28 June 2011

Odyssey Endorphin Fix Race Report

The Segments of the Race (approximate distances)

-         5 mile river swim
-         22 mile kayak thru Class I-III water
-         20 mile trek on foot
-         40 mile mountain bike
-         26 mile run/trek on foot
-         12 mile kayak
-         15 mile run/trek on foot
-         40 mile mountain bike

This race was awesome but as with all adventure racing a couple of unpredicted things happened including a piece of bad luck and a tactical error that turned the tide for Team Commie Bar.

Starting off on the river swim was not good for us.  I have not done ANY swimming this year at all and even though we were in wetsuits and fins trying to kick for 3 hours absolutely wore my legs out from the start.  That plus the cramps from pronating my ankles killed me. It was fun going thru some of the rapids but we came off the swim dead last.

Coming off the swim I was dreading being cramped up in the kayak for 6 hours but it actually was okay.  I enjoyed it and me and my teammate did pretty good making up a ton of time we lost in the swim.  The kayak portion was characterized by sections of thrilling whitewater mixed with LONG sections of paddling on flat water.  

It was almost 7pm when we came off the kayak and we knew it would be getting dark soon.  This is where we made our tactical error that cost us the race.  Basically we had to get to a checkpoint located on a small trail that was surrounded by cliffs.  We had two options:  attack from above or attack from below.  Unfortunately we chose from below and ended up spending a ton of effort in climbing close to 1000 feet in elevation in less than a kilometer in the dark.  We ended up on a small, narrow parcel of flat terrain stuck between further cliffs in front of us and the drop behind us.  We tried moving west to the checkpoint but we’re turned back by the terrain.  Another team made the same error and one of the guys broke his arm falling which meant an evacuation at night.  After all of this we knew we had to move to the north which meant a trek of 10 miles out of the way.  At this point we knew that we were basically out of competition and now it became a race against time to meet the cut off times.  That plus now we were severely lost made a miserable night.

We stumbled into the transition area at about 7am on Saturday.  We made that cutoff time but then did not make the next one at 2pm because of the distance of the 40 mile bike and marathon 25 mile trek.  After the first 24 hours of racing we were forced to abandon the course…..

Navigation is so key in these races and although I consider myself a “good” navigator, I’m basically a neophyte when compared to the “great” ones.  It doesn’t matter how fast you can run it matters how fast you can find the points….

Well, chalk another 24plus hour race up for Team Commie Bar.  I’m tired…..

17 June 2011

Team Commie Bar Tweeting from the Endorphin Fix 48hr Race

Team Commie Bar Adventure Racing will be competing in the legendary Odyssey Endorphin Fix 48hr adventure race in the New River Gorge area of West Virginia.  The race starts at 1130am on Friday, 24 June and we won’t see the finish line till approximately 1pm on Sunday, 26 June.

Labeled as the toughest 2 day race in the country, me and my teammate Jon Gamm from Colorado will be mountain biking, whitewater paddling, trekking, rappelling, and at some points crawling non-stop for 48 hours without sleep over the tough terrain surrounding the New River Gorge.  

Wanted to let you all know that you can follow the race during that weekend on the web and also that Team Commie Bar will be Tweeting from the course (where it’s allowed).  

1.  To follow the race in general go to this website.  http://www.checkpointtracker.com/events/odyssey-endorphin-fix-2-day-ar

Once the race starts there will be a tab for Live Blogging and you can click on that to get total race coverage.  

2.  To get our Tweets all you have to do is “follow” us on Twitter.  To do that you have two options.  Probably easiest is to just go to Twitter and look us up and start following. Our user name is @TEAMCOMMIEBAR. 
The link to Twitter is here:  https://twitter.com/#!/TeamCommieBar or you can follow us with your mobile app.  

We’ll also try and shoot some photos over to Facebook as well.

