Friday, May 24, 2013

2013 Mission Adventure Race 18 Hour

MISSION Adventure Race
18 Hour
Brownstown, IN
Team Adventure Capitalists/BDAR Midwest
Racers: Don Bart, Heather Kluch, Eric Olsen

Pre Race

It took us about 5 hours to get down to Brownstown. We left a little later than we originally planned but we still made it in time for dinner that was provided by the race director. Delicious lasagna and brownies were in my face within seconds! Brownies are my weakness but I limited myself to two. That was really tough for me! Brian, the race director, started the pre race meeting at 7:30pm. We learned that we were not getting any of our maps beforehand so we had no idea what kind of madness we were about to endure. It definitely felt weird going back to the cabin without having to stay up until past midnight plotting checkpoints and planning our route. I thought to myself wow, we might actually get some decent sleep! Well with certain loud explosive noises coming from one of my teammate's cheeks (not the ones on the face), I couldn't sleep at all. Luckily I couldn't smell anything, but the noises alone were enough to rob me of my beauty sleep. Oh well, adventure racers don't need sleep! 

Race Day

We woke up around 4:45am since the race started at 6. I know that sounds early but I'd rather take my time than feel rushed and forget something important. I ate a peanut butter covered bagel along with a cheery Poptart for breakfast. Now that's a hearty meal right there! We headed over to the race start to move our bikes to the transition area and to find out exactly what we would be doing for the start of the race. We were told we weren't getting our maps before the race. In order to get our map, one teammate would have to run to a manned checkpoint around the lake or use a boat without a paddle to get across the lake. We chose Don because he runs like gazelle. 

At 6am one teammate from each team sprinted towards this map keeper. Most people ran around the left side of the lake, a few around the right, and I think only one person used the boat. He actually got in the water and pushed the boat while kicking his legs. Apparently this proved to be the best way to get the map because he was the first one back! We waited anxiously back at the lodge for Don to get back. I finally saw him come out of the darkness, so we went inside the lodge to start plotting the CPs. Eric wanted to do the plotting this time around, so we let him, and he plotted like a pro! We planned out our bike route and had a choice on what we wanted to do first, either get the CPs on the road or head to the single track. 

Bike Section

We chose to do the road first since it was just getting light out. Riding trails isn't as easy when it's dark and we didn't know exactly what kind of trails we would be on. We cleared all the road CPs without any problems. There were some pretty good hills but nothing that we couldn't handle! When we got to the trail section, the trails were exactly what we expected. Mud and more mud! It had rained the day before so we knew what we were in for. The trails weren't single track, they were pretty wide but you still had to have some sort of single track skills because between the mud and the hills, if you didn't have balance or know how to throw your weight around on a bike, you were hiking that bike! Since we're pretty decent mountain bikers, we were able to handle this clay-like quicksand. The tires on my bike aren't as knobby as most, but I was still hauling ass up those hills...well hauling ass slowly with a few tire spins, but I made it up! Of course there were some we had to hike up because apparently the race director had some mountains installed before we got there. So freakin' steep! We continued to find our way to the CPs without any huge mistakes until CP 6. We shot in right off the bend in the trail to attack this CP, which other teams were doing the same. The CP was on a ridge, not too far in. We all thought, this should be an easy one. It's pretty obvious where it is on the map. A bunch of teams kept roaming around the area with no luck, we had no luck either. Even more teams arrived and were determined to find this thing, but they couldn't find it either. After spending too much time on it already, we finally called it and decided to skip it.We had a feeling that something was wrong, it was either gone, or not in the right place. Skipping CPs just all around sucks. You start to question your nav skills, and get that determination to find it. It's really hard to make the call to skip it, because there is always that thought that another team will find it, and that will place them ahead of you. We wasted so much time already though and we didn't want to get short coursed so we sucked it up and left. Other teams were making the same call so we knew we weren't the only ones ditching it. We continued on and starting heading back on a trail and realized we were going the wrong way. Luckily we caught it early enough that we didn't have to ride far. As we kept riding we came upon team Madcap Racing who were stopped in the middle of the trail.  One of their teammates had a flat, but they couldn't use their CO2 cartridge because they needed a threaded cartridge and they had the wrong kind. Luckily I had 2 threaded cartridges with me, so I offered mine up to them. We stuck around to make sure everything worked so they could continue to race. That's one thing about adventure racing, yes of course you want to push as hard as you can to beat other teams, but whenever you see a team in trouble, all that goes out the window. I'd rather help someone than leave them there just to say we beat them. Well our good karma came right back at us after we followed a trail that didn't match what was on the map. We ran into Cumberland Trail Connection along the way because they had done the same thing. They ended up riding miles out of the way just to realize it wasn't the right way. We had caught them just in time before we began our long journey to nowhere. They told us what happened to them and said we should turn around. This team was one of our competitors in our division, and they still helped us out. They could've said nothing and watched us go the wrong way which may have put them ahead of us. Big thanks to those guys! We all finally got out of the muck and ended up back on a paved road. You have no idea how excited we were to be back on something that we could actually ride on without getting stuck! We had two options on this road, left or right would take us where we needed to go. We opted for left since the route looked a lot flatter than the other.We made a great decision. This downhill was fun as hell! We were flying down this crazy steep road at 40mph and then suddenly out of nowhere the road took a sharp turn, and right in front of us was a cliff! Our brakes were screaming on our bikes trying to slow speeding bullets down before we tossed our bikes and bodies over the cliff. We managed to not die, but I think we all had a few mini heart attacks. We finally made it back to the TA without anymore near death experiences, and here we had to plot more CPs.

