Wednesday, May 9, 2012

2012 Smithville 8 Hour Adventure Race Report

This weekend was the Bonk Hard Racing Smithville 8 Hour adventure race in Smithville, MO.  I've done several adventure races over the last few years, with the same core group of people;  Luke, Jamie, Dee, Jesse and Sara.  They're all good athletes, but our races have been for fun more than for winning.  We push ourselves but don't get too hung up on results or being lost and wandering around in the woods for hours - our motto is personal achievement over competitive achievement.

I'd asked Jamie about doing Smithville as a 2 person team in March.  Then, a couple weeks before the race Jason Bettis asked if I'd race with his team; Dynamic Earth/Team Fusion.  A competitive team, a team that's won, and a team where I'd have to work really hard to keep up.  Also a team I wanted to race with.  So I told Jamie the situation and he said "go for it".

The Dynamic Earth/Team Fusion team I decided to race with consists of Jason Bettis, Shawn Gates and Ashley O'Reilly with Jason as the navigator.

Jason and I traveled to Smithville together while Ashley and Shawn drove separately.  It worked out well because it gave us a chance to talk about racing and I got a pretty good handle on how Jason approaches it.  He's obviously an excellent navigator, based on his previous racing results, but as the leader of the team (the person saying which way to go is "leading"), he's not going to get in someone's face, tell them to suck it up and push harder.  He's a lead by example kind of guy.

The packet pickup was at Dynamic Earth where they had a 50% off sale on all apparel and shoes in honor of the race.  MUCH APPRECIATED!  The maps were included in the packet so it would give us plenty of time to go over them and still get a good night of sleep.  That was pretty cool.

Friday evening, the team got together and went over route choices and how we would work as a team.   I hoped to bring some strong biking ability to the team as I expected to be the weakest link on the run and in the boat.  To even things out, we decided to utilize tow straps on the biking legs, pair me with Jason in the boat, and have Ashley, the best runner, carry the passport on the trekking sections.   That setup would allow me to pull when possible on the bike, be in a boat with a skilled paddler and just have to keep up when on foot.  The order of the disciplines would be: run > bike > paddle > bike > run > ???? (probably bike).  I figured we could win.

Saturday morning we were up at 6.  We got ourselves ready, loaded the cars and headed to the bike drop.  Weather-wise the day was shaping up to be a warm one.  There were a few clouds and some fog early but the high was going to get around 90.  Hopefully we'd be finished before the heat got too bad.  I decided to carry 100oz of water/perpetuem with another 24oz on my bike.  I drank less than that at the Branson AR on a warm day so I thought it would be enough.

Official park trail map
The bike drop was at the "Smoke and Davey" trailhead on the north side of the Smithville Lake park, with all the mountain bike trails.  We positioned our bikes near where we expected to emerge from the woods and headed to the race headquarters at the SBC Trailhead on the south side of the park.  We arrived to find lots of people milling around.

Once I saw all the other teams, I finally started to get that race feeling.  It's kind of a nervous energy where you know you're going to be busting your ass for hours and you just want to get going.  I've always thought that waiting for a race to start is the worst part of racing.  Once they say go, you stop thinking about what could happen and you start doing it.

After a short pre-race meeting and the Star Spangled Banner where I swear I was the only one singing, Gary yelled go and we took off.  The first section was a run to the bikes where we needed to collect three checkpoints along the way.

Ridge Runner/Downhill Bikes Branson (Dathan Atchison, Kindall Combs, Lullel Hickman and Melisa Lemus Mckay) led out on the run followed closely by Team Kuat (John Bradley, Beau Mooneyham, Doug Assenmacher and Anna Assenmacher).  I could tell that Ashley, who is an amazing runner, wanted to be up there with them, but we stayed back a bit in order to keep the team together.  I think a tow system for the run would have been helpful since we were running on a greenway trail and could have used Ashley's strength to get us a little closer to the front.  In reality though, we got the checkpoints and arrived at our bikes in pretty good shape, with only four teams ahead of us and within a minute or so of the lead.

Heading out from TA1
After a quick transition, we were on the bikes and on the road.  We immediately joined together using our tow system of retractable dog leashes attached underneath our seats.  It was Ashley's first time being towed and she was hesitant and a little nervous on the gravel road turns, but did really well.  I think on every turn I heard "Ok guys, nothing crazy here!".

The first bike leg was probably only four or five miles, but within minutes, we started reeling the other teams in.  I just can't say enough about how beneficial the towing system is.  When I was on the front, I was digging pretty deep to catch the teams in front of us but when I started to slow down, Jason would jump to the front so I could draft and recover.  The teamwork was excellent.  There was one mishap where Ashley's tow strap got tangled in her rear hub and broke, but it wasn't a big deal and she just had to be at the end of the train from then on.  We got all the checkpoints and on the last downhill leading to the paddle transition area we were able to catch Team Kuat who had moved into the lead.  We pulled into the TA just ahead of them.