The other way is our Twitter feeds will be showing up on the Team Commie Bar Blog as well.  
To follow from the blog click here:  

06 June 2011

The Longest Day 30hr Adventure Race Report

In Adventure Racing there is a fine line between winning, finishing and utter disintegration…… 

Initially it was planned that Team Commie Bar (with Todd Copley and Micah Tapman) would race The Longest Day as a 2 man team.  Due to Micah not being able to race, it was a mad scramble to figure out what to do since they did not allow solo racers.  Thankfully at the last minute Team Carpe Vitam offered to let me race with them and they went from a two man team to a 3 man team.  Thanks to Stephen Eland & Kirk Lauri (Team Carpe Vitam) for offering.  It was much appreciated.

Overall the Race lined up about like this
0700             Saturday        Race Start
0700   0800                       1hrs    Prologue on Foot Section to find 9 easy points
0800   1100                       3hrs    Mountain Bike Section over Belleayre Mountain
1100   1600                       5hrs    Trekking Section over Big Indian Mountain
1600   1830                       2.5hrs Paddle Section down Class III Esopus Creek
1830   2am    Sunday 7.5hrs Mountain Biking Section II over Overlook Mt.
0200   0800   Sunday 6.0hrs Trekking Section to Hunter Mountain
0800   1100   Sunday 3.0hrs Ropes Section with 3,250 foot zipline
1100   1330   Sunday 2.5hrs Biking Section III return to Belleayre/Finish

Overall Elevation gain:  17,000 feet

Here’s the race report:

We got to race headquarters on Friday afternoon and divvyed up gear and made race plans.  Had an early dinner and hit the rack about 9pm.  Ready for an early rise.

Saturday morning got up at 0330 in the morning knowing I wouldn’t see the bed again till Sunday night at home.  I drove up to the race start area and met my teammates.  We registered and got the maps and course book.  We immediately began planning routes and times and logistics.

At 0615 there was a race briefing and then at 0700 we all lined up for a prologue.  They use the prologues to get some separation between teams from the beginning.  At the race gun, they handed out envelopes with maps and 9 points.  We were allowed to split the team in two to get all 9 points.  Stephen and I went for 5 points and Kirk went to get the other 4 on the other side of the ridge.  To do all this took about an hour and then we saddled up for the first of three MTB sections.

MTB over Belleayre Mountain – Basically the first section took us right up the ski mountain to the top where we raced to the east to get a point then back west along the ridge for point 2.  From there it was a screaming singletrack back to the valley picking up another point enroute.  Pretty quick section and we got to the transition to Trekking in good order.

Trekking Section I – Let the schlog begin!  After dropping bikes we set out on the ascent of Big Indian Mountain at over 3000 feet.  We picked up CP6 (checkpoint 6) and then bushwacked down to a trail that would take us to optional point A2.  We got there and could never find the point.  We wasted about an hour looking for it.  We finally abandoned it and headed for the valley floor and Transition area 2.

At TA2 we put in the rafts and began the paddle on the Class 1-3 river.  All was going pretty well but we were getting soaked.  Then disaster struck.  As I was bailing the raft the bailer came out of my hand and we lost it.  With no means of bailing we had to make an emergency stop to dump the raft of water.  Although the packs and gear were tied into the raft one of the bungees broke and my teammate’s pack went over the edge of the raft and was lost in the river.  Bad situation but nothing to do but keep paddling and get to the finish.  When we arrived at the transition area we notified race management and they were great in helping us piece together another pack and gear for Stephen so he could continue.  It was a miracle.

MTB Section #2 – Leaving the transition area we knew we had about 2.5 hours till it was dark and we at least wanted to be halfway up Overlook Mountain.  Going up Overlook, Stephen began feeling dehydrated (remember he lost his pack and water halfway thru the paddle section).  We had to slow up to get his energy back.  About 10:30pm or so we crested Overlook Mountain and picked up the CP and started down the other side.  We hit a couple other optional points and then ran into a severe HIKE A BIKE section near Plattekill Clove.  We pushed and carried bikes for a couple of hours before getting to CP 10.  Here was a big decision.  Should we try and bisect the mountain and save distance or should we take an easier route and add a lot of miles.  Fortunately we chose the latter and headed up for some relatively easy riding to the Transition area #4.

