TeamHalfwayThere was all over the place, in all its incarnations, at the inaugural Rev3 Epic Adventure Race at Shenandoah River (Andy Guest) State Park on the South Fork two weekends ago. Yes, that was the Saturday with the biblical weather conditions that turned out to be a huge, and at times thrilling, factor in the race. Shane and Andy were racing up front with Charlie and Sarah on the Odyssey/ImonPoint team and providing fantastic encouragement for us relative greenhorns. Bryce was racing with Trakkers (and claiming he’s retiring to the farm) and rocking a new fu manchu look that seems to signify his transitional phase from civilian to full farmer. And Michelle was racing as TeamHalfwayThere/Calleva with Dima in winning the first of what are likely to be many races in the two person coed division. Lastly, we somehow managed to procure our very own cheering and support section thanks to the wonderful trio of Cathy, Elaine, and Paul! You three are racing next! Congrats to everyone on amazing performances and thanks for all the help!
So as not to bury the lead, TeamHalfwayThere.com/Spokes, Etc./BermudaBriangle finished strong afer more than 22 hours of racing meaning both Barry and Kelly finished their first 24 hour races – congrats to two great teammates! Not to mention, a true top ten finish and eighth place in Coed Elite, not too bad for a couple of noobs.
We headed out from Falls Church in the world’s best race vehicle, the BAMV, midday Friday. We’d already received an email from Mark Harris, the Race Director, letting us know the paddle had been cancelled due to the dangerous river conditions. At the time, we all moaned and groaned that this was essentially turning the race into a road triathlon. Well we could not have been more wrong as the scheduled Skyline drive road ride was also cancelled due to permitting issues with the National Park Service. After receiving this news at check-in, I have to say up front the RD’s did a fantastic job switching to a backup course utilizing the roads on the North/West side of the river in the Fort Valley area between Shenandoah NP and GW Nat’l Forest. In the end, this new bike leg turned the race into a significantly more serious Adventure Race feel as it now included more nav.
Race started at 7:30 a.m. with light sprinkles providing a glimpse of the weather to come. First up was a quick prologue out and back run of about 6k to pick up our passports. We jogged lightly with Brian politely reminding me to take it easy (something he wouldn’t have to worry about long). One unique thing in the race was the presence of a “challenge” at the central TA which turned out to be a bit of a brain-teaser/barrel-roll that you could do at any point in the race with the only caveat that no more than three teams could be on the challenge course at any one time. Faster teams from the prologue had already staked out spots so we headed out on the first (new) bike leg. Barry clipped in and immediately launched himself across the already flooded low-water bridge and we all had a blast following along while we passed teams wading it and carrying their bikes. The new bike section “mostly” turned out to be a huge boost for us as a team, especially since we’d practiced our towing and all felt comfortable and because I’ve done quite a bit riding in this area so my confidence as a new navigator was high and ultimately justified. We were zipping right along under threatening skies until Barry had a mechanical almost to the top of Edinburgh Gap where the Bonus (or sixth) CP was. His chain had somehow lodged itself in between his chainrings and hub and despite a ton of yanking we couldn’t free it from the rivets. But just when Kelly and I were getting desparate on creaky knees in the increasing rain, Brian came through with some wrench magic, freed the chain, threw on a universal link and we were off. I gave a quick pep-talk about the long, cold road ride back over the mountain to the river (and may have slightly fudged the distance for morale’s sake) and we were off. 30 minutes later we just missed the shuttle at the river that had been procured for racers in lieu of the paddle. Had to huddle under a tent for a half hour waiting for a shuttle, but it worked out as the heavens opened up for the next hour during which we were either under the tent or on the shuttle. By the time we arrived back at the TA, things were fairly clear and we jammed right out for a 10k or so trek including another foot crossing back and forth of the rising-water bridge. After a shower headed to the first of the two trekking points it cleared up as we came back into the TA so we decided to hit the challenge. We were fresh, happy, relatively dry, and in running shoes so this was a good team decision.
Hilarity ensued with lots of polite yelling between me and Barry, grimacing from Kelly and laughing from Brian. Despite getting dusted by another team and continuously mocked by Cathy and Paul, we got through it in one try and “quickly” rushed out to the last trek point. I was really struggling with sore tendons behind my left knee but my teammates kept my spirits up and didn’t make me feel bad and we finished strong and picked up our points for the O-Course. Kelly took over and used some expert QOC training to nail the plotting and then we gathered in the van to change clothes and plan our attack as the skies opened up again. Needless to say, our timing was fortuitous again! We then headed out on the O-Course right at dusk. We knew we were well back from the leaders who were already out on the final bike leg, but we stayed strong, took our time, and ran our own race. After some initial difficulty using the park trail map and a good decision to ditch it in favor of strictly using the topo map, this really paid off as we found 13 of the 20 CP’s on the O-course (and 13 of 14 we actually went for). The top teams cleared it, but we were one of only two teams who didn’t clear it to get more than a handful of points. Kelly and I teamed up in fine style to lead us around the park through the night.
Just after midnight, the highlight of the race occured! One checkpoint was on the “tip of island,” as in tip of an island about 20 meters into the river. Lead teams had arrived over six hours before us and waded across chest-deep water. That alone would have been scary in the raging current, but when we arrived it was a flooded disaster area requiring a full-out whitewater swim,
complete with log and debris dodging and the risk of being swept into the wider river. Barry never even thought twice while stripping to his tri-shorts, tying the passport in a drybag around his wrist and ordering us to light up the crossing. Despite my strongest discouragement against the attempt he marched about 20 meters upstream and basically dove in and swam his ass off. I was shitting bricks, but Barry was a monster and swam his ass off barely grabbing the island. He got the checkpoint, walked back up the island and repeated the feat coming back. It was AWESOME! (in full Chris Farley “van by the river” voice) After that we attacked a few more points with renewed enthusiasm (including Barry again diving into a Degoba system type swamp for another CP) and then headed back to make sure we had enough time for what promised to be a sloppy and fairly tough mountain bike leg throughout the park trail system. Our concern was validated, especially given that we encountered the inevitable low point that occurs in 24 hour races. But again our team dynamic came through for us as we created a plan to get through the point and with some seriously badass mulework from Brian and Barry, we picked up all the CP’s and finished with a great homestretch with the sun coming up!
We weren’t the fastest or the most talented team, but I’d like to think we may have been a great example of the heart of the sport: hanging together as a team, overcoming all obstacles, and finishing your own race on your own terms. Oh yeah, and generally having a great time playing in the woods!
Lastly, Kelly actually beat me in the “That’s What She Said Challenge.”
Thanks to three incredible teammates! Can’t wait to go again!
See a lot of you at Wild Wonderful in May, TD