When one decides that they want to do an Adventure Race in Mid Jan in the mountains of North GA there is a certain understanding that the weather and conditions will more than likely not be favorable and that at some point during the race you will ask yourself WTF am I doing. But then 2 days later it all becomes clear and you realize there is not much else you would rather have been doing over the past weekend.
And so we have the 2101 NGAR near Chatsworth Ga, in and around beautiful Fort Mountain State park. Too bad we never got to see the beauty of it, because for most of the race we could not see 10 feet in front of us
Todd, Victor and myself along with our awesome support crew Miguel and Kathy headed down to GA on Thursday. We stopped overnight in Knoxville and on the way out Friday morning decided to stop at Outdoor World at 9am when they opened to get a map we needed. This was the first time I had been to an Outdoor World and all I can say is WOW!! They are pretty impressive and huge. But it did not have the map we needed:( However the most exciting part of the the experience for me was the Starbucks right smack in the middle of Outdoor World! Yup you should have seem my face. The team said it was priceless. If only they had a photo. (For those of you who don’t know, I am a coffee snob and even though there is much better coffee than Starbucks, it is not off of 81 South in Knoxville TN). Off we went happy with coffee in hand:)
We had plenty of time to relax and get our gear together by the time we checked in Friday afternoon and got our maps, etc. Back to the hotel we went to plot the course, get last minute things together and a good nights sleep. Once we had the course laid out here is what we were up against.
Race started at the North Bank Recreation area with a 17 mile paddle. Racers will return to North Bank and head out on a 25 mile bike to the Windy Gap Cycle Trail Tralhead. On this leg they will stop by Fort Mountain (CP8) and see their support crews. At the Windy Gap Cycle Trail Trailhead they drop bikes and go on a 13 mile hike up to Grassy Mountain. We expect snowy/rainy/cold conditions on this mountain. After returning to the bikes, they will go through Mulberry Gap and up the Pinhoti trail, returning to Fort Mountain (Cp19). At Fort Mountain they will be given coordinates to a 10 mile, 10 point orienteering course on the Fort Mountain trails.
9 am race start at the Carter Lake Dam
The prolouge to help spread out the paddle consisted of a run down and then up a nasty dirt road near the dam. It was over a mile with about 700 feet of climbing. Only one teammate could do it so Todd took it on.
Leg 1 The Paddle and the only part of the race without rain, well maybe some rain but we were wet anyways…
From the prolouge off we went on the paddle across Carter Lake. We had to hit CP’S 1-4 in order but had no limitation on how to get them (paddle or portage). As we crossed the lake to hit CP 1 it was windy but in general we had good conditions on the water. Our canoe Skinny Magic was great and very fast. Before the race started we were told there was a Bass Fishing tournament going on that day so we would see a lot of boats out on the lake. Great!!
We had several portage options on the paddle and most teams cut off quite a bit of paddling by portaging from CP 1 to 2 and then from CP 4 back to CP 5 and the TA. We decided to do both portages which included carrying the boat up and down several hills through the woods, etc. Overall I think most teams saved about an hour of paddling if they chose the portage.
TA 1 Transition to Bike.
By the time we got off the water about 4 hours later it had started to rain so we got some warm clothes on, bundled up, got some hot food and off we went on the first big bike leg to CP’S 6-8 and Fort Mountain State Park. This first bike leg was by far the most enjoyable of the race as it was light out and not to cold even with light rain falling. Most of the roads were paved until we hit the Pebbles Fire Rd and started the climb to CP 7. On the climb we passed about 10 teams and we were feeling really good. We found the trail connector off the fire road that we needed to take and hit CP 7. From there we really started the climb up the mountain to the main road and into the park. The navigation was not that hard and we made the right turn on the single track trail we needed to follow up to the road. From what we heard later several teams missed the turned and ended up hitting the road further down from the park entrance. That part of the road was forbidden to travel on but oh well. By this point the trails had enough mud on them to make the trail up to the road unrideable so it was a bike a hike.
