24 July 2016

Summit Adventure Racing/Team Commie Bar finishes Adventure Racing World Series Cameo Cowboy Tough

Commie Bar successfully completed the ARWS Cowboy Tough on a hot, windy, and looong course from Caspar, WY down the North Platte river and back through the Medicine Bow range in 3 days, 4 hours and 46 minutes.  In an extremely competitive field the team placed 1st in their division (4-person male) and 22nd overall of 36 teams.

The route Commie Bar took started on Day 1 with a 30 mile road bike ride to the North Platte river.  In our planning we thought we'd go fast on this, but had no idea how fast!  The leaders took off at a blistering pace and Commie Bar hung in there travelling around 20 mph for a good chunk of the ride.  A 75 mile paddle on the North Platte river and Glendo reservoir was waiting -- and it was everything and more (much more) of a grueling experience. The river was running well and we averaged about 7 mph on the river portion - about 60 miles.  Along the way we got out twice for some foot challenges that included hauling buckets of water up a hill, and stopping in Douglas, WY to get a few foot-O points.  One of which was a shot of Wyoming whiskey at the College Inn (a historic bar).  Just before the reservoir there was another foot-O course and we got out and nailed all 5 points, then settled in for what we thought would be a 15 mile flat water paddle on a clear moon-lit night into the TA. In our hubris we even considered digging out some speakers and playing tunes from the iPod to accompany the team -- but the mix of rock and punk would have soon been be out of place and in need of a switch to Wagner's Flight of the Valkyries (Apocalypse Now reference ...).  This was one hell of a crossing ...

At about midnight we noticed the wind was picking up and some ripples were forming in the water.  We were within maybe 5 miles of the TA.  Another 30 minutes and the ripples had become waves, but the canoes were handling it and we were making progress -- we were on azimuth for the final stretch and in daylight we would have been able to see it, but the reservoir became much wider at this point and the waves really struck.  3-4 foot with a strong headwind meant it took all we had to just keep the boats in the same place and upright.  After what may have been 2 hours of struggle without the ability to eat or drink as we had to keep paddling, we headed to the nearest shoreline.  This turned out to be a 'sunken forest' of trees submerged by the high-water, so not ideal, but gave us some time to eat, drink, rest and prepare for another push to shore.  Fortunately a beach campground was within a short paddle beyond and with great relief we made dry land, pulled up the boats, changed into some dry-er clothes, and debated next steps. After a fruitless search for a road to get us to the TA, we resolved to wait out the wind and make another attempt at the crossing in the morning.  Maybe 30 minutes of rest and then we were back in the boats at 5:30am.  This time there was still wind and waves but we managed to push across the final stretch to the take-out.  Day 2 begins ...

The TA offered some options -- had we been able to make the Glendo crossing unmolested we would have had time for an optional Bike-O course and another 25 mile paddle - but we had lost too much time and energy on the crossing and opted for a 35 mile direct route (but still on full course) by bike to the next TA.  This took us across the flats of WY from the reservoir to the Eastern edge of the Medicine Bow Mountains National Forest. Here we switched to the only real trek of the trip -- a 13 miler along a gnarly river bed thick with undergrowth.  After a false start on the trek the team headed on target to the next TA.  It was a tough slog and in the end no one wanted to ever see the South Roaring Fork river (creek really) again, but we made it into the TA about 1 am, got 90 minutes of 'sleep' (if you can call a cold windy place on the ground with a space blanket 'sleeping') and hit the next section (a 40 mile bike) while still dark.  Day 3 begins ...

The bike was pretty fast along hard-packed dirt roads in the open range of WY.  Along the way we saw some wildlife and lot's and lot's of cattle, and then suddenly an ATV appeared with a woman flagging us down frantically.  It seems we were headed right into a real-life cowboy's-on-horseback round-up!  She told us to hop the fence immediately and settle down for awhile as their ranch was bringing in their stock for branding.  Within 10 minutes hundreds of cattle came storming down the road and we sat by and got a true taste of WY ranch life as about 10 cowboys whooped and rode around the rowdy herd and corralled them on by us.  A truly unique experience anywhere - much less for an Adventure Race!  Getting back on the road the team sped through the miles of road covered in what cattle do when they are scared and with slightly soiled bikes, clothes and grins we pulled into the next TA for another foot-O section with a ropes course.  It was full daylight now and very hot and windy - the hottest and windiest day so far.  The team found the ropes area right away and each member did a 140 foot ascension on 70-80 percent grade cliff faces, then rappelled down.

