AR is a sport of wits as well as speed. Combine the two flawlessly, and it's likely you'll win. I train all winter anticipating my first race of the season, and 2 seasons in a row, I've accidentally left the wits at home :-/ This race also reinforced the fact that in AR…even if it looks like you're doing poorly, if you keep plugging away, the results may surprise you.
I raced for 23 and a half hours with Thomas Mckeen. We had a blast, and to our surprise, ended up winning our division and getting 4th overall!
Too Cool Racing put on a top notch race and we had a blast. Read below for more details and pictures!
Pre-Race & Start
The mystery of the course was held until beyond the race start. We were given maps and found out we would be biking to our first checkpoints. Off we went!
Bike to High Ropes
Trek in Fire-Burned Area
Road Bike to Urban Scavenger Hunt
Bike to Paddle
Fun Bike Leg and Extra Credit CPs
After a series of solid CP gathering, we were now on a part of the map that had no trails on it. We guessed which trails we would need to bike on in order to head in the correct direction, but it got a little nerve racking since we didn't want to have to back track and we couldn't guarantee ourselves that we were making the correct junction decisions.
And it was here, that we began to pursue what we thought was one of our last biking CPs on this leg. I took us several miles out of the way to the exact location I was looking for on the map. But the location seemed weird. It seemed like private property and like a strange place to send racers....We looked for a bit, and I said, "I know we're in the right spot!" So we checked the coordinates. Crap. We misplotted it. We quickly back tracked and tried to make up for that error...but those kind of dumb mistakes can be difficult to shake. With a mistake like that, we were convinced at this point we had to be in last place by now. At least we didn't get shot at while trespassing on private property!
In a lake without a paddle….at night
Trek & Bike
Then, we jumped back on our bikes to do some bike nav in the same areas. Thomas and I love night biking, especially on new and exciting single track, so we had a blast, nabbed all of our CPs and went back to the main transition area.
Final Run - AKA: Don't get lazy on your nav school
The next section was a run. A long run. We were given a crudely drawn trail map to accompany our topo maps. We tried to strategize, do we trace trails on? But there wasn't enough detail for those trail maps to be of much use in finding our CPs. By the end, we did better if we just ignored the trail map altogether.
We had a rough go with our first CP. We had to reacclimate to the map scale and get refocused for micro nav…Sadly, I started refocussing too late. Rather than pace count to be sure, I used the wrong feature as our reference and botched our first CP. We had to back-track to our last known location to begin pace counting all over again. It was a slap in the face....when naving in the dark ALWAYS PACE COUNT...even when you think your land features will be fairly obvious.
Now that our heads were screwed on straight (mine in particular), our next few went well…as well as they can in the dark woolies in an area that is totally foreign. We were slow and systematic.
Then, one more mess up when some new roads confused us…. roads were going in wrong directions. We gambled on one going in our correct direction, but overshot our catch somehow. We ended up too far along some power lines. At that point, which direction do you go? We chose the most surefire direction to find out where we were….but it of course took us longer than we would have liked. Lesson learned: In the dark, despite long distances in-between cps…we just need to bite the bullet and count our paces. Land nav is great, but when the map is different from reality and/or the darkness hides your catches well enough to fool you, you need the backup of tracking distance. Oi! Seems like I need to learn a lesson here!
We found it. Hooray! Now onto the last CP. We searched….searched…and searched….and searched….and gave up. It had looked like it was going to be tough…and it was. We didn't find out until afterward….it was plotted in the wrong spot. DOH! We would have found it if we had been looking in the right place! But we were looking a km away from the area it was actually in. Chelsea!- [she says sternly to herself]. From now on, I don't plot!
We ran into the finish. The day's pavement on worn out shoes was starting to add up and my feet started having some issues, but we were close enough that it didn't matter. So we ran. As we entered the park we asked the people at entrance what time it was. Crap! 30 minutes until the race cutoff?! Wow! We were glad we gave up on that CP when we did!
We ran through the finish. And to our surprise did much better than we had feared. First in our division, and 4th overall. This was the perfect race to be reminded of 2 very important lessons:
1) Attention to detail is everything (plotting, navigation, pace counting...everything!), and
2) Keep plugging away, even in the midst of mistakes and your results might surprise you!
Thanks, Thomas, for being an awesome team mate!