29 October 2017

The Team Commie Bar go at Sin City 72 hours...... much sleeze

Team Commie Bar - Chrissy Nacos and Jon Gamm
Finished 3rd overall, 1st in category (2-person co-ed)

Where do I begin ...

Day 1 - Back-country

- 60k paddle on the Colorado River and across Lake Havasu fighting near 120 degree heat and a flotilla of cigar boats and other yahoos crossing our path left and right the whole way

- 50k trek into the Mojave with temperatures between 110 and 90, rattle snakes, and no water resupply

Having survived a baking hot 7-hour paddle with no respite from the heat (water temperature was like taking a warm bath - no help there), and a non-stop parade of roaring powerboats full of drunk idiots out for Labor Day Weekend joy-rides the whole way, we pulled into the TA for a brief, stop to change clothes and fill water before starting the Trek in the Mojave. We were both exhausted and fighting the mental drain of the oppressive heat as we started into the dusk of the desert and hoping for cooler temperatures.  We were told that there would be a water drop about 2/3's of the way through the race.  Half-way through the trek, however, Chrissy broke out in a full body, painful and swollen heat rash (Chrissy had just gotten over pneumonia a week before the race so she was a trooper just to be out there!), and the other team we were travelling with had a member go down at the same time with heat exhaustion.   We called the race director for extraction and were told it would be 3 hours before he could get there due to the rugged terrain and distance. 
I and the other team member started walking ahead to get a couple more points and meet the vehicle to guide it in.  Along the way I almost stepped on a rattle snake on the side of the trail and just about pee'd my pants (if I had any pee left anyway).  Kim (the other team member still walking) and I felt good enough to continue the trek, but we decided it would be better to go in with our team mates.  It turned out to be a potentially life-saving decision as we found out that only 4 gallons of water (total) had been brought for re-supply for all the teams, and the 4-person team from Guatemala ahead of us had used it all (naturally - since they had no way of knowing there was no more to be had).  There was no more water even at the finish of the trek!  We also found out that the lead team (2-person male from Czech) had crashed with heat exhaustion and had to be extracted as well because they got to the water cache point before the race director had dropped the 4 gallons of water!  In the end only one team (the 4-person Guatemalan team that got the water) finished the trek, and it took them 16 hours to complete the 50k journey. 
When we got to the finish (which was in the middle of no where) we found there was no water to be had there either (unbelievable), but there was a cooler full of beer.  Also they didn't have enough vehicles to take us back to LV, so we would have to wait for the the 4-person team to finish. 4 hours and 3 beers (me anyway) later, we offered the camera crewman $160 to drive us back and he agreed.  Man oh man.  I'll say no more except that we survived Day 1.

Day 2 - Urban pro-logue

- Walk up and down the LV strip for 4 hours finding places in photos and taking selfies. 

- Drink 82oz of frozen margaritas and take in one hell of a lot of  second-hand weed smoke along the way.

So this was a 'stage' race with time in-between stages to recover a bit.  Much needed after Day 1 we went back to hotel (The Linq - on the LV Strip) to shower, eat and catch a nap before the prologue started at 6pm.  Feeling better we headed out to find 38 places shown in photos to take selfies at each and return.  Teams would start the next morning in the order of finish from this part.  It was still hot as hell (about 105 degrees) at the start, but it started out fun and got funner after we each got a huge frozen margarita to accompany our travels, but the combination of that plus the clouds (and I mean clouds) of marijuana smoke on the strip slowly drained our energy.  After visiting just about every casino on the strip we called it quits at 11:30 pm and headed back in to get some sleep before Stage 2.

