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  • Michelle paddle-boards class-III whitewater at USARA Nationals 2014

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From the monthly archives: May 2014

One month ago Shenandoah Mountain Touring hosted the second annual
Virginia’s Rough Roubaix. The alarm went off bright and early at 4:20 so that I
could get to Barry’s house so we could all carpool down to Harrisonburg together.
A few hours later we were ready to roll at Westover Park in Harrisonburg. I was riding my brand new Niner RLT 9
and was excited to see how it handled on the gravel roads of Virginia and West Virginia.

Chris Scott paced us out of Harrisonburg and onto the gravel roads towards Stokesville. I stayed up front early knowing that when the
lead group accelerated I would get dropped eventually. I was pleasantly surprised at how well I was riding when at around mile 12
Jeremiah Bishop went by me in his way to catch the lead group. I hung on his wheel for a way and then he went up a hill like it wasn’t there.
I rode the rest of the way solo to Stokesville. There I picked up a group of three other riders and we climbed up and over into West Virginia.

The climb into West Virginia is long but never that steep. It is followed by an ripping descent that had switchbacks, potholes, washboard road and more.
The Niner RLT9 handled like a champ on the rough roads. I was especially happy with the Stan’s Iron Cross rims and the Schwalbe Sanny Slicks I had setup tubeless. I flew down the mountain without fear of flatting and the low pressures I was able to run kept the ride from being too rough.

After the descent back into West Virginia I got dropped out of the pace line I was in and soloed into the second aid stations.
I left the aid station with two other riders and we headed up Route 33. The cramps started in earnest as we climbed back into Virginia.
As we created the pass, I could see the two riders ahead of me but was always just a few hundred yards away and was never able to catch either rider. I soloed all they way back into Harrisonburg expecting a fairly easy descent back into town.
But it wasn’t so easy. In the final 15 miles Chris decided we needed to climb a few nasty hills on the way back into town.

I rolled back into Westover Park just a few minutes over my 6 hours goal. I was surprised to only see a few people at the park and was even more surprised to find out I finished 5th in the 90-mile classic route!

Chris Scott and Shenandoah Mountain Touring put on an amazing day of racing in the Shenandoah Mountains and I can’t wait
to go back and race again next year.

The Team and Scary-Barry Get It Done

By Kevin Kidd

On April 26 TeamHalfWayThereDC, along with over 60 other teams and solo racers, tackled the 26 hour Shenandoah Epic Adventure Race taking place in the northern Shenandoah Valley and surrounding mountain ranges. Dave Wall, Megan Mitchell, Barry Nobles and myself were familiar with the race venue prompting both anticipation and some trepidation for what was to come. We loaded up the BAMV (Barry’s minivan) with all our gear and headed toward Luray early Friday afternoon. Our original plan was to stretch out the legs a little with a short ride or run in Andy Guest Shenandoah River State Park, which we accurately surmised, would be part of the race course. Alas, the weather gods were not in good humor and the rain began to fall, very heavily at times, as we approached Front Royal. We scrapped the workout and instead went directly to Luray and checked in at the hotel in a driving downpour. After unloading 4 bikes and numerous bins into our room we headed down the street to check-in. At 5 p.m. we received our swag and more importantly maps and rules of travel. Dave, with his nav tools in hand, immediately began looking over the map to discern our route of travel. Barry, Megan and, to a lesser degree myself, helped Dave as he had to plot all the optional CP’s on the map. As Dave readied the maps we ordered takeout from a restaurant across the street and ate while continuing with the map work. We were joined at dinner by Athena, the outfitter’s dog, who could smell a possible bite to eat. We’d see Athena later in less comfortable surroundings. The race brief began at 7pm. It was straight forward and we didn’t glean too much information from it. We headed back to the hotel to finish last minute preparations and to try and get a good night’s sleep.

