2016 USARA National Championship

5AM boys!  Time to get up and butter the biscuits!

You know there is nothing better than crawling out of a warm bed to go slap cold lube on your butt cheeks and stuff them into a pair of spandex cycling shorts.  But, when you’re getting ready to race 30 hours at the USARA National Championship, that’s how you get rad.  I wonder if this is how Team Adventure Medical Kits and Tecnu roll out of bed…I doubt it.

We staggered into the Savannah Rapids Convention Center where we were given a map the size of a bed sheet, a list of 36 UTM coordinates to plot, and an hour and a half to get our crap figured out before loading buses and heading off to the starting line.  Lucky for us we found a little corner of a fish cleaning station to do our map work.  We never got our crap figured out, but we were pretty good at faking it.

Prologue

After a short bus ride to Wildwood Park, we were given a final pre-race briefing and then it was game on.

The prologue consisted of grabbing 12 CPs around the International Disc Golf Center.  180+racers converging on the first CP led to some interesting last second route choices by many teams.  Stephen was leading the nav on this section and we ended up clearing it quickly and with no issues.

Boat 1

The prologue ended up spreading out…well…no one really.  Teams were all over the place, scrambling to launch canoes and get on the water as quickly as possible.

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Todd, always in full race mode, decided this was the perfect time for him to capture some epic videos of the race.  Or, as I like to call it,  bailing out on paddling…

But, who can blame him for capturing a video of this epic 4.5 hour paddling section.  Oh, did I say 1 video…oh no, I meant 2 videos.  Todd still not paddling…

Or was that three slacker sessions, Uh I mean totally rad video captures.  Anyone want to guess whose limp paddle that is?

Actually, Todd, AKA “Limp Paddle” did awesome navigating the canoe section and we cleared this section quickly.  And by quickly I mean 50 minutes slower than the fastest 3 teams.  If I could only think of a way to make a three man kayak go faster…hmmm…I’ll have to ponder that one.

Bike 1

On to the bikes, and a quick ride over to Mistletoe State Park.  We were racing neck and neck with our Florida compadres, Good ‘Nuff and Off the Grid Racing until I decided we should pick up CP14.  Totally awesome move, until Shane Hagerman (bad ass adventure racer on team Happy Mutant Main Nerve) reminded us that CP14 could only be gotten on foot and not on bike.  Oh yeah, we got them rules and stuff we should pay attention to.

We raced off along Rock Dam Trail to the transition area, and I was lucky enough to impale myself on the only piece of rebar along Gawd Damn Trail, I mean Rock Dam Trail.  Red Badge of Courage earned and, more importantly, photographed.  I was feeling manly and ready to rock (after a short break, a few snacks, and maybe a hug or two from Stephen that is).

Trek 1

Now on foot, we could get CP14.  We could also get CP13 and CP15 according to the rule sheet that we started reading.  Now, if we could only read a map.  That’s something that could come in handy.  We decided to poke around CP13 for awhile.  These CPs can be kinda skittish you know, and you don’t want to just go blasting towards them.  Instead, you kinda want to circle around them a few times, picking out just the proper way to approach them.  We’ve been to USARA Nationals, we know these things.

Bike back to Wildwood

After we cleared the foot section, we had to bike back to Wildwood Park.  You would think that biking back the same way that we came in would be easy.  You’d think that.  Yep, so would we.  For the sake of a short race report, let’s just imagine a quick bike ride back to Wildwood without me deciding to try a new path we hadn’t been on before.  And let’s just imagine that the new path led exactly where we thought it would, rather than meandering off into the never ending wilderness…yeah, that’s a nice thought, let’s go with it.

The good news is we found our way to Wildwood and we also found one of the greatest inventions ever made by man…

Trek 2

By now it was dark.  We were hopped up on Coke and ready to start our second O-course.  We were actually doing pretty well on this section until we ran into CP20.  We were doing a straight bearing shot from 21 to 20 and you can see how close we were to the control, but we just didn’t see it.  So, we headed northeast to the shoreline, dropped down to find the inlet and shot another bearing past 20.  We knew the CP had to be somewhere between those intersecting bearing and finally found it within 10 feet from where we originally were.  Bummer!

