Team Checkpoint Zero

How Duke men’s basketball did adventure racing a HUGE favor

I don’t have allegiance to any sports team here in the US, or religiously follow teams to the point where I say things like “what ‘bout them (insert your favorite team here)”. I don’t usually know who won this major championship, this final or that series. Watching American sports just doesn’t fill too much of my time. Rugby is usually my sport of choice to watch.

Experts say fans love to hate Duke basketball. Not one to listen to the experts, I found myself cheering for Duke, not only on Monday night, but starting several weeks back. Why? Duke’s playing this year and winning the NCAA men’s Basketball Championship on Monday night did Adventure Racing a HUGE favor. They gave us a great illustration of our sport… TEAMWORK!

Seriously, hear me out, I know it sounds cheesy and lame but consider these points. Let me warn you that the following paragraphs contain lame cliches, nonetheless they will reinforce my argument.

Duke is normally a “Team of Stars” and this year they were not. Generally a perennial favorite to at least win the ACC and go deep in the tourney they center their team around 1 or 2 great players who are about to be ‘one and done’ and go to the NBA. Heavily recruited by Coach K and his staff from some high school where this young (& don’t get me wrong) talented athlete was ‘all that & a bag of chips’. This year’s winning team certainly has talent, but didn’t seem to have the clutch player of previous years or those other big teams have to pass the ball to when they need a “buzzer beater” or will score whenever he wants to.

Duke had to work hard this year as a team to win. Duke had to rely on each other this year as a team to win. Duke had to take care of one another on the court this year as a team to win. Duke had to collectively use all their skills this year as a team to win. Duke had to take baby steps and keep moving forward this year as a team to win.

Sound familiar? How many times in Adventure racing are all the above statements true? An adventure race is about ALL the team working hard to win or finish the race, the 100 foot rule exists for a reason right? An adventure racing team has to rely on each other. While one or two members may stand out in some disciplines than others we all rely on each other to get to the end. We all have to cross the line together, even if it means getting towed on the bungee or pushed up that hill with a hand on the back while biking. Having a stud in your AR team may be great for looks and appearance but once again it’s the team that crosses the line. Let’s face it after 2 days of racing NO ONE LOOKS PRETTY! If you want a stud, go check out a triathlon. (apologies triathletes) Adventure racers have to collectively use all their skills as a team to succeed, in navigating, carrying canoes on shoulders, keeping team mates awake, helping them move quickly through a TA, to name a few. Finally (and I know there are more reasons) when your team faces a challenge of fatigue or injury or mechanical issues etc the most important thing to do is keep moving forward. It may be baby steps but you have to keep moving. To stop can mean anything from a DNF, falling asleep to settling to something less than your teams’ best.

Therefore next time a friend or colleague quizzes you about Adventure Racing peppered with the what, why and how come questions. Use Duke’s win this week as a metaphor to explain and answer all those questions. As much as people love to hate, or hate to love Duke their win and their teamwork did Adventure Racing a big favor. They gave us the best commercial for Adventure Racing and its teamwork.

-Paul Humphreys

How Sweet It Is

Jennifer Rinderle

Coming off a rough Endorphin Fix, several of us Zero’s decided we needed a little training run this past weekend to shake out the bad juju and get things rolling again. Conveniently the folks in Douglas County Rouge Runners hosted their fourth annual SweetH20 50k trail run.

Now before we get to far, I need to share a story.  When talking with people I’m often asked what makes a good/fast adventure racing team. Aside from good navigation and team spirit, one of the most integral ingredients is to have a girl that can kick your butt. I’m not talking one that can just keep up with the guys, but one that can open up that can of whoop ass when the time comes and show you she means business.  They are a rare breed, but they are out there, and the south east has more than a couple.

How does this pertain to the 50k? Well, lets just say that Paul Humphreys and I were talking a little trash to each other all last week about who was going to beat who, and by how much. I had a suspicion all along he’d beat me handily as he’s been running all kinds of mountain marathons and such, but I was going to give it my best shot.

What we never saw coming was our very own pint sized powerhouse Jennifer Rinderle!

Jenn had never run a 50k before. Didn’t know the course. Didn’t know the competition. She didn’t let that stop her though. She took the course apart and beat every other woman out there! Finished an outstanding 7th overall!

Having raced with Jenn over the past couple years it really shouldn’t surprise me she did so well. Then again, I thought I knew how strong she is, but I was wrong and she’s shown once again that great things come in small packages.

