The Most Spectacular Finish in Odyssey Adventure Racing History
Ronny Angell, president, owner of Odyssey Adventure Racing and race director for the Odyssey One Day Adventure Race [ODAR] said, “The finish of the 2008 Odyssey One Day Adventure Race at Camp Bethel in Fincastle, VA was the most spectacular finish I’ve ever witnessed in my 10 year history in Odyssey’s legacy as a racer, volunteer and race director!” As 40 teams toed the starting line of the 19th edition of the ODAR, little did they know they would be a part of such a historical event in Odyssey’s 182 events history - and just maybe within adventure racing history at large.
What racers did know was that they were facing 85+ miles of trekking, mountain biking and paddling with 30,000’ of elevation gain and loss; a course which was said to be beautiful and challenging, yet doable. The race started with a hilly 2 mile trail running prologue which had soloist Brian Mayer of No Handlebars, leading the charge with teams Nature Cure (Chris Caul, Toby Angove, Joe Moerschbaecher, and Julia Pollock) and Calleva (Dmitri Kaganovich, Mark Lattanzi, Michelle Lindsay, and Sara Percy) close behind. Racers transitioned to a 16 mile mountain bike leg which took them onto the Glenwood Horse Trail, made up of rolling fire roads and sweet singletrack with stunning views of the valley below. The singletrack seemed to give some teams a little trouble but had all thinking about the climb that this would be later on in the race, as teams that made the cutoff time Sunday morning would be facing the terrain again on their way back to the finish.
With checkpoints (CPs) 1, 2 and 3 at the Bearwallow Gap parking area under their belts, teams then transitioned to a 2 mile downhill trek to the town of Buchanan for the river put in at CP 4, which had teams starting a 16 mile paddle downstream on the laggard James River to CP 5 – Smith Tracts. Soloist Brian was looking at taking control of the race as he hit the water first with Nature Cure and Calleva hot on his heels. Both CheckpointZero/ Inov-8 teams and Calleva were hoping the advantage of their double bladed kayak paddles – over that of the provided single blade canoe paddles – would merit the hassle of carrying them the duration of the course, a requirement for teams that chose this option.
The 3 hr paddle was uneventful for most racers, with the exception of soloist Matt Poole losing his paddle after “finding” a hidden rock in the river (really making him up the creek without a paddle, or would that be down river…?), and a couple of teams that overshot the river take out, including the Misfits, (Grant McCullough, Innes Wright, Markus Hecker, Lawrence Jones), with sense of humor intact. Multiple teams offered to help Poole, who graciously refused. “I was bound and determined to make that cutoff and was doggie-paddling when George Meyers came along and wouldn’t take no for an answer.” Meyers towed Poole a good ways downstream. Meanwhile, soloist Anthony Lee was extending his tour of the James, overshooting the takeout by miles, and making his trip down the river a 24 mile expedition that took him into the night and down to the infamous Balcony Falls. Back in the front of the pack, Team Nature Cure passed No Handlebars on the water and started to flex their muscle as they began the next leg of the race. Unable to gain any ground on the leaders, Calleva and the Checkpoint Zero/Inov-8 teams’ strategy of the use of personal paddles didn’t pay off enough to bridge the gap.
The next CPs, 6-12, entailed a painful 16 mile trek through Skillern, Wilson and Pine Ridge mountains, with lots of elevation gain, briars, blown down trees and bushwhacking. When teams made it to the finish bearing their sexy scratched and bleeding legs - that only a fellow adventure racer could love and appreciate - they relayed with knowing looks, “These were complements of CP 6.” Angell did later state that the trek to CP 6 during the pre-running of the course was one of the worst bushwhacks he had done is his history of adventure racing. CPs 9, 10, and 11 were optional with a 10 point value each, significant as the accrued points factored into the final rankings. During the race brief, teams were told that if they didn’t make it to CP 8 by 0300 on Sunday, they should skip the optional CPs and head directly to bike pickup at CP 12, aptly named Solitude Rd., in order to better their chances of finishing the race officially. No less than 6 mixed groups of soloists and teams ended up working together to find all of these CPs under the sliver of a crescent moon.
