Friday, October 25, 2013

2013 USARA National Championship


USARA National Championship
30 Hour
10/4/13
Nashville, IN
Team Adventure Capitalists/BDAR Midwest
3 Person Coed
Racers: Don Bart, Heather Kluch, Eric Olsen




Pre Race Conditions

A couple days prior to our departure for Brown County, I was seriously contemplating backing out of the race. I was sick for 3 weeks and within that last week leading up to the race, whatever nasty virus I had, just decided to kick me in the ass even harder. Aside from having absolutely no energy, my head was filled with what felt like 50 pounds of snot, and I felt like I was drowning in my own lungs. I had cough attacks that made my abs hurt. I was just a mess, and hoped the Z Pack I had started would take it's effect and miraculously cure me by race day. I decided to race anyway, not knowing how tough it would be for me, or if I would even make it through the entire race. I do not recommend anyone do any kind of racing if they are as sick as I was, but of course, I don't follow my own advice. Stubborn and stupid? Absolutely! I apologize in advance if I don't have many details about some checkpoints or if this report is not as "fun" as my others. I was so focused on getting through this race, and with being sick, I wasn't completely all there and I wasn't feeling "fun"!

Pre Race Day


We drove down to the gorgeousness of Brown County, which took about 4 hours. I had my Kleenex box with me so I could continuously blow all the goo out of my head. The snot factory was in mass production and it wasn't going to end anytime soon. When we arrived at the park, we checked in, and received the key to our cabin which we were sharing with our fellow AC/BDARians from Tennessee, Josh Braun, Ben Smith, and Jen DeBruyn. Of course the cabin we got to bunk in was called "Judge Pusey." I'm not even kidding! The picture proves it! With a name like that, this has to be a good race, right?
Before we headed to Judge Pusey, we checked in with the race officials and picked up our swag bags. These bags had some pretty awesome swag...a sweet tech shirt, buff, gaiters, a fleece hat, and much more!

Around 6pm we headed into the Abe Martin lodge for a delicious meal. Not too long after, it was time for our pre race meeting. We learned that all CPs were pretty much optional. We didn't have to get all the CPs in a section to be ranked ahead of another team. Ranking was based on how many CPs you can get in 30 hours, so you could skip as many as you needed to. Brian the race director, went over the rules and regulations, and we were already aware that we weren't going to receive our maps and race instructions until 6am, two hours before the race started. The benefit of this was that we actually got some sleep that night. We weren't up until 2am plotting and planning our routes like most races. The only downside is if you're a slow plotter and route planner, then 2 hours before a race wouldn't be enough time. We were confident we could get it done! 

After the meeting we all headed back to our Pusey cabin, packed our packs, got all our gear ready, and went to bed pretty early. I knew I needed sleep if I was going to survive this race, and once again I was hoping for the miracle of being back to normal in the morning. That miracle failed to happen.

Race Day

When the alarm went off in our cabin, even with enough sleep, I did not want to get up. I still wasn't feeling well at all, and all my body wanted to do was sleep. I tried to put this behind me, I didn't want to think about how I felt, I knew I was going to have to rely on my mental strength because physically I felt equal to a pile of poop.

We headed over the lodge to receive our race instructions and life size maps to begin our plotting and
routing. Both AC/BDAR teams worked together on this. Our southern boys and girl plotted half and we plotted the other half, and we planned the routes out together. Our goal was to keep both teams together throughout the entire race. That's tough to do with 6 people, because you never know what's going to happen physically or bike mechanically with anyone. We accepted the fact that at some point we might possibly split up, it was just unpredictable at this point. As soon as we finished our maps, we headed back the cabin, grabbed our gear and headed to the start and anxiously waited.

Race Start/Prologue

The race began with a crazy loud gun shot that scared the crap out of me! I wasn't expecting that at all, but it for sure woke me up! We began with a prologue of a 1 mile trail run.
We planned not to go all balls out since we knew we had plenty of race left. The trail run didn't really split the teams up that much, it was actually hard to pass anyone since the trail was like single track. Within the first 2 minutes of running I felt a deep, sharp pain shoot up my calf! I had no idea what was going on and then a few seconds later, I felt it again which made me yelp. I looked down at my calf and there was some strange looking spider clearly trying to sabotage me! I flicked that sucker off, but of course the pain didn't go away. For some reason spiders love me this year so this wasn't my first, and I knew I'd be feeling this pain for the next couple hours. At least it was something to distract me from my snotty head. When we finished the mile run, we were back at the race start where we staged our bikes. As soon as I stopped running, I had my first severe coughing attack. I thought my head was going to pop and my lungs were going to jump out of my chest. Everyone asked me if I was ok....I was as ok as I was going to get. I just had to keep moving. We hopped on our bikes and headed to the single track section. The race director was nice to us and actually set a route so we could enjoy the fast and flowy trails of Brown County for 15 miles without having to look at a map or stop for a CP.
The teams weren't as split up as we would have liked so we were still mashed with some other teams when we started riding. Ben was first in line for our team, and I was behind him. He disappeared over a flowy hill and as soon as I came down the hill I saw Ben off his bike, and his bike facing towards me, which wasn't a good sign. Apparently the rider in front of him lost his water bottle and came to an emergency stop to try to retrieve it, not realizing or thinking there might be a rider behind him. Well Ben was, and Ben crashed! This was so early on in the race, and after making sure Ben was ok, we both thought, crap I wonder if the bike is in one piece. Luckily it was! His chain fell off but that was easily fixable!  Ben brushed off some dirt and we flew up and down on some of the best trails I've ever been on! At one point we caught up to another team and ended up staying behind them for the rest of the ride. We could've passed them, but since it was like playing leap frog on those trails, we decided to just hang with them. When we reached Hesitation Point, we knew that was the end of our fun ride and it was back to serious business. We saw Wedali in the parking lot, it looked like Amy had a bad crash. We found out later that she did in fact crash, and broke her seat post! I don't know what they did to fix it, but kudos to them for pulling a MacGyver and pressing on!

Road Ride to Paddle

After single track we stayed on our bikes for a 25 mile road ride to the paddle section, snagging some CPs along the way. Eric's legs starting cramping and this was pretty early on in the race, which isn't normal for him. Don towed him for a little while, and Eric soon recovered and came out strong! In this section, the CPs weren't located at an intersection for all the world to see, we actually had to dismount our bikes and hike in a bit to find them, which normally isn't a big deal, but every time I would stop doing something, I would have a coughing attack. Ride the bike, stop, cough....run, stop, cough...it was annoying and painful. We easily found
CP 1&2, but as we headed down to CP4 & 5, it seemed like it took forever. When we finally came upon 4, which was over a bridge and along a trail, we saw a bunch of other teams. We weren't sure who was ahead of who since they could have punched CP5 before getting 4, which would put them ahead of us. We didn't ask, we just busted our asses up the hill and kept running. We saw some teams we thought were further behind us, so that confused us at the time, but looking at the map after the race, we realized our mistake. There was actually a faster route to CP4 & 5, which we just didn't see on the map. If we would've taken that route, we would've saved us time, but oh well, lesson learned! Double check or even triple check the route choice! Anyway, after we went for CP5, we headed north to CP6. As we were on our way, we came to a intersection, and in the grass was a sign that read "Eric & Heather" with an arrow point to the right...which was the direction we needed to go! Total craziness!! It was like someone put that there on purpose! After we got the Eric & Heather CP, we headed to the paddle put in at Transition Area 1. We heard it was going to be an adventure, but we weren't quite sure what that meant! We would soon find out!

Adventure Paddle

We arrived at TA1 and of course my cough attack was out of control. I'm not going to mention every time I had one of these because it would pretty much be the entire race report. So just keep in mind, every time I stop to transition to something else, or stop to pee, I'm most likely coughing up my lungs and drowning in snot. Sexy isn't it? When we get to the paddle, our Tennessee teammates put in first, and we're right behind them. We had no idea what we were about to endure. We figured it would be shallow since we were in a creek, but we didn't realize the beginning of this section would be hike-a-canoe! We would paddle in the canoe for about 30 seconds, then we'd be out dragging it, then in, and out, in and out. At some points it was pointless to get back in the canoe so we would pull it even though the water was past our waists. We knew in two seconds it would be at our ankles again! We were completely soaked and it was exhausting. After what felt like forever, the creek finally opened up to a lake.
We were so relieved!. We came up to our first CP and where would have to get out of the boat, cross some tracks, and hike it. I pulled out my food bags, craving my trail mix and Oreos, and from getting in and out of the boat so much, they were drenched. Ziplock fail!! I lost some of my favorite food along with my electrolytes and Ibuprofen! My happy foods and drug store were gone! I had to bum pills off my teammates for the rest of the race. After we grabbed the CP, we headed to the TA to get our next set of rules. At this point, the sun started setting, it was gorgeous! I was hoping we would be off the paddle before night, and it looked like we would just make it. Since we were three person teams, two people had to pick up a raft and tow it with the canoe over to the canoe drop, then paddle back in the raft. Meanwhile, one teammate would stay behind and do a short orienteering section. Since I was soaked and freezing, I stayed behind to do the nav. With being sick, soaked and freezing in the dark wasn't a great position to be in. Our Tennessee team chose Ben and Jen to paddle the raft, and Josh (our mighty navigator), stayed behind. So this worked out pretty well, I got to change into dry clothes, and then Josh and I navigated together. Actually I can't take credit for the nav, Josh did the navigating and he was spot on!  It was pretty impressive! After we got all the CPs, we ran back to the TA to meet up with the rest of our teammates. They were already back from their Huckleberry Finn excursion, so we headed out for the next orienteering section. This is where the big struggle began.



Night Orienteering

Night orienteering is always tough for one obvious reason...it's dark. Even with headlamps, it's harder to read the terrain, and it's easy to miss checkpoint flags. Navigation also becomes difficult when you're getting
sleepy. This was a pretty vast area we had to cover on foot. The first CP we attempted to attack was a total bomb. We attacked this thing from every way possible and just couldn't find it! It was demoralizing, and we knew we had to be right on it. After about and hour and a half, we made the call....skip it! We had already spent too much time on it and didn't want to blow the rest of the race on just one CP. So we got out of that mess and headed to the next CP. In hindsight, after looking at our Spot Tracker after the race, Josh plotted the CP and noticed that we were literally walking right around the thing and none of us saw it! Total bummer!

We decided to attack CPs 13-16 as we made our way back to the TA. I don't remember much because this is where my sick became even more sick. Not only did the snot fest continue, but now my stomach was participating in the sick party, and it started to rain. When I had to go, I had to go, and it wasn't solid! I swear I pooped four times within a couple hours. It might have been spread out (no pun intended) over a longer time span, but it felt like every 5 minutes to me. I tried to poop at convenient times so I didn't slow us down. I finally was all pooped out, so four times was the max. I felt like a pile of ass, but I kept telling myself to keep going, and I did. After all that pooping fun, we popped (not pooped) out onto a road. This began our insanely long trek back to TA1 where our bikes waited for us, and this is when I endured the most pain I've ever had in my feet. I've never had problems even with wet feet, but it felt like someone dropped cement blocks on my feet, then ran them over with a truck. This wasn't only happening to me, all of my teammates were having foot issues. Don was hobbling a bit, and Josh had it really bad. Jen did all she could to help him, pushing him from behind to help him along. At one point we had to stop and do a sock change. Blisters were forming on his feet so it was better try to save his feet sooner than later. Foot problems can end a race, and
none of us wanted that to happen. Ben and Jen tended to Josh's feet, and as we started back up on our what seemed like an endless trek, Josh suddenly stopped, had a disgruntled look on his face, and with that look I knew exactly what was coming next! Bike shorts...DOWN!!! I turned my head just in time! He started to chafe so bad that he couldn't take it anymore! With a quick pants emergency switcheroo, we were back underway! We trekked and trekked until the sun came up, painful step after painful step. At one point Ben hauled Josh's pack for him so he could relieve his feet for a while. Ben double packin' it makes for a badass pic!


TA to Bikes

When we finally made it to the TA after our "forever trek", I ran to the tent to check in. I heard that "500 Miles" song from The Proclaimers playing on someone's phone, and that's pretty much what the the trek felt like! I commented on the song to the volunteers, thanking them for getting it stuck in my head, and the guy said to me, "Thank you so much for commenting! She's played that for every team that came through and no one said anything, and the only way she would stop was if someone mentioned it, so THANK YOU! I don't want to hear it anymore!" Poor guy, that might've been just as much torture as our feet! After we got geared
up for our bikes, we headed out to get a couple more CPs along this 20 mile road section. As we were riding to the first CP, my stomach started acting up again, except this time it wanted to come out the other end. I didn't want to eat or drink, I just felt like throwing up. All I wanted to do was go straight to the finish, I wanted the race to end, but I didn't say anything, and told myself it would be over soon. I kept pushing myself, making myself drink even though water sounded disgusting to me. We nailed the first CP, and headed towards the next one and my thoughts were, "Just please don't puke yet, keep pedaling, no puking!" When we got to the CP, I made myself eat a Nature Valley Bar. It tasted like hay in my mouth but I forced it down. Literally 5 minutes later, I felt better! That was it? I felt like puking because I needed food even though the thought of food made me feel like puking!??!!! The mind and the body sure can be strange and confusing! After my sudden "cure", we biked back to Brown County to get a couple CPs along the singletrack trails. We made a small mistake on one of them, but immediately corrected ourselves, found it, and headed back to the finish, but we weren't finished yet!

Final O to Finish

We dropped off our bikes at the finish, and looked over the map to see what how many we had time for. At first we were only going to get one, but Ben pulled a little trickery and told Josh that if we got two, we would beat another team. So that lit a fire under Josh's chafed butt, and we set off to get those two CPs! Even though our feet were absolutely destroyed, we were so determined, we ran the crap out of our aching feet! We lost a little time on the first CP since we were on the wrong spur, but luckily the right spur was right next to us. After losing some time, we still made the call to get the second CP, but we set a time cutoff for ourselves. If we didn't find it by a certain time, we had to haul ass out of there to get back to the finish before the cutoff. Just as the clock was ticking towards "get the hell out" time, we got the CP! Josh and I looked at the map to determine a quick route out, and got the hell out! We ran trail, road, and trail back to the finish, our painful feet screaming at us and us telling our feet to shut up! We crossed that finish line with a half hour to spare, and Ben broke the news to Josh that we only needed one CP to place ahead of another team, not two! How's that for motivation!! This definitely wasn't our best race, but we all worked together as a team to push through pain and sickness, and helped each other when that pain and sickness was too much to bear. During even our lowest moments, we still kept on pushing, and we couldn't have done it without each other! This race definitely pushed me beyond my limits, racing sick is not smart or fun, it was an accomplishment just to finish, and I'm so happy I didn't give up! Great race, great course, great team! I love this shit!