Ropes, Scooters, and Rollerblades

Eric is Spiderman.
What happens when Don gets on the course before I get off!


Don looks solid. 

 The first CP we had to hit was a ropes course. We had to bring our rollerblades and scooters since we'd be using them for sections after this. I put on my rollerblades and came up to a twisty steep downhill. I hadn't rollerbladed in years so this made me want to crap myself. I had a serious injury years ago on rollerblades where I landed so hard on my left buttcheek, that is tore skin off and swelled up like J Lo's booty. I couldn't even fit in my jeans! I hit the pavement so hard that I actually got a concussion from falling on my ass! I know it's hilarious now, but it wasn't at the time! I ended up getting post concussive vertigo from my ass crash, so for about a month I would wake up in the morning and fall over into walls. It was awful. I can totally laugh about it now though, but being back on those blades brought all that back to me. I was scared to death! So we decided to leave the blades behind and we would just share the scooters alternating between one person running. We walked over to the ropes course since we didn't need our wheels yet, and saw that there were a bunch of teams ahead of us, so it created a bottleneck. We always expect this in races with ropes courses though. We sat around and waited for the people ahead of us to go which took a good chunk of time. During this long wait, I decided I changed my mind about the rollerblades and wanted to give it a go. I didn't want to have to run while others were scootering so I had to put my fear to rest. While I waited in line for the ropes, Eric ran back to the TA to get them for me. That's what teammates are for, fetching gear! ;o) When we were finally up, Eric went first and flew through the course. I went second, and didn't do as much flying. This is when being short worked to my disadvantage. I made it past the first few courses without any major problems, until I got to the singing steps. These things were placed so far apart, and when you put your foot on it, it would swing away from you if you didn't get it just right. I struggled a bit using a lot of my arm strength to get me through, especially when Don decided to get on the course before I got off which made me fall in a weird way so I looked pretty awesome. See picture below. After we ended the course with a zip line back to earth, we headed off the course and I geared up for my death defying blade action. Don and Eric hopped on their scooters and you can imagine how badass they looked. Of course I took pictures for everyone to see such hardcore masculinity on children's scooters with a 110 pound weight limit! We headed down the road which lucky for me was petty flat with just a few small hills. All my rollerblading skills came back to me and I conquered my fear! I didn't feel scared at all! As Don skidaddled his scooter along he realized it was falling apart. Apparently Eric didn't screw on the steering pole tight enough so Don was losing control. Eric offered to switch since the looseness was his doing, so he hopped on and they continued to look like complete dorks on their scooters while I looked badass in my rollerblades. See evidence below....
Eric's mud butt!


