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Friday, October 1, 2010

Duluth wrap up (final part)

Our team, "Finding Ourselves Lost" after 23.5 hours on the go.
We rode through the city of Duluth, navigating the streets on maps without street names at 5 am.  Tammy was fighting with the sleep monsters and wanted to just give in - i let Jim and Pat do the encouraging as i knew that i was the last person she wanted to hear from - a cheery 'you're doing great hon' from me would not make things better.  Tammy refused a tow, but kept on moving and eventually, just as the sky was beginning to lighten, we arrived at the first section of technical mt. biking, Lester Park.

Awesome trails greeted us as the sun came up - lots of dips and turns through the forest - some narrow bridges with (sometimes a bit sketchy) drops into drainages on either side.  A beautiful river gorge.  It was over all too quick though, with only two CP's in the park.  Logan and Erik passes us on the way in as we were headed out, as did a couple of other teams that must have gotten lost on the pedal through duluth.

After this we headed (still without refilling water) about 15 or so miles through duluth and up what seemed like an endless climb through a residential neighborhood to the next mt. bike section.  Logan and Erik finally caught us as we rolled into the parking lot - having set the fastest time on the previous technical section, despite it being Logan's first ever time on single track, and his riding a suspension-less dinosaur of a bike.

They were tired as a result and we decided to team up.  rather than ride all the very windy expert trails to two more CP's, we opted to take an old snow-mobile trail that was on the map, despite being advised that it was 'very wet'.  We thought it was a bluff, and were partially right.  although it took a bit of time to orient ourselves amongst a bunch of ski trails that were NOT on our map, we finally found what we were looking for and made short work of the section, only finding about 200 feet of muddy mess and otherwise straightforward and very END-AResque riding.  We still had to ride down about a mile of a rocky 'expert' trail which was pretty fun for some of us and less so for others.  We also learned that many teams had opted to skip this section - something we weren't aware that we could do..... (i'll comment more on this at the end.)

Although we still had more than 30 miles of biking and at least one checkpoint on the orienteering section to get, we felt like we were on the home stretch and, besides feeling (very) saddle sore, were confident we were going to make it to the finish.  That's when Erik's bike broke.
Look Ma!  No crank!  Erik's bike with 30+ miles to go.
Erik was peddling along and then felt as though his left foot had come out of the pedal.  He looked down to see that although he was wrong and his foot was still very much attached to his pedal, the entire left crank arm had come unattached.  We all stopped and puzzled over what to do.  We looked for the bolt that attaches the crank that must have either loosened or sheared off but couldn't find it.  Pat's tool kit had fallen out of his pack after the zipper broke early in the race, so we were limited to a single multi-tool and couldn't imagine a way to reattach the crank.  Without thinking or consulting the rest of my team (not a smart move), i decided on a course of action.  Pat would tow Tammy (she was the lightest) on Erik's bike, and he would ride her bike.  I'd just assumed that we were all (the six of us) in it together and that the mission was now to get everyone to the finish or all miss the cut off together.

Off we went - struggling up the hills - walking the steeper ones (where tammy struggled with the one legged pedaling) but always making what in AR is the key to success - (relentless) forward progress.  After about 10 miles of this Tammy and pat, who were always falling a bit behind, were grumbling.  They were all about helping another team - but this 'joining forces' was jeopardizing our chances to complete the race.  This was Jim, Pat, and Tammy's first 24 hour race and they really wanted to finish.... sure they felt sorry for Erik and Logan's bad luck and wanted to help, but wasn't there another way to do it?  When i learned of this I apologized for making the executive decision for the team and we changed plans - we'd put Pat's tow rig on logan's bike (they hadn't brought their own tow rig, both being equally strong riders) and wish them the best, then get the hell out of there and chase down the finish line.

Me at the finish
Turns out this is what we should have done in the first place as they were able to keep up with us just fine despite their disadvantage (although i like to imagine that it did take some effort).  We rolled on up and down hills all the way to the Orienteering course in Jay Cooke state park, where we arrived at about 2:30.  After looking at the map i thought we should initially go for three of the points, but the others put their foot down at just one.  This was probably for the best as it took us longer than anticipated to 'get in the map' and locate the first one, and at least for much of the team, running wasn't really an option.  Back at the bikes around 3:15 we had a few monster hills to go up and then an easy cruise on paved path to the finish (during which Pat set a blistering pace, while towing jim, of right around 20 mph - no exaggeration.  I mean WTF pat?  why were you saving that until the end?! (;  ).  Sure we finished 3rd out of 3 in the coed category - but we finished, so we were happy.  And let me tell you, that sparkling peach faux bubbly tasted oh so sweet.

Afterword:  The biggest disappointment of the race was the misunderstanding that we had about the 'race rules' as it pertained to which CP's were mandatory.  During the pre-race meeting it was stated that all the CP's other than the O-course had to be gotten in order.  Apparently, however, they were also all optional.  In other words, many teams skipped straight from 19 to 23, not doing the second (and harder) of the two mountain bike sections.  Other teams couldn't find CP 9 and just skipped it, without penalty.  When we learned that 'skipping' CP's was an option, 16 hours into the course, it didn't make much sense.  there were 20 points in the O-course, and although navigationally challenging, certainly less physically so (on an 'energy expenditure per point basis) than many of the other points.  We would have fared much better as a team had we skipped many of the CP's early in the course and gotten lots of CP's in the O course.  I don't think that the race was really set up to accommodate this though - the 'optional' nature of the CP's might have been intended to allow teams that were behind to still make the finish.  But to me it seemed not a great way to do things - as there didn't seem to be any 'minimum' course that all teams had to complete, and so no sense that teams that were ranked ahead of ours had to at least go through what we went through.  I'll be sure to have a very clear sense of the requirements next time.

I wasn't sure how Tammy and I would do racing together, but it turned out to be pretty great.  She did get pretty tired and grumpy for a while, but to her credit, never got sour or quit but just put her head down and kept right on going.  From about half way through (after the paddle) she became fond of telling all the volunteers that this was her first and last 24 hour race - a promise on which she had reneged by the time she had finished her first cup of good coffee the next morning.
The marriage survived.


  1. Geez Andy, that bike Logan was riding got me through last fall's END-AR and Chase through END-SPAR! Who needs suspension?

    I will admit that I'm sick of the sticky front dérailleur at this point, but what can I say? I don't have another mountain bike!

  2. You guys are way more hardcore than me. I'll admit that around here you really don't need suspension - but there were some boulders to ride over (and off of) that were pretty gnarly without it. That being said, for the 99.5% of the course that wasn't this technical, Logan's bike was, function wise, just as good as mine!