18 November 2014

Race Report: 2014 Bonk Hard Castlewood 8hr AR

If anything, 2014 will be known as the Year of the Mash-Up for me. I've participated in 12 different adventure races with 6 distinct team configurations and 13 different teammates. As you probably know, Jeff and David have been my main teammates since 2013, and when we need a fourth we call on our good buddy Doug to complete team Alpine Shop.  That was the plan for the 2014 running of the Bonk Hard Castlewood 8hr Adventure Race, the St. Louis area's largest adventure race. That is, until Doug's girlfriend Sunny (of WHOA! fame) started kicking serious UCI cyclocross boo-tay and needed Doug's crewing skills at Jingle Cross...on the same weekend as CW8. Finding a replacement for Doug isn't easy, and we had a tense few days calling around to different folks. Finally, we convinced Erl (of GearJunkie/WEDALI fame) to make the long trip south to race with us. 

I've raced with Erl a few times before, and each experience is a highlight of my short AR career. There are very few people who know how to support and foster teamwork the way Erl does, and I was so excited for Jeff and David to get to experience that. We've been able to hang out a bunch this fall in conjunction with other races (Berryman and Perfect 10) and each time I've gained more and more appreciation for Erl's experience and perspective on adventure racing. So, basically, I was super excited to see him again!

Erl rolled in to the Alpine Shop around 4pm just as the place was starting to bustle with friends and family and adventure racers. We got all checked in with Bonk Hard and then picked up my traditional pre-race meal of Dewey's pizza before heading to David's workshop to prep maps. However, we didn't have any CPs to plot and only information on the first 2ish hours of the race. The biggest decision we had to make was which shoes to wear for the start...trekking or biking? Trekking shoes would be faster on the opening 2mi run, but would take longer to change after the paddle. Biking shoes would be a bit slower at first but then faster in TA. We hemmed and hawed and eventually (much to my relief) decided on trekking shoes. Then we ate a ton of pizza (seriously...the four of us polished off two 17" pies) and toured David's shop.

Then Erl and I went back to my apartment and piddled with gears, a classic Alpine Shop habit. I took some time to look at the race area on Google maps and noticed there were two parks on the south side of the Meramec River (West Tyson and South Castlewood) that had orienteering maps. I guessed that maybe we would be given a surprise map sometime early in the race, and texted Jeff and David to let them know. Thankfully, we had already planned to wear trekking shoes so it wouldn't be a big deal either way.
Jeff, Erl and I at the bike drop on race morning. Photo by Stacey Hagen.
Race morning was early and cold. Erl and I met Jeff at the bike drop in Castlewood at 0630 and it was in the low 20s. We dropped off our bikes and biking gear at the beach, and then drove over to Race HQ at La Salle Middle School. The school had its doors and bathrooms open for us, and it was so nice to have a warm place to get ready. About 10 minutes before the race started, Jeff noticed his passport pocket (custom-made of course) was attached in the wrong direction on the shoulder strap of his pack. To most people, this would not be a big deal, but in a sprint race where every second counts, we were worried. Thankfully, we just needed scissors and 2 new zipties to fix it, so we sprinted across the parking lot to Jeff's van, perform some lightning-fast pack surgery, and sprint back to the start line with a few minutes to spare. 

TREK 1, 2mi, CP 1-3, 0:15

Team Alpine Shop among the top 5 teams at the start! Photo by Mary Welter.
We take off in a herd of racers...172 to be exact...and immediately I'm so glad we chose to wear trekking shoes on the paved path. We let other teams set the pace and are quite content to sit somewhere in the top 10 overall. Jeff punches the CP1 cleanly and we take off to CP2. Here, the path turns to gravel and we start to encounter some Saturday morning dog-walkers who are a bit confused to see a mass of pack-wearing people barreling down on them. We pass them as politely as we can on the out-and-back run to CP2. I love out-and-backs early in races because they let us cheer for a lot of teams, and today is no exception. I actually get super out of breath from yelling "good job!" so much so I try to hide behind David to recover. We reach the end of the trek and tumble down the hill where all of the boats are staged. 
Jeff, Erl, and not-a-serial-killer David running to CP3 with Nathan from Toporadicals. I'm just out of the picture. Photo b y Patrick & Donovan Feder. 
It's basically mass chaos, but somehow we manage to collect 4 (short) paddles, 4 PFDs, 2 canoes, and 1 punch of CP3. Oh, and....SURPRISE! The volunteer hands us a bonus map which adds an unannounced trekking section to the middle of the paddle. Unfazed, we put in with minimal fuss and get paddling.

PADDLE 1, 4.2mi, CP 4-5
At the put-in. Steamy. Photo by Patrick and Donovan Feder.
We're in the mix of the top 5 teams as we start paddling downstream on the Meramec. We're in our planned pairs, me in the back with Jeff and Erl in the back with David. I'm using my super-warm ski mittens to avoid the frozen hands like last year and so far they're working great, even as the spray from the paddle starts to freeze on the gunwhales and thwarts. It's really a beautiful morning to be on the river, and I use all my concentration to keep the boat on the most efficient line. Jeff and I can't even enjoy our usual chit-chat because everytime I try to talk, the boat starts drifting one way or the other, so I just keep quiet and focus. We don't pass many boats, and a few others creep up into our loose pack, and I try not to get frustrated and just stay smooth. We punch CP4 at Sherman Beach and get back out into the main channel. Pretty soon, we start seeing the boats in front of us land at CP5. We get there quickly and do the same. Both Jeff's and my packs are soaking wet, but for some reason I don't even feel the chill when I throw it back on.

TREK 2, 2mi, CP 38-42
This is the map we were handed at CP3. I added the orange arrows showing our route. Also ignore the red scribbles, that was from later in the race.
We negotiate our way up the steep earthen bank with 5-6 other teams and take off on a clockwise loop for the five surprise/bonus trekking CPs. David's decided to route us 39-41-42-40-38, and we join a pack of teams on the trail run to 39. This entire map is a flat flood plain with only a few mapped vegetation features and basically one contour line to navigate off of. It's like a big group run until we get close to the CP, and then everyone fans out to try and spot the flag first. We're a little discombobulated attacking CP39, but as we leave the circle, Erl organizes us into "formation" and the rest of the CPs are much better. We don't gain much of a gap on any team, but we're moving well through the vegetation. Once we've punched all 5 bonus CPs, we run across a field of tall, dead grass, take a group pee-break, and hop back in the canoes. Somehow, even though we've been running with about 5 other teams, we get onto the water in the lead!
Our friends on Team Virtus running through the field on Trek 2. Photo by Bob "Lifeskillz" Jenkins.
PADDLE 2, 2mi, CP 6, 1:45 total for paddle-trek-paddle
Jeff and I finishing out the paddling section. Photo by Patrick and Donovan Feder.
Just because we're leading for a moment, doesn't mean it's easy to stay there. Jeff and I make it a little harder on ourselves because we accidentally picked a different boat than PADDLE 1. It wouldn't be a huge deal, but one of the paddles is extra-long so Jeff takes it, but has a hard time keeping high cadence. "It's like paddling in the big ring!" he says, but gets it done anyway. Stud! We have 2 other boats for company through the first little congested section but I focus really hard on keeping my line and no-one dumps, although David and Erl tell us later that they came scarily close. This paddle is shorter than the first, so I work really hard to keep the boat moving as fast as possible. Finally, the Castlewood beach appears and we take-out with about a 30-second lead on Team CRX and AMTZ, and Toporadicals, 36 Down, and Extreme Electrical not far behind! CP6 has a gear check which is more mass chaos, but the volunteers do a great job at managing everything. A lot of teams opted to do this race with flat pedals, but we all take a bit of extra time to change shoes, hoping that our feet will appreciate being dry and warm after the paddle.
At the take-out, with AMTZ hot on our sterns. Photo by Stacy Hagen.
BIKE 1, 6mi, CP 7-14, 0:40
Getting ready to start riding, I'm helping Erl put on his glove. Photo by Donovan and Patric Feder.
We've got a loop of Castlewood singletrack, and the route is pretty much the best-case scenario for me (keeping the most technical bits on the uphills instead of the downhills). We roll out, now firmly committed to our formation, but no idea if any other teams made it through the gear check more quickly than we did. We can't see anyone ahead of us, but that doesn't mean anything with the quality of the teams we're racing today. We get to work climbing Grotpeter, motor through Roller Coaster, and descend smoothly down Love. The trails are starting to thaw and get greasy as we hit the short out-and-back on the dirt crit loop, but we all keep the rubber side down as we knock out the last CPs on this leg. Then it's into TA where we will be given maps for the rest of the course! 