Paddle Section      

We finally made it to the boat dock without any injuries or falls. We heard from the volunteer that some teams were taking some nasty spills. We heard Nancy from Ragged Glory really messed up her shoulder, but she kept on going. She's one tough chick! We hopped in the boats and started our paddle upriver for CP12. The river was flowing pretty fast so sometimes it felt like we were putting effort with no results. I know we need to practice paddling more, but going upriver against current doesn't help! After we snagged CP12, we turned around and paddled back downriver. We were flying, we knew we'd hit the next CP pretty quick. For CP13 we had to get out of our boats and run into a tiny town to get a CP located in the middle of a park. As we neared the take out, we prepared to get our boat up on the river bank. The current was moving pretty fast so it was tough to maneuver. As the the front of the boat hit the river bank, it swung the back end out and the current helped that swing right along! First Don fell out, then I fell out, then went Eric along with all our gear into the freezing cold rushing water! The canoe went on top of my head so I struggled for a few seconds to keep myself from drowning. I couldn't touch the bottom of the river so that made it tough with the current pulling me and trapping me. I finally got out of it and the first thing I yelled was "Grab the packs! Don't lose the packs!" Luckily our packs stayed right near us, the current didn't have time to steal them away from us. Eric grabbed the garbage bag that held my rollerblades and their scooters, but when he opened the bag, the scooters were gone. We knew that with that current and with how deep it was, there was no way to find those things. So this meant that we had to run this section instead of using nice smooth, fast wheels, and on top of that, I was freezing! I took as much clothes off as possible since everything was drenched and making me cold. With having Raynaud's Disease, my body does not like cold! I was not prepared for the chilly weather or the unexpected swim! We headed off to CP13 with a slow run, I knew running would keep me warmer than walking, and we didn't have wheels so this was going to take us longer than teams that did. At least the sun was out so that helped warm me up a little bit, but not enough. We got the CP and on the way back I dropped my Pop Tart. Don's natural reaction was to quickly bend down at a lightning speed to save my gourmet meal, but when he did that, something in his back tweaked. After that, his back bothered him for the rest of the race, but did that stop him? Of course not, Don is a machine. When we got back to the canoe, all I could think was "We better not dump again or my fingers will fall off." We got back in the boat safely without any carnage and proceeded to paddle the rest of the way down river to the takeout. Luckily Don had a spare fleece in his pack so I could keep warm, well as warm as possible. I just couldn't stop shivering.

We eventually arrived the takeout which was a covered bridge. We didn't dump this time around, but I was still freezing. This section we had to run about 5 miles to the next TA. Well, we had to run, other teams that had wheels could wheel their way there. At this point we were all running out of water, so we were on the lookout for a hose since we were passing people's homes. Eric finally spotted one so we knocked on the door first to let them know, we didn't want to get shot at! No one was home so Eric decided to grab that hose and fill up his bladder. As he was filling it, he noticed the water looked weird. As soon as he tasted it, we heard "WHAT IS THAT?",  he gagged, choked and spit the water out, which of course made Don and I laugh hysterically. It's funny to watch people drink something nasty! Apparently these people had some kind of soap infused water hose, so Eric drank soap! Yum! We were glad he went first, but now Eric had absolutely nothing to drink. We kept running down the road, and we saw some people in their shed. I went up to them and asked if they had a hose, one that wasn't infested with soap. Sure enough they did, and they let us use it! We were back in business with drinkable water! That's one thing about racing, never be afraid to ask people for water. I've never had anyone deny us. I even had some random people make us peanut butter & jelly sandwiches before! Country folk are nice if their not pointing a shot gun at you which I've had that happen before too! Anyway, at this point in the race my legs were telling me no. Normally I'd be ok, but the swim we had earlier took it's toll on me because of the cold. I just couldn't fully warm up, so my body was in "I'm freezing so I don't want to move mode!" I didn't let that stop me though. I kept on running, I didn't want to slow anyone down. After 5 miles we made it to the TA, with me still freezing. We had to plot more CPs so we could head out on the next nav section, and of course rain clouds were rolling in. Just my luck!


We plotted the points and made the decision that we were going to skip CPs 16,17, and 18, since they were south of us and we needed to head north to the finish. We knew if we attempted all of them, we wouldn't make it back in time. It was also going to get dark soon so we knew it would be tougher to navigate. We headed out to attack the first CP and suddenly we were hit with a monsoon! Holy downpour! I felt like we were in the rainforest! I was already cold, and now this just soaked me to the bone. Of course I kept going, I wasn't going to let a natural disaster that was trying to freeze me to death stop me! Luckily the rain didn't last too long. I think it was only lasted about 10 minutes and the sun peeked back out. I was just focusing on moving. I knew if I kept moving, I wouldn't stop and it would keep me a little warmer. As we navigated our way up north we ran into a few other teams, Aaron Phillips who raced solo, Cumberland Trail Connection, and Team Topo Adventure Sports. We weren't really trying to race each other since we all pretty much knew where we stood. Topo had one more CP than us, Cumberland Trail had one less, and Aaron wasn't ranked with us, so this is when teams help out other teams. At this point I became quiet. Eric kept stating how great he felt and how strong his legs were, which was great, I was happy for him, but at the time I didn't want to hear it. I was super cold, and all I could focus on was moving. I didn't want to know about his magical experience at that time, but at last he was being positive. Both Eric and Don kept asking if I was ok, which is what teamies should do, and I said yes. I knew I wasn't 100 percent, but I knew I could make it to the finish. I just shut my mouth, and ran when we needed to. After we finally punched our last CP, we headed on a trial to the finish. All I could look forward to were some dry clothes, and a delicious meal of course, and to get out of these tights that gave me sag crotch through the entire race! I seriously felt like I crapped my pants and lugged it with me during the whole race. No matter how high I hiked those things up to my neck, they still sagged! We made it to the finish with about an hour to spare. Would we have been able to get one more CP? Possibly. But given the conditions of it being dark, me being cold, Don's back, and having to go out of the way, we risked the possibility of not making it back in time and losing more CPs, so I think we made the right decision. Topo ended up 3rd which we expected so that put us in 4th, which we were happy with because that meant we qualified for USARA Nationals! Congrats to all the other teams that qualified, and congrats to all the other finishers! It was a muddy, cold, wet, and fun race! Oh and my sag crotch tights now live in the dumpster!

