Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Goomna Adventure Race 2010

Well, the day started out like every other day that the Goomna adventure race has been scheduled on. It was hot and humid at 7 am, with a bit of a breeze, and it looked as though there was a thunderstorm looming in the distance. This was my forth time competing in the Goomna, and I had the same teammates this race as I had the previous year. Since two of the three previous races were cancelled during the race due severe thunderstorms popping up, the dark clouds in the distance posed some threat to the race. Patrick, Chuck and I hoped for the best, maybe some rain, but hopefully not thunder and lightning that would possibly stop the race.

We setup camp, checked in, got our maps and plotted the points that we had. We were told that one team member would have to run a short distance and pick up an envelope with our start group in it. The A group started with checkpoint one, while the B group started with checkpoint 9. Chuck ran for us, since he was the fastest sprinter. He came flying into camp in 3rd position.

We quickly tore open the envelope to find we were in group B. We found our direction and kitted up for the bike, when we realized we didn’t know if we were biking or running. Usually there is a clue sheet that tells us that, but this year we didn’t have one. So we yelled to Mark Rosen the race director, does group B start with a bike or run, he said run, so off came the helmet and gloves and we took off on the run to the first checkpoint. It was at a school track stadium, when we got there we saw that there was another group confused about if it were a run or bike and they were on bikes, I guess they took the bikes back to the start, but not sure what they did at that point. We also had a surprise mystery event at CP9, we had to carry two very tall buckets of water up and down each isle of the bleachers until we got to the end, then run them back to the start, so the next teammate could do the same. When all three teammates were finished with the task we could head to CP10. The problem for me was, the buckets were heavy and tall, so as I tried to walk up the bleachers carrying them, but they were hitting each of the bleachers and slowing me down, so I put the handles over my arms and carried them that way, to keep them higher off the ground. Of course I have black and blue bruises down my forearms now. Patrick put them over his shoulder which seemed to be the way to go, he was much faster than me or Chuck were.

We headed to the lake trails where CP10 was located, it was a rather long run to get there, we took a wrong turn coming onto the trial and lost a few seconds, but not much, we got the passport punched, picked up the next clue and headed to the canoes, just as we left CP10, Chuck stepped in a hole that was up to his knee and went down. Patrick pulled him back up, and off we went running to the next point.

At CP11, we grabbed a canoe and the next clue sending us to the water. We had to drag the canoe for about 150 meters and then down a path to the water. We all hopped in with me sitting in the middle on the bottom of the canoe and surprisingly we did it without tipping. Patrick pushed us off the shore and under a tree limb into the lake. The lake is large and open so you can see everyone. We saw that there were two canoes, pretty far in front of us and two right on our tails. We had a fast paddle to CP12 and were gaining on those in front of us while losing those behind. We picked up the next clue and headed to CP13, we were really close to catching the team in front of us. After getting CP13, we headed to CP14, we closed in on the two canoes in front of us and made it to the CP first, at that point we thought we were in 1st place of group B because there were no other canoes in front of us. Chuck read the next clue and we started to paddle off to give the teams behind us room to reach the CP. One of the teams asked what it said and Chuck didn’t answer, I think they were getting mad, but Chuck was the only one on the team that knew what it said and he can’t hear very well, so he didn’t even know they were talking to him. I finally said, I don’t know, I didn’t read the clue, then Chuck yells we’re trying to get out of your way, I’m not sure he had any idea what they asked. I know they thought we were being poor sports, but we really weren’t. CP15 was back at the start of the canoe, we paddled like mad men to get there and one of the teams started to catch up with us. We made it to the shore just ahead of the other team and drug the canoe back to the top of the hill, wow, it seemed a lot heavier the second time carrying it.

Back on the run to race headquarters where our bikes were, this would be CP8 for us. We came in thinking we were in 1st place out of the B group, but found out we were in 3rd. We discussed our place in the standings for the rest of the race, because we did not see another team on the water while we were out there, and we didn’t think there was any way possible someone could have already been done with the canoe before we even got to the water. I’m waiting to see the results when they are posted to see the times of those teams that finished in front of us.

Now we were on the bike and headed for CP1. Before the race start I locked out both my front and rear shocks on my Trek Top Fuel and put 50 psi in my tires because I knew I would be riding a lot of road, so I was ready for a fast ride. We had a bit of a problem finding CP1, we didn’t go off course, but we did stop twice to review the map. One team stopped with us and they chose to go right while we went left at a T in the road. We found CP1 not far down the road. We looked at the map and found that since a section of 143 was marked off limits we had to go back the way we came. As we were heading back the team that went the other direction was coming back, we pointed them to the CP, probably not a good move since in the end they beat by just a minute or so. At checkpoint two we see the team we gave the CP location to, coming from the other direction, what we thought was marked off limits. I’m not saying they cheated, I’m just saying that it seemed that they had to ride the off limits section or at least a part of it. If they didn’t they barely missed it. I don’t know Highland, so I can’t say for sure, but we were feeling a little frustrated because they probably went half the distance we did by going that direction, based on the map, it looked to be in the off limits portion of the map.

