2012 Blue Ridge Mountain Adventure Race

For the second time this year, Checkpoint Zero fielded their “mature” team of Michele Hobson, Allen McAdams and Jon Barker with support provided by Mel Hof. Between them, this team had raced the Blue Ridge AR a combined total of 33 or 34 times. We had the experience for sure but RD Ron Zadroga always managed to find an area or tweak something old to make the race interesting and challenging. This year was no exception.

We picked up the maps on Friday evening and saw that we would cover a lot of familiar territory but with some new stuff thrown in. We had a ten hour limit to retrieve 17 checkpoints and hit three waypoints. The race was rogaine style but the route was more or less obvious. We discussed at great length what to do about the big Aska Road rapid and decided a portage would be more practical as three in a canoe would be unstable. As always in this sport, things change. Thanks to our friends Tim & Ivan for a little more local intelligence and we pretty much had our game plan set, stuff packed up and were in bed before midnight.
Once we checked in at the start line we received three more trek points to plot with instructions to get two of them and check back in at the start before starting the canoe section down the Aska River. After picking up the two prologue points we started the paddle only to discover that I had not checked back in at the start to get the passport punched. A quick ferry to shore and I ran back the 100 or so yards and then back to the canoe. We were probably 12-15 boats back but paddled hard and were in second place at Shallowford Bridge (although at least one team had pulled out early to hit the trek O course from a different angle). We watched Appalachian AR maneuver the big rapid successfully so made a split second decision to run it rather than portage. Allen’s line was perfect but we still managed to flip. We made a quick job of righting the canoe and were back paddling in only a couple of minutes; still quicker than the portage. We shivered our way to the take out and hit the six trek points in an anti-clockwise direction. We made short work of these and even joined some old friends for a couple of them. We finished the trek and ferried back over the river in first place. A quick portage up to the TA and off on the bikes. We hit seven through 14 with little trouble but the pace was hard as we knew our lead would be slim and could actually hear another team below us that we figured were only five minutes behind. We hit WP2 and CP15 then I decided to bushwack up to CP17 where I figured it would be easier to run back to CP16 then back to CP17 to pick up the bikes.

After about five minutes I came to my senses and we returned to the nice trail that was not on the map and, knowing Ron, would take us right up to CP16. Valuable minutes had been lost and as we approached CP16 we heard the sounds of friends, rivals and reigning champions Snickers Marathon approaching. We punched CP16, joined forces and ran our bikes along the BM trail and then down to CP17 together. I dithered over the maps here and Snickers took off down a different route. I came to my senses and we followed the correct route and caught them back up right at WP3. I was not relishing the inevitable race to the finish when I heard a cry of consternation from Snickers captain and navigator, Bill Fletcher. His chain had broken. These mechanical issues can happen at any time and they are an awful way for a race to be decided. It really has happened to us all! We continued on the climb up and over Long Mountain, taking the mandatory route to the finish in downtown Blue Ridge, all the while keeping an eye behind us in case Snickers had been able to quickly fix the broken chain.

We finished in first place overall but first place Masters (as that was the division we signed up for) in six hours and 13 minutes.

Thanks to my team mates for their usual strength, skill and camaraderie. Thanks to Ron and all the wonderful Blue Ridge volunteers who, year after year, produce the flagship adventure race in the southeast.
Jon

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