March 30, 2011

tracks n treads 2011

When it rains it pours or at least that is how it seems to me. Let me tell you why. I have been running my butt off for months, well maybe not really running it off, I mean when I look over my shoulder, it is very much still there, but you know what I mean. Being a race director is much more than just the glory on race day. In my case it wasn’t really glory on race day, but more of a nightmare. It was one of those DOH! How did I let that happen mistakes, but I will get to that later.

For 5 months I have been securing the date, reserving the venue, hooking us up with the Midwest Fat Tire Series, getting the race info posted on websites, securing the insurance, putting up posters, distributing entry forms, soliciting volunteers, designing shirts and awards, well really Jeff did all the designing and Dave did all the shirt ordering, I just coordinated the designs and orders, I did however get the awards ordered after a slight setback, then enlisted, Lori, Chuck, and Patrick to help engrave them. I worked with Mike to get all the supplies ordered and the porta johns setup. We all know the porta johns are one of the most important parts of a race, so at least that went well. We had marshals for everything, the run course, bike course, water stop, post race food, course setup, registration and shirt distribution. We also had all the hard working volunteers to do the grunt work. The race was really coming together well.

On Thursday night before the race we thought everything might workout, we had not gotten any of the rain that had been predicted and we hoped that the rain the weatherman was talking about was not going to hit on Friday. The good thing was we had a backup plan, an alternative course, in case the trails were too muddy to ride on.

So Friday came and the weather gods were not treating us well, it rained all day, the trails were muddy and slick. I called Scott from GORC and told him it was his call, but we would wait until Saturday morning to make it, but we both knew what it was going to be. Unless we were hit by gale force winds overnight, we would not be using the single track route.

Race day came and Scott made the call, we would not be using the single track trails, and to make matters worse the backup course had a section that was also too muddy to ride, so we had to make a third change to the bike course. Fortunately Scott had already thought out a plan that could work for us. We set out about 90 minutes before the start of the race to mark the new bike course. Since Scott knew the first part of the course he took the GORC crew and marked it. I took Chuck and Patrick and headed out to mark the back half of the course. We marked the course through the single track section we call log alley, because it is covered in logs. Good thing for foresight, Mark took a saw down to log alley on Thursday night and cleaned up some of the worse sections and he did it with a hand saw. Thanks Mark that was going above and beyond.

After marking log alley, I sent Chuck and Patrick to finish the course marking while I headed back to the start. 15 minutes before the start of the race, Patrick called to tell me the course was marked and they were at the turns waiting for the competitors to come through.

Mike and I gave prerace instructions and covered the new bike course, telling the racers to follow the red flags and chalk arrows. We hoped we did a good job of marking the course with all the last minute changes. All the volunteers were in place and Mike would lead out the runners on the Gator.

All the racers were lined up and ready to go. We had a field of 117, even with the cold temperatures we still had 20 race day signups.

It might have been the really cool shirt we gave out that drew them in.

Or it could have been the cool posters and the talk from last years racers that had them excited about the race. It may have even been the rumors of really cool awards that brought out the crowds.

Rich from Metro Milers shot the gun and the race started in a flash.

The run was fast with the runners passing the water station twice during the race. Culligan supplied the water for the racers and we had some veteran water stop volunteers manning the station.

The runners started filtering through the transition and started the bike loop, those running the 5K, came through the finish chute. The first biker came out of the transition and Mike and I led them out on the Gator. By the time we were about a mile into the course more bikers had caught up and were riding so fast that the Gator couldn’t stay in front, so we just pulled to the side and watched them pass us.

Now this is where my race director’s nightmare started. The new bike course was fast, faster than anyone anticipated. I had planned on being at the last corner into the finish and had told the volunteer that worked that corner I would be down. Well I got tied up with the results for the 5K and didn’t make it down to the turn before the volunteer left. The first place racer came through and made the turn, but the second place racer went straight, missing the turn and going about a quarter mile before realizing the error and turning around. To make it worse the next 4 guys followed him. I got to the turn just about the time they were all coming back. The mistake took some of the 5 racers out of position to place, some it didn’t make a difference in age group placing, but did give them a slower finish time.

