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Mar 18, 2014

Bonkhard Chill Adventure Race - Toporadicals

The Chill - Bonkhard Racing 3/15/14

It seemed like Nathan and I had been training and preparing for this race for forever. We have been putting in more work than ever to try to climb up in the standings with the other great teams out there. Alpine Shop, 35 Down, Team Fusion, Extreme Electrical, Momentum and many more. We couldn't have been happier with how our training had been going. We even had a couple practice events with some of the members from the teams mentioned earlier which were a lot of fun and great practice. I really do feel like I've been welcomed into the adventure racing family... and it is a family.

The wait was over and race weekend was finally here. We were packed up and ready to go by mid-day on Friday. We stopped by Castlewood for a quick MTB ride to clean up some checkpoints that were hidden around the grounds from a recent training event we did. It was a nice day and a great warm up to get us in race mode. The drive down was filled with talk about the race and all the "what if" situations that come with the uncertainty of race day with Adventure racing. Nathan and I are a great pair and are on the same page with practically everything. We arrived at my uncle Greg's lake house that he was gracious enough to share with us for the weekend. A beautiful pre-race pasta dinner outside with a perfect lakeside view.

Time for the race meeting and packet pickup at Tan-Tar-A. As usual, Bonkhard Racing, was well organized and had designed a great race for us. Although, we really had very little to go off of in terms of planning. We had the first 7 points and another 7 after that with a large unknown section in-between. I'll admit that I had the most fun with the twist they threw in for the beginning of the race to create some separation between the teams for the canoe leg. The PFDs and paddles were at the start, but the canoes and the passports were in two other separate locations forcing teams to split up and get everything they needed to be on their way. There were also 2 locations for the canoe put-in. One with a hilly 0.7 mile portage that would cut out some paddling time. What to do? We quickly had everything plotted and our plan in place. With so little to do, we actually got to get some sleep.

We arrived at Mother Nature's Riverfront Retreat and Family Recreation Park with plenty of time and did our final preparations. The National Anthem, the race countdown, and we're on our way. It looked like there were as many ideas about how to attack the start as there were teams. I went for our passport while Nathan took off for the canoe. I was the 2nd one to the passports and knew I needed to get to Nathan to help carry the canoe as soon as possible. I was surprised to find him so far up the hill and he kept on trucking it up to the top before we re-situated things to allow me to start helping. We had a great plan for how to carry it and were actually able to pick up the pace and even jog most of the rest of the portage and also take a slight off path short cut to CP1. We were the 2nd team there just behind 35 Down. It appears we had chosen wisely. The fastest team to use the closer put in was at least 10 minutes behind the slowest team to portage... and we were at the head of that pack. A great way to start the day!

Nathan and I heading out on the canoe leg. Photo by Doug Arendt
Toporadicals typically have had to live with the fact that we are going to lose ground during the canoe section. However, we were motivated by the great start and were determined to stay up at the front of the race. I got a kick out of the fact that my paddle stroke aligned perfectly with sending a constant shower of water drops on Nathan. He had to put on rain gear and my hat to keep from being completely soaked. Pre-race we had asked about a possible large portage that we were considering, but it was axed since it was private land. So long 1 mile portage and hello to another 2 miles of paddling. We were actually keeping up and navigating the river and debris much better than usual. There was a quick portage around some large debris right at CP2. Team Fusion had caught up, so it was all 3 teams there at the same time. Continued good paddling kept us close to the front with Fusion just slowly pulling away and Alpine Shop making their way to us. Unfortunately 35 Down flipped a canoe and caused them to fall back. CP3 came and went and before we knew it we were at CP4 and TA for the end of the canoe. Fusion with a slight lead and we came in right with Alpine Shop. 8+ miles of paddling and we were within sight of the lead. Another big victory for team Toporadicals!

Plotting at CP7 Photo by Mary Welter

We had a quick transition and gear check that sent us out on Fusion's heels for a short O-leg. We pushed the pace and passed them on the way to the 2nd o-leg CP at an amazing spring and the start of the stairs. Seriously, the water was crystal clear and algae shown through with bright colors. It really was an amazing sight! On top of that, we were in the lead! It was motivating and we kept up the tempo all the way to CP7. There we got a seperate large passport and 23 CPs worth of UTM coordinates to plot and plan for the large o-leg. We plotted and planned efficiently and left just seconds behind Alpine Shop who was the first to head out. We had seperated our route into 2 loops which gave us the advantage of only having to pack for half of the time and distance. Then we could reload when we got back to CP7, bike to CP8, and head out for the second loop of CPs. The first loop was done cleanly and it was clear what kind of hills we were going to have to tackle throughout the course. It was TOUGH. We did get to see some of the cool sights with the castle ruins, natural bridge, and Devil's kitchen was real favorite of mine.

