Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pere Marquette Trail Run 2010

This year’s Pere Marquette race made my 15th year of competing in this race. I have to say that this year I had more fun than I have ever had in all my 15 years of running it. So I know what you’re thinking, what made this race so great, well let me tell you.

This year has been a particularly hard training year for me. I have competed in 6 Adventure races, including the Checkpoint Tracker National race, the Louisville Ironman, the Berryman Epic mountain bike race, and the Vino Fondo, plus many shorter races of all types, tri’s, bi’s, bike races, and trail runs. All this to say, I’m have become a little burned out and having a hard time really concentrating on my training since early November. I have been chasing my friend Jenny religiously up and down our hill course training for the PM race, but my head was just not onboard. So when my friend Val asked me if I wanted to run with her, I said yes, I would love to just run this for fun and not even try to make it a race.

So two weeks before the race Val rolls her ankle and has to take some time off running, she finally gave running a try the day before the race and decided if she took it easy she could run. Well race day came on with a bang, when buckets of water were dumped on us overnight and throughout the race. You can not even imagine how muddy the race course was. Our plan was to run the pace that worked best for Val’s ankle and with all the mud that pace was going to be slow.

My wave was 11 and Val’s was 20, so I just hung back and started in wave 20 with Val. We took off up the first hill and our feet were just sliding around in the mud, but this mud was nothing compared to what we would find later on the course. Like on the first really steep hill on the way to the first water stop. Not only was it so muddy that it pulled my shoe off, but there was a gang of Zilla’s at the top of the hill cheering us on. I felt like Rocky when I finally made it to the top of the hill. The palms of my white gloves were covered in mud from a couple near misses on being sucked completely into the muddy black hole. I couldn’t help but give Bobby the course marshal a nice high five when I made it to the top of the hill. The cheers and taunts on my way up the hill, made it all so much more personal and fun. I’m just really glad that I wore my new shoes for this race, what better way to break in a new pair of shoes.

After making it to the top of hill one, we had some downhill and we got to one corner that was so muddy we had to run over the side of the hill where a really nice runner helped us down so we wouldn’t end up flat on our face in the mud. After we made it through this section, we hit a few really wet spots, which weren’t so bad because the mud was a little thinner and it wasn’t trying to suck my shoes off at every step. Next stop the road crossing at the top of hill two. Once again the Zilla gang was there cheering us on and giving us water. There is so much to say for a race where you know all the volunteers, it made it so much more fun. By now we were way behind the pack with only a few runners still behind us. I have never been this far back in the pack, but I kind of liked it. We talked to everyone, we laughed about everything and just had fun. I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having sliding around in the mud and not worrying about trying to run fast and place. I met some great people, caught up with Val on life in general and even discussed the great YouTube video “I’m an Ironman”. If you haven’t seen this video you have to watch it, you will laugh the entire time.

Now we were on our way up hill three, we caught a few people and the hill didn’t seem nearly as bad as usual, since it was so muddy and we were just trying to get through with our shoes in tact, I completely forgot to concentrate on how hard that stupid hill is. I looked up and was at the top of the hill before I knew it. We ran through the next few rollers and headed down the railroad tie steps to the road crossing which starts hill 4.

Coming to the road we saw Lori taking pictures, so we made sure to look good for her. How can you not look good when you are having so much fun. One thing I have to point out, this was the first time I have wore my new Zilla long sleeve running shirt, and although I really liked it, it was a bit of a dress. I think next time I better tuck it in my tights so I’m not racing in a dress.

We crossed the road and made it up the steps and back to the first muddy hill, you saw how muddy that hill was on the way up, now how to get down the hill was a whole different animal. Bobby the course marshal, said everyone is sliding down on their butts, so you guys should do it that way. Haha, we must be really gullible, because we just said OK and down we went. Val even used here feet to try and propel herself down even faster. Where else can you just sit down and slide down a muddy hill on your butt and think it is a normal thing to do. By the way, do you think this mud makes our butts look big.

We ran across the finish line with a smile on our faces with no idea of how long it took and even better, we didn’t care how long it took. When we finished the awards were already over, the hot chocolate was all gone, the volunteers were starting to clean up and the parking lot was starting to clear out.