We quickly punched the passport, Chuck grabbed some water and we were on our way, leaving two other teams a short distance behind us. Chuck was starting to look a bit haggard by then and was beginning to fall back. We slowed a bit to try and cool down for a while. We found CP3 at the edge of the woods, we got our passport stamped, dropped our bikes and headed into the woods on foot. The trails were very muddy and sloppy in places, but it was really fun sliding around.

I was leading with Patrick and Chuck behind me. We came through a creek, and Chuck yells I lost my shoe. I’m thinking well grab it, I look down the hill and he is on his hands and knees in the creek. Patrick runs back down the hill and is soon on his hands and knees, they are searching for Chuck’s shoe, I’m wondering how it can be that lost. I had to pee for about 2 hours now, so I thought while they are crawling around I will jump in the woods and pee. So I come out of the woods about the same time I hear Patrick yell, “I found it”. It was about a foot down in the mud, Chuck had to take a minute to try and get the mud out so he could put it on. Just as he gets his shoe on the team behind us comes running down the hill toward the creek, we take off up the hill as I secretly hope they lose a shoe in the creek. I’m starting to think of this team as one of those horse flies, the ones that buzz around your head and you just can’t get rid of them no matter what you do. So off we go through mud, rocks, creeks, and standing water, we come out on the road and have a mile or so to run to get back to our bikes. It was really hot out now and as we ran I was in front, telling the guys we have to get off this road before the other team comes out of the woods and sees us, then Patrick says “well, they are just going to follow your footprints in the tar”, I look down and every step I have taken has left a print of my shoe melted in the tar. So much for trying to lose the competitors.

We get back to the bikes, fill up our water, eat some Honey Stingers and take off just as the other team comes in off the run. We find CP4 by a cemetery and the guy manning the CP says congratulations! You were going to have to do a 6 mile run here, but it got cancelled. At first we all just looked at each other, it was like 130 degrees out, he couldn’t mean this was for real, that they planned a 6 mile run. We decided that he had to be joking. Whatever it was, we were glad there was no run at that point. Well Patrick and Chuck were, for some reason I was feeling great I think I could have done it.

This is really funny though, because I got up that morning with an awful ear ache and was so dizzy that I ran into the door jam trying to get out of the door, but once I started running I felt incredible. I was even really holding back on the bike, the entire ride because I didn’t want to drop the guys. It’s not often that I have a race where I feel this good, but this was my second race in three weeks that I have felt incredible in.

CP5 was right off the road and it had water, it was a long ride to CP6, so it was good to fill up on water. As we rode down the road I squirted all the water in my water bottle on Chucks back, trying to cool him down. Patrick was starting to look really hot too, but I was out of water by then, or I would have squirted him too

So off to CP6 it was a pretty long hot ride and the CP was at a house in a subdivision, and the kids working the CP were eating snow cones, you have no idea what strength it took not to throw those kids down on the ground and take those snow cones. I restrained myself as to not embarrass my teammates and rode off without the snow cone. Chuck was looking worse and I was getting worried, I was riding in front of him and Partrick in back of him. The horse fly team was on our tail and we were trying to ride fast, but the heat had really taken a toll on the boys. Patrick said he was starting to fall apart and that his pedal was broke, we could see that it was bent and the bolt was coming out, but he said he would figure out how to keep riding, even if he had to ride with one foot.

At this point I could see Chuck was struggling, neither he nor Patrick were whining, which is what I do when I am falling apart, so it was hard to know for sure. If it weren’t for the fact that I was pulling away without feeling any stress to stay ahead, I would not have known they were bonking. Shortly after the CP we crossed a creek, it was really muddy and the banks were steep and grown up with about 8 foot tall weeds. As we crossed the creek bridge a car was following close behind us, but Chuck must not have realized it because he just jumped off his bike, dropped it in the road and almost rolled down the embankment to the creek. I was yelling “go to the other side it’s not as steep”, but he just kept going. While he was rolling down to the creek, I jumped off my bike, pulled his out of the road before the car ran over it and ran to the bridge rail to look for Chuck, Patrick and I couldn't see him, but could hear a giant splash, and then we see and hear the weeds moving and Chuck pops back up on the road. We all get back on the bikes ride towards CP7.