Going from bike to boat
The paddle leg had all of the checkpoints on the banks of the lake arranged in a big circle.  Since only one person would need to leave the boat to punch the passport at the checkpoints, Jason made the call for everyone to keep their bike shoes on except me, since I'd be the one doing the punches.  We had a quick transition and after carrying our boats to the water we were in just behind Kuat.

We went the same direction as Kuat so we could try to keep up with them.  Wild Hares (Scott Stopak and Justin Hankins) were right there as well and we ended up getting most of the CPs at the same time.  Kuat was a little unbalanced in their boats at first with John and Doug getting ahead, but swapped it around after a CP in order to even things out and keep within the 100 ft rule.  They are blazing fast but with Jason coaching my paddling technique we were able to hang with them.  After making the circuit around our little section of the lake, we pulled our boats out at the same time.  That had me really stoked because I expected with my weak paddling we'd be killed on the boat leg, but we were right there with the leaders and I was still feeling great, plus we were getting back on the bike!

Wild Hares, Kuat and us finishing the paddle leg
After a quick gear check where they asked to see our multi-tool and spare tube, we were out on the road a little behind Kuat with Wild Hares in the mix as well.  

The second bike leg was pretty short and after a few minutes we got to the next transition area to the orientering course, which was the make or break section of the race.  We went the opposite direction of Kuat and Wild Hares because we didn't want to be thrown off by being around other teams.  The course was a mix of really dense wooded sections and open cornfields.  By this time of the day, the heat was really coming on so even though we could move faster in the cornfields, I really preferred the woods because of the shade.

Jason was nailing the CP's and Ashley was running and jumping through ditches and creeks in order to punch the passport while I was doing my best to hang on the back of the pack.  I was feeling the effort from the bike and the heat and was struggling to keep up on foot.  About halfway through the course I ran out of the 100oz of water I was carrying.  They had water at the transition area but for some reason I didn't think to refill before starting the trek.  Luckily for me Jason had a full bottle that he gave me and it got me through until I could refill back at the transition area.

Look at all that water
The only scary part of the trekking leg was when we came to a deep ditch in the woods with a tree fallen across it.  I'd guess it was about 15 feet deep and 10 feet across with sides that were straight down.  The tree wasn't that big, about 8" diameter.  As soon as we got there Jason jumped on the tree and ran across to the other side.  Once there he yelled "Tree's solid!" and kept going.  So Shawn gave Ashley a steadying hand and she went across followed quickly by Shawn.  My heart was in my throat as I jumped out on the tree, took two steps and leaped to the other bank.  Luckily I made it but I was WAY out of my comfort zone on that move.

As we came in after getting all the trekking CP's Kuat were getting on their bikes and heading out; we were the 2nd team in.  Jason got the next set of checkpoints which were pre-plotted and it turned out this was the final leg of the race.  We were to bike back to the Smithville Lake park and ride trails to the finish line.  Awesome!

Hard working volunteer
The ride to the park was short and I towed the entire way.  I was feeling really good and I thought we had a chance to catch Kuat and take the win since they only had a couple minutes lead.  Unfortunately, they were far enough ahead that we couldn't see them up the road and I think that put my team out of chase mode and into survival mode.   We were all tired but I think if we could have seen Kuat we would have had the motivation to chase them down.  But we didn't.

When we got to the trail, the first section had some slick rocks and roots and Ashley took a spill early on.  That made her ride cautiously instead of attacking the trail like she should.  I rode behind her for awhile and she's a good mountain biker.  I think she needs to trust her skills more and go right at the technical stuff.  If you're hesitant, you'll have problems.

At the end we got to the finish line about 6 minutes back from Kuat but 30 minutes ahead of Wild Hares.  A 2nd place overall that close to the front is a great accomplishment and I'm really proud of my team.  Everyone was strong and we worked really well together.  I didn't mention Shawn in this report very much but he's a solid all-around racer, plus his humor keeps everything light on course which when your tired is a welcome relief.  I'm happy I got to race with them and I'd do it again anytime.

Post-race I'm all smiles!
The team that really surprised me was the 2 person male team Wild Hares.  They were good on the bike and were good on the paddle.  Their only weakness seemed to be on the run.  They took 3rd overall which is great, but if they get their running together they'll be on the top step of a lot of podiums.

Water was a little chilly
After the race we jumped in the lake for a cool-down.  It was a great way to end a great race.  Congrats to Kuat for giving us more than we could handle.  You were fast at the end of the race and that's what it takes to win.  Good job.

Gary and Ellen, owners of Bonk Hard Racing once again put on an excellent adventure race and as usual pulled in a ton of swag for the racers.  Thanks for sponsors Kuat and Dynamic Earth for supporting the sport.

Spoils of racing
Second place netted me 75% off a future Bonk Hard race and a nice Osprey pack.