Day 3 - Urban journey

- Tour de Sleeze, Uber, near-dead racers, armed guards, selfies and more selfies, beer pong

The race advertised this part as a combo of long distance trekking and biking combined with such adventures as dune buggy orienteering and zip-lining mixed in.  Well, there was one part where we had to hit a golf ball into a barrel 100m away (Chrissy did it!  I couldn't even hit it off the tee), and a really cool part where we went to a range and fired a magazine of ammo from an MP-5, but other than that the urban journey was mostly a tour of places where we just took more selfies.  One part of that was a trip to North (old) Vegas where we saw passed out drunks, hookers, and probably some drug deals going down.  Good thing I packed my mando 2" knife and lighter.  There was also an MTB portion on the west (desert) side of Vegas that began with us finding another racer laying flat on his back in the middle of the trail rigid from severe cramping (we stopped to give electrolyte and see that he got extracted), and ended with Chrissy and I wandering onto a golf course at midnight and getting escorted off the premises by security guards (they were quite nice about it -- just incredulous that anybody would be out at that time of night riding those trails).  Interesting part of this stage was that after a certain point we were allowed to use public transportation, so we all used Uber to get past some of the longer, hotter, urban bike ride portions.  That was a first - but it was 102 degrees and riding a bike on Vegas streets is like asking for somebody to run you over, so no one was exactly complaining.  Finally after the riding there was one last trek to snap some more selfies on the strip, and then end with a game (for some many games) of beer pong at the Linq casino bar.  Chrissy and I handily defeated our opponent (a race volunteer and one of the Guatemalan team members) about 3:30am, and then finished just about all the Grappa I brought.  Man oh man again.  One for the ages. 

Where do I end ...

Well, Chrissy and I worked well together again and had a sometimes painful, sometimes pleasant, but always adventurous race we won't soon forget!

13 August 2017

Team Commie Bar at the 24hour Never Summer Adventure Race

24 h Never Summer Adventure Race
Team Commie Bar - Summit Adventure Racing
2-person coed Chrissy Nacos and Jon Gamm
Distances from race organization: ~80 mi bike with 9150' elev gain, ~15 mi trek with ~3000' elev gain, 11 mi packraft class II-IV
All CPs, 5 OPs (about 5th overall)

The race headquarters were out of Granby Ranch near Winter Park.  We got there Friday evening and checked-in, got maps and grabbed a bite to eat.  The race briefing went from 8-9 pm after which we went to our condo for the night to plot our course and organize gear and food.  Bedtime wasn't until after 1am by the time we had everything marked and routed.

Race start was 9am on the top of Granby ski area.  The RD Katie has organized for team and group pictures overlooking the valley right before the start.  And then we were off with a mountain bike orienteer leg all around Granby Ranch ski area.  There had been a downpour the night before so the trails were slippery with some mud and major humidity for a Coloradoan.  We snagged all 5 CPs and all 4 OPs before finishing the bike at Devil's Thumb Ranch TA.  Great singletrack leg!  We maintained a strong pace and made it to the TA around 12:30pm with 9 points in the bag.

The next leg was a trek around Devil's Thumb Ranch and surrounding mountains for 2 CPs and 5 OPs.  Having raced Never Summer last year and knowing RD Katie's style, this race was more about strategy and time management then a timed drag race to the finish.  We also had the constraint that we needed to be on the packraft by a 4:30pm cutoff.  We made the call to get the 2 CPs and 1 OP that was an obvious quicker grab.  Any other OP would likely have taken additional hours.  We got caught in a brief downpour but it didn't affect our pace.

We had to carry the packraft, PFD, and paddles by bike about 30 min to the put-in.  The packraft inflation transition was on the slow side but hey, it was our first time!  The packraft leg turned out to be the worst leg for us, by far.  The water was very low and we often had to get out and walk sections.  Then the Fraser River headed into the gorge and the rapids got serious.  Chrissy was in the front trying to direct Jon on where to go but once the water really starts moving, you go down the only way you can while trying to keep the boat straight.  The "safety guy" was at the wrong rapid and as we passed him we assumed we were through the big stuff.  That was not the case and the crux rapid (class III+/IV) swallowed us up.  We both swam, got slammed into some rocks and almost lost a paddle (but didn't thank goodness).  There were a couple more swims along the way as we managed to wrap the boat repeatedly on shallow rocks.  This leg never seemed to end and we finished at dusk with 3 more CPs and chilled.  We can only imagine what the newbies without whitewater experience were thinking going through that gorge.