Eric, Heather, Don, Josh, Jen, Ben

And of course I couldn't end this without a pic of snarly our feet!!!



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

2013 Thunder Rolls Adventure Race 24 Hour



Thunder Rolls Adventure Race
24 Hour
8/23/13
Mt. Carroll, IL
Team Adventure Capitalists/BDAR Midwest
3 Person Coed
Racers: Eric Olsen, Don Bart, Heather Kluch




The Thunder Rolls 24 hour Adventure Race is definitely one of my favorite races and I’m going to tell you why even if you don’t want to hear it. :o) Unfortunately I wasn’t able to race it last year because I made a bad decision to skip it, and have been kicking myself in the ass all year, until this year when it finally came around again. I was so excited to be racing it this year as a different team I recently joined called Adventure Capitalists/BDAR. They are originally based out of the Tennessee, so we branched out as their Midwest chapter. My teammates are still the same, Eric Olsen and Don Bart, I’ ve known these guys and raced with them a couple years now, and we race well together. Ok so back to why this race is a favorite of mine….for one Gerry Voelliger, the race director, is a character; there’s no one like him. He’s friendly, crass, brutally honest, and hilarious. I laugh my ass off in every one of his pre race meetings. He puts on a fantastic (or Gerry would say EPIC…epic is a Gerry word) course, that’s brutal but fun. Second, the volunteers are amazing people. There are A TON of them! Every single one of them is friendly and they really become your friends. Arriving to a TA or having them assist on the ropes course seriously brings a smile to your face. Maybe it’s because you’re sick of dealing with your teammates, either way, it’s always a pleasure to see them. Not only are the volunteers awesome, so are the racers. The people who do this race seem to be a part of one big happy AR family. You see old faces and new, and you immediately form a bond like no other race I’ve raced. Hugs, high fives, sarcasm, and kicks in the asses are all a part of this happy family. So there you go, epic race director, epic volunteers, and epic racers all combine to make one epic race. I’ve used the word epic 5 times in one paragraph, I never use that word and try to avoid it at all costs, so that should tell you this race is truly epic!


Enter Thunder Rolls Territory




Eric, Don and I planned on leaving my area around 1ish, so that would’ve put us there at about 4. Of course things always run later than planned, so our thoughts and dreams of having a long nap before the race were crushed. We always seem to forget how much time it takes to unpack gear and get everything prepared. When we arrived at the race, we were welcomed by the usual sign that said the obvious “Welcome Adventure Racers!” This makes us feel wanted, like we’re important even if we’re of no significance. We arrive sporting our custom made shirts…WWWD on the front and “What Would WEDALI Do?” on the back. For those of you who have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, Wedali is a team, a very,very good team. They win most of the races, but I have to say for how many races these guys win, they are some of the friendliest racers I’ve come across during my racing career. You would think a team that wins all the time would be a bunch of big headed douchebags….not these guys! They’re very humble, and when you congratulate them on a win, they’re very modest, and are more interested in talking to you about how your race went. I love these guys and love seeing them on the course, because when I see them, I feel like I’m winning even though they’re half way through the course and we’re not even close. ;o) Anyway enough bragging about Wedali, to get back to my point, these guys are excellent navigators, so during a previous 30 hour race when we were delirious, we came up with idea of what would Wedali do in this situation, hence the shirt idea was born. They got a good chuckle out of it and so did other racers that understood where we were coming from. Ok, moving on now to the actual race.

Pre Race

After unloading our gear into our cabin, and I have to mention we had some pretty cool teams in our cabin, we headed to the lodge for our delicious pre race salad, pasta, and breadsticks meal. An hour after we stuffed our faces, Gerry began his speech of the torture that was upon us. He explained the routes, let us know what roads were forbidden, and explained that we were not allowed to skip any of the CPs, that we would be ranked at the last CP we attained in sequential order. So for example, if we found CP38, didn’t find CP39 and moved on to CP40, we would only be ranked up to CP38. So this meant all CPs were mandatory except the “advanced section” up north which most teams wouldn’t make it to. Gerry also mentioned that the stinging nettle wasn’t so bad this year, but then Sue Stonitsch, one of the volunteers, immediately spoke up and corrected him on that. The nettles were bad! I was hoping Sue’s correction was wrong, but you will see later in this report, my hopes were shattered. Ugh!
When Gerry finally stopped talking to us, our team captains went up to collect the race instructions and the maps. The maps were small, but there were many of them. We had to plot only a handful of checkpoints, since most of the nav sections were pre plotted on different maps that we would attain at the transition areas. We were able to plot during the meeting and plan our routes pretty quick. We headed back to the cabin to arrange our paddle bag and bike gear. Eric and Don left to go stage the bikes and bike gear about 20minutes away while I stayed back to figure out my outfits for the next 24 hours. I get cold very easily so this was some tough planning for me! When the boys got back, we finished getting gear ready and decided we actually had some time to take a short nap. We set the alarm and we snoozed away, or at least tried.



Race Start/Orienteering/Ropes

It literally felt like 5 minutes later and the alarm went off. Wake up! Time to race! We changed into our race gear and headed out to the starting line. Race started at midnight but we lined up around 1130 for a group picture taken by the amazing photographer, John Morris. Gerry then played the National Anthem and when the clock hit midnight, we were off! We ran to the fort to get the O map from the volunteers. This O section was rogaine style so that meant we were able find the CPs in any order we wanted. This is where strategy comes into play. Teams scattered in every direction as soon as they got the maps. We decided to head straight to the ropes course. We wanted to get that out of the way as soon as possible since we didn’t want to come into it later with a huge bottleneck. When we arrived at the ropes, our plan worked out well. 
The ascent
We saw Wedali on the ropes, they might have gotten more CPs than us already, but it was still nice to see them! We waited only about 20 minutes before we got on the rope to ascend up it. Ascending is definitely a workout. Imagine doing a bunch of one legged squats..my left butt cheek burned after that! When we got to the top of the cliff, we rappelled down. I slipped as I went over the cliff, swung out, and smacked my ass on the rock. I guess my ass wasn’t sore enough, it needed more abuse! I recovered quickly and flew down the rope. Eric flew down after me. I swear it’s like this guy wasn’t even attached to a rope because he flew down so freakin’ fast! After Eric, Don rappelled nice and smooth into the water below. We left our harnesses on and headed out for the rest of the O section.  Things were going smoothly until we attempted our last CP, CP1. Night nav is always so much harder because you can get turned around easily. We followed a ridge line from CP2, which we thought was the correct direction. We ended up hopping over a couple barbed wire fences and then came upon a CP. What’s this??? CP2 again? Did we really just walk in a circle?? Yes. Yes we did. Dammit! So we looked at the map again and followed the terrain much closer. If we ended up at CP2 again, I would’ve thought we were all losing our minds or that Gerry was messing with us. We finally came upon CP1, which made us feel sane again, and then headed to CP6, which was a cave. This is awesome, the only race I’ve even done that has a cave! We had to cross the river to get into it, and it was deep! It was past my waist and it wasn’t warm! We headed into the cave and a bat flew in my face! The cave was cold and part of it was flooded with ice cold water. 
The cave!
We got to the end of the cave and we didn’t see a CP. Wait, what? Were we in the right cave? I don’t remember there being another cave. I asked Eric if there was a turn off to another section of the cave behind us but he didn’t remember seeing anything. So I walked back and sure enough, we were supposed to make a left. We walked down the super narrow hole and there it was! We started to head back out and Don smashed head on the rocks above. Luckily he had his helmet on, but the bash hurt his neck. He had to take a couple minutes to get his brain back. Good thing it wasn’t anything serious!  Next we made our way to the river for one more CP before we hit the next section…..Coasteering! This was to be my first time ever doing this!

