Wild Wonderful 24, 5/26/2009
Brian Hyland, Aaron Bernarn, Andi Ballou and Bryce Read formed TeamHalfwaythere.com/RottenCheeseburgers (RottenCheeseburgers).
Welcome to the Wild Wonderful 24 Adventure race in Fayetteville, WV. This is a 24 hour adventure race composing of White water rafting, running, trekking, mountain biking and orienteering all taking place in the hilly New River Gorge and surrounding area. This race is unsupported and we needed to carry all gear with us creating some heaaavvvy packs.
The race started off with a 12 mile white water paddle (class III-V rapids) and each boat had about 8 people and a guide. Normally these guided tours are slow and for fun, but for this race the guides were given monetary incentives for their finishes, so it was fast and non-stop. Once the race began one person from each boat had to do a run and swim to the boat, luckily we had a swimmer in the bunch, and ours (Karen a solo racer) made it back to the boat in 2nd. We pushed hard and worked well as a team. We jockeyed back and forth with a couple other teams and we also saw a few people from other boats go overboard. Apparently Brian hadn’t gotten his sea legs yet and he almost dismounted a few times. We finished up strong and were the first boat off the river in a little less than 1 hour and 20 minutes.
From there we transitioned to a run, we had about a 1.5 hour run ahead of us and took it slow and steady walking most of the hills and running the flats and downhill’s. We made it the TA in good shape and quickly changed into biking gear and stored all our running gear in our packs, adding a little extra weight.
Got on the bikes and started moving out, we estimated 3 hours on bike. The weight on our back definitely changed our balance and made for some fun windy single track to get out onto the main roads. We took a couple short breaks here to catch out breath and adjust ourselves, but overall we kept a good pace arriving at the next TA mid-pack.
CP3 we transitioned to foot for what would be a long and grueling Orienteering course (O-course). We plotted our points very quickly and away we went passing a bunch of teams still plotting (maybe too quickly). We took a look at the new Ocourse map and saw lots of strip mines and cliffs, never being in a strip mine we didn’t know what to expect. We gave ourselves a cut time of midnight that would give us time enough to meet all the race cut times. To start the Ocourse we had to climb a significant ridge with no trail which put the hurting on all of us. However, Aaron had other ideas he pretended to be cramping so he could sit down and be stretched out and touched by his teammates (I still haven’t gotten my tip). This sit down time was a race saver, we took a couple minutes and it saved our race, everyone was fine after that (well, until the bike whack from hell).
We continued on and made it to the 1st OP and met up with a few other teams and searched, where we thought the point should be but searched for a few minutes and Karen from team Calleva shared the location of her point and they were a little different. I made a plotting error and we wasted some time looking but quickly got back on track and joined teams for a good portion of the Ocourse with Karen where the more navigators the merrier. On to the next CP where we continued on a mesh of old fire roads and trails. Andi led us to the rest of the OPs without much hassle. We hit most of our points with daylight which made things easier. A couple of the points had great views, one we had to climb to was on a large plateau and looked like an African savanna, the same point had an overlook over a huge valley where we could see many miles of gorges, mountains and sky. This would be our last daylight OP and we took a few minutes to enjoy the view with some wholesome nutrition (i.e. Corn nuts, Fritos, Pringles, and M&Ms). That was a picture moment, however the last video I took of a harrowing 60km/hr ride down a mountain resulted in me putting the camera in my pocket still recording.
We kept a slow and steady pace on foot and hit more OP’s. One thing that did bother us was the fact that we couldn’t do the only thing our river guide asked us to do, which was sing the song Peaches. We could only muster up 4 or 5 lines, but we would have won a prize if trying to sing or remember that song was a category.
Getting off the Ocourse was not as easy as we had anticipated; we had left time for ourselves to get out and down the mountain to the TA by 1200 that would leave us 7hrs to make the 0700 cutoff time that was said to take between 4-7 hours. However, getting off the Ocourse was not what we thought it would be. We got on the trail we came in on and thought we had a simple way out, not the case. We got to a point were we said just head east to the cliffs and we will find a way down from there and that is what we did. We found a safe way down and did some butt-sliding all the way to the CP4 and the transition to the bike from hell.
We realized we had some time so we took a little; fixed up some feet and got ready for the bike. We looked over the maps and were surprised we hit 9 Opoints, at that point we had the most of any team that came through the TA. Andi led us to all the points with little to no error. We headed out on the bikes and started the climbs, about 50km with what seemed like no downhills (maybe a couple). The first part of the ride was mainly fire roads that winded and climbed out of the gorge. It was dark and windy, that’s all I can remember. We finally made it to the paved road were somehow we still had to climb up the mountain for a couple more hours. We road for a couple more hours and began to see the fatigue, Brian was talking incoherently when asked questions and the rest of the team was getting quiet.
The next thing we saw was a snake like figure of red blinking lights, we came upon a group of about 40 people walking their bikes up the hill. We passed them over a short period of time and continued on, but were getting close to our trail turn. We were supposed to be looking for 3 pieces of orange flagging and didn’t see them in time and rode right past it, about 2 extra miles of climbing up that hill. Came flying back down the 2 miles and hit the turn. We turned into what would be a brutal bikewhack, pushing our bikes up a dug-out muddy trail. That too, is a blur of curses and sweat. I can remember walking past a few teams that had passed us on our overshot and it looked like a war zone, bodies laying everywhere, heads down, people not talking and moaning. But we made it through and to CP5 where getting short on time especially with a tricky set of turns coming up. We pushed it to the start of a little village where dogs where nipping at our feet at the break of dawn. We missed the first turn and got off line for 10 minutes, but we backtracked and saw the sign for the turn we needed coming back and hit it and what followed was in my mind worth all the climbing. We hit a fire road downhill that was fast, technical and scary (while holding and looking at map and compass). At this point we had not been passed by any teams and time was running out on the mandatory cut time. We were thinking we might actually win if some of the other teams tried to bite off more than they could chew on the Ocourse. We rolled into CP6 and made the cutoff by 30 minutes, it took us around 6 hours to make it there. At that point we saw team halfway yoga with Shane and realized the other teams were making it off the Ocourse and on their way back. Alls we had left was a trek back uuuupppp. We had plenty of time and just pushed it back talking and having some laughs all the way back.
Race finish was great, good BBQ and got to see everyone all beat up. We finished great with a mixed experience team in which we had no expectations; we got 5th out of 50+ teams.