20 July 2014

Team Commie Bar wins 24hour Blue Ridge Bear Epic Adventure Race in Buchanan VA

The Commie Boys smoked the course at the Blue Ridge Bear Epic 24 hour Adventure Race in Buchanan VA this weekend.  Here's a race recap....

A Big thank you to our sponsors:
Montrail Shoes
Mountain Hardware
Xendurance Nutrition
Epic Cameras
Slick Products
Honey Stinger

Team Roster:
Todd Copley - Team Captain and paid assassin pace counter....
Chris Farrell - Chief humper and medical officer....
Eric Lapp - Lead Navigation and team mule...

All three of us went into the race saying "my training is way off because of injuries.  You gotta take it easy on me" !  And of course we then proceed to push and challenge each other all night.  In the world of ultra racing you will pass thru highs and lows.  You need teammates that can lift you up and you need to do the same....

In the morning we checked in to Race HQ.  The race, from the maps, looked pretty straight forward.  A lot of trekking and foot time... note to self:  add another pair of socks to the pack....

We made a massive strategic navigation decision before starting.  The start would be on BIKE and there were 10 points out there.  We needed to get CP 10 before proceeding and we decided that we would bust gut out there up the mountain to get CP 10 and then leave the rest of the points for our return in the morning.  The remainder of the optional CPs looked grouped together and if we got back early enough tomorrow we could knock them off and not worry about getting bogged down early in the race and also not worry about hitting the cut off times on the paddles section.

The Race Start:  We took off in the pack and hammered out the long climb up to CP10.  We punched it on the passport and immediately turned around and absolutely flew down the mountain back to the river and the put in.

Once there we had to figure a way to load all three bikes into the two canoes along with the paddle bag.  We did this fairly quickly.  I had stationed large sheets of cardboard in the paddle bag that allowed us to pile bikes on top of each other without worrying about pedals through spokes, ect....

We loaded up and got on the water.  Before getting on the water I looked around the staging area and Chris had forgotten to put the dry bag in his canoe!!!!!  That would have ended our race if we forgot that.  

Once on the water we immediately hooked up a tow line to better pull the Chris who was alone in a canoe.  Eric and I were in the other with two bikes.  We were heavy and the water was not that high in sections which caused us to bump around the small Class I sections.  

The first paddle section was about 7 miles long.  Once there we had to unload and stage the bikes here.  We'd meet up with the bikes again later.  After unloading the bikes we strategically staged some food and water here for the return.  We clambered aboard the canoes again and moved on down the river.  After another 10 mile section we pulled up to the take out point.  The 17 miles along with the bike unload had taken 4.5 hours or so.  We were way ahead on the course in front of everyone but remember we passed on all optional points during the first bike section.

At the take out point we did a clothes change and chowed down some crap food that we brought along and could throw back into the paddle bags and leave there.  It started raining softly on the mountain and I was actually looking forward to a soft summer rain.  By the time we hit the trail the rain had stopped however but we had a long, long, long trek in front of us.  

The trekking section was where we planned on spending our evening.  It looked like by trying to clear this section we'd surpass the 26 mile marathon distance by several miles.  Eric Lapp took over on navigation and we were moving quickly.  We planned an attack on the segment and we started pegging the points.  Eric was amazing in the navigation and we were surgically attacking the points with readings on elevation, pace count, time and terrain reading.  
I'll go back tomorrow and see exactly how the points worked out (believe it or not you forget a lot out there!!).  We made a big decision to go out and get a point (CP 19) that was way off the grid.  This paid off for later on in building a point spread on the contendors.

We walked and spiked points all night.  At about 3am in the morning we made our first navigation error.  You can expect this after trekking for 12 hours and in the dark.  We went after point 27 and we drifted off the azimuth and ended up in a re-entrant way down a mountain in a mountain laurel patch that we had to claw our way out of.  We were literally crawling up a mountain that was about a scant 10 degrees from vertical.  This smoked us and we knew that you only have so many "fires" left in the engine when this happens.  During the last portion of the trek and after the failed attempt on CP 27 I was smoked.  

Sometimes that manifests itself in anger or frustration or something else.  Eric had proposed what I thought was an outlandish idea.  He wanted to bushwack down a massive re-entrant and valley and crawl up another ridge line to get to the trail system we needed to be on.  The alternative was a fairly straight forward movement on a known fire road albeit this would add another 2 miles or so to the movement.  Chris was adament about not bushwacking the section.  I was not to happy with considering another crawl up a mountain either.  Ultimately as team captain I made the decision to take the fire road knowing we would add miles to our trek.  I just felt it was best for the team although we "may" have lost some time.  We needed the time to just walk and gather our thoughts.  Eric did a great job of accepting the decision and led the way in the navigation.  

We knocked off several more points and once in this section decided to begin moving towards the bike stage.  We had at least a 6 mile movement from where we were at and we had already been walking and running for 12 hours.  The feet were barking and the legs screaming on the long gradual descent back to the valley floor and the river where we left the bikes. 
During these movements where there is not much navigation required, we each tend to slip into our own worlds.  The communication is infrequent.  We're tired and our minds are each going their own way.  I plugged into some music to get my motivation up for the rest of the race.  We still had 6 hours of hard racing in front of us....  Good night everyone... 

We hit the river at 0430 or so and took some time to eat and change clothes and get the bikes ready.  The bike portion back to the town was not long (7 miles) but we wanted to have maximum time on the optional points we passed over at the beginning of the race.  We hammered out the ride in the dark with our lights a blazing....  

Once back near town we climbed towards the trail system.  Chris was complaining about the climb.  I knew he was tired.  We got over into the conglomeration of points and by this time I had gained my second wind but Eric and Chris were not moving well.  We had to do a bunch of trekking and we all had problems doing this in our bikes shoes.  We also had some initial navigation problems that added to the apathy.  We literally stumbled across CP 3.  From there we tried to find the attack point for CP 4 but failed.  We were sinking in the early hours of the morning.  This is where we should nail all these points and we were sitting around and having problems with the map.  I finally took a lead in heading up a long re-entrant to nail CP 2.  Chris had been stung by a bee and couldn't make the trip up the creek bed.  This success raised our optimism and we all ventured down the stream to make a climb up to nail CP 1.  

We did it!  Back out on the road it was 0730.  We made the decision that we did not have the time to head over to CP 5.  We shook hands and bombed the downhill back to the finish.

All together we nailed 21 of 30 points which was good enough for the win in 3 man open division....  Another 24 hour race in the books.

Team Commie Bar