A year in Brussels here.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Storm AR

On the weekend of September 29 I re-entered the world of adventure racing. It was a short road back in. 3 weeks before the race started I did an Internet search for the AR scene in the area and came across this race in Cape Charles, VA. I checked out the message board and connected with some folks looking for a person with experience to race with them. This late in the game I figured I would have enough experience to fool a couple first timers.

We planned to meet at their beach house just before race check in Friday, then go register. Things started going wrong before that even happened. They had been delayed in New Jersey and were not expected to get to Cape Charles VA until after midnight. So i checked in for the team, did the 2 gear drops with my gear and went to their beach house which was supposed to have a hidden key. No key. So i broke in. Made a bed and fell asleep. During my slumber my teammates arrived at the gear drop zones, packed their boxes and made their way to the house by 3am. 6:30 I woke up and went to the kitchen where I met my teammates for the first time.

After loading up the car (and watering the garden briefly) we climbed in our motorized transport and went south to Cape Charles, the start line. We got there 15 min. late (7:45) for the start..... though the emails and website still say 8 am start. At this race the maps and co-ordinates were handed out at the start line, and our set had already been taken away by the race director. Even though they know what our team had gone through the night before just to get there. Anyway they found a set for us and we were on our way.

The race route went something like this. I hope to have pictures up in a couple weeks (photos taken by teammates with a film camera - it will take time)

After a brief orienteering section we were herded onto buses and driven 45 "painfully holding the pee" minutes to the start of the boat section. A short paddle out to sea dodging the bullets of duck hunters (they were really pointing their guns right at us and firing!!) and we beached ourself and walked 1 to 2 hours on the beach (I can't remember, but it was long) dragging our boats. After the beach we headed into water behind the barrier islands. This was interesting.

On the maps there were 3 areas called 'mud flats' that we were going to have to paddle through (in our planned route). The mud flats were green with a straight white channel down the middle. So they looked as though they would be marshy or dry land with a dredged canal running through for boats. When we go to the first area marked mud flat we came into a huge open body of water. What was green was blue. This caused a bottle neck as team came out of the reeds into the open water. After some quick triangulation I knew we were in the right spot and continued on the planned route. We gained a lot of time here as people tried to stick to the 'canal'. we cut through the open water to some short cuts and to a second mud flat. Again wide open water. Seeing a mud flat by the end of the paddling section that would shave off many kilometers we cut our way through the waterways to this mud flat.

The tide had gone out. It was now a mud flat.

My boat was light and shallow enough that I could paddle and scrape my butt on the mud and clams. My teammates had to alternate between walking on water and towing and paddling with their butts on the bottom. Hooray, other teams we had caught followed us this way!

Then it was a couple hours in the saddle. The area is criss crossed with roads at every mile. I should have ridden my new cross bike. I will know