A few days prior to race day, someone asks me why? Why do I race for 30 hours running around the woods looking for checkpoints? I realize now that the journeys experienced through adventure racing mimics other journeys that we experience through life. Each time I finish one of these journeys, the memories get richer each time. Racing in this race turns out to be another one of those rich memories to add to the treasure chest.
Driving across the lake that I know we will be paddling the next day, I find myself full of those all familiar emotions as race day approaches. There is excitement in reaching the apex of the anticipation of race day. Butterflies flutter in my gut knowing that we will be competing with a bunch of other dedicated and experienced teams. A bit of relief mixes into the feeling knowing that the day our team worked so hard for is at hand. Finally, I’m lifted up full of hope knowing that it only takes one great moment to make an impact in a race of this magnitude.
This experience all started ten months ago in a living room filled with a variety of experienced adventure racers with one common goal: to have fun and compete! It took a dedicated team working together over this past season to get us three (Paul Morris, Melissa Eddison, and me) to this point. As with my teammates for this race, I am honored to represent all the training, sacrifices, and accomplishments (aka. blood, sweat, and tears) put forth by the others on our TeamHalfwayThereDC team: Barry Nobles, Megan Mitchell, Melissa Eddison, Kevin Kidd, Jared Macary, Christina Hartman.
Race day comes in a flash. With less than 2 hours of time looking at the map, a gun goes off! Instincts immediately takes over, not a word is said. Everything is dropped to head up the mountain with boogie board in hand to tackle the first leg of the race. All three of us choose to jump into man-made, class III rapids!
The first decision of the race is upon us. Should Paul take a tour of the man-made class III rapids with a slightly strained ankle? Or, should I take two laps as a cautionary measure? After fighting a huge eddy at the end, the answer presents itself with clarity. Paul is taking the tour. Besides, doesn’t his picture look great? With that smile on his face, we couldn’t deprive him of this experience!
A few hours of fighting currents, biking up the mountain for some trail riding, and bagging a few checkpoint, we run off with paddle gear in hand to discover that the calm lake we saw earlier is now an angry lake. Our paddle involves a nasty headwind with 1’-2’ waves crashing over the bow of the canoe with swirling watercraft stirring up more lake anger. But remembering we represent a whole season of effort by our team, I get angry at the lake and do everything I can to get us to checkpoint 7, the canoe take out. Although we may not look excited in the picture, it was awesome to stand on land and get ready to attack the orienteering course (O-course).
Having navigated us to this point with excellence, Paul turns over the navigation to me for our first foot O-course. Sweeping the checkpoints in a counter-clockwise path, we return to the canoe in a few hours. With hopes of taking advantage of the head wind we fought to get to this point, we push off from shore to paddle to the main section of the lake. Arghh! The winds are calm and the waves are gone. Oh well, it’s time to get angry at this lake again.
After abandoning the paddle, it’s our last TA with over 20 hours left! Oh boy! What other challenges lay ahead? It is the USARA National Championship race after all. At this point in the race, we are executing our plan and racing our race when the rain starts and the temperatures begin their descent from the 70’s to the 40’s. For the next few hours, our journey takes up back to the other side of the lake, up the ridge, bombing down to the river, a few more checkpoints, and to the scoring O-course.
The creation of another memory is at hand at the foot O-course that requires nothing but up and down the ridges on each side of the road. We stick to our race plan and pick to get 4 of the 10 points from the scoring O-course. After a bushwhack up the ridgeline and bagging 3 of the 4 points, we head to our attack point to drop off the side of the ridge to our last checkpoint. After a bit, our elevation is dropping too far. We have one chance to get this last checkpoint. We decide to backtrack, find another team who confirms our positioning. Finding the attack point, we set our bearing and start dropping off the ridge to find the point. Dropping a few hundred feet in elevation, I look over at Paul to check out his location only to see the check point lighting up with my Lupine headlamp past his head. We get it and head back to pick up our bikes.
With the hours ticking away, Paul uses his hours of training in these mountains to navigate us along the Savage River, up to New Germany State Park where we obtain several checkpoints. Although the rain has pretty much finished, we are wet, cold, and all our dry clothes are spent. As dawn approaches, we are making our way back up the ridge fighting off the cold by staying on the move. A few checkpoints later, we find ourselves dropping our bikes to grab one more point before heading off the ridge. Snap! A problem with a wheel! We cool making repairs. Yet, our last big decision yet is fast approaching. Do we have time to grab two or one more point? It’s just too close. Time is winding down; we have a wheel that’s not 100% with these points off road. Although tough to leave checkpoints on the course, finishing the race is our #1 goal. One point, then it’s time to bring it home! It’s another part of the journey full of memories that I will never forget.
As a result, we finished Nationals and ultimately 11th place in points overall.