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Training Log Archive: glewis

In the 7 days ending Jun 25:

activity # timemileskm+ft
  Adventure Racing6 119:51:00
  Total6 119:51:00

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Saturday Jun 25 #

12 AM

Adventure Racing 9:51:00 [3]

In our haste to get on the water we had stowed Kit's maps away, so I was stuck navigating the river. We paddled as hard as we could but were consistently slowed by terrible river conditions and shallow water. As the sun came up, we felt like we had plenty of time to make it the finish, so we backed off the pace and consequently got a bit sleepy. I seemed to be the only one who was awake at this point, so I tried a number of things to keep my teammates awake (the methods for keeping Kate awake were effective but are strictly frowned upon, so I will not be sharing them). After some sketchy rock navigation (Scott and Kit nearly flipped in ~12 inches of water) the river opened up and we began to see some cool sights, included a bald eagle the flew right past Kate in the bow of the boat. The sun was coming up and making us warm, but we were realizing that there wasn't much time at all for a buffer. In fact, we had nearly lost it all! We got into a good formation and began paddling really quickly after 8AM, which seemed to wake everyone up... except for me. I started to doze off and deployed my secret tactic of non-stop talking to myself for over 30 minutes to get me to the takeout. One of the joys of this last section was trying to figure out some coded info that we had gotten from Greg at the put-in. He had told us that we potentially needed to serve a one-hour "penalty" before we put on the water, but he wouldn't tell us why except to say that it wasn't due to something that we had done.. We ended up arriving too late to serve it, but we couldn't figure it out. It finally dawned on me that the only teams who need to serve penalties at the final TA in ARWS races are those who are in contention for top 5! We had assumed that we were 6th or 7th, so we were super happy to realize that we had passed the rest of the short course teams.

We finally got to the ramp just after 9 as the last team in (we had been the last team at the previous 2 take-outs) and got to work prepping for our final 2 mile trek. I was happy to take off my rain gear, which had kept me warm for the initial portion of the overnight paddle but was making me much too hot in the sun. At the direction of the volunteers we set off on the final trek with all of our paddle gear in tow!

I quickly realized that the Endless Mountains never quits, this wouldn't be a simple CP to grab. The moving took longer with all of our gear, but after some rearranging we arrived near the CP, only to find that the map was a "general approximation" of the area. We dropped the heaviest gear and scrambled to find the CP. I found the CP downhill in a creek after running way too fast and getting as assist from a neighboring team (an amazing sight - the last CP of a 5 day race!) and regathered my teammates before we shuffled towards the finish, passing one final team in that area. We had to trek uphill (of course) through Clarion and then find the finish line, but it was clear that we would finally make it. The first peak of the finish line was the happiest I think I'd been in 5 days. We finished in 119:49:35. Much longer than I had raced before, and good enough to 5th in the Premier Division and 6th overall.

What a wonderful race! Rootstock did a fantastic job with a great course - it felt like a series of 24 hour races back to back. I loved the technicality and challenge of the entire week - we never got a break from it. My teammates helped me out when I was feeling low and we navigated exceptionally well. The post race was filled with some packing and a wonderful party before drifting off to a wonderfully deep sleep. My drive home required a few nap breaks, but I loved getting home to see my kids!

Friday Jun 24 #

12 AM

Adventure Racing 24:00:00 [3]

We ended up sleeping a bit long, and by the time we got up and onto the river it was 4:45AM. The timing worked out well to get us to CP34 (where there was a group of teams sleeping) and then to the rapids at first light. The rapids were ...underwhelming... After stressing about the river guide and the best line possible, we hit the X rapid and weren't actually sure that we had hit it, and then got stuck in the Y rapid (way too shallow) before Kate and I spun sideways through the Z rapid. Had we not known about them we would have paddled them like a regular rapid and had no issues. Kit navved us well through this section, getting us to the next CP and then the takeout for the first trek, where we arrived after 9AM. There were a bunch of teams here as well as some volunteers to watch our boats. We laid out some gear in the sun, I filled up a Mountain House meal for later, and we took off on the trek a few minutes after Untamed, with Paul Miller in tow filming and interviewing us.

