Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mandatory Equipment

  Saturday was the Jackrabbit Mountain Adventure Race outside of Hiawassee Georgia .I raced with longtime adventure racing teammate Andi and Lee, who is an adventure racing veteran, but someone I had never raced with before. I ended up being the mandatory equipment needed to make us a coed team.
 Adventure racing combines paddling, biking and foot travel  in an event that requires map navigation to find control points throughout the course.

                                                                         Control Point

 We typically get the maps the night before the race to plot our strategy and route choices for the next day. Sometimes this is the most stressful part of the race. Second guessing route choices can make for a fitful few hours of sleep the night before.What looks good on paper doesn't always translate to the best choice when you are out in the woods. The map is never marked "Stay out! You will get ripped to shreds". Too bad, all three of us suffered a long bushwhack through the "shiggy".

                                                            Consequences of the Bushwhack

 The paddle section went quickly, about an hour and twenty minutes. We saved some time using portage wheels and running the canoe about a mile and a half down a road to avoid paddling around a large peninsula.
 We transitioned to the mountain bikes and started riding to our first bike checkpoint, CP5. This ride gave us a foreshadow of the climbing that would be a constant throughout the rest of the race. On the latter part of the leg  from CP5 to CP6 is where the briar patch bushwhack occurred. This really slowed us down picking our way through the saddle to CP6.
 Back on the bikes and a long steep climb up to CP7. There was a great overlook at this high point, we spent 3 seconds taking it in, and started back down to the next checkpoint. CP8 was a transition area where we dropped our bikes and went out for a trekking section with 4 checkpoints to find. On paper (the map) it looked to only be about 5 miles for this foot section. Five miles if you don't lead the team off course and a couple hundred extra feet down the mountain. We floundered around until we finally found the trail we missed back up the mountain and things went better from there. We collected the 4 CP's and made it back to our bikes knowing we would have to skip one of the remaining bike points to make it back to the finish within the 10 hour time limit.
 We changed our route to CP15 from what we had plotted the night before. This turned out to be a good move and really saved us some valuable time. After punching CP15 on our passport we headed back toward the finish and the Jackrabbit mountain bike trail system where we had 9 more checkpoints to pick up. Eight of the checkpoints on the trail system were worth 1/8 of a point compared to 1 point for all the other checkpoints.
 I had never ridden at Jackrabbit and was looking forward it. The trails were muddy from the early morning rains but were still fun to ride. We got all the CP's and then had about a mile to ride to the finish. We finished up the race with 15 of 16 points and about 30 minutes left on the clock. Our decision to skip the long out and back bike checkpoint was a good one. We would have not made it back to the finish within the time limit for the race and would have been DQ'd.  
 The race was well planned and the CP's were placed correctly. It was a tough course for a 10 hour race, we climbed 8500 feet during the race. Only one team got all the 16 possible points for the race, a testament to how tough of a race this was.
 I enjoyed racing with Lee and Andi. They never grumbled, even with the briars and extra mileage. Racing with them made it easy for me to be the mandatory equipment.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Only 4 Crossings

Not many words for Sunday's Cohutta training run. Pictures will do better.
Dally Gap-Jacks River Falls-Big Frog-Dally gap = 28 beautiful miles.

The Usual Suspects

And more

One of 20 crossings

The Falls

I don't think Carl has running water at his house

View on the way to Big Frog

Great run with some great guys but I have never heard trail runners complain so much about getting their feet wet crossing a river a few times.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Day in the Cohuttas

I went up Saturday to the Trailblazer's Potato Patch Mountain Bike Time Trial. A no fee, no awards, grass roots training day. The route used the Pinhoti Trail, some Forest Service roads and the Bear Creek Trail in the north Georgia mountains outside of Ellijay.
We had perfect weather after a night and early morning of bad storms. We started out about 10am by having Bill sign us out by recording our start time next to our names. We were to record our own finish times when we returned because Bill was not about to miss out on the ride.
About a week before the time trial I realized it was on the same day as the Double Top 100 mile and 100k utlramarathon. I had quite a few friends running in the race and thought it would be fun to see them on the trails and Forest Service roads while on the bike. I have a few big mountain bike races coming up and need to put is some long miles on the mountain bike so I decided early in the year not to run this inaugural race. Hate to miss a 100 miler this close to home.
One of my running mates, John Barker, was running the 100k race and since he and I are running the Dragon's Back in Wales together in September, I offered to pace him the last 19 miles after I finished riding. During the first 10 miles of ride I came upon many running friends. All asked why I wasn't racing and Susan D. even called me a traitor! Most of them don't know I was a biker long before I was an ultra runner and still have a passion for mountain bike riding and racing especially the long races like the upcoming Cohutta 100.
I caught up with Jon Barker near my turnaround at the top of Potato Patch. He was running strong up the mountain and gave me an estimate of his arrival time at the 42 mile aid station. I hit the turnaround and took off back down the mountain to one of my favorite mountain bike trails, Bear Creek.
I was enjoying the big downhill when I looked up from the roots and rocks littering the trail to see a woman, Ashley, coming up the trail with a race number on. I knew what she had done, taken the Pinhoti trail section from Forest Service road 90. She was going the wrong way. I stopped and told her the bad news. Ashley wrote about the race and explained her reaction better than I could. It is definitely worth reading:

As we were talking another runner came up. More explaining and some map work and I was off again. A couple minutes down the trail another four runners including two friends, Liz and Scott. A quick explanation of where they were and I was off again. A few more minutes and yes...more runners. I turned around 11 runners. I know how demoralizing it is to go off course when you are running that far, you don't need bonus miles. At each one of these interactions I was looking over my shoulder for the other riders to catch me. It wasn't a race but bragging rights were at stake.
I was able to make good time to the end and sign my finish time in. 2.5 hours, 23 miles and 3700 feet of climbing made for a good ride but I decided to ride back up the mountain and see if I could find Jon and see how he was fairing. As I was heading up, the first place 100k runner was coming down and moving fast. I rode on up the mountain and didn't see Jon so I decided to go back to the truck and get my running clothes on and grab something to eat. I changed and was talking to the other bikers coming in when I saw Jon coming up the Forest Service road. Time to go! Should have ate instead of running my mouth.
Jon was running strong and we made good time through the next two trail sections. We got to his 51 mile aid station and decided to leave the headlamps and run hard to make it before darkness that would come around 7pm. The next section had a great downhill, but with all great downhills come a great uphill. Jon pushed hard and we made the finish at 6:52pm. He was second place with a time of 11:52. It was great to run with him for the last 19 miles. Added another 4200 feet of climbing to the day and 4 more hours of play time in the mountains. What a way to spend a Saturday.

Pinhoti Trail: