Team Virabhadrasana/Team Fat Otter Race Report for the Driftless Zone Adventure Race, August 27th 2005, Reedsburg, WI.
I have heard many Adventure Racers say the same thing. “The Hardest Part of Adventure Racing is actually getting to the Race.” In every race there are things that come up. We have all been there; Work issues, sick racer, sick kids, babysitters sick, can’t find climbing harness, bike chain breaks 2 hours before the race and your dog uses your new carbon fiber kayak paddle as a chew toy…..name it and it has happened.
Well this race was no different! We had decided to integrate two experienced teams for the first time, Team Virabhadrasana (Lisa, Todd, Dom, Dean, Linda, Missy etc etc) and Team Fat Otter (Rod, Peter, Andrew, Al, Angie, etc etc)
After many discussions and numerous e-mails, we decided that Lisa, Todd, Dean and a newcomer to the team, Dave Ginsburg would race in the 4-person category with Linda providing the support. I (Dom) would race with Rod in the two-person category and Peter would try his luck in the solo division. Missy, who has been sidelined with a neck injury, would support the other two teams.
To make a long story short, after some last minute problems, Rod was unable to race and Missy was unable support. Exactly 24 hours before the race start it was finally set that Peter and I would race as a two-person team and my Dad would be driving the support vehicle.
Finally we Race!
On Friday night thirty teams converged on the Voyager Motel in the small town of Reedsburg Wisconsin for check in and the prerace meeting. Check in went smoothly and the prerace meeting was short and to the point. Meet at 5:00 A.M. in the North parking lot for Maps, UTM’s and instructions. Race to start at 6:00 and we would be on bikes. Just enough info to get you to the start and to make you stay up half the night wondering what type of torture was ahead. No matter how long or short a race is or how many we have done the prerace butterflies never completely go away!
At 5:00 sharp Peter and I picked up our instructions and were back in the room plotting our course. It had been decided that Peter would navigate and I would be the 2nd set of eyes. Checkpoints were marked and double-checked, a tentative route was planned and we headed towards our support vehicles for the last minute prep. Lisa, Todd, Dean and Dave were already there and working there way to the start line. I quickly grabbed my bike and followed along.
It was 5:58 and I could not get rid of this nagging sensation that I had forgot something when Lisa asked me “were is Peter?” I had left Peter at the car and thought he had followed me up to the start! BIG PROBLEM! Were was he? I just saw him 5 minutes ago. Fortunately as Joe the Race Director yelled go, Peter pulled up next to me and were off!
The first leg comprised a 15-mile long bike that had teams stopping at two wooded areas to find 6 total checkpoints. Our two teams found the first area and quickly joined the mass confusion of teams dropping their bikes and running to find the first checkpoint. The three points were only about a mile or two apart and were obviously designed by the race staff to break up the field a bit.
Peter and I slightly over shot CP1 and decided we would hit it on the way out. Peter quickly got his bearings and we found CP2 just behind Todd and the gang. We hiked to CP3 with them and quickly shot back to find CP1.
Back on our bikes, our legs were loose and the butterflies were gone! After a couple of more miles we pulled into a small wooded recreation area to find three more points. A two to three mile run and we quickly found CP4, 5, and 6.
On our way to CP6 we bumped into a 4-person team comprised of all female racers who were doing their 1st race. They had very little experience and didn’t look as if they were having much fun. As we ran by I reminded them of the 1st rule of Adventure Racing. Have Fun! The rest will take care of itself. While this seemed like some pretty good philosophical motivation to me, I am not sure they felt the same way. After a couple of blank looks and “ya rights”, I picked up the pace and got out of their way.
Rule #2 of Adventure Racing - Don’t give unwanted advice to other teams…especially that early in the morning!
Pete and I found our bikes and were on our way. A 12-mile ride would break up the field further and we pulled up into CP7/TA1 in about 8th place. I checked us in and grab the o-course map while Peter changed out of his bike shoes. We had an amazingly quick transition even though it was the first race that Peter and I had done together. I looked at the map first to get an idea of what lay ahead and he took it from there. We discussed a quick attack strategy, marked our map, checked with each other to make sure we had plenty of food, gear, etc. and we plowed into the woods!
Almost immediately we bumped into Dean and the group at the first checkpoint. When I say bumped into them I am not kidding. I am a lot of things, but graceful is not one of them. Coming down a very steep ravine I took a nasty header and slammed into the ground just inches away from Dean and Lisa. After they realized that I was not a loose bolder or an angry bear plowing through the woods, they checked to see if I was ok. While I was sure I would be sore later, I was fine for the moment.
Peter and I proceeded on with everyone else to the next two or three O-Flags and the pace quickened. Lisa is incredibly strong and really pushed the pace. Todd is a top-notch navigator and with Dean and Dave eyeballing the map and pushing through the woods, they are arguably one of the best 4 person combos out there.
Peter had a great handle on the maps! We chose a little different route than the others and broke from the group. As we headed down a re-entrance and through what looked like easy running through the woods, we happened upon another two teams. About a half-mile further and I began to feel that somewhat familiar, unpleasant stinging sensation on my legs. Just then one of the other teams began to complain about how itchy they were. Stinging Nettle! We must have run in to a huge patch because it was pretty intense. Nothing that was going to delay us, just something that would make the next 10 minutes uncomfortable.
We kept plowing along at a lightning quick pace. Peter did an AWSUME job on the maps. His reading of the topo lines were right on. If he said “the marker should be right over this ridge” or “half way down this gully” he was dead on. We ran almost the entire course and in ruffly two hours found all 10 controls without a mistake.