Lessons learned from this race;

  • Form over effort on the paddle.  I've had races where I worked much harder and gone much slower than I did at Smithville.  Thanks to Jason for the guidance.
  • Carry enough water.  I should have refilled when I had the chance.  I've got to stay on top of my water.  It's critical.  Again, thanks Jason for giving me your water.
  • Tow whenever possible, even when you think you're all going the same speed.  
  • Take advantage of strengths and minimize weaknesses and mistakes.  Having me pull on the bike and having Ashley as the rabbit on the run were the best way to use our strengths.  We had very few mistakes and that made the difference.
  • It's nice to be on time for the race start and I loved getting the maps earlier in the day Friday.  Sleep is good.
Here's a link to the results.

*UPDATE* PHOTOS ARE UP! I've grabbed several for this post, hopefully that's okay.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

2012 Ouachita Challenge Race Report

Last weekend was the 12th running of the Ouachita Challenge in small Oden Arkansas.  I've done the race the last 2 years, and it's one of the hardest endurance mountain bike races in the midwest.  60 miles of gravel, road, huge rocks and some of the sweetest bench-cut single-track I've ever ridden. 

I came into the race this year unsure how it would go.  I've had some success there in the past with 9th and 6th place finishes, but so far my results this spring have been mixed.  Add in the hottest temperature for me this year and who knew what would happen.

I stayed with the family in an awesome secluded cabin about an hour from the race HQ.  I try to turn my "bigger" races into mini-vacations since I don't really go on vacation.  Luckily I have an understanding and supportive family.

I was able to pre-ride  Big Brushy (the first trail section of the race) on Saturday, and the trail was in great shape and I felt pretty good so I hoped Sunday would go well.

My strategy going in was similar to last year; try to hit the trail near the front, survive the rocky first half of the race, have someone to work with on the road between the Ouachita Trail and the Womble, and make my race on the Womble.  I've said it before; I'm not a good technical rider.  I'm sketchy in the rocks and not fast on the downhills, but I can climb relatively well and have good endurance.  I have to play to my strengths and the first half of OC just emphasizes my weaknesses.  Make it to the Womble would be my mantra.

My Kuat teammate Cale McAninch was doing the race, and lucky him, he got to sleep in the Kuat van instead of a cabin (that's me posing, not Cale).  I really hoped we could ride together until the road section in the middle of the race since he's a strong road rider, in addition to a great mountain biker.  It was his first OC and chances of us riding the same pace for 20+ miles were slim, but that's what I was shooting for.

The race starts with about 8 miles of pavement/gravel to the Big Brushy section of the Ouachita Trail.  Last year it was pretty mellow.  This year was not.  I ride a 1X10 and was spinning as fast as I could on the flats and could barely hang onto the back of the lead group.  I don't know what the deal was, but people were in a hurry to get to the trail.

There's a long climb right before the trail, and as I made my way up it looked like there were about 20 people in front of me.  I passed a few people and found Cale on the way up.  I jumped on his wheel and rode with him to the top.  Then, right before entering the trail he passed 2 people and they got between us.  So much for riding with Cale.  In a few minutes he's gone and I'm doing my best to avoid rocks and keep from wrecking.  

I got passed by a few people on Bushy, passed a few others and popped out to my support crew after about an hour feeling pretty good.  Blowout mountain, the next trail section was the hardest of the day.  I start that trail feeling pretty confident about myself and my riding ability, but by the time it's over I feel like I'm not a "real" mountain biker and I'm unclipping at the first sign of a rock garden.  The shear size and number of them just beat me into submission.  But I survived it, refueled at the aid station and started making my way up Chalybeate Mountain.  The climbing is what defines this section for me, and while I was making up some time from all my hike-a-bike on Blowout, I also had my only mechanical issue of the day.  The zip tie that holds my derailleur cable to my frame near the rear derailleur broke which let the cable flap around, snagging on my shoe as I pedaled.  I fixed it by using one of the twisty ties from my number plate, but it kept coming undone and I had to stop several times to re-do it.  Frustrating, but of all the things that could go wrong, it was pretty minor. 

 Check out the sweet new Kuat Kit's.  Coming soon to a store (or website) near you!

As I was fiddling with my bike I was jockeying back and forth with Corey Godfrey, a guy that I've ridden with at some point during my 2 previous OC's.  When we popped out on the gravel road for an 8 mile ride to the Womble I told him I'd like to work together so we could make good time on the road.  I told him I didn't think he would get much benefit drafting off me since he's at least 6'6" and I'm at most 5'7", and he said; "gravel's my thing".  So I jumped on his tail and he proceeded to pull me to Sims, where I got a bottle hand-up, waited for me to catch back on, then pulled me to the Highway 298 aid station.  Along the way we caught another rider who was happy to have a draft.