A word of warning to all you folks heading to the Blue Ridge Mountain Adventure Race this coming weekend, look out. If you see a pint sized blond coming up behind you with a big grin, you better get out of the way because she isn’t going to stop.

Oh, and my performance? Jenn beat me by almost two hours.

-Peter

The Longest Out-n-Back EVER

The Odyssey Endorphin Fix has carved quite a reputation for itself over the years. It’s become known as a no nonsense suffer-fest measured in vertical feed of elevation gain and, unfortunately, for obscurely worded rules subject to individual interpretation. The 2010 edition was no exception on both fronts.

This year saw what was likely the strongest field of adventure racing athletes assembled at one race outside of Nationals. In addition to bragging rights, being able to say you’d tamed E-Fix, this race was worth 200 Checkpoint Tracker points, consequently there was a lot on the line.

And on the line we stood, awaiting the Start which was set for 2 pm Friday afternoon at Camp Bluestone in West Virginia. Ahead lay 50 hours of the “toughest race in the country”.

Did I mention it just started snowing moments before…this just keeps getting better.

We arrived knowing that this wasn’t just any race, it was E-Fix, an unsupported trial of suffering and pain. We’d read in the weeks leading up to the race that the area had seen 20 inches of snow and the rivers were flooded rivers. Spring seemed a long ways off.

Was this insanely difficult race about to become event more difficult?

After arriving late Thursday night we awoke to grey skies on Friday and had breakfast with the other teams at the beautiful Camp Bluestone. We spent the rest of the morning gathering gear, picking up our maps and plotting the ~200 miles of race course. After the race briefing there was little time to make final preparations before the Start.

To separate the pack we were sent on a short single track prologue (this was really the only single track we ever saw….really I should of brought my road bike) then up a hill and back to Bluestone where we ditched our bikes and begin the first trek.

We were 2nd out of the TA on that first trek and quickly started making our way to the various trekking points. We were joined off and on by EMS, Bones, Tecnu and a few others. This section went by relatively easy with the only big decision being whether to continue down the river back to camp or up and over a hill. It appears most of the leading teams went up and over the hill.

Back at the Bluestone TA we were given the next set of paddle/trek points which should have been a clue as to what that section would be like. After a short portage down to the lake we were paddling to drop our bikes after securing them in the boat. Packing bikes in boasts is something most race directors avoid, but for some reason Ronny seems to love it.

We dropped our bikes right at dusk and continued our paddle, thankful to have left them behind. The fading light and fast moving “lake current”, yes moving water in a lake, made it very difficult to paddle. We decided to ditch the boats and run to get the mandatory and some of the optional points. Looking back on this we should have blown off most if not all of the optional points. However, at the time our thinking was that we would be one of the few teams to ‘clear the course’…so off we went. Between the fog, a few creatively placed points, and the strong current, we lost precious time and had to leave this section around dawn having left a few optional points out there.

After paddling back downstream…in the lake…yes the lake…we left our canoes to begin biking. The lake shore was a sloppy mess of mud, and when I say mud I mean mud. Past your knees and up to your waist in some places…and it stank…bad.

After reassembling our bikes, in the mud, we rode off to collect points on the way to Pipestem SP. This was last year’s Start/Finish. It was good to be in familiar territory. Along the way we hit a convenience store that provided us with great sausage-n-egg biscuits and coffee for a mid morning pick me up. This section was an O-Course with mandatory & optional points. Teams had to be checked out by 4pm or else get “short coursed”.

Remember that phrase.

The weather on Saturday was brilliant after a day of rain and snow on Friday followed by cold temps Friday night and into Saturday morning. We cleared all the points at Pipestem and rode off back towards our boats. Along the way Michele had serious a mechanical on her bike. She broke a spring in her derailleur. That woman doesn’t know how strong her legs are. Seriously, it was just a random, unfortunate act of God.

Not being able to fix it we considered all our options including a DNF. Several teams stopped to offer genuine assistance as we stood there scratching our heads. However, with a downhill to the TA, and our mud clogged boats, we were able to coast down to the river. When we got there we heard that nuun-SportMulti had dropped out of the race due to a sick teammate. We quickly called HQ to see if we could borrow Jenn Rinderle’s bike from nuun-SportMulti…afterall, they’d borrowed Jenn from us for this race :-)

This worked a treat and we paddled down the river, I mean lake, and met Jenn half way to switch bikes and continue on to the next TA. This is a really good example of the great friends we have in this sport. Even though rivals, there is always a willingness to assist each other.