Trek Section #2:  We pulled here early in the morning and there was a potable stream of water to fill bottles and bladders.  We had been filtering water all night.  The first section of the Trek was absolutely awful.  Straight up from Notch Lake to over 3200 ft in less than 2kilometers.  We were dying.  Once cresting the ridge a funny thing happened.  We saw something up on the trail and it saw us!  We kept walking and it kept slowing running away from us but never leaving the trail.  It was the biggest skunk I’ve ever seen.  We followed this beast for at least a mile before it finally turned off the trail!
At 0600 in the morning we got to the trail leading to the ropes course.  There was a cut off time to arrive by 0800 so we had at least an hour to search for more points.  At this point my knee was feeling pretty bad.  In any case we decided to hump down this pretty steep section to an optional point.  It was killing me and now I was worried we wouldn’t make the cut off time.  We got back up and actually grabbed two more points enroute and got into the cutoff by 0745!

Ropes/Zipline Section:
I had know idea what this was going to be but I was absolutely amazed (and a bit scared as well) when I saw what we were going to undertake.  The zipline course consisted of 4 ziplines and a suspension bridge over a 200ft gorge.  The first zipline alone was 3,250 feet long and carried you 675 feet above the valley floor at speeds up to 50 miles per hour!  From there you took the remainder of the ziplines and suspension bridge to the bottom of the ski resort.  Awesome to do but now you can probably assume what happened.  Yes, we had to walk all the way back to the top of the ski resort.  The zipline footage is here:  

After getting back to the top of Hunter Mountain we again shouldered packs for the remaining trek portion.  This was fairly short and took us a little over an hour and a half back to the other side of the valley and our bikes.  

MTB section III – All told I felt pretty good but was anxious to knock off this last section.  Stephen was suffering with bad chafing and Kirk felt good too.  We headed off on bike knowing we had a short 20 miles or 2.5 hours or so till the end.  The bike section was pretty non descript as we basically followed the roads back to Belleayre Mountain.  Of course the final climb up to the ski resort had us pushing our bikes for at least a mile but we knew we had it made.  

All in all the course took us about 31hrs and we were pleased to finish in second place for the 3 man/single gender category.
Awesome race by the New York Adventure Racing Association.

Race Debrief

Gear & Pack list
I started the race with a pack weighing just under 18 pounds which I was confortable with.  
The initial pack list consisted of the following
3litre hydration bladder
2 six hour food packs
Rain jacket
Spare wick shirt
Small bag with spare batteries/toe straps/zip ties/moleskin
Water Filter
2 pairs of socks
Individual mandatory gear
Whistle attached to equipment and accessible while wearing a PFD
Working headlamp with spare batteries
Waterproof rain jacket (Sealed or Taped Seams)
Note: ultra light, water resistant 3 oz. jackets will NOT satisfy this requirement
Synthetic Hat
Space Blanket
Money for emergencies
I also was carrying the bailer on my pack along with my trekking poles and sometimes we had to carry our bike helmets

I haven’t unloaded the truck yet but I think the food was much more dialed in.
At the Cradle I had way too much food.  I still think I had too much food but it was more appropriate for this race.  I had cut back the calories per hour by about a 100 and that saved weight and space in the pack.  

Having the Hammer nutritional supplements is a must for me.  They keep me ticking. 
One thing that changed was water consumption.  It was way up for this race probably because of the heat.

Overall Learnings
1.  Plan better for the water sections.  I should have had a garbage bag AT LEAST to keep the pack dry.  A dry bag would have been great to have as well. 
2.  I think I will invest in a spare set of shoes.  Putting wet shoes on at 3am in the morning on a mountain where it’s 41 degrees and you have to trek 20 miles is not a pleasing thought.  However, I will say that the Vasque Velocity performed magnificently.
3.  Need to use an altimeter better and also the distance markings.  My navigation is good but it needs to get to great to be more competitive.