Saturday, January 9, 2016

Castlewood Adventure Race 2016

After a 2 year hiatus from adventure racing, I decided it was time to come back to the sport and try racing again.  What that really means is that my knee felt stable enough to handle the trekking across rough terrain and my job changed, so I was at home for more than 2 days a week. 
My usual teammate Chuck, had to join another team because I was never available to race, so when Castlewood rolled around he was already committed to volunteering with his new cast of characters. 
I had to find a team, and of course someone would have to orienteer because I always counted on Chuck for that.  I can plot and I can somewhat read the map, but there is no way I am good enough to be in charge.  Just ask Chuck, if he ever needed to double check his skills he would ask me which way we should go, then go the opposite direction from what I suggested, which always turned out to be the correct way.
I have been training with a Crewe of characters for the last couple of years and have talked up adventure racing enough to get them interested in it. It didn’t take much to talk Jeff and John into trying it, but Mike was another story. We never actually convinced him to do it, we just sort of kept talking like he had agreed, it’s the power of suggestion, when we all entered the race, it took him a couple days, but he finally entered it too. I’m not sure he considered us friends after that fateful day when he hit the submit button and entered his first adventure race.
When you think of a rookie adventure racer you probably think of someone with a little bit of an adventure base. Well with this group, that would be a wrong assumption.  John and Jeff both had old mountain bikes, neither had much time in the saddle on them and certainly not off road. Mike did not have a mountain bike and had never even thought about riding one.  No problem, I just lent Mike one of mine. Jeff borrowed our friend Russ’s bike since his weighed about a ton and had no suspension at all.  John’s bike was a little newer, but still heavy, the problem was since he is more of a giant than a hobbit, we couldn’t lend him one, so he was stuck with the heavy bike, but it builds character, right.
We spent some time riding in the woods, worried about Mike, funny thing was, Mike was a natural, and he rocked the single track. When we told him that he was really good, he thought we were just trying to make him believe it so he wouldn’t back out, but he was a natural at it.  I think it was his low center of gravity, being a hobbit he lives very close to the ground.
Since a lot of the bike sections during past Castlewood races have usually been road riding and not single track, I felt that my team would be fine with only minimal training.  We all had a good running base because we have been in the early stages of Ironman training, so the trekking would be ok as long as my knee held out. As far as the canoe went, we had no training, and I’m a terrible paddler.  Mike and John didn’t have any paddling skills, but Jeff had done more and was pretty confident in his ability.  So we decided that Jeff and Mike would be in one canoe and John and I would be in the other.  That may not have been the best decision, as you will see later.
Our only goal for this race was to have fun and finish without assistance by a helicopter, ambulance or rescue team, we would call this success.
We sat down at the local coffee shop after an early morning run and reviewed the gear list.  I had a lot of extra gear, so what I didn’t need I lent to the team, that way no one had to spend much cash on gear. The sad part of this was, Jeff and Mike cold both wear my clothes, if my clothes fit two guys, I’m getting way too fat.  With that said, I was able to lend them enough gear for the race. John on the other hand is a giant and I told him to go to Goodwill for his stuff. 
Now all we needed was a name for this group of misfits that we have called “The Crewe” for the last two years.  So of course it made sense that we name ourselves “The Adventure Crewe”.  Plus when we were exhausted and on our death beds, laying in a ditch somewhere, it would be easy to remember what our name was when the rescue team showed up to save us. 
John picked up the packets at the Alpine shop on Friday and met us for dinner where we plotted our maps. It was a bit dark in Deweys Pizza so we had to get out the headlamps, I’m afraid everyone in the restaurant was a little bit afraid of us. We plotted the points and double checked them, we actually did it rather quickly and accurately, but then again, Jeff is really good at whatever he does, so it was his leadership that made it so easy.
That brings us to race day, Jeff, Mike and I carpooled to the race and met John there, we were all a bit nervous, even me, it had been a long time since I had adventure raced. We double checked our packs and found that Mike was missing his headlamp, but we had enough time to find it. That was the first disaster adverted. 

Double Checking our Gear
We couldn’t decide what to wear, the weather was cold, but would get warm quickly, so we all put on and then removed clothes as we were waiting for the race start. Emily, the race director gave us some pre-race comments then played the national anthem and off we went into the wild just as the sun was coming up. Well not really, we actually got loaded into buses and driven off to the wild. 
Sunrise just before the start of the race
After a short bus ride we were ready to race.
Bus Ride to the Start
The race started with a trekking section, we did really well and weren’t even last out of the section. 

