Yough Extreme 2007 Race Report
By Steve Elliott
The 2007 Yough Extreme Adventure Race was held on a hot and sunny Saturday May 26 in the adventurist’s mecca of Ohiopyle Pennsylvania. This American Adventure Sport staple is in its 8th year and gets better each go-round. AAS founder Doug Crytzer and trusted consiglieri Toby Angove put together one of the most satisfying 12 hr. races that this racer has ever participated in.
Back story: We race as Team Adjustment - Three chiropractors too old for top-level rugby and soccer (our roots) and too egotistical to admit that contact sports demanded a residual fee structure that we were unwilling to pay. We started adventure racing in 2001 and, like most teams, have been through several permutations, but the constants in the mix have been: Daun Sigafoose – 46 years old, Mike Martin – 44 years old, and Steve Elliott – 47 years old. We race 3 to 4 times a year in the Mid-Atlantic, anywhere from 6 to 40 hours. We typically think that we are better than we are and occasionally come face to face with our delusions when there is a big payout in the race and the ‘Big Hitters’ come out to play: Jonathan Neely, Bruce Wong, Pete Spagnoli , Scott Pleban… you get the picture. When that class of racer shows up, we’re just there for the t-shirt.
Back to the race: The Yough Extreme takes place in Ohiopyle State Park and takes full advantage of its assets;
2. Whitewater paddling
3. Sweet single track
4. Lung-busting fire roads
5. A park superintendent that gets it
AAS founder Doug Crytzer turned the reins over to his long-time racing partner, Toby Angove, and had him design a demanding course with this major twist, each discipline was raced in a rogaine format. There were bonus points available for fastest times in each discipline and the only mandatory CPs were in transition. Each CP along the way had point values commensurate with its difficulty in reaching said CPs. Add to that the ‘events within the event’, the 6 mile foot – O course at CP 12, the 175 ft. rappel off of the stunning rail-trail bridge at CP 9 and the river swim at CP 8.
Racers were bussed to the top of Sugarloaf Mt. and the race started with a fast 5 mile run that lost 1600 feet of elevation enroute. Since the bonus’s were for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place overall (regardless of division) we elected to pursue all of the CPs and get as many points as possible that way, we didn’t think we were fast enough to challenge some of the solo racers in a limited nav situation. CPs 1 and 2 were pretty straight forward (if you were a local and disregarded the maps) and we moved fairly quickly down Firetower Rd. towards the Ramcat Run boat launch coming in tied for 5th.
On to the paddle - The paddle took place on the middle section of the Youghiogheny River using inflatables. The river was running on the low side and picking the right lines was very important, if you weren’t vigilant you were scrubbing speed, bumping over rocks in the shallows. CPs 5 and 6 were available during the paddle. CP 5 was on an island about 3 miles into the paddle and CP 6 was a little trickier to get to as it was about 100 meters up a creek that emptied into the Yough. There were 3 streams coming into the river in about a 200 meter stretch and picking the right one was made difficult by the early morning haze that clung to the bank, river left. We made short work of those and set off for the finish of the paddle. We didn’t put a lot of stock into our chances for a time bonus as paddling has never been our strong point as a team. We’ve been told more than once that we would be better racers if we just worked on our paddling, so we have. Nothing outrageous, just a couple of lessons with different instructors to cover different styles and a little practice working together. We did well, nothing to write home about, but we held our own.
CP 7 was the transition to the bike/foot section of the race. The foot – O at CP 12 was open from 10:30a to 6:30p, the rappel and the river swim were only open from 3:30p to 6:30p and the race had a finish time of 7p. These time constraints shaped our strategy for the rest of the day. During our pre-race plotting we agreed upon a course that we felt would give us our best chance to clear the course if everything went perfectly, and we were 10 years younger. Since we are delusional racers we forgot that we weren’t 10 years younger and set out to clear the course.
