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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2015 USARA National Championship

28 hours, 11 minutes, 15 seconds

93 miles

12,289′ of elevation gain

11,660′ of elevation lost

One hell of a good time!

Two weeks after completing the 18Hr Howl at the Moon Adventure Race, we tackled the 2015 USARA National Championship with only one goal in mind, Don’t Quit.  With 58 teams from all over the US competing, this was going to be a huge race.  We knew that we were running with the big boys and girls on this one so we tried to stay out of the way, run our own race, and have a good time.  Once again, we partnered with Jake Brewer from Team Jax.  His navigation skills are beyond mine and I knew his personality was a good fit, plus he’s a horse and I wanted someone we’d have to work to keep up with.  Ha, I crack myself up.  We have to work to keep up with everyone.

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Anyway, the week prior to the race, we had been watching the weather hoping that it would improve.  Instead, the forecast got worse with predictions of constant rain and temperatures ranging between 58-48 degrees.  To some of you, that may sound perfect but for a couple of Floridians, wet and 50 is cold and misery.  With a week of rain heading into Nationals, the course was destined to be wet and muddy.

Prologue

The race started off with a bang as someone shot a miniature cannon to begin the race.  Soon, we were all heading into the woods to collect 6 points prior to heading off to the boats, where the real race would begin.

Due to race jitters and adrenaline, I always think that the first couple of checkpoints are the toughest and this proved to be true.  We struggled on the 2nd CP, attacking too high on a ridge and having to backtrack to a known location and re-attack.  Having collected it, we headed back to the start to grab our paddle gear and make a dash to the river below to start the race.  We were already almost last but there was a lot of racing ahead of us, and honestly we were here for the event and not even concerned about position.  Okay, maybe a little.

Boat 1 (TA1-TA2)

Boat 1 was a beautiful paddle down the Cumberland River.  The swollen river was flowing with Class I rapids that provided a little excitement.  We hadn’t had three in a canoe for a long time, so it was interesting getting our rhythm and balance back.  I was leading the navigation and we hit CP1 without any problems–it was on the tip of an island so it was impossible to miss.  CP2 though was another story. I knew we were close to the tributary for CP2, but I thought it was further downstream.  Luckily, we came across another team already on shore searching for the control.  I thought they had stopped too soon and we were about to head further downriver when their teammate came back and said that he found the control.  If it wasn’t for them, we would have blown by it and then had to struggle upstream to recover it.  I was disheartened by my nav error.

There were only 2 checkpoints on this section so off we went to find the takeout.  The canoe takeout was up a small creek on the south side of the river.  Well-hidden, we went past it at first.  Jake tucked us into a small alcove to avoid being swept downriver by the strong current while we consulted the map.  Realizing my error, we struggled back upstream to cross the river and enter the creek.  We followed the creek to the muddy takeout and struggled to drag our boats up the slippery, steep embankment to the drop off point.

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King of the Mountain (TA3-TA4)

After dropping off the canoes, we “ran” to TA3 for the next challenge.  The next stage was aptly named, “King of the Mountain”, a 1250′ mountain bike climb up State Park Rd to Lee Gap.

While not the most impressive time, I was really proud of our performance on this section.  Florida is not known for its mountains and most overpasses and bridges don’t come close to 1250′ in elevation.  With shortness of breath and quads of fire, we made TA4b to start the first O-course.

O-Team Orienteering Leg (TA4b-TA4c)

The O-Team Orienteering Leg was a timed O-course with the fastest team earning bragging rights and possible a trophy or something.  We were just trying to clear it without getting too lost.  Jake took the reins as navigator and led us through without faltering.  Our time to clear was 1:55:55 while the fastest team, GOALS ARA, did it in 1:17:20.  Now, I’m not sure, but I think I captured one of the GOALS ARA team members pre-race before he had time to put on his running tights…something ain’t right about that boy.

GOALS ARA
GOALS ARA

Bike 2 (TA4c – TA5)

After finishing the O-Course, we got to fly down the mountain we just spent an hour biking up.  With brakes ablaze, we flew back to the Wilderness Trail Off-Road Park where we got to pedal and push our bikes through muddy muck in the search for 9? checkpoints.  The near-constant rain had devastated the once dry and flowing single track, turning the trails into rivulets of mud and rock.  By the time we got to the field of cows at CP13, we decided that it was best to leave CP14 and just grab CP15 on the way to the second canoe section.  We had already been on the bikes for 6+ hours and our legs were shot.  Well, mine were anyway.  Jake was churning away at the pedals like a madman.

Canoe 2 (TA5-TA5b)

We hit Cannon Creek Lake well into the night, and decided to add layers and scarf down some cheeseburgers before heading out onto the water.  Warm food and coffee was a welcomed luxury after 12+ hours of racing.  The lake was much warmer than expected, to the appreciation of Ana who is not very tolerant of the cold.  We hit the controls counter-clockwise, but had some difficulty locating CP17.  I was navigating and lost my bearing trying to follow the shoreline in the dark.  After backtracking to the reentrant between CP16 and CP17 to regroup, we made our way to CP17 without any problems.  This is also where we met up with Jake’s wife, Shelby, and their dog, Reese who had patiently waited for our arrival and cheered us on.  We even had time for this Glamour Shot in front of the decaying building.

Unfortunately, this is also where I lost my brand-new beloved Fenix PD35 flashlight 😦 Not cool.  So Fenixlighting.com, if you’re reading this (and honestly how could you not) I sure would appreciate if you’d send me a replacement.  What if I say, “Pretty Please with sugar on top!”

