For new readers

To get an idea of what I'm trying to do and why I think it's possible, check out the following entries, they'll help get you up to speed.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Duluth wrap up (part 2)

So Jim has mild hypothermia with blue lips and we're on the verge of being pulled from the race.  It's 11:20 pm and we're told that this section has a cut off at 2 am and that no team has come back into the TA yet and the top teams have been out for nearly 3 hours already.  Things look bleak.

Tammy takes Jim into an industrial sized porta-john (handicapped accessible!!!), strips him down, and gives him some of her dry layers.  Pat and I get organized to depart and then make it a party in the potty.  Being out of the wind with 4 bodies in the plastic structure generates a surprising amount of heat and Jim's chattering teeth start to calm down (slightly).  We decide to go for it.  Opening the door we set off quickly across the parking lot shouting over our shoulders to the volunteers - "he's fine!  see you later!" and trying to get away before they decide to see for themselves.

I've taken over navigation from Jim so he can just focus on moving and getting warm, and I hook up a tow to him as well so i can force the pace a bit.  Off we go.  We're moving quickly and soon see two lights coming towards us on the road.  It's Logan and Erik, who are still looking for CP 8 (the first on the trek) and assure us it's not further down the road.  They're young and fit and so running around like crazy - confident that it must be back the way we came or else they'd have seen it.  But it's not... it's up a trail 50 feet off the road - a trail they had 'explored', but somehow missed the point.  So be it.  They run off ahead again like antelope.

Logan Evans of Team Young Guns
As we headed to CP 9 we saw the first place team pass, heading back to the TA.  they reminded us that we shouldn't be traveling on the road between 8 and 9 (oh, the fine print they put on the maps....) and so we backtrack and take a trail.  none of the trails are on the map so we estimate our direction and distance and finally make it to the shore of a lake and start bushwhacking SW towards the CP location.  We run across Young Guns again as well as two other two person teams, working together.  It's nice to see people again - and Jim is finally warming up.  This is a cool section of the race because it's 'adventurous' and fun (as crashing around in the woods at night tends to be, at least for the first half an hour....) so we're in good spirits as a team.  We're estimating our position by taking bearings to shadowy islands in the lake.  Logan and Erik in there haste have worked way too far along the coast and are out of earshot (we try to call to them) when we luckily stumble across the CP, right on a trail, 100 feet back into the forest.  We have no particular affinity for the other two teams (although i'm sure they're all nice chaps) and so try to keep our discovery a secret and quickly set off down the trail.  Eventually the trail joins another and there is a sign with a map of the system.  Upon seeing the map Jim says - 'hey - that's the map that we have in the map case!  i'd seen it but just assumed it was a mt. bike map....'  So of course were bummed that we wasted so much time looking and bushwhacking when had we consulted the correct map things would have been very straightforward, but the bright side is that had we done so, we'd have missed out on all the fun looking and bushwhacking.  Ah, the conundrum.

Then comes my navigational high point..... the trail map shows a nice, direct line to the next CP - a red line that heads to and then across a narrow arm of the lake.  we head that way but i stop us after maybe 500 feet.  We're travelling on snow-mobile trails.  it's not snowing.  The lake won't be frozen.  There won't be a bridge.  We turn around.  heading back we see the foursome run by us and nod hello.  20 minutes later, having taken the long way around, we see their headlights again, far across the lake where the trail dead ends into the water.  I shout out condolences about the missing bridge and we jog on.

We get the last CP at about 1:40 AM.  we reason that with our time credit we should have a cut-off at 2:30 rather than 2 am and so have 50 minutes to go the 3.5-4 miles back to the TA (all good dirt road).  Doesn't sound hard, but Jim isn't a runner (in fact, in june he couldn't run a mile continuously!).  He had been training hard though, and was about to be tested.  We set up a 'schedule' of 100 steps running and 60 steps walking - pushing the pace (for jim) on both legs so that we were hoping to average about 5 mph or so.  I kept worrying that this pace would get too hard eventually (and it turns out Jim did too) but it never did - in fact, he did so well sometimes we'd run twice as long before walking.  We made the TA with about 10 minutes to spare - woo hoo!

Erik Sanders of Team Young Guns
Back in the boats for more paddling against the wind.  Jim makes up for his running ability with his paddling ability, but (no offense guys) Tammy and Pat aren't great paddlers so it was a bit slow.  Tammy switched boats and so was in front of me, and i gave her a couple of bonks in the head with my paddle as i struggled  to keep us straight using draw strokes with a strong cross wind and whitecaps.  By the time we beached we were freezing again and weren't having as much fun.  The 10 minute mandatory boat cleaning period was grim with hands that lacked any semblance of manual dexterity - but we managed and headed to the fire that was still going, generously tended by the volunteers.

We got trapped at the fire for a LONG time.  The four guys from the missing bridge were still there (they'd skipped the last CP - we hadn't been aware this was even an option - more on this later) but left shortly after we arrived.  Logan and Erik arrived to join us after 10 minutes or so.  Everyone else stripped down and tried to 'dry off'.  I just wanted to move and warm up on the go, but knew that the morale boost provided by the blaze was what the team needed if we were going to keep going, so tried to bite my tongue and let them enjoy it.  Eventually things got put away, people got dressed and we were finally ready to head off, and left Logan and Erik alone to enjoy the last few moments of the fire (which the volunteers informed us was being put out at 4:45 am, 15 minutes away).  We expected them to catch up with us quickly.....