From there we picked up one optional foot-O point up a high draw and moved back to the TA.  By now it was 3 pm, burning hot and windy, windy, windy and we were looking at a long 45 mile bike across open range and then through the western portion of the Medicine Bows.  We decided to wait out the sun and wind and start the ride at 6 pm.  We watched as the other teams headed out on the ride while we rested.  Turned out to be a good call, as the next bike ride was grueling up and down ride that took us 9 hours to complete even with slightly favorable weather conditions. We caught up with several teams and saw others camped out on the side of the road.  This section took several teams out of the race and left others drained - 11 teams did not fully complete this race.  We made it to the next TA at 1 am and after a very brief rest headed out on bike again for the second to last section of the race --- 45 miles for the start of Day 4 ...

This bike ride was surreal.  Pitch dark in the middle of the WY wastelands.  The monotony of the ride was literally putting the team to sleep on their bikes so we called a 30 minute safety stop and curled up peacefully on the side of the road nestled among the sage brush and rodents.  After that on again through the night to day-break where we came to the 'final' turn-off before the next TA.  This was the ride that wouldn't stop going uphill.  On Day 1 or 2 this would not be an issue, but by Day 4 this was a gut-tester.  The team made it with a lot of support for each other and got to the TA with 3 hours to make it to the finish line - a 15 mile bike ride with one more climb to the top of Caspar Mountain and then a screaming descent into the city.  We blew through the TA in record time, then saddle-sore and weary pushed up the hill and down to the finish!

Individual highlights:

Mark 'bull dog' Bolyard keeping everyone focused on getting the most points possible and guiding the team through the difficult trek along the Roaring Fork River.

Darren 'freight train' Steinbach hauling ass at every stage and actually riding faster towing than when on the bike alone!

Mike 'true grit' Flanery gutting it through the last two days with a pair of feet wracked with pain from a rash, but actually getting faster as the race went on in spite of it.

Jon 'white boy' Gamm stripping down to his jersey to escape the heat of the last day and push over the final climb to the finish.

This was a team of four people who had never raced together, with different ages, experience levels and personalities -- and they completed one of the toughest endurance events out there together.  A true testimony to individual character and determination.

10 July 2016

Team Commie Bar heads to Wyoming for Cowboy Tough World Series Expedition 3.5day Adventure Race.....

Summit Adventure Racing/Team Commie Bar toes line at the Cameco Cowboy Tough Expedition Race this 14-17 July in Casper, WY....

Proud to introduce the team that will be racing........

Summit Adventure Racing & Team Commie Bar is a nationally ranked adventure racing team based in Deep Creek Lake, MD in the epicenter of adventure sports.  The team competes in expedition and multi day adventure racing both in the U.S. and internationally in Europe, and is composed of athletes from MD, NY, CO, PA, MI, NC, SD, WA and France.  Team Commie Bar’s Cowboy Tough 2016 team is a four-person male from all over the US:  Mark Bolyard (NC), Darren Steinbach (WA), Mike Flanery (SD) and Jon Gamm (CO).   

Mark is an Adventure Racing veteran completing four 72-hour events and with several USARA Nationals appearances.  He is also an aspiring American Ninja Warrior with multiple obstacle course races under his belt.  

Mike is an outdoor enthusiast who took the AR plunge last year at RAID Gasp├ęsie and is back for more this year as part of Team Commie Bar.  Mike’s day job is instructing South Dakota National Guard Blackhawk helicopter pilots.  

Darren lives in his Sprinter van traveling around the country in search of climbs, whitewater, and events to test his mental and physical endurance. He is a strong runner, mountain biker, paddler, and climber, and has a positive attitude when things start fall apart... which is good, considering he likes to get lost too.  

Jon is team captain, and in addition to numerous Xterra and traditional long-distance triathlons he has completed Equinox 48, Sea-to-Sea 72, and RAID in France 90 hour ARs.  He is also team medic and morale officer with a ready supply of medicinal Grappa on hand at all times.  We are all new to Cowboy Tough, and looking forward to sharing a fantastic experience in the wilds of Wyoming!