Approx 10.9 k paddle, 19.7 k bike, 5.9 k trek. Approx route here.
Annual early May tradition is FAC. Joined up with Kevin & Dave of See You Later Navigator to once again create our super masters team (154 cumulative years). Picked up at 5 am to drive up in time for registration, plotting, briefing. We were plenty early. Good crowd of 12 solos and 37 teams in the big room at Deerhurst but sadly not as many familiar faces.
Get maps or should I say 1 topo and an artistically rendered trail map that has been much cursed at in previous years. Course is straight forward paddle, then MTB across ATV trails, road back to Deerhurst, then trekking on the trails just across from Deerhurst over to the ski hill. Advanced option for MTB involves longer ATV trail and ADV trek is 3 tougher CPs in the NE corner.
Water start off Deerhurst beach and we all churn water trying to stay ahead of the fleet as we head west into the narrow canal. Passed 1 team that dumped 2 of 3 racers in traffic. W across Fairy Lake to CP1 where we had to jump out and scramble up to the lookout on the S side close to Huntsville. Back in the canoe and around the corner to the TA just by the dam. Never the strongest paddlers, we did well and were front third of the pack. Out on he bikes and ~2.5k S on the road before turning E onto a trail. CP3 just off a trail by a mudhole and basically straight E to a hunt camp, where the good old boys fixing the bridge didn't seem too happy to see us racers come though. Continue E on across to CP 4 where reg course cuts N up to Deerhurst and adv continues E for a larger loop via CpA. As we made the checkpoint with several hours to spare, we forged on after joking with the CP guys. With all the talk of flooding,etc up there, we were all prepared for wet wet wet. Which it wasn't. Some big mudholes to be sure and certainly some surprising soft spots, but I've certainly done muddier races. A couple nice days may have dried things up around Huntsville. Out onto paved roads and we get a good draft going back N to Deerhurst. We hadnt seen too many bikes back, so a quick transition and we cross the road to the Deerhurst trails. Trek section felt like an orienteering race, but without a proper O map. Up W to CP 6 by the sugar shack, CP7 by the W cell tower, then skirt around the lookout and pickup the trails N to a junction, then just off trail to 8. CP9 was in my opinion a weak CP, in terms of features and given the maps. "Ridge overlooking steep embankment". Well, that ridge was technically looking over a steep embankment for over 1 km. We paced the trail along the ridge for over a km and somehow missed it. Eventually went back to 8 and did a tighter bearing (using a postage stamp size section of the topo) to attack from and found it. Not sure how we missed it the first time. Down the steep hill to the swamp for CPB ( the only chance on the trek to get even my feet wet). Skirt around the swamp then up to CPC, a "high point". Haven't seen many teams, although we trek with the younger Hitchon to 9 and then see his dad near the climb to CPC. We set a bearing ove to the cell tower which we think is near the CP, but that involves a steep climb. We skirt around to the E of the climb and through the distance, we see CPD on a lower ski lift tower. After that, decide to go up the ski run (ugh) to pick up the trail network to get to CP10. We take Maple trail, but then go too far west, so we cut down to Bear trail and came to the described trail junction from the other way, which may have worked out best as some others got confused approaching from the top. A few steps S and we found 10, then on down the hill and popped out right across the road from Deerhurst and the finish. We cross the line and are shocked to hear only 5 solos and 2 men's teams ahead of us. 3rd men's, 8th overall. Yeah, podium baby. Although I suspect a lot of AR regulars would have shredded this course. My niece from Wawa was racing in their first race and they were just off the bikes to start the trek. They seemed to be having a good time. Hang out at dinner with the Kinetic Konnection boys, as they were strong as always and finished 25 min or so ahead of us in 2nd.
Impressions? Fabulous day to be out racing, but not the most challenging race and map frustrations on the trek.
I know they were late in announcing the venue for this race and I finally asked Geoff at dinner. Sounds like he had another race ready to go at another venue (I won't spill the surprise for any future races), but the late spring meant the venue wouldn't be ready and Geoff had to scramble and we ended up back at Deerhurst, with the cartoon map. It's a nice host venue, but I think Geoff knows we're getting tired racing around there and given the late change, I'll give him a pass on a lot of the race shortcomings. Same goes for course designer Brad - not sure how much he had to work with. I grumbled about course features, but ultimately all the CPs were where they were supposed to be. It's just hard to use vague features with a less than stellar map. And if I ever get an "artistic rendition" of a map in a briefing again, I might turn around and go home.
Great racing with the guys again - we are well suited with pacing and attitude. Solid and steady and a great result. I felt okay, although not as much time on the MTB this spring and I felt it a little. The MTB leg wasn't long enough to make me feel any real pain.