Monday, April 4, 2011

Team Gung Ho Race Report

[These guys always write up a nice race report and are willing to share. Thanks, Gung Ho!]

Gung Ho’s Gleneagles Adventure Race Recap

Long story short, I talked my neighbor, James Powell, into trying an adventure race with me south of Raleigh on Harris Lake and next to the Harris Nuclear Power Plant. James is a great runner (doing Boston in three weeks) and was up for something completely different. I’m not sure that James really knew what he was getting himself into.

Surrounding the plant is a county park and lots of forest areas with mountain bike trails and forest service roads. The park sits on a long peninsula so the lake is on both sides of the park.

This was a 6 hour race with 37 teams in total, 23 two person teams (12 all male, 7 coed, 4 all female) and the rest 3 or 4 person teams. We had a central transition area that served as the start/finish in the park. After a pre-race brief we learned that there would be 27 checkpoints and we could get them in any order. There was a section on the peninsula trails, a section on mountain bike trails, and a section on the lakeshores opposite the park. There was a transition area across the lake where there were 6 checkpoints to be given once you got there. We were given a map with 11 points plotted and then coordinates for the other 10. The forecast called for high in the 60’s with winds at 20 mph, gusts up to 30.

We started with a prologue in which all teams had to run to a point on the lake, get an object, then bring it back to the start and we would get the first 11 coordinates and our passport. We all took off at 10am, ran to the point, got a pine cone, and ran it back. It was a 1.25 mile run with our packs on. We plotted the points, 4 along the lake and 7 in the park and then we had decided to canoe first since the wind was only going to get
worse in the afternoon.

I brought the portage wheels after realizing how much they could have helped last year and boy was I glad I did. We were going to go around the lake clockwise so we portaged ¼ mile down and put in. We grabbed CP1 right there and then headed across the lake. There were two canoes in front of us and several right behind us.

We had barely gotten into the main channel when we felt the full brunt of the wind. Whitecaps and big waves had us splashing up and down. Just in front of us, one of the two boats ahead, dumped over. Yikes! A rescue boat helped them. We pushed hard and got to CP18 right on the shore and leap frogged the two boats that had started in front of us. We had to paddle straight into the wind along the shore now and then cut back into
a deep inlet to get CP19. At CP19, we could either paddle ¾ mile straight into the wind or portage up to the road and then down to the transition area. The wind so tough and the land had been recently clear-cut with a logging road so the portage up to the paved road (1/4 mile) wouldn’t be too bad. We decided to go for the 1.1 mile portage. There was a canoe team at CP19 so we would be able to tell which was faster.

Guess what, we arrived at the transition area at the same time the other team did. We might have been a little fresher and definitely not as mentally beat down. Probably best of all, we got some strange looks from cars passing us on the road as we are rolling our canoe down it.

We were supposed to be given 6 CP coordinates when we checked in but the volunteer didn’t have any and didn’t know anything about it. After a quick cell call, they realized the error and they were on their way. They marked the time down and gave us a time credit for the wait, which ended up being 7 minutes. By the time they arrived there were about 6 teams there. We took advantage of the delay to eat and drink.

We plotted the points and then took off on foot. We got to CP22 which was near the TA but hanging over a pond feeder stream and one of us had to walk in and get it. James had the passport and got his true initiation by jumping in with two feet. We left there ahead of the other teams and made a clockwise trip to get CP23, 24, 25, 26 and 27. This whole area had been clear cut so it was very weird to have such long range visibility. In some ways it made walking/running more difficult because of all the logs strewn about. This whole trekking section was 3.75 miles. The only scary part about this section was the sounds of large artillery being shot in the general vicinity. We were the first team back to the transition area, checked in and then got in the canoe for the dreaded continuation of paddling.

We needed to go ¾ mile at a 45 degree angle from where we were and the wind was even worse. As much as we tried to go that direction we were being pushed more like a straight line. We ended up at the peninsula point and took the canoe out and portage to the trail and then across the peninsula and dropped the boat so we could make a straight shot at the CP. To give ourselves a break from the paddle, we grabbed CP 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 on foot (2.25 miles). We found them all easily and then got back in the boat. It was 3 hours into the race.

We paddled hard to go 1/3 mile across the lake, the paddle got easier as we got closer because the wind was blocked by the trees. The wind was so bad; it was actually hard just to bring your paddle forward to put it back in the water. We grabbed CP20 and then finally had the wind at our back as we paddled 1.5 miles to CP21. We crossed over the channel to get CP8 and then across the inlet to the take out point. Once again the portage wheels were huge as we rolled up the road 0.6 miles to the transition to our bikes. Overall, we had paddled 4 miles, trekked/ran 8.5 miles and portaged 2 miles. The bikes were a welcome sight.

We had been racing 4 hours and needed 10 CPs on the mountain bike portion. The mountain bike portion was only 4 miles and we found each of the CPs pretty quickly at each stop where we had to get off the bikes and look. We passed a passport in a zip lock bag and then shortly after a team heading the other direction asking if we had seen a passport around. I hope they found it as that would mean the end of their race without it. We got to the very last CP which was under the road in a culvert. Another team was there already and said it wasn’t in the culvert. James looked from the other side and didn’t see it. I told him I’m sure it is in there, probably all the way in the middle. Sure enough, he had to hunch over into the dark tube and get it. With all CPs cleared, we raced to the finish line and turned in our passport with a finishing time of 4 hrs and 48
minutes (net 4:41 with the 7 min credit).

Our time was not quite good enough to win the 2 man. We missed first by 4 minutes! Aargh! We ended up tied 2nd in the twelve team 2 person male category, and 4th overall out of all 37 teams.

Other than the typical briar scratches we escaped un-injured and glad to be not paddling. James had a good time doing this crazy sport and we just about got him a first place on his try. If I understood the wind direction effect on the lake before we started, I would have had us go counterclockwise because it would have been a more downwind route and made a big difference and we would have gotten the peninsula points on our bikes which would have been faster too. This was the first time the wind ever was this bad or played such a role in strategy choice.

Overall a great race and great start to the year. Bushwhack and the race designers did a great job as usual. James even said he would do another one!

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