At the next TA we assemble our bikes, again, on what was now Saturday evening and a setting sun. A haiku for race volunteers got us each a brownie that was well received. The one I composed cannot be repeated here. Then off we went into the setting sun and MORE road biking. I did bring a mountain bike didn’t I?

We reached Camp Creek SP around 11pm, feeling the effect of over 30 hours without sleep and cold temps. We completed most of this ride with team ImONPoint, but did put some distance between them towards the end. This is amazing considering we were all having some serious issues with the sleepmonster by this point. I was having visions of characters running around my feet again.

We decided on a 15 minute nap which really never happened with the cold biting at us as we lay on the frigid ground. We left the TA on foot to collect the mandatory and as many optional points as we could and still be back to that same TA by 2am.

This is where it all gets a little cloudy.

Between misreading/misinterpreted the rules we didn’t make the 2am cut off and found ourselves being “short coursed”.

There’s that phrase again.

This rule confusion was about to catch a few teams out, including some of the top contenders, but the fact is we we’re the ones that didn’t read rules properly. Upon reflection we should have spent less time on optional points early in the race.

Having been “short coursed” it was back to the boats…the exact same way we had just ridden to get to the park. This left us less than enthused about continuing. When we considered that we weren’t going to get the invaluable Checkpoint Tracker points we were hoping for, coupled with a teammate dealing with a deteriorating foot and general unhappiness with the overall race, we decided to drop.

Yes, drop and hang out by the camp fire at the TA while we waited for a ride back to the finish line. This was a long, cold, 4 hour wait punctuated by other teams returning to the TA to discover their fate was the same as ours, a long ride back to their boat.

We thought that route could be best described as “the longest out-n-back ever”.

We finally got a ride back with Ronny , with our bikes, only to have to turn around and drive back…again…to get our boats. Our good friends nuun offered insistently to go get our boats, but we refused. After all that we were back to Camp Bluestone to clean an load gear, grab a shower and take a nap before the long ride home.

There has been a lot discussion, debate and even a little angst over this race. While there is something to be said for letting the dust settle, or in this case the mud, there appear to be some valid concerns regarding certain things. Only time will tell if passion and energy will be translated into changes next time around.

West Virginia bound, again

With the advent of easy to use smart phones posting on the go has never been easier. Currently we are cruising north on 81 in Tennessee headed to E-fix. Soon we will be passing by our favorite park we’ve never been to, Hungry Mother State Park. Have you been there? Is it worth a stop?

This years race has already had some excitement, first the threat of snow that sent us scrambling for snow shoes. More recently word came through that the snow had melted and water levels are up 50 feet. I hope they didn’t set any points up before the snow melted.

We should be getting maps early in the morning, and the race will start at 2pm. Checkpoint Tracker’s live coverage should start soon after. Check back after the race for our thoughts as we drive home, or better yet call us and keep the driver awake.

No more pogies!

kayaking at Stone Mountain Lake

No pogies were needed at Stone Mountain Lake in Atlanta. Coulda used a fishing pole, though.

Spring is here, and it couldn’t have come too soon.

According to The Weather Channel, Atlanta had the 8th worst winter in the country, compared to what’s expected.

Temps finally hit the mid 70s this weekend, which meant it was time to grab the kayak and hit the water, AND leave the pogies in the gear closet.

We just hope the warm weather follows us to West Virginia next week, where Team Checkpoint Zero will race in the 50-hour E-fix. Snowshoes were on the gear list, but they’ve been taken off.

Though that’s one less thing we’re going to have to carry, truth is I was kinda looking forward to strapping on the things. Thanks Clay (editor in chief of Adventure World Magazine) for loaning me a pair.

Apparently, recent rain has caused the deep snow to melt. Problem is, the snow melt and rain has lifted water levels WAAAY above normal.

Thanks Clay!

I was kinda looking forward to giving these a try.

From the recent racer update: “The snow melt and trenchant rain have devastated the area with flood waters. Trails, roads, and bridges that were part of the course are no longer there. For the teams that have raced the E-fix the last few years, the Bluestone lake that you paddled is now under nearly 50 feet of water.”

WOW.

Maybe we should bring swimmies instead.

- Paul C.

A race for your “bucket list”

You may have heard of the “bucket list” or the list that one must do before they literally “kick the bucket”. I’m not sure if there is one for adventure racing or similar races however if there was then New Zealand must have several that would certainly make that list. Of course one would be the Speight’s Coast to Coast now in its 28th year. In addition to that here is another race you might want to consider. The Icebreaker Motutapu Challenge a full-on no nonsense 26 mile or full marathon across a mountain pass near Wanaka, South Island, New Zealand.

A few weeks ago I got to compete in this great race. My wife Robin and I were home for 2 weeks to visit with family and friends and what better way to celebrate being home than to find a race to enter. This race now in its 6th year has become an icon in must do races for adventure racers, endurance athletes and general nut jobs looking for the next challenge in NZ. While it’s not nearly as long as a 30 hour adventure race it certainly has most of the ups and downs physically and emotionally associated with an AR. Along with classic kiwi moments along the way to make me feel right at home and the visitor leave wanting more.

The day began with a bus ride to the start line for competitors only which left at a chilly 6am from a camp group beside Lake Wanaka. The early autumn weather was chilly for this time of year and made me feel quite acclimated after the cold US winter. As we rode on a considerably old bus conversations we alive with everything from “what are you starting in today, tights or shorts?” to “one year a bus broke down on the way to the start and when it finally arrived the race had already started so they kept driving the athletes several kilometers up the road ahead of the pack and dropped them off to rejoin the race”… Classic New Zealand! Recent early snow on the high peaks served as a reminder that we were in the mountains and surrounded on all sides by their magnificence. A word about the mountains in NZ, they big, steep, rocky and covered in snow, no trees.

The race started at 8am for the close to 700 competitors under a chill but brilliant dawn sky. Quite an accomplishment for a race that started with just 90 people for the marathon and now boasts an additional 42km Mountain bike race and a shorter 15km trail race. However for now we just had to get ourselves over that mountain. We were quickly greeted with an almost immediate cruel river crossing of mid thigh depth. This was the first of over 30 river and creek crossings over the course of the race. The field quickly spread out and the first 3rd of the race was very hilly climbing quickly out of the finish line to level out for a while on a higher plateau. While the course was not technical it did provide challenge with it steep climbs and sharp descents setting up my legs for some pain later in the day.

As we worked our way up the valley the views were stunning and while I wasn’t enticed to stop and take in the views I did manage to soak up the obvious remote and spectacular scenery that was on hand. The course was well marked with a “kilometers to go” marker every 2km’s from the “32km to go” aid station. For whatever reason my race wasn’t going so well and at this point through to 26 kilometers to go and found myself almost reduced to the AR Shuffle at times. However I pushed on and recovered from my funk. The aid stations were well staffed with lots of encouragement and energy. These were found at 32/23/15 & 6km to go points of the race. The highest point of the race was at 12km to go point. From here it was a steep descent to the finish line in the historic former gold mining town of Arrowtown. In addition to the steep descent there were numerous river crossings and the water was cold!!! This wasn’t great after running for 3 hours and cramping calves setting in. By this point it was obvious I wasn’t going to win or even do as well as I had hoped. This was further reinforced later with the knowledge that “top 10 marathon finisher’ so & so was running along with elite mountain runner Mr. or Ms. And there were certainly some very fast runners there. Nonetheless it was very fulfilling to be running in such an iconic event with such friendly people and yet fiercely competitive. The scenery was big, barren, yet detailed and bold leaving the mind to take in all the various shades of brown.

As I made my way through the last few kilometers and was slowly picking off runners one by one whom a few hours early went flying by me. From an adventure racing view point hour 3 is when racing is only starting to warm up. Then before I knew it I was crossing the river for the last time, and at waist deep for good measure I ran up the bank under the kite and into the finishing chute to be surrounded by literally 1000′s of well wishers including Robin and my parents cheering me into the finishing line. Done, completed, finished, 3.53:01 slower than what I wanted but less than 4 hours which was my “I’d better be done by…” time. The finish line atmosphere was amazing with lots of people and vendors, food, and live music. An atmosphere that races in America could learn a lot from.

I was quickly out of the finish area to sit down on the grass and begin reflecting and telling stories of what a great time I had just had. My thighs hurt however it was a good pain after adding Motutapu to my “bucket list’ of races… I would suggest you find a way to do the same.

-Paul Humphreys

Frigid fun in Florida at the Swamp Stomp

With NGAR done and our limbs thawed — except for Peter, who froze at the Mandatory Gear Adventure Race in South

Allen climbing after punching checkpoint in Swamp Stomp 2010

Allen climbing after punching checkpoint in Swamp Stomp 2010

Carolina just two weeks prior– we were ready for a warm but wet race course that certainly awaited us at the Swamp Stomp in Homosassa, Florida. I’d raced in every edition of the Swamp Stomp, so I was really looking forward to seeing what race directors Kip and Jessica Koelsch and Michael Moule had put together.