As we approach the shelter, we spot AMTZ already there, so we know we're a few minutes down in second place. We punch CP14 and the volunteer hands us a map with instructions for 8 trekking CPs, 3 of which we have to plot ourselves. This isn't a big deal, until David digs around in his pack for our plotter and discovers it fell out at the gear check! We allow ourselves about 5 seconds of panic, and then Jeff tells me to make a plotter out of paper like we did at the Berryman 16hr. I rip off a piece of the map and use the printed scale to make a rudimentary plotter. David calls UTM coordinates and we slowly get the 3 CPs transferred onto the trekking map. I'm not even sure if they're right, but we have to leave NOW if we're going to have a chance of catching AMTZ. 

TREK 3, 3.5mi, CP 15-22, 0:45
The map for Trek 3. We ripped the bottom of the map off and used it to plot 17, 18, and 19.
We storm out of TA on a mission, but I'm really, really scared about the 3 CPs we just half-assedly (is that a word?) plotted on the map. As we attack CP18, I'm expecting the worst, but to my relief Jeff spots the flag quickly. 1 down! We climb the spur to CP19 and descend into the reentrant, looking everywhere for the flag. Nothing. I yell that we need to re-check the plot right away, but at the last second, David spots the flag and gets the punch. 2 down! I'm feeling slightly more optimistic on the way to CP17, and sure enough, the David leads us straight to the shallow depression. 3 down! I'm SO RELIEVED that we've got these out of the way, and now only have the pre-plotted CPs left. We hit CP15 next, overrunning the side reentrant slightly, and as we descend back down after punching, we spot AMTZ approaching. Erl and I try to adjust our route to not give away the correct reentrant, but it doesn't really do any good. We cross back over Ries Rd (legal to cross but illegal to run along), climb up to CP16, and then run back down to CP20. We catch up with AMTZ here because they took a slightly different order (17-16-15-20) and we all meet up at the creek crossing. David, sensing an opportunity, leads us straight through a knee-deep section of the creek while AMTZ chooses a slightly longer and dryer route. Our feet are now soaking wet but we're in the lead! 
Here is a different team crossing the creek at CP20. We had crossed earlier in a deeper section, and then crossed here as well. We were not this careful. Photo by Patrick and Donovan Feder.
We all know this could be a make-or-break moment and I have a flashback to the 2013 MNOC Tune-Up where I was in a similar situation, racing with Biz. In that race, he gave me an awesome (-o-possum) pep talk that inspired me to dig deep, so I try to do the same for my team today. "Guys, we have a gap, we have to push it super hard up this hill and make it stick!" We charge up the backside of Lone Wolf, everyone red-lining in an effort to gain the lead. In between gasping breaths, I try to encourage as much as possible, and we make it to the top of the hill having opened up a slight advantage over AMTZ. We crash down the other side, David picks the correct reentrant for CP21, Jeff punches, and we race back to TA with about a minute's lead.

Back at the shelter, the volunteer hands us an entire packet of maps for the remainder of the race. It contants four 8.5x11 maps, double-sided, with 12 CPs scattered among them. It's really confusing to make sense of everything and plan a route to the finish line. David and I work together to get everything sorted, reading the clue sheet again and again to make sure we're doing everything according to the rules. Meanwhile, Erl and Jeff complete their TA and then help change David's and my shoes so we can leave faster. Finally, we think we've got it all figured out and hop on bikes, leaving in 1st place!

BIKE 2, 23mi, CP 23-34, 1:46
We know AMTZ is stacked with really strong bikers, so we organize into a towing paceline and hustle out of Castlewood State Park. The first three CPs (23-24-25) must be found in order, and David guides us smoothly to each one. Then we have a bit of a route choice, and, after further analyzing the map as we're riding, David decides to change his original plan and go 27-28-29-30-26, and then head into the west side of Castlewood for 31-32-33. We ride across Ridge Rd and descend down the paved Rock Hollow trail to CPs 28 and 29. On the way down, we actually see CP30 hanging in the woods, but race rules say we must bike to it (no bike-whacking allowed on this land) so we ride down to the Zombie trail head (CP29) and then take the singletrack uphill to the flag. This singletrack is newly-built by GORC and it's a really fun ride. We get the punch, ride the trail back down, and then take the Al Foster path to CP26 and continue into the west side of Castlewood.

The three controls on the west side of Castlewood are really fun. The singletrack is straightforward and fast, and we're all still feeling decent. David guides us smoothly to each CP and we're out of there in a flash. Once we're back on the Al Foster, we know we just have a mile to the CP34 and the finish line. Time to empty the tanks! The boys each take turns pulling while we absolutely fly down the path. Pretty soon, we spot the iconic orange and white Bonk Hard Racing inflatable arch signifying the finish line. We ease the pace just slightly to make sure everyone's together and cross the finish line with huge smiles.

FINISH 5:11:46
Big smiles at the finish line. Photo by Mary Welter.
It is incredibly satisfying to finish 1st at the Bonk Hard Castlewood 8hr AR. Sprint races are so stressful for me, since one mistake or mechanical can derail an entire race, where as in the 24hr races you have more opportunity to recover. We did make a few mistakes out there, we always do, but each one was small and we were able to recover quickly. That's the value of racing with three highly experienced teammates. Even though all of our transitions were chaotic, we were always communicating and trying to help the team as a whole. We were constantly checking on each other, making sure that no one was getting too cold or hungry or blown-up. When we had the opportunity to grab the lead, we all recognized it and had the legs to make it happen. 

It is so great to see a huge field in an adventure race, and we enjoyed the intense competition from several speedy teams. Everyone was so positive and encouraging, even when we were trying to rip each others' legs off.  That is the spirit of adventure racing! Something else pretty cool happened, a group of students from Mizzou was at the race, filming and photographing and later interviewing racers for an article on the sport. I'll post the link to that as soon as I have it, and hopefully we can draw even more athletes into our AR community! If you are a beginner racer and have questions, please use the Contact button at the top of the page to get in touch with me. I love talking to new racers!