We found a hose and rinsed off all the mud, then grabbed our clothes and headed to the bathroom to change. So the race was over and I was driving home when I noticed that I still had a stupid grin on my face and couldn’t stop thinking about how much fun I had. Next year I will be back to racing and wanting to win, but no matter how fast I run this race, I don’t think I will ever have more fun then I had this year.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Castlewood Adventure Race 2010

For once the Castlewood race started out with mild temperatures. On race morning it was 38 degrees, overcast with no rain or snow in sight. That’s a big switch from the 17 degree start in 2009. Just as you would believe Chuck and I were relieved about the weather conditions, especially since after seeing the maps and clue sheet, we knew that we would be on the water for a long time. There were 4 canoe points in about 11 miles of paddling. Rock Racing, better known as Robin and Chuck, are the worst paddlers in the world, and I am not exaggerating. No matter what technique we use, how hard or how fast we paddle, we just seem to go nowhere fast. It was a blow to us when we saw that there was going to be so much paddling in this race. So if anything at least the weather was going right.

It was a 40 minute bus ride to the start, as soon as we stepped off the bus, we both went directly to the bathroom line and were lucky enough to be pretty close to the front. As we came out the crowd was moving to the start line for last minute instructions from Jason and the Oak Ridge Boys singing the national anthem while we looked at a flag on a military guys pack. Hey, we had to make due, there are not a lot of flags on the river.

So the race was off at a fast pace, the first checkpoints were all within Route 66 state park about a 4 mile distance and the crowd of racers were going every which way. I know Jason’s thought was to make the trek first to break up the racers and not have a crowd getting in the river, but I think we were all moving at about the same pace. That means at CP 6, there were a lot of teams hitting the river at the same time.

As we pushed our canoe in the river, I jumped in and screamed when the canoe almost dumped into the frigid water. We have never had a problem launching in the past, but for some reason it wasn’t going well. We made it off the ramp and I turned to ask Chuck what went wrong and he told me some guy was pushing us in, I guess he either thought he was doing us a favor or just wanted us out of his way, which ever, it could have been the end of our race, had we fallen in the river. From there we hit some fast water with a big log that was trapped against a bridge pillar. That could have also been the end of our race too, but miraculously we made it through, again I screamed “this is not good” as we went through, Chuck just laughs at me when I do that.

We headed down stream for a long canoe leg, we were passed by a couple teams, but we did catch a few teams too.

We just wish we could figure out how to paddle better. We finally made it to Sherman Beach where getting out of the canoe didn’t go well and I ended up with wet shoes and socks. Lucky for me I brought an extra pair of socks and it was time to put on bike shoes. I tied my running shoes to the outside of my pack and hoped they would dry before I had to wear them again. We grabbed our bikes that had sunk in the mud and pushed them up to the parking lot area which was transition.

We both tried to be fast in pulling off wet gloves and socks and getting dry ones on, but were having problems because our hands were so cold our fingers wouldn’t work. While doing this we were also trying to eat and drink. We wasted too much time in transition. It was probably only 5 minutes, but in a race this short (Ha! Two years ago I never thought I’d be calling an 8hr race short) every minute ends up being important. Finally we headed out on the bike and my hands were so cold that I had to keep shaking them to try and fend off frost bite. After about 15 minutes I started to get feeling back in them. At this point we had reached where we and about 10 other teams thought CP 8 was, but it wasn’t there. We wasted 10 to 15 minutes riding around before we all found it. We found out after the race that it was not plotted on the maps in the correct place. After CP 8 and 9, we hit the tunnel and ran through it to CP10, lo and behold, guess what was there. A volunteer making sure all team members came to the checkpoint. We were so happy to see this, because we see teams cheating all the time and having the strongest teammate run to the CP’s and leaving the others behind. This kept everyone honest at least at one CP. After a few more CP’s we were back to the canoe where we heard sirens and saw emergency vehicles, apparently there was a racer down, but I never got the full story about it.

So back into the canoe we went, this time for a short paddle to the CP and then on to West Tyson. The canoe started out rough again, we got caught on a large log behind the island and had to take a few minutes to get the canoe dislodged. This was bad because on the second leg we had bikes in the canoe with us making it top-heavy. We were lucky not to end up like these guys:

But soon we made it to CP13 and punched it without even leaving the canoe. The next stop was West Tyson for another Trekking leg. There were tons of canoes when we made it to the beach.

We took off running and ran for a while until we hit the first hill that really was more of a mountain than a hill. It was so steep that our feet were sliding off the side of our shoes. I had to grab onto the loop on Chuck’s pack with one hand and use trees to help pull me up the hill.

