June 2010

Meet Nicole

We've started to get a few single racers interested in signing up for the race - ok, actually only one - but since we make it a mission to let everyone who wants to suffer (in a good way, really!) have a chance to do so, we thought we'd better start getting things in place for matching up single racers. So let me introduce Nicole. She's a newbie who just saw the race on the midwest events calendar and is dying to try it. Although she's never raced before, she's an experienced triathlete and half-marathoner, and says that endurance is definitely her forte. In fact, here's her exact quote:

"I've never done a race like this but if I have a strength it is endurance, not overly fast, but can go for a long time."

I promised Nicole we'd hook her up, so if anyone is looking for a female who's confident that she can go the distance just let me know and i'll put you in touch. Seems like this is a great opportunity for a team of two guys to grab her and graduate into the premiere category and compete for the cash prize! (oops, did i just mention a cash prize? Guess we'll have to go through with it now...)

Disclaimer: Any resemblance that Nicole may or may not bear to the above photo is purely coincidence, as it is not actually a photo of her! bonus points if anyone can tell me who it is though!

Scott Jensen's race report from END-AR 2009

Three people and three bikes in a single canoe?!  If you think that's crazy, just wait till you see what's in store this year!

Just got this in my email and it brought back so many good memories i thought i'd share it.  It also gives a great first hand perspective of the realities of adventure racing (where realities should be read difficulties) and there's even a few good lessons in there for the discerning reader.  Enjoy, and thanks Scott!

Scott’s Race report
I was extremely excited about this race.  I am old (48), slow, but pretty enthusiastic.  Terry B. and I had planned to be in the race but were looking for another teammate.  Both of us have done triathlons.  I had done the NDAR in 2007 with Mario C. who is an extremely good athlete and had only gotten better.  Decided Mario was now out of my league.  We heard that there was another racer from Bemidji looking for a team.  Had some reservations about an unknown because you don’t know if you will get someone you can’t get along with.  Decided to risk it and it turned out to be a great move.  Dave G. who had also done the race in 2007—on Andy’s team joined us in the last week.
I went to the Monday pre-race meeting and only got more excited.  Andy talked about the transition areas and let it out that a tree climb was near transition area 2.  I am not a climber, so on my next bike ride I checked out the tree.  I looked at that tree probably five times over the next several days, assessing whether I could climb it.  Mostly it just made my hands sweat.  As it turned out, I never got the chance.
Showed up for the pre-race meeting on Friday night.  Terry had arranged a canoe.  Met Dave and figured it would be a good race.  The pre-race meeting at Cabela’s was well attended and we used it to generally figure out our final gear list.  Food was big on my list, same as in 2007 but I didn’t really eat much of it.  The pre-race meeting was well organized.  Andy makes for an interesting speaker and that helped breed enthusiasm as well. 
The night of the race we got our canoe dropped off.  I got very little sleep.  This was my 15th “event” of 2009, and didn’t have any trouble sleeping for any of the rest of them, but knew this would be a challenging race.  Ate a good breakfast--egg mcmuffin and an energy drink. 
At 7:30 we got our maps.  We had two little Ziploc baggies to put our map and passport in.  (Left the bigger bags in the bin at checkpoint 2).  This proved bad because we could only see a little part of the map at a time.  Never really had the map, the clues, and the passport clues out all at once to compare or double check. 

 Scott waiting for the race start.