In reviewing the race course, the course was far from clearable.  The team identified points to target, attacks to them, and self imposed time cutoffs.  We were very optimistic about this course.  This became very obvious in the middle of the race when we heard that the top teams were at points at the time we had hoped.  Just goes to show we were under estimating the brutality of this course.

Megan and I Pre-Race

I, for one, did not sleep well. I was told by Dave that I snored all night although I didn’t hear it. We arose, dressed, packed the van up and headed to Downriver Canoe Company, the race’s finish area before 7 a.m. Upon arriving at Downriver we unloaded, prepped some more, grabbed our paddles and PFD’s and then headed to catch a bus that would take us up river to the race start. We arrived quite early at the put in and spent the next hour and a half hanging out with other teams, talking, joking and peeing in the grass. As the race start neared teams put in treaded water and waited. I was suddenly completely soaked by another competitor’s paddle splash. Was this an omen? At 10 a.m. sharp, with a flotilla of canoes and kayaks on the river the gun sounded and the race began. The paddle leg was roughly 13 miles from the put in at Fort Stover to take out just below Compton rapids. The river was flowing nice and swift so we anticipated a rather quick paddle. We garnered two CP’s along the way and were approaching the end of the paddle when the first “Barry Moment” occurred.

As we paddled alongside our teammates from TeamHalfWayThereVA, Jeremy and TJ expressed significant and sustained curiosity about the condition of Barry’s taint. With uncanny alacrity and stability Barry thus stood up in the canoe and displayed his backside to them as well as a group of kids out enjoying a rafting trip. Karma would soon have its revenge. As we approached takeout we had to navigate the only real challenge on the river section, Compton rapids. The rapid begins left then bends back to the right. It creates a small wall of standing water. We watched as a team ahead of us went too far left and promptly got swamped. Dave, steering in the back, and I took our turn next. With expert skill Dave hit the rapid in the middle then quickly steered us to middle right. It was a perfect line. I just put my head down and paddled as hard as I could and started praying. We were quickly through safe and sound. Barry and Megan, not so lucky, Karma? They hit the rapid right after us but somehow started to take on water and were quickly swamped. Their canoe was submerged and Barry and Megan were now swimming. As Megan floated to shore strange noises were emitting from her mouth. I think she was cold. We were finally able to gather everyone on shore river right, regroup, and paddle across river to the begin leg 2, the trek from hell.

Upon leaving TA 1 we were to trek along Indian Grave Trail up to the ridge on Massanuten  Mountain and follow the trail along the ridge north to Veach Gap where we would descend down to TA2, CP 11 at Downriver Canoe Company. Along the way there were optional CP’s to be picked up. We decided to get as many of these as possible as it would still be daylight. These optional CP’s required us to drop down off the ridge anywhere from 400 to 900 feet. They also required some bushwhacking. It was mid afternoon by this point, it was getting hot and I was beginning to hurt. Barry, Megan and Dave were all feeling fine. We bagged the first optional CP and headed to the second. It was here we made our only silly mistake of the race. The CP was located on a hilltop down off the ridge. We all descended a little too early and had to contour along the mountain side to the hilltop. Upon seeing the flag 30 or so yards up on the hill Megan bolted up to punch it. Barry, Dave and I stayed at the bottom. Big Mistake. The race directors had also given all teams wristbands to wear. They instructed us that at some CP’s, i.e. the hard ones, all team members would also have to punch their wristbands along with the e punch. Unfortunately Megan did not see this manual punch. We had ascended almost all the way back up to the ridge when we realized our mistake. Back down we went, all of us trekking to the punch and then ascending back up the ridge for a second time. Oops!  The long trek continued for what seemed like forever. At one point Barry graciously hooked up a tow line and helped haul my sorry butt up the mountain. Did I mention I was not feeling well?  Along the ridge we had a scary moment when Barry stepped awkwardly on a rock and twisted his ankle. He soldiered on and eventually we made our way to Veach Gap and descended off the ridge back to Downriver Canoe Company and transition as nightfall descended on the valley.