Leg 4 - after changing clothes, getting the lights out, and eating a bunch of calories, we were off around 9pm on a 14 mi bike leg.  This ended up a being a longer transition, but it was a much needed reset.  The bike was mostly dirt roads up into BLM lands above Hot Sulphur Springs.  Along the way we saw remnants of teams starting to fall apart.  There was one CP along the way that was incorrectly plotted by the race org.  We hiked around looking for the correct reentrant for about 45 min before a team pointed us to the right one.  This was really the only navigational struggle of the entire race!  We climbed to the bike drop off BLM roads and headed out on the Leg 5 Trek.

This trek had one CP and 6 OPs.  We knew that these OPs were further out and bigger climbs then the upcoming Snow Mountain Ranch section so we just went for the mandatory CP.  This turned out to be a 2 h, ~6 mile time-suck hike on dirt/jeep roads to one of the peaks on Mt Bross.  The climbing started to take a toll as we reached the top around 1am with a handful of other teams.  Another hour back to the bikes while trying to take in calories on the way back.

Back to the bike (many transitions in this race!), one more BLM CP and then we had a longer bike over Cottonwood Pass back to the Granby side.  Two CPs along the way to the YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch and 3 more CPs by bike on the YMCA muddy trails.  At this point we are yo-yoing another 2-person coed that was faster on the bike but not as good nav (I think they probably worked 30% more than us over the entire race!).  We saw the sunrise during this leg and started keeping a close eye on the time as every minute past 24 hours (9am) was minus 1 CP, ouch!

There was a short trek to two CPs that were close by and took less than an hour to get.  And then a mad scramble to get on the bikes and head back to the Granby Ranch finish line before 9am.  5 CPs on the way to the finish, 90 minutes until 9am, it was going to be close.  We got 2 CPs at the YMCA trails and were just trying to leave the property as fast as possible when serendipitously we hit CP24 along the way!  We crossed over the highway to the Fraser-Granby trail and realized this was going to take longer than we thought, and with singletrack climbing.  Another CP at the switchback and we are still hanging with the other coed team (however they had missed one CP earlier in the race and we were still full course).  At this point we have one more CP and are minutes to the cutoff.  Jon is taking us on the fastest way to the finish line and somehow we find the final CP!  A long downhill bomb to the finish but it is now 9:04am.  All CPs and 5 OPs but miss first place by 1 minute as the other coed team finished 2 min ahead but missing 1 CP and with 3 OPs.

Overall it was a great race and we ended up about 5th overall.  Not many teams got all of the CPs which tells me we made smart choices on when to skip the OPs during the race and stay full course instead.  Jon and Chrissy worked well together.  We both agreed that the packraft section was the worst part.  Most importantly was that we found another teammate for future races and hopefully PQ 2018!

15 June 2017

Team Commie Bar at the Nomad and other Race Updates......

Hard keeping up with this team!!  We race more than any adventure racing team in the U.S.

Some quick updates:
 *  Honorary Commie Killer Roy Harris knocked off the Georgia Death Race.  Dan Bait Schaeffer also gave it his all but was unable to finish.
*  DJ Angelone and Amber Clites (prior to her accident) finished in 2nd place coed at the Brake The Habit.  Great job for these guys.

*  We published earlier the finish for the boys at the 4 day Breakdown.  Jon Gamm, Scott Mead and Ken Batten knocked this off and finished in 1st place for 3 person all male.

*  DJ Angelone and Bruce Koa (also from GOALS but racing as a Commie boy) finished the Shenandoah Epic 24hr.  Amber Clites was scheduled to race this but was recovering from her accident.

*  Our very own French Commie destructor in France Guillaume Callais finished Raid in France for something like the 98th time (just kidding).

*  Val Hardin and Mark Bolyard cranked out the Blue Ridge
Adventure Race and finished in 2nd place Coed and 9th overall.  Murder it....

P.S.  With Primal Quest being deferred to next year Team Commie Bar has a slot at the World Championships and we are seeking a male or female for the race.....  Send a note to tcopley@theadventurespectrum.com for more info!!!!

P.S.S.  Summit Adventure Racing and Team Commie Bar is also the sponsor of Time Station 47 for Race Across Amerca (RAAM), the toughest bicycle race in the world.  If you're in the area and in the epicenter of adventure sports, Deep Creek Lake, MD, over the next couple weeks come see us at the time station across the street from High Mountain Sports......

Thanks to all our athletes and all the great race directors making this sport happen.....  By the way I'm living in Amsterdam now and looking to get some races going over here in Europe.....

Also a big thanks for the partnerships and sponsorships with the great companies out there supporting the racing world.

And here's the race report from the Nomad 48hr race in Colorado Springs CO.  Jon Gamm and Chris Fenlon McDonald ripped it up and finished 8th out of 15 teams....  Race report below.

NOMAD 48 hour AR in Colorado Spring, CO.  Commie Bar Team Jon Gamm and Chris Fenlon-MacDonald. Overall finish 8th out of 15 teams.

Looking at the website for this event it seemed pretty mild - start with some guided white-water rafting, a medium long bike, medium trek, and a short bike to the finish.  In fact, the total mileage for this race was around 150, the total climbing not sure but the word 'lots' comes to mind, and the suck factor -- well that was right up there with the best of them.

It all started quite entertainingly with a prologue the night before the race start at Cave of the Winds - a tourist destination with guided cave tours and amusements.  Teams were given two challenges and an optional 'excursion' to determine the rafting teams for the next day.  Challenge one was a rope obstacle course (suspended over a 200 foot drop-off). Challenge two a scavenger hunt in the caves (Chris was 'the man' on this - crawling and slicing up his hand in the process of finding one of the points).  The optional excursion, though, was the real sphincter puckerer.  It was a 'ride' that placed the two of us on an open seat with shoulder straps to hold us in.  It started by pulling away the platform underneath and then turning the chair face-down to stare into a 600 foot canyon below -- dangling there just long enough to make you start wondering if the teenager who belted you in gets enough training and pay to really care -- then drops you bungee-cord like into the canyon where you swing back and forth until the ride reels you back up.  Folks, I was a Jump Master in the Army - I've hung outside aircraft doors at over 1000 ft - but this 'ride' made me squeal.

Next morning we did indeed start with a guided white water raft section on the Arkansas River - about 40 miles of Class III and IV rafting that ended with a hellacious trip through Royal Gorge -- one of the roughest (and funnest) sections of white-water in Colorado.  We got HAMMERED several times, had three folks get knocked out of the boats, but never flipped and generally made it through unscathed.  It was actually a lot more physically demanding than I thought, though, as we paddled hard during the flat sections and the Class IV paddling was all out exertion.  The the whole trip was timed for the race and Commie Bar came out 4th at that point after a mystery event at the end that involved panning for gold (thankfully they had some locals there who showed us how to do this ... it is not easy!).  After the raft we ditched the wet clothes and headed to the TA for the first bike section in Canon City.

We blew through the first TA and got started on the bike by heading to a local MTB park to get a few points which we grabbed easily and then headed north of Canon City to another MTB park.  This one was a bit tougher with far more challenging single-track and climbing, but we still made good time and got all the points.  On the way out of the park we encountered a local with a bit of an attitude issue after Chris almost ran over him -- a Prairie rattlesnake right in the middle of the trail!  Normally you toss a couple rocks at them and they slither away, but this one stayed put and never took its eye off of us.  Unfortunately the terrain was such that we really had no choice but to sneak past it -- so after a few more rock tosses and lot of cussing we put the bikes between us and it and made off.  In Colorado this is not a terribly uncommon thing to happen, but Chris had never seen one before -- he won't forget it!