We set out down the Yough river trail to nab CP 11 and continued down the trail to the Jonathan Run trail to reach CPs 15 and 14. We backtracked slightly to reach the Sugar Run trail and headed uphill to get to CPs 19 and 20. We jumped onto the Mitchell trail and began a long bombing run down to the Yough river trail where we headed downstream once more. CP 23 was the farthest one on the course and it lay at the top of an unmarked ATV trail that paralleled a thicket covered, bramble infested, 600 foot high pipeline cut. The only reason I mentioned the pipeline cut is because as we were checking in at the CP a couple of young racers emerged from the thicket, scratched, bleeding, exhausted and bewildered. We stared at them, incredulous, and said “did you guys just climb up that hill?” They answered in the affirmative and asked us how we got to the top, when we pointed out the ATV trail I thought they were going to cry.
By now it was getting close to 3p and we began to worry about getting to the rappel in time. We still had the 6 mile foot – O course to get to and we figured that would take us at least 90 minutes if we hit everything spot on. That gave us a goal time of 5:30p to be back on the Yough river trail. We decided at this point that we probably weren’t going to be able to clear the course so now we had to decide what to skip. CP 21 was the one, it was an out and back, 7/10’s of a mile down hill to the CP. We headed on to CP 22, where we ran into eventual 3 person coed champs ‘Too Fat and Too Drunk for Golf’, we had raced against Jeff, Todd and Kathryn several times in the past years and it was good to be riding with them for a couple of CPs. We got to 16, 18, and 17 in fairly short order and were heading to 13 when we proceeded to ride down a blacktop hill so steep that just pulsing on the brakes to scrub speed was ineffective. My brake shoes where so hot that they were intermittently locking up my rims. It was a total blast! CP 13 put us back on the Jonathan Run trail for about 2 miles and brought us to the Kentuck trail that we hike-a-biked up to CP12 and the foot – O course. It was 4p by now and the average time to get all 7 CPs was about 2:10 according to John Jones, who was manning the course. We set a drop dead time of 5:15 to be off the O course. OCP 4 was in the midst of a camp ground and that’s where we went first, because Mike and I were out of water! From OCP 4 we found OCP 3 and proceeded to OCP 2 then OCP 1. It was 5p and we decided to leave 5, 6 and 7 wanting. We were afraid that there would be a crush of racers trying to get in to the rappel stage and we would be eating up time waiting our turn. The downhill ride to the Yough river trail was fast and a little out of control, perfect! Up the Yough river trail we went, arriving at bike-drop for CP 8 and 9 at about 6p. This was the one event on the whole course that we didn’t want to miss, a 175 foot rappel from the Yough river trail footbridge down to river level. Fantastic! No time for reverie, however, we still had a river swim to complete. Back to the bike-drop where picked up the rest of our gear and made a run for CP 8. About 500 meters off of the Yough river trail and 50 meters below the falls that make up the centerpiece of the Ohiopyle experience we had to don pfd’s and complete a 100 meter river swim. I have to tell you swimming is not my cup of tea, so I lobbied pretty heavily for CP 8 to be our last of the day- that way, if we were hard pressed for time we would have to skip it…oh darn. The first 30 meters or so where shockingly cold to my overheated body, but I breast-stroked and doggy paddled and made my way across as Daun and Mike made like Michael Phelps and zoomed to the far shore. Back to the bike-drop, make sure we have everything and 800 meters later we are checking in at CP 24, the finish of the 2007 Yough Extreme.
We finished well, 152 points total. 1st place 3 person male and 2nd highest point total overall.
The beauty of this format is that it allowed everyone the chance to compete, newcomers, veterans, serious competitors and social athletes. If you wanted to finish early or if you wanted to push it to the time limit, you could. Toby
Angove did a masterful job of putting together a race that included white water paddling, running, mountain biking, swimming, rappelling, orienteering and route choice options all in a 12 hour format in a beautiful and challenging location.
Kudos Toby and job well done.