Monday, March 21, 2016

2016 Physically Strong Adventure Race by Amanda Lappe

2016 Physically Strong Adventure Race by Amanda Lappe.  Comments in green by Scott "Ahab" Shaw.

     This year, Team BOR was fielding three teams for the Physically Strong Adventure Race, an 8-hour in Mendon, Illinois.  I raced with Mickey, Scott, and Kevin in the 4p coed division.  Neil, Dave B, Amy, and Robert on another team and Larry and Karl.  Since Kevin, Dave B., and I had a trivia night Friday night, we didn’t get to the Saukenauk Boy Scout Ranch, where the race started, until about 2 am Saturday morning.  Thankfully, Mickey and Scott drove up at a reasonable time on Friday, plotted our maps, and took our bikes to the bike drop.
  Not-so-thankfully, Mickey’s alarm went off somewhere in the neighborhood of 4:30 am, (4:19) despite breakfast not starting until 5:30.  I guess it takes Mickey a while to get his hair and makeup done.  After grabbing some breakfast and a brief pre-race meeting, which included learning which checkpoints that didn’t have markers, we took off on foot.  After about a 2-mile run on gravel roads, on which the guys immediately dropped me and Mickey carried my pack, we passed TA1, where our bikes were waiting, and quickly found CP1, a ridge point.  We bushwhacked to CP2, clue “cedar grove,” found the grove and looked...and looked...and looked.  We re-attacked from the creek and looked some more.  We backtracked to a pond (2 or 3X), I shot a bearing and pace-counted, ending up at the same cedar grove where we initially thought it was.  All of the other teams were also milling around in the woods, searching for CP2.  After about an hour and a half of fruitless wandering, we decided to pull the plug and head back for the bikes.  It was a hard decision to give it up, especially after spending so much time looking already, and on such an early CP in the race, but we decided if the other teams were also having difficulty, the CP was likely missing.  We veered a little far west on our trek back to the bikes, ending up on the gravel road leading to TA1.  When we got to the TA, we were disappointed to see that there were only 6 bikes left and 4 of them were ours.  The volunteer informed us that nobody had found the CP and that it had likely blown away in a storm the previous night.  I thought that we had no chance to make up ground and thought let's just put the best effort in no matter.  We had a quick transition and took off down the gravel road toward CP3, an out-and-back on gravel roads to a creek crossing.  We passed a number of teams going the opposite way who had already found the CP.  Next, we biked to TA2, the canoe put-in.  After a gear check for patch kit, headlamps, and bike helmets, Mickey and I launched one canoe and Scott and Kevin another.  Mickey and I did well in the canoe last year, but were NOT in sync this year.  We zig-zagged all over the place and Kevin and Scott tried to ram us a couple of times.  We found CPs 4 and 5, which were on opposite sides of the lake, easily and then returned to the TA.  I always love the paddling sections and I think we were moving pretty fast compared to other teams except Larry and Karl who were also moving fast.
The next section of the race was where we went through thornbush after thornbush.  Tall thornbushes, short thornbushes.  Fat ones and skinny ones.  Lots and lots of thornbushes.  You forgot the thorn bush that snagged my face and Mickey saved me by pulling it out.  CP6, a reentrant, was on the other side of the main area for the boy scout camp, so we walked/jogged our way down the gravel roads, past the climbing wall.  We got a little turned around, but quickly realized the right direction and found the CP, passing the other Team BOR 4p team in the process.  I was just concentrating on moving fast when Kevin started videoing and then I had some fun fooling about with Kevin, waving to our other team with 4 bent fingers on one hand. 

We ran into Karl and Larry on the way to 7 and Larry shared some really good beef jerky (seriously good.  I’m going to have to buy some of that).  The six of us stuck together to CP7, which was a log across a reentrant.  Don't die Larry! Oh Larry your balls are out racing, literally, your tights are ripped!

We separated from Karl and Larry between 7 and 8 when they kept going in the correct direction while we back-tracked, thinking we had already passed it.  After finding CP8, we made our way back to TA3, which was the canoe put-in where we had left our bikes.  Knowing that we would be facing the rock wall next, we opted to leave our trekking shoes on for the short ride to the wall.  When we arrived, we saw Hunter and Karen from Off the Front sitting at a picnic table waiting for their teammates on the wall.  Kevin had been dreading this part of the race all day and when we were informed that instead of actually climbing the wall, we would be traversing the perimeter of the wall sideways only a short distance from the ground, he gave the volunteer what was likely to have been a very sweaty hug.  None of us had any issues on the wall, but a member of Off the Front had tried unsuccessfully several times and each time, had to start over.  Three points of contact, all in the legs repeated in my head, and a lot harder than I thought it would be.  As soon as our last member finished, they did as well, so we were all swapping to bike shoes and putting on helmets at the same time.  Team BOR left the rock wall first, beginning a long bike-heavy segment of the race. 

