Who is this guy and what has he done to our navigator?

We’ve put out an APB for the location of Checkpoint Zero lead navigator, Peter Jolles. It seems someone masquerading as him showed up at the 2011 Blue Ridge Mountain Adventure Race and unfortunately for the team, this persons performance was, well, he wasn’t performing at all.

The Blue Ridge Mountain Adventure Race is a Georgia classic, one of the most hotly contested races of the year pitching the south east best adventure racing teams against the multitude of other talented multi sport athletes. The last few years have favored the AR teams with tougher navigation, and more involved strategies, and this year was no different.

In what has become a trademark for this race, the race director threw a twist at us allowing the team to split up for a hike/paddle section which had all the hallmarks for a complete sucess, or disaster, for those teams willing to take a chance splitting the teams apart to regroup somewhere else on the course. Our team for the day consisted of Michele Hobson, the guy pretending to be Peter, and Chris Brown filling in for an injured Paul Humphreys.

We planned our route to be conservative in terms of difficulty, but a little longer on distance. We were to be routed through some areas where we suspected there might be some trails, but we didn’t know what shape they would be in, or if they would be there at all. From the get go we were moving fast, passing teams that took faster routes and we think we got close to the lead. In the rogaine format of the race one can never be sure where you are, but we couldn’t have been far back. We had a few issues on the first CP as we took a risky attack towards the point and missed it by a little bit, but sorted it out without too much trouble. The next few we knocked out quickly but by the time we got to the first manned checkpoint that everyone had to get to we were in 6th place and about 30 minutes down! We had been hauling and didn’t think our route choice was that bad, but apparently those who knew about the trail systems, or took the risk on them, got rewarded.

A little disappointed, we resolved to chase down the leaders even harder. Rolling into the first transition area we quickly transitioned from riding to padding, and were out in less than 2 minutes. Our professional quality support crew Paul Humphreys and Allen McAdams told us later that folks could not believe how fast we went through there as most teams were sitting down and apparently having lunch or something while they were there. Races can be won or lost in transition, and any time you save requires no physical exertion, just a little mental preparation.

Nothing like a bike whack to start the race!

The following paddle was straight forward and we closed the gap to the leaders until we had only 2 teams ahead of us. We could see glimpses of them on the Toccoa river as each team had a slightly different strategy for splitting and regrouping, but we were less than 10 minutes behind. And then disaster.

We had one short paddle leg left, maybe half a mile, and a 5 mile bike ride into town. We were hoping for a sprint to the finish line as we couldn’t be far behind. The little paddle leg was to take us between two islands in lake Blue Ridge, except the water level was low. Really low. 30 feet low. I looked out and saw one island and said to the team we shoot for that, turn left, and we’re there. When we turned the corner things just didn’t look right, maybe I misjudged because of the low water level. We decided to try the next inlet up, and the next, and the next. When we finally came around a corner and saw the dam I was instantly shocked and furious. I knew we overshot, but we ended up adding several miles to our paddle! Did I mention I hate lake navigation? Apparently our support crew could see us from the take out and were waving and shouting furiously as we paddled by but we never saw them.

Knowing we threw away any chance at a decent finish we turned around, found the proper take out and rode to the end. We crossed the line  in 6th and an hour down on Snickers. It was embarrassing to relate my story to each team of friends that came in before, and after us. How could I screw up that badly? I don’t expect to be on all the time, but that was horrible. Oh, but it gets worse.

Unbeknownst to us, very early on in the race we were passing the passport back and forth to punch points I apparently mispunched one CP. With that additional blow of not getting credit for one CP we were relegated to something like 72nd place. In the end, it’s not about winning or losing, but getting out there and having fun. I will say I really enjoyed racing with Chris and Michele and we were proud of how fast we were able to move, even if it was in the wrong direction.

So, for all you race directors, if you really want to ruin our chances at a race, put in a good lake paddle navigation section. Hopefully I’ll be able to pass off that portion to a teammate, as I’ll be sure to get us hopelessly lost.

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