Monday, May 13, 2013

American Ninja Warrior Miami

American Ninja Warrior
Miami, FL
Heather Kluch

I had originally applied for a Bear Grylls reality show last year but didn't make the final cut. A few months later, I received a call from NBC asking if I wanted to be a part of the American Ninja Warrior. I said sure, but they told me I still needed to fill out the application and send in a video. I had plans for someone to help me with the video, which fell through, so I was in a time crunch and only had about a half hour to come up with something before the deadline. I put something together at the last minute, and I think it sucks so much that I still haven't watched it again. So you can imagine my shock when I got the call saying I made the cut to be on the show for the taping in Baltimore! It took me a while to finally make my decision and sadly I had to turn them down. I just had too much going on that weekend and I just couldn't make it happen with such a short notice. The casting producer asked if I'd like to be put in the decision pool for Miami with no guarantees that I will be called again. I said sure, might as well take a chance, at least the dates of Miami were more doable than Baltimore, and I knew it would be a lot warmer! I really didn't expect another call so I continued on with my normal busy life not expecting to ever be a ninja. One day out of the blue, I got the call for Miami! My first thought was "Are you freaking kidding me? Did these people not see my horrendous video?" I contemplated for a couple days since I had not been specifically training for these types of obstacles. I'm an adventure racer, so I've done 36 hour races that include non-stop orienteering, mountain biking, and paddling, so I knew I had the mental and physical strength, but I also knew obstacles could be tricky. I had also done a few Tough Mudder races, but knew that American Ninja Warrior was a whole different animal. Then I thought, when would I ever get a chance like that again? And Miami? It's hard to say no to Miami!!! I knew I couldn’t afford the trip, but when I mentioned on Facebook about the Baltimore call, my friends offered to donate, and suggested to set up a donation page. I didn’t feel right about doing that. I’m not one to just take people’s money like that, but knew it was the only way to get me to Miami. So I decided to setup a donation page and set it to a goal of $1500. I wasn’t sure exactly how much everything would cost me in the end, but I thought $1500 should be enough. I also decided that if I had anything leftover, I would donate the money to the March of Dimes charity on behalf of my running team, Team Randomocity. I ended up reaching over my goal, which got me to Miami to be a ninja warrior for my first time!