I learned a few hard lessons as a race director, first don’t assign myself jobs, I have too much going on to take on an important job like working a major turn on the bike course. Second don’t assume that red flags, chalk arrows and pre-race comments will be enough to keep the racers on the right course. This won’t happen again on my watch.

I regret the mistakes I made and just hope that all those affected by them will return to the race next year. I promise I will do a better job in the future.

So the race was won in a smoking fast time of 53:44 by Anthony Dust. I know Anthony and knew he was a really fast biker, what really surprised me was that he is a pretty darn good runner too.

We also had a team of two 10 year olds that finished. Rory Shaw and Jacob Slosar completed the race in 1:41:15. Jacob rode into the finish followed by his mom and dad cheering him on.

Overall I think it was a good race. Everyone I spoke with after the race, really enjoyed it even with the alternate bike course. I saw a couple really favorable posts on the St Louis Adventure Racing board and the GORC forum. When people post about a race, it usually means they loved it or hated it. I’m just glad, they loved it. I hope we made the Midwest Fat Tire series proud, this is our first year with them and I want to make sure our race lives up to their standards.

Next year will be bigger and better. Lets all pray that the weather gods will be with us and we can use the single track bike course. It is a really good course. And most of all thanks to all the volunteers and sponsors, there are too many to list, but everyone did a fantastic job, especially those of you that stayed and helped with the final cleanup. Thanks to the Cyclery for being there to help the racers with bike problems. I couldn’t have done it without all the volunteers and sponsors.

March 28, 2011

QQ 2011

Slideshow of ROCK Racing at the 2011 Quivering Quads Half Marathon:

March 17, 2011

Good Call

A funny thing happened when I went out to the car this morning to begin my drive into work.  The Adventure Van refused to take me.  Just like that, no ride to work.  We have had a cold and very rainy March.  So with a forecast of a sunny 76 degrees, I didn't argue.  Sometimes you just gotta go with these things. This would be a good day to paddle.  Adventure Van obviously agreed.

I parked at the hwy Y bridge on the Cuivre River, it is a few miles west of hwy 79.

Paddled upstream (and into the wind) first, thinking I'd have an easy return trip.

I found a cool little creek feeding the river on the south side.  I'll have to explore up there more this summer.  Bet it would be good fishing too.

A couple of months ago I got an email from Patrick telling me about a great on-line deal for a Stohlquist PFD (here is the link to where I bought it, but the 50% off sale is gone :( ).  I bought one after reading a few reviews.  This was the first time I got to try it out while paddling.  It fit great, the arms are wide open so no intereference or range of motion trouble.  It has a mesh back panel so it shouldn't get to hot this summer. The back flotation foam is fitted in high on the back so it doesn't interfere with the kayak seat backrest.

Even though it was over 70 degrees today, we had snow just three days ago, so the water was way too cold for a flotation test.  But the pfd has a US coast guard approval and a high bouyancy rating of 16lbs, 12oz. and two pockets just big enough to hold the Adventure Cam.  Also has some hi-vis reflective tape stripes, should help in recovering my body.

This was a great day to paddle.  Adventure Van was right again!

March 8, 2011

AdventureMax 2011

Rock Racing was offered a mission, if we chose to accept it, we had 10 hours to finish before we would self-destruct.   So AdventureMax was where our mission started.  The mission started off with a bang or a lot of bangs, as we were driving to the pre-race meeting on Friday night, we drove right into a thunderstorm, complete with hail.  There was so much hail that the ground looked like it was covered with snow.  To top off the hail we had torrential downpours.  The ditches were full, the fields looked like lakes and we had to cross roadways with rushing water, but we finally made it to the stables at Innsbrook, for the pre-race meeting.

We grabbed our race packets and waited for the meeting to start.  We were told that the course was going to be very challenging and that we had 10 hours to complete it. We also found out that the race was going to start at 6:30 am and since I live 2 hours away that was going to be an early start.  Since I had a 2 hour drive home compared to Chuck’s one hour drive, he volunteered to plot the maps without me. I jumped at that offer.  I have to say “thanks” to Chuck’s wife Lori for standing in for me and reading coordinates to Chuck while he plotted.  The good thing was there weren’t many points to plot because we were getting most of the coordinates on the fly during the race.

4 am came pretty early, but I jumped in the van and drove through more thunder storms to meet Chuck.  We loaded all my gear the night before, so all I had to do was jump in and go.