My cold face!






Coasteering

Some people never heard of coasteering, so what is it? It’s orienteering, but in a river, so you’re orienteering in the water along a coast…coast + orienteering = coasteering. Ahhh now it all makes sense! We hopped in the Waukarusa River, it was pitch black so we couldn’t see much, only what our headlamps illuminated. We had to walk in the water the entire time since the land on both sides was private property. I later heard some other teams took the high and dry route, but oh well, at least we know we did it right. Walking through this river was tough! Footing was totally uneven and rocky so we were either tripping or banging our shins and knees on rocks. In some sections, the water was up to our waists! I felt like I was walking like a newborn baby, or a drunk, or a drunken baby, either way, it was a long, wet stumble! I’m not complaining though, it was pretty freakin cool and for once I wasn’t freezing my ass off! When we got to the road, it was our exit point. It was time for a 2 mile run along a paved road to get us to the paddle section. Don was wearing some crazy orienteering shoes with mini spikes on the bottom. These are awesome on dirt and trail, but pavement not so much. Luckily there was a small shoulder of grass and dirt that he could run on, and when he couldn’t, he toughed it out on the pavement. As we made our way down the road, we could see Boom Boom Pow ahead of us. They’re an all girls team, and they’re pretty awesome! We kept pushing our pace and ended up passing these lovely ladies who were missing a usual team member. Their third teammate contracted Lyme disease. We all hope she recovers quickly! We finally got to our destination….the ADVENTURE paddle, and oh man, an adventure it was!



Adventure Paddle

Gerry had told us that we were in for an adventure for this paddle and that was an understatement! First of all, it’s still dark, so it’s hard to see branches, logs, and debris until they’re pretty much right in front of you, or when you’re ramming into them. The adventure paddle began on Plum River, a very twisty river with a ton of debris, strainers, logs, trees, and anything else that could block us. As we were paddling along, we kept running into obstacles. We would run over a log, and get stuck on it. Having three people in a canoe was a disadvantage, the more weight, the more stuck you got. We came up
with “synchronized humping” in a previous race so we tried it out with this one. What you do is a back and forth humping motion, and you have to time it just right so that you and your teammies are in sync. I know it sounds perverted, but it’s the only thing that works! You could always have someone get out and pull the boat, but the water we were in was deep in most spots, and having someone get out all the time, greatens the risk of tipping the boat. So we humped away for about 8-10 miles. We also got stuck in what looked like beaver dams. I swear Gerry went out the day before and just threw trees in the river to make it more difficult for us!  At some points, we were snaking through tiny gaps using our humping mechanism, along with pulling on branches above us, or pushing our paddles off of logs and rocks just to make it through.  When it finally reached daylight, Eric mentioned that the weird scraggly things in the trees looked like ghosts (they totally did and I still have no idea what they were). We came upon Boom Boom Pow and they were struggling to get through something nasty, so we waited. Don had to pee really bad, but there was nowhere to go, so I said just whip it out and pee over the side of the boat since no one can see anything!  So to our surprise, he did just that. All of a sudden we see a pee stream arching over the side of the boat. Holy crap it was like a neverending sprinkler! It never seemed to end and when it did, it would just start up again. Little spurts here and there, pisssss, silence, piss piss, silence, piss. Eric and I were laughing our butts off. Eric’s laugh made me laugh even harder, I was pretty much crying because I was laughing so hard! I hope Boom Boom Pow didn’t think we were laughing at them. If they read this race report, they’ll know why we were in hysterics. I’m even laughing while typing this!
 When we would finally make it through an obstacle and have a nice and easy paddle, we would hit another obstacle. Out of nowhere Team Rage Against the Cutoff came flying past us. These guys were animals, tearing through the debris like it was nothing. They passed us as we were trying to hump our way off of a log.  There were so many times we thought we would dump but with our amazing teamwork, and with Don calling out everything he would see, we managed to make it through without any carnage. (Carnage is Gerry’s favorite word so I had to use it.) I did almost lose my shoe during a portage around one of those beaver dams. I stepped in some quicksand-like clay mud and it sucked the shoe right off of me. Not only did my shoe disappear but it smelled like rancid poo.  I had to dig in the poo goo to get my shoe back. It was nasty! This paddle definitely wasn’t easy, it was scary, it gave me mini heart attacks and got my adrenaline pumping, but I had a smile on my face through the entire ride. I thought it was torturous fun! It definitely wasn’t boring and kept us awake! It was a total body workout!!! Screw Insanity or all those other workout gimmicks, all you need is Gerry’s Adventure Paddle!


Bike-O

The next section was something new for Gerry’s race, he called this the Bike-O. During this section in the super steep hilly mountainous terrain of the Mississippi Palisades, we were able to attack the CPs in any order by riding our bikes near the CPs, then obtaining them on foot. This section was very strategic, some teams dropped their bikes and got all the South CPs on foot, as others obtained a few CPs in the nearby area, then get back on their bikes and rode closer to another group of CPs. We chose to ride near a group of CPs, snag them, and ride again, and so on. It was working out well except for my feet didn’t agree with leaving my bike shoes on as we stomped around on the uneven steep terrain. I mentioned my feet hurt, but still kept going. Since I left my bike shoes on, my trail runners were clipped to the back of my pack, and they were still caked with poo sludge from the paddle take out. This made my shoes feel like bricks, so as I ran, it felt like someone was tugging on my pack and pulling me backwards. It started to wear on me, my back was starting to hurt and it was wearing me down. So since we weren't switching shoes every time we got off our bikes, Don came up with a plan. Eric would unclip my shoes for me whenever we got off our bikes to navigate on foot, then clip them back on when we’d get back on our bikes. This worked out well for a while, until my feet were finally ready to give up. They were screaming at me, “Take these damn bike shoes off!” My feet are very picky, I need support in my shoes and these things gave me none. It was starting to affect my knees, and Eric started having the same problem, so we finally decided to switch shoes every time we got off the bike. A few seconds to switch shoes was worth not killing our feet and possibly affecting the rest of our race.
As we attacked the CPs on foot, there were a few events that made this section memorable. One of them being my spider attack. As we dropped our bikes, I walked in between a fence post and a trail sign, not seeing the spider web sprawled out between the two. The web stuck to my face (this happened a lot throughout the race), but this time the spider must’ve been still on it because out of nowhere if felt like I got stabbed in the back with a knife!  I screamed and started walking super fast down the trail, trying to speed walk off the pain. I could feel my back pulsing with pain like someone kept punching me repeatedly. Just then, my teammates came to my rescue. We all walked over to a gazebo, I pulled my top layer off so they could check my back. Sure enough Eric could see where that sucker decided to sink his teeth in me. It was red and a little puffy, didn't look too bad but I could feel throbbing shooting pains through my back and shoulder. Eric whipped out some Afterbite, we weren't sure if it would work but anything was worth a try at this point. The pain stayed with me for about 2 hours until it finally disappeared. I had Eric check the bite later and he couldn't even see it, so maybe the Afterbite worked, or it’s quite possible I have superhuman healing powers! After that fiasco, and after we finally grabbed the CP in that spider infested area, we headed over on our bikes to the next CP. As we pulled up to our destination, Eric yelled out “My wheel is wobbling! My spoke broke!” Broken spoke could mean non rideable bike which could’ve meant the race was over for us. With Eric’s quick thinking and McGyver-like skills, he busted out some duct tape and started wrapping his spoke with it. We weren’t sure it would work but we didn’t want to quit the race, so he gave it a try. He tested his duct tape bandaid out and the wheel wobbled a little bit, but it was still rideable. This is proof that duct tape fixes everything!