What I noticed about myself on this team is that I tended to race off and spend too little time planning or reading the map.  At 8 a.m. we started to run.  The weather was great.  We had a camelback backpack for each person, under-armor shirt and pants and a shell pants and coat in the backpack.  We carried little other gear.  The only trouble we had on the first running leg was missing the first checkpoint after the walking bridge.  We had to backtrack some along with other groups who took the trail to the left instead of the trail to the right.  They were probably only ten feet apart, so we should probably have covered both.  No big problem. 
Started the canoe segment with little delay.  None of us were probably expert canoers, but we made pretty good time going downstream.  We stopped at the optional canoe checkpoint and lifted Terry onto the top of the floodwall on top of Dave’s back.  We noticed that the Grijalva team got this checkpoint from the bike, which would have been quicker.  We portaged the canoe without re-entry and transitioned to the bike. 
So far,so good.  Then the bad decisions and bad map reading started to haunt us on the next two segments.  I can take responsibility for the mistakes, as I probably hogged the map and the passport.  Again, I would tend to want to run off, figuring that we could figure out the map and clues later.  It works if you are running in the right direction. 
We decided to go to optional checkpoint “C” without any real thought about the distance.  On top of that, we went there by going past the beet plant.  As we started to get closer to the plant we realized that we probably should have taken a more northerly route and worried whether we would have difficulty getting to “C” without traveling on Highway 2.  As it turned out, we were able to travel just north of the plant, crossed 2 without traveling on it, and were probably only a mile south of where we should have gone. 
There were a lot of teams at Checkpoint “C”.  They were all searching too far south, and so we joined them without really reading the clue.  Eventually we found the checkpoint, and several other teams saw us find it.  We put a rock in the bag with the passport and threw it across the muddy mess ravine to the closest team member and were on our way. 
The next segments were OK, although we were wet after getting the checkpoint in the big culvert.  We wasted no time and just jumped in there.  We miscalculated by a mile going north and spent a few minutes looking under the wrong area when we were supposed to be in the swamp by the bridge, but were still toward the front of the group we could see.  When we got to the next checkpoint in the ravine there was a woman stuck in the mud.  She said she couldn’t get out despite her husband pulling on her arm.  Terry and Dave helped get her out of the mud.  (Dave’s advice to the husband was that you don’t need to pull that hard, just pull her steady. J)  Seemed to work.  That checkpoint was harder than the swamp. 
Here’s where things fell apart.  We decided (probably mostly me) to go for checkpoint “D” without really much thought.  I was thinking at about six miles it was maybe 18 minutes out of the way.  (Calculating at road bike speed—my mountain bike was rented for the day.)  It took us forever against the tough wind, and we were pretty tired after we started to head south.  We drafted, but we were going slow.  It was tough when we realized we had to detour east a mile when we got close to the checkpoint, but didn’t’ want to chance it on a path through the trees.  We took just a few minutes at the bike checkpoint, and there were a lot of teams there, some of which had gone to the extra bike checkpoints and some who had not.
We figured we were half done with the race, and we had used up a little more than half our time.  The extra bike legs had kind of killed us, but we should still have been able to make it.  The next run, however, sealed our fate. 
We missed the first checkpoint after starting the run and had to double back.  There were a number of teams looking in the area where we were, so maybe a lot of teams ran by that one too.  I read the map wrong for the next checkpoint however.  We came out on a field edge.  I looked at the map and said that for checkpoints 13 and 14 we couldn’t be on the edge of the field.  Actually what the map said was that for 12 to 13, you could be on the edge.  From 13 to 14 you couldn’t.  A number of teams were right in front of us, running on the field edge.  We didn’t want to push the rules, so went down into the forest.  Basically the “killing fields” started for us at this point.  The checkpoint was to be in a drainage down from the end of the road.  In the forest we could see no road.  We spent about a week in the forest looking for this checkpoint.  I was absolutely covered in burrs.  We had similar problems at the next checkpoint.  It was to be near the power line that was the most southwest.  There were two strings of power lines.  Another week in the forest here.  Looked by the wrong power line.  We were exhausted when we got out, and ran past the next checkpoint near the sewage lagoon.  We probably covered three times the required distance on this run. 
One thing I will say about my partners, neither of whom I knew real well.  Both stayed positive.  Both were determined.  There was no quit in either of them.  Despite the fact that I had probably influenced most of the bad decisions, neither of them were critical—at least in my presence.  They were real fun to be with even when things went bad in the forest.
I was the slowest runner, and towards the end Dave would pick out a spot ahead and encourage me to run to that spot.  Once we got there he would let me walk a little while and then do it again.  It was pretty encouraging.  We were about all in, but this got the job done. 
By the time we got to the canoe area we had no time to try the formidable tree.  That is my only real regret about the race—the tree looked really interesting.  We canoed, lugged our bikes across the river and up the mud cliff and biked our way back with no more problems.  We were the last team to finish, at about 6:45.  We lost all of our optional checkpoints and would have been disqualified by 15 minutes but for the benevolence of Andy and the fact that there were only 3 three person open teams. 