We had our new Hardnutz helmets and they came with this really great glowing bag so they are easy to carry and easy to find in all the gear we have to load. 
It stopped raining on the way to the race, but everything was flooded.  Before the race started we were told to delete checkpoints 23 and 24 due to dangerous water crossings.  That was a relief to us since we had no idea how we could get 32 checkpoints at the distances they were plotted in 8 hours.  One other warning was given, the race director said, this is just a race, do not cross high, fast water crossings if you are unsure for your safety.  Now this is kind of funny, because if you know adventure racers, they don’t think anything is unsafe, you may as well just throw us in the Colorado river because we were walking in if it meant finding a checkpoint.  And that is exactly how it turned out too.
The first point was pretty easy to find, it was at the beach, we also retrieved a second set of points at CP1a, on to CP1b, and there were a lot of hills to get to it.  If you know me, you know I really hate hills, but I wasn’t whining, I just kept following Chuck, he loves hills.  I have no idea how we race so well together, except for the fact that I sometimes grab the loop on Chuck’s pack and let him pull me up the hills.  We picked up CP2 and headed back to race HQ where CP3 was.  We also made use of Chuck’s van to plot points 10-20.  We jumped on our bikes and headed out to CP 4 which was the canoe launch.  As we were coming to the beach, it started sleeting, we stopped and picked up another set of points and by the time we had the canoe in the water, there was sleet with giant snowflakes mixed in.  The icy mixture stung when it hit your face.  We were laughing because who canoes in this kind of weather. We both pulled out a Honey Stinger Waffle and woofed it down before we got in the canoe, we were going to need the extra energy.

We quickly started paddling to the CP’s.  To get to one of the CP’s we had to drag the canoe over a section of land at the edge of the dam.  Our hands were so cold by then that we had a hard time picking it up, plus the rocks we were walking on were very slick, but we made it across.  I am just grateful that it was a short distance.   
At the beach we came upon another team that almost capsized, they were lucky and kept the canoe upright.  Of course as soon as that happed they started fighting, we figured, they had to be married.  As we headed back toward the canoe takeout, we had one more CP to pick up, the problem was although the snow had stopped the wind had picked up and there were whitecaps on the lake.  We bounced around and were freezing by the time we picked up the last canoe CP. Then we paddled back across the lake to the take out, and pulled our canoe out of the water.  This is where Chuck stepped in the lake and got his first wet foot.  It didn’t stop him though, we jumped back on the bikes while eating Honey Stingers and headed up a monster hill.  If you haven’t tried it, then you can not understand how hard it is to ride up a steep hill while trying to eat at the same time.  It is really hard to breathe and swallow at the same time, but we were doing it.  I almost crashed into Chuck’s back tire because we were both swerving all over, we are not good multitaskers on the bike.

We were now on our way to CP 9 which was also the mystery event.  Since the clue was shooting range we were hoping that we were going to get to shoot guns.  We were both skeptical about it because we would have thought they would have made us sign some kind of waiver if we were going to shoot guns, so we doubted we would get to shoot.  We hit a nice long downhill only to find that we would have to cross a 30 foot wide creek that was at least 2 feet deep in the middle. Chuck went first and made it, I followed and barely made it out.  The thing is we still got wet feet because the pedals were under water.  So Chuck had to quit his whining about his wet foot, we both had wet feet after that.  We made a turn off the road into the woods, where it looked like CP9 should have been, but instead of finding CP 9 we found 4 other teams wondering around.  We also found CP18.  After some discussion we all thought that the coordinates had to be wrong, the other teams punched CP 18, although, that was cheating because the rules stated that we could get CP 10 thru 20 in any order, but we had to punch CP 9 first.  We explained this, but the other teams punched it anyway.  We did not punch CP 18, we did not want to win by cheating.  We also thought that there would be someone checking passports at CP 9 and these teams would get caught.  Guess what, they weren’t checking passports at CP9 and the other teams didn’t get caught, this really made us mad and gave us something to talk about for the rest of the race.  We found CP 9 about 1000 meters from the coordinates we received.  I think they just made a typo, but it sure messed up the race for everyone.  I feel for the race directors, being a race director myself, I know what a nightmare this was for them.  We took it in stride though, many teams were not as forgiving as we were, but many teams were also cheating by punching CP 18 before CP 9. 