At CP12, Nature Cure had a 1.5 hour lead over the next team that got the optional points. Checkpoint Zero/Inov-8 II (Peter Jolles, Paul Humphreys, Daniel Jesse, and Julia Radmann) were able to utilize Peter’s night navigation savvy to pass Calleva in the dark. The first CP0 team had to drop after the coup in McAdam’s intestines proved too much to enable him to race on. Both teams had quite the grab bag of AR goodies: a yellowjacket nest, broken derailleur, endos, and illness. Just another day at the AR office!
The next 24 miles of mountain biking back though the Town of Buchanan and to Bearwallow only helped Nature Cure extend their lead heading into the final portion of the race, a 12 mile, optional orienteering section at Camp Bethel comprised of 20 locations, worth 1 point each, that teams could acquire on foot and/or by bike. Checkpoint Zero/Inov-8 II’s chances of catching the leaders diminished as bike problems hindered their progress. Calleva was able to take advantage of their misfortune and move into 2nd overall. As the lead teams headed in the darkness of the O-course, by whichever means they saw fit, only the final hours of the race waited to reveal the winner of the 2008 Odyssey One Day Adventure Race.
The 12,000’ of elevation gain, 76 + miles of the mandatory course, and the wafting odors of BBQ and Roanoke’s Famous Texas Tavern Chile proved to be quite enough for teams that decided to exercise their right to opt out of the O course and stay right there at the finish to chow down.
With less than an hour left in the race and the fastest team being on the O-course for more than 8 hrs, the anticipation in the air was palpable. Who would take the win? Angell, race director, was standing at the finish line as he saw Calleva riding in on their bikes. And as the crowd was cheering, he caught movement out of the corner of his eye: Nature Cure coming in on foot from the opposite direction! Neither team, being hidden by some woods and a building, was able to see the others’ reach for the finish. With all of the hoopin’ and hollarin’, both teams broke into a sprint, knowing not what would reveal itself from around the corner. Both teams darted toward the finish line with a near collision of bikes and bodies and a cacophony of screams and laughter, “How many points?! How many points did you get?” they asked one another as they barreled towards headquarters to get their passports signed, signifying their official finish. 8 sets of shoulders simultaneously tried to cram into one doorway and 2 pieces of Tyvek, crumpled, dirty, and reeking of eau de adventure racer were thrust through the door into Susanna’s hands. The official answer: 19 out of 20 possible points for Calleva and…19 orienteering points for Nature Cure. “Good googly moogly!” she blogged afterwards. “That was fantastic!” Beautiful we think. Simply beautiful.
Afterwards, both teams were ruminating about what decisions during the 23 hours of racing could have broken the tie. Was it that last pit stop before coming back in? Was it chatting up the locals? Was it being momentarily bedazzled by the alien spaceship that turned out to be a toy swimming pool? As Joy would say, "Hard tellin', not knowin'!"
Angell and his Odyssey staff thoroughly enjoyed witnessing such a finish and are looking forward to the 20th edition in 2009, which they hope will surpass this edition in compliments from racers on the beauty and challenge of the course. Afterwards, Nature Cure’s Chris Caul, course director for Primal Quest Montana, stated “That was the most challenging orienteering course I have ever done. We will remember this race for a long time.” Angell simply offered a sinister grin and a sincere thank you in reply.
Special thanks to our hardworking volunteers and to our generous product sponsors: Phoenix Formulas - ancient medicine for today’s world, Hammer Nutrition, Zanfel, Checkpoint Tracker, Texas Tavern, Inov-8, Numa Tactical, Nuun & TrailRunner.
Full results may be viewed at http://www.oarevents.com/results/Result ... ODAR08.xls
Course map, race blog and racer shout outs may be viewed at http://checkpointtracker.com/index.cfm? ... ventID=143.
What’s next on the Odyssey calendar?
9/20 Trail Running Rampage Douthat State Park, VA: Trail Ultra 40 miler, Trail Marathon & Half Marathon
10/5 – 10/10 Adventure Racing Academy, New River Gorge, WV
Full calendar, extensive info., and other stories available at www.OARevents.com.