The cool thing though is that we ran into another set of Florida adventure racers, 3 Shades of Gray out of Pensacola, FL.  Awesome set of guys who we enjoyed running with for a little while.  I’ll say it again, the best part of adventure racing is meeting all of the really cool people out on the course.  We hope to see you guys at the FLX Adventures Earth Day AR in Tallahassee next year.

Bike to Final Paddle

You know what helps to keep your bike moving?  Pedals!  Yep, all the cool kids have them now…they’re kind of a big deal.  You know what’s not cool?  Riding Bartram’s Trail for 3 hours on this.

But, in Adventure Racing, things can always be worse.  Like having your rear hub explode on you and then having to race with your bike on your back.  Kudos to Kevin Tobin of Team ASR – Raging Burritos.  First rate dude, first rate!

Trek 3 – Clarks Hill Dam

We finally made it to Clarks Hill Dam for the final O-course.  This section would prove to be challenging for many teams.  While pros like WEDALI would clear this section in 1:50:20, us mere mortals would take 3:43:55.  Of course, I’m sure WEDALI didn’t have the pleasure of meeting the convenience store operator who told us that the land owner next door would shoot us if we ended up on his property.  Now that’s useful information.

After checking every reentrant in this area twice, we finally cleared the section and moved on to the final paddle section, tired and a little hungry #DennysGrandSlam.

Paddle 2 – Final Paddle

We hit the final paddle section just before day break and if there is anything that will put you to sleep quicker than reading this race report, it’s paddling on a dark, flat river after 21 hours of racing.  While most experts may think that canoes are meant for the water, adventure race directors know that canoes are best lugged around on foot…especially uphill.  The final Portage section…uh I mean Paddle section to the Savannah Rapids Visitor Center was beautiful.  At least they didn’t make us paddle upstream.  Todd nailed the nav on this section and I think he even paddled once or twice, between naps of course.

Final Bike:

Only 3 CPs were left in the race, and we were excited that we had cleared the course up to this point.  With Florida Xtreme right behind us, and Off the Grid out in front, the race was still on.  The race took us along the Augusta Canal Trail with a short detour along the Savannah Mountain Bike Trail and to a final CP at the end of the path.

Right after punching the final CP, we passed Off the Grid going to the final CP.  Somehow we had managed to get in front of them.  Now, the race was really on.  Those guys are strong bikers and I knew we’d have to pedal our tails off not to be passed just before the finish line.  So, we formed a pace line and cranked it out as hard as we could.  Stephen still had his broken pedal and how he managed to hang on to our rear wheel for the final sprint finish, I don’t know.  But he did and Todd and I couldn’t have been prouder.

A final sprint to the finish to claim 4th Place Open Division was an awesome way to end the race.

Conclusion

USARA Nationals is always a great race with amazing competitors.  The winning team, Adventure Medical Kits, cleared the course in 17:24:38 hours, compared to our time of…well now there’s really no need to compare finish times is there?  Actually, we cleared the course in 26:51:44 Putting us 19th overall.  The top racers in the coed and the master’s divisions are absolutely amazing athletes and we’re just thrilled that we get to participate in this race alongside of them.

USARA hosted an awesome after party where we got to kick back with our fellow competitors and the new friends we met while consuming large quantities of beer…I mean exercising Calorie Replacement Therapy.  Good times had all around and we can’t wait to be back next year.  A heartfelt thank you to those that have supported our meager efforts:

Todd and Stephen, Rock Stars as always.  Thanks for not abandoning me out in the woods.

And to those that actually read these verbose postings, thank you!  I hope you get some enjoyment out of them…you’re definitely not going to learn anything from them.  If you get a chance, please like our Facebook page or comment below.  We love to hear from other racers and it helps feed my ego.

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