What Michele, Allen, Peter and I got was wet as expected. But with temps dipping to 30 degrees, it wasn’t exactly warm.

The 30-hour race would start with a prologue having two options. Teams could choose a short paddle that would skip some of the bonus points but give them plenty of time to rest and refuel before the race start. Or, we could opt for a longer, 15-mile paddle that the fastest teams might finish in three hours, just in time for the start of the race. Race directors told us the winning teams likely would get all the mandatory and bonus points on the race course. Plus, the first 3 teams that finish the long paddle in less than 3 hours would earn $200. While that would be tough to do paddling in recreational canoes often in shallow water while navigating through a maze of coastal waterways, we decided our only choice was to do the longer paddle. Peter did a great job pointing us in the right direction. We got off course only a few times as we led a pack of boats through the islands and skinny canals, and finished in just under 3 hours. Two soloists in sea kayaks just beat us in, along with a team of two. That put us out of the money, but we learned later that we would get the $200 after two of the teams couldn’t finish the race.

Frigid from the cold and windy (always a headwind) morning paddle, we pulled off our wet paddling clothes in the transition area and mounted our bikes for a short, 15-mile ride during which we’d pick up a few check points. We pedaled hard in a pace line through several neighborhoods and along a power-line cut on our way to the first foot orienteering section. Somehow, we managed to avoid the “sugar sand” that can bog down your wheels and make pedaling in flat Florida as difficult as climbing our familiar North Georgia mountains. Arriving at the next TA, we learned we were in second place overall behind team Tecnu Extreme/StaphAseptic from California. With fresh legs, and after receiving a sly “I hope you like this” from the volunteer who’d designed the orienteering section, we set off running.

Paul punching a point in a cave

Paul punching a point in a cave

This first trek section would be the longest trek section of the race — roughly 13 miles — and would cover some extremely cool terrain. We would have to find points in caves, deep pits, sticker thickets (I have the wounds to prove it!) wetlands and in terrain that had been heavily mined. Allen had to descend a rope to retrieve one point in a pit at least 50-feet deep. Later, I punched a point hung in one of several caves that tunneled through a well-camped area, while enduring a few odd looks from some teenage hikers who understandably found our appearance strange.

Now, everybody knows there aren’t many hills in Florida. But there are a few, and topo lines on the map can help a little — except in areas where miners have done their work. We were knocking off the CPs pretty quickly, running nearly everything, until we had to find a CP placed just off the top of a “hill” in an area scarred by deep mine craters. But which “hill?” Nearly 50-minutes later, we found the point, but saw team Green Paw Adventure Sports pass us as we searched the wrong “hill top.” Picking up the pace we finished off the section in a long 6 hours. Jumping on our bikes, we prepared for the frigid evening ahead of us in the most remote section of the race. Our time-consuming error on CP 8 had cost us another place. We were now in third.

The next bike section would be vintage Swamp Stomp. The routes alternated between old swamp roadbeds, interrupted by surprise cypress knees or fallen trees that would suddenly knock you off your bike, and flooded “trails” that forced you to push and carry your bikes through thigh-high swamp water. Thankfully, we were the only active critters creeping around in the swamp that night. The cold was keeping all the gators and snakes quiet. Having done several swamp races, we knew what to expect. The water was very cold. But we had no choice but to plunge right in. Well, Michele was the only one who truly “plunged” in. But that wasn’t exactly by choice. Faint trails marked on the map were barely more than hunter’s paths marked with reflective dots. But with Peter leading as he read the maps, we found our way very well. We had a few flat tires along the way, and Michele had to make do without a headlamp that suddenly stopped working. Otherwise, we kept moving to stay warm and pulled into the next TA — and a welcome fire — in second place still behind Green Paw.

Fighting the urge to join other teams warming themselves by the fire, we pulled on our frozen shoes and set off on a trek that would take us back into the swamp. Where the first trek was long and comparatively dry, this trek had the potential to get really messy. Yeah! We couldn’t do nearly as much running as before. By now, the fastest teams were realizing nobody would clear the course. So Peter figured out our best strategy to maximize the time we had. We would skip the point that would take us into the deepest part of the swamp. I was disappointed because I actually get a kick out of that kinda thing. But it was the right thing to do. By skipping that point, we’d be able to run mostly sandy roads and collect points in easier places. With a few of us — well, me — fighting off sleepiness, we jogged nearly the whole section and pulled back into the TA still behind Green Paw.

