2018 Wilderness Traverse: Full course or bust!
Great event, great course, great teammates, but combination of our logistics + my fitness costs us the full course by 1 hr 50 minutes for the 7 am paddle to trek cut off (I think Mark would have gotten us through the trek skillfully and efficiently). So close....so far....
Back in June, after three years of grad school and three months of infant parenting, and the corresponding series of poor diet and exercise choices leading up to that moment, I had the worst race of my AR career. I withdrew early from Caberfae, unable to supply any bike power and feeling so lifeless and flat. And fat.
After Barbara's team was able to celebrate their success at that race, I said I was out - no Yankee Springs, no WT. I didn't want to race like that again.
But in my misery, I decided to start food logging and getting in shape. I had good success early, and began to wonder. I love WT so much...could I get there?
Eventually, I thought I might be able to get there. So I asked BNM if she knew any teams seeking a fourth. She didn't have a solid lock on a USARA setup, but had talked to Mark Voit about doing something that weekend. WT was approaching sell out and the final price increase. Mark foolishly was unopposed to the concept. So we scrambled a bit to find a fourth. Maria and I recalled Greg's relentless, unwavering performances in my first two WTs. He checked his schedule and joined up.
The race details came out and we had what appeared to be a path to the full course:
Pace estimates....seemed....achievable. TA times were supposed to be modest. Let's do it!
We selected a swim less route. I wasn't excited about swimming, and neither was Mark. BNM was of course down. I think it worked okay - we met many teams at #1, who were confused by our bone dry arrival by crossing dry foot just a little west. We took the trail route around to #2, which seemed reasonable but we'll have to check splits against the many dots I see that went straight. I was able to do an okay pace here. Leaving #2 I started to get a little tired and couldn't run as much on trail. We took the east trail around - it wheeled 2k shorter than the west option, plus it let us look at the bike leg. Mark crushed the navigation. I think I cost us 15-30 minutes in pace here.
Full 15 minutes used for a relatively trivial change. Perhaps not a good sign for the upcoming bike to paddle TA....
Classic WT! One CP on the leg, and only because that's where the boat ferry shuttled across the closed bridge.
I estimated our pace expecting a decent ridable road lead out and lead in to whatever misery Bob had in store. Not the case! Almost immediately, a wet rolling trail. Then a brief reprieve of some road, then more unridable mud holes. Lots of on and off the bike. I wish I could count how many times we pushed bikes.
The boat ferry was fun. They even sprayed our chains! We had to wait a few minutes as other teams shuttled. Not a big deal, just slightly cooling. Then back to it. We eventually got to the hydrocut, which I had feared, but was generally much better than the previous trails, as you could ride most of the water holes. As not a navigator, not a mule, not the caretaker, not the captain, I finally contributed in a mild way by trying to ride everything when I was fresh enough to be out front, as I didn't care if they could or couldn't be ridden, and if they could, that would give the team a place to ride without getting off.
We had a few bike issues. Proudly, the Frank'n'crank, my original Dragon left side crank arm and eggbeater with my $300 bike drive side crank arm with brand new eggbeater held fine. I had no shifting or chain (would've swapped it but couldn't find my chain link squeezer tool) or braking or tire troubles (which was good because I don't think there's much sealant in the rear!)
Mark's Small Block 8s were terrible mud tires. He had no traction. He could pedal up no muddy grades, and he was fishtail city in any muddy sections. He fell a lot. He also bent his derailleur, which he slightly bent back and then banned him from granny gears, which meant more hill walking.
BNM had some quality chain suck, but nothing that couldn't be kicked out.
Greg caught a pedal on some random wire sticking out of the ground on the hydrocut at one point, causing a fall.
I didn't pay attention to some puddle draining, didn't read the potential for a low spot, and had my best fall of a nearly over the bars belly flop into a cold hydrocut puddle. Brr!