I can't say enough how awesome it was to have Corey to draft off of from the OT to the Womble.  We were flying and I was recovering the entire time.  As we approached the Womble trail Corey said to go on because he was starting to cramp, so I took off, feeling as good as I'd felt all day.  I was sitting around 16th place but soon started catching riders who were having issues with the heat.

About 5 miles into the Womble I caught up to Brandon Melott and Cale.  Brandon was on a single-speed.  Cale was cramping and having heat-stroke symptoms so after riding with Brandon and I for awhile, he pulled over and told us to go on.  Brandon was riding well and it was good to ride with him, but when he pulled over at a road crossing to re-fuel I went on.  I wound up catching a couple more people, then as I was coming off the Womble for the ride back to Oden I caught up to Andy Gibbs, a St. Louis rider I've raced against many times. It was his first OC and he'd burned a few too many matches early on and was running on fumes.  I would have been content to finish the race with him, but on the last gravel climb of the day, he said he was blown and I went on by myself.  I wanted to finish in under 5 hours so I put my head down and rode hard to the finish. 

I ended up crossing the line at 5:01:52 in 8th place.  Much better than I expected for most of the day, so I'm pretty happy with the result.

Here's a link to my garmin data for the day, and here's a link to the official results.  There are TONS of photos out there from the day, so if you're interested, look here, here and here.

The weekend was awesome, and the race, as always, delivered.  I may never crack that top 5 but I'll keep coming back and trying.

Big thanks to the friendly/helpful volunteers at the aid stations and road crossings, and of course to my support crew for keeping me moving. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New Gear

2011 was a year of upgrading my bike.  Now that I've got it how I want it I think 2012 is going to be a year of upgrading my gear.  Yesterday I bought 2 items that I've been lusting after for awhile.  The first is a pack, the second is a pair of shoes.   

I've got several packs and several trail running shoes.  I like most of them but I haven't got any that I love.  My favorite current pack is an Osprey Talon 11.  
It's pretty light, is roomy enough and if you snug down the straps it will stay in place while you run.  I hate a bouncy pack.  What I don' t like about it is the waist belt.  The pockets are too small for much more than a couple gels and hard for me to open one handed.  Having the pack tightened enough it to keep it from bouncing gets uncomfortable after awhile.  So I end up loosening the straps and running with my hands holding the shoulder straps in place.  Not a good position when you trip and fall in the woods.  

My favorite current shoes are Salomon XR Crossmax's.  
I run on pavement more than trial (unfortunately), and these shoes work well for both.  What I don't like is the weight and tread; kinda heavy and not enough traction in the woods.  Good enough for most training but not what I want when I'm wearing them for hours and want to go as fast as possible.

My upgrades are both Salomon products; I'm a fan.  The first is a new pack that I read about when they came out with it last year.  It was a small pack (5 liter) so didn't really suit my needs, but I loved the design and hoped they'd come out with a larger version.  For 2012 they have.  Its the Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 Set (quite a mouthful).  
The idea is that there is no waist strap, and that the pack fits more like a vest than a typical backpack.  the weight is more evenly distributed and there are multiple chest straps so there shouldn't be as restrictive as what I've been using.  Plus BIG side pockets.  It was expensive, but it's gotten great reviews and I can't wait to try it out. 

The second product is a lighter pair of trail shoes, the Speedcross 3.  
While I intend to just use them for occasional trail running and adventure racing, I love the aggressive tread pattern and the weight will be an improvement over the Crossmax.  Again, I'm looking forward to trying them out.

I'll post up some reviews once I'm able to get some miles on them.

2012 Bonk Hard Chill - Küat Ünite

Last weekend I participated in my 6th adventure race; the Bonk Hard Chill.  It's an annual race that takes place in the Lake of the Ozarks region, and this year it was at Ha Ha Tonka state park near Camdenton.  It's an area I've been wanting to explore but for some reason never had, so this was a great chance to check it out.

Leading up to the race I intended to compete in the 4-person co-ed division, but my teammates were doing other things, so Jesse and I signed up for the 2 dudes class. It's not the "premier" division, but a lot of people sign up for it and the competition is always pretty good.  Jesse would be the navigator, I'd be the rabbit and I honestly just wanted a clean race where we got all the checkpoints and didn't spend hours wandering around in the woods wondering where the heck we were.

We drove to Camdenton Friday afternoon and checked out the park.  It was hilly and looked to be a great place to host the race.  We walked some trails around an island, checked out a balanced rock and climbed 300+ steps above a spring.  I wanted to do more exploring but also didn't want to wear my legs out the day before the race, so we decided to cut our scouting trip short and head to Osage Beach to have some dinner with the Hoosier Daddies at Biggies.  It was right next to the official Chill hotel, the Quails Nest where most racers were staying.  We however weren't staying at the Quails Nest because we got a good deal at a Day's Inn in Lebanon.  A little further drive but a dollar saved is a dollar earned, right?