 Pre Ninja

I ended up going alone since it was such short notice. It’s hard to rearrange prior commitments when you only have about a week in advance, so it didn’t bother me that no one could make it. I flew in the morning of Friday, May 3rd since I was picked to do an interview with the production crew. I brought a few changes of clothes since I wasn’t sure what they wanted me to wear for this. I arrived at Bayfront Park and looked that the huge mass of metal beams with American Ninja Warrior signs all over the place. Holy intimidation! I’ve seen the show before but didn’t realize how huge this would be in person. When you watch it on tv, you think, oh this looks easy, and that guy should have done it this way. Well it’s easy to say that when you’re sitting on the couch drinking a beer, not actually doing anything! I walked over to see if I could figure out how to do the obstacles, but they weren’t done installing everything so there was no way to tell. All I could see was that it looked like a lot of upper body work, and I thought  “Well it’s a good thing I bought that pull up bar a couple months ago!” I walked over to the producers for my interview. They took my “Badass pic” in my normal girly cloths, did a quick interview asking me about adventure racing and why I think I could concur this course, and then did what they call a B-Roll shot. This was my action shot of me doing what I do best. Since I’m an adventure racer, it’s hard to portray that in a few seconds. I was watching others do their B-Roll, and man, they had some talent. I saw a guy standing up and twirling around inside a ring, another guy, who now I know as Alex Black, showing off his martial arts skills, and then the extremely awesome parkour athlete, Drew Dreschel, flipping and swinging around like a monkey. I also met one of the female contestants, Kristina Kovch, nicknamed Blue Streak because of the blue streak in her hair. She’s a personal trainer back in D.C., and she also did some parkour, I glanced at her muscular arms and thought, oh crap, this chick has got me beat in the strength department. She just looked badass! Speaking of badass, I saw three African American women walk past me, and you could just tell by looking at them that they were athletes. Later I learned that all three of them were Olympians, one of them being Deedee Trotter which I end up meeting later. All of these people were pretty damn talented, and without my mountain bike and some trails, I didn’t really have much to show off. An action shot of me reading a map with a compass isn’t very action packed! The producers and I decided that I could wear my racing team gear along with my hydration pack, and we would do a shot of me running. I offered to do a shot of me pooping in the woods, since that’s what ends up happening in adventure racing. They actually loved the idea, but of course they couldn’t air that on TV! So we stuck with the shot of me running. After running around with the crew, I walked over to Drew Dreschel since a friend of his told me to contact him when I got there. Honestly after watching his previous ninja videos, I expected him to be a total douchebag just for the fact that he’s so good at what he does. I approached him anyway, and my assumption was flushed down the toilet. He was one of the coolest and most down to earth guys I’ve ever met. His ninja fame hasn’t inflated his ego at all, he was super friendly and really easy to talk to. He gives you that feeling like you’ve been friends for a long time. He offered to give me some pointers and also invited me to train at a ninja gym with his friends later that night since I’ve never done parkour before. If I couldn’t make it to the gym, he offered to meet up with me and a few others the next day at Bayfront Park to give out some pointers then. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to the gym because it was about an hour away and I didn’t rent a car. His friends would’ve given me a ride, but they were too far away from me. I was really looking forward to training with these guys, but it just didn’t happen. Oh well, I was just excited for the whole experience, so I didn’t let that get me down.
Drew Drechsel (one of the coolest American Ninja Warriors) and I
That night I went to dinner in downtown Miami at a place called the Filling Station. I sat at the bar since I was alone and three guys next to me started talking to me. I found out that they were part of a bike club called the Cycle Holics, and also found out that they road trails..aka single track….just like I did. We talked bikes and trails for the rest of the night and they suggested going for a ride with them the next morning. I wasn’t sure since I had no idea when I would be back from playing ninja so I told them I’d play it by ear and text them after I ran the course Saturday night. I didn't have a bike with me, but they would try to get one for me. There are some pretty awesome people in Miami!

Ninja Warrior Time

I woke up pretty early because I just can’t sleep in and I was too excited about running the course. My check in time wasn’t until 11pm, so I had a lot of time to kill. I decided to walk around Bayside Marketplace, I had seen it from the course and thought it was a nice touristy area. They had a bunch of shops and restaurants along the harbor so it was an awesome atmosphere. I ate lunch at a place called Largo Bar & Grill. Their food was delicious and my waiter Paul was awesome! I knew I’d be coming back to his place before I left! After wandering around I headed back over to the course and met more ninjas. Everyone was extremely friendly and easy to get along with. It felt like our own little ninja club! I saw Alex again and we were both looking for Drew to give us some pointers since he told us he would be at the course around 4pm. We finally found him and a few others practicing some parkour moves. These guys made it look so easy. It made me want to try all their flips and jumps but I knew I’d fall flat on my face! Drew went over a few things and then I decided to head back to the hotel to try to get a nap in before I had to be awake for who knows how long. I had planned on getting at least 2 hours of sleep, but nope, that didn't happen! I was tired and wanted to sleep but I was just too damn excited. I kept running the course through my head on how I would tackle each obstacle. My mind just wouldn’t stop. At about 7pm I called it quits on sleep and decided to head out for dinner. I saw Alex as I was leaving, he was just getting back from dinner, so I told him I’d meet him at the course. I went back to Largo since I knew their food was awesome and wouldn’t upset my stomach. I chowed down some delicious pasta and then headed over to the course around 9:30pm to watch the first wave of contestants run the course. They should have already been running at this point but if any of you are familiar with tv productions, nothing starts on time. Having to organize and deal with the audience and also technical issues with camera or course equipment can create some serious delays. At 9:30pm, the first wave didn’t even start the course yet. Right at that moment, I knew this was going to be a long night. They finally started around 10:00pm, and I finally got to see people run the course. I met up with Alex and found Kristina around the check in area at 11pm. We tried to check in but they weren’t ready for us since they started later than expected, so we just sat with other contestants while we waited. Finally I received a call from Jeffery, one of the producers of the show, asking me where I was. Apparently they had opened up check in, and didn’t realize it. All three of us checked in and went over to another tent to get our bib numbers. As soon as I looked at mine, I immediately said to the crew, “Come on guys, seriously! Are you f*cking with me??” My contestant number was 066, my bib number was 666, and it just happens that the last three digits of my cell phone number are 666!! I thought the crew did this on purpose, but it was totally by chance! Creepy!! I thought to myself well this is going to either bring me good luck or the worst luck ever. Everyone kept commenting on it when they saw my number. People were jealous because they wanted it, and I thought, well you can freakin have it!!