Patrick and I were in front of Chuck and missed the turn to CP7, we turned around and saw Chuck, as we were going back the horse fly team passed us. At the checkpoint there was a small lake, Chuck ran over and splashed water on his face while I got the passport marked and grabbed some water. We head to the finish, horse fly team is in front of us and when we hit a major road with traffic, Chuck and I make it across, but Patrick gets stuck, when he gets across we get to the next turn and have to wait at least a minute for traffic so we can cross. As we do this horse fly team is getting a larger lead on us. We get back to the finish, but see horse fly team cross the line about a minute ahead of us.

We end up in 5th place with 3 B teams and 1 A team in front of us. We still can’t figure out how we ended up 5th because we didn’t see those other B teams on the lake, it was like they skipped the canoe altogether, I’m sure they didn’t, but it was like magic with them. We had a great time and I felt great the entire race, which is a fantastic feeling. I was ready to relax now.

All I can say, is next year, bring it on horse fly team, you won’t be buzzing us again, we are going to be ready for you. I want to give a big Thanks to Mark Rosen and all the volunteers, without all their support we wouldn’t have this race.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Conquer Castlewood

It was a crazy weekend, the Berryman Duathlon was on Saturday, but unfortunately I didn’t get to compete. You see my son, my oldest child was graduating high school on Saturday, not a whole lot I could do to get the date changed, so I had to skip race. I love that race, but as a consolation the Conquer Castlewood race was Sunday, so at least I was able to compete in it.

Conquer Castlewood is a great race and really fun. It is setup for two person teams, male, female or coed. I have competed in it the last 4 years with three different teammates. Last year my friend Allan Cochran did it with me, and this year he was in again. We signed up on the first day of registration for two reasons. First the race fills and second, the waves are set by your signup position, so the earlier you get in, the more likely you are to start in the first wave. I like the first wave because it is cooler and the trails are not torn up by the earlier wave. We got lucky and were in the first wave.

I had planned for a hot sunny day, as that is what we usually get for this race, but when leaving home it was overcast and kind of cool with very low humidity. This was a great start to the day. I picked up Allan at 6:10 and we drove to Castlewood State park. Although we got there an hour before the start, the parking was already filling up and we had to park further from the start than we ever had before. We quickly got our bikes off the rack and found a great spot next to the big tree stump at the boat ramp for our transition area.

We picked up packets and headed back to the van, to grab all of our stuff and get prepared for the race. I had brought sun screen, but realized we didn’t need it. We did however need bug spray, we were being eaten alive by mosquitoes. As we were talking to my friend Mike who was also competing in the race, we mentioned the bugs and he told us to go over to his truck and use his spray, he had 4 bottles. Most of Mike’s family were competing in the race, and the members that weren’t, were there to watch. It was incredible to see the entire family having such fun with this competition. It was nice to have them all cheering for me and Allan also.
After saving our skin with the bug spray we walked around and checked out the river to setup a strategy for the canoe. Since the river was still high from the previous rains, it didn’t really matter where you entered the water, so we decided to just get the closest canoe. With that plan in mind, we put on our bike shoes although we would have to run about a quarter mile to the canoes. We thought what we lost from running in bike shoes would be made up in not needing to change shoes in transition. We also wore our bike gloves for the paddle.

To the starting line we went, we shook hands with other competitors that we knew and wished them luck while secretly wanting to make sure we beat them. We also looked around for what seemed to be ringers, and found a coed couple in Big Shark jerseys, so we knew we were going to have some tough competition.

The gun went off and we made a mad sprint for the boat ramp. It was kind of tough running in bike shoes, but well worth the time it would save in transition. We make it to the canoes and I see Allan grabbing a canoe, but two guys run in front of me with a canoe, so I have to go around them, wasting precious seconds. I make it to the canoe that Allan is already dragging to the water, grab the front and pull it into the water. Allan yells “jump in” I do and we push off into the high water. We have to go upstream first and then turn around at a buoy to come back to the boat ramp. We are doing well and going nice and straight, then two guys bump us from the right, we get away from them and another canoe bumps up from the left. This was really slowing us down. We are not being passed, but we aren’t making up any time on those teams that made it in the water in front of us. I can see two teams in front of us that I know, and they both had not beaten us in past events. We worked so hard to make it to the turn and tried to catch up to the field. My friend Mike and his brother Ron were up ahead, but we could not catch them. We did however catch my friend Jeremy and his partner Derek. It was really funny, we are paddling with everything we have as we pull up next to them, Derek turns and sees me and says “oh hi Robin, how’s it going” it was so nonchalant, like we were just hanging out on the river, enjoying ourselves, I just started laughing.

We made it to the shore and took off running over the top of the hill to the transition area, where we put on helmets, grabbed our bikes and were gone. It was a great transition for both Allan and I.