Anyway, dinner was good, I ate too much as usual before a race, and afterward we headed to Oz Cycles in Lake Ozark for racer check-in.  Oz had quite a few items marked down and their entire rack of swift-wick products were 30% off.  So I got some arm warmers, compression socks and regular socks.  Good stuff.

Next we headed over to the gymnasium at the elementary school next door.  There we were given instructions for the race, some swag was tossed around, an Oz Cycles donated Kayak was raffled and we were given our maps and check point coordinates.  

We made it to the hotel in Lebanon around 10 and after plotting the checkpoints and preparing our packs for the race we were in bed by midnight with a 4am alarm set.  You never get much sleep the night before an adventure race.

After what felt like a few minutes sleep, we got up at 4.  I made my usual pre-race meal of oatmeal with peanut butter and brown sugar and drank some coffee.  Then we donned our spandex loaded the car and headed to the race.  The woman at the checkout desk at Days Inn gave Jesse a funny look when he turned in the room key, but I'm sure she's seen weirder sights at 5am.  

When we got to the park it was chilly outside, but not freezing.  There was a bike drop where we left our bikes near the entrance to the park and then we were able to find CP0 (the race HQ) without getting lost.  In the past that has been an issue, so in my mind it was shaping up to be a good day.  I got a little cold standing around waiting for the race to start, but they had hot coffee for us and before I knew it it was 6:30 and Gary was saying "GO!" .

Jesse and I took off with the 100+ crowd, running through a field on our way to CP1.  We stayed near the front and was able to avoid the bottleneck of punching our passport at the first CP.  Gary put two flags up to help speed thing along which was a great idea.  

I love running with the crowd at the start of the race.  There's so much energy.  I'm full of adrenalin and it feels like I'm just bouncing along on top of the world.  You've got to enjoy those moments while you have them because they don't last forever.

We quickly made our way to CP2 which was at the bottom of some fairly slippery steps at the entrance to the River Cave, then back up the steps and up a hill to CP's 3 and 4.  With the running I was heating up, and the fleece I put on while waiting for the start was too much.  I took it off after CP3 and felt much better.

On our way to CP5 the crowd was starting to thin and we catch up to the Stinging Nettles team of Jason Elsenraat and Paul Freeman.  Jason is the former owner of Bonk Hard Racing and I figured they were the top 2-person male team.  We chatted a little about pack technology and helmet restraint before Jesse and I started to move up. The next team we encountered was WOAH consisting of Sunny Gilbert and Emily Korsch; presumably the top 2-person female team.  As we approached them we noticed they were unintentionally shedding weight by dropping various nutrition products on the road.  We yelled at them but they ignored us.  When we caught up they said they thought we were heckling them.  I'm not sure it's a good idea to heckle someone ahead of you, but they got their stuff back and we would end up see-sawing with them for most of the race.  At one point Jesse said he felt bad because he couldn't keep up with them, but I told him they were pretty bad-ass and we were doing well to be around them. 

CP5 was the transition to canoes and after a few minutes on the water Jesse and I were regretting the decision of leaving the 4 piece kayak paddles in the car.  There was a headwind and as we struggled to keep the boat straight we watched several teams with kayak paddles pull away from us.  Boating is my weakest link in adventure racing.  It can be fun when you're on a fast moving river where you have to pay attention in order to keep the boat upright.  But when you're on a lake, or a wide river like the Meramec, it becomes something you just have to suffer through.  This could be because the only time I'm in a canoe is during races.  Anyway we traveled a few miles to CP6 where we disembarked and headed up to Bridal Cave for CP9.  From there we went into the cave with our bike helmets and headlamps for CP8.  This was one of the neatest parts of the race.  Luckily we were one of the first few groups to get there so there wasn't much traffic in the cave and we were able to move fairly quickly.  I love cave tours and I'm going to go back and use the free tour family pass I received with my race packet.  I want to be able to look around.

After the cave it was back to the boats and on our way to CP10 which was on a dock near where we originally put in.  Then we continued on a few more miles to CP11 and the end of the boat leg at the Spring parking lot at Ha Ha Tonka.  I've got to say I was glad to be finished with paddling.  I think Jesse and I got better at keeping the boat on a fairly straight tack and were going a decent speed, but it wasn't fun.

After a quick bathroom break Jesse and I headed up the steps above the spring to CP12, then on to a cool natural bridge that had CP13 underneath it.  From there it was a short run to the bike drop at CP14 where we would transition to my preferred mode of transportation.  We got to do a little token off-road riding on our way to CP16 and CP17, but from there all we'd see would be gravel and pavement.  It's a bummer we couldn't use some of the nice hiking trails around the park for the bike leg, but I guess Gary couldn't get permission for that.