Check Point
We then had a bit of a slow transition to the paddle, but we were finally in the water. 
Getting ready to Paddle
Paddling down the River

Of course I was worried about Jeff and Mike on the paddle, only to find out that they were fantastic at it, so much so, that John and I couldn’t keep up with them. We just kept running into Kate and Mickey, crashing into the shore or spinning our canoe around backwards.  I was really starting to get frustrated, but I thought, we aren’t here to win the race, we are here to have fun and finish.  We did get to float by Chuck’s chimney fire and see Lori taking photos of us in the water by the bluff, oh and Chuck offered us homemade moonshine, but we declined, who knows maybe we would have been better paddlers if we had drank the moonshine.  We finally made it to the canoe takeout, I think by that time Jeff and Mike were getting pretty frustrated with our paddling ability.  I think Mike mentioned to Jeff that we had to be dead, because only dead people could be as slow as we were. 

Next we had a gear check, which we passed, then hopped on our bikes for the next section. As we rode off, I realized that I did not punch the passport at gear check, so we had to turn around and ride back.  Good thing we only lost a couple minutes doing that. I’m the experienced racer and I was the one that messed up, pretty embarrassing, but another disaster adverted.
Don't forget to Punch the Passport
The bike section went great, Jeff was leading us right to every checkpoint and it felt good to be able to keep up on the bike, not like the paddle. 
Biking the Hills
The hills we rode were killers and at a couple points we saw people walking the hills, but I was able to stay on and weave my way up the hills.  I would have probably gotten up faster walking though. It was a pride thing, I was not going to walk.  I have John Dean to thank for that, he has schooled me on the bike long enough to know how to reach the top of a mountain.  There were a couple places that we had to bike whack too, and let me tell you, bike whacking really sucks, I made it through, but there was doubt in my mind a couple times.  
Bike Whacking
Crossing the Creek
We quickly ended up at a CP that was inside a giant authentic Teepee, it was really cool. There was a guy standing there and he was nice enough to take some photos of us in front of it.  
We found the Teepee
The next CP was at transition which was down a long muddy hill, it was so muddy and slick that we had to get off our bikes and walk them down the hill.  By the time we got to the bottom of the hill there was so much mud on my bike that my tires wouldn’t roll. 
So Much Mud
Slick as Snot
We had to stop and find sticks to try and get enough mud off the tires that we could ride to the CP. 
After the bike section we were back at transition to get another map and head out for another trekking section.
Back at Transition for Another Map
Funny though, as we started the next section there was already teams that had finished with all the CP’s.  My knee was starting to hurt, but I was still moving ok.  Mike on the other had was having a problem with his foot and was having a hard time during the trek, but he never gave up, he just kept going dragging that foot with him.  We were hitting the CP’s about every 7 minutes making really good progress and then we hit the wall looking for CP 31.  We wasted about 70 minutes looking for it and we finally found it, we swear that the CP was not exactly where it should have been, but thanks to Jeff we found it.
Looking for CP 31
Steam in the Fog
It's getting Hot out here
Off we went to the next CP’s and we were back in our groove, finding them quickly, but we were getting close to the cutoff time.  We had one more CP to get and 30 minutes to do it in, the problem was that it was pretty far out.  With my knee starting to really hurt, I was dragging behind and Mike was right there with me, his foot hurting too.  We knew if we could go right to the CP we might make it to the finish just in time, but if one thing went wrong or we couldn’t find the CP quickly we would lose one CP for every minute we were late.  We decided not to chance it and headed back to the finish line without taking the last CP.  We got in with time to spare and were very happy with our performance.  Three newbies and a veteran, and we only missed on CP and not because we couldn’t find it, but because our strategy was to finish on time.
Yeah, We Finished
We went into the lodge and ate some baked potatoes and would have drank some beer, but it was all gone.  If I had one constructive criticism for the race director it would be to make sure you have beer to put out when the teams that finish at the back of the pack come in. 
On the whole it was a fantastic race, great course, great volunteers, a really fun race.  A big thanks to Apline Shop for keeping the race alive and to Emily for making it such a fun race.
A BIG THANKS to my teammates, Jeff, Mike and John, it was a great adventure, you are great friends and teammates. I feel really blessed to have such great friends that will agree to do crazy things with me.  As for Mike, I think his adventure racing career might be over.  Jeff will never quit because CP 31 haunts him nightly.  Now John, I think he can be talked into anything, if Jeff says let’s do another adventure race, John will say, “ok”.
Photos courtesy Alpine Shop and Jeff's Adventure Cam.

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