We went right to every CP without a hitch, I think it was the best we have ever done orienteering. We kept running into teams we knew and they were teams that usually beat us, so we felt like we were keeping a good pace. At the next CP there was a gear check, but it went fairly quickly, there were some efficient volunteers manning the checkpoint and we had been prepared and were fast at pulling out our gear. After Chuck punched the next checkpoint at the top of what was to be the last uphill, we started down back towards the river.

We were both having problems from all the uphill and the downhill didn’t help at all, Chuck’s knees were hurting and my foot was hurting, so our run was slow back to the canoe, but we ran anyway. When we made it back to the beach we were glad to see that there were still a lot of canoes on the beach.

Back on the river for another long paddle, like I said before, we suck at paddling, so this did nothing to help our time. I did however have on canoe gloves which made it much easier to paddle since my hands stayed dry. I could tell both Chuck and I were getting tired. We both made sure to eat at the start of the last paddle. Looking back, I should have eaten more, lesson learned… AGAIN….. So on to Castlewood beach it was. When we got there, we saw the volunteers, who we knew, Kate and our Rock Racing teammate Patrick.

Of course Patrick yelled to us that there was a change in the maps and we would have to paddle down river then back up again. At that point I almost believed him, and then I remembered it was Patrick so we beached the canoe.

We pulled out our bikes, then started carrying the canoe up the boat ramp, only to find out at the top, that we weren’t finished yet, I said louder than I thought “you have got to be kidding me”, I was not happy at all. We had to take the canoe all the way to the parking lot. I had to stop twice to change arms and rest, it almost killed me carrying the canoe that far. So after we dropped the canoe we watched a little skinny guy pick it up by himself, threw it over his head and carried it to the truck like it was a bag of straw. How do those guys do that? I want to know that trick.

We changed shoes and took off some layers of clothes then headed out on the bike. Chuck put a lot of thought into route planning the night before the race, and this was one of the risky decision points. We were going to climb the ‘castlewood stairs’ carrying our bikes. We quickly made it to CP23 at the bottom of the stairs, then over the top to CP24.

I should have eaten a Honey Stinger Rocket Chocolate bar before I left the beach, I could feel the bonk starting by the time I hit the top of the stairs. I tried to stay on Chuck’s wheel, but kept falling off, I needed a short break, but didn’t want to lose any time, so we just kept going. As we were heading down to the road crossing to climb cardiac hill we saw some deer in the woods, they just stood there and looked at us, like they were saying get off our land. It was kind of eerie.

As we came up on cardiac hill we found many other teams riding the same path. Then we saw Lo and Karen coming down cardiac hill. We wondered why they had taken that route, but at the same time I thought, they made a smart move because they weren’t pushing bikes up this hill. We covered the last 3 CP’s pretty quickly. Just as we left the last CP, we were barreling down the hill when Chuck hits a rock with his back tire and it threw the rock across the path, with a loud blast, his back tire fish tailed, but he held it up. I yelled “this is not a good time to flat” and we kept riding. Just as we hit the road Chuck felt it, his tire was flat, but we were only 100 yards from the finish by then and he rode in on the flat. He sliced his sidewall when he hit the rock.

Too bad his new Trek Superfly 100 didn’t come with Kenda tires, their sidewalls would have held up to that rock. He ordered a new set of 29 inch Kenda Karma the day after the race. It is a great credit to Stan’s sealant that it held long enough to finish the race.
We finished in 7:37, we ended up in 5th place in the 2 person co-ed division, we were hoping for 2nd or 3rd, but were still happy because we finished well under the time limit and were both feeling ok, sans my bonk that was about to hit hard.

Jeff Sharpee was at the finish line so we had him take a finish line picture, and then headed over for some food and drinks. We got the chance to talk to Jason for a few minutes and told him how much we liked the volunteer catching the cheaters at the tunnel. Then we reminisced about the Checkpoint Tracker Championship for a few minutes. By this time we were both freezing so we changed clothes and decided to leave since we didn’t think we would get a prize for 5th place and the awards ceremony was over 2 hours from starting. So on the way home we dissected the race and tried to figure out how we could have gone faster. We need to work on transitions and of course we need to learn to paddle. At least this year, we were 25 minute out of 3rd place and in 2009 we were over 2 hours out of 3rd place. So it was a good race for us. Next year top 3, I can feel it!

And one other positive note: None of the race course photographers were able to catch us peeing in the woods like this guy.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Results are in for 2010

ROCK Racing, aka Robin and Chuck are officially ranked at number 4 in the nation in the 2 person Co-ed division of the CheckPoint Tracker Adventure Race Standings.