Now the ride was just another 20 miles up a paved and dirt road to Cripple Creek - no sweat except the climb was about 4000 feet!  Cripple Creek sits at 9400 feet and man we felt every bit of that elevation as we got closer.  The last 5 miles the road gets really steep and we spent more time pushing than pedaling.  The speaker and tunes helped out as we finally saw the lights of this old Western town come into view.  In town there were a few 'cultural' points to get like an old Jail, a defunct (damn!) brothel, and a real casino where we had to play a dollar on a slot machine to get the point (we both came up nothing but Bars - but I heard a few teams made a little money - probably just as well because if we had hit the jackpot we were NOT going to finish that race!).  Another TA followed where we lingered a bit longer to rest and eat some 'real' food - then into the night on the bike for another 12 miles to the trek transition.  The bike continued to go up hill another 1000 feet - man oh man - before dropping the same distance to the drop-off point in Pikes Peak National Forest.

So we dropped our bikes and continued on foot for the last 'long'section of the race.  We had plotted a route to get to 3 of the more out-of-the way points that dead-ended in a steep boulder-strewn re-entrant that we decided was not worth the effort, so we found a new route and then decided to grab a bit of sleep before tackling it.  It was almost morning by then and temperatures had dropped to near freezing so we pulled out the bivvy's and slept about an hour before continuing on in the morning sun.  The new route was fast and straight-forward, and we got the first two points before heading for the third, which was on top of a 12,000 foot mountain.  Just as we started plodding up, black clouds rolled in and covered the area, making us think twice about continuing up to an exposed peak.  We decided to forego the point for safety reasons, and likely that was a good choice as we got hail during the descent.  Better safe than sorry when it comes to the high elevations - but still sucked as up to that point we were on track to clear the course.

Continuing on the trek we observed an interesting thing -- the area we passed through had somehow been chosen as an impromptu shooting range.  We must have passed a half dozen people firing rifles, shotguns and pistols into the trees from just off the dirt road we traveled.  From the amount of ammo brass and broken skeets we saw this was a common practice.  Just another little bit of spice for the journey to keep us on our toes.  I guess we were in no danger of ISIS anyway (although one guy did have a beard ...).

So we kept picking up points and up to about 5 pm Day Two we had every one except the 12k peak.  Most of these were off or close to trails -- but the last two were a different story.  The only way to get those and the next TA was a bushwack across a Rocky Mountain ridgeline - about 3km straight-line --  and then another 8 km on an overgrown jeep trail.  We were teamed up at this point with another 3-man group as we started what we knew would be a tough trek - but we were all thinking that we had timed it well to get there and be done before darkness.  Wishful thinking for sure.  The ridgeline was overgrown with thickets of dense scrub oak, cactus and small pines, and was knife-edged with loose rocks, scree and steep cliffs in many of the places we needed to travel.  The race organizers warned us to avoid the ridgeline after dark -- and told us to 'be careful' about the exposures.  They were right.

After some tough and foot-mashing side-hilling we made it to the last portion of the bushwack.  It was about 7pm and we were facing a very steep, very over-grown and very narrow ridge that we needed to get past to make the descent into a saddle where the next point was located.  Everyone was smoked and low or out of water.  We decided to try and contour around the peak to get to the spur on the other side that was our 'chute' to the saddle.  It seemed the path of least resistance and the fasted way to get around it before dark.  In fact it was the worst possible choice.  The side of the peak was even steeper, even more over grown, and though we fought and clawed our way a good distance, we kept getting 'cliffed out' and forced to retry at other elevations.  Finally we were stumped and it seemed the only choice we had was to climb hand over fist to the very top and try and make it out that way down to the spur/saddle.  We had been at it for over 6 hours and it started to get a little dicey again with dehydration, pitch darkness, dense thickets, loose rocks and a LOT of sheer drop-offs ahead of us.  I called the race director to verify that our new plan now had a chance of success, and they confirmed it - wishing us 'good luck' and thanking us for 'staying calm'.  Calm yes we were, but everyone was a little nervous about the situation.  This was the real 'adventure' of the race.