CP's 18 to 29 are kind of a blur to me.  There was a lot of riding; at least 25 miles.  Most of it was on gravel roads and the CP's were hung from signs on the side of the road.  There was 1 decision that had to be made though.  All CP's from 1 to 18 had to be done in order.  But 19 to 24 could be done in any order.  They were all positioned in a big loop so we decided to make the trip around the longest portion then do a quick out and back on the short section before CP25.  It was the same route WOAH chose and we ended up riding with them most of the time.

CP25 was a manned CP and was pretty awesome because although we had to stop for a gear check, they had a HUGE tub of little debbie pastries (and water) that we could dig into.  After 6 hours of perpetuem it looked like food from the gods.  I ate a honey bun and two oatmeal cream pies and they were delicious!  I could have hung out there for awhile but soon we were back on the bikes and hitting CP's 26 to 29.  CP29 was the last known CP, and there we were supposed to receive instructions for the remainder of the race.  

It turned out to be a transition from bike to foot and we had 9 more CP's to find before the end of the race.  The transition area was at the old post office at Ha Ha Tonka and we had a covered pavilion with tables we could use to plot the remaining 9 CP's.  I took the time to change into some dry socks and eat some beef jerky but after 10 minutes or so we were off running in the woods.  We were in the top 5 overall teams at that point and I hoped we'd be able to hold on and finish strong. 

I'll get it out of the way; orienteering is hard.  It's one of the things I love about adventure racing, but I hate that it always screws us because we aren't that good at it.  But, each race we have done better and this was no exception.  We went straight to a few of the 9 CP's, made it to the vicinity of a few others where we had to wander around until we found them, and basically followed foot prints for the others.  We had a couple of mis-plotted points that cost us some time, but our real problem was not finding each CP quick enough.  I'd have liked to have finished the final portion of the race in 3 hours, which I think we are capable of, but we took 4.5 hours to do it.  That dropped us to 14th place overall and 7th in our division which isn't bad, but with our strengths in the other disciplines, is a little disappointing.   On the positive side, we DID find all of the CP's (yeah!), Jesse and I learned more about navigating, we had a great time and the post race BBQ was delicious.  

The results from the race are here, pictures are here.

This was Gary and Ellen Thompson's second race since taking over the helm of Bonk Hard Racing, and they did a wonderful job.  The course was fun and challenging and the event was very professionally run.  Their volunteers were friendly and helpful and did a great job.  We are lucky to have such a wonder regional AR promotion company in Bonk Hard Racing.  I appreciate what they put into the races and I look forward to doing more of their events. 

My next adventure race is in Branson on March 17.  I don't know who I'm going to team up with yet and it's a week after the Spa City 6 hour. I'd like to do Bonk Hard's next event at LBL on the 24th, but it's a week before Ouachita Challenge and that's packing a lot of endurance events (as well as travel) into a pretty short time frame. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Everyone has heroes.  People they look up to and try to emulate.  I have several people that I admire for different reasons and while none of them are perfect, they all have several qualities I aspire to.  Here are some of them in the context I think of them and in no particular order.  (all the pictures are stolen from facebook so please forgive me)

John Bradley 

I know John as an Adventure Racer.  Most of what I've learned about the sport came from him.  He's intense but approachable.  He has always been willing to share the knowledge he's gained from years of racing and I love talking to him about it.  He's the ultimate competitor that wants to win but at the same time want's you to do well.  I've been on many runs where I've not really been into it and thought about cutting it short.  Then I think, "I bet John ran 20 miles this morning".  So I keep going.  He's an inspiration and unknowingly a motivator.

Dwayne Goscinski

I've been a fan of Dwayne long before I knew him.  When I first started racing mountain bikes he always stood out as someone to watch.  To me, Dwayne is the ultimate mountain bike racer.  He's good, but that's not what makes him special.  It's his constant smile and the way he engages everyone around him.  He loves to ride his bike and you can tell he wants you to love it as well.  He's a great role model.

Team Trail Monster (Jim and Wendy Davis)

Jim and Wendy would be the first to tell you this;  they are not your prototypical athletes.  What they've got they haven't come by naturally.  But what they are in my opinion are adventurous souls.  They love the outdoors and they are great ambassadors of the active lifestyle.  They've worked hard for what they've got and it's paid off.  I look forward to each time I get to see them.  

Luke Kuschmeader

I really admire Luke for everything he's accomplished.  I think of myself as a dreamer.   But Luke is that and more.  He puts his dreams into motion and makes great things.  He's also an athlete.  I've done adventure races with Luke and I've seen him when he's hell-bound determined and when he's stopped caring.  The former made me want to follow and the latter made me want to pick up the slack.  I've seen him push himself harder than I thought he could and it somehow made my effort easier.  I'm glad I know Luke and can't wait to see what he comes up with next.

Jesse Livingston

Jesse lives a life a lot of people dream about.  He's been more places and done more things than I'll ever do.  Anytime I have a whim to go ride or to some race Jesse is always up for it.  He's a lot of fun to be around and if I were to go on a wilderness trek, I'd want Jesse to be my guide. 

