Gilmore Adventure Race 2006 Race Report
I’ve participated in about 25 races over the last few years, and never have I felt so humbled as I did at the Gilmore Adventure Race last weekend. It was a tough 8 hours that took myself, Rick Eastman and my team (Sierra Adventure Sports) of Brian Dunnington & Carter Tobin through a full range of highs and lows.
Let me start by saying “Thanks” to Dave, Kent, Bob & Tracy and all of the staff and volunteers that continue to make this a great race and an excellent way to get out of the desert and up into the pines.
For team Sierra Adventure Sports it’s all about the journey and what a journey it was. Not since watching the British Columbia Eco-Challenge on TV have I even heard of anything like that first trek up Bean Peak through those bushes.
It all began just after dawn in the Prescott Basin just south of town. 51 teams (29 Long course) gathered to put the hammer down a mile in elevation above the desert most of us live in. Pine trees soared toward the sky in every direction and the crisp morning weather had many of us wearing the recommended pants to stave off the chill. With the countdown, teams immediately had to collect a number of balls with their team numbers on it that had been scattered about a small field. Upon retrieving our numbered balls from the mass hysteria, we were given our passports, which contained the coordinates to our checkpoints.
Team SAS immediately plotted the first coordinate and set out toward the summit of Bean Peak East. Race Director Dave Sewell had made it perfectly clear that we should wear pants for this section, and we would soon find out why. For the next hour, our team, and most others sought a direct route up the south side of the peaks. Little did we realize until we were a quarter of the way up the mountain that the south sides of these peaks are completely covered in a gauntlet of head high sticker bushes that are so overgrown any normal human would consider them impassable. Brian and myself had elected to take off the recommended pants just prior to the start and we would soon pay the price.
While Carters pants were slowly shredded over the next hour, Brian and I would experience hundreds of tiny lacerations to our legs and arms as we fought through the bushes. At times we were down on our hands and knees crawling underneath, tunneling through and sometimes just roaring through like a stampede of cattle. Near the top of the peak we ran into a number of teams moving down in a single file (good idea) line toward their second CP. We didn’t realize it at the time, though they were on the recreational course. Of course, we immediately thought, “advantage us” as they were headed into a completely different direction than the second CP.
After finally summiting the mountain, Brian picked up a trail down the northeast side of the peak toward CP2. Here we ran into a few different teams including ARC and we were feeling pretty good to be in their company nearly 90 minutes in. The area has recently been going through a heavy tree thinning and many new roads and trails were present that were not on the maps. That combined with the fact that CP3 was plotted in a remarkably remote spot at the bottom of a re-entrant many spurs away and we were looking forward to the tough nav on our way to this next checkpoint. We aimed-off toward a road, found a bend in it that was also on the maps and set a bearing toward CP3. It was here we (myself at least) had our proudest moment in the race. As we approached, we watched a couple other teams scavenging along ravines that were not quite far enough along. Reaching the high point above the checkpoint, we ran into team Monster Energy who’d been searching for it as well. We asked if we could take just one step ahead of them toward the CP so that we could say we’d been in front of them for what will likely be the only time it ever happens. Thanks Dave.
We continued along our bearing down the side of the ravine heading straight for the CP while a number of other teams were closing in from behind. Bang, we hit the point and started immediately climbing up the other side of the ravine toward the summit of Bean Peak west. 500 vertical feet later we ran into Kent, his girlfriend and Dayna the photographer for a team photo. I can’t wait to see this photo as Thumb Butte was proudly standing behind us. Off we went toward CP 5.
We had two ways to go here. Either way looked like it went around a small peak to the west toward a road. The Green Team (AKA the Triathletes) was right there with us. They took what was probably a shorter route by following the edge of the evil bushes along the summit while we took a trail northwest aiming-off at the road. Upon finding the dirt road and the CP it was just a mile or two walk back to the TA to end this nightmare trek. There was a handful of deer that were racing through the trees to the north of us that was neat to see along the way.
Back to the TA and on to 5 mystery events in the order of our choosing. We knew prior to the race that we were going to have some sort of water event, as PFD’s were required gear. We didn’t know where it would be or what. Arriving the day before we had our eye on a pond with a couple of islands and thought maybe that was it, though when Dave thanked ‘Friendly Pines Campground’ for the use of their water facilities, we started hoping they had a nice heated pool for us to take a dip in. Yeah Right! With the cold water would come the cramps and my first question was “What’s the penalty for skipping the swim?” Tracy informed us that it would cost us an hour….Dangit! I guess we’re going for a swim.
Before I’d even succumbed to the idea, Carter was near naked in his bike shorts and swimming out into the frigid waters. Now I’ve jumped in my pool (in Phoenix) a number of times in early spring to impress my kids, but I’ve never experienced anything quite like this pond. It had to be in the low 50’s at best. Brrrrr…..