We raced to CP10, a punch with no marker, off of a logging road, with Off the Front breathing down our necks.  We continued further down the logging road until we saw Karl and Larry’s bikes on the side of the road.  We left our bikes with theirs and headed down a steep hill, amid much commentary by Kevin and I about the fun of trekking in cycling shoes.  We made our way up and down creek banks and through thorn bushes toward CP11, while we could see Off the Front on top of a spur, watching us.  There was no way to avoid giving away the location of the CP though, so we punched it and made our way back to the bikes.  Sorry Larry and Karl we couldn't help you either.  As we were riding into a cornfield where CP12 was, we passed Toporadicals, the leading 4p coed team, as they were leaving.  We were excited that we seemed to have made up some time.  After riding to the edge of the field for the punch and back, I can say that if I never have to ride my bike through a corn field again, I’ll be fine with it.  This is when I knew we had a chance, but I needed to eat and drink, but couldn't.  Off the Front were still close on our heels and would remain so for the next two CPs.  We made good time to CP13, a long out-and-back on gravel roads to a punch under a bridge, again passing Toporadicals as they were leaving and Off the Front as they were arriving.  The members of Off the Front are all very strong on the bike and they caught us at CP14.  We took a strategically-timed food break YEAH to let them choose a direction and get them off of our tail.  They opted for the shorter, but rougher route, continuing down the abandoned road and facing a likely bike-whack before they would rejoin gravel.  We took the same route Toporadicals had before us, going the long way around on gravel.  We caught up with Toporadicals on a trail through the woods and our team was mixed with theirs as we continued down the trail. Is this about where I ate a NUUN tablet and almost choked to death?.  Off the Front came in from another trail at the same time, and all three 4p coed teams arrived at CP15, a skills challenge, at the same time.  The task was to set up a tent as a team, including the rain fly, and then to put it back into the bag.  We randomly chose a tent, which ended up being larger than the other teams and included a ground tarp.  I liked this challenge a lot better than the ones last year because it necessitated teamwork.  Kevin and I immediately started spreading out the tent corners, while Scott started putting together poles.  I learned on this challenge that while Mickey is a great teammate and navigator, he is not a camper and is not much help in a tent challenge. I have had a lot of tent set up practice and Mickeys height was good for the rain fly.  He just needs to learn right side out.  All three teams were fast!  After we set the tent up, put the rain fly on upside down, and got everything folded up and put in the bag, we hopped back on the bikes, only to see Off the Front speeding away first, followed by Toporadicals.  Us and Toporadicals took a wrong turn on the way to CP16, but we corrected quickly and headed down a Jeep road toward the lake.  We crossed the pond dam and located the orange trail.  CP16 was just a punch hanging from a tree, which we found easily.  On the way to CP17, we made a wrong turn and again were passed by Toporadicals, but they overshot the CP and kept riding, while we found it.  Kevin dove into a brush pile TREE MOUNTAIN for the punch while Mickey kept whisper-yelling at us to be quiet.  We were trying not to get our hopes up for a win at this point, but with Toporadicals out looking for the CP we had just gotten and no sign of Off the Front, we were starting to think there was a chance.  Mickey said we just secured the win and I wasn't sure that the Topo's hadn't been somehow lightning fast and got the CP.  We hustled to CP18 and then backtracked down the orange trail to the suspension bridge.  We had to cross it twice last year, once in the dark, and I wouldn’t have been disappointed to miss out on it this year.  It’s only a few inches wider than a set of handlebars, so the best way to cross it with a bike is to stand the bike on its rear wheel and walk behind the bike, holding it by the bars.  In the meantime, the bridge is rocking wildly from side-to-side.  No one jumped on it this year.  Whoever did that last year was a jerk!  As luck would have it, at the point we were crossing the bridge, the wind picked up and it started snowing.  On the other side of the bridge, we followed the trail up to gravel and went around the campground to the yellow trail, which Mickey and I could not locate last year, causing us a lot of fruitless bike-whacking.  With a much more efficient route this time around, we quickly punched CP19 amid increasingly large snowflakes.  We hustled back to the start/finish area and learned that we were the first 4p coed team to finish and 3rd overall, which qualified us for nationals with $400 toward entry and we’ll get regional qualifier jackets.  We also received medals and some unique wood plaques. 

Congrats Rib Mountain for taking the overall!  They were on fire all day.  We got plates of food and warmed up next to the fire while we waited for the rest of the teams to finish.  It was fun to talk strategy with the other teams while we stuffed our faces.  After the rest of the teams made it back, we had the second-annual Team BOR group shower in the women’s shower house and everyone smelled the same afterward because I’m apparently the only one who brings soap.  I had soap and shampoo thank you very much, just had to put on spare race clothes since I forgot casual clothes, so I got to ride home in a chamois again.
Physically Strong is a fun semi-close race and word on the street is that there will be 12- and 6-hour options next year.  The organizers put on a great event with a challenging course and lots of food at the end.  Thank you very much Race Organizers and volunteers!

Our other teams did awesome as well!  Larry and Karl made a great comeback after being dead last! 
This was Amy and Robert's second AR ever! CONGRATS!