December 10, 2010

Castlewood Adventure Race 2010

For once the Castlewood race started out with mild temperatures. On race morning it was 38 degrees, overcast with no rain or snow in sight. That’s a big switch from the 17 degree start in 2009. Just as you would believe Chuck and I were relieved about the weather conditions, especially since after seeing the maps and clue sheet, we knew that we would be on the water for a long time. There were 4 canoe points in about 11 miles of paddling. Rock Racing, better known as Robin and Chuck, are the worst paddlers in the world, and I am not exaggerating. No matter what technique we use, how hard or how fast we paddle, we just seem to go nowhere fast. It was a blow to us when we saw that there was going to be so much paddling in this race. So if anything at least the weather was going right.

It was a 40 minute bus ride to the start, as soon as we stepped off the bus, we both went directly to the bathroom line and were lucky enough to be pretty close to the front. As we came out the crowd was moving to the start line for last minute instructions from Jason and the Oak Ridge Boys singing the national anthem while we looked at a flag on a military guys pack. Hey, we had to make due, there are not a lot of flags on the river.

So the race was off at a fast pace, the first checkpoints were all within Route 66 state park about a 4 mile distance and the crowd of racers were going every which way. I know Jason’s thought was to make the trek first to break up the racers and not have a crowd getting in the river, but I think we were all moving at about the same pace. That means at CP 6, there were a lot of teams hitting the river at the same time.

As we pushed our canoe in the river, I jumped in and screamed when the canoe almost dumped into the frigid water. We have never had a problem launching in the past, but for some reason it wasn’t going well. We made it off the ramp and I turned to ask Chuck what went wrong and he told me some guy was pushing us in, I guess he either thought he was doing us a favor or just wanted us out of his way, which ever, it could have been the end of our race, had we fallen in the river. From there we hit some fast water with a big log that was trapped against a bridge pillar. That could have also been the end of our race too, but miraculously we made it through, again I screamed “this is not good” as we went through, Chuck just laughs at me when I do that.

We headed down stream for a long canoe leg, we were passed by a couple teams, but we did catch a few teams too.

We just wish we could figure out how to paddle better. We finally made it to Sherman Beach where getting out of the canoe didn’t go well and I ended up with wet shoes and socks. Lucky for me I brought an extra pair of socks and it was time to put on bike shoes. I tied my running shoes to the outside of my pack and hoped they would dry before I had to wear them again. We grabbed our bikes that had sunk in the mud and pushed them up to the parking lot area which was transition.

We both tried to be fast in pulling off wet gloves and socks and getting dry ones on, but were having problems because our hands were so cold our fingers wouldn’t work. While doing this we were also trying to eat and drink. We wasted too much time in transition. It was probably only 5 minutes, but in a race this short (Ha! Two years ago I never thought I’d be calling an 8hr race short) every minute ends up being important. Finally we headed out on the bike and my hands were so cold that I had to keep shaking them to try and fend off frost bite. After about 15 minutes I started to get feeling back in them. At this point we had reached where we and about 10 other teams thought CP 8 was, but it wasn’t there. We wasted 10 to 15 minutes riding around before we all found it. We found out after the race that it was not plotted on the maps in the correct place. After CP 8 and 9, we hit the tunnel and ran through it to CP10, lo and behold, guess what was there. A volunteer making sure all team members came to the checkpoint. We were so happy to see this, because we see teams cheating all the time and having the strongest teammate run to the CP’s and leaving the others behind. This kept everyone honest at least at one CP. After a few more CP’s we were back to the canoe where we heard sirens and saw emergency vehicles, apparently there was a racer down, but I never got the full story about it.

So back into the canoe we went, this time for a short paddle to the CP and then on to West Tyson. The canoe started out rough again, we got caught on a large log behind the island and had to take a few minutes to get the canoe dislodged. This was bad because on the second leg we had bikes in the canoe with us making it top-heavy. We were lucky not to end up like these guys:

But soon we made it to CP13 and punched it without even leaving the canoe. The next stop was West Tyson for another Trekking leg. There were tons of canoes when we made it to the beach.

We took off running and ran for a while until we hit the first hill that really was more of a mountain than a hill. It was so steep that our feet were sliding off the side of our shoes. I had to grab onto the loop on Chuck’s pack with one hand and use trees to help pull me up the hill.

We went right to every CP without a hitch, I think it was the best we have ever done orienteering. We kept running into teams we knew and they were teams that usually beat us, so we felt like we were keeping a good pace. At the next CP there was a gear check, but it went fairly quickly, there were some efficient volunteers manning the checkpoint and we had been prepared and were fast at pulling out our gear. After Chuck punched the next checkpoint at the top of what was to be the last uphill, we started down back towards the river.