My Ninja gear!

 We waited in line for a loooooong time. My number was pretty far down the line but Kristina and Alex had it even worse. They were in the 90’s so their night was going to be even longer than mine. Finally at about 3am, I was called into the warm up area which meant my turn was almost up to run the course. As I was warming up, Deedee Trotter , the Olympian, came up to me to give me a high five. Deedee was awesome! I got to hang out with here for a while before I had to run, and we had a blast! She had already run the course so we were joking around about some of her ninja poses. Soon after that, they told me I was next. Now, I’m an adventure racer, I’ve done over 50 races, my longest being 36 hours, and I just don’t get nervous anymore. Well at that moment, I felt nerves kicking in. I was about to try to concur something I’ve never done before, something I’m unfamiliar with. I’ve done obstacle course races before like the Tough Mudder, but this was totally different. There was no mud, and no one to help you over the obstacles, it was just me versus the big metal unknown. The camera crew took a picture of me, and before I knew it, I was up at the podium to start the course. I stood there waiting for my cue, staring at what lie before me with lights beating down on me. I knew in my head how to concur this first obstacle, now I just had to execute it. I heard the countdown 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…the audience cheered and then suddenly when it hit silence, some random person yelled out “What up Skinny???”  I looked over real quick but couldn’t really see the audience. I wanted to start laughing but knew the cameras were on my so I stayed focused. (I later found out that this person was some random bum in the park!) I tackled the first obstacle and…….I can’t tell you what happened because I signed a confidentiality contract. Sorry! All I can say is the course was not easy. It might look easy on tv, but once you’re up there standing in front of the obstacle, it’s a lot harder to judge your jumps and swings that looking at it from far away. I saw some people take some falls, that I know could demolish the course. Sometimes you jump too early, too late, lose grip, or slip on a wet surface. Not only does it take strength and balance, it also takes patience and planning just the right route. One slip of a grip, or wrong foot placement can cost you from advancing to the next round. As soon as you hit that water, you’re out! I’ve seen it happen, and felt bad for those people, but I know they will come back and master that course next year. This was definitely one of the coolest experiences in my life! The crew was so much fun to work with, I met some amazing people that I will for sure keep in contact with and possibly race and train with. I did end up going on that bike ride with the Cycle Holics on only 3 hours of sleep, and I rode a Huffy (a clunker of a bike), and had a blast during the rest of my trip! Also, I ended up raising more than enough for my travel expenses and was able to donate $476.00 to the March of Dimes! Thank you to everyone who supported me, and to everyone who made my trip awesome! I’m so grateful I got to experience being an American Ninja Warrior and I already miss all the other ninjas I met
along the way!

The course from afar since I can't show you the obstacles. ;o)

Kristina Kovch and I waiting for our ninja run!

Farewell Ninja dinner!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

2013 Boonecrusher 12 Hour AR

12 Hour AR
Boone, IA
Team: Where's Tom's Thumb
Racers: Don Bar, Heather Kluch, Eric Olsen, Jeff Everson

First off I'd like to explain our team name for this one since "Where's Tom's Thumb" is a new one for all of us. We were originally supposed to race with Tom Everson instead of Don Bart. About a year ago, Tom accidentally decided to chop part of his thumb off while camping in Iowa. Of course we have never let him live that down, so we make fun of him every chance we can get....hence the name "Where's Tom's Thumb" which I have to give credit to Eric Olsen for coming up with that awesome name. About a week or so before the race, Tom decided to hurt himself again since cutting off his thumb just wasn't enough. Apparently something popped in his ankle during one of his volleyball games which I have to mention his team name... "Everybody Hates Tom" can see a theme here can't you? Why we even talk to this guy, I have no idea. Just kidding Tom, we all love you in a hateful sort of way! ;o) So we all waited to see if Tom's ankle and half of his thumb were going to end up making it to the race, but he finally made the call that he didn't want to take a chance of hurting his ankle even more, which was completely understandable. I would rather sit out of one race, than take a chance, make the injury worse, and then be out for an entire season. So good call on that one Tom, you were using your brain for once. Jeff contacted a couple people he knew to see if they wanted to take Tom's place, but they both had other commitments, so I bothered my Eyes of the World teammate Don who I've raced with a bunch of times, so I already knew he was cool, and he said yes! So that is how our team was formed, and we kept the name because it still made sense since Tom and his thumb weren't there. 