Moving bikes from CP7 to CP8 to finish
the long trek. Photo by Mary Welter
That mile bike from CP7 to CP8 was a nice break in the long trek section and didn't really hurt us on distance traveled for the trek. Early on in the 2nd loop, we crossed paths with Alpine Shop who were obviously doing a much different route. Seeing competition is a good refresher for motivation. Unfortunately shortly after that, a slight mis-plotted point for CP16 caused us a lot of time, trouble, and frustration. We even left it for CP17 and came back to it hoping to regain our bearings. It took us a while to even realize the issue was a mis-plot. The mistake was in an area that matched the clue. It was a tough pill to swallow. The rest of the route was fairly clean, but the mistake might have taken a tole on our spirits and pace.

We arrived at CP8 to turn in the finalized large passport from the big o-leg section, punch CP8, and get ready to head out for a bike leg finish. The volunteers there told us we were the 8th team to head out on the bike. Ouch! Some of those were probably because of not getting all of the points, but we had still dropped a lot. It took a little bit for us to get our biking legs going which was unfortunate with a pretty large hill in the early goings. I was also having some issues with my bike gear shifting, but I was working through it. An early out and back to get CP9 let us know what teams were around us. The Tiny Trail Ninjas had a slight lead. We were able to be catching and passing the others in sight. Trying to keep a good, steady pace, and making sure not to forget to get the CPs along the way. A little over half way through the bike we were in a bit of a situation. We had BOTH run out of water. It had been a warm day and we had been losing fluids at a fast rate and also should have planned for a longer day than we did. Leg muscles were cramping and on the verge of completely locking up, and trying to fight off the nausia was a constant battle. Our pace was suffering as much as we were, but we kept pushing forward. The local's dogs were getting harder and harder to sprint away without muscles seizing up. There was another HUGE hill out past the half way point that was steep enough to force us to walk up. There was another out and back CP late in the bike. Tiny Trail Ninjas hadn't really pulled away at all. Could we catch them? On our way back the strong cycling team of Extreme Electrical came flying past in the opposite direction. That was motivation enough to finish strong and hold them off and maybe that would help to give us a chance at catching Tiny Trail Ninjas. There was one last massive hill on the way to the last CP which was practically in sight of the finish line. We knew about it from the drive in to HQ that morning and were dredding it ever since. Walking our bikes up it, the gaps made it seem certain that we wouldn't be caught or catch anyone. I had called it a day and was ready to coast the rest of the way in.

The race director had a completely different plan though. At CP14 we were handed ANOTHER map with 5 bike-o CPs to get. It was devistating. There was no way we were going to leave without getting them, but it took every last bit will power that we had to start the final section. It didn't take long to have it catch up to us that we had already checked out. It took FOREVER to get situated with the new map and it's scale and contour lines. I'd already seen the Tiny Trail Ninjas head off on their way and it wasn't long before we were caught my Extreme Electrical. One benefit of getting caught was in getting a spare water bottle from them that was heavenly. Finally getting things under control we got to CP15 behind Extreme Electrical. The rest of the leg was slow and being done under complete protest from our broken down bodies and minds. My chain had jumped off the bottom pulley of the rear derailleur and I was just fighting every stroke to force it forward. I was so tired that it took me a while to realize what had happened. I thought I was just so tired that pedaling was just going to feel that hard the rest of the way out. A slight mis-step in getting the very last CP, but we eventually cleared the course and crossed the finish! 12 hours and 4 minutes and 3 seconds.

It took the entire post race to finally start to feel better. People were so nice in offering me help and making sure I was OK. It was great to trade stories from the day. The food was tempting, but I could barely force myself to eat. The more we talked to people, the more we realized that clearing the course might have been the key. We may have only been the 10th team to cross the finish line, but only 3 of those teams before us had cleared the entire course! Team Fusion took 1st, 35 Down in 2nd, and the Tiny Trail Ninjas in 3rd. We were so close. 4th Overall and 1st in the 2 person male division. I felt bad for Alpine Shop who had a great race, but accidentally missed 2 CPs during the long trek. They finished ahead by enough on time from Fusion that they easily could have gotten them and still been in first. However, those things happen in Adventure Racing and apparently not just to the newbies. I felt much better by the time we were driving back to my uncle's and we stopped for me to grab some food, since I felt like I could finally get it down. It wasn't until I went to clean up with a shower that I realized how big the bruise was from an early encounter with our canoe or that there was a tip of a stick protruding from my leg and was lodged over a 1/4 inch deep. It had been there for who knows how long and gave a large blood squirt when removed. I really don't know how I didn't realize it. I'm sure it was getting bumped and tugged at the entire race which irritated it to no end. Maybe I just blocked out any pain in that leg thinking it was just from the bump with the canoe. Once cleaned up we got out our maps and went over the race a bit before finally calling it a day.

I can't finish this off without thanking all of the volenteers, Bonkhard Racing, and all involved with this great race. It was fantastic and won't be soon forgotten. Also, I had lost my watch around HQ after the race and they have searched, found it, and are sending it back to me. It would have been a huge loss. Nathan and I are already going over all the sections of our race again and again looking for ways to improve and better prepare for next time. In just 6 weeks, we will be at Boonecrusher in Iowa and we are going to kill it!