We had to head up the center between the islands of reeds, circumnavigate both, and return down the center. Tracy assured us that most people were doing it in 10-20 minutes so it didn’t seem so bad before we got in, but it was. You know how when your out kayaking you generally try and avoid the reeds because of all those spiders and you never try and touch the bottom because it creeps you out? Well, throw that right out the window. I was dragging myself along the reeds as fast as I could and digging my feet down into the mush mud below when I could reach to hurry along. Carter swam it fast, Brian floated it relatively easily and my sorry butt crept along way too slow. Huge leg cramps were setting in and I was lucky to stand up at the end. Finally, we’re out.
On to 4 mystery events. First we had to land 3 lightweight plastic balls in a 5 gallon bucket from about 15 feet. Needless to say, we obviously weren’t qualified for even the most beginner basketball game. On to another fun event where the three of us were tied together and lashed to a 300 foot rope strung back and forth through the trees in a maze. Got it, but not before Carter broke two of the belts we were using. We then had to slide through an elevated drainage pipe, which Carter made fun. He took a couple of steps approaching it, jumped up in the air and slid himself the entire way through the tube. We then had to walk along another giant pipe balanced like a teeter-totter from end to end. The final event was an end over end roll of a giant backhoe tire.
Upon returning to the TA, we gathered our biking equipment and headed out.
Now this race wasn’t particularly long but it did have sizeable elevation gains and tons of obstacles to slow us down. We were working from 1:15,000 maps on which a mile was represented by something like 3 inches and distances were initially hard to grasp. As the primary navigator for the team, I was responsible for finding our way from point to point, but I ended up beginning the bike by leading us way out of the way and costing us an hour. I was bummed. Yeah, it was a nice piece of single track and a nice little ride, but it was way out of the way. Brian suggested we backtrack to the beginning and start again. Thanks Brian, you saved us, as I was about to suggest we head up one of the other trails along that streambed.
I was bummed from my mistake. As a team, we’re not particularly fast but we make up for it with solid navigation and generally race mistake free. I had now been humbled as many, many teams passed us during this hour. 5 minutes later, I got a flat. It’s a good thing Brian and Carter were there to keep me going because I was bummed. They must have known it too as I stood there and broke two of my tire irons from sheer carelessness. They were right there and helpful as could be though I was bitter.
Back on the trail. I crash. It’s not a bad one, but just continues to beat me down. We also get to CP2 only to find out that we would ultimately be short-coursed upon reaching CP4. At this point with the nav-error, a flat, a crash and being short coursed, if anyone had even hinted at quitting we would have been drinking beer in 10 minutes. Carter and Brian weren’t having any of it. Carter had trained hard for this race and wanted to have it all. Brian enjoys riding his bike more than anything (remember he rode from Canada to Mexico along the continental divide last year?) and suddenly this was an opportunity to do some fun downhill riding more than a race.
We snaked a trail down a big decline (FUN) toward CP3 then rode (not fun) a long stretch back up to CP4 where we received official word that we were being short-coursed and we had a mystery event to do. I’m ashamed at my attitude and had no desire to work on the puzzle that we had to complete. It’s a good thing too as Brian zipped through it faster than many of the teams also their. In 5 minutes he finished what would take many teams 20+. We had to get 3 more CP’s (11, 12, 13) prior to finishing and then something happened. Brian was suddenly buoyed by the idea of racing against team Tubac (Our friends Brad, Yvonne & Reggie). Brian isn’t typically real competitive though something came over him. Carter was pushing too and now the race was back on.
We took some fun singletrack to CP11, climbed up a bit and dropped back down to 12 and flew to 13 in short order. Brian and I take off toward the finish and here comes Tubac heading toward 13. While Brian and I hadn’t noticed it, Carter had locked up his chain at 13 and suddenly we were getting real anxious. Carter unsticks his chain and we pedal as quickly as we can toward ….”THE WALL”.
While we didn’t realize it until after the race, Carter and I are two of just 4 people that have participated in every race and subsequently, have become quite adept at going over the wall. We push Carter up the 10 feet, then Brian. I throw them the rope and pull myself up and over and we had finally finished the 5th annual Gilmore AR.
We walked under the finish line banner exhausted and ready to catch our breath. And then something else happened. I’m not even sure whose idea it was I was so “done”. You see, while we were official finishers, we had an optional orienteering section we could continue with that would raise our finish above those who didn’t go after them. And from out of nowhere, either Carter or Brian suggested that if we picked up just one Orienteering point we could pull ahead of a few other teams who hadn’t gone out in search of them.
Well, we had 13 minutes to get one and off we went. We quickly re-grabbed our mandatory gear and set out. 10 minutes later we arrived and realized we’d better get our tails in gear or we’d lose the advantage it would give us so we high-tailed it back to the TA. FINALLY…DONE!
While we don’t know yet where we finished, we think it was somewhere around 11th or 12th. Of the 29 teams on the long course, 7 finished the entire race with the rest of us on the short course. Another 22 teams took on and defeated the recreational course. Congratulations to those raced, it was a doozy!