STORM the eastern shore AR
12-13 Nov 2005
by: David Bogle
Team name: The Fantastic Four
Members: Mark Montague –captain, David Bogle – Navigator, Katie Raezer, Garry Gappy, Donna Mummert – support crew
Location: Cape Charles, Va (east of Norfolk, Virginia)
In late August 2005, my home area was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. I was fortunate in only sustaining minimal damage compared to the many who had total losses. A loss not often thought about by the media was the huge impact these storms had on the wilderness of Louisiana and Texas. The storms devastated most of the state parks and wilderness areas serving to close them for some time to come. With all this land closure the adventure races for the end of the 2005 season in my area were all cancelled. I was contacted by my buddy Mark Montague from Virginia who told me about a race in his area and invited me to come up and race with him. It was not really feasible for my normal team (Team Backpacker) to make this trip so I agreed to come up and join Mark’s team for the race. I like to race in races like this since it is a new place, with new terrain and new people. It serves to take some of the pressure off of races as I have no great expectations when joining in with new teams. We had a 3 male team, but I prefer to race 4 co-ed (the elite category in most AR’s), so I challenged him to find us a female. Mark landed several female team mates, but for various reasons they all had to back out of the race. Mark finally secured Katie to be our 4’th person. I flew from New Orleans to Virginia Friday afternoon and met up with Mark to start getting ready for our race. That evening, Garry came over to drop off gear and I got nervous. It turns out this would be Garry’s first ever adventure race (I don’t think Mark mentioned this before hand). We had to work with Garry to get all of his required gear and supplies together.
We all headed out early on Saturday to the race site in Cape Charles, Va. This is a peninsula jutting out from the coast of Virginia. It is a flat terrain and not very developed at all. A long toll bridge/tunnel connects this land to the south to Virginia. There was lots of water, which meant the chance for rough seas. We got to the race site very early in hopes of securing a good set of kayaks for the race (we opted to rent some from Southeast Expeditions and it was first come, first serve). We got 2 good kayaks and were happy with our selection (although they were heavy and had no spray skirts for rough water). Katie got there early also and brought along Donna as a support crew person. It turns out, this would be Katie’s longest AR and this would be the first time Donna did support for a team. We got ourselves all checked in and turned in our overnight gear bins to the race director. This race would have a mandatory rest period from midnight Saturday night to 6 am Sunday morning. During this time, we would not see our support crews and would be primitive camping. We anticipated that we would likely paddle to a barrier island off the east coast and spend the night there (we were right).
The race was scheduled to start noon on Saturday. This was a nice time as it was a very cool morning (very cold for a guy from south Louisiana!), so by noon it was quite pleasant. At the pre-race meeting, it was announced that our team captains were all to go down the beach to a specific area and await the start. Once the race started, we saw all the captains racing to the beach and out into the water to retrieve maps and our instruction sheets for the race. So much for staying dry in this race (at least for the captains).
Mark ran well and got back to us in a top 10 position. We opened the maps and instructions. The maps did not have any grid lines so for many teams, they had lots of work to get started on with maps. I had pre-purchased a large map of the area with grid lines in case this happened. We plotted 3 points around the town of Cape Charles and set out on foot to go get them. We ran to all 3 points and saw a few teams along the way. We did not get these in the ideal order as we failed to read the line in the instructions that said it was OK to get them out of order. We were the first to arrive back in TA. From here, we had to plot a few more points. I went ahead and plotted the remainder of the points for the day. We would hop into our boats and head north up the western coast of the peninsula. The first point showed to be in a small creek leading off the main water. It was low tide and there was no way to paddle into this creek. We actually beached our boats a little short of the point and had to run along the beach to the correct location. Getting to the point was quite a challenge as we sunk to our knees crossing the muddy bottom creek bed. We also showed teams behind us the correct place to dock the boats (at least we were in the lead still). We then continued to paddle further north. It was an easy paddle as we had a tail wind. The kayak that Katie and I were in had no rudder and we found it difficult to keep going in a straight line.
We were the first team to arrive at TA1 (transition area 1 where our support crew was). When we got to the beach, we were told we had to portage the kayaks up to where the cars were parked. Distance wise, this was not far, but there was a 15’ sand cliff in our way. We worked together as a team of 4 to push our boats up the embankment. We looked around and there was no sign of our support crew. We all go real scared. It turns out, Donna had gone back to the start location because she was scared when she realized she had all of our race maps (we were using only the one we pre-bought). The good news was that Donna had dropped all of our biking gear at the TA before she left, so we were OK.
