Thursday, November 13, 2014

2013 Bonk Hard Castlewood 8... by Kevin Minton

Frozen Hell: The 2013 Bonkhard Castlewood 8 Hour
2013 Bonkhard Castlewood 8 hour AR Report, AKA Frozen Hell......


So for this year's race BOR fielded two teams, BOR being the two man consisting of Scott and Neil, and BORed (BOR Elite Division) was a 4 person coed consisting of Amanda, Kevin, Dave and John.  Basically our two teams just stuck together and formed one six person, 6 people has to be better than 4, right? 
Seems odd that I can describe the entire race in fewer words then it took to describe our team structure, cold and frozen.  The temperature at race start varies on who you talk to, but it was anywhere from 8 - 12 degrees.  Yeah, it was cold.  People we so bundled up that I walked right past Dave at the start and we didn't recognize each other.  Just look how bundled up we are.

The previous night we had discussed things we needed to do during the race to keep the cold from adversely affecting us, things like drain the camel back hoses after each drink, don't shed your outer layers, try to stay dry and don't flip the canoe.  But that didn't come close to preparing for a single digit start temp.  After feeling like I was freezing in place the race was started and we were off to checkpoint 3.  We followed a large group also doing the same thing up a hill to the CP.  I managed to mispunch CP 3 as CP 2 (how do you mispunch the first point? I blame the cold!) but quickly fixed my mistake and we were off.  While the navs were getting a bearing I started to take a drink, but my hose was frozen solid.  Even though I had blown all the water out of my hose, the residual in the valve had frozen up.  I could see a look of panic slowly start to come over the team and we realized that every ones water hoses had frozen.  We managed to unfreeze my hose and after some work got most of them unfrozen, except for Johns, his was solid.  So we then had ideas of shoving them in jackets, wrapping jackets around camel backs and so on and set off for the next CP.  We managed to get a little confused on the next CP and while trying to find a bearing I was informed that my compass wasn't correct.  My cheap compass was frozen.  Glad I wasn't navigating, otherwise we would have been screwed.  From here on the running section continued as normal and when we were heading back to HQ we were an hour and 15 minutes into the race.  We where running a little behind where we wanted to be time wise, but getting ready to get on the bikes is always a morale boost for BOR! Here you can see our newbies John and Amanda being in good spirits!
So with the bike transition done, food eaten and waters thawed out, we hit the road full of the awesomeness and greatness that is BOR! Only problem was about 400 feet out of the transition was Amanda's bike experienced some chain suck and required extreme brute force to get it unstuck from the front chain rings and the frame, but then we were off again!  We stopped for Scott to change gloves, he was ranting endlessly about the horrible gloves he had bought (seal skinz H2) but I thought nothing of it since those were in my pack for the paddle, not the ride.  And we were off again to CP 6!  Coming down to CP 7 we were getting passed by cars left and right and actually overshot the CP since we were more afraid of getting run over then paying attention to CPs.  We only missed it by a couple hundred feet and it wasn't the end of the world seeing as we needed to be heading in that direction anyway.  After catching that CP and perfectly timing a train at the crossing we proceeded to hit a trail, paved underneath the snow and ice, and slip our way into Route 66 State Park ( I think! Remember, I am not the navigator).  We cut through the CPs in there pretty quickly and before we knew it we were at the canoe drop in!  I don't know exactly what time it was when we got there, sometime a little after 10:30 I think but we had beaten the cutoff.  We carried the boats down the ramp after receiving the points to plot and went to work tying in bikes and plotting the points.  Harder then it sounds since the boat ramp was covered in snow and ice and the boats kept sliding down the ramps, which actually turned out to be a blessing when launching!  John and I launched shortly after Dave and Amanda, and after I nearly dumped John out of the boat trying to jump in as the boat was sliding down the ramp we were on our way.  Now, remember those gloves Scott was complaining about?  Turns out they do kinda suck for arctic temperatures......  So I had to reach behind me into my pack, grab new gloves, steer, put new gloves on, still steer , and try not to flip us.  So with the glove crisis resolved we caught up to Dave and Amanda and kept going to the CPs.  We got the first one with no issue and charged (sort of) to the next.  2 miles later I was having some serious issues with my right hand, to the point of being so cold it hurt.  I knocked us into a sand bar so I could try to get a hot hands pack in my glove as fast as possible since it was getting unbearable.  