Pre Race

During our 6 hour drive over to race checkin at Seven Oaks Recreation area, the "Thrift Shop" song by Macklemore came on about a kajillion times. When this happens, songs stick in my head for about a month.I couldn't get this freaking thing out of my head, and it's so damn catchy that you can make up any lyrics to it..."I'm gonna pop some tags" became "I'm gonna bust some ass" or "I'm gonna take a crap", just to sing a couple. It was both annoying and awesome at the same time which doesn't make any sense! This song was stuck in my head for the entire race! We checked in, practiced putting our bikes in a canoe since we knew we were going to have to take our bikes with us during the paddling section, and then got our maps and brought them back to the hotel to begin our plotting. We had to plot all 29 checkpoints on these maps. We brought all our gear to our rooms before we started the plotting. Don and Jeff had a separate room since the beds were small and they didn't really want to share a bed. They had a room right next to ours and I'm so happy that wasn't my room! It reeked like rotting fish ass! They asked the front desk for another room, but the only rooms they had left were smoking and they didn't want that, so rotting fish ass it was! The front desk gave them some spray for the room but it didn't help. That stank was staying put! Don finally decided to go to the bathroom and found the culprit. Apparently someone (not us) took a nasty dump in the toilet, and it must've been sitting in there for a really looooooong time to stink up an entire room like that! The hotel people apologized and fixed it, and let them keep the air freshener! Totally disgusting but at least the turd and the stank was exterminated!! After their turd torture, we finally headed down to a room with a big table so we could plot our checkpoints and plan out our bike route.We got this done pretty quickly and ended up going to bed around midnight, with a 4am wakeup time. No one needs sleep in adventure racing!

Race Start/Orienteering (I'm gonna pop some tags is in my head during this section)

We got the race start and it was still dark out so most people have their headlamps on. We listened to the race director give us details about the race, we noticed that they called everything weird names that we weren't used to. A Checkpoint flag was a bag, a reentrant was a draw, and a spur was a finger. I felt like I was racing in England! We received our passports (the paper that gets punched so they know you made it to the checkpoint), and waited for the race start at 6am. The sun came up and we were off! Our first discipline was to get CPs on foot and we could get them in any order. I actually liked this because it broke up the huge group of racers. It seemed like everyone split off evenly so we didn't have a huge crazy mess of racers going for the same checkpoint. We ran for one of the closer checkpoints first, knowing that our next one was a pretty far run into a park that was in the middle of small town. As we headed out to the "million mile" CP, we realized this run was going to be a road run. My legs and pavement are not friends! I knew this was going to beat them up, but I sucked it up and ran. With heavy packs bouncing on our backs while pounding pavement, this run felt like forever! We finally snagged the CP and headed back to the race start since the last CP was right past there. As we were running back, Don informed us that he had to take a serious dump. Well running and having to take a crap is not a good combo, it can make you super nauseous. So we all slowed down the pace a little since he was feeling sick. When we finally got back near the start, Don took off and ran to the bathrooms. Might as well get it out now before it causes damage later! I knew this was costing us some time, but it could cost us even more time if it made him sick. We finally headed out to the final CP, I went down in some nasty muddy muck to get it which took a little while since I almost lost my shoe in the goo, but climbed out of it and we headed back to the checkin to transition to bikes.

Single Track (I'm gonna pop some tags is here too)

When we got to the check in, we found out that we were only about 20 minutes behind Wedali, the first place team! So even with a poop stop, we weren't doing too bad. We geared up for the single track section, hopped on our bikes and took off! As soon as we started pedaling we here a snap! I look back and Jeff's chain broke! He didn't even do anything crazy and it just fell apart! Don and Jeff quickly sprung into action and busted out the tools and chain link to repair his chain. No way a broken chain was going to stop us! As they were repairing it, we could see other teams passing us up. This feeling sucks but there was nothing we could do about it. It was still early in the race so we still had a chance of catching up. We make it to the trail with Jeff's chain still in tact and realized there was going to be a lot of hike a biking. These trails were steep, and muddy. We hopped off our bikes and hike it up around a muddy curve. Just as I pushed mine around this curve, I hear "Ssssssssssssssss!" I immediately yelled "Guys! I got a flat!" When I pushed my bike, it must've rolled through some thorns. I was aggravated! We had just fixed Jeff's bike and now mine? Come on! We pulled all our bikes off to the side so other teams could get through, and started to replace my tube. Everything was wet so it made it more difficult but we finally got it swapped and pumped up with my CO2 cartridges. At this point we knew that we were now really behind. Our mindset had to switch gears from thinking, we have a shot in the top three to let's just have fun. We rode and hiked or bikes through these trails keeping our eyes out for CPs. We couldn't really tell where exactly they were since the map didn't have the trails on it, but the CPs were easy to see since they were right along the trails. Our legs started to get pretty tired during this section. Having to get on and off and on and off your bike for 5 miles kicks your ass. When we finally got the end, we were at the top of ski hill. We decided to just bomb down that hill instead of taking another route. This was awesome! It was bumpy and fast! One little mistake could send you flying off your bike! This really got my adrenaline pumping! We quickly got down to the transition area to check in with the volunteers who had told us that another team did the same thing but weren't so lucky. One of their teammates flew over the handlebars and ended up hurting his collar bone pretty bad. They had to take him to the hospital. Hopefully there wasn't any major damage! We headed out onto the next section....more biking but no muddy trails this time around.