Into CP 8 and a quick stop with our support crew to refuel and get our packs ready for the real start of the race and over 12 hours out on the course overnight. From CP 8 we continued on the bike to hit CP’S 9-11. These CP’S were in the park and the MB was great except for wet and muddy trails and fire roads. We hit CP 10 by dark put on our lights and started the down hill out of the park. This is when the rain really started to fall and by the time we got into CP11 and the bike drop we were pretty wet and cold.
Bike Drop at CP11 and start of the Trekking Leg
We had 3 CP’s to hit on the trek 12-14 and then back to CP 15 and the bike drop. Before heading out we got dry, had some soup that the race TA volunteers had made and stood by the fire for a bit before heading out. We knew it would be a long trek with a lot of elevation gain (about 2500 feet of gain to CP 13 alone) and as we hit CP 12 at the end of a long dark fireroad we made a stategic decision to skip the next two CP’S and head back to the bikes. With the time it would take to get 13 and 14 as well as the physical toll it would take with the conditions, we decided we would rather try for all of the 10 O-points at the end of the race instead of going for 2 more trekking points, and risk not having enough time at the end of the race to do the O-course. At this point it was raining harder, we were freezing, soaking wet and just plain miserable. So we slogged back to the bikes 3 hours later not looking forward to a long, cold and wet ride. Our strategy would work in our favor at the end as we had plenty of time to do the O-course and pick up several more CP’S than many teams that did the whole trekking leg.
Final Bike Leg CP’S 16-19
The final bike leg out of CP 15 was a long, wet, muddy slog up and over several mountains back to Fort Mountain State Park and our support crew. We had to hit CP’S 16-18. The ride was long but our spirits were lifted when we got to CP 16 at Mulberry Gap. The CP was at a warm lodge with lot’s of hot food, chips, soda, cookies, a hot oven stove, and the best bathrooms I have every been to in a race. They really were awesome. The women’s bathroom had showers and a heater that I sat down in front of for a good 10 minutes. But back to reality and off we went up a single track trail and the mountain to CP 17. The ride to CP 18 was downhill on a fireroad/trail/ATV trail. It was so foggy and dark it was hard to see and thankfully Victor was able to take the lead with his lights and guide us safety downhill. Although I did have one small crash but thanks to a soft and muddy ground I was fine. We got through CP 18 and CP 19 and finished off the bike leg just as daylight hit around 7am.
Final leg the O-Course
The final section of the race was a 10 mile 10 point rogaine O-Course. We did not get the points until we started the section. We had an option of plotting the points right away and heading out or we could wait 1 hour and copy the points in 3 minutes off of a master map. We decided to take the hour to get some hot food and get dry. Once we were ready to go Victor copied the 10 points in literally 3 minutes and we were off. We had 6 hours to get all 10 points and finish by the 3pm cut-off. At this point the rain had still not let up and in fact it was raining harder than ever. The wind was also picking up and the fog was even worse on the course. They were not easy points to get even in clear weather and we had a lot of land to cover. We decided to call it a race after getting 5 points. We made our way back to CP 29 and the finish a little after 2pm. 29 hours later.
Overall we had a great race, and I think we exceeded our expectations especially with our placement. As the first race of the year we went into it for the race experience as we get ready for the year ahead. It was a tough race and many teams called it a day much earlier. But we pushed through and as long as we felt good and were in good spirits we never let the conditions get to us. Victor and Todd were both great teammates as usual. This was Todd’s first 30 hour and he did a fantastic job. Very impressive. He never complained once, and I am pretty sure he has the full on racing bug:)
Once again thanks to our awesome support Miguel and Kathy without whom this race would have been very different.
Thanks to our canoe sponsor Barry and his newly named red canoe Skinny Magic, named after a sign we saw for drugs in Chatsworth GA. Not kidding.
Thanks to Shane and his team for their help and support as well.
Until next time……………
The Rotten Cheeseburgers