I had a really good feel for the map in this section, and Scott supported me well as we made our way through the optional points on this section, hitting them cleanly and efficiently. We were moving really well as a team, with lighter packs and some pep in our step, so we stuck to fast moving trails and roads to avoid unknown and possibly thick bushwhacks. We started with G3 and then G5. On the way to G6 I found a kiosk with a park map that gave some info that we didn't have. Seeing as it wasn't illegal, I grabbed a copy and found it very helpful for the rest of the leg. After G6 we went to G8 before getting stymied on our way to G7 - we had to take some longer routes on trail around, but I imagine that most teams were forced to do something similar. We crossed paths with Untamed here before working west to G4 where we stopped for some water and a bathroom break. We used trails to get around to G2, but we also ran a bit here which helped cut some time off. Our bodies seemed to realize that we were truly in the final stretch of the race and responded in kind, letting us move a bit more freely. At G2 I took 2 nasty falls, one onto each elbow. They could have been race enders, but the pain subsided until after I got home from the race. We used more trails to get around to G1 before stopping in a campground to fill up water and then heading back to our boats. The whole section took us just over 7 hours - we felt great about clearing it and resolved to keep pushing. It helped that I was convinced that there were a few teams close by us in points. We TA'd back to boats super fast, and I enjoyed my rehydrated chicken and dumplings while paddling down the river.

The trip to the next trek took just over 2 hours, and it was a much more established site. We took the boats out of the water and got some meat pies and pizza from Kate Matthews while TA'ing to trek. We also got some info from Jim Mernin, who told us that Brent suggested leaving 5 hours to get to the finish line from this TA. We had budgeted 7, so we were happy to adjust our estimates. We also heard that this section was taking teams a bit longer than expected, so Scott and I really honed in deeply on the map to make sure that we didn't make any mistakes. We left (with Paul Miller again) and made our way through a few CPs in waning daylight before arriving at the Cathedral section, an area of old growth (massive) trees that contained a large groups of mandatory CPs and required us to stay on trail. We did this section nearly in lockstep with Recalculating; it was super quick and clean for us. After we finished we began a steep climb up towards CP49, where we saw Rib just before seeing Rootstock.

The lookout tower at 49 was a bit sketchy but fun, and from there we descended to 48. We kept checking our time as compared to our bailout , and we knew that we were looking good for trying for the last 3 optional CPs. The trip to G11 was easier, if not a tad bit slower, than expected, as we followed a trail for most of the way. The move to G10 was tougher and required a lot more focus. We did a stellar job as a team getting towards the area of this obviously challenging CP, where we found a maze of small reentrants and deadfall. We again worked really well together to identify features, specifically distance and elevation, to work around the deadfall and get to an open area holding the flag. Kit was fantastic here, so I had her punch the CP. The woods opened up significantly for us as we moved toward G9, which we hit cleanly once we resolved to attach from the north. It was 2:30AM at this point, and we needed to leave by 5AM. We had a long haul back to the boats on road. Our feet were killing us, but we were given some lift by the sight of a bear rummaging in a dumpster before scurrying up a tree - super cool! We got to the boats just before 4, where we could see Untamed paddling away down river as we approached.

We began TA'ing a bit methodically, knowing that we had time to make it to the finish. It was 4:04 when volunteer Greg told us that we probaby needed 6hours to get in - whoops! We sprinted through the rest of the TA and got on the water at 4:14.

Thursday Jun 23 #

12 AM

Adventure Racing 24:00:00 [3]

Stage F - Bike

Leaving TA5 (and saying goodbye to that horrid quarry) had a feeling of sprinting towards the finish. I had to remind myself multiple times that we still had 48+hrs left in the race. Still, it felt like we had really gotten the hardest part of the race out of the way; this was compounded by the choice to skip F1 and F2. Out of TA we had a massive descent of ~10km, followed by some relatively flat riding before ascending to the elk viewing platform. We climatized at the bottom of the climb, which is noteworthy because I took off my shirt to wear only the bib (something I had started on Tuesday morning) for the last time. The best way to emphasize the continued heat is that I didn't wear a shirt for 4 days.

We got CP29 at the Elk Viewing Platform in a beautiful morning mist with the pack of race photographers. After a few minutes to view the 3 elk who were off in the distance we set off on a pseudo-bike-o section. Lots of route choice to get the optionals and mandatories. On the ride to F7 we saw two more elk from up close, who got even closer by jogging down the road in front of us for a few moments. After F7 we checked a possible route past the point, where I rounded a corner downhill in front of my team and was greeted by a massive elk with a full rack, directly on the road in front of me, maybe 20m away! It didn't stick around and bolted into the woods, but we all got a glimpse. This was the best wildlife sighting that I'd ever seen in a race!