Bike to Orienteering Section (Yep the song is still in my head here)

We headed out on our bikes to get the next group of CPs along the way to our next transition area. I didn't realize how freaking hilly this place was until now. Holy crap there were some beefers out there! My legs started to die on me so I made sure I popped another round of Sport Legs and Electorlytes. I didn't want to cramp up and I was afraid my legs were headed that way. We made it to the next orienteering section, and we spent a lot of time at this section....too much time. Before we headed out on our journey Eric let us know he had some chafing going on. We let him tend to his crotchel region so it wouldn't cause him issues during the trek. We headed out and started walking through some nasty goo looking for CP15. We went all over the area and just couldn't find this thing that was supposed to be on a finger. Other teams were wandering aimlessly just like us with no luck. There were a million fingers around us and it seemed like we were in the right area. We were getting frustrated wandering back and forth, when finally we hear Eric yelling to us in the far far away distance. He had wandered near a cliff and found the damn thing! CP15 can go shove it! I know it was our fault but it can still go shove it! We continued on to find the rest of the CPs, and there's another CP that I'm telling to go shove it! CP11 killed us! We literally walked right past the flag or bag, and didn't even see it. It was just at the perfect position of it being out of sight to us. We wandered around the area back and forth knowing we were in the right place but not understanding why we couldn't find it. This is definitely when mental strength comes into play because going around in circles with no success can make someone lose it! We decided to go to the parking lot and attack it from a different way. This actually worked! We finally found that sneaky bastard! It costed us 45 minutes but we found it! After CP11, we were done with this section. We headed back to the TA to head out on the paddle. We were concerned that if we did the paddle section, we wouldn't complete the race on time.

Paddle or I should say Bike to O to Bike-O to finish (you'll see) (Still popping some tags)

When we got back to the TA they informed us that we missed the cutoff time by 10 minutes. Damn you CP11 and your sneakiness! So now this meant we were back on the bikes. Eric was still holding his crotchel region because the damage had been done, and our legs were tired, so we were looking forward to resting them in the canoe, but nope, we got to continue their destruction! We pushed our weakening legs to the next O section. On our way there, we caught up with Wedali. That made us feel like we were in second place, but Wedali had completed the paddle section, so we were nowhere near second. Oh well, it at least felt cool to pretend we were for 5 minutes! When we arrived at the O section, the race director informed us that we all could get the rest of the CPs by bike. If we were to attack them on foot, we wouldn't have finished the race in time, and this included all teams, not just us. We went to snag the final CPs of the race. They weren't obvious bike CPs so we had to bike to them, then get off and hike a bit. One of the CPs was down in some deep reentrant or draw, and as Don went to go punch the passport, he ended up in knee deep mud. This stuff was like quicksand. This took a toll on his legs, it was like having cement blocks on his feet. After we got out of this mess and back to our bikes, we realized that we didn't have enough time to get all of the CPs so our best bet was to head back to the finish. As we started riding back, Don was having issues with his legs. They were tired from all the nastiness he just trudged through so he started falling back. Jeff had to ride up next to him so Don could grab his tow line. This is a tough thing for someone to do. At this point you have to lose your ego and your pride, and let someone tow you. This may sound like you're weak but actually it's the exact opposite. Only a strong person can let go of that pride and say he/she needs help. If he didn't ask, it might've been a disaster. His legs could have cramped up and maybe we wouldn't have finished in time. So big kudos to Don for asking for help and big kudos to Jeff for being a beast and towing him! Shortly after that I started feeling sick. I hadn't taken my morning poop and it started to take effect on me. I asked how much longer until the finish and Eric gave an answer in blocks rather than miles. All I could think, wtf does that mean out here in the country? There are no blocks, just a long ass road. I called him out on his weirdness, so then he told me 3 miles. I decided to tough it up and wait until we crossed the finish line. I didn't want a pooping session to take up more time since we were so close to the finish. After all our mishaps, mistakes, broken equipment, we made it to the finish before the cutoff so we were officially ranked. We may not have done as well as we planned, but with amazing teamwork, we pushed through everything and had a blast! I love racing with these guys and can't wait for the next one! And now after writing this race report, I now have the Thrift Shop song back in my head. "I"m gonna pop some tags!"