Chris was amazing throughout this -- he had been the chief bushwacking trail finder throughout and he continued in that vein all the way to the top, which we finally reached.  The five of us perched on a cluster of boulders at the highest point, sharing what little water the team still had left and using my new Lupine headlamp (awesome investment!) to light up as much of the low ground in front of us as possible to get an idea of our next portion of the trek.  We spotted the spur we had been looking for and began the journey downward slowly.  We got to a point where it made sense to start looking for the washed-out jeep trail and after about an hour of pushing through the thickest vegetation we had encountered yet (think of a Christmas tree farm where all of the trees were planted right on top of each other) we stumbled on the road, got the point on the saddle, then headed out for the last 8 km to the TA.  That portion went relatively smoothly compared to what we had been through - and Chris even got to experience his first few AR hallucinations along the way!  That 'Bobcat' he saw was actually a little bird on a rock -- but it was fun looking for it anyway!

We pulled into the TA at about 5am.  It took almost 12 hours to travel 11 km!  Gratefully we got some water, took a team photo, and passed around the grappa (this was my only disappointment about Chris on the whole trip - although he took the grappa his expression immediately afterward went something to the tune of 'that tasted like shite (sic)!' - che peccato).  We had until 8:30 to get back to the start and we both were excited to think we had a chance of getting the remaining 7 points that were located in another MTB park along the way.  We raced along and got the first two quickly, but the next two were harder than they looked with a lot of single-track climbing.  Still with about 40 minute to go we mulled over getting the last three which were easier, but out-of-the-way.  Being late meant losing a point for every 10 minutes though, so we booked it on in to the finish 47 hours and 30 minutes after starting.

Great race, great team mate, and a real adventure!

That's it for now.
Remember when it's 0200 somewhere on a mountain as your bushwacking you're way out the mess there's only one thing you can do:
"Take a shot and shut the fuck up"!!

30 April 2017

Summit Adventure Racing/Team Commie Bar bio for Primal Quest

Summit Adventure Racing Team Commie Bar is a group of adventurers across the US, Canada and Europe with 20+ athletes racing in over 30 events in 2017.  No other team in the world has more athletes or races more than we do!

This year will be our first for Primal Quest, and we couldn't be more excited to participate in this marquee event. The team is comprised of seasoned multi-day adventure racers and back-country adventurers.  All, however, will be experiencing their first PQ, so have no more ambition than to achieve the goal of finishing as a complete team - strong, healthy and satisfied knowing that we gave it our all, supported each other, and had a great life experience shared as friends throughout and beyond.

The team:

Ken Batten is a father of 4 children and a hobby farmer residing in Ontario, Canada.  Ken has participated in Patagonia Expedition among many other ARs, and is a lover of just about anything outdoors where he can climb, paddle, run or bike.  Ken is also an avid cross-fitter and studies wilderness survival and first aid.

Chris Fenlon-McDonald is a father of 2 children, works in school health promotion, and resides in Calgary, Canada.  Chris is a former Canadian Forces Reservist and all-around back-country adventurer with countless miles of back-country ski and trekking experience as well as an experienced climber.  Chris is also an avid cross-fitter and once owned a CrossFit gym.

Jon Gamm is the father of a University of Michigan freshman and a software technical sales manager residing in Denver, Colorado. Jon is also ex-military with the US Army Airborne Infantry and has participated in Raid in France, Cowboy Tough and several other multi-day ARs as well as Iron Man triathlons and trail marathons.  Jon is also a National Registry EMT with 12 years of volunteer experience.

Christina Nacos is a mother of 2 children and a Chemical Engineer residing in Boulder, Colorado.  Christina has completed Raid the North Extreme and Cowboy Tough among many other ARs, and has also completed many long-distance trail runs/hike and bike-packing events including the Tour Divide, Colorado Trail and Arizona Trail.  She is also an expert white-water rafter.

We’d also like to thank our sponsors, Honey Stinger, Mountain Hardwear, and Rudy Project, for their support to our team during this fantastic event!

22 April 2017

Team Commie Bar at the 4 day Breakdown with 361 Adventures

Hounds, Assburgers and Gas Station Cuisine

When you think of Appalachia - what do you imagine?  Rugged mountains?  Beautiful forests and streams?  Hillbilly shacks?  Moonshine?