Official results/splits: http://bonkhardracing.com/castlewood-8-hr/castlewood-8-hr-results.php
Photos: http://bonkhardracing.com/castlewood-8-hr/castlewood-8-hr-photos-.php
Ludicrous Speed gps track: http://www.strava.com/activities/219665728
Toporadicals gps track: http://www.strava.com/activities/219662739
Team Fusion/Kuat gps track: http://www.strava.com/activities/219958260

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12 November 2014

Race Report: 2014 BT Epic

For the past 2 years, I have arrived at the starting line of the BT Epic an exhausted shell of a mountain bike racer, bargaining with my legs and my mojo for "one last solid effort" to close out a hard summer of racing. Fortunately, the BT Epic is so soaked in stoke that it hasn't been hard to go to the well on one of my favorite trails of all time, for two of the most energetic race directors of all time. 

This year, for some reason, was different. Despite logging more race hours in 2014 than ever before, despite racing (hard!) for 3 consecutive weekends in October, I was feeling ready. I was actually EXCITED to race and treating it more like an actual competitive event than I ever have. (I have my theories on the difference this year...) That being said, it's still just a mountain bike race, so there's no need to freak out with spreadsheets and such. Oh wait, do you know who's writing this? Of course I had a spreadsheet. With split times. It's just who I am.
Instead of getting a (really rather expensive) cabin this year, Maria and I just loaded all of our crap into my car at 0500 Saturday morning and drove down to Bass. We got there in plenty of time for Bass to go all Ceasar Augustus on our poor souls. Seriously, can we just get the BS "day use fee" included in the race entry and be done with it?! We all know that Bass only charges it for big events, if you show up on any normal weekend there is no issue with parking and "day using". But on BT Epic weekend, oh no, we must be nickled-and-dimed (or, in this case, eight-dollared-PER-PERSON) to no end. That's my one and only complaint about the entire race. Rant over.

Coverage Photography: BT Epic - 2014 &emdash;

To ease some of the sting of dishing out cash at 0700 on a Saturday morning, we find ourselves parked next to some of the finest jerks in all the land, and get started with our respective pre-race routines. I've honestly got things pretty dialed by now, except the one item I forgot was some duct tape to write my goal splits on and stick to my top tube. Why is this so important? Well, first of all, my splits came from my beloved spreadsheet so of course I treasure them greatly. And secondly, the women's field is THIRTY DEEP and I don't really know where I'll shake out in this pool of talented riders, so racing against my goal splits is a better way to stay motivated than trying to keep track of all the girls. So I can't find any tape, but I DO find a Sharpie, so I just jot a few notes down on my arm for reference during the race. Problem solved. I ride over to the start line and find that EK has an open spot next to him in the crowd! Huzzah! I honestly have no business being as close to the front as we are (anyone sense a theme here...) but when you can you pass up the chance for an EK-EK line-up? Never, that's when. Scott counts us down and pretty soon 300 riders are streaming out of Bass. Whoop!
Coverage Photography: BT Epic - 2014 &emdash;
EK-EK! far left.
Bass to Brazil = 1:03 (1:11) (1:17)
Almost immediately I am being passed by what seems like hundreds of riders. It's just a fact of life, I am not fast off the line to begin with, plus I have a healthy fear of miles 37-39 (aka "Triple Trouble") so I'm setting a conservative pace early on. I just settle into my 5hr effort and let it shake out watever speed that gets me. 

That works for about ten minutes, when I am passed by Matt Struckman. He's a former Pfoodman teammate of mine and also a really great technical rider. I am not a really great technical rider. I know if I can follow his wheel in the singletrack, it will help me ride more smoothly and ultimately faster. So I lift my pace to match his speed and we motor on through the remaining gravel miles. Once onto the OT, I'm rewarded with a fantastic carrot to chase down into Harmon Spring. I pre-rode these miles with Erl and Andrei last weekend so I know what to expect - mostly gradually swooping downhills but some gnarly bits in there as well. There are several people on my wheel as I accidentally lead them through a horrible line of downhill babyheads. I can hear their exclamations of dismay behind me...sorry guys! 

Once we get onto the Berryman Trail proper, Struckman charges ahead and disappears. It's no big deal since I know this trail pretty well. Except the OTA recently held a Mega-Workday and a lot of the curves have been "touched up"...i.e. leveled off on the outside/downhill edge. I'm sure the changes are good for the longevity of the trail, but today they make it harder (for me) to carry speed through the turn. I'm already sketched out by loose turns, so with the new trailwork in place, I ride cautiously. The rest of the trail into Brazil goes pretty much to plan, no surprises, just riding as hard as I dare. As I descend into Brazil Creek, I get to warn a few riders behind me of the super-sharp right-hander which helps us all stay rubber-side down. Crossing Highway W, I spot Struckman apparently waiting for me. 

Coverage Photography: BT Epic - 2014 &emdash;
I think this was taken approaching Berryman Campground?
Brazil to Berryman = 1:03 (1:07) (1:10)
As we cross Highway W, I glance down at my watch and exclaim outloud, "HOLY CRAP STRUCKMAN!" and proceed to tell him that we made it to Brazil Creek 8 minutes faster than I did last year. We both concur that one of two things will happen: we'll either have a great ride, or we'll explode and be miserable for the rest of the race. Only trail will tell. I continue to chase Struckman as we ride south, but eventually lose him and pick up a trail of other guys on my wheel. I try to make passing for them as painless as possible, slowing down and scooting to the side whenever someone needs to get by. It's not a hard thing to do and makes everyone's day a little better. The 10 miles between Brazil and Berryman pass relatively quickly - I've ridden this section several times before and know the punches it throws. I tick off landmarks as we ride along: the waterbar switchbacks, fast bottoms, the tricky stub after the creek, the mushroom patch, Dwayne's root wad, the last 5 climbs, the duathlon rootwad, and finally I roll into Berryman campround, again ahead of my projected split and grinning from ear to ear. Volunteers help me find my drop bag, where all I need to do is grab another water bottle, and I'm outta there!

Berryman to Harmon = 1:19
Now, we're into flashback country. The last time I was on this section of trail, it was at mile 80 of the OT100MTB. I had just worked really hard to create a gap over SS Kate, but she closed it with a super fast stop at the aid station while I futzed with my lights. We rolled out together and I jumped ahead. We rode together for the next 7 miles, me trying to get away on the downhills and flats, and her trying to get away on the climbs. It was uncomfortable. 

But here, today, now, things are sooooo much better than 6 weeks ago. I'm in a great spot nutritionally, and therefore mentally, and having a wonderful time riding this amazing trail. The only worry is the rising temperatures, and the gurgling sound my Camelbak is making when I try to get water out of it. I'm running low on fluids, and the bottle I picked up at Berryman has CR333 in it, not the plain water I want. I'm stressing about rationing liquids when it dawns on me...Beecher Spring!
Beecher Spring.
Beecher Spring looks like a sketchy Blair Witch bathtub next to the Berryman Trail, but it's actually potable water (if you fill straight from the hose, NOT the tub portion). And the timing is perfect too, there's a train of dudes on my wheel so I pull over, let them by, AND refill on cool clean water at the same time. Total score! I ride off up THE climb, the one that SS Kate ultimately crushed me out on to take the final, decisive lead at OT100MTB, and I'm still in super-happy-mountain-bikey mode. 

I think somewhere after THE climb, I connect with local rider Dave and he starts chatting with me. Normally I'm not very good at riding singletrack and carrying on a conversation, but today I seem to be managing with enough "mm-hmmm"s and "awesome"s to keep Dave talking. I really don't mind the company, it's motivating me to keep pushing the edge of 5hr pace and moving me nicely down the trail. I make it back to Harmon with a split of 2:49 for the full Berryman loop, definitely a PR for me which spurs my trail stoke to new heights as we hop back on the OT.

