Monday, June 16, 2008

Durango 12 Hour Adventure XStream Race

This was the race that almost didn't happen ten times over. First, we said we'd do it. Then we decided not to do it because it was an awful long way to drive to race for less than 12 hours. But then we thought maybe we should do it, because many of the other top teams would not be racing in Durango because Primal Quest was the next weekend. We would stand a good chance of gaining valuable series points. So, Lee and I said we were IN, and then David and then Oat said they'd race. Then, the week of the race, Lee and Oat got some kinda cold bug and we were on standby with decisions to be made Thursday, the day before we would have to leave for the race. Lee got better and Oat felt like he was well enough to race, so then on Wednesday we were on again. Then David twisted his ankle Thursday evening and we were on standby again until Friday morning.

Friday morning at 4:58 am, I got a text message from David that we were ON! His ankle was not good, but he felt he could tough out a short race on it. I was already loaded up and ready to go, so I hopped in Rubie the Subie and headed toward Denver to met the guys. I made a slight detour to pick up a paying passenger (Todd) we found on Craig's List who needed a ride to Durango. He was riding Ride the Rockies, which started this year in Durango. Hey - we needed the gas money! Lee had caught a ride down the previous day with Tina from another team. I told him to infect her with whatever cold bug might still be lurking in him.

Friday morning, I arrived at Oat's house to find that Oat was not remotely ready. He hadn't seen the text message about David being able to race, so he assumed we weren't racing. I think David woke him up when he knocked on Oat's door at 6:00 am. Oat wasn't even packed!!! I could have slept in!! David, Todd and I hung out chatting and drinking coffee with Oat's wife Annie while Oat ran around gathering up all his gear. At about 8:30 am, we finally headed out in a very crammed Dodge Ram Truck. Whoo Hoo - we were actually going to race this race!

The drive was filled with dead baby jokes. Somehow, we got all silly on that topic. Let's Git Some dead babies! It was funny at the time and the silliness continued through the race. I'm not sure which was funnier; the jokes themselves or how funny Oat and David kept thinking the jokes were.

We got to Durango around 2:30, dropped of Todd (who must have been just a tad concerned about our desire to find dead babies at each checkpoint and eat them) and shopped for dinner; spaghetti with buffalo sauce and bread. No more overly cheesy pizza like before the Buena Vista race. We had learned our lesson! Then we headed over to the house we were staying at - owned by a college buddy of Oat's who was working his 48 hour fire fighting shift. Three Ride the Rockies guys Oat knows were also staying at the house, so it was packed tight. I was just thankful to have a place to stay and a garage to organize our gear in.

Friday evening, we headed up to the Durango Mountain Ski Resort (formerly Purgatory), where racer registration and the start of the race were, and met up with Lee, who pre-rode what we assumed would be the mountain bike course with Tina's team. At registration, we got the maps and CP coordinates for all the CPs except those for the first leg, a running/trekking section. We would get those CPs when the race started on Saturday morning. I was happy that the race would be running/trekking - biking - paddling, in that order. With David's bum ankle, getting the run over with early made sense, since that discipline should be the most difficult and painful for him, and theoretically the bike and the paddle shouldn't have bothered the ankle as much. I like ending on the paddle, since I get so freakin' cold after the kayaking. I don't think straight when I'm really cold.

We registered and Lee began plotting the CPs for the bike and the paddle. Then we headed back to the house to eat dinner and organize our gear. It was super nice to get a good night's sleep before the race.

We were one of the first teams to arrive the next morning before 7:00 am at Purgatory to drop off our gear boxes. It was a beautiful sunny morning and, although still in the 40s, promised to be a warm day. We started out in riding shorts and short sleeved shirts, a big change from the multiple layers we wore during the Buena Vista race! At 7:30 am, the gun went off and we ran over to grab our CPs for the first leg of the race. CP1 -CP6 would take us up the ski runs and into forested areas above Purgatory. We could get these CPs in any order we wanted. Each skipped CP would cost a 30 minute time penalty and we needed to get at least 4 CPs in order to begin the biking section before 10:30 am. We headed up the ski slopes, moving at a much slower speed than we normally would with four healthy teammates. This lead us to strategically decide to skip CP4, which was over a mile away from any other CP. David simply could not move fast enough on his bum ankle for us to get there and back in less than 30 minutes. Skipping CP4 would cost us less time than the penalty would add.

We had a little trouble finding our first CP, but after that, Lee rocked the nav. We nabbed all 4 of the other CPs, each in less than 30 minutes, and headed back down to mountain to the starting area, where our bikes and gear box were located, in third place. It was fun to see other teams wandering about the forest searching in vain for an elusive CP when we had already found it easily. However, coming into the transition area, we were a bit bummed about having to skip CP4, since the teams already in and arriving just after us had gotten all 6 CPs.