From F7 we backtracked to F8 (with a slight detour due to a day 4 brain...) and then 30, 31, F5 and F6. Somewhere in there we passed a sleeping Rootstock. From F6 we went to F3 and then up to F4. This took us into the early afternoon where the heat reappeared, but we were managing our temperatures very well and staying cool. Our tracker never picked up this entire section, which is such a shame as we seemed to have put together one of the cleanest sections and put a bunch of time into the teams behind us. Kit took the lead on a number of these points, doing a great job of spotting optimal routes. Scott and I had spent too much time on this section pre-race, and I think we overanalyzed a good bit. I was very thankful that Kit's caffeine pill was super powered, balancing out any sleepiness from our group. Before 32 we stopped for water and sunscreen. It took us 4 days but we finally developed ourselves a system for sun protection (~8AM and again ~12pm) and consistent hydration stops that didn't waste time. The ride to 32 was unfortunately uphill, as was the majority of the climb up out of 32.

We eventually hit a rail trail which we rode for ~20km. This was a low point of the last 2 days for me - super sleepy and nothing to see or navigate too or off of. Our butts were aching from our saddles, and our paceline kept falling apart so that we could rest our tushies. We mercifully made it off of the rail trail in the mid afternoon after a slight turn around while getting on roads. CP33 was at Straub Brewery in Saint Marys, where we stopped for a bit. Scott napped while Kit, Kate and I act some yummy mac and cheese. I also got to boast to Dan Szilier about all 6 elk that I saw. We set off down the road to Ridgway just as OML pulled into the brewery, and used a very effective paceline to cruise downhill very efficiently where we found the TA in town along the Clarion River, before 6PM. I think I speak for the team when I say that we were super happy to be off of our bikes for good and switching to the paddle. I was also very happy to be getting a reset, as I had been incredibly grumpy and difficult to deal with for the previous 10hrs. I'd like to blame it on the lack of sleep the night before, but regardless of the cause I was happy to have something positive ahead of us.

Our TA felt slow, but looking at the splits it was one of the 5 fastest in the race. We took care of our bodies, got plenty of food and water, and set off in under an hour.

Stage G - Paddle/Trek/Paddle/Trek/Paddle/Trek

The stage was set up as a long paddle with 2 embedded trek sections of ~15 miles each along with a final short trek to the finish. We knew that we needed to sleep, and there were many choices of when and where it could take place. There were some rapids (X, Y, Z) marked on our map and river guide, along with 2 intermediate CPs. We had hoped to get ourselves at least to the first CP, if not to the first trek halfway through the paddle. Those plans were dashed when we got onto the river. It was shallow and slow. It felt like I spent equal amount of time paddling and thrusting the boat over rocks. Combine that with the time I spent out of the boat pushing it (instead of drying my poor feet!) and it wasn't super fun. We would make some decent progress before hitting a bad rocky section and losing all of the momentum and time that we had just gained. Kate and I paddled together again and seemed to a have good system, but nothing seemed to help the paddling experience. The slow moving combined with my sleepy eyes, and I let the team know that I needed an earlier sleep rather than a later one. This also aligned with the team concerns about paddling the X, Y, Z rapids in the dark.

We resolved to find a place to sleep as soon as possible. Most of the river had a rocky bank about 3ft below a grassy plateau. We found a good spot like that before 10PM. Kate scouted out the upper bank, and then a took two trips of gear up before starting to set up the tent. As I was laying it out I heard a mouse move behind me. I turned to see it, and my eyes focused not on a mouse but instead on a huge copperhead! I don't do snakes, so I leapt off of the bank and down into the river - Kate soon followed me. She had seen two feet of arm-thick copperhead but hadn't seen head or tail!. Kate was much braver than me, so she went up to gather our things and bring them down below, where we made our camp on a pile of rocks. I enjoyed an OMeal of beef stew before dozing off to sleep. Kate, Kit and I had good spots, but Scott had a miserable place in a rocky hole. We set an alarm for the early morning and had some peaceful rest.

Wednesday Jun 22 #

12 AM

Adventure Racing 24:00:00 [3]

We woke up after 3.5 hours. I slept so well that I could not believe Kate that it was time to wake up. We packed up and were out within the hour, back on the trail. We had been stopped for less than 5 hours and gotten plenty of rest, so we were very happy about it. When we geared up again I took the opportunity to lube my feet, something that I hadn't done the night before because I wanted them nice and dry for the sleep. My feet felt great after a nice elevated rest. We got to 23 simply, and then began working towards 22. My stomach was a bit funny feeling around this time, but I recognized the feeling as race-hunger. I broke open a bag of Doritos, promised to share with my teammates, and then devoured the entire bag by myself. I spent the rest of the race in a better place than I was the moment before my first Dorito.