Harmon to Bass = 1:05
We ride west towards Bass and through the field where I got chiggers so badly in 2012 that I had red welts on my legs for 2 months, I always like revisiting that place and that memory. Then we head up the doubletrack climb to the gravel, the one where I cramped badly last year, and, surprise, cramps are threatening again! I've been more aggressive this year with my electrolyte intake (double nuun in each CR333 bottle PLUS a few e-caps) but the high temperatures and effort are catching up to me. I immediately dial back the pace and have to let Dave ride ahead.

Once I'm up on the ridge, we turn right on the main gravel road and have a few miles to recover. I keep the pace as high as I dare, and also focus on eating a lot. The next section of OT singletrack is likely to be the toughest we face today - three back-to-back climbs, none especially long, but each especially steep. But first, we have a sweet 2-mile downhill that just floats down the edge of the spur and keeps....going...and....going.....these things are rare in Missouri!

Once I hit Triple Trouble, it's all business. These three hills made my life miserable in the dark at the OT100MTB, but this time around I'm prepared for their nastiness. I tackle them in granny-granny, passing a ton of dudes as they stop to stretch out their cramping muscles. Wellllll....maybe like 4 or 5 guys, not technically a ton. But it sure felt like a ton! Finally, I'm spit out onto the scraggly singletrack that leads into the backside of Bass, still reveling in the night-and-day (literally) difference in my attitude between OT100MTB and today. Life is good! One more loop left!

West Loop = 0:52
I make a quick stop at the aid station, ditch my empty CamelBak, and get to the business of climbing Butts Rd. This is not a joke. The climb up Butts (ugh, that sounds so horrible...) is long, but at least it's paved and I ride in the shade whenever possible. Then we hit the ridge road which goes on for much longer than I thought - I've not ridden this section of the course at all so it's all a bit new. But finally I spot the turn-off into the singletrack, negotiate some surprisingly rocky drops, and then...BAM. I'm just about blown off my bike by the beauty of these Missouri woods. The leaves are all shades of orange and yellow, the noonish sun is slanting through them brilliantly, and all I want to do is stop and take a picture (except I don't have a camera so....). THIS is why I am so lucky to live here, within a day trip of the OT, in these marvelous open woods. I try to soak in the autumnal beauty as best I can while maintaining some sort of urgency on the singletrack.
Coverage Photography: BT Epic - 2014 &emdash;
on the West Loop
Surprisingly, my legs are still hanging in there with pep and energy. I can't see anyone in front or behind me, but that's exactly what I'm hoping for in these beautiful woods. Have I mentioned, it's gorgeous? Oh, the trail's not that bad either - exceedingly rideable and very fun. That is, until my wheels are washed out from under me on an uphill switchback. My body slams hard to the ground...THUD....and I'm left blinking in the aftermath. I check the trail, no weird rocks or roots or sticks, I'm just very suddenly lying stationary. And my perpetually-bashed-up left knee has been sliced open again! I shakily get back on my bike, willing my knee to bend properly, and exhale a sigh of relief when I can still put some power through the joint. 

I get back to riding, albeit slightly more conservatively, and try to replay the crash in my mind. How did it happen? I have no idea. And then....yes. It was Noah. Whenever we on Team Noah have strange mechanicals, or weird crashes, we always picture Noah, being his angelic toddler self, giggling while he throws sticks and stones in our way, and laughing even harder when fall over, go boom. The thought of him messing with me, as only a toddler angel can do, strikes a big chord in my heart. Out of nowhere, I'm filled with immense sadness. I know it's Noah's presence combined with the exhaustion that only 4 consecutive weekends of racing can bring, but soon big fat tears are welling up in my eyes. I start sniffling and gasping for breath. I know if I stopped riding, I would melt into a full-on trailside sob-fest, so I blink back the tears as best I can and keep moving. Did you know it's really hard to ride singletrack and cry at the same time?
Coverage Photography: BT Epic - 2014 &emdash;
approaching the finish line.
The remaining three-ish miles are indescribable. I want them to end immediately and I want them to last forever. I want to rejoin my friends and I want to continue by myself. I want to ride crazy hard and I want to soft pedal my way in. There's seemingly no middle ground, but somehow my legs know what to do, and continue to propel me to the finish line. 

TOTAL 5:22
And just like that, it's over. I'm at the finish line 5 minutes faster than I predicted I would be, but in a completely different headspace than when I started. A few friends notice my finish and start to ask about the day, but in my emotional state, I can barely squeak out a "It's so beautiful out there" before wanting to sob all over again. Instead of treating the masses to an EK cry-fest, I flop onto a picnic table with the Scherffinator, put my head down, close my eyes, and just listen as everyone else's race stories swirl around me. This is my favorite part of racing anyway, and helps bring me back to Earth. 

After several minutes, or maybe even an hour, I'm feeling composed enough to grab a shower (thanks Gino for the quarters!) and eat something. I was so overwhelmed at the finish that I didn't even bother to ask my placing, but it turns out I finished 6th overall women - better than I've ever done before! 5th place was my adventure racing friend Britt, only about 90 seconds ahead of me, but I hadn't seen her all day so had no idea it was that close. I stick around for the awards and huge raffle, passing the time by eating ice cream and stealing gummy bears with the jerks, and it's definitely not a bad place to be. 

Strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/211693797
Roxy: http://www.dirtgirldiary.com/2014/10/bt-epic-2014.html
Results: http://www.unitedindirt.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/bte_2014_times_agegroups.pdf
Results: http://www.unitedindirt.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/bte_2014_times_overall.pdf
Photos: http://coverage.zenfolio.com/p418849751 <--- seriously check these photos out. buy some if you have the $$. Patrick does a great job capturing amazing shots!!!

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14 October 2014

Race Report: 2014 Burnin at the Bluff 12hr solo

Me on my first lap ever at Council Bluff Lake. Changing one of about 5 flats. Photo by Stephen Venters.
My first time at Burnin at the Bluff in 2010, I couldn't finish a lap faster than 2 hours. Multiple pinch flats and a serious lack of bike-handling talent humbled me on the 12.5-mile singletrack loop of Council Bluff Lake. Luckily I had saints (Todd Holtmann and John Peiffer) for teammates and they forgave my inexperience by throwing down some much faster lap times and we finished 4th coed team that year.
Me and Wendy at Burnin 2012. I was barely sober enough to climb the podium.
I wasn't able to race in 2011, but in 2012 I woman-ed up on Friday night and jumped into the 12hr solo category against Wendy Davis. My fastest lap that year was a 1:39, but I was able to eek out the victory with 5 laps after building a 15ish minute lead. I distinctly remember slowly walking up one of the punchier climbs on the route, eating peanut butter crackers and wanting to cry. When I was able to finish with 5 laps, my body was wrecked and I attempted to fix it with Wild Turkey American Honey...not recommended!
Bootlegger's Burnin 2013. Photo by Sneat Pinkles.
I also wasn't able to race in 2013 because of some adventure racing conflict. That turned out to be okay since Council Bluff Lake is part of Mark Twain National Forest which was closed for the government shut-down. Bootlegger's Burnin was still held, but not as many people showed and they all thought emptying kegs of PBR was more important than churning out laps of CBL. They were only being polite - it's rude to expect someone to haul full kegs back to STL. Just your friendly neighborhood mountain bikers trying to make everyone's weekend a little easier.
OT100MTB podium. Photo by Melisa Link.
And that brings us to 2014, the year of the inaugural OT100MTB where Kate Wilson beat me so convincingly in the 100-mile women's race that I didn't even want to toe the line at Burnin and potentially lose again. I was one text message away from joining an all-women's team and only being responsible for 3 speedy laps instead of more-than-3 steady laps. But after talking to my Team Noah Foundation teammates, I realized I couldn't just slink away from one tough loss. I had to re-evaluate my race logistics, strategy, and most importantly, mental focus. It's not like I made any huge mistakes at OT100MTB, but after carefully dissecting every mile of my ride, I found a few things that I could improve on to help Burnin go well.
Starting line of Burnin 2014. Photo by Patrick Kirkes.
So I showed up at Council Bluff Lake on Saturday morning with a plan. Execute my race, smart and steady, and be ready to go to the well when the race demanded it. And I did plan on digging deep - I had raced for 29 hours the weekend prior at USARA Adventure Racing Nationals, finishing 5th overall with my Alpine Shop teammates Jeff and David. But I had taken it extremely easy the days in between and I knew that if I kept my brain in the right place, my legs would show up with an honest effort.

