Wednesday, May 7, 2014

2014 The Breakdown Adventure Race 15 Hour

The Breakdown AR
15 Hour
Breaks Interstate Park, Virginia
Team: Adventure Capitalists/BDAR #2
3 Person Coed
Racers: Don Bart, Heather Kluch, Eric Olsen, Jennifer Schoon (medical issue)
AC/BDAR #1: Josh Braun, Brooke Manning, Ben Smith

Pre Race

Never having done this race before, we had no idea what was in store for us. I have raced in West Virginia which was pretty freakin hilly, but I had no idea how it's partner in crime would be. We were all in for a surprise....a big one, well multiple big ones! Eric, Jennifer, and I got our hill training on as much as we could for living in the flattest land of the flatlands. I always ask myself, "Why do I live in Illinois?' I still haven't given myself a good answer. After preparing ourselves for our unexpected hilly doom, I get a message from Jen four days before we leave for the race that she is sick, and not cough and snotty sick, there was something seriously wrong. She was pretty much losing the ability to stand upright. Every time she stood up, she would get dizzy, and she was experiencing numbness on the entire left side of her body from her foot to her face. She had some small symptoms early on, but they were bearable, but within the two weeks prior to the race, her condition worsened to the point that she needed to see the neurologist. She remained positive, even knowing that she wasn't able to race with us, she believed she would be back at it soon, but then I received another message telling me it was something rare, and serious. I couldn't believe it. When we did the race in Belize, our teammate Mark had an Aortic Dissection a week before the race and thankfully he survived, and now this. It was unbelievable! Jen was diagnosed with Benign Intercranial Hypertension...I've never heard of it, but anything with that long of a title has to be serious. Jen explained that she had a leak in her cerebral spinal fluid, the fluid around the spinal cord and the brain. They don't know how this happens, it just happens spontaneously. They tried to fix it with blood patch work, but her body didn't respond the way they had hoped. The next step for her is to see a specialist in mid May at Duke University, this guy is supposed to be the best of the best in this field, so we are all hoping that he can get her back to her badass racing self! We were really looking forward to racing with Jen. We had teamed up with her team in the Maya Mountain Adventure Challenge in Belize, and we all had a lot of fun and good team dynamics. We'll just have to wait patiently for her to conquer this nasty and weird obstacle, we know she will! We wish her a speedy recovery! Please keep her in your thoughts.

So now that we knew Jen wasn't going to be able to race, we were down a teammate. We had signed up as a 3 person, and wanted to keep it that way to keep ourselves in the elite division. We called up our teammate Don Bart to see if he could step in at the last minute. He had been suffering a hip injury since the end of last year, and hadn't really run or biked since then. He did a couple runs within the past couple weeks with no pain, but that still didn't prove the injury was completely healed. With last minute scrambling of trying to get all his gear in order, he said YES! We were excited, it felt like we hadn't all raced together in forever, which was November of last year, so yes that qualifies as forever!

We left early Friday morning for our 12 hour drive. It actually didn't seem that long, since we made stops along the way and ate at a delicious smoked BBQ place in Kentucky. We thought our bikes might get stolen in the neighborhood we were parked in, but at least the food was delicious! When we arrived, we met up with our Tennessee AC/BDAR teammates, Brooke Manning, Ben Smith, and Josh Braun. We slumber partied it up in a decent sized cabin.Our plan for the race was to stay together throughout the entire race so we could have two navigators and work on team dynamics, and also for just plain fun! We ate some dinner, attended the pre race meeting where we received our maps, plotted our course, and went to bed with anticipation of the crazy terrain that awaited us.