Oh! But, the mystery event was fantastic, it made the miss-located coordinate not seem so bad.  We did get to shoot, it was just a bb gun, but still fun.  Each team member had to hit a cow bell from about 20 yards.  Chuck went first, he was told how to load the gun and to pump it 4 times then shoot.  It took him a few tries to hit it, but he did.  I was next and one bb later, I was done, one shot that was all it took, yeah call me Annie Oakley.  Well, maybe it was really 5 shots and maybe Chuck said he only took 4, but I wasn’t counting and I’m sure he said 4, just to be one less than me.  The problem wasn’t because I’m not a good shot, but the guns were shooting low, I think they should have let us pump them 6 times then it would have been right on. I had to aim higher than the bell to hit it. Kind of lob the bb out there.  It was really fun, these are the kind of mystery events that make a good race.

We were now heading out for CP 10-20, and we could do them in any order, so we had a plan and since we figured out the issue with CP 9, we knew exactly where to go.  We were stopped along the way by teams who were completely lost when we showed them where CP 9 really was on the map they got back on track. We hit the first CP with no issue, then we found a CP by the pond, the next one was at the ruins, it was a kind of cool looking area, so we thought it was perfect for a picture.  So Chuck pulled the adventure cam out of his pocket and I snapped a picture of him punching the passport.
Throughout the Rogaine section, we had to continuously cross the creeks.  The water was so high from the rain that came down throughout the night and early that morning, there was no good place to get across.  We tried finding places with flat rock, but even those had water running over it like a rushing river.  We finally got to a point where the only way across was running through the deep water.  Chuck said “grab my hand, then if one of us goes down the other can pull him out”, so that’s what we did. I have to give a shout out to Solomon, I had on a pair of Gortex trail shoes and not a whole lot of water got in.  I think having my gaiters on helped a lot too, because the water didn’t go over the top of my shoes. Chuck was wearing his INOV8’s and he said they did a great job, keeping the water out.  Don’t get me wrong, our feet were cold and wet, but they were not a puddle like most shoes would have been.  
We picked up another CP and had to cross the creek again, this time there was no shallow water in sight and the crossing was 15 or 20 feet across.  We slide down a steep bank, and I jumped because I thought I saw a snake.  It wasn’t a snake, it was the biggest worm I have ever seen.  I guess he was drowning in the saturated soil and decided to come out for some air. 
We were on a small rock bar, but still had to get across the biggest part of the creek and there was only on small glimmer of hope.  We saw a downed tree reaching across to the bank where it had fallen from.  Chuck, being Chuck was all for crossing the tree.  I was starting to whine a bit and said, “that tree looks rotten and slick, I’m not sure about this”. It was rotten, it had green slick moss all over it and it was very shaky.  I’m not sure how deep the water was because it was so muddy, but I could tell it was at least past my waist.  The water was rushing under the tree like rapids in the river and the roots from the tree where all tangled around the bank area.  We decided that we had only two options, try crossing the tree or swimming.  We chose the tree.  Chuck went first the tree was shaking and he said it was really slick, but he made it across in no time. Then he did what no man should ever do in this kind of situation, he got out the adventure cam and put it in video mode.  He was not only videoing my trek across the tree, but he was narrating it.  If I had a rock I would have thrown it at him.  As I started to cross the tree, my life flashed before my eyes.  I saw me falling into the water and getting tangled in the roots, then drowning while Chuck videoed the entire thing, not even thinking he should drop the camera and pull me out of the water.  Next I saw my poor kids with no mother, going wild, having parties and then I saw Rob, their dad, at the parties with them, being what he would call a chaperone, showing them how to party the right way.  This made me think I had to get across this tree.  But wait then I saw Chuck, looking for a new adventure race partner, and he couldn’t find one, because reliable teammates are hard to find.  This made me think if I drown it will serve him right.  So then I was stuck, should I make it across the tree or just jump to prove a point.  Well let’s just say we finished the race, but my tree crossing was not pretty. 

