The Overmountain Extreme AR was set in the North Carolina Mountains near the town of Morganton. The unforgiving mountainous terrain and breathtaking scenery set the stage for a heated battle between some of the Southeast's best teams. Coming off of a two-win streak was Team Litespeed, but they would have to answer to ASM SE and Hooked, both of which had just been reunited with their previously injured female teammates who were hungry for victory. Racing for ASM SE was female staple Lisa Randall, joined by Ardie Olson and Chip Whitworth.
The opening sprint on foot gave ASM SE a chance to stretch their legs before a demanding first leg on the bikes. A plotting error sent the team out of the TA in the opposite direction as the competition for what proved to be one of the best accidental route choices in the race. While the route was a bit longer, it had considerably less elevation gain and some flat sections through a valley which allowed the team to cover ground quickly. Arriving near CP2 and backtracking on foot up the one mile trail to CP1 turned out to be a strategic move that put the team 45 minutes ahead at the first transition.
The next section of the course was a pre-defined hike up and over Grandfather Mountain. The hike was rough and technical with the downhills requiring almost as much work as the uphills. After summiting the mountain and making the bouldery descent, the team jogged into the TA with a comfortable lead and transitioned to bikes.
The start of the second bike leg was a welcome relief, downhill and on pavement. This wouldn't last long as the team turned off the highway and headed into the hills on gravel roads. A quick hike-a-bike through an abandoned doubletrack trail put ASM SE out on the Mountains To Sea Trail, and a nice long downhill section followed. At the bottom of the descent, teams dropped their bikes and left on a long trekking section that continued along the Mountains To Sea Trail towards Chestnut Mountain. A misplaced CP along the route caused ASM SE to lose time to the chasing Litespeed, who inadvertently stumbled across the misplaced CP as they approached from a different location. Hearing voices off in the distance, ASM SE took off down the trail and were eventually caught by Litespeed near the end of the trek. A shortcut across the river and up the embankment saved ASM SE some distance and put them into the TA about 5 minutes in front of Litespeed.
Leaving the TA on the final bike leg, ASM SE rode hard up the initial climb in an attempt to distance themselves from Litespeed. ASM SE stretched their lead to about 10 minutes by the time they arrived at the first CP on the section. After searching for the CP without any luck, the team continued ¾ mile down a steep hill thinking they might have been in the wrong place. After realizing they had been at the correct location, the team had to turn around and ride back up the punishing climb, only to see Litespeed on their way down. ASM SE found the CP the second time around and headed back down the road, but was unable to chase effectively as their female, racing with a broken finger, was unable to ride as aggressively as usual. When ASM SE arrived at the final TA, they were told that Litespeed had arrived 30 minutes before.
A 4 mile lake paddle and 12 mile river paddle were the last remaining legs of the race and ASM SE knew they had a huge deficit to make up. To their surprise, they arrived at the river put-in right behind Litespeed and quickly passed them at one of the many shallow canoe-drag sections. Working their way through the shallow shoals and efficiently jumping out and dragging when the boat when necessary allowed ASM SE to paddle away from Litespeed. 10 miles later, a tired but excited ASM SE paddled into the finish for what was a tough win over tough competition. Litespeed arrived 30 minutes later, followed by Hooked who were another 2 hours and 45 minutes back.
After arriving at the finish, ASM SE learned that they would receive a 3 hour penalty for traveling to CP 1 on foot, as was Litespeed for inadvertently missing a CP on the first trek. While the outcome was the same for ASM SE, Hooked moved into second place, bumping Litespeed down to third.
The Overmountain Extreme was put on by race directors Chris Brown and Michele Hobson and was very well run. The course was truly what every AR course should be. Those who missed it should make plans to include it on their racing calendars for next year as it will likely only get better.
report by Lisa Randall