Awaiting us at the TA were our now-frozen bike shoes and helmets. What?!? This is Florida. For us there would be no escape from the cold. Peter had ANOTHER flat, and had to borrow a pump from another team before we could get his bike back together and leave the TA. Just 20 minutes into the ride, Peter’s hub froze. More bike trouble. Ugh. But then, in a moment of ingenious inspiration a la Bear Grylls, I realized I had the chance to do something truly heroic, so I did what I had to do — I peed on his cassette. Problem solved, and we were off. Now, I can say my feet have never been colder than during the end of that ride. We were tearing along paved and hard-pack road. The wind cut through my shoes, and tore at my toes. I couldn’t wait to get off the bike and back in the boat.

Allen grabs a poker chip in a spring

Allen grabs a poker chip in a spring

We were just ahead of Green Paw into the last TA, but they’d punched a few more points than we had during the previous trekking section. They likely had the win locked up. But, we jumped into the boats as the sun was coming up and headed out onto the Chassahowitzka River. I’d had my sleepy moment earlier in the morning. Now I watched my teammates shake their heads trying to fight off the sleepiness. Peter, certainly in a moment of extreme distress, asked me to break out in song. My renditions of a favorite John Denver song quickly scared away the sleep monsters and our pace quickened again as we paddled across open water and up the many spring-fed coves along that area of the coast. I loved this section. The weaving up, back down, and through the natural streams that spread like many fingers from the open water reminded me of an amusement park ride — but really much more fun. The first checkpoint was placed in a spring. The soothing warmth hugged my body as I jumped out of the boat to punch the passport. I almost didn’t want to leave. But, we hurried along and gathered the mandatory points and a few bonus points on foot — and headed for the last CP. That would require someone from the team to dive 10+ feet down into a spring and collect a poker chip. Now, I’d agreed with Allen that I would do it. But, being known — actually quite famous among family members – for wimping out when it comes to swimming in cold water, I begged him to do it. Of course he agreed being the good teammate that he is, and retrieved the point to cheers from the rest of us. With our second-place finish determined, we paddled the last 200 meters to the finish line with about 20 minutes to spare before the 30-hour cutoff.

Good job Kip, Jess and Michael. I hope you put on the race again next year. The season is much better for it. And congratulations Green Paw.

- Paul C.

NGAR, The Toughest Race in Georgia

After taking several years off, one of the toughest races in Georgia made it’s return this winter. Boasting teams from across the USA, this early season race is a favorite among those who like to suffer the best terrain and worst weather race director Tony Berwald can come up with.

Checkpoint Zero/MPGear.com -- photo by Robert Milks

Checkpoint Zero/MPGear.com -- photo by Robert Milks

The Berwald curse, as it is affectionately known as, assures that no matter what weekend the race is held, it will be the worst weather of the season. Past races have had freezing temperatures with snow, unseasonably warm weather, and this year, rain…light, heavy, sideways, cold, it was all there.

Everyone on the team wanted to do this race, so we sent two squads and loaned Jenn out to nuun Feed the Machine. They gave us a cow and 10 bushels of corn. We knew there would be a little extra competition there, but the rest of us hoped the rocks we put in her pack would slow her down enough that we could keep ahead.

Right out of the starting gate the pace was fast, not that we didn’t expect it, but it’s always a rough wakeup call after an over indulgent holiday season. However, being the team captain meant I had the authority, much to his dismay, to send Paul Cox on the prologue run. Huffing and puffing up the hill, Paul came in about 10th and we didn’t waste any time getting into boats and valiantly paddled as hard as we could to keep the leaders in sight. Throughout the paddle we slowly fell back, trailing by about 30 minutes by the time we got back to the TA.

Our transition was made easier by the fact the other Checkpoint Zero squad was exceptionally fast on the water and was gone before we got in. That meant our support crew was able to devote their efforts to kicking us out of there as fast as they could. Jumping on our bikes, we sped off in hot pursuit of the teams ahead of us. Along the way to Fort Mountain we had one flat tire which was somewhat disappointing as it was road the entire way, but that’s how things go sometimes.
Upon reaching Fort Mountain, we said hello to our crew again before heading off on our bikes onto the single track through the park. We elected to take the shorter route heading south and west, dropping down the insane power line descent and winding around the mountain clockwise to collect out points before heading off to the first trek.