Now we headed down a trail and were at the road where we crossed the creek on our bikes earlier, there were some people on the other side and I think they were debating on whether to take the chance to cross it or not.  I think they decided to skip the next checkpoint and turned around.  I guess when there is a fire truck at the cross to save people, it might be a little daunting to new racers and they may decide not to try it. We headed through the woods and picked up CP 18, you know this was the one that we saw at least 3 teams pickup before CP 9, I like to call it the cheating checkpoint.  We wasted the extra time to go get it, without cheating and hoped that it didn’t hurt us in the end.  Chuck and I think that winning by cheating means nothing, so we don’t do it.

We headed to the last two CP’s of the Rogaine section.  We noticed by the tire tracks that a least a few bikes rode to one of the CP’s.  This just made us mad again, because it was a trek point not a bike point, but we saw the tracks so we know someone did it.  We punched the passport and headed to our last point.  It was a spur and we made it to the end of the spur, but didn’t see the CP, so we headed back up the spur looking.  Chuck tripped and fell, so we decided it was time to grab something to eat.  Chuck had a Honey Stinger, while I ate a turkey and cheese sandwich on a hotdog bun, it just happened to be in my jersey pocket.  We both quickly felt better after the snack.  As we were walking up the spur we found the CP, all we had to do now was get back to CP 21 which was at the shooting range where our bikes were.

We saw the race director at CP 21 and Chuck talked to him about the misplaced CP.  We were not mad about it, we were only mad about the people cheating and using it as an excuse.

We got our bikes and headed out, we had to cross the creek one more time on the bike, we both made it across, but again our feet were wet.  My Trek Top Fuel did great crossing in the deep water and loose gravel.  Chuck’s Superfly 100 was even better, there is a lot to say for those 29er’s.   We quickly made it to CP 22, and then headed off for the hike a bike section.  We hit the single track only to find out why they call it hike a bike.  The mud was deep and our tires just slid around, we finally had to get off and do some bike pushing.  At the top of a long hill we were in a position that we had to decide what CP’s we could pickup and still have time to finish in the 10 hour limit.  So we planned to grab CP26 and CP32 then head to the finish.  When we made it to the point where we would have to trek to 26, we only had 30 minutes to finish. Since 26 was a long trek from our bikes we chose to skip it and go directly to CP32, we made it there quickly, then found a rock road to take us back to the finish.  Chuck downed another Honey Stinger and I chose to hold off to the finish to eat.  That was a bad decision on my part.  By the time we made it to the finish line I was in the middle of a bonk.  I could barely ride across the finish line and then almost fell over trying to get off my bike.  Next time I will down a HS right along with Chuck. 

We finished and a volunteer kept apologizing for the error in the map, but hey, things happen, we can deal with it, no big deal, that’s why they call it adventure racing.  It was a great race, the race director probably learned a few things, and racers had fun.  I just hope the complaints don’t ruin the opportunity to have this race in the future. 

I do have a few suggestions though, have a manned CP when coming out of a section that is to be punched in order, so there is no opportunity for cheating.  Oh and make sure the food it hot, I think the food would have been better, but it was cold and the chips were more like crumbs than chips.  OH, but the cookies were great and I will confess Chuck and I both had more than our share of the cookies.

Now, as I write this, I get a note from Chuck telling me that the results are out.  We finished 1st in the 2 person co-ed and 3rd overall! What made the difference for us was that we took the chance and went for the extra checkpoints in the hike and bike section which was a wise decision on our part.  Considering the distances and number of CP’s in this race, I hope the race promoters will consider making this a 12 hour race next year.  This was great test for the new helmets our team will be racing in this season.  They are made by Hardnutz and are light and comfortable.  Also very cool and unique looking.  Check them out if you are tired of wearing a helmet that looks like everyone else's.

March 6, 2011

AdventureMax 2011 preview

35 degree water rushing by, bouncing rotten log, wet muddy shoes.......what could go wrong?

March 2, 2011

Cuivre River Training Run

We are only 7 weeks away from the Chubb 50K and the training runs are multiplying in distance.  Chuck’s training seems to be going really well, he is sticking to his plan and making all his distance runs without a hitch.  At least that is what it looks like from my viewpoint.  He says that he has rough days, but I have never noticed him struggling like I seem to be.  My last two long training runs went all wrong and I was beginning to panic, wondering how I let my so called friends talk me into signing up for a 50K.  What kind of friend guilts you into running a 50K, I just want to know who these people are, beware of those friends with the type A runner personalities.