I couldn't get the hot hands packs to heat up fast enough and ended up having to put my hands under my clothes and let them reheat for a good 5 minutes before I could go on.  Not sure what the limits for frost bite is and I don't know what the wind chill was on the river, but I do know that it was cold and probably a close call.  But since typing this I am using all of my fingers I think we are good.  So we kept going, and hands now warmed up, I was in a much better mood!  Now one thing not mentioned yet is that the boat was taking on ice.  and not just the boat, everything on the boat including bikes and bags and the accumulation on my handle bar hanging over the canoe was starting to drag the water.  This was a reminder of just how cold it was out there and how much we did NOT want to go in the water.  We reached the last river CP and whacked it with our paddles as someone had broken the punch on it.  This is about the time we started realizing how the cold was affecting our gear.  Then Dave managed to get stuck on a gravel bar and thoughts in our canoe quickly turned to laughing and wondering how they would get unstuck.  Once Dave he-manned the canoe off the gravel we set off to CP 16, the canoe pull out.  YAY! I hate the canoeing sections.  When we got there we were told it was a gear check and that's when we discovered the extent of ice issues we had.  John's pack was frozen inside his pack cover, Amanda's tube and bike gear frozen to the bike, my front break lever had a half inch thick icicle connecting it to my handle bars and Dave's handle bars were frozen into position.  Neil and Scott were here waiting for us and helped us get gear out of frozen packs and get ready to continue.  Good thing there was a fire around otherwise we may not have been able to continue.  After thawing gear and carrying the canoes up we ate and were ready to take off on the bike section through Castlewood!  We started off and felt very at home on the trails.  BOR loves trails.  So we went crazy.  Then Amanda had her run in with near frostbite and had to use Neil's extra pair of socks and Scott's mountain bike booties.  Once she was geared up and under way again she was fine and as of today no one has mentioned anything about lost toes, I think she is still good.  Once we got to the Cedar bluff loop everyone was feeling good and after a short safety briefing for the newbies on the treacherous first section, we took off.  We quickly realized that everyone else was riding the loop backwards and didn't know what was going on until another team informed us the clue sheet said ride it counter clockwise. Oops! We were too far in and said to hell with it, we are doing it our way.  So we continued going backwards and got all the CPs and set off towards Al Foster trail to hit a CP where we were given a bonus course section.  At this point it was around 2:00pm and the finish cutoff was at 4:00pm and As a group we decided that we didn't have to time to complete the roughly 6 mile bonus loop and get back to HQ in time to do the last section and finish with Amanda feeling the effects of the cold.  So we pushed on and got to the next CP in pretty good time, where we were directed to ride out onto 109.  Yeah, HWY 109.  Not my preferred choice of route back to greensfelder area, but I don't make the maps, just follow them.  We turned off of it fairly quickly onto Alt Road though so it wasn't to bad.  As we started up the hill, Amanda's bike started experiencing more chain issues and I stopped to do a hasty repair roadside before the big hills.  Bike fixed, we took off and went up one of 3 hills on that road.   We completed the second, and then the third without too much incident.  Then came a downhill that gave me windburn in the only exposed skin I had between my baraclava and my glasses and ice formations under my nose.  It was a fast downhill that I know we had to have hit 30 mph on easily and the entire time I was praying not to run into any ice or snow on the road.  Once we hit bottom it was a quick jaunt back to HQ where Scott and Neil got the UTM points and headed off into the woods to get the last 4 mile loop and team BORed had a tough decision to make.  The cold had been really hard on everything that day, bikes, passport punches, camel backs and people.  We decided that risking it with less than an hour to get the CPs and get back just wasn't worth it with our gear and team mates in their current conditions and Dave and I called it at 8 hours and 5 minutes with 27 checkpoints.  But we finished alive and in one piece! 
Neil and Scott finished with 28 checkpoints and a time of 8:25.  No pics of their finish yet since we were inside for a much needed warm up, but here is an artist rendition of what it may have looked like.
I must say that I enjoyed the race and enjoyed inducting two new members into the BOR family.  Congratulations John and Amanda on earning your pair of coveted BOR BALLS! Wear them proudly while training up for the next race!

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