I set up my pit beneath a glorious Alpine Shop pop-up tent and got the SegSlayer all ready to go. The morning was cool but not freezing and no rain - perfect racing conditions. I had heard reports that the singletrack was in terrific shape despite constant rains on Friday and I couldn't wait to get on it myself. We all lined up for the long Le Mans start and I landed on the front row. I have no idea why. It's not like I planned on or even WANTED to be at the front of the race. But David and Peat and Dwayne were there so I just stood like I belonged. We sang the national anthem, lit some smoke bombs, and then took off for the run to our bikes.
Did someone have chili for breakfast? Photo by Kelly Skinner.
LAP 1, 1:30 (includes Le Mans run start)
Clackity-clack-clack-clackity-clack! That is the sound of getting passed by more than half the field at Burnin, and I am not bothered in the least. I don't want the pressure of people riding close behind me on the singletrack, so I just jog, find my bike which is exactly where I left it (not always the case at Burnin), jump on, and ride off down the hill. I note that Kate is ahead of me but she soon zooms out of my field of vision and I let her go. I've been really nervous all morning and now that the race has started, I can't shake the tension like I normally do. And I handle my bike like crap when I'm nervous. This isn't good. I know I just need to get a few miles under my belt so I try not to beat myself up too badly when I put a foot down in the easy sections. I finally make it to the campground climb that signals the end of each lap, and happily spin up it to find out my fate...how far ahead is Kate? As I ride through the pit area, I get reports from various people, ranging from 1 to 10 minutes. Not very helpful. But thankfully Carrie is there under the Alpine Shop tent, ready to help me with my stuff and with a reliable split - 3 minutes from when Kate left. I just grab some extra calories for my bento and ride out for Lap 2.

LAP 2, 1:28
I am encouraged that despite my shaky bike handling, the gap up to Kate isn’t disastrous. Back on the trail, I focus on how lucky I am to be riding one of my all-time favorite pieces of singletrack in nearly perfect conditions. And, I get to do this ALL DAY!! I think about my journey from total newbie to somewhat accomplished racer, and try to remind myself that no matter what happens at the end of 12 hours, I’ve come so far already. One of the many things that Team Noah Foundation has helped me focus on is the journey. Results are good but our evolution as people and as a community is what we’re all here for. I reflect on the many teammates I’ve raced with both mountain biking and adventure racing, how much I’ve learned from them, and how much their teaching fills me with gratitude and joy. I know this sounds incredibly sappy but it really was my mental state on Lap 2. Just before I get to the rock garden (near mile 8.5 out of 12.5), Heather (racing 6hr solo) catches up to me and we both clean the rock garden (victory!!!) and onto the dam. Heather hustles by and for a minute I just let her go. And then I remember how good of a technical rider she is and how much I could gain by following her wheel. So I sprint back up to her and am rewarded with 4 miles of fast, clean riding. Her pace is just one tick above mine, but her lines are immaculate and by following them, we absolutely fly through the remaining singletrack. We climb up the the campground together and once we get to the top, I tell Heather thanks as she stops at her pit. I also see Kate just leaving her pit so I know the gap is down to a minute or so. Great news!
Top of the campground climb on Lap 1. Photo by John Gomes.
LAP 3, 1:31
I ditch my vest, change into lighter gloves, and swap bottles before heading out on Lap 3. The previous lap helped me find my singletrack swagga and now I know that Kate is within reach. But we still have many laps ahead of us and I am in no rush to catch her as long as the gap stays manageable. Finally, just after the rock garden, I catch sight of her crossing the dam and am encouraged. I see no benefit to passing her now so I just ride 10-60 seconds back for the remaining 4 miles. I think I get close enough a few times that she figured out I was there, but not sure. In any case, it doesn't really matter since my left groin muscle cramps as we climb up to the campground. No bueno! I'm discouraged but not devastated, again this is still early in the day and I have plenty of time to fix this. I take it super easy on my legs and am able to get some encouragement from speedy Nad Snurb as he passes me on the right-hander switchback. Go 1993 Bulls! Once in the pit, I am focused on getting some salt. I double up on nuun tablets in my bottle and get some e-caps from Tara who set up her tent next to mine. Saved, thanks lady!!

LAP 4, 1:31
Fully restocked on nutrition, I roll out with a turkey sandwich in hand and a goal to fix these cramps ASAP before the race gets serious. Ironically, I purchased "low-sodium" turkey for my sandwich and am laughing at myself for that "healthy" decision. Anyway, I eat the entire thing before hitting the singletrack and then it's pure bliss once again. Gino catches me early and I give him a quick recap of the race so far before he zooms past. Strove Frodeman does it a few minutes later. I swear, these fast guys doing single laps seem like fighter jets compared to my 12hr pace. It's actually really inspiring to me and I try to visualize myself floating over the babyheads and shredding through the loose turns like they do. Zoom zoom! I catch back up to Kate at the rock garden (seems to be a theme here) but again don't want to try to pass her until I'm sure that my legs are good to go. So we ride loosely together for the rest of the lap until the start of the campground climb. Kate has gotten a little bit ahead of me and as I ride up, I notice she's standing still, off her bike, and a curious pssssssssst noise is coming from one of the tires. Oh no! A flat! I stop and offer to help but Kate says she has everything she needs. I don't need to be told twice to keep riding. But my "sprint" uphill is really comical since I still haven't quite fixed the cramping in my legs yet. So it's more like a slow-motion spin into the campground. I circle the field just as Aaro the announcer is calling time on the 6hr race and I am super-stoked to finish my 4 laps in 6hrs flat. 2 years ago it was my "stretch" goal to reel off four 1:30 laps in a row and now I've done it as a part of a much bigger race. This fills me with confidence as I execute another quick pit with the help of Maria and hit the road for another lap.

LAP 5, 1:34
I didn't anticipate being in the lead of the women's 12hr race on Lap 5, but these are the cards the race is currently dealing, and I know I have to double down my effort here to have any hope later of staying in front. I was leading the women's race at OT100MTB until mile 87 and lost it because I wasn't riding as smart as I possibly could. So now I try to take all of the lessons I learned from that day and put them to use. Climb hard, but not too hard. Ride clean through the every tiny tech section that I possibly can. And on the downhills, RECOVER instead of push. I chat this out loud to myself everytime the trail turns down. Hands loose, shoulders loose, legs loose, deep breaths. Heart full, eyes clear...or something like that. Actually my mental soundtrack was rockin all day thanks to Bronze Radio Return's Further On and Up, On & Over. Seriously, this band is so inspiring, check them out. Adding to the party in my brain is Dwayne and Peat who have finally lapped me, guess where, just before the rock garden!! I am pretty pumped to hold them off for 50+ miles, and they have news that Kate has successfully fixed her tire and is riding again. Woohoo! As I spin up the campground climb my legs seem to hold strong and Maria and Jeff help me in the pit.