John Penny

John is a motivator.  I don't know if Tony Robbins is still around, but John could take his job.  I've worked with John for a few years outside of my regular job and when I sometimes feel like there isn't enough time to get everything accomplished that I want to get done, he gets me going.  As a result I think we've created some pretty good stuff.  I'd love to have John's drive.  LETS GO!

Of course there are others and I wish I had the time to document all of them.  But I was thinking about this subject while working out today and these are the ones that came to mind.  We all touch peoples lives.  Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.  But these people have been a good influence and make me want to be a better person.  I figure that deserves some recognition.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Berryman 36 Hour Adventure Race

This weekend was the 11th running of the Berryman Adventure Race. I entered the 36 hour co-ed "elite" division with teammates Luke Kuschmeader, Jesse Livingston and Sara Parrish as Kuat Unite.  Unite is a charity effort by Kuat Racks.  They were inspired to do something by the tragedy of the Joplin Tornado earlier this year.  The Unite mission is to help victims of catastrophes around the world.  

This was my 5th adventure race and first 36 hour.  I had gotten a lot of good advice from some exceptional and experienced people leading up to the race, but really didn't know what it was going to be like.   I've raced with Luke several times but it was the first with Sara and it was Jesse's first adventure race.

I could give a blow by blow account of the race but that would take a long time.  Instead I'll just highlight a few of the highs and lows from our 30 hour adventure.

Best Moment Mentally:  On the last trekking "O" section over 24 hours into the race, I was tired but was mentally in the game.  I was focused on getting checkpoints and even though we were climbing some insane hills I was having a great time. 

Best Moment Physically: Anytime on the bike.  It's my thing and I love riding.  Even though I lost my front brake due to worn pads in the pouring rain within the first 4 hours of the race, it didn't really effect my riding.  I felt strong on the bike and looked forward to each biking leg of he race.

Worst Moment Mentally:  The first trekking "O" course consisted of 16 checkpoints in the area around the Berryman Campground.  There was an 8 hour time limit and for every 5 minutes you went over the cutoff it would cost 1 checkpoint.  We started this section of the race in the dark at 3am and initially struggled to find many of the checkpoints.  We eventually got into a grove and as we neared the cutoff we decided to try to squeeze 1 more checkpoint in before heading back.  We were all running out of water and that last checkpoint took longer to find than we expected.  With about 20 minutes to go we took off on a run trying to get back in time.  During the run Jesse was cramping so Luke dropped back to give him a tow.  We ran as hard as we could but ended up getting back 3 minutes past the cutoff, costing us that last checkpoint we worked so hard to get.  As I sat at the transition area, getting ready for the next bike leg I was really down.  I was thirsty, tired and mentally exhausted.  I didn't know if I even wanted to continue.  I kept my mouth shut but if someone on the team had said they wanted to quit I probably would have gone along with them.  After about 3 miles of riding we came to a creek where we could restock on water.  At that point my outlook had changed and once again I was enjoying the experience and looking forward to continuing.  The lesson here is don't dwell on the bad feelings.  It will change.  Just keep moving and it will get better.

Worst Moment Physically:  Although I was tired many times during the race I can't really pin down anytime I felt bad physically.  No cramping, no chafing, no blisters.  Never got very cold and didn't bonk.  That was pretty cool.

Scariest Moment:  The 2am canoe leg was unreal.  The water was moving pretty quickly and there were lot of obstacles in the water.  Rootballs, downed trees, and other canoes.  To top it off there was a thick fog coming off the water that greatly limited visibility.  I was super nervous and Luke was nodding off in the back of the boat.  Eventually I calmed down when I realized we could paddle hard enough to avoid everything and actually enjoyed the float.

Biggest Surprise:  Jesse's and Luke's calmness under fire.  Navigating an adventure race that covers as much ground as the Berryman 36 hour is no easy task and it's easy to lose your bearing and get frustrated.  Each and every time there was any uncertainty about our location and where the next checkpoint was, they regrouped, determined the best course of action and got us where we needed to go.  I'd race with them anytime.  I also can't neglect to mention Sara's pure strength. She impressed me over and over with her prowess on the bike and positive attitude.  She's tough. 

Bottom Line:  Jason and Laura  are expert adventure race promoters.  They dot all their I's and cross all their T's.  My team had a great experience this weekend and we'll be back for another Bonk Hard race.  

Here's a link to the results

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

2011 Syllamo's Revenge race recap

I do quite a bit of racing and I usually put everything I have into each race, but for me there are 3 big races a year.  Races that I really look forward to and want to do well at.  They are the Ouachita Challenge, Syllamo's Revenge and the BT Epic.  They are all 50+ mile endurance races on some very tricky and challenging trails.  Of these races I've had my best result at Syllamo and this year I feel like I'm doing my best riding, so I entered this weekend's race with high excitement and expectations.