 Scott (in the rear) piloting his team across the Red River on the bike ferry

I had an absolutely great time doing this race.  I will remember it much longer than the other triathlons, bike races, etc. that I did this year.  I will wear the shirt with pride regardless of our place of finish.  Couldn’t have had better partners than Terry or Dave.  I was impressed with Andy’s level of organization.  He had a lot of organization, great prizes and really great sponsors.  This was a first class experience for me and it will make me want to do this or another race again in the future.  Scott.

Information Leak

In lobbying the city for permission to do what is of course largely perceived as crazy stuff, I had to submit a report containing details about the upcoming race. I also had to make an appearance before the Grand Forks Safety Committee which was broadcast live to the community, during which the cat was let out of the bag about at least 'element' of the coming race. Since following the meeting a link to the full report appeared (briefly) on facebook, i figured that in the interest of leveling the playing field i'd let everyone know that, yes, there may be a portion of the race that requires swimming in the Red River. Rest assured, there will be ample safety provided and the swim will be optional, in case swimming in the Red is a major phobia for someone. The exact nature of the swim, it's length, and purpose, however, will not be disclosed as of yet.


XPD report - an inside look at expedition length AR

The link here goes to a friend of mine's race report from the XPD - a 10 day expedition race in australia.  Just wanted to put it out there to let people know what the upper end of the sport looks like.  Believe it or not, there's not much difference (logistics aside) between a 48 hour race and a 10 day race - in my opinion the most difficult transition is between 10-12 hour races and 36-48 hour beasts, where factors like night nav and sleep deprivation really test a team's adhesion and the individual members commitment to the common goal.  For some these longer races can seem easier than shorter ones, where competetive teams have to push themselves hard for a chance at the podium.  When you're going to be trekking for 150 miles, running the first 5 just doesn't seem to make much sense.....

Running mileage

I was out yesterday on a training ride and thought i'd check out the area i'd thought would serve as the main trekking section of the course (based on a purveyance of the area via Google Maps).  Looks like it's going to be better than expected and will only entail travel almost entirely on the wet side of the dike, which is much more fun than running down residential streets.  Looks like barring navigational mistakes, there will be about 5 miles or so of foot travel during this section, and another 1-2 miles during another section.  So this comes to about 6-7 miles of total foot travel, not including the occasional short forays into the bush that may be required to find a CP or two during the bike, packraft, or paddling sections.



Adventure Racing 101

END-AR will be a traditional style Adventure Race - and as such, many of the details are kept purposefully vague until the day of the race. The course is designed to allow novices to finish in under 10 hours (or in the case of the May race [END-SPAR] 4-6 hours). Although no race of this length should be take lightly, adventure racing's unique format tends to cater to a broader range of athletic talent than some types of races, for several reasons.

  • First off, as a team event, there will undoubtedly be more periods of rest for everyone - as the team will stop together every time one member needs to (to eat, to pee, to retie their shoes, etc).
  • Secondly, because of the orienteering involved, slower and more methodical teams can often do as well or better than careless and quick teams that while super fast, might find themselves overshooting checkpoints or making navigational errors.
  • Third - the variety of disciplines allows someone with a good basic fitness but broad range of skills to be as much of an asset (or more so) than someone who might, for example, be a top notch mountain biker but a poor paddler.
  • Fourth, and most importantly, is the role that teamwork plays. I've seen teams of super-athletes crumble as bickering ensued for some reason or another. A team that works well together and stays positive throughout can often finish a race than would have been almost impossible for each of the members to do on their own.

This being said, there are a few things that ought to be considered prerequisites for taking on such a race. Competitors need at least basic mountain biking as a significant portion of the biking sections will not be on paved roads. In addition, participants should be comfortable in a canoe (although most - not all - of the paddling will be downstream). Lastly, at least one team member needs to understand the basics of map and compass navigation. Mandatory checkpoints will be pre-plotted by race staff, but all navigation is the responsibility of each team.

All aspects of the course will have been tested and pre-run, and - we promise you - fantastic. Be ready for some serious adventure.

If you’ve never done a race, all I can say is sign up and do one...this one or any other...but get out there and see what you are made of. And when things start to seem too hard, remember your teammates and work together. For that is where the real reward of adventure racing comes - a reward that is notably absent from triathlons, marathons, bike racing, etc. You are not alone! Good teams never forget this!