As we rolled into the trek TA we were greeted by our teammates Paul (the Kiwi version), Allen and Michele where they sat us down, stripped off our shoes and stuffed hot noodles in our faces. This assistance greatly sped up the transition and got us on our feet quickly. The ensuing trek was largely straightforward, with the exception of CP14. This was one of those points one knew from the beginning might be hard to find, and could end up making or breaking the race. Turns out we nailed it on the first attempt and made a quiet exit as we saw other teams scouring the mountain side in search of the flag.

Getting back to the TA, we were pleased to know we had kept our time gap to the leaders about the same, and made haste to get back on the bikes to ride back to Fort Mountain by way of Mulberry Gap. The folks at Mulberry Gap were extremely generous, supplying us with fresh water and hot soup, before sending us back out into the cold wet night where we were to make our race killing blunder.

It couldn’t have happened at an easier spot. We simply had to ride (push) our bikes up the Pinhoti trail, cross highway 52, and connect back into the same trail we took to Fort Mountain the first time. I’d run the same section of trail a month earlier, and didn’t anticipate how hard it would be for us to find the connection. We lost at least 45 minutes exploring every road and trail before finding the sign markers showing us the proper way. We figured we weren’t the only ones to have trouble there, but it really put a damper on our spirits as we knew we’d be hard pressed to gain back any of that lost time.

We finally made it back to Fort Mountain and put on what few dry clothes we had left for the final trek. We opted for a counter-clockwise attack, starting to the south to get what we figured were the toughest points out of the way first. Little did we know this was a good move because we moved much slower than predicted. The route allowed us to skip the furthest out point but still make it back before the cutoff. We finished 5th in the co-ed category with our fellow CPZ mates finishing just ahead of us.

If this race had been held just one day earlier, or one day later the weather for most of the race would have been beautiful. As it was, the Berwald curse held true for yet another year. In spite of the weather the race was an excellent showcase of how tough north Georgia can be and a worthy installment of the NGAR races. About a week later, all the bad memories have faded and I’m ready to go out and do it again, and that’s what it’s all about, right?

Shelter from the storm: Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2

It's a 2 person tent, but fits four if you are close.

It's a 2 person tent, but fits four if you are close.

In my mind, at least when gear & product reviewing, one wants to throw the ‘kitchen sink’ at the product to verify that what it claims in print is true. While the Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 is a tent for 3 seasons we put it through an environment and terrain that I’m not sure the Seedhouse SL2 was ever designed it for… a desert the size of France, Belgium & Holland combined, stinky adventure racing athletes and more sand than the world’s beaches combined.

Well guess what? It passed and with flying colors. Right from the get-go it became apparent that the Seedhouse SL2 was easy and quick to put up. Not that we ever needed it in a hurry, however when you have been on your feet for 36 hours and really want to get off them, a quick erecting tent is a must. The 1 pole construction that resembled something like an old analog TV aerial was great. This eliminated “which pole goes where” scenarios, with the only guess work being figuring out the poles long verses short end. The body of the tent clipped in quickly and easily removing the ‘other tents’ “100’s of clips” to secure the tent and pole together. The fly followed immediately thereafter allowing us to save even more time next time.

Doubles as a clothes rack too!

Doubles as a clothes rack too!

The inside is more than adequate when we were looking for a place to shelter for the wind, sun and sand. The small vestibule was in this case an asset making it easy to get outside, however in different conditions I can see this being a problem. But hey you wanted a light tent right? The Seedhouse SL2 comes with a footprint which conveniently attached to the body of the tent. Furthermore the tapered shape of the entire tent makes it effective in strong winds and again lends itself to the idea of creating a light, strong and practical tent with no wasted space.

I would have liked to have 1 or 2 more storage pouches sown in the body of the tent to make fumbling around at 2am for ear plugs a lot easier. However the 3 that I found were great.

For a tent so light (3 lb 6 oz) and easy to put up the Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 is more than great, it’s a fantastic tent. To get to the end of a long day and not have thoughts of “oh we have to put up the tent” were quickly dispelled. The goal of having a light tent with simple construction that doesn’t cut corners however gives you essentially what a tent needs the Seedhouse SL2 is all that plus a few extras thrown in to create some escape.

