Monday, September 8, 2008

Adventure XStream Vail 12 Hour Race

On Saturday (September 6th), I raced again with Team Git Some. This event was a 12 hour race (meaning teams need to finish within 12 hours). It was not at Vail Resort, as the race name might imply. Instead, the race was held up in the Vail Valley near State Bridge, which is between Kremmling and Wolcott. This area is about 20 miles NW of Vail as the crow flies. The terrain in this area is right on the edge of two distinctly different types; montane forest with aspens and pines like what you would expect around Vail Resort and high desert with scrubby shrubs, yucca and cactus like what you would expect around Grand Junction.

For this race, we were in a pickle getting enough team members to race, since everyone seemed to have other plans for the weekend. Lee and I were in, but none of the other original guys (David, Derec or Oat) could do it. Mark, who raced with us at Breck, had committed to doing the race as a duo with his buddy Jake, since he assumed we wouldn't need him. We ended up deciding to have Mark and Jake both race with us.

We really wanted to do this race because we are doing extremely well in the series points standings, sitting just barely in 3rd place, and we can win some decent prize money if we stay up there. So, we were willing to try out a completely new guy sight unseen to stay in the game. We are now out of opportunities to add any new members to the team, but hopefully that won't be a problem since there's only one more race.

As Lee and I drove up Friday after work, we were pleased to see the weather improve as we headed west, since the weather down in the Front range was cold and rainy. We met Jake and got a pretty good night's sleep at Mark's house in Edwards. The race started Saturday morning at 7:30 under crisp, sunny skies. It was 36 degrees brrrr...

The first discipline was mountain biking. Pretty much all of the mountain biking would be on dirt road (even a lot of the run was on roads). We prepared well by pumping up the tires with extra pressure to decrease rolling resistance. This first biking leg was about 9 miles on a hard packed dirt road to the first CP and the TA to the running section. The ride started out uphill (of course). I immediately got on tow and we began to ride at a good clip until Lee started fading behind us. That was odd; Lee is a strong rider. Turns out his bike, which had just been to the shop, was malfunctioning. His cassette was sticking at part of the pedal stroke, creating a lot of drag. Since this bike leg was short, he just suffered through it until we got to the TA at Radium.

At the TA, Jake, Mark and I looked at Lee's bike while Lee plotted the running orienteering checkpoints. We determined that the shop had probably used the wrong size spacer or nut, since parts were rubbing down where the wheel set attaches to the bike frame. We made it better, but not perfect. As soon as Lee had the CPs plotted, we took off on the run. We were squarely in 4th place, behind three very fast pro-loaded teams. The run had a mix of packed dirt road, double and single track trail and paved road. The O-course really wasn't much of an O-course in my opinion, since we were not permitted to go off trail. After one small navigation error that cost us a few minutes, we found all the other CPs easily. Due to the short length of this race and the easy terrain, we hauled ass on the run. Mark, Lee and Jake alternately towed me on the ups and the flats so we could maintain a consistent fast pace. After the last running CP, we had a massive downhill for 8 or so miles on packed dirt road and then paved road. I hooked up to Mark's tow line and we set off at a blistering pace (for me at least). I must say this is the first time I've been towed on a downhill! It helped me go much faster than I would have un-towed. Lee and Jake had a hard time keeping up.

We ran into the TA at Pump House still squarely in 4th place. Next up was a paddling section, which Lee and both swear was mentioned in the passport as a flat water section. So, we opted not to wear our wet suits, despite knowing that the water would be super cold. Oops - we hadn't gone more than a few hundred yards when it became apparent that this was the WHITE WATER section. We were immediately soaked. Good thing it was sunny and not too windy (yet). We had an hour of really fun Class II+/ClassIII- white water on the uper Colorado River. Despite being cold, this was one of the best parts of the race. It was very scenic and, since my paddling has improved so much this year, I actually enjoy the time in the boat, even when paddling hard. In the past, it was impossible to enjoy paddling when my previously bad technique caused me to be in pain during the whole paddle.

We arrived back at Radium very cold. I was glad I had a change of clothes - everything except dry socks. We donned our dry riding clothes quickly and headed back out on the bikes, this time for a much longer bike leg. We headed up to CP7, which would take us up packed gravel road and then jeep road. As we rode, the terrain changed from deserty scrub to montane aspen forests. During the first part of the climb, Mark towed me on the ups until it became apparent that Jake was not able to maintain our pace.

This was Jake's first multisport race ever, and he was suffering. Although in great shape, his body was unprepared for the challenges of changing disciplines, compounded by the cold paddle. His right hamstring decided it was all too much and began to cramp up. I unhooked from the tow and we assumed a slower pace that Jake could manage. It was frustrating, because I could have gone faster even without a tow and we could have gone much faster as a team with me on tow if we hadn't had an injured team mate. However, adventure racing is all about team work and sticking together. Mark towed Jake a little bit, but since Jake is more that 200 pounds, Mark didn't do that for long. Everyone maintained a good attitude and took advantage of the down time to eat and drink. We enjoyed the fantastic views from up high; even when things aren't going as well as you'd like them to, it would be a shame not to appreciate the beautiful scenery these races take you into!

We finally made it up to CP7 and then continued climbing, topping out at over 10,000 feet. Our jeep road (Forest Service road 401) ended at a T-intersection. We wanted to take a road that ultimately went off to the right, but the signage was confusing, so we finally opted to go right at the intersection. After about 10 minutes of floundering around, we realized we were not where we wanted to be, so we headed back to the intersection and took the left. Sure enough, it veered back to the right. We had lost about 15 minutes.

Now that the climbing was done, Jake was able to go much faster with his sore hammy. We took off down a very rocky jeep road, Mark in front, me following, Jake next and Lee, with the bike repair kit, in the back. I race on my hard tail Fat Chance Yo Betty! with v-brakes. I use this bike for adventure racing because she's super light (easy to carry and push), she always shifts and such perfectly and she's easy to fix on the trail if something breaks. However, riding a hard tail with v-brakes down a 7 mile rocky and steep downhill with extra air in your tires makes for one bumpy ride! I had to hold onto the bar with a death grip to keep from getting thrown. It was still fun! After picking up CP8 on the way down, we dumped out onto Sheephorn Creek Road and pacelined it back to Radium for the final leg of the race.

We were still squarely in 4th; couldn't touch 3rd and probably couldn't be touched by 5th. Kind of frustrating, since it took away a bit of the racing element. This was the flat water paddling section, although there were a couple of sections with small rapids. Once again we opted not to wear our wetsuits to save time in the transition. I wore leg warmers this time to gather some solar heat, since I knew from the previous paddling leg that the water in the headwaters of the Colorado River is COLD! The wind had picked up too, which made the air feel cooler despite the near 70 degree temps. This leg of the race was very pretty. Despite knowing we couldn't change our finish position, we paddled hard. Did I mention that I'm really pleased with my paddling improvements this year????

We came into the finish area at Rancho del Rio at 4:10 pm in 4th place. Eight hours and forty minutes of (mostly) hard non-stop racing. Most importantly, we secured our 3rd place position in the series standings by 1 point! Oh and we are ranked 15th nationally by Checkpoint tracker.

Bring on the Expedition!

(sorry for the lack of visuals - I'm awaiting photos and maps from my team mates and will update the blog)


CycloneCross said...

Awesome Job! I've never done adventure racing (only tried racing MTB once), but it sounds like a blast.

Stefan said...

Great write-up, and great job at the race. With Shonny and Ben, no one could touch 4CAR that race. We're just glad they put the smack down on BPN. :-) See ya at the expedition - we're stoked for that one too!