Joe the race director had made things a bit more interesting by not hanging the punch on the orienteering flag. Once you found the flag you needed to follow a clue to find the punch. Example: from flag (bearing 285 degrees, 20 yards, big tree). Someone should tell Joe that WE WERE IN A FOREST!!!!!! There are a lot of BIG TREE’s!!
All kidding aside it was actually very clever and made it a lot of fun.
We ran out of the forest a bit cut up, pleased with our performance, feeling great, and happy to be on our way. I again checked us in and Peter went to our support team to get us ready to move. I handed in our control card; race management checked it and confirmed that we had indeed reached every control. To my surprise, they then handed me back an identical control card as the first one, but only in a different color.
Now there are certain things in life that people say that can give you the “this can’t be happening to me” feeling. A couple of examples might be when a police officer says “you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law” or as in this situation when the race volunteer says “YOU NOW NEED TO DO THE ENTIRE O-COURSE AGAIN! Yikes!
On the plus side, this time we could use bikes if we wanted. I ran back to tell Peter and to discuss how we wanted to approach this curve ball. We both agreed that many sections would be faster on bikes, but we also new that certain areas would be much easier on foot. Since we are both stronger bikers and were hoping for some single-track, we chose bikes.
Even though we had already found the checkpoints on the first go around it was a completely different course the second time. Since we were on bikes we had to adjust our approach so that we could utilize the trails better and minimize the bushwacking. Peter was again right on and we did even better the second time through. We bumped in to Lisa, Todd, Dean and Dave again for the last time of the day and learned that they had taken a little different approach to the course on the first go around. A couple of problems and miscues had cost them some time and they had dropped back a bit.
We wished each other luck and everyone kept moving. Peter checked us in this time and I went strait to the TA. Once back at the TA our support crew was all over it. They had are Perpetuam and Gatorade refilled, our maps ready and they got us on our way.
The next leg of the race was a 20-mile bike leg that promised to be EXTREMELY hilly (At least for the Midwest anyway). Peter had come with two routes. One was a safe course that took us a bit out of our way, but was comprised mostly of primary roads. The second looked like it cut 3 miles or so off of our journey, but there was a ton of turns to get lost on and roads that promised to be gravel or dirt.
As we started to discuss our options, Pete said “Oh..I forgot to tell you we are in like 2nd place in our division and 4th or 5th overall” I jumped in and made the decision for us. I had complete confidence in our ability to navigate the potentially difficult roads and we were in the mix! I voted for the shorter route.
It turned out to be a good decision. The roads were not bad at all and it was much more direct. Peter was directing our turns and I was double checking him. For the most part we were right on. At one point we were feeling real good about our direction when, as it always does when you get over confident, we made a wrong turn. We were almost to the top of this very long, very difficult hill when a team zoomed by us going the opposite direction. At that point we both felt it would be a good idea to check our map. Sure enough we realized our mistake. A mistake is always easier to overcome when you realize it at the top of a hill….going back up can make you crabby. J We flew back down and were on track again.
Peter really picked us up during this section. My legs were getting a little crampy and his support kept us on track. He is a real strong biker and it really showed on those hill.
Peter and I had a great time on this section. We worked hard, talked a lot, cracked jokes, and had a lot of fun. We pulled in to the TA feeling good and ready for our next challenge.
We checked in, got our passport punched and hooked up with our support crew. Once again are transition was flawless. Our crew had our climbing gear ready, we chugged a Red Bull and we were off on foot to the Rappel. We could see the cliff about a half-mile away, but were given no map or instruction on how to get there. We took a trail to a small clearing and came upon a small river. We searched for a safe way across. The point we chose was waist deep, although it quickly over my head when I tripped on a submerged log and fell face forward into the muddy water. I quickly grabbed the far bank and we continued on.
The Rappel was absolutely spectacular. 170 feet up with a truly inspiring view! Peter went first and I quickly followed. We made it back to the TA and prepped for the paddle section and the race to the finish line.
As we were dragging our tandem kayak to the river my Dad reminded us not to take off our PFDs and to be careful. While good advice, I kind of felt like I was 16 again and borrowing the car for the first time. With all sincerity it was a great experience to have my Dad on our support crew. It was his first race and he had a great time. He got to see what the sport is all about and why my friends and I enjoy it so much.
We entered the water still in second in our division, but now 6th overall. It was a very cool paddle! Seeing that Peter and I are strong paddlers, I was hoping that we could make up some time and maybe pass a couple of teams. Fallen trees and other hazards choked the route so we could never really develop any steam. We ended up portaging at least 5 times on a 6-mile paddle.
We did pass one team and cruised under the finish line 2nd in our division and 5th overall (Official Results are not yet posted). Not a bad finish considering there were some real good teams and great racers involved.
Todd, Lisa, Dean and Dave had made up a ton of time on the bike and passed a bunch of teams on the river. When they hit the Rappel, there was a delay do to a rope problem. At the time this report we were unsure of how much time would be taken off their total and were there final placement would be.
The race staff did a great job and the course was fun and challenging. While it was by far not the longest or toughest race weave done, it was a very fun race to do. It was defiantly well put together. Race management was also very accommodating to the multiple changes we had before the race.
As we noted before it was the first time that Team Virabhadrasana and Fat Otter combined to race together and I am sure it won’t be the last. Peter and I had a great race together and I think we both agreed that it was a ton of fun! We are all looking forward to training hard, getting better and enjoying our next race!