The next leg was a ride and tie type of arrangement, we had 3 bikes and 4 people. The guys took turns running. We were trading places at this stage with another 4 person co-ed team, so the pressure was on. We had to go a couple of miles out to punch one point and then back to the TA. From there, we all picked up our bikes and headed on a long bike ride. We were the first team to leave for this leg of the race. There is something to be said for being fast in TA. We knew this was going to be a long bike ride, so we all packed plenty of fluids and food. We were off and would not see Donna again until the end of this bike ride and the start of the next paddle leg at TA2. We set out on bikes and had to gather a few punch points and a few bits of information from various landmarks around the peninsula. There was a 4 person co-ed team hot on our heals for the first few points. We managed to stay slightly ahead of them until we ran into problems at CP 11. This was our big “mistake” of the race. We mis-plotted the point on our map. This was likely due to not being use to working with each other when plotting. Basically, we transposed a couple of numbers and were looking about 400 meters away from where we suppose to be. At the pre-race meeting, the RD stated that CP 11 would be 100 meters north from where it plots. This added to the confusion when we got there. We plotted the point on the south shore of a small lake which involved a bushwhack to get to. On the bushwhack into this point, I started a large deer, no more than 15 feet from me!! We got to the spot where we plotted the point but could not find it. We attacked the same area from several different ways before planning to re-plot the point. That is when the real problems arose. I noticed I no longer had the instruction sheet for day 1 of the race in my map case (I had re-arranged the maps when we started looking for the point and must have dropped it in the woods somewhere). Without those instructions, we would have no way. We all started trying to re-trace my routes through the woods. Good old Garry was able to quickly find them, which is when we re-plotted the point and found our mistake. The new plot did not look any easier to get to. It plotted on the north shore of this small lake which appeared to also be covered in heavy brush. When we exited the woods from our bad location, we saw a few teams coming past us heading off to the paddle TA. This served to get us all aggravated as we knew we were no longer in the lead as we just wasted 45 good minutes!! We started strategizing how to get this point because there were private homes near the lake and we did not want to go cutting through their property. We found a new construction road north of the lake (not on the map of course) that seemed to go the correct direction. We decided to try out this road and it led straight to the CP. On the way out of this CP, we passed several teams all heading to the CP. We now seemed to be running mid pack with lots of teams.
We all agreed that we would keep working hard to push on and do the best we can. We started cruising down the road in a good pace line and I started having trouble keeping up. It turns out my back tire was going flat which was causing me to slow way down. I had slime tubes in my tires, so I figured I could hit it with a CO2 and it would self seal. We aired it up (and were passed by a team) and set off going again. We only had 4 to 5 miles to go, so we did not want to have to do a rear tire tube change if not required. The tire did not hold air and it kept leaking out. Our stops for more air got more frequent until we ran out of CO2. Another team came along and offered a CO2 cartridge. It was very nice of them, but since I had been riding on the flat for a little while, I had destroyed the tube and it no longer held air at all. I decided to just run in with the bike since we were now only a mile out from the TA. Another team or two passed us as we made our way into TA. We were all a little frustrated since our race seemed to be coming apart when we were doing so well early on. We met up with Donna and all put on some warm clothing and set off for our paddle. I asked Donna to attempt to fix the flat or ask around to see if she could get help (she got it all done just fine). We got to the water and our boats about the same time as a couple of other teams. We did not see anyone on the water, so we figured the leaders were long gone. The moon was just about full and the sky was clear, so visibility was great. The bad news was that it was VERY windy which meant rough seas. It turns out that 2 teams flipped their boats in the rough waters and had to be rescued (scary thought as the water was cold and so was the air).
As we pushed off, we shot a bearing across the water to where we were headed. We set out with another couple of boats, but all quickly got separated as we crossed. About halfway across the water, we were able to see a flickering fire on the island. This was surely our camping spot for the night, so we just headed for the light. When we arrived at the island (CP 13), we asked how many teams had already been there, we were shocked when we were told a 4 person co-ed was only 10 minutes ahead and a 2 person team was leaving as we pulled up. This meant we somehow were back in 3’rd overall and 2’nd in co-ed. I suspect our quick transition to boats is what did it for us. With this good, news, were more motivated than ever to push one. From CP13, there were 4 other mandatory CP’s that had to be obtained before returning to CP 13 to camp for the mandatory rest period. At CP 17, we had the option of continuing on further to gain some bonus CP’s. These bonus CP’s were sort of a rogaine style competition in which each CP was worth a 2 hour time credit. We left CP 13 on our was to CP 14 and before long we saw the two teams ahead of us all on shore scouring around for a CP. From my maps, I thought we had not gone far enough, but I may have been wrong. We got out and spent a couple of minutes to figure out we were in fact in the wrong place. Back in the boats, we continued on to pick up the next 4 mandatory CP’s. At CP 17, we were told if we want to continue on to the rogaine bonus points, we would have to leave our boats there and go on foot. The only team ahead of us was a 4 person co-ed team and they were only 3 to 4 minutes ahead of us at that stage. We quickly dropped our boats and headed out to find some bonus points. These were risky in that if we did not find them, we were actually wasting time as the clock continued to run until we returned to CP 13 for the night. If it took us more than 2 hours to find a point, then we would be losing ground overall.