As we headed in to attack more CPs, we noticed we were neck deep in stinging nettles. For those of you that have never heard of this, the name says it all. It’s a plant, and it can grow taller than me, which in some cases it was up to my chin, and the leaves have needles. If you hit the leaf and it gets you at the right angle, it feels like someone is giving you huge paper cuts. Yes, that would freakin’ hurt, but wait, there’s more!
After you feel like you’ve been sliced, it then starts to itch, and the more you scratch it, the more it itches. The itching lasts for about 10 minutes, and when you look at the affected area, you see nothing. Sounds fun doesn’t it? I think they should have this form of torture for prisoners! So anyway, we trudged through this land of itch since there was just no escaping it in some areas. I got “attacked” in one are so badly that my entire body itched. I ran out of the woods, onto the trail, frantically scratching myself. I know you’re not supposed to, but I couldn’t help it! It was driving me crazy! Just as I tried to pretend it wasn’t happening, we see another team….our friends of Team Cairn, Kim Heintz, Donovan Day, and Chad Hannon. This was Donovan’s first 24 hour race, and I hear he was pretty much a machine! We gave them a little tip about the CP we had just attained but didn’t directly tell them where it was. They were in our same division so that means they were our competition so we couldn’t give them all the answers! We hauled out of there, finished up the Bike O,
and then headed on our bikes to the next TA for our nav section…without the bikes this time.


O Course

Our motivation to get there was we knew a cooler filled with watermelon awaited us! We were so hot and drenched with sweat, that watermelon seemed like the cure for everything!  We were still in the Mississippi Palisades which of course meant the steep hills didn’t disappear and neither did the stinging nettle. Hills I can tolerate, nettle can go punch itself in the face…if it had a face. This was a pretty decent sized nav section. We were to obtain CPs 35-42 in order, all on foot in the mountainous, nettle infested terrain. We’re we worried? Of course not! We knew watermelon would be waiting for us when we got back to the TA! We headed out on our run/jog/trek….during nav sections, every team tends to do all three at some point. We were attacking CPs and not having any issues until CP39. I have nightmares about CP39, and I now hate that number. I’m 36 years old but when I’m 38 going on 39, I might skip it and go straight to 40. That’s how traumatized I am by this thing! The clue for the CP was a rock outcropping, and we attacked this annoying thing twice with no luck. After almost two hours, we were all getting frustrated, it was seriously demoralizing. I walked over to Don to take a gander at the map. We decided to attack it from a bend in the trail that we ended up on since we were pretty much out of any other attack points. As Don took a bearing on his compass, we saw David Huntley from Tardy Rooster heading towards us.
Team Tardy Rooster nav-ing with us.
They were in the same situation, so it made us feel better that we weren’t the only ones having trouble with this one.  We collaborated with Tardy Rooster and they agreed to attack it the same way. As we marched for a while in the snarly terrain, suddenly we heard Don yell “Got it!” Holy freakin’ crap, that immediately brightened our moods! We were so sick of looking for that stupid thing so it was a huge relief to find it! We then decided to finish the rest of the section with Tardy Rooster. Sometimes two nav heads are better than one and they weren’t in our division anyway. David and his teammate Woody, I think it was Woody but if not, that’s what I’m calling him, are great guys to race with. We ended up finishing the course without any more annoying CP issues and headed back to the TA for…yep you guessed it…WATERMELON!!!!


Bike O to Finish

After we devoured our watermelon for the second time, we had a little pow wow on what to do next. We knew team No Sleep would be coming in soon, and they were our competition, so we had to decide quickly. Just as Eric went to fill up our water bladders, I saw John Farless rolling in with the rest of his No Sleep-ers. Oh no! We gotta go! Don rode over to Eric since the water wasn’t at the TA, and let him know that we had to hurry out of there. No offense John, you’re a great guy, but we didn’t want to hang out with you! Eric hurried back and we made our decision. There was an advanced O course up north which we knew we wouldn’t have time for because CP39 took a huge chunk of our time. We were contemplating riding up to get CP44 which would’ve put on about 16 more miles to our route back to the finish. We knew that would cut it really close to the midnight cutoff, especially since we didn’t know the conditions of the roads, were they paved, were they gravel, were they dirt? We had no way of knowing. Also we were worried about Eric’s spoke. If we got out that far, and something happened to his spoke, we were done. We would have to be picked up and we wouldn’t be considered finishers. So we decided to play it safe, and head back to the finish, picking up the mandatory CPs along the way. Just as we got near a bridge, I noticed Eric slowed down a lot. I thought he was struggling, that maybe his legs were fried because of the insane hills we were heaping over. As we approached a bridge with the first CP, he got off his bike and said “No wonder why that was so tough! My rear tire is flat!” We were on gravel so he couldn’t even tell it was flat while he was riding. He quickly flipped his bike over and started changing tubes. I was impressed with how quick he did this.  Tardy Rooster and another team passed us while he was changing the tire, but we were leap frogging them, so we weren’t too concerned. After the fix, we got back on and pedaled like monsters. After racing for so many hours, and battling insane hills, we all still felt really strong. We just hammered our way back on our bikes. It was dark, I tried to ignore the weird hallucinations that kept popping in front of me every so often, but I felt like I could’ve raced for 12 more hours. I credit this to proper training, nutrition, and a product I’ve been testing out called Vector450 which helps with muscle recovery and performance. Since I’ve been taking this, I don’t feel the extreme muscle fatigue that I had in the past. Anyway, we all hauled ass to the finish, Don and Eric were machines, and luckily Eric’s tire and spoke held up for the rest of our ride. We crossed that finish line and felt a sense of accomplishment even though we didn’t make it to the advanced course. Sure we had our downfalls, but we did our best to make it through them and came out strong as a team, and no one hated each other at the end! We took our team finish photo with Gerry and then headed straight into the lodge to stuff our faces with delicious pizza and corndogs! Looking back on the race, this is still definitely one of my favorite races throughout my racing career. I love the racers, the volunteers, and of course Gerry, the race director. It is alwasy so well organized and just an all around great race course! I will definitely not be skipping this race next year! Bring on that nettle!!