Pace slowed in the last bit of hydrocut as darkness came in. Also, we kept expecting to find the road, but our wheeled distance was well under actual! Hahahaha I think our overall wheeled total was 20% short of actual.
We figured we had to leave the paddle TA for full course by 9:30. We arrived at 9:35. Ouch. We left....at 10:20. Double ouch! Maybe we can still make it! Full course or bust! Just need to be...20 minutes faster than the SLOW estimate of 9 hours. We can do it!
We could not do it. We moved okay at first. Unfortunately, portage logistics killed us (and later my paddle power). With 12 portages or whatever it was, we needed to be hyper efficient - instead, I'm pretty sure we lost a couple minutes on each end to not being relentlessly quick to get out and loaded and relaunched. Say, 5 * 12 = 60 of the 110 minutes. Also, some of the portages were so rough we didn't necessarily believe them and scouted them a bit (notably the first rapids one that seemed to start in a rock field).
I struggled to get comfy in the boat. The sensation was, the seat was too low, but I don't recall that from years prior. I think I was just tired. I waited way too long to break out the caffeinated gels I stashed based on our estimates of an all dark paddle. I could not stop sleep blinking, and hallucinated frequently. Mostly I saw walls of muddy hydrocut biking, with the tracks of bike tires. Once I saw Barbara and Greg flip their boat end over end, except it didn't happen. I desperately wanted a nap. I felt really bad for Mark. I slapped myself, didn't help. One of the later portages finally perked me up...by then it was 7, so it was light, plus the portages were slightly rejuvenating, versus the rocking lull of the boat. Easily >20-30 minutes lost to my sluggish paddle, based on estimated lazy paddling or pauses by the lead boat to let us catch up.
BNM and I had gotten in so many quality paddles. I was surprised and disappointed I was so useless.
So we arrived too late. I hadn't even thought about this being boxed in for a DNF with no practical logistical short course option. At first I was a bit sad over that, but after a day, I realized that anything other than a full course was equally disappointing.
After the previous three WTs, I couldn't wait to immediately come back. Immediately after this one, I didn't see a reason, except to camp at a CP and offer snacks. Maybe I personally can't get to a full course. I've failed four times, even with this year's stacked super team.
But after a day, I had thought 2018 should be, get lean, with 2019 being generically get mean. Could get mean be defined as full on full course or bust, with training focused? Would another 8-12 months (instead of...14 weeks...) make the difference? Starting a proper racing weight sometime in the first quarter of the year, with longer bikes, longer paddles (with portaging pratice!), longer loaded hikes, AR swims, TA practice, and everything possible to get a decent shot at it? Maybe it's worth one more try. Fifth time's the charm!
Alternatively, collect a pool of area racers, see who steps up the most, and make an A and B team to try to take a crack at it. Iron sharpening iron sort of thing. Would keep incentive up to stay sharp and be A team capable?
* arm warmers - I was able to regulate temperate without micro TAing, just beat someone up a hill and adjust while they climb
* Ditto buff
* Bike - A fitting end to its planned AR career. But I think a full suspension might keep me fresher longer on those bouncy trails.
* Bladder of ensure on paddle. I did stay well fed (2100 calories or so during paddle!)
* I wasn't thrilled with my Zebra light on a jog a long time ago, but had it on for the paddle and it stayed lit on many long portages. Still prefer harsher spot than its overly floody style, but can't fault its duration on click on, next click brightness.
* Endurolytes - 2 extremes per hour kept me cramp-free, impressive given my lack of fitness
* Can't keep rain pants up (useful for staying warm on paddles). Maybe suspenders?
* Big paddle bag to transport packs w/ mandatory gear. Too heavy. Need a more minimal, transport friendly solution. Either leave individual packs wet, or use small dry bags etc.
* My cheap Harbor Freight mechanic gloves work fine on the bike until it gets cold, at which point they provide no insulation when wet. I took them off by the end to keep my hands warmer.
* Not wearing a watch. I missed a few hour call outs for food.