Race Day
Prologue and O Section

The race began in the dark with a gunshot that scared the crap out of me! We all ran to an amphitheater in the park to plot a UTM coordinate on our map that was taped to the walls of the theater. The coordinate was to get us to our first CP, which was at the top of a hill. We scrambled up this hill along with other racers, we found it quickly, which was a good start to the race, so we were confident on finding the next few CPs in any order we pleased just as quickly, but then oh wait, here came CP2, or actually where was CP2? We were nowhere near it. Our mistake was not following signs that told us which way to go. We had seen a sign for the Prospector Trail, which was the trail we needed, but it was pointing in the wrong direction. After some debate, the decision was made to continue on a different trail, but as we started to hit elevation that was lower than what CP2 called for, we turned around and had to find a different way to attack it.
We finally hit a trail that took us to the base of Pinnacle Rock, which was where we needed to be. After losing about an hour, we finally hit the CP. It was frustrating but at least we found it! We then headed down to CP3, and when I say down I mean way way down! I was pretty much sliding down these slopes of death on my butt because they were so steep! Rocks were slipping down the slopes, people were drunkenly falling all over the place. We all made it down to the creek to CP3 without any injuries and then headed out to CP4. On our way to CP4, we had to cross a creek. Once again, this creek had some fast flowing water, so with the force of the flow, and the rocks being covered with mossy goo, it made for a slippery crossing. Ben was having problems with his foot, he suspected a hairline fracture from a previous injury, but with his trekking poles and determination, he didn't let that slow him down. We all crossed the creek but as Josh crossed, he lost footing on one of the goo infested rocks and fell right on his ass! It was a hard fall, I think I even heard his butt crunch! After such a hard fall, he had to take a minute or two to get back to gather himself. It really shook him up and he was in a lot of pain. This was a turning point for our race, and it wasn't a good one. I think the fall did more damage that one could see. We followed a trail to the road, and jogged the road to a river access launch. We heard that some teams attempted to side swipe their way along cliffs to the launch, but it was too treacherous and had to turn back and take the road. Luckily we didn't lose time there, we needed to make up time for CP2!

When we got to the creek, which we were told in the pre race meeting that the volunteer would show us how to cross it, we were told to cross it in a two person raft. This wasn't just a small little peaceful babbling brook, it looked more like a wide raging river to me! We all divided up into twos and headed across these angry waters. Eric was in the back of my boat and I was in front. I'm so short, you could barely see me in
the thing, and I could barely reach over the sides. I felt like my feet were in my face and the raft was really hard to steer! Good thing it was just a creek crossing and we didn't have to paddle for miles in this uncontrollable beast! We all made it across without dumping, and trekked our way to TA1.

TA1 to Bike

At TA1 we started transforming into our bike gear. Eric was going through his pack and found something that he didn't pack, a Hustler card with some naked chick on it!! We all pretty much died laughing! Judging
by the grooming of a certain southern body part, this card had to be from the 1970's! No one would fess up to who put it there so for now the culprit was a mystery. All Hustler aside, our next order of business was to ride to TA2, oh wait, did I say ride? I meant hike-a-bike. This hill, mountain, slope of death, whatever you want to call it, was so steep, there was no way anyone was riding up this thing! After some huffs, puffs, and grunts, we finally made it to TA2, where were transitioned back to our feet.

O Section

This section consisted of CP5 through 9, which we could attack in any order. We decided to go in a different order that we had originally planned which actually worked out better for us. Again the hills were absolutely ridiculous but we couldn't complain. We had been wanting to do a race with
ginormous hills, and we got what we asked for! We attacked CP5 with no problems, then headed west down a steep hill to a creek bed for CP7, we were spot on with that one too. We climbed out on a trail and took that trail until we found a reentrant, which we followed to get to CP9. We scurried around spur to get to CP8 and at this point Josh had to take a quick break because he wasn't feeling well, so we stopped to eat and drink. We decided not to snag CP6 since the terrain was ridiculous and would end up hurting us more than helping us. The race director told us later in the race that it was good one to skip! We then headed back to the TA to get back on our bikes.

Bike (Downhill Bomber....or so they say)

This section was called Downhill Bomber, which makes you think you'll be going where? Yep, down is what we would've guessed. Lies!! The name was totally deceiving. Apparently what must come down, must go up first. We rode and hiked our bikes up, and up, and more up until Brooke had to stop. Her bike suddenly
stopped shifting for no apparent reason. Everyone jumped on it immediately to find out what the hell was going on with this thing. Upon further inspection, we noticed her derailleur cable popped out. Surgery was performed and after about 15 minutes, it was adjusted, but she only had about half of her gears. At least it was her high gears so she could ride up hills, but on the flats her legs were flying out of control. She's a beast though, she could handle anything on a bike! We proceeded on to CP10 where Eric ran out of water. We filtered water out of a nearby creek, and it seemed like we set a trend because racers that were passing by stopped to do the same. Eric popped chloride tablets into his water which proved to be quicker that the Sawyer water filters bags. Only downside was he had to wait 30 minutes before he could drink the water, but he had a water bottle on his bike, so he was all good to go. Next time I'm just popping tablets, I can wait a half hour if it lessens the time of using a filter.

We hiked and biked on to CP11, and finally we were at the Downhill Bomber. As we rode down, I don't know if it was allergies, elevation, or motion sickness, but I started to feel really sick. My lungs and throat hurt, I felt a ton of pressure inside my head, and bouncing around on the gravel road wasn't helping. I had to slow down a bit, my balance felt off and I felt like I was going to puke. Thankfully my teammates waited for me, well I guess they had no choice, but when I finally made it down this bomber, all the symptoms went away, so I'm guessing it had to do with elevation. We eventually hit pavement which after all the gravel and hike a biking, pavement was glorious. As we rode to TA4, we passed by an outdoor honky tonk wedding. We were so tempted to crash it and ask for food, but we didn't want to waste any time. A hot dog would've been fantastic though!