Part 3 of the race consisted of a bike/trek rogaine in Andy Guest State Park. Again there were both mandatory and optional CP’s on both legs. This being the easiest terrain of the entire course we decided to bag most of these points. After refueling, we mounted bikes and took off at what was for Barry, Dave and Megan a modest pace. I was dying. We slowed down a bit and other than me riding off the trail and crashing made it to the first bike CP without too much difficulty. It was the second bike CP where I really began to struggle. It was located at the top of the Point Trail. I’ve ridden this trail before. This night I couldn’t by myself. This time Megan whipped out her towline and literally dragged  me up the mountain. She is very, very strong. We continued our bike rogaine, with Megan towing me uphill, eventually making it back to transition. We changed shoes and began the trekking portion. As we walked along a wet trail we had our second “Barry Moment”. While Barry was talking he did not see a rather large puddle and stepped directly into it. A comedic “Oooowheeeoooo” emitted from his throat along with a hand gesture that can be described best as “jazz hands”.  It was nice to forget about the pain for a moment. We hit all but two of the trekking CPs with Dave’s nav spot on and headed back to transition to begin what would be by far the most difficult part of the course.

This last section (as least for us) consisted of a bike “ride” over the Mountain via Sherman Gap Trail to Elizabeth Furnace Campground where we’d once again change into our running shoes and gather a mandatory CP on foot then head back over the mountain again to the finish. Faster teams could pick up optional bike and trekking CPs on this side of the mountain. We left transition at Downriver for E. Furnace somewhere around 2 am. We rode to the Sherman Gap Trailhead and began our ascent. We were able to ride about a mile of the trail before the pitch and terrain was too much. A long 2 mile hike a bike over rocks and roots awaited.  After what seemed forever we finally reached the top and began down the other side. This should be the easy part, right? Wrong! The rocks and footing were much worse on this side. We were all feeling bad here. I decided to show it. About halfway down my stomach had had enough. I stopped, leaned over my bike and began to puke. By the look on their faces I believe my teammates were a little concerned about me finishing at this point. But I’d be damned if I let these guys down after all they’d helped me through so after gathering myself we pushed on. We made it down to the flat portion of the trail and then disaster struck. I was pedaling along just fine when I heard a weird noise and looked down to see my chain gone. Somehow it had broken. We dismounted and Dave, Barry and Megan took over. We tried to fix it on the spot but after several attempts decided to get to E. Furnace campground and Transition and work on it there. Megan (again) towed me into the TA. After fighting putting the chain on wrong and losing 1 quick link Dave finally got it working again. (Thank You Dave). We changed shoes, and quickly left for the one mandatory foot CP on this side of the mountain. Dave quickly led us to it and we arrived back in transition around 8 am. It was going to be close but we all thought we could make the finish before noon.

We remounted our bikes and began the slog back up the mountain. It was now daylight and getting warm. We were all beginning to feel tired and yucky at this point but the end was in sight. As we pushed our bikes up the trail we overtook and passed another team giving us a much needed morale boost. We crested the ridge much faster than the trip over and were soon mounting our bikes. This downhill trail section was for me the only fun riding of the race. Soon we were off the trail and back on the road leading to the finish. The road had 4 uphill sections so Megan pulled out her tow line and once again helped me get up and over. Did I mention she is very, very strong! At 10:48 a.m. we pulled into the finish way too tired to celebrate much. The Finish line photo pretty much says it all.

After refueling with food and drink and talking with other competitors for awhile we loaded up the BAMV with all our wet, muddy, stinky gear and headed home. Along the way we stopped at a soft serve ice cream stand for some well deserved refreshment. Ice cream never tasted so good!

Words cannot describe the gratitude I have for Barry, Dave and Megan. Without their support I never would have made it to the finish. Dave did a masterful job naving and Barry and Megan were “Sampson” like in carrying packs and towing me up the mountains on foot and bike. Thanks guys!  The results of all the hard work paid off with a 9th place 4-person co-ed team finish and 15th overall.