Approaching 22 gave us our first real big decision of the race. E7 was to be our next point, but it was out of the way and we were tight on our time estimates. We had a long team discussion about what we should do and what our priorities were, but we agreed in the end to skip it for now and come back to it later in the race if things went well for us. Our team goal was to finish as high in the rankings as possible, and we were getting the feeling that not many teams would be getting all of the CPs.

The sun began rising as we bushwhacked downhill to 24, where we grabbed some more water and decided how to approach 25. The trip down to 24 had been really thick, and the team agreed that a steep bushwhack up to 25 could be really simple, or could get so thick that it cost us hours. As a team, we decided to move around on trails to 25 - lots of extra distance but mostly on trail and no scary unknowns. The trip there was simple, but I think this is where we (from my perspective) dropped some efficiency. There were lots of stops, and the day was starting to heat up which would only make things harder from there.

Our approach to 25 from the top was calculated but not overly complex. We headed in a general direction towards the point from a semi-known spot on the trail. Our real goal was to get caught in the funnel of topography and get pushed towards the CP. I was interested in catching the high point, and Scott was keeping an eye on the northwest to catch the cliffs. The ground was pretty travelable, with only a few thick sections. As we got closer, we were able to pick out the distinct high point and worked around to the north of it. We dipped back below the highest levels of elevation and planned to track south along the cliff edge to find the flag. Scott had a feeling that we were close, and he was correct - the flag was just above his head! This point proved to be incredibly frustrating for many teams, but we found it just where we expected it to be, using all of the information given to our advantage to spike it. We backtracked to the trail, where we ran into Adventure Enablers again, and learned that they had bushwhacked straight up, nearly stepped on a rattlesnake, and located the CP in only 30 minutes. This was a buzzkill to me, because it took us more than 2 hours to travel around and then back out. Oh well - nothing we could do at that point but keep moving. The day was getting away from us, it was getting hotter, and time was ticking super quickly.

I refilled water again at 26 where Bend was taking a purposeful break. We moved south from there to 28, where the heat was really noticeable for the first time. We had planned on taking a stop there, but ended up backtracking to a good water source with some shade nearby. Here we changed socks and dealt with some small body and foot issues before moving on to 27. I was super happy that I had managed to keep my feet almost 100% dry up to that point, and I had only one tiny hotspot to deal with. As we neared 27 we passed Rootstock, who looked incredibly tired and loopy and were way to happy to see me. We passed Untamed just a minute or two after that, and they looked less loopy but pretty exhausted. They confirmed that the latter half of the trek was just as brutal as the first half. We also observed some expert sunscreen use from both teams. Our new plan was to put on more than was required and only superficially rub it in.

If 25 was the terrible point for other teams, 27 was that for us. The trek to it was hot, hot, hot and the terrain was desert-like, with absolutely no wind and very little canopy cover. The point itself gave us a few minutes of frustration as our altimeters were a bit off, but it was on a nice cool stream that we took advantage of. The return trip through the arid wasteland was even worse. Hotter and drier and the air was thicker. We had passed a bunch of teams on the way in but only 1 on the way out. As we turned south towards E9 (we had decided to drop E11, E12, and E13 due to the heat), our teams goals shifted from "doing really well" to "get to cool water so Kate doesn't overheat". The travel took almost an hour, but we finally got to Wykoff Run, where we spent 45 minutes dousing Kate with cold water, rehydrating ourselves, and making sure that we understood just how hot it was and how dangerous the heat could be. I felt such deep levels of empathy for her here, knowing that I had been in the same place the previous day where nothing that I could do would stop my insides from heating up. I was so happy with how the team worked together to get ourselves back on track and how we were able to safely take care of ourselves.

E9 was a simple point but was again in the heat. We were able to manage it much better this time. We made the call from there to drop E10, more for time management than anything else. We headed west to E1-E6, which were packed in a small zone that offered a lot of points for less travel then the rest of the stage. On the way, Kit commented that she thought she heard thunder...