Thursday, July 25, 2013

Gear Review: currexSole Runpro Performance Insoles


currexSole RUNPRO Performance Insoles



    Being an adventure racer, most of my running is done on trails, or off trail jumping and sometimes tripping over logs and rocks. I was having issues where my feet were moving around too much in my shoes, causing some discomfort and irritation, so I was excited to try out the currexSole inserts, hoping this would solve my wiggly foot problem. 

The Insoles:

Currently four types of insoles are available. The RUNPRO is made for running, walking, or triathlons, and they can also help you transition to minimalist shoes. The ACTIVEPRO is good for multisports such as running & hiking, racquet & nets sports like tennis or volleyball, and ball sports including baseball, basketball, rugby, and football. The BIKEPRO is for bike shoes, and lastly, the EDGEPRO is strictly for ski and snow sports which are perfect for ski, snowboard, alpine boots and skates. When you select which type is best for your needs, you will then have to determine the profile that is right for you, high, medium or low. Don't worry, it's not complicated. If you're buying them from a running store, they might have a footdisc that looks like a gel pad you can step on, which will reveal the shape of your foot so you can determine the shape of your arch as high, medium, low or flat. You will also need to determine your static leg axis which means you are either bow-legged, straight-legged, or knock kneed. Confused? No need to be. Their site demonstrates step by step instructions on how to do this at home. It's easy, I promise! Check out the following example and click on the link...  



  • A: High arched foot - Only the heel and ball of foot are visible.
  • B: Medium arched foot - The foot is evenly balanced.
  • C: Low arched foot - The inner arch is sunken, the imprint in the middle is wider compared to a medium arched foot.
  • D: Flat arched foot - The inner arch is almost flat, so that you can see the total foot imprint.


The Test:

As I mentioned before, I was having issues with the toe box of my shoes being a little too wide for my skinny feet. I was wearing thicker socks to help keep my foot in place, but it wasn't working to the full extent. I yanked the original insoles out of my trail runners, and slapped in the RUNPRO. I decided a 5.5 mile hilly trail run would put these to the test....not too short, not too long in case my feet didn't agree (the walk back wouldn't be too far), and hilly trails are where I would notice the issue the most. As soon as I took off on the trail, I immediately encountered a limestone covered downhill. This was the perfect scenario for the first test since downhills on loose footing is when my feet take a beating. To my surprise, my feet didn't budge! Did these insoles actually do their job? I wasn't convinced yet, I had plenty more hills to see if they succeeded in supporting my complicated feet. I kept on charging through my run, and I noticed not only were my feet staying in place, the insoles were crazy comfortable. I felt like a gazelle, like I could run all day without any pain. Did these insoles meet my expectations? Heck yes, above and beyond! I didn't expect them to be so comfortable along with keeping my feet from sliding around my shoes. I'm very impressed with the currexSole insoles! I seriously want a pair for every type of shoes I own! 


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

2013 Sheltowee Extreme 5 12 Hour AR



Sheltowee Extreme 5 Adventure Race
12 Hour
7/13/13
London, KY
Team Adventure Capitalists/BDAR Midwest
2 Person Coed
Racers: Eric Olsen, Heather Kluch

Eric Olsen, Heather Kluch, Adam Rains, Josh Braun, Brook Manning



Racer's Eve



   Eric and I arrived a little later than expected since we had to stop at J.J. McBrewster's along the way. It's a BBQ restaurant featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and I highly recommend it. The beef brisket sandwich was amazeballs! When we pulled into the Grove Campground to check in with the girl at the gate, her accent was so thick that Eric couldn't understand a word she was saying. I pretty much had to translate or answer for him, it was pretty amusing! Our fellow AC/BDAR teammates, Josh Braun, Adam Rains, and Brook Manning, are also Southern, so I always forget exactly how Southern they are since I can't hear accents through Facebook and text messages! Eric quickly adapted. We both did have to ask "What?" more than usual, but we eventually understood what everyone was saying. I think we even started to talk with a Southern accent at one point. 
   We setup camp with Adam Rains, and Josh Braun, while Brook & Kevin Manning setup on the site next to us along with Kevin's teammates, Lisa and Bill. It felt like one big Southern family. After everything was setup, we headed out for some much needed grub. We all stuffed our faces with some form of pasta and breadsticks. My stomach was happy! After dinner, we got back to camp, relaxed by the fire for a while, and then decided to call it an early night.


Pre Race



   We all wake up around 5:30am, it might've been earlier. All I knew is it was still pitch black, and I had the best sleep that I've ever had in a tent, and I didn't want to get up. The pre race meeting wasn't until 8am, so I didn't understand why the hell we were up so early, but I got up anyway. We quickly ate breakfast, and then headed over to the race start. Now looking back, I'm happy we got up early. I don't like feeling rushed before a race, so we definitely ended up having plenty of time, and we got a rockstar parking space! 
   We hopped out of our cars and started to get all of our gear ready, when out of nowhere comes this junker of a car flying into the parking lot, then slams on the brakes, and came to a screeching halt just in time before running off the end of the parking lot. My first thought was, "Who is the hell is this psycho? He could've ran over someone!" This older, out of shape man, jumped out of his crap car and started screaming at everyone. "WHO THE HELL OPENED MY GATE?? YOU'RE ALL TRESPASSING! GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!" This guy was so raging mad, I'm surprised he didn't give himself a heart attack. Apparently he got in Kevin's face when he was driving down the lot towards us. He pulled over, rolled down his window and started blaming Kevin for opening the gate...well Kevin gave him a piece of his mind. He wasn't going to take that crap! It turned out that this guy was the camp host, or gatekeeper, whatever he wants to call his high and mighty douchebag self. I think we woke him from his beauty sleep, which he didn't seem to get much of, and it just sent him into some psycho rage. Obviously if the gate was open, someone opened it for us, and failed to tell this crabby guy that we were going to be there. Oh well, not our problem! Stephanie, the race director, handled the situation well, so Crabby McAngerson finally left. Hopefully he got the rest of his beauty sleep. 
   After all that madness went down, we were able to get our maps with the UTM coordinates to plot the Checkpoints, along with our race instructions and a couple other supplemental maps for bike trails. We brought our maps to the picnic shelter because it started to look like a storm was rolling in. Plotting in the rain isn't a fantastic idea. I read off the UTM coordinates, and Eric plotted all 24 CPs. We waited until the pre race meeting to plan our route since Stephanie said there was something we needed to know first before we plan our route. Stephanie went through the rules and gave us instructions, and we listened, or at least we thought we listened to everything, but with the distraction of the loud thunder and the pouring rain in the background, apparently there was something we didn't hear, and you will see how it bites us in the ass later. 
   With the info we heard, we planned out our bike routes, and determined which order we would be getting the CPs in each section, since we were allowed to get them in any order. 9am came around pretty freakin quick after that, and we were off! Here we gooooooo!