TA4 - Paddle

When we arrived at the paddle section, we had a little pow wow to determine how many CPs we would attain on this leg. We all knew paddling is the slowest way to go, and there were CPs pretty far off, so we made the decision to get just one CP since we could probably get more on foot and bike in later sections. This pretty much ended up being the shortest paddle section ever in any race we've done, I think it was about 1 mile total! After our mini paddle we headed back out on our bikes. Brooke had to stop to use the Port-O-Potty, but when I looked over there, I saw her squatting behind the potty OUTSIDE of it! Apparently there was a poop explosion on the inside which made her gag. This is why I'd rather pee in the woods, it's much cleaner! After the poop splatter fiasco, we headed out on our bikes but stopped at a couple water pumps since some of us were out of water again. Heat and hills made us thirsty! Unfortunately the pumps weren't turned on, so we kept going to find water elsewhere.

Bike to TA6

We had a nasty climb up again, but it was on pavement so we could actually ride instead of hike a bike it. When it finally leveled out to a flat road (probably the only flat section of this race), we stopped at a house
where a guy was riding around on his tractor. He let us use his hose spigot to refill our bladders, what a lifesaver! As we rode on, Josh was having a hard time again, so Ben being the machine that he is, towed him. Don was also really strong at this point. For all the training he missed out on due to his hip, it didn't show. We regretted not putting a tow system on his bike, he would've been strong enough to trade off towing with Ben. At this point we were moving slow, but at least we were moving. As my teammate Don would say...Progress! During Josh's struggles, he kept pushing on which is hard to do when you feel like crap!

TA6 O section

There were 3 CPs for this section, one located on a hilltop, a rock outcropping, and a waterfall. We moved quick through this section, nailing each CP, and the waterfall was pretty sweet! When we got back to the TA, as I went in my pack to pull out a protein bar, I pulled out something else. A Hustler card!
So glad I wasn't left out on this prank! Actually it really was a great mood lifter, can't help but laugh at something like that! No one fessed up as to who did it yet, and we had no idea who it could've been. As we prepared to head out on our bikes again, we turned on our rear bike lights since it was starting to get dark. Well all of us except me. Mine just wouldn't turn on. I replaced the batteries but got nothing. Another team that was in the TA with us had the same problem, with the same exact light. I opted to use a glowstick that was required gear for the paddle section since this thing was totally dead, and I think the other girl did the same. Minutes later the light turned itself on. I'm convinced it was possessed.

Bike to Finish

We headed back to the park to snag a few CPs before the finish. We only had an hour and a half left, so we
were pressed for time. We made a mistake on CP25, passed the road we needed to be on and ended up at a campsite. Some lady with an RV offered us food and drinks, so Brooke grabbed a Pepsi and some Doritos. The lady even offered beer! I passed on the beer but that Pepsi was like drinking a can full of magic! While we stuffed our faces with happy treats, we figured out our mistake, turned around, headed back to the correct road and snagged the CP at the bridge. There were no special treats here, but a CP is just as satisfying! Next we snagged CP26 which was at a dam. We pondered getting another CP before heading to the finish, but Josh was struggling. He was really hurting but he was a trooper. Most people give up when they feel this awful, and even though he couldn't give his full potential, with the help of the team, he gave it all he had!  We decided against getting that last CP, not only was Josh struggling, it was getting dark, Don was having trouble with his light, and the CP was on a trail which meant we would've been moving slow. So the team came together and helped Josh tackle an uphill so we could finish this race. Here's a great example of teamwork at it's best...Ben took Josh's pack, Eric towed him, and Don pedaled along side him and pushed his back. We all rode to the finish and crossed the finish line, not as two separate teams, but as one. We went into this race with the mindset of staying together and working our our team dynamics, and I'm proud to say we did just that. We may not have won, but in my mind we came out winning because we all worked really well together and helped each other when we needed it. I'm proud to say I'm a part of this team that really cares about each other and can push through any struggle! Can't wait to race together again, I'm already missing my teammates! This was a well put on race, with 13,000ft of elevation gain, it was a super tough course! Thanks to the race directors and volunteers for a awesomely torturous race! Oh and I can't forget about those Hustler cards! Josh finally fessed up that it was him. He was the last person I would've suspected!!!

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