LAP 6, 1:37
As I ride off on Lap 6, I can't help but compare my mental and physical state from 2012. That year, I was completely crushed by 5 laps and couldn't imagine a sixth, let alone the SEVEN that Jen Goldstein rode to win the women's 12hr. Now, I'm still feeling reasonably strong, although my hands have started to go numb. I have a love/hate relationship with hand numbness. First, I like it because it means I've been riding a long time. Then, I dislike it because it hurts. Then, I like it because it means I brake less so I go "faster". Then, I dislike it because I get scared about braking less. Then, I like it because it forces me out of my comfort zone. So. There you have it. A peek into EK's racebrain. Oh yeah, and the real EK passes me just before the paved boat launch with surprising news that the 1993 Bulls are not living up to their destiny. And that's really all I can remember about Lap 6, just trying to stay strong but not too strong, take a few glances backward but not too many because "winning is that way".

LAP 7, 1:43
I make it back to the pit around 6:00pm with the sun slowly setting so it's time to add lights to my bike and helmet. I felt like this took me a long time to deal with at OT100MTB so today I've prepped a second helmet with a Stella 300, and my Seca 750 is already on my bars, I just have to plug in a battery and I'm off! Maria helps me again with a quick pit and soon the dusk is settling over Council Bluff Lake. On the doubletrack leading into Enough Boat Ramp I start to turn on lights, and it takes me a few miles to get used to the transition. I crash pretty hard on one of the uphills just after Enough, and land on the downhill side of the trail with my bike on top of me. I feel panic rising in my heart, fearing that Kate will catch me while I'm tangled up on the side of the trail. I try to calm myself down and get going again, which is hard but I manage. I'm alternating between moments of joy and moments of despair. I remind myself to keep digging deep to make up for the apathy I battled (or rather...didn't battle) at OT100MTB. Throughout the rest of the lap, several lights catch me and for each one, I'm praying that the voice behind it is male. Lucky enough for me, they all are, including a repeat visit from Gino who tells me I sound much happier than earlier in the race. And he's right! It's hard to keep track of landmarks from earlier in the day, but the sharp right-hand turn that signals the start of the campground climb is hard to miss. All the way up hill I'm doing mental math...do I have time for another lap? Does Kate?

Once at the top, I check in with the timing tent to see if they have any idea what the gap is back to Kate. They say it's around 10-15 minutes, but then I realize I have no idea how much time I gave up crashing. Anything can happen here at Burnin and I'm in a tough spot. All laps have to be completed by 9:30pm or they don't count. It's 7:45pm and if I have to do another lap, it will take a near-perfect ride to finish before the cutoff. I would really, really rather not ride it if I don't have to. So, I prepare for an 8th lap at the Alpine Shop tent, drinking an Ensure and filling my bottle with Coke, while Maria stands guard at the singletrack exit to see if Kate is close behind. The clock ticks down, each second inching closer to being done. Finally, with only 1h25m remaining, we haven't seen Kate, so I walk back over to the timing tent to tell them I'm done. 
If you don't crash at least once, you're not riding hard enough. Photo by The Claw.
They congratulate me unofficially on the win and then point out that my left knee is bleeding! I hadn't even realized it. Struckman digs out his first aid kit and The Claw hands me a delicious pumpkin beer as we work on cleaning out my disgusting wound. Fortunately, it's not terribly deep, just bloody, so I eventually just pack it with iodine swabs, slap a bandaid on it, and call it good. I have a few minutes to change into dry clothes and even have a beer before the awards ceremony! It's awesome to see the final riders come through, and to see Peat and Dwayne ride to the finish together after their 9-lap odyssey. Peat takes the win with a wheelie across the line in true Peat fashion.

So I can't find a picture of the 12hr women's podium, but it was me and Kate rockin the straw bales! 
Photo credit secret to protect the innocent.
And then, against all advice from The Voice Of Reason, we burned said straw bales. Maybe Scooter and I found some boxes to throw on the bonfire as well. We were just trying to be helpful - burning boxes is lot easier than hauling them to the dumpster. Maybe a flamingo or two was included in there too, but I can't say for certain. Once the fire had died (or had it?) we migrated to Campsite C and proceeded to demolish their buffet of perfectly charred corn, and potatoes, and red pepper hummus. Oh my, it was delicious. Just ask Carrie.
And then, with a rather quiet, tame, and strangely coherent walk back to my campsite, Burnin was over. The road leading into this race was hard for me. I needed to lean on the strength of my Team Noah Foundation and Alpine Shop teammates for the courage to even sign up, and for the skills and mental focus needed to have my best race. And, in a way that maybe only makes sense to me, I needed Kate to win the OT100MTB so I could have the day I had at Burnin. A few days after the race, both she and Peat thought that I had broken the women's 12hr solo record, and it was Kate who dug up the evidence on the Interwebz. Turns out we both smashed Jen's previous best of 7 laps in 12:36 (Kate in 11:15 and me in 10:53). Now records in mountain biking are a little silly because they are so dependent on trail conditions, but I am still so proud of what we both accomplished at Burnin 2014. Dwayne is always about the journey and I can tell you that laps around Council Bluff Lake is one of the best journeys you can ever hope to take.

RESULTS: https://www.dropbox.com/s/fy1x5frj3276mbl/BATB%202014%2012%20Hour%20Solo%20Mens%20and%20Womens%20Results.pdf?dl=0 AND https://www.facebook.com/2TGLLC
MY STRAVA: http://www.strava.com/activities/206644103
JEN GOLDSTEIN'S RECORD: http://www.mylaps.com/en/classification/1724211?perClass=1
PATRICK KIRKES PHOTOS: https://www.facebook.com/patrick.kirkes/media_set?set=a.10201757961590183.1073741833.1815502498&type=3
JOHN GOMES PHOTOS: https://www.facebook.com/john.gomes.77736310/media_set?set=a.1550064728557556.1073741843.100006621314385&type=1
KELLY SKINNER PHOTOS: https://www.facebook.com/kelly.skinner.779/media_set?set=a.216347128381882.67307.100000197886693&type=1

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08 August 2014

Race Report: 2014 Cowboy Tough 3.5day Adventure Race (Part 3)

NOTE: This is the third in a series of posts about Cowboy Tough multi-day adventure race. I (Emily) worked together with my teammate Mike to write most of the text, and then Mike added in his own comedic flair in red italics. Enjoy!
Part 1
Part 2

View of the rappel wall from our sleeping spot.
Instead of being woken up by alarms, we’re rustled awake by the huge gusts of wind rushing through Sinks Canyon State Park. They’re strong enough to make Emily wonder if the rappel will still go as scheduled. But as our alarms start chirping at 0515, the winds start to die down somewhat as sunshine creeps into the campground. We've gotten about 2.5 hours of “rest”, and if we’re lucky most of that has been actual sleep. We hustle through prep for Day 2: getting food in our bellies, caffeine in our system, packs packed, teeth brushed (The value of good dental hygiene cannot be understated.), bathrooms destroyed (Andrei’s nugget of wisdom on this morning was to start every day of an expedition race with a good poop, something he picked up from the GearJunkie himself, Papa Regenold.  Good advice I must say.), and the mandatory quarter safely zipped in the correct shorts pocket.