This year the Syllamo's Revenge was held alongside a new NUE Series event the Syllamo 125k.  They would be starting an hour ahead of us and racing the same course, but repeating a couple sections at the end in order to get the longer distance.  I had considered signing up for the longer race, but honestly, the 50 miles of SR are enough, and last year I didn't want to go any further.  I was a little uneasy how the earlier race would effect the trails for us, but everyone would be racing in the same elements so it really didn't make any difference.

The race is near Mountain View Arkansas and I planned on getting a cabin nearby but with 500+ people converging on the area the closest I could get (where dog's are allowed) was a room at a nice place in Calico Rock, the Cedar Rock Lodge.  It was about a 40 minute drive to the Blanchard Caverns Campground, the start/finish area of the race and very clean and affordable.

We made the drive to Calico Rock early Friday, and after checking in and unloading some stuff made the trip to Blanchard Springs Campground so I could pre-ride the first 5 miles of the course.  The ride was great, with mostly dry trails and I felt really good. 

Next we drove into Mountain View to pick up the race registration packet and then headed back to Calico Rock for some excellent pasta at Don Quixote's.  I had the seafood pasta and there was enough for two meals.

Saturday morning I was up at 4:30, ate a big bowl of oatmeal and drove to the race, getting there in time to watch the 125k race start at 7.  Then I rode up the long hill towards Blanchard Cavern to warm up my legs.  On the trip back down I noticed a strange wobble feeling in the lever for my rear brake.  It had a feeling like my rotor was bent and the lever was pulsating.  It had never done that before but I didn't think much of it.

I started the race on the front line and made it to the climb up blanchard road to the singletrack in pretty good shape.  I didn't go all out on the climb since my goal was just to enter the singletrack in the top 10.  In the following picture I'm the 3rd from the right:

A group of 5 broke away a little but were only 30 or so yards ahead.  Cale McAninch passed me and I reached the trail behind him around 6th place.  The pace on the trail was pretty good and on one of the rocky climbs that came after a sharp turn Cale, on a rigid singlespeed had to walk a bit so I passed and he got in behind me.  I got in a group behind 3 riders with Chris Renshaw and Noah Singer in the pack.  We got away from Cale for awhile as we cruised the fast flowing benchcut trail, but when we started some of the slick rocky descents Cale caught back up.  Overall I felt like we were riding faster than I had the previous year and I was definitely working but I was thinking I could maintain the pace for awhile.

About 10 miles into the race on a downhill I went to grab some brake and my rear brake lever went to the bar without slowing me down.  I tried pumping the lever but that didn't work, so I pulled over to see what was wrong.  Cale said that 90% of braking is the front wheel, which is true, but on slick muddy rocks, you need some rear brakes.  I fiddled with the various adjustments on my XX brakes but couldn't get them to work.  There simply wasn't any feeling at the lever, I could pull it to the bar without any resistance.

For the next 4 miles to the first checkpoint I did the best I could but had one crash were I went over the bars and hit my leg pretty hard on some rocks, and was passed by a couple people.  Here's a picture of me about a mile from the checkpoint:

When I got to the checkpoint I was really disappointed.  I'm not a great technical rider and I was really struggling on the downhills without a rear brake.  Plus the big downhills were still to come.  So I decided to call it a day and DNF the race.  I just didn't think I could do it without getting hurt.  Then, Jim Davis (the same Jim Davis that aired up my tire at Berryman a couple years ago) who was at the race supporting his wife Wendy (and everyone else), offered to let me (no told me to) ride his bike for the rest of the race.  I was hesitant but willing to give it a shot.  Then as he was setting the seat height for me he stripped the bolt on his seatpost collar.  I took it as a sign. 

I ended up hanging out at the aid station for awhile and it was pretty neat.  I've never been at one during a race for more than a few seconds.  The racers get a ton of support from friends, family, volunteers and total strangers.  You see a lot of emotion from total joy to fatigue induced suffering.  People battle mental and physical demons during these races, and they don't always win, but most of the time they do.

I ended up giving a ride back to Blanchard to RIM promoter Doug Long.  It was good getting to talk to him.  He has done all of the SR races and this was the first time he had to withdraw.  I could tell it wasn't an easy decision, but one he had to make.  He'll be back.

I'll be back as well.  I need to work on my downhill skills to have a chance to win these races, but I think I can get better.  Maybe riding the rough motorcycle trails at Chadwick would help.

The weekend wasn't a total loss, I got to eat some good food, see some great sights and talk to lots of great people.  The race didn't go as I'd hoped, but everything else did.

The pictures in this post were taken from THIS gallery.  There are hundreds of pictures from the race there.

Now I just need to get my bike fixed because I've got the Ozark Greenways Adventure race Saturday and 6 Hour Indian Camp Creek race Sunday.