Bike 3 (TA5b – TA6)

Never in the history of mankind has a bike been pushed so far and for so long.  Did I mention that biking is not our strong category?  For 3 hours we pushed our bikes uphill to get from the canoe takeout to the Pine Mountain Resort Lodge where we would begin the final section.  Actually, there were some downhills.  After busting a lung and setting your hamstrings afire pushing 28lbs of metal up steep inclines, you were awarded with a handlebar clenching decent down Slippy Skippy, single track so muddy and slippery that brakes were of no use.  You can imagine a rutted out rocky trail of mud so slick, it was like trying to ride on warmed peanut butter.  The best part was the suicidal option of trying to descend the powerline trail…Nope, nope and more nope.

O-Course (TA6 – Finish)

After a quick check-in at the lodge, we hit the final O-course at 4:20AM.  The sun would be rising soon, helping us to find checkpoints, so we decided to go counter-clockwise and get the easiest but furthest controls first.  This section was a real highlight for us.  The hiking was amazing with some beautiful features such as an old railway tunnel, the stone arch, and Chained Rock.

There was even a rails to trails bridge crossing where Ana almost plummeted to her death, but I don’t have any pictures of that.  Who knew there would be a railroad bridge with trusses missing?  And who would walk on the trusses instead of the planks set aside for pedestrians…yep, that would be us.

I was really proud of the way our team was clicking together for the O-Course navigation, especially for CP23 and CP24.  Jake was leading the navigation and we took our bearing and distance measurement for CP23 then leapfrogged to it.  We had to army-crawl and bushwhack through tons of brush, but we ended up within 5-10 feet of the marker.  CP24 was about the same.  Another good bearing and distance measurement to the CP, and a long butt-slide down a reentrant until my altimeter hit 1400′ where Jake hopped the small ridge to our left and found the control.  Then it was off to our last control, CP25, where things got a little sideways.

We were pretty worn out by this time and wanted to avoid bushwhacking up and over another ridge, so we decided to first attack from the west.  All we had to do was find the mapped railroad tracks and follow them in behind the hill.  So, we ran across an open field but instead of tracks, we found a raised berm.  Not sure if we were on the now-removed tracks, and not knowing if we were on private property, we ran back across the field to the safety of the road.  I’m not really into getting shot at or having to defend myself from dogs, so I really don’t like being on someone’s property.  We then decided to attack from the east and find the tracks that way, but we came to a dead end at someone’s driveway.  Luckily, the owner stepped out at that time and allowed us to cross his property, thus avoiding a major blunder.  Once on the tracks, we found the control and made our hasty retreat.

Finish

A final death march back up to the lodge and across the finish line was all that was left.  We did the AR-shuffle as best we could on the downhills and crossed the finish after 28 hours, 11 minutes, 15 seconds putting us in 24th out of 58 teams overall.  Although it would have been great to clear the course, I couldn’t be any happier with our performance.

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The #1 team, Tecnu, cleared the course in 16:22:37, which is absolutely amazing.  Many thanks to my teammates, Ana and Jake, who pushed through the toughest race I’ve done to date.  Ana, you constantly amaze me!  I couldn’t wish for a better pair of people to spend 30hrs getting lost in the woods with.  Stephanie from Flying Squirrel Adventures did an amazing job as race director putting together a challenging, fun, and beautiful course.  Thank you especially for scheduling the constant rain and extra mud.  The volunteers were absolutely fantastic as always, as were our hosts at the Pine Mountain Resort Lodge (I apologize for the absolute mess we left you in our cabin).  We are grateful to Bell County  for allowing us to run through their woods and especially USARA for continuing to support and grow the “Best Damn Sport Ever.”

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We’re going to Nationals!

Team Disoriented is going to the USARA Adventure Race National Championship!

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What!  That’s right folks, we’re going to Nationals.  One of the goals that I had for our team this year was to qualify for the USARA Adventure Race National Championship.  USARA sponsors regional adventure races throughout the year and teams that place high enough at one of these events gets invited to race the nationals.  We performed well enough at one of the races to qualify and we’re super excited, and nervous.

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Many of the top adventure racing teams in North America will be at the USARA Nationals.  We, of course, will not be competing at their level.  But, it will be exciting to be in a race with so many high performing teams.  Did I mention we were nervous?  Yep, it’s going to be pretty tough and it will really test the limits of our skills (we’ve got skills, right?) .  But, ultimately, these races are done for the experience of getting out and testing ourselves, seeing some amazing scenery and meeting some of the coolest people around…like us!

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Just by participating, we’ve already won.  Yeah, I know, cheesy right.  But, it’s true.  We race against ourselves and against the course, not against other teams.  Which is good because other teams just blow us away.

The race takes place at Pine Mountain State Resort Park in Kentucky.  I’ve heard rumors that they have mountains.  We’ll see how this flat-land Florida team handles those.  There is a 30-hour cutoff time for all teams, and I’m sure we’ll need every minute, and more, to complete it.  The setting is going to be spectacular and it’s close enough that we can make the drive in a day.

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Anyway, we don’t have time now to keep chit-chatting with all of you, we got some training to do.  Plus, I gotta go figure out what this UTM thingy is.  By the way, you may have noticed a Donate button on the right side bar (yeah you can’t pretend to ignore it now).  We hate to be beggars, but the Nationals are going to cost a pretty penny, and a lot of ugly one’s too, so if you like the site and want to contribute to the team going to nationals, we’d truly appreciate it.

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