Mark, the race director, calls all prepared teams to the center of the campground for Day 2’s official start. Since everyone made it into camp at various times last night, we all sleepily look around to see who’s answered the call for Day 2. Not surprisingly, Tecnu and Columbia look fresh and ready to go. The Yogis are there too, along with our friends Journey Racing and Silent Chasers. Mark reads off his list of starters and Emily doesn't hear WABAR’s number called, so after he’s done she shouts out “AND THREE-OH-SEVEN TOO!”. It’s a very, very proud moment for her and the team - after going through all of the challenges of yesterday, we have recovered* and are ready to throw down again with the top teams of Cowboy Tough. Bring it on! In this case “recovered” is a relative term and likely meant different things for each of us.  For me it merely meant that my legs were no longer cramping.  They were however more than a little sore from all that extra work they did while seizing up on me the day before.  All things considered though, I was feeling ready to go.

TREK 1, CPs 22-23, 2mi
Start of Day 2. We slept at EOD01/SOD02. Then we ran to CP22 (The Sinks), then to an unmapped cave, then to CP23 (The Rise), then to ropes at CP24.
We all take off packless to CP22 at “The Sinks”, a unique feature of the state park where the Popo Agie River disappears underground. Then we run to “The Cave” which just looks like a boulder field. But race staff direct Andrei to the tiny hole in the ground and he gets the privilege of spelunking the 500-600’ for the underground punch. The rest of us WABARians get to chat with the other teams who are waiting as well. We’re super proud to let everyone know that yes, we did indeed clear the course yesterday! Once Andrei emerges from the cave (“what was it like, Andrei?” “it was a hole in the ground with a man at the end of it” Andrei is nothing if not concise and to the point with his assessments) we run to “The Rise” where the Popo Agie river comes back above ground and we use the mandatory gear quarter to feed some really large fish. Then we check into the start of the rappel which is directly across the road from our campground.

Top of the rappel. Photo by Chris Radcliffe.
At this point in the morning, we’re in 4th behind Tecnu, Columbia, and YogaSlackers. Since there are only three rappel lines set up, we take our time climbing the 200’ or so up to the top. Once we’re there, we only have to wait a few minutes for Tecnu to clear their line before we can start. Emily volunteers to go first and makes it to the bottom with no issues. Then Rachel, then Andrei, and pretty soon Mike’s flying down the rope and we’re all running back into TA.
View of TA from the top of the rappel, taken by Tecnu. You can see our bins still laying out!
We didn't really plan out our gear very well so we have to get back into our bins before leaving on our bikes. It’s a really slow TA, but we finally load everything up just before 8am. (I for one had actually completely forgotten the requirement to leave TA by 8am.  Phil from Silent Chasers mentioned the 8am timeline, which was a friendly reminder, although at the time he brought it up we did happen to be at the TOP of the rappel…)

BIKE 1, CPs 25-26, 25mi
We rode from CP24 to CP25. 
With Emily’s crank re-attached to her bike, we fly out of Sinks Canyon on a very smooth paved descent. We’ve got a quick punch at CP25, and then it’s into Lander for CP26 at Wild Iris Sports. Yesterday, if we couldn’t get Emily’s crank fixed, we had planned to stop here for professional assistance, but that is no longer necessary which is great because the shop’s not even open yet! It’s probably a good thing the shop’s closed, since Mike would have probably gone shopping for a new, lighter bike, costing valuable race time.  (Yup, I was totally ready to trade my 31lb beast in for whatever they had under 23lb.) We also get to say hi to one of our favorite volunteers, Emma from Orange Lederhosen!
Emily took a quick break from the paceline to take pictures.
Being a team of Midwesterners, we’re pretty stoked anytime the road doesn’t pitch up more than 100 feet. Once we’re outside of Lander, we organize into our paceline and start crushing out the 25 mostly-flat miles to Riverton. While riding on pavement is pretty boring for adventure racers, at least it goes by quickly! We are sharing the shoulder with road cyclists on the Tour de Wyoming and they all give us funny looks as we cruise past them. I’m sure they didn’t exactly appreciate getting passed by teams of people on mountain bikes with big packs, but they are all mostly polite about it. Emily’s especially excited to have a functioning bike again so she puts in a couple hard pulls as we make our way down the road.  (Ok, I’m not letting this one go.  I was third or fourth in the paceline but I could TOTALLY read her body language perfectly.  She saw a pack of three roadies ahead (a half mile or more) and there would be no stopping until she mowed them down.  Which she did.)
Ride from Lander to Riverton
The only navigation challenge to this leg is very specific left-hand turn onto Rendezvous Road. Mike’s watching the maps carefully, but the intersections don’t appear to be signed as we fly down the highway. Suddenly, Mike yells “there it is!”*, except Rachel and Andrei don’t hear him over the traffic noise and continue riding past the turn. This is not good. Emily and Mike start yelling for Rachel and Andrei to turn around, but it’s no use. Emily sprints after her teammates and finally gets their attention.

*Full disclosure, I totally thought I missed the turn and was improvising.  I knew the road would take us to Riverton, which would take us where we needed to go.  It wasn't until AFTER the turn that Andrei mentioned that he saw a sign for Rendezvous Rd.  Had I played it a little cooler I probably could have done a more convincing job of selling the fact that I made no mistake.

We all regroup into our paceline after making the turn, but Emily can’t hang on, even with the draft. She yells again for a tow and Mike (or was it Andrei?) helps her out. “Are you okay?” Mike asks. “I’ll be fine in a bit, I just blew up a little,” Emily replies. She sits in the draft for the remaining miles into Riverton, where we have to piece together some sketchy map info with race instructions to “look for the Maverick’s gas station and turn right”. We tentatively ride through the town looking for the 1853 Historical Site. Just when we’re convinced we’re in the wrong spot, Andrei spots a faded sign and we ride into the CP.

We are greeted by Zach from Rev3 who points us to a shady grove where the special challenge is set up. We’re met by a dude named “Numbers” dressed in what we assume to be historically accurate buckskin. He gives us a quick lesson on how to throw a tomahawk and says that we all have to stick a throw before we’re awarded the punch. And as a bonus, the CP staff have fun historical accessories for us to wear while throwing the ‘hawks. Let’s play dress-up!
Numbers showing us how it's done. Photo by Chris Radcliffe.

Mike cowboys up and sticks his throw on the FIRST TRY. There is a reason we call him “The Garrison”. Rachel and Emily are next after a few tosses, and Andrei gets his to stick as well. Sweet! The Rev3 staff also tell us that we’re in 4th overall so far behind Tecnu, Columbia, and YogaSlackers. Even sweeter! We hop back onto our bikes for more flat paved road riding.

BIKE 2, CP28, 20mi
Ride from Riverton to Boysen Reservoir SP.
The second bike leg is very much like the first one - flat and paved! We feel that as Midwesterners we are especially well-trained to handle these conditions so push a little harder than “luxury racing” pace. Zach told us it was a 14mi ride, but our pre-race map analysis said 20mi, and when we reach the 14mi marker there is no lake in sight. But guess what...Emily’s crank is loose AGAIN! How did this happen? We stop precariously on the side of the highway to perform another too-small-and-soft plastic tire lever fix. Same as yesterday, it works, but only for a mile this time. The team decides to put Emily in the back of the paceline, and on tow, and just have her coast into TA. And, because of the favorable road conditions, she doesn’t hardly have to pedal to maintain 15+ mph. That’s what teamwork and drafting will do!