Yes, the team saw all of those on this 4-day AR on the border between Kentucky and Virginia, but the things that really stood out were the number of semi-wild dogs seemingly everywhere, McDonalds cheeseburgers extracted from back-pockets (pure genius), and Valero gas stations as the center of the local social universe.

Hounds:  When we weren't in the middle of nowhere, we were on roads that wound through deep, picturesque valleys or 'hollows' that were dotted with houses, trailers and shacks - and every swinging one of them had at least 15 dogs ready to greet us.  Some nice, some not so nice.  I am adding a taser to my packing list if I go back to this area again.

Assburgers (McDonalds cheeseburgers):  Thank you Mr. Scott Mead for this brilliant idea.  Cheap, calorie rich, never go bad seemingly (not exactly an organic product), taste great when you are starving for calories, and warm up nicely when kept close to your ass/body!   On night 2 the term assburger came out and we laughed about it for the rest of the race.

Gas Station Cuisine:  When the question was asked of a local where a good breakfast could be had -- the Valero was the answer and the Valero was truly were the action was.  Sort of like a bar/lounge but with Twinkies and Fried Chicken instead of beer and cigarettes.  It's all calories and it's all good when it comes to ARs.

So the race itself.  Ken Batten, Jon Gamm and Scott Mead covered about 200 miles with 24,000 feet of climbing in about 75 hours - crossing the line 5th and ending in 14th place overall (but 1st in our division!).  The journey consisted of 19 legs (reduced to 16 legs shortly into the race due to high water conditions) plus a foot-O prologue that began at 8pm on Friday the 7th of April.  The course ran west from Breaks Interstate Park along Pine Mountain West and South to a place called Settlement School, then returned along slightly different routes.  We climbed up and down the mountains on foot and bike multiple times, froze in the 30 degree nights and sweated in the nearly 80 degree afternoons but made good time throughout stopping to sleep for only a total of about 7 hours.  The true accomplishment in all of this is that despite having a leaky (un- useably so) pack raft, losing 1 and half paddles and experiencing punishing treks that wrecked feet (that got even worse after we had to walk a 20 km section that others paddled), the team actually cleared every section we could go after (no paddling was possible for us, and two of the treks too much for badly injured feet), and stayed up with the main pack and then some.  On top of that we were one of the only teams to take advantage of a TA where a local mountain man (who apparently knew Ozzy Osbourne in some way given all the pictures he had of himself with the Ozman) with moonshine was present - earning us the title of 361 Adventure's 'new favorite AR team'.  

Classic Commie Bar race going after everything we could and finishing strong!

30 March 2017

TEAM COMMIE BAR 3rd Place at Meltdown Adventure Race

Given some old age and a long 2016 season, I was thankful to get some R&R over the winter.  A few pounds heavier (I sure love the holidays!) and some time away from the gym sure helped to reduce my ibuprofen habit.  As 2017 started to develop, I sat down and made my list of races for the year. My goal is to build on the success of last season and compete in a few 24+ hour races this year.  The logical first step would be the relatively new GOALS Meltdown.  Although usually held in February, the GOALS schedule was completely modified this year since they are hosting the USARA Nationals in the Poconos.  The meltdown skips the paddle and includes a foot and bike course (but always dependent on what mother nature throws our way). This year, it was held outside of Elkton MD in Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area.  I had never been to this park and was excited to give it a try.

My mantra for the weeks leading up to the race was “its just a warm-up.”  This became a reality after my loose plan of action for the season became real with several new and old teammates confirming almost all of the races I was interested in completing.  With three races planned in the span of 5 weeks, I just wanted to make a decent showing and have some fun. Bonnie had a few 6-hour races on her agenda and was looking forward to breaking in her new 29er.

