It all started with a few phone calls. We qualified, the money rolled down to us, we might as well go… But, the race is in Texas. How much will it cost, how will we get there, how will our bikes get there? All valid questions, and ones I am sure racers across the country struggled with. Jeremy couldn’t make it. Jen Moos and I were hemming, hawing and ultimately leaning toward skipping it this year.
Then I called Mark Lattanzi. ”Hey Mark, its Shane. How are you?”…blah, blah, blah. ”We qualified for Nationals, and are looking for a third. It’s in Texas this year, wanna go?” He replied, “Actually, that is one of two races let this year I wanted to do. Let me think about it.” Me, “It’s in Texas.” Mark, “I know, that’s one reason I want to do it, I haven’t ever raced in Texas.”
(Before I get any hate mail from the Texans – the race, Texas and Texans were all great.)
Obviously he decided to do it, and with a phenomenal navigator and stellar woman how could I say no?
We arrived within 30 minutes of each other the day before the race at DFW airport. Grabbed a rental car, grabbed some Texmex (mandatory, right?), and drove up to check-in to the hotel. Spent some time getting out bikes reassembled and we arrived at pre-race registration shortly after they opened.
Pre-race is always a great time. High stress and speculation is coupled with the great feelings of seeing old friends and catching up. We did all of the above, and were off to dinner. Caught a great Italian meal across the street from the Four Horsemen motel, and drove back the the event hotel. Pre-race meeting – we’ll get our maps at 5:00 am and start the race at 7:00 am, a few questions and back to the hotel.
Time to pack, repack and adjust plans. The deluge of rain put a lot of the course underwater, necessitating multiple changes. The bike drop was cancelled, and we would see a central TA during the race. So, we set the car up to act as our TA site, did final prep on our gear, and racked out.
Friday morning came early (we set alarms for 4:00). Some coffee in our bellies and we were out the door. By 5 o’clock there was general mayhem as everyone was looking for some real estate to set up their plotting/planning areas. They gave us our maps and rules of travel and we went to work. We managed to get everything plotted and work out the vast majority of our routes with time to spare. Back to the car, final prep to our TA locations, drop the bikes and…
Let’s race! We jogged about 300 meters downhill to the scoots, hopped on and roared off – or more accurately we rode off with nearly 200 other racers. Lights on, stay together, and move through the largest sustained peleton AR has ever seen. A few teams took off and over time we moved to the front and then started closing the gaps from one group to the next. 38 kilometers later we arrived at the boat TA along with Berlin Bike in about 6th. Into the boats, and time to paddle. Grrrrr, one heck of a wind had the Race Director mandating that we hug the coastline. With the wind and waves coming at the side of the boat, the stern was getting pushed pretty hard. Lots of left side only paddling for the guy in the back (me). But, that all changed hours later on the return part of the paddle! We paddled well together moving quickly across the water and knocking out the points. The terrain around CP4 wasn’t depicted quite the same on the map as on the water, so that slowed us a bit. We figured it out, punched it and portaged to CP 5. Paddled back around, wind to our back and then side and returned to the TA. Although they were a bit of a time suck off the water, we were definitely happy with our decision to carry 3 four piece kayak paddles.
Back on the bikes and still in the top 6 or so. Bike to the first trek section. Just how many plants with spikes, thorns, barbs and prickers are there? How can they all be in the same place? Why would anyone put CPs in the thickest parts of them? We got the points, tore our clothes, and moved on.
Bike here, bike there and time to orienteer. Mark absolutely crushed it. Period. Mere seconds off the fastest time (there is a story there, for another time). Back on the bikes, hop in a pace line and more riding. Drop the bikes and trek to CP 15, a point with a clue of “…low red wall.” Low translated to about one brick above water! Back to the bikes and toward the TA, getting there in the top 5.
In and out quickly, except for the excessive time spent on the jammed buckles on my Sidi shoes. Hint, go straight to the knife to clean the junk out! Restocked on food, fluids and some dry clothes, off we go.
Off the road and on to a horse trail. This was a cross between swampy double track and wet cement. Miserable, especially for Jen’s driveline. I had bad chainsuck, hers was terrible. Mark had a Rohloff and his driveline was unfazed. That’s going on the Christmas wish list! Mark seamlessly guided us to the points, and we caught up with Dart Nuun. They had a map issue, so we rolled together for about the next 5 hours. We worked well as a 6 headed mob, and reeled in the points. Hung up on the one near the construction area, found it, punched it and moved on. More riding through wet cement, more points and we parted ways with Dart Nuun (great racing with you guys!!!). Next stop was the TA for the final trek and we were still in the top 5 or 6 teams.
It was good to be on foot and work some other muscles. We had a solid plan and knocked out the points quickly. When we returned to the TA we learned that three teams were in front of us, and the final trek section was cancelled. There were also a lot of very fast competent teams just behind us – time to put the hammer down.
Back to the slop. We ground it out, constantly looking over our shoulders and pushed to the finish. We arrived at the finish line, and went in to the final punch. While inside, I was informed that one of the teams in front of us hadn’t cleared the course. Unofficially, we were 3rd!!! I told Jen and Mark, we were ecstatic!!! We got our pictures taken at the finish line, cleaned some gear and went to clean up.
We came back later, grabbed breakfast and watched teams coming in. It was great to be a part of the energy at the finish line of such an epic event. The rest of the day was gear work, napping and eating. The awards ceremony was excellent, and for an avid racer a great way to get your fix listening to everyone’s stories. Although we all raced to the same checkpoints, the journeys we had from start to finish are the cool parts. And every team had a different and interesting tale to tell.
Ultimately, we rode about 112 miles, paddled over 5.5 hours, and were on our feet for approximately 8 hours.
A special thanks to our sponsors, we couldn’t do this without you. Jen and Mark, you are both such incredibly gifted athletes. This was definitely a pinnacle race, we worked extremely well together and had a great time. 2009 USARA Nationals are in the books, and we took 3rd. A great cap on the year, and a phenomenal way to debut the ImOnPoint.org race team. Look for us next year…
See you outside!