We were both having problems from all the uphill and the downhill didn’t help at all, Chuck’s knees were hurting and my foot was hurting, so our run was slow back to the canoe, but we ran anyway. When we made it back to the beach we were glad to see that there were still a lot of canoes on the beach.

Back on the river for another long paddle, like I said before, we suck at paddling, so this did nothing to help our time. I did however have on canoe gloves which made it much easier to paddle since my hands stayed dry. I could tell both Chuck and I were getting tired. We both made sure to eat at the start of the last paddle. Looking back, I should have eaten more, lesson learned… AGAIN….. So on to Castlewood beach it was. When we got there, we saw the volunteers, who we knew, Kate and our Rock Racing teammate Patrick.

Of course Patrick yelled to us that there was a change in the maps and we would have to paddle down river then back up again. At that point I almost believed him, and then I remembered it was Patrick so we beached the canoe.

We pulled out our bikes, then started carrying the canoe up the boat ramp, only to find out at the top, that we weren’t finished yet, I said louder than I thought “you have got to be kidding me”, I was not happy at all. We had to take the canoe all the way to the parking lot. I had to stop twice to change arms and rest, it almost killed me carrying the canoe that far. So after we dropped the canoe we watched a little skinny guy pick it up by himself, threw it over his head and carried it to the truck like it was a bag of straw. How do those guys do that? I want to know that trick.

We changed shoes and took off some layers of clothes then headed out on the bike. Chuck put a lot of thought into route planning the night before the race, and this was one of the risky decision points. We were going to climb the ‘castlewood stairs’ carrying our bikes. We quickly made it to CP23 at the bottom of the stairs, then over the top to CP24.

I should have eaten a Honey Stinger Rocket Chocolate bar before I left the beach, I could feel the bonk starting by the time I hit the top of the stairs. I tried to stay on Chuck’s wheel, but kept falling off, I needed a short break, but didn’t want to lose any time, so we just kept going. As we were heading down to the road crossing to climb cardiac hill we saw some deer in the woods, they just stood there and looked at us, like they were saying get off our land. It was kind of eerie.

As we came up on cardiac hill we found many other teams riding the same path. Then we saw Lo and Karen coming down cardiac hill. We wondered why they had taken that route, but at the same time I thought, they made a smart move because they weren’t pushing bikes up this hill. We covered the last 3 CP’s pretty quickly. Just as we left the last CP, we were barreling down the hill when Chuck hits a rock with his back tire and it threw the rock across the path, with a loud blast, his back tire fish tailed, but he held it up. I yelled “this is not a good time to flat” and we kept riding. Just as we hit the road Chuck felt it, his tire was flat, but we were only 100 yards from the finish by then and he rode in on the flat. He sliced his sidewall when he hit the rock.

Too bad his new Trek Superfly 100 didn’t come with Kenda tires, their sidewalls would have held up to that rock. He ordered a new set of 29 inch Kenda Karma the day after the race. It is a great credit to Stan’s sealant that it held long enough to finish the race.
We finished in 7:37, we ended up in 5th place in the 2 person co-ed division, we were hoping for 2nd or 3rd, but were still happy because we finished well under the time limit and were both feeling ok, sans my bonk that was about to hit hard.

Jeff Sharpee was at the finish line so we had him take a finish line picture, and then headed over for some food and drinks. We got the chance to talk to Jason for a few minutes and told him how much we liked the volunteer catching the cheaters at the tunnel. Then we reminisced about the Checkpoint Tracker Championship for a few minutes. By this time we were both freezing so we changed clothes and decided to leave since we didn’t think we would get a prize for 5th place and the awards ceremony was over 2 hours from starting. So on the way home we dissected the race and tried to figure out how we could have gone faster. We need to work on transitions and of course we need to learn to paddle. At least this year, we were 25 minute out of 3rd place and in 2009 we were over 2 hours out of 3rd place. So it was a good race for us. Next year top 3, I can feel it!

And one other positive note: None of the race course photographers were able to catch us peeing in the woods like this guy.


  1. Great report, and congratulations on a strong finish! Patrick and I ended up having to carry two canoes up to the lot, and it I can only imagine how much it sucked after racing for several hours!

  2. Thats a rotten trick to play on a couple of race volunteers, hope you turned in their race numbers

  3. Hey cousin! Can I just say that what you're doing out there is THE Coolest. I'm proud of you, Chuck. And by the way, I know "top 3" is within your reach, and I'll be rootin' for you from Connecticut. All the best, Cousin Terri