The points were on the barrier island chains which were land masses covered in swamps with occasional high spots. To get to these rogaine points, we would have to trudge through some cold waist deep water at times. We got to CP 18 a few minutes behind the lead team. We ran into them at CP 19 and they stated they could not find 18. I personally did not believe them as they were in the correct area (turns out they were telling the truth, but did find it later). We quickly found CP 19 and the team with us did not find it either although we were all within 30 feet of each other. (yes, it was a bit sneaky of us, but we were all tied at this point). We rambled on towards CP 20 acting a bit as if we did not find 19. We went straight to CP 20 also with no problems and punched it. We did not see any teams heading our way and it was quite a distance to CP 21. The winds were also up which meant a tough headwind paddle from CP 17 back to the campsite at CP13. Any time of arrival past midnight meant no credit for any of the bonus rogaine points. We opted to leave the CP 21 and head back. We made good time getting back, since it was basically just run south and try to stay out of the deep swamp water. Once back to our boats we paddled back to CP 13. Turns out we likely had time to go get CP 21, but we were happy with our decision since we were all tired of being cold and wet.
We all got dry clothing on and set up our camp. We all ate some food and then were give the UTM’s and instructions from day 2 of racing. I retired to my tent to plot our course for day 2. This looked to be just a fast sprint to the finish line. It would open with a paddle, then a short run, then a bike ride to the finish line. We all woke early and got ready to go. The winds were already blowing strongly at start time. The kayak advisor warned us about the rough water and suggested we take a longer route with less rough water. We were hard headed and did not want to do that. With our bonus time, we started the day with a little over an hour lead on all the other teams. I figured we were not as good of paddlers as the others but hoped not to lose more than 30 minutes on this 7 to 8 mile paddle leg over rough waters. We were started in 2 minute heats based on rankings from day 1. Surprisingly, we were not out paddled by any teams at all. We had to paddle southwest around the peninsula and then north up the western shore to get the first CP of the day. This day’s paddle was extremely rough and a ton of work as the combination of waves, wind and current cause the boats to get tossed around and filled with water from waves (glad we had a bilge pump with us). I hear 2 teams boats were flipped on this day and had to be rescued.
The first paddle point was easy to find and as we got close we saw a volunteer stand up and wave to us. We punched that point with 2 teams close behind. We then just had to paddle a mile or two farther north for the final TA3 of the race. The instructions said dock the boats and the beach and head to the TA. We did just that and started to run to TA when someone advised us we actually had to portage our boats all the way to TA3.
This was a long way for our heavy boats and tired arms (from all the paddling). We managed to get our boats there with quite an effort. The two person all male team of Donkey Show were the first to TA with their boat. We arrived second, but made a quick transition and headed out for a trail run at the same time as Donkey Show. It was a mile or two run to the first point and we pretty much ran with the other team, when they suddenly darted off the trail into the brush. We were confident we were not to the point yet, so we carried on and were in fact the first to arrive. The next point was in the opposite direction so we headed back towards the TA. This point was confusing as it was on the beach, but the instructions prohibited us from taking the beach to the point. The map showed to roads going to the area, but the RD said there were in fact some roads. This makes it rough as a navigator because I try not to impose on anyone’s private land. I picked a route to take us by road to the road that appeared to go the closest to the area. I figured that road may have been extended at some point. I was wrong, so we ended up running across a large open field. As we got close we saw Donkey show coming across another field (a shorter, more direct route). We found the spot which required counting the number of steps down to the beach (to prove we were there). On our way out we ran into another 4 person co-ed team just getting to the spot (apologies to the other teams by not knowing any of their team names). There was in fact a nice paved road that headed what appeared to be straight back to the TA area. We ran that road back just behind the 2 person Donkey Show team. The road curved to run parallel to our TA road and as we were about to bushwack to the correct road, we came across a tall fence. Not wanting to hit private land, I encouraged our team to run to the end of the road and back. It was not the most popular decision, but I did not want to make trouble for the RD. As we got close to TA, Donkey Show was out and off on their bikes (they had jumped the fence and saved 5 to 10 minutes). We hustled to get onto our bikes and on the road. This leg was just a long bike ride to the finish line. At this stage we were confident we could win this race overall since only one team was ahead of us on day 2 and they were a over an hour behind us on cumulative time. The easiest route to the finish line was on a banned road (Hwy 13), so we had to take a longer route and hope no one knew a much faster route on roads that were not shown on our map. We set out and held a good strong pace with Mark and Garry leading the pace line for the entire ride. We stopped at one point to re-fold the maps and saw a team behind us. It appeared to be a 4 person team so we picked up the pace and raced on. We never caught the two person team ahead of us, so Team Donkey Show actually won stage 2 of the race by about 5 minutes. One minute behind us was the 4 person co-ed team of Too Many Kids.
This finishing position wrapped up the win for us on team Fantastic Four. Thanks to HRAdventure.com for putting on a fun race and to Mark for inviting me to come up and race with him.
Final overall race standings (time is deceiving as bonus time was subtracted from actual racing time)
Fantastic Four (4-coed) 8:04
Too Many Kids (4-coed) 9:50
Team Donkey Show (2-male) 10:05
Team Sisu (4-male) 10:38
Team Trek Bikes (4-coed) 10:47
Full results at: http://www.hradventure.com/STORM05Results.aspx