We both took off down the trail and I was only about 10 yards behind Allan, I passed a couple people really quickly then hit a mud hole that splattered me with mud and big globs of mud were running down my glasses. I wiped the mud off with my glove and kept going. Into the field we went, I passed a couple more people and was still right behind Allan. I passed my friend Mike who had done a much better job in the canoe than we did. We hit the Groppeter trail and I lost Allan, he had pulled away around a turn. I continued to pass people and when I hit a rather technical section of Groppeter, the guy I had just caught up to, jumped off his bike, but when he did it, his bike slid into the middle of the trail and I could not ride around him. I quickly jumped off my bike and ran it past him to the top of the hill and jumped back on. I was flying through the trails, passing people as I went, taking chances I never take, almost sliding through loose gravel into a ravine, but pulling it out just in time. I was almost to the road crossing when a girl came flying by me, it was the ringer I saw wearing the Big Shark jersey. I did all I could to keep her in sight, but came up behind someone with no place to pass, so I lost her for a few minutes. As I hit the creek I saw her pulling her bike up the far bank, I rode across, but had to get off and pull my bike up the bank, because with all the rains it had washed away and was not rideable, or at least not for me. I got half way up the bank and due to the mud my foot started to slide back down. A guy had just come up behind me and he pushed my wheel up just enough for me to get my footing and pull it over the top. I was back on the bike and riding fast, but never saw the Big Shark girl again. I made it to the road without incident and locked my front shock, my Trek Top Fuel has a front shock lockout on the handlebars, it is one of the best features I have ever had on a bike. So now with my shock locked I could fly down the road like I was on a road bike and I did. I pulled in to transition and quickly changed shoes then took off on the run.

I was running really hard and taking very small steps, I had to get my legs to listen to my brain and slow down and take longer strides. It is really tough coming off a hard effort on the mountain bike and going into a fast run. In these short distance races you have to though, because you don’t have the extra distance to make up time on. I started breathing a little easier by the time I crossed the field and hit the woods again. Then on the road section, I ran the trail in the grass to give my legs some rest, but I was still moving at a good clip. I grabbed water at the bottom of the Lone Wolf hill and headed up. I wasn’t moving really fast, but it was good enough to pass a guy on the hill. I made it to the top, then made the turn where it went up again, the again, the hill is very deceiving, the top is not where you expect it to be. Finally I hit the top of the hill, right next to the concrete building, I think it must have been a bomb shelter or something at one time. This is where the down hill starts, from here on out, I am running like an elk, well maybe a geriatric wounded elk with hip problems, but still I felt like an elk. I was jumping over rocks and roots, going over rolling hills, heading down to the road. I caught my heal on a rock once and almost went down, but was able to catch myself. I hit the final flat section of trail that would take me back out to the road, when I hear a bike come up on me. I wait for it to pass, keeping to the far right to give the rider some room, but the rider never passed. I say come around and she says ok, but then doesn’t pass, finally she passes and says, “Sorry, I’m not very good at this”. She should never be sorry, she is out there competing and not home on the couch, any effort is a good effort and I’m sure she did great. I continue to run, come out on the road, grab water and keep running trying to pick off individuals in front of me. I continue to pass people until I see no more. When there is no one left in front of me to pass I start picking points and sprint to each, it’s just a little game I play with my mind to keep me from slowing down. I hit the final parking lot and see Allan in the distance, I run across the finish line with a feeling of accomplishment. Then I see her, there she is Big Shark girl, with Big Shark guy and I know they beat us. Oh well, even though I wanted to beat them, I was so happy with my race that it didn’t really matter.

We stood at the finish line and waited for our friends to finish, Mike came in and he looked really strong, he was smiling so I knew he had a great race too. We saw a few others we knew finish, then I saw my friend Jeremy finish, he looked happy too. I waited to see Jake, Mike’s son, finish, it appeared he had a great day. I think overall everyone was really happy with the way the race went.

The second wave started finishing so we were watching for girls on co-ed teams and keeping a close eye on the clock. A girl came in and her time had to be really close to mine and it was. Her teammate’s time was close to Allan’s time also, so we weren’t sure if we had second place tied up or not. Well, we didn’t, we ended up third.

As we watched the second wave come in, two of our teammates from the Metro Tri Club finished and we had a good laugh when they told us about tumping the canoe on take off. They pulled the canoe too far into the water before belly flopping into it and took on some water. They didn’t end up completely turned over, but they had some extra drag during the paddle section from the extra water they were carrying. Jim and Gary were both pretty happy about the race though and could only smile as they told the story.

So we won a very cool headlamp which will come in handy during the adventure race season, it is a very nice prize. We had a cool day with very low humidity, and a great race for most everyone. The City of Ballwin does a great job with this race and Alpine shop donates some great prizes. This race is one of my favorite races of the season.