We had a pretty smooth transition and were on the bikes in less than 10 minutes. The bike section started with a LONG gravel road ride up, up, up for a few miles, followed by rolling hills on gravel roads until we got to the next CP at the Hermosa Creek Trailhead. Our goal on the LONG road climb was to not get passed by 4CAR. 4CAR, Tina's team, is fast on the bikes and is one of our main competitors. They finished the run a bit after us, but had nailed all 6 CPs, so we did not want them to pass us on the climb. Lee towed David and Oat towed me up the climb so we could keep a faster speed. We arrived at the top before 4CAR - Yippy. Minor goals are good in adventure racing when you are out on the course for hours on end. However, 4CAR eventually passed us on the gravel road just before the CP. No worries, both teams wandered around for awhile looking for the elusive control flag, so we embarked on the famed Hermosa Creek Trail one team after the other.

I have ridden this trail before, back in 2003 when I came out to Durango to mountain bike for a week with my friends from Arizona. The trail is way more technical than most of the trails you get to ride in adventure races. There wasn't much in the way of navigating involved, just fun rocky trail for more than 20 miles. I was ready to ride hard! Unfortunately, David's ankle was not. The rocky, technical sections pounded his sore leg and he started cramping in his other leg, possibly from favoring it.

At first, Oat was way up ahead, with me trying to hold him back a bit so our team stayed together. Teams are required to be within 100 yards of each other and can be assessed a time penalty for being further apart. We finally decided that I would lead, since I am good at pacing myself and checking back frequently to make sure the team is together. If you like mountain biking, you cannot help but have fun on the Hermosa Creek Trail, but Lee and I both felt like we were out for a casual, fun ride, not a race. Each time I stopped to regroup, I would eat or drink something. I don't think I've ever eaten so much in a race! I was almost too full.

Toward the end of the trail, we came to the Tyrolean Traverse section. We were quite surprised to see 4CAR just finishing up the traverse. We had assumed they were way in front of us, since we felt like we were going super slow due to David's injury. I guess we weren't going that slow after all! Man - if he had only been healthy..... The traverse was not as wide as the one at the Buena Vista race and my team made it across pretty fast, the guys working there telling me I was one of the faster females. That compliment made up for the pinch I got on my arm at the end between the rope and one of my carabiners.

We finished out the trail and dumped onto a long gravel road descent followed by a road ride to the kayak put in. After six hours on the move, we were in third place. Fourth place RMAC behind us had nabbed all six running CPs, so we needed to stay at least 30 minutes ahead of them to secure third. Of course, we'd also be happy to pass 4CAR and Eolus, who had the lead! We didn't have a very fast transition, taking 13 minutes to change gear, eat, reapply sunscreen and get in the boats. Need to work on that.

Oat and David started out in the first boat and Lee and I manned the second kayak. The paddle was 12-15 miles on the Animas River back into town. The first third boasted some Class 1 and II rapids, but after that, the river flattened out and became stagnant. Meanders almost doubled the river back over itself. We encountered stiff headwinds. We moved slow! In addition, our boats began to loose air, (or maybe they were partially flat to begin with) mine especially, so that the middle of the boat sunk in like a V. Not very aerodynamic! Lee could not adjust his seat either, so he paddled in a very uncomfortable position. After about 2 hours of paddling, Lee and Oat quickly switched places and we continued down the lazy river, past cows and ranches. It seemed to take forever for us to pass a large geographic feature on the cliffs to the west. Ugh... is that rock thingy still there?!?!? Normally, such a feature would be inspiring, but at this point in the race, I just wanted the paddle to be done with.

The cool rock feature finally passed from my view and I strained to see the radio tower that would indicate only one mile to go. I was feeling surprisingly good. Part of it was probably due to all the food I ate and fluids I sucked down on the bike leg. But my muscles also felt good. Normally, on a long paddle (i.e., more than an hour for me), I start to get sore in funny places; my neck, my forearms, my shoulders. This is an indication that I am a paddling with poor technique, using my arms and not my back and abs. However, after this race, I feel it in my lats and abs, not in my arms, neck or shoulders. Maybe I'm finally getting the hang of this paddling thing! I was however getting cold, despite the wet suit I was halfway wearing and temps in the mid 80s. It was time to be DONE.

Soon, the radio tower came into view and as we crept up to it, dead baby jokes abounding, the current became rough again. It helped from a mental perspective to finish with some moving water. At the take out, the guys grabbed the flaccid boats and carried them, with some difficulty so as not to drag them, up a little hill. Then we all ran with stiff legs up the bike path to the finish at the Rec Center, running through the arch together at 4:30 pm with an elapsed time of almost exactly nine hours.

With our 30 minute penalty, we crossed our fingers that the next team, Rocky Mountain Adventure Club, would finish after 5:00 pm. They did, finishing at 5:08 pm. However, they had required a replacement boat due to something causing one of their boats to sink. As of noon on Monday, the race promoter has not yet decided what to do about this.

So, we are waiting to find out if we took third place (and thus received a $400 race voucher) or fourth place (no prize). Regardless, we will move up to third place in the overall series standings. We feel we could have paced 2nd or maybe even 1st if David had been healthy.

I'll update this post when I know the final results. Thanks for reading!


1 comment:

Derec said...

Great report Jen!