.  While the company was nice,
we chatted about racing while walking our bikes up some steep terrain.  Once at location, things feel apart.  We got a little turned around and the river I thought was on the map was north not south.  I couldn’t figure out what happened and how we crossed a canyon.  I think my hunger was starting to play a role, and after about 30 minutes, we finally figured out our error.  Back on the trail, we headed out to the road and into the cemetery.

The cemetery was pretty cool.  Lots of history and an unbelievable vista overlooking the Schuylkill river. Bonnie took over Nav and the “little” we perceived on the map turned out to be pretty freaking huge.  There wasn’t much marking and the basic map wasn’t too helpful.  Looking for a reentrant has become second nature, but looking for a Ms. Wendy Jones in a sea of gravestones wasn’t taught to me in AR 101.  The 30 minutes we anticipated probably turned into an hour.  But we fully engaged the opportunity to float around and I’m glad we had the chance to see it.  Clearing the segment also helped push us forward.

Back on the road, I took the Nav back and started to feel the pressure of the clock.  I was anticipating about an hour on foot now.  The wind and cold also started to pick up as well.  I pressed ahead at a modest speed and noticed Bonnie slowing down.  I just assumed the wind speeds were just putting more friction on her body then mine, but the pace was certainly slowing.  Back in the Wiss, we hit some more inclines. A lot more bike walking and multiple stops for Bonnie to catch up.  Tick tock.  At this point, I had run out of water and realized I hadn’t eaten anything all day.  I started re-fueling and noticed that we were averaging about 2-5 mph.  Not good.  Bonnie caught up again, and had clearly been experiencing the effects of a solid bonking (educational note…she ran out of sugar stores and “hit the wall”).  She literally couldn’t move any further.  We stopped and got her eating and drinking.  Tick tock.

Within minutes her body started to turn it around.  We moved forward.  Slowly but surely.  I estimated we could clear segment 2 and still had hope for hitting a few of the foot segments in segment 3. Tick Tock.  We picked up some speed and were hitting CPs pretty well.  Remember what I said about reentrants?  Yea, maybe the dehydration or starvation played a roll, but we wound up hitting the wrong side of a reentrant and got stuck on a hillside for a while.  At some point, quitting entered the mind, but I would be damned if this one CP held us back from clearing segments 1 and 2.  It was the only inspiration I had since it looked like we needed to skip segment 3 at this point.

Bonnie nailed it!  We jumped on our bikes, rode like demons, hit the last CP and found the trail back to Pachella.  Given our fatigue it looked like walking our bikes was going to be the move.  At one point, I noted that there were 3 or 4 teams, all on foot, making their way to Pachella as well.  A look at the clock underscored the need to speed up since the 5 hour mark was minutes away. I looked up and saw another coed 2 making there way past me.  I turned, motioned to Bonnie, got on my bike and pushed hard.

Bonnie got the signal and did the same.  There was hope that we could beat them by seconds assuming we had tied in points.  We checked in with 2 minutes to spare and 5 seconds ahead of the other coed 2.

When it was all tallied we nailed 3rd place in coed and 6th place overall.
The other Coed 2s beat us by 4 and 6 points respectively.  They too cleared segments 1 and 2, and picked up some points on the foot.  I’m confident that eating, drinking, and following my own instincts would have led to a stronger finish (although I’m sure the other 2 teams have their excuses as well).  At the end of the day, it was a solid race, solid effort, and solid close to the season.  Maybe next time I enter the Wiss, I’ll actually prepare appropriately for food and water.

Until next year…this commie is peace outing!

Stay tuned for the next report from our 2 person male at the 12 hour Rootstock Two Rivers Adventure Race