We nabbed E6 easily, just as the late afternoon/evening was setting in and the heat was finished for the day. We began moving uphill towards E5 when we started to feel rain, then hear thunder, then see loads of lightening. We were so close to the CP when the storm smashed all around us, but we hadn't punched the flag so we couldn't descend yet. We waited below the tree line for 30 minutes before popping up to grab the CP and then scurrying down the hill as the storm had clearly passed us. After staying dry for the start of this trek, we had become fully drenched from the rain, which made the decision to trek through the creek itself very simple. Mosquito Creek was very pretty but was also rather brown and smelled a bit funny. It was close to the old Nuclear Reactor site, but was upstream of it, so I'm still unsure about the cause of the stench. E3 and E4 went really smoothly for us, but we did a little faffing about before nailing the exact location for E1. The climb to E2 was rather pretty with the setting sun, and we set off on a bushwhack away from E2 just as darkness began to fall.

The bushwhack was unlike anything that I've experienced before. It seemed as though no human had ever been there before. Thick blueberry fields over large rocks, a field of Patagonia turbal that was GLOWING in the evening sky, and just enough rocky crevasses to make me fear for my lower limbs. I was very purposeful about catching a reentrant to find our trail out, as there was no backstop and a long way to go after the trail if we missed it. Thankfully I found it, but it was super sketchy. I only recognized it because I stopped in a tiny clearing and noticed a yellow blaze! Had we come in just 10 meters in either direction I think we would have struggled to find it. It appeared that we were the first team to have traveled the trail that day, as we had trouble following it even with the blazes. Night had fallen, it was dark outside, and I was feeling rather lonely. Looking at the tracker, there had been teams all around us, but that certainly didn't feel like the case. We hadn't seen another team in almost 10 hours, and I was convinced that every other team was clearing the section. Further I was convinced that we were the only team using this trail because of how poorly we were doing - the mind can play some serious games when tired! After a few scares of not being able to find the trail blazes, we ended up right where we wanted to be near CP 21, where we finally saw another team - Rib! They told us in passing that they had been out there for a long time - more than 36 hours! While I was sure they had gotten all of the CPs, it was nice to hear that another team had some issues too. After 23, we worked our way back towards TA, mostly on roads. We passed Untamed here, offering as much sympathy and empathy for their sore feet as we could. We were also in quite a spot of bother, both physically from the long trek (~30 hours) and emotionally from the hard work.

We arrived in TA just after midnight, super excited to be off of our feet. Our plans had been a bit up the air for this TA and sleep, but after hearing the tragic news about Peter, we agreed that we needed to sleep here. This TA was a bit funny for me: I got a bunch of my own stuff ready before trying to lay down, but I just couldn't get to sleep. I tossed and turned for an hour or two before changing locations, eating a grilled cheese, and then getting a hair more sleep. In the 4 hours we were laid down, I probably got only 45-60 minutes. I was able to see a bunch of teams come into TA, clearly suffering more than we were. Stage E was rough for a lot of teams, and we were fortunate to have made it out as well as we did - super thankful for my teammates! We got up at dusk and TA's before making a plan for the day. I overheard Eric Olsen talking with Abby, and I took the opportunity to get the same info confirmed - F1 and F2 were crazy far out of the way and were the simple drops for our team. We were still technically on time for our estimates for the last two legs, but we were hurting and interested in a break from the pain. After striking an unspoken agreement with a few of the short course teams around us, it made no sense to go get those two if no one else was going to. We set off just after sunrise with full bellies from our TA bins and some words of encouragement from Brent - there were elk to be seen!!

Tuesday Jun 21 #

12 AM

Adventure Racing 24:00:00 [3]

Stage D - Bike

We began with a long, steady hill climb out of the park. This is where our method of getting CP 12 hurt us. Had we gotten it on foot, it would have taken longer but we would have realized that CP12 was on a rail trail, and we could have taken a shortcut out of the park and saved the climb. Not sure what the total time loss was for us, but it also zapped some energy. We pedaled for about an hour to get to CP13 at Bilger's Rocks, including one more massive climb up the hill to get to the park.

We arrived, ordered some hot food (some strange mac and cheese concoction...), and got briefed on the section here. There were 12 mini o-flags hung in the rocks that we had to navigate to using a crude bouldering map. Getting started was the most challenging part, but once we found a flag or two it became easier to navigate. We struggled with a couple (notably A3 - Ice Cave) but ended up working with thisABILITY on a few points. We weren't that fast, but never spent too much time on one point to really consider skipping one and getting the 15 minute penalty. After we finished we refilled water, saddled up, and rode out of the park.