Arrival at the park around 0800.  Signed in, saw some friendly faces, and got our gear in order.  The race was pretty simple.  Two legs, one bike and one foot.  A prologue would lead us to a choice, bike first or foot first, and our decision would provide the associated map.  Despite getting foot last almost every race (and hating it) we decided it made the most sense to start with Bike.  There were 15 CPs worth 30 points total and compared to a mix and match (no map yet) of 1 and 2 point foot CPS, seemed to suggest Bike would have to be first.  I drew short straw and was tasked with the prologue…a little over 1K jog to volunteers with maps.

In our discussion with some other teams pre-race, we decided there was value in doing bike first, and after getting the maps, we also overheard them discussing a counter clockwise progression.  It must be early in the season when we both looked at each other, agreed to counter clockwise, drew a clockwise progression on the map, and headed out in a clockwise direction.  While out on the course, we commented how few racers there were and couldn’t figure out why!

CP 1 was relatively easy. CP2 got us a little turned around.  We realized the map was a little wanky.  At 1:15000, I wasn’t used to the perceived distance.  What I should have done is stopped, taken some measurements, calibrated, and moved forward.  Nope.  A little frustrated we headed to CP3.  Found it easily and moved to CP4.  Despite a 750m separation on map, we somehow got so turned around that it took over an hour to actually figure out where we were.  Apparently small tree lines, rolling hills, and meadows all pretty much look the same this time of year and without solid contour lines and a 12 year old map, makes it more difficult than I had imagined.  The short story is that we traveled over 4k to hit the mark.  This put us over 2.5 hours into a 6 hour race.

Once I thought I figured out the map, we were on a solid, albeit angry, mission to hit as many CPs as possible.  If you have ever raced before, you know that feeling of everything clicking. You just move, get absorbed in the map and the race.  Some call it the zone or finding flow.  We had it.  No pain, no thinking, just CPs. Nine of them, just short of 45 minutes.

Now came the easy part, two more, relatively easy locations, and drift into transition.  Get some food, change our socks, put on our running shoes.  Ahh, I can taste the hot chocolate.  Just turn right off the road into the park on a marked trail.  Not sure what happened.  We even saw another team making the turn, but we overshot.  Found a trail, found the tree line, found the meadow.  Did not find the CP.  We searched for a while.  Bushwhacked without bikes and took a look at the map.  Found some water marked on the map.  Searched again.  No dice.  We decided to skip it but one last look at the map and a plan for hitting the last CP and transition, made me question our location and realize we had over shot.  EXPLETIVE!!  Head back down and to the correct location.  Okay things match, but no CP.  It has to be here we thought…rode up and down again.  Separated to attack the point from opposite sides.  In my rush to find it, I took a minor but painful spill on my hip.  To provide some context, while wooded, the lack of foliage provided us a clear view of anything fluorescent orange.  This should be simple we thought so we re-checked the clue.  I told Bonnie to wait and I went on a mad bike-whacking search, but this time from the opposite side.  EXPLETIVE!! I found it.  Has it really taken over an hour for this stupid CP? Just warming up.

Back on the bikes, final CP, and transition.  Maybe 45 minutes left in the race.  Given our 5 hour bike ride, the RDs breathed a sigh of relief at our sight and encouraged us to press on.  So we grabbed the new map, found a few 2 point foot CPs and headed out.  We went back the way we came so we had some knowledge of the area.  We needed to hurry though, 10 minutes out, meant 10 minutes back, and that meant 25 minutes max to search.  After hitting the first CP we realized the further CP would be a struggle and that we would be hustling to hit a further 2 pointer when another closer 2 pointer was around the corner.  Just warming up, so we made the smart choice.

We continued our 1-minute run, 30 seconds rest, and made good time heading back.  We grabbed some grub to warm us up, and shared some stories with fellow racers . It was nice to hear that I wasn’t the only one with some map issues.  As we spoke, we saw the numbers, looked like 3rd place.  Despite the frustrations, we pushed forward, and the lesson learned was clear.  You never know where you actually stand until the end and I’m glad we pressed on, overcoming our obstacles.  This little meltdown turned out to be quite the warm-up. I look forward to taking this experience and translating it to some additional TCB podiums.  Until next time…

No Adventure Team Races More than Team Commie Bar..!!!