Monday, September 27, 2010

Duluth wrap up (Part 1)

The 24 hour WILD AR in Duluth, MN has come and gone.  Here's a brief trip report:

As is typical, getting there was the first (minor) challenge.  Pat was about 15 minutes late picking Tammy and I up but Jim was ready to go as we drove down university Avenue (he's a law professor and had to teach an 8 am class that morning) and had had time to change out of his suit.  Stopped for coffee and gas in East Grand Forks and were on our way by 9:30, with the check-in cutoff at 2 pm and the race start at 4 pm.  We'd forgotten the directions and had a bad map of duluth, so we had our first navigational challenge as we approached the race HQ and had to ask for directions several different times (some people pointing us, with complete confidence, in the entirely wrong direction).  But we made it by 2:15, and still beat the other GF team ('Young Guns' Erik Sanders and Logan Evans) who had driven to Duluth thursday afternoon but spent the morning in a desperate search for ascenders and throw bags.....

It was a whirlwind for the next hour or so, then the pre-race meeting where we learned we'd be climbing, not ascending.  Goody!  there were three climbs (easy - 4th class, medium - 5.3, and 'hard' - 5.6).  the climbs would be right away in the race.
After the successful climb, in first place (:
Bang - the race started with 200 meter run across a field to get the maps.  Pat White sprinted for us and was the first back, but his pack wasn't loaded yet.  teams started pedaling out of the parking lot and i frantically tried to hurry the team along.  without looking at the maps we furiously chased teams up a hill and around back of the HQ only to find them all stopped there, looking things over.  so we stopped and looked for a bit, then set off, making several wrong turns (there was a barrier across the bike path the direction that we wanted to go that threw us off!). by the time we got to the climb, most teams were already there.  Only one two person team was in line for the hard climb, so we got in the Queue.  The first guy was at the hard part and couldn't pull the move - he had to ascend and so they were penalized and his partner had to go behind us.  woo hoo!

Tammy made it look easy.  Pat made it look very hard.  I thought it was a sandbag for 5.6 but not too bad - polished and slick and somewhat technical.  Jim had opted to go last so that if he needed to ascend, there'd be no one left that had to go to the back of the line.....  as it turns out he cruised it, and there was no line.  we were the only team to complete the hard climb and so for a little while in first place (it counted as 3 CP's).  Back at the bikes we had to carry the climbing gear with us to the paddling section - which ended up sucking because 1) our packs were too small and we had to rig stuff hanging all over and 2)it was a 30-40 mile ride all on pavement.  At this point though, all were in good spirits and we were having fun.
getting ready to paddle
At the kayak we found out that we were the last team to come in (except for the team that had dropped out).  Pat and I paddled together and ended up being a bit faster than jim and Tammy, and so had to wait occasionally.  I volunteered to get wet when we hit sand bars and dragged the others across - the water was actually pretty warm - or maybe just felt so because the air was so cold (hovering around 40 degrees).  After picking up a CP on an island we headed towards the trek TA, but had been told we had to find the channel under the bridge and could not portage the road.  After following the faint lights of a team into the land and watching them portage we realized we'd come too far south and turned to paddle 3/4 of a mile into the fierce wind to the bridge then 3/4 of a mile to the TA.  Bummer.

While beaching jim had the wobblies and fell into the lake.  We were told that we were the only team that hadn't portaged..... bummer.  The race director gave us 30 minutes of time credit (better than nothing!  although disqualifying all the other teams would have been ok too (;  ) and we got set to go.  Except jim was turning blue and shivering uncontrollably.  The volunteer did not like the look of things and   said we couldn't continue unless things got better for him quickly.

Jim:  "i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i a-a-a-am-m-m-m-m o-o-o-o---k-k-k-k-k"

hmmm... what could we do?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Change of pace

CP 3 from END-AR 2010 (see why I think adventure racing is so much fun?)  Photo by Caylan Van Larson.

Ever since getting back from Too Much Fun Wyoming i've been pretty much flat out planning the adventure race.  It went off spectacularly last saturday and after a full day of clean up/gear sorting and a couple of half days tying up loose ends, things would finally be settling down and getting back to 'normal', except......

Tammy's team won second place in the coed division.  The first place team won free entry into Wild AR's (Minnesota's adventure race series) 24 hour race in two weeks.  Because they were unable to commit to it, the prize rolled down to Tammy's team.  They needed a fourth for the race and Tammy asked me.  So now things are hardly settled - i'm trying to get a good week of training in, get back into the swing of things at what is supposed to be my job (race directing is technically a 'hobby', since i'm expected to devote full time effort to my research), and spend long overdue quality time (where my mind isn't buzzing with all the details that go into planning a 10 hour event) with the kids, and manage the logistics of preparing for a 24 hour race of my own.  Whew!

I'm pretty psyched though - END-AR went flawlessly (you can see great video and pics at the ENDracing website) - and i'm looking forward to being on the other side of the start line in an adventure race for the first time since 2007 and racing with Tammy for the first time ever (can't wait!!!) I've also decided to race the Checkpoint Tracker Nationals race at the end of October with my brother and team Yogaslackers, who are going strong this year and are so fast that the thought of being the fourth on their team has me very nervous.  Nationals comes a week before the Silverman, so needless to say that race (if indeed i even still decide to do it) will not be my best performance.  I still think that the Silverman represents a better test for my training theories, but the opportunity to race with such a high level squad doesn't come very often, and, truth be told, adventure racing is just more exciting to me at the moment, and Nationals seems to provide a better progression towards Abu Dhabi which is going to ultimately be my A race for the year.