...And made our biggest error of the race. On the map showing CP13 and D1, we had located an old looking bridge that we could use to cross the creek and connect the two points. When we got to the turnoff for that, it was clear that no teams ahead of us had taken that route, and the trail looked pretty sketchy. I scoured the map for another bridge to cross the creek, and only found the one that we had crossed hours prior on the ride up to Bilger's Rocks. We decided to descend the whole way back down and then travel 3-4km on a doubletrack to the CP. This was really slow for a few reasons. I was frustrated with my choice, as it was obvious that no other team had come through there. We had to stop and check the course book to make sure that we were allowed to be there. My frustration coupled with the long ride around led to the beginning of a low point where I was behind on food and water. This is also where I dropped my bag of peanut butter pretzels, which are a huge help to me when I am not feeling well. When we arrived at the CP, we got there at the exact time as thisABILITY, who had taken the correct route: use the trails that were drawn in north of the CP and then cross the creek. It never occurred to me that the creek would be shallow enough to cross, but it was comical how far we rode around to avoid some rock hopping in ankle deep water... In the end, this was probably less than a 30 minute mistake.

The climb up from here was pretty gnarly, and I screwed up again by misinterpreting where we were on the map. I tried a small shortcut which ended up being a stupid long-cut, probably taking an extra 10 minutes of bike pushing. Ugh. We took a few minutes to reset ourselves once we got out to a known road, right at the same time that Adventure Enablers came through. We applied sunscreen, ate some food, and got our minds correct. I also used this as an opportunity to get my navigation brain reattached. After this error, I didn't try any other cute tricks - lesson learned.

We moved forward to 14 and 15, where 14 gave us some troubles. I didn't feel too bad about it; nearly every team had the same issue with finding the correct trail. Once we got those two point, we tried to find a way to cross under the highway, which got very interesting. Again, lots of teams had the same confusion as we did, but it took us a while to get sorted out and just take the overpass, which sent us towards D2. We had to drop bikes and do an out and back, where we ran into a random hiker in the middle of the woods - super bizarre to see someone there. I think this is where I started to lose control of my body. I asked Kate to carry my pack for a bit, and I was getting lightheaded and blurry eyed, thinking that I kept seeing rattlesnakes. The heat of the day was upon us, and I was melting.

We moved directly if not quickly to D3 and D4, but by the time we got to D4 the suffering was front and center. We took some time to stand in the creek and dump gallons of water on ourselves to try to cool down. The relief was temporary for me, but a bit longer for the rest of the team. After punching D4, we had to ride up a hill that felt never-ending. By the time we neared the top I had to call the team back to me, afraid that I wouldn't be able to stand up when I stopped pedalling. I gave Kit my pack, took a tow from Scott, and stopped in every section of shade. The hill eventually ended, and we coasted downhill to find another small stream, where I spent even more time dumping water on myself and drinking, trying everything that I could to regulate my internal temperature. OML finally caught up to us here, and we saw them again at the picturesque CP17, from which we would begin our last long climb into TA. It felt like hours (I'm sure it wasn't), but I was able to get up with a combination of drinking, towing, and following whatever wheels I could latch onto. Arriving into TA had one more surprise for us, as it was up a short but super steep hill into a quarry that resembled a desert wasteland.

Seeing my wilting figure dumping water on myself in the shade of the tent, Abby suggested that I get myself some lemonade from the food truck - a terrific idea. The burrito was also wonderful, but the ice cream was perfect. By the time we finished our 100 minute TA I had finally cooled my body off and felt, for the first time all day, that I was going to be able to maintain my internal temperature at a safe level. The TA was long and slow, but it was worth it to both recover from the previous stage and also get ready for 30+ hours of trekking. Even more so when considering that our original estimates had us arriving there in the morning, and we didn't get there until 5PM.

Stage E - Trek

After a long, luxurious but extremely well-needed TA, we set out into the Quehanna Wild Area. Post-race, I really enjoyed researching this incredible place and learning about the history here. We were told about some of it the race and in the rules of travel, but if I'm being honest, it was all lost on me during the trek itself. We had a short section of road walking to begin our trek, and we got ourselves sorted out during that time, including timing our pace and getting ourselves sorted out with the quantity of maps. Pre-race, Kit and Kate had done a tremendous job of figuring out how the 5 maps overlapped with each other and plotted all of the points on the supplemental map, which was incredibly helpful to see them all on one piece of paper. Our route allowed for us to get all of the optional points, but it fortunately began with all of the mandatory points, so we had some wiggle room if necessary. This was good, as we began this stage nearly 7 hours behind our slow estimate. The plan was for Kit/Scott and myself to tag team the nav as necessary, playing to our strengths when they presented themselves. I was extremely comfortable with the mapping, plotting, clues, etc. and was able to use that to our advantage as we deciphered some of the more complex problems that presented themselves on the trek.