-Paul Humphreys

A different sort of AR training

A different sort of AR training
You know how it goes, pull into some random parking lot at the end of a dirt road. Unload and begin the process of changing into running shoes, filling bladders, packs, finding the topo map and compass. Amidst talking about what the weather will do today, where we plan on going and how long we will be out for (or how long will our respective husbands, wives or significant others allow us) With that taken care of we are off into the woods for a day of training for the next AR.
BUT NOT THIS TIME, it’s Christmas day and I was with my wife (Robin). While most people are feeding their face or sitting through obligatory time with family and inlays this year we had a different sort of Christmas. Partly due to my family being on the other side of the world back home in NZ and Robin having responsibilities at the small country church she serves as minister and her family about a days’ drive away.
So why not make it a Christmas day to remember and do something completely different. We have had this opportunity before at previous Thanksgivings’ and took those opportunities to serve the poor and homeless. However this year with the past month of racing overseas we wanted to be a little selfish and be just us.
Therefore we went hiking for the day. Of course I took this as a sign and opportunity to get in some race training. But race training that would be a win/win for both of us. A day outdoors in the woods‐check, a day together‐check, decent weather‐check, traveling light-check, so far so good. All I have to do now is convince Robin that we aren’t going to use trails and we are going to navigate our way around the woods using only a map  and  compass.  She  instantly  agreed  which  now  made  the  day  perfect.  While  Robin  is  a  good and accomplished hiker, having almost made it to the summit of Mt Rainer I was quickly reminded by her that this wasn’t going to be some extended death march for which we would be on our feet for about 12 hours either. That’s fine I can live with that, the only other thing I wanted was to get in some nav practice for upcoming races and the terrain was a lot different from the deserts of Abu Dhabi.
We were set to go, let’s go have some fun in the woods. The rest as you can probably imagine went off without a hitch. After several rounds of “Honey, do really you know where we are?” which was answered with a yes, see look… the afternoon kept getting better. It was a great time to be in the woods, be in the woods with my wife, get in some valuable nav practice and even have Robin take the lead, which she seemed to relish.  Of  course  the  pace  was a  lot  slower  however  we weren’t there  to  run ourselves into the ground. Furthermore it was nice to not have the pressure of a race, being on your feet for hours and thinking about a long night ahead outside.
Next time you want to get in some miles practicing for the next AR consider broadening your horizons and inviting someone or some folks you care about and can walk away from a day with a real feeling of good day in the woods and a different sort of AR training.
Paul Humphreys

You know how it goes, pull into some random parking lot at the end of a dirt road. Unload and begin the process of changing into running shoes, filling bladders, packs, finding the topo map and compass. Amidst talking about what the weather will do today, where we plan on going and how long we will be out for (or how long will our respective husbands, wives or significant others allow us) With that taken care of we are off into the woods for a day of training for the next AR.

BUT NOT THIS TIME, it’s Christmas day and I was with my wife (Robin). While most people are feeding their face or sitting through obligatory time with family and inlays this year we had a different sort of Christmas. Partly due to my family being on the other side of the world back home in NZ and Robin having responsibilities at the small country church she serves as minister and her family about a days’ drive away.

So why not make it a Christmas day to remember and do something completely different. We have had this opportunity before at previous Thanksgivings’ and took those opportunities to serve the poor and homeless. However this year with the past month of racing overseas we wanted to be a little selfish and be just us.

Therefore we went hiking for the day. Of course I took this as a sign and opportunity to get in some race training. But race training that would be a win/win for both of us. A day outdoors in the woods‐check, a day together‐check, decent weather‐check, traveling light-check, so far so good. All I have to do now is convince Robin that we aren’t going to use trails and we are going to navigate our way around the woods using only a map  and  compass.  She  instantly  agreed  which  now  made  the  day  perfect.  While  Robin  is  a  good and accomplished hiker, having almost made it to the summit of Mt Rainer I was quickly reminded by her that this wasn’t going to be some extended death march for which we would be on our feet for about 12 hours either. That’s fine I can live with that, the only other thing I wanted was to get in some nav practice for upcoming races and the terrain was a lot different from the deserts of Abu Dhabi.

We were set to go, let’s go have some fun in the woods. The rest as you can probably imagine went off without a hitch. After several rounds of “Honey, do really you know where we are?” which was answered with a yes, see look… the afternoon kept getting better. It was a great time to be in the woods, be in the woods with my wife, get in some valuable nav practice and even have Robin take the lead, which she seemed to relish.  Of  course  the  pace  was a  lot  slower  however  we weren’t there  to  run ourselves into the ground. Furthermore it was nice to not have the pressure of a race, being on your feet for hours and thinking about a long night ahead outside.

Next time you want to get in some miles practicing for the next AR consider broadening your horizons and inviting someone or some folks you care about and can walk away from a day with a real feeling of good day in the woods and a different sort of AR training.

-Paul Humphreys