So here I am in the cold at Cuivre River, it’s muddy and sloppy wet, there is snow on the ground and the creeks are to our knees with no way to cross and not get wet.  The plan was to run 2 laps, one lap is a two loop course, kind of a figure eight.  We parked in the middle of the loop so that we could stop for food and water every 6 miles.  This actually worked out well, because it forced me to eat, I don’t always do that as I should.  Chuck invited about 12 people to join us, but only one person, Scotty, said he could make it and he said he would be out for the second lap.  So at 8 am we took off down the trail to find that we would be running through mud, snow and water most all of the run.

At first we tried to skirt the mud and water, but after a few miles we just gave up.  When we made it to the top of the ridge, we stopped for a picture at the overlook, I was sure not to get too close to the edge, I didn’t want to go cliff diving and swimming today.

Back on the trail we would slide around in the mud for a while then we would run across the creek and have clean shoes for about 30 seconds, of course the clean shoes came at a cost, hypothermia from the knees down.  Sometimes it felt like we were running on frozen nubs instead of feet.  The problem was, there was just now way to get across the water without getting in it.

We headed up the trail along the rocky ledge, Chuck was trying to run and take video at the same time, so I ran a head of him. I was almost to the end of the rocky ledge, when my foot hit a rock and I fell and started sliding towards the river. I looked up as I was sliding down to see Chuck filming the entire fall, so I yelled “did you get that”.  Not only did he get it, but was laughing so hard, I don’t know how he stayed on his feet and to top it off, he just runs past me laughing while I try to crawl back up the hill.  He is just as clutzy as I am, so it had nothing to do with balance or agility, its gotta be his Inov8 shoes.  After I got back on my feet I could feel my knee and shin hurting, it felt warm like blood may have been running down my leg.  Later after I took my tights off, I saw the blood and my knee was starting to turn blue.  The good thing is, since I didn’t actually see the blood, I just kept running and finished the workout.

We made it back to the cars and grabbed some Honey Stinger waffles and headed back out.  We made the next loop in pretty good time, and there was deeper water to cross on this loop and more places that we could fall into the river with one wrong move.  Plus Chuck kept farting while I was running behind him, he almost gassed me a couple times.   He blames it on some Perpetuum that he's been trying out in his water bottle for these long runs.  I hope he gives up on that stuff soon.
We made it back to the cars for more water and a Honey Stinger Rocket Chocolate bars and of course to pickup Scotty for the second lap.

We now had 12 miles under our belts, and our time was slower then anticipated due to the poor trail conditions, but that didn’t stop us.   We ran the trail loop backwards this time, so it was back through the deep creeks.  Then we kept seeing what looked like donuts on the ground.  At first we thought we were just tired and were seeing donuts, since we like them so much, but with closer inspection, the donuts weren’t real, they are what we now call trail donuts.  They are not really good to eat though.  They don’t taste like chicken either.

I told Chuck I couldn’t wait to put on my Recovery Socks, they make my legs feel so good after long runs, he said that he had brought his along also to put on after the run.

I bet you are noticing that Scotty isn’t in any of the pictures.  You could almost think the he was home in bed and not out on the trial.  We all know that Scotty is no loser and he wouldn’t be home in bed when he planned to meet us for a run, he just didn’t want to be in the pictures.

Three out of four loops were completed, with one loop to go.  Chuck sucked down a Honey Stinger Ginsting and we were on our way.  

I was feeling ok, my legs were tired, but I was shuffling along, not fast, but not walking either. I was actually really happy because I had felt so bad on the two previous long runs, that I thought this was going to be the same struggle, but it wasn’t.  With one loop to go, we were starting to have time issues.  I needed to be finished by 2 pm, so we were going to have to shorten our last loop a little, so we modified the loop a bit and cut two miles off it.   We finished 22 miles in a little under 6 hours. That sounds really slow, but it was a really great run for the conditions we were running in. I felt ok, too. I know Chuck could have run faster, but he even said his feet were hurting at the end.  I went home feeling a little less panicked.  I think I could have done another 9 miles to make our run a 50K, it would not have been fast, but I’m sure I could have done it.