We started pretty simply with CP 18 where we ran into OML. From there, we tried a bushwhack towards CP19. Technically, it was effective. But it was super slow and thick. We all agreed that taking a longer route around on trails, losing and regaining elevation would have been faster and more efficient. We ended up not losing as much time as expected, as we spotted OML ahead of us on the trail as we approached 19. They missed the turnoff, so we snuck in behind them (and didn't see them again until TA). 19 had a great view, which we just caught as the sun was setting. From there, we followed the crude but well-marked Quehanna trail around to 20, where a questionable bearing caused us to inadvertently wake up No Complaints before finding the CP. It was clear that we were getting tired and it was getting later. Our plan was to sleep in the early night to take advantage of the cool morning before another hot day. Kate was absolutely crucial to our success here, using her big race experience to help us get our plans dialed in for efficient and valuable sleep. This included being sure to eat heavy foods before sleeping and to get our feet nice and elevated. I felt super safe in her hands! We found a nice comfy spot just in the woods off of the trail, pitched our tent, pounded some food (my Good To-Go Chicken Gumbo was the perfect meal!), and dozed off for a perfect sleep.

Monday Jun 20 #

10 AM

Adventure Racing 14:00:00 [3]

Endless Mountains AR from Rootstock Racing. I had been pre-pre-registered for this from the moment that it was announced; incredibly excited to finally get to the start of the race and take part! I was extremely aware of what I was getting myself into with a Rootstock expedition race, and they delivered on all fronts with a phenomenal event from start to finish. It was relentless, challenging, and exactly what I look for in a race of any length.

Strong Machine AR was myself, Kate, Kit and Scott Cocks. We descended on Clarion, PA on Saturday, prepping for all of our pre-race events on Sunday. We enjoyed a few nice meals at Clarion River Brewing Company and got ourselves situated into our lodging at Clarion University. It was great to be able to have the same rooms for pre- and post-race, taking a lot of stress out of getting ready. This was my first ARWS race, and I enjoyed the pomp that come with it, from the photographers and media to the informative pre-race meeting. From all of the info that we were given from the course book, we had been able to parse the course together quite well before the pre-race meeting, where the flyover showed exactly where we'd be traveling. My big takeaway from the meeting had nothing to do with the course, but was instead the guarantee that we would all be bitten by rattlesnakes. I left terrified that I would die somewhere on Stage E... There was some faffing about after the meeting, mostly on the part of Scott who had lots of packing to do, with his gear still in shambles from his expedition to Greenland. We were able to get his gear turned in just before the 10PM cutoff and then set down to a night of decent sleep.

Race day began at 4:30, in time for a 5:30 bus ride to Punxsutawney. We looked over the maps on the bus, but I saved any marking and route planning for the Eagles lodge. The breakfast buffet was adequate, but not as filling as I'd been hoping for. I think that lack of caloric buffer caught up to me later in the day. The 4 of us divided the map work very well, with some planning route, some identifying route choices for the treks, and others measuring distances for bike and paddle legs. By the time the 9:30 pre-race meeting showed up, we had been able to go through the entire set of maps and had a good plan for each leg. There were two legs (E and G) that I hadn't taken much of a look at, but my teammates had done a stellar job planning them. It was a luxury that I don't normally have to race on a team with 4 navigators!

The pre-race-start revealed to me 2 things: First was that I know much more about Groundhog's Day than nearly every other race. I wouldn't say that I care about it (at all), but growing up in Pennsylvania must come with some increased knowledge that others don't get. I was much more excited to get my picture taken with Phil that the average racer. Second was that people are allowed to forget the Pledge of Allegiance (which we were asked to say by a local politician), something that is not possible for this middle school teacher.

