Friday, October 25, 2013

2013 USARA National Championship

USARA National Championship
30 Hour
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,, stop, 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'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!!!