We finally spot the Boysen Reservoir and, on the eastern bank, the Rev3 Mobile TA. We cruise right up to it and start transitioning to paddle mode. Out of pure luck, JR the medic is working at this TA so Emily asks him to borrow his 10mm hex wrench again. This time, he says, “Just keep it!” which is infinitely helpful since we have a huge bike ride tomorrow. We all change out of our bike shorts and into bottoms more comfortable for paddling and trekking. Then Emily invokes the spirit of her Alpine Shop teammates Jeff and David as she picks out 2 canoes for the team with working seat backs and minimal bottom warping. Then we assemble paddles and put in!

PADDLE 1, CP29, 6mi
Day 2’s course continues to be tailored to “Things That Midwestern Adventure Racers Are Good At” since we have a 6mi lake paddle in canoes. And it’s HOT. We set up with Emily and Mike in one boat, Andrei and Rachel in another, and Emily navving. We’ve been warned about strong afternoon winds but for now the air above Boysen SP Reservoir is hot and still. The first 6 miles are rather uneventful and soon enough we are nearing our take-out spot for a 3-point optional trek.
Andrei and Rachel's boat on the first paddle leg.
TREK 2, CPs 30-33, 2mi
3-point O'
We take out on a sandy beach with exactly zero shade options. We all make sure we’ve got enough water, even for this shorty trek, since the terrain doesn’t have any shade, either. As we jog off, we discover the ground to be unlike anything we’ve ever trekked on - dried sand with embedded round rocks, and the occasional cactus. It seems like we’re running across a lake bed with no water, except it’s not flat. All of the clues to these optional CPs are “high point” so we soon find ourselves trekking uphill on assorted game trails for each of our punches. Once we’ve got everything, we find a two-track to take us back to the boats.
so hot right now.
We’re all roasting in the exposed heat so we take our sweet time getting back in the boats - Andrei breaks out his Magic Sack and everyone gets new water in their bladders, and we all go for a swim as well.
Andrei takes a swim.
PADDLE 2, CPs 34-36, 9mi
More paddling! The map color mis-match was obvious and Rachel called it "the deep end"
On one hand, we are thankful the winds have not picked up yet because it makes the paddling easy. But on the other hand, we are absolutely broiling in the still, hot air. We dodge tube-pulling-speedboats on the way to CP34 which is located very close to a popular beach/camping spot. Emily is tentative on the attack but as we get closer to the shore, Andrei and Rachel spot the flag and paddle in for the punch. The water levels are a few meters higher than shown on the map, which is a bit tricky, especially considering CP35 is hung on a very specific point of land amid several other points of land.
Mike and Emily paddling.
We paddle around CP34’s peninsula and past some real live bow-hunters on the way to CP35. As we paddle, multiple points of land emerge on our right side. Emily has a hard time matching them with the elevated water levels and we end up attacking CP35 too early. After a few minutes of paddling around looking for the flag, she cries uncle and flings the map back at Mike for him to make everything better. Mike takes a few glances at the map, a few looks at the terrain, and tells us to paddle out of the cove we’re in and continue on northward for a few more hundred meters before we get to CP35. Another 15-20 minutes lost, but at least it’s easily fixable and, since we’re paddling, doesn't add a single meter of climb!
Andrei paddling.
Emily takes the maps back after CP35, but all we have is a long, north-northwesterly paddle to the take-out/TA. The clear sighting conditions mean that features in the distance are highly visible, and for some reason that throws her off her nav game in a big way. Full and somewhat snarky disclosure here:
Adventure races always rely heavily on map-and-compass navigation, but within that skillset there is a range of technical proficiency. Navigationally, the easiest stuff is just like following a road map, and the hardest stuff uses no roads or trails at all, just identifying (sometimes very subtle) terrain features and moving between them, aka orienteering. In the Midwest, our 24hr adventure races tend to use more orienteering than most expedition races, and as a result our navigators are very good. We've had races where teams from outside the region compete and struggle with the orienteering, complaining that it’s “micro-nav”. We smile and say, “Aw, that’s cute!” and then run off to the next control.
Well, here, on the reservoir, the features are so big, so far away, and so visible, that it’s more like “macro-nav” and now we’re the team that’s struggling. Or rather, Emily just can’t pull her brain out of detail mode and into big-picture mode. After about five map checks in ten minutes, Mike asks for the map back and says “Just paddle already!”. Emily obliges, happy to have just enjoy the scenery instead of micro-anazylzing it. Without terrain to focus on, we turn our attention to the clock. We've got about 6 miles left of this paddle, and then a 7ish mile trek, and then that’s it. Done for Day 2. The sun is still annoyingly high in the sky, and we think that if we hustle we might be able to finish the trek before it gets dark, and then have a TON of time off the clock to eat and sleep. That is a tantalizing carrot to chase so we paddle with renewed vigor.

We pull into a beautiful sheltered cove for the take-out and haul our boats uphill with plenty of daylight left for the trek. Our transition is relaxed and includes a few moments of chat with Tecnu and Columbia (who are already finished for the day), sharing intel that the nav shouldn't be too hard. Sweet! Let’s do this!

TREK 3, CPs 1-10, 7mi
Last trek of Day 2, CPs 1-10, all optional.
Rachel in one of the reentrants.
We run out of TA having picked up a friend - a Rev3 staffer with a fancy camera. He takes a bunch of photos of us as we punch CP10, making us feel like VIPs. Then we’re on our own for the rest of the optional CPs. Again, the nav isn't too challenging and we have a surprising amount of running on a major 2-lane highway, making travel very quick. We pick off a few CPs in roadside reentrants, then have to cross to its other side and figure out a way across the Big Horn River. We spotted a railroad trestle earlier and speculate that there must be a shortcut across it. It’s an adventure race, right? We run over to the bridge and sure enough, there are two 2x10s forming a walkway across the underside, with a single steel cable for a handhold. Totally doable….right?
Emily on her way across.
Mike goes first and doesn’t even use the cable. Then Andrei goes, slightly more tentatively but moving well. Then Emily goes, trying not to use the cable but it sure comes in handy in a few spots. Then Rachel goes, clearly uncomfortable but focused on getting to the other side. When we’ve all made it, we hear a 4x4 roll up to us and see that it’s Mark the race director. Oh no, did we just do something illegal? He sticks his head out and grins, “Quite the shortcut, eh?!” We laugh. Yes it is!!
Andrei and Mike on the other side. Word is that Tecnu went across the TOP!
We have a couple CPs on the far side of the river, then cross back over using the dam and have to run right back past TA to collect the final two CPs. They use a lot of road running as well and Mike is clearly hurting so Rachel takes his pack. We all are hurting, to be honest, but it is the kind of hurt that doesn't matter how fast you’re going, so we just keep jogging in order to be done more quickly.
Second to last CP on the day. High point, natch.
TA does not suck.
The sun is just starting to set as we reach the End of Day TA. We can’t really believe that we’re done so early! We unload our bins, chatting excitedly about everything we’re going to do at the most luxurious of all luxury racing TAs. First, we go swimming. Swimming! The lake is cool and so refreshing. Then we get to hang out and chat a bunch with other teams, including our half-naked friends on Team Tecnu. Then it’s time for actual sit-down dinner where Mike consumes about 4,000 calories and still feels hungry. Emily does some piddling with her bin, classic, and we all finally go to sleep around 10pm, under another beautiful night sky full of stars.

Rev3 Day 2 photos: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.745197552187984.1073741864.148981488476263&type=3
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