Here's some of the links for more information about the race: The Chill race page
Bonkhard Racing page
Mother Nature's Riverfront Retreat and Family Recreation Park
Chill Results page
Chill photos and race reports
Emily Korsch's blog (from Alpine Shop team)

One Day, Two Races: Castlewood Cup 15K trail run and Cliff Cave SLOC event

Castlewood Cup - Big River Running 15K trail run - 2/22/14

I was feeling really good about my training coming into this race. The only issue was the trail conditions. As the minutes passed waiting for the race to start, the ground was thawing more and more. Now, not everything was terrible, but there was more than our share of slop. Castlewood is one of my favorite places to run and ride. There are challenging hills and places to open the throttle as well.

I also had quite the support crew there as well. My mom and dad, my wife (Emily), and dog (Penny). I was pretty nervous with the expectations I had placed on myself. I got all checked in and got another fantastic hoodie. They seem to have one of my favorite race shirts every year. I always see a lot of familiar faces and make my rounds to say Hi and wish everyone the best. I got to start in the 1st wave where most of my competition was. It wasn't going to be easy. I did also have Tim Vickers in the heat behind me. We have a bit of a rivalry and have gone back and forth with who comes out ahead. He was the reining champ here at Castlewood Cup in our personal battle. It was going to be tough not knowing where things stood with that. I just needed to push all the way though the finish and hope it would be enough.

The pace started off fast with a flat loop around the field. It quickly ramps up with the big climb up to the top of the cliff. It didn't take long after that to get into the mud. The footing was horrible and kept things interesting when trying to take the downhills fast. I had managed to start off with a pace that I could manage without burning myself out too much. I was slowly tracking people down, passing them, and moving onto the next. Things were really shaping up nicely. Maybe a little too good. I was feeling so good about it, I decided to try to ramp things up yet again as it took longer and longer to catch the next guy in my sights. I was going strong and was able to pass a few more in this manner. However, it was a pace too fast and I started it too early to take it all the way through to the end of the race. Maybe on a day with dry trails this would have been possible, but not today. That mud was slowly sucking my last bit of energy. Soon enough, a few of the most recent people I had passed were able to catch back up and go on by. I was struggling to do my best to hang onto to each of them as long as I could. The river crossing was a welcomed sight. That meant there was only about a mile left and surely, I could make it without giving up more time and places. I gave it my best and held my position into the last loop around the field. One guy passed me about half way around, but I held on tight to his heels. I needed to make it to the final stretch to make my move to try to overtake him. I went... slopping through the muddy, puddle ridden field. Far from being silent, he heard me coming and kicked as well. He was able to hold me off and crossed the finish line a second in front of me. The real kicker was that I had started in the back of the heat and our chip timing didn't kick off until I crossed the starting line. He must have been close to the front, so my race time actual placed me ahead of him in the standings. I was sure to ask my family members how close Tim was. He was in the final loop by then, but my gap was more than enough. I was 23rd overall and just missed the awards with 4th in my age group. Amazingly I had also done a personal PR on the course despite having run in several years and in conditions that were perfect. No time to hang around and waste any time. I had another race to get to.

Cliff Cave: St. Louis Orienteering Club event - 2/22/14

After a great trail run, I was feeling pretty good about my results so far. However, I was definitely fatigued. I had to rush to get there. I felt like Cliff Cave was my home course and I really wanted to try to show my stuff there. By the time I got to registration, I only had an hour whereas the rest of the field had the full 90 minutes. I regret not taking a moment throw on my trekking pants over my running shorts, but I was already behind on time. On my way to the start I quickly identified a point of two that I was going to have to punt, especially with some bonus points that I would be given in the field that would be worth double. I punched at the start and made my way to the cave side of the park. I punched the first two quickly, but made a mistake heading towards the 3rd. I only gave myself a moment to try to figure it out and wasn't going to be able to without losing too much time. I got back to trail and was able to pick up the map again. I got the bonus points on this side and everything else I went for pretty cleanly and quickly and was paying for it with scratches. All things said and done, I lost 3 points on that side (2 on purpose due to the distance). I had a good path for getting to the cliff side of the park to get the remaining CPs. I did have one small miscalculation, but was able to recover somewhat quickly and still get it. Knowing the SLOC organizers were wanting me back in about an hour, I was having to push it. Descending the path from the cliff faster than I should have on tired legs. Finishing in 67min 32sec and good enough for 10th place overall. Ended up they were sticking around for others on the course and I actually would have had time to clear it and get the remianing 3 CPs. It was great practice and I was happy with how it went being that I'm normally just a back up navigator to Nathan on our Toporadical adventure racing team. It had been a long day and I enjoyed eating to my hearts content and vegging out on the couch watching TV and movies the rest of the day.