Stage A - Prologue/Trek

The race began with each team ripping open an envelope to reveal a map for the prologue - 13 mandatory points around the town of Punxsutawney, each highlighting a statue of Phil. We took off at a good pace and found all of the flag without real issue, although there was one plotted on the wrong side of a street. The problem that we had was that I think my route was pretty inefficient. We went south of the creek, then all of the way west before ever coming back up north of the creek, adding a good bit of distance for very little gain. Had we taken 2 minutes to really study the map I think we could have saved 15 minutes by using some out-and-backs across 2 bridges and also maybe fording the creek, which ended up being very shallow. I realized this error when we began passing teams going the opposite direction, about 1/2 of the way through our route but 2/3 of the way through theirs. Oh well, it was a lot of fun to run around town and see the hype that the race had. I enjoyed a big cup of ice water that was put out by a local shop owner. I thought that the hospitality was just because we started in "Punxsy", but it never let up throughout the entire race. By the time that we finished the prologue, punched CP 1, and trekked uphill to Gobbler's Knob, 2 hours had passed and we were settling in. We built our bikes without much issue, although I did have to adjust my brakes, and took off on the simplest section of the race - a 20 mile bike that travelled mostly on roads and doubletrack.

Stage B - Bike

We moved quickly and efficiently. I ended up taking the lead navigationally on the first two legs, with Scott and Kit backing me up on the trek and bike respectively. There wasn't much nav choice or challenge here, but I began to struggle with my stomach. I think I was behind on water and food already, and I tried my best to catch up as quickly as possible. My bike was also giving me quite a bit of trouble, as my rear brake was rubbing and I had lost 3 of my 10 gears in the rear. A quick troubleshooting at CP3 found an askew quick release, which once righted solve all of the issues. It was amazing how this also helped my body and mind recover. I think I also had an issue with how short the legs were to start. I struggle to eat and drink when the legs are this quick, and I had only packed small foods that wouldn't be useful for recovering from a low point.

Interesting thing we uncovered on this leg was the noxious smell of natural gas near some gas wells between the 2 CPs. It was bad enough that we didn't want to stop moving for fear of getting ill. Having seen "Gas Well" on the map for a few legs of the race, I was nervous about smelling it for the whole week. Oddly enough, this was the only time that I noticed it during the entire race.

There were a few climbs on this leg, but nothing major. We finished by paralleling the West Branch Susquehanna River on a road into the TA, taking just over 2 hours on the leg.

We dissembled bikes quickly and began getting our packrafts inflated. This proved to be a very quick TA, passing a few teams before getting out quickly.

Stage C - Packraft

Comically, Kate tried to keep her feet dry when getting into the gnu. That lasted for only a few seconds, as we soon had to get out and push/pull the boat through the shallows. This pattern continued for hours, as we could barely get going with paddling before we had to stop and push/pull. We spent much of this section with thisABILITY, and borrowed a raft-pushing technique that I coined "the ol' Chip Dodd", which involved sitting on the stern of the raft in a paddling position while simultaneously sticking a leg out of the back onto the rocks and pushing the boat forward. It worked rather well, but took me a while to perfect. We were passed in this section by OML, who seemed to have a better system for navigating the rapids and shallows. We had been gapped early on by Untamed as well, who appeared to adapt quickly to the river by getting out and pulling the boats. Examining the track post-race, this leg was our weakest by a good bit. I think we just failed to accept the fate of the river and kept trying to use the packrafts like actual boats. I imagine that the best strategy would have been to just get out and pull the empty boats. Looking at the splits, we lost 2+ hours to our competitors on this leg, and I imagine that most of that was on the shallow part where paddling was nearly ineffective.

By the time we got to CP4, the river seemed to be slowly deepening, but not enough to be actually paddling for more than a few minutes. About halfway to CP6 the river seemed to open up enough that we settled into paddling, where we were able to use our strengths and make some progress downriver. I used the time on the river to try to get my stomach and head righted. A lot of hydration and as much food as I could get in seemed to make a difference. The nice dose of caffeine that I took after dark helped the most.

We arrived near CP6 just after dark, but we struggled to find a good spot to beach our boats. We spent too long looking for an ideal location, and ended up way too far west with OML, having to backtrack through chest-high grass for far too long. thisABILITY made up 20+ minutes on us here simply by beaching their boats as close to the CP as possible. We paddled around the rest of the lake well for a few hours, grabbing the rest of the points that we could by water. The only real strategic choice was to paddle to CP12, which saved us time in the short term. We dropped our boats and paddle gear at the TA before getting 3 final points on foot and returning to TA.

Our TA here was relatively smooth and efficient, packing away the boats and building bikes. This would be the last time that we would see our paddle bags and bike boxes until Thursday evening, so we made sure to get what we needed. We also enjoyed some OMeals before setting off in the middle of the night.

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