Race Start

   The race started with a mile or so road run across the bridge of the dam and back. We didn't have our passports to punch for the CPs so this was our way to get them and break up the teams in the process. Obviously the faster runners would get it first and be able to start the next section before everyone else. We did fairly well, and planned to keep up with our Southern teammates throughout the entire race, or for as long as we could, and so far we were pretty much staying together.



   
Single Track



We arrived back to the race start. Our next adventure was to snag CPs 1&2 that were along the Sheltowee Trace trail, which meant for some wet single track since it had just rained. On a side note, wet single track always gives me heart attacks. I'm always slipping and sliding, and my wheels always spin out and I go nowhere. Well I became smart and decided to get more aggressive tires (Kenda Slant Six) for this race. We all headed out to ride to CP1. I could immediately tell the difference with my new tires. Holy crap, I didn't feel like I was going to die!! It was awesome! I wasn't sliding and I could take turns on the wet mud without having visions of me falling on my face. The tires might be heavier than my previous less knobby tires, but they were well worth it! Anyway, enough about the tires....we were all right behind each other riding this wet and sometimes muddy trail, but then Eric and I fell back. I'm not exactly sure what happened, either we got stuck on an uphill, or a root, or we were just simply not as fast as our fellow single track experts, but we ended up totally losing them when we came to a trail junction. Since we were following them, we weren't looking at a map while riding, so we had no idea what junction we were at, and Josh, Adam, & Brook were nowhere to be seen. I yelled Josh's name a few times, but no response. They were gone. Eric hurried and busted out the map so we could figure out where we were. We figured out our whereabouts on the trail and started riding again. I have to admit I was a little frustrated. I really wanted to race with those guys, and was disappointed that we separated so early in the race, but when Eric said there was nothing we could do about it, I knew he was right. We just had to keep going and have it just be "our" race. 
   The single track was nice and flowy. It wasn't too technical which I liked since it was wet. After a while we came to a parking lot, which looked like some sort of boat dock. We couldn't see where the trail continued on the other side of the lot. Eric and I, plus another team, rode back and forth looking for the trail and didn't see it. We pulled out the map and figured we must've made a wrong turn somewhere, but couldn't figure out where. After riding around the lot in circles a couple times, we decide to ride down a little further, and sure enough there was the trail! No idea what had happened, but at least we got back on track. We continued on the trail while keeping an eye out for the CP under a bridge. We weren't sure what the bridge looked like, and we started to worry since we crossed a bunch of mini bridges, so we hoped it wasn't any of those. Eric rode across a slick bridge and as I'm turning the corner I heard "I'm going in!!!" I saw Eric's bike falling into the creek and Eric fell on his side. Luckily only his bike went in and he stayed on the bridge without any serious imjuries! As we kept riding, we came upon the most obvious bridge ever, and saw pink tape dangling off of it. It was the CP punch! We were looking for an orienteering flag, but there wasn't one. Luckily someone saw the punch! We then realized that all the bike CPs would not be flags, just tape with punches dangling. Good thing we saw this because as we started to ride to CP2, we saw a bunch of teams coming towards us because they missed CP1. They were looking for flags too, so they rode right  past it. We felt so bad for them, because these were top teams that had to turn around and lose a ton of time! These things happen to even the best teams, and yes it sucks! 
   We kept on riding North up to CP2 which was a small knoll, so we had to get off the bike and hike up a small hill to find it. It was a little further down than we expected but we got it, and then traveled north to the TA. This is where our pre race missing information bites us in the ass. We stayed on the trail and kept riding, along with a couple other teams that were about the same pace as us. The trail started to get snarly! It was super technical with huge rocks everywhere. After a while, it was no longer enjoyable, we were hiking our bikes a lot since some of this stuff was impossible to ride over. I mentioned to Eric that this was way too much single track for a 12 hour race, especially with the second half being so technical! He agreed, but we didn't have a choice and kept going. When we finally got to the trail junction, we turned left just to hike our bikes all the way up a super steep non rideable hill. Yay fun! (Yes, that's sarcasm.) When we finally reached the TA, we see a ton of bikes! How the hell did all these racers get here, when we didn't see any of them pass us on the trail? Yep, you probably guessed it, they took THE ROAD. OMG OMG OMG! If we knew we could've taken the road after CP2, we would've knocked 25 minutes or more off our time. I uttered the word SHITBALLS a few times in a row! Oh well, we had to deal with our mistake, no going back now! We sucked it up and checked in with the volunteer. On to the next chapter...


Orienteering





Knowing we lost some time with losing the trail earlier on the single track, and then taking the trail instead of the road, we decided there was no way we could get all of the CPs in this section. All the previous CPs were mandatory, but we only had to get 3 out of 7 in this section. We decided to start with CP9 (clockwise) since CPs 9,8, & 7 were closer than the rest of them. Eric did the navigation while I either consulted with him or just followed, keeping an eye out for the CPs. We snagged CP9, then headed to CP7. We overshot CP7 and ended up having to come down and around to get it, which was not the greatest way to attack it. It was overgrown, and when I say overgrown, I mean thorns up to my head! We were getting prickled and stabbed all over the place. It felt like we were bushwhacking forever, when we finally came upon it. What a relief, I just wanted out of that thorny mess! 
   We got out of the nastiness and came back up to the trail. We made the decision to skip CP8 since it was pretty far off the trail and didn't really have a good attack point. We figured that one would cost us the most time so it wasn't worth it. Scott, a man racing solo, agreed with us, so we hiked the trail North to CP6. This is where I noticed my knee, or more like my knee was screaming at me to stop. I think I twisted or pulled it during the single track section and it finally started to tighten up and give me troubles. We jogged on the trail and with every step down on my left leg, I could feel it pull. I debated telling Eric to stop and walk, but then the stubborn racer side of me took over. Stubborn racer told me to keep on going, that it was nothing but a tight muscle, and that if I continued to beat the shit out of it, it would get better. At first I thought I was crazy for thinking this, but I've done this before and it worked, so I gave it a try. I never mentioned my knee issue, and kept on running through the pain. We punched CP6 and headed over to CP5. Oh CP5, I still don't like  you! We popped out on a grassy, gravely, fire road. We thought this one should be easy, it looked like we just get to the top of the hill past a gate, and head directly south to a reentrant on the other side of the hill. Well we got to the top of the hill, headed in, and wandered for what felt like an eternity. We ended up crossing a creek, so then we thought we were on the wrong side of the creek the entire time, and kept heading West, which wasn't the right way. At one point I finally said, "Ok, we have no idea where we are, let's get to a trail so we can figure out what went wrong." We kept heading west since we knew we would hit a trail, and we hit it in about 5 minutes, which told me we were way too far west from CP5. Since Eric was doing all the nav, I decided to finally contribute for this one. I grabbed the map and thought we should attack it a little bit differently. I knew we veered off to the west so I made us hike past the top of the hill and go around the east side of the hill. We skirted the hill and came upon a small reentrant. Sure enough, the CP was there! I was proud of myself since I haven't navigated in a race in a while, so this was my only shining navigating moment, Eric has all the rest of them! :o)
  After CP5, we looked at the map and figured it wasn't worth getting the remaining CPs since they were pretty far out of the way. We were already out on the course for almost 4 hours, Eric had just run out of water, and we didn't want to miss out on the rest of the course, so we got back on that road and started running back to the TA. This is when the monsoon hit. I swear we were transported into a rainforest. This shit was coming down hard! I heard thunder so loud directly behind us that I jumped and covered my head expecting a tree to come tumbling down on me. We kept on running and then it started hailing! This was some serious storm, so I kept running. I found a turtle on the trail, his head was hiding in his shell, I think he was afraid of the storm too! Eric picked him up and moved him off the trail so he didn't get ran over. Of course we had to take a picture of our new friend first!


 Finally, I could see it clearing up in front of us and that's where I wanted to be! We ran our way into the sun and this is when I noticed that my knee was better! Ha! My stubborn self was right! I had tortured the pain right out of me! I don't suggest this for everyone but for some reason it seems to work for me! We made it back to the TA without getting struck by lightning, and quickly transitioned to our bikes. The volunteer told us our other teammates had left about 13 minutes before us, but they had cleared the entire course! We were excited for them!


Road Ride



   It felt good to get  back on the bikes at this point! We had one CP to get along the way which was in a cemetery. We were soaked from the tropical rainstorm but didn't bother to change into dry clothes. We knew it would probably rain again since it seemed to be on and off all day, so wet we would stay. The first part of this ride blew ass! Since it had been monsooning, it turned this grassy road to mud, and of course it was all uphill to the main road. We were going so slow, but we knew riding would be faster than walking up this torturous hill, so we kept on pushing. After what felt like forever, we finally reached the main road.We rode without any troubles to TA2 which is was also the race start. Next up...paddling!


Paddle



   In most races, we dread the paddle. Paddling is definitely not our strongest discipline, I'd say biking is our best, but we all know our paddling could use some work. Eric and I practiced a few times before this race, but we had no idea if that was going to help at all. As we geared up for the paddle, I busted out my raincoat again and my full fingered gloves since nasty clouds were hovering in the distance again, and I knew if I was wet, I'd be cold. Only two out of four CPs were mandatory, so that's what our plan was, unless we felt we were paddling like pros, we would then go for more. We paddled to a cove to get CP11 which was the closest one, and then headed over to CP13. These were the only two we were going to go for, but we had a change of heart. We saw we could portage over a very narrow part of land which would save us some time, so we said why not, let's go for CP14. It was further south, but since Eric was hitting the CPs spot on, and we seemed to be flying, we went for it. As we paddled south, the sky looked like it was about to release hell on us. I whipped out my camera because I had to get shot of it. The pic turned out black and white, yet it was taken in color! It was just that dark!!! These clouds scared the shit out of me, but I didn't let that bother me, just kept on paddling, didn't really have any other choice!




   We found the CP with no issues again, Eric was on a roll! So we discussed whether we go for CP12 or not. It was a ways north past the take out, and we didn't want to lose too much time and not be able to get some of the bike CPs on the next section. We also thought that if we skipped 12, we might have a chance of catching up with our other team so we could race the rest of the race with them. I then thought well, if we don't get 12, and we get out on the bike and make mistakes, and don't even end up getting the CPs we thought we would, I'm going to be annoyed we didn't get 12 since all of our paddling nav has been totally spot on. Eric agreed and we went for that sucker! As we paddled towards 12, this is when I realized that all people passing us in their fancy speedboats were totally messing with us. They would head right towards us then skim right by us, causing crazy waves like they were trying to make us dump! This actually made it more fun! It was like we were on rapids, so even though they were being jerks, I liked it! After our bumpy ride, we paddled into another cove, punched CP12, and headed to the take out! On to the next section with 3 hours left of the race!


Road Bike





   Nearing the end of a race is when it becomes totally strategic. We knew we only had 3 hours left, and we weren't going to clear the whole course. So we had to figure out exactly what we did have time for. It's hard to judge because you have to think about hills, sore and tired legs, and weather factors. We rode to CP15, knowing we should have enough time for that and CP16. For CP15 we had to get off the bikes and hike in to get it, or so we thought. We charged into the woods to look for this thing, along with a few other teams, and none of us were finding it. Eric wandered a bit so I yelled to him that there's no way in hell this CP is this far into the woods. We kept looking over the map and couldn't figure out what was going wrong. Eric was in hyper hypo mode, so whenever he responded to me, he answered with super quick "yeah yeah yeah" which made it seem like he was saying "shut the hell up already, I got it." I knew that's not what he meant, but when his triple yeahs turned into quadruple yeahs, I started to get annoyed! Enough with the yeahs already!  After wandering around the woods for way too long, we started talking to another team that told us there was a road off to the right up north on the road. This wasn't on the map, but it would make more sense for a bike CP. They had been down that road, but didn't ride down that far. Eric's gut instinct told him it was down there. Usually you don't go by instinct because it's usually wrong, but at this point we figured why the hell not, we weren't finding it by reading the map! So we rode down there, and sure enough there was the CP!!! So annoyed but so happy at the same time! Even with taking forever to find that CP, we still had enough time to head south for CP16 which was a small knoll/pond. We rode to where the road curved and Eric headed into the woods. I took another look at the map and it looked like we had actually gone past the CP judging on where the curve was in the road. I started to head back up the road and saw a team pop out of the woods. We had helped these guys earlier, so they waved to me that the CP was in there. I yelled to Eric to get his ass out of the woods and head up the road. I headed into where that team popped out and the CP was there. Thanks guys! 
   After grabbing CP16, the most southern bike CP from the finish, we only had about an hour and 20 minutes to get back to the finish. We biked to an intersection and here we were faced with the decision of going back towards the finish with grabbing CP23 off a trail about a mile away from the finish, or heading the other direction to get CP20 which was out of the way. It was about a mile downhill, but then we had to come back up to get back to the finish! We knew our legs were going to take a beating coming back up that hill, but we said screw our legs, and went for it! The downhill was awesome, we were flying! We didn't even have to pedal. Eric told me as soon as the road started to bend north, that's when we were to attack it. This CP was sitting on a creek next to the road. I road down to the bend in the road and went in. The CP was right there! I punched that passport and got back on my bike to head up and up and up that hill we just flew down. I don't know about Eric but I shifted into my granny gear. My legs were tired and I wasn't going to burn them out since the top of the hill wasn't the finish. We pushed and pushed slowly but finally got the to the top. It was smooth sailing from there. We kicked it into turbo speed, going between 17 and 20mph since it was pretty flat for the rest of the way back. I don't know where that energy and strength came from, but it felt awesome! .Since we were hauling, we decided to get CP23 on the way back. We got to the trail it was off of and saw another racer who said it would take about 10 minutes. Hell yes we were going for it! We flew down that trail, got the CP and flew out! Only about a mile to go to the finish, we hauled ass again! When we got the finish, Eric popped his bike up over that curb, hit someone's car (luckily no damage), thew his bike down and hopped like a gazelle to check in with the volunteer. With 30 minutes to spare, we had a total of 16 CPs which put us in 1st place in the 2 person coed division! Although we were a little sad we didn't get to race with the rest of our team, we had an awesome time! It was a great course, definitely one of my favorite races this year, and most importantly there were NO BUGS!!! It was magical! I didn't get one single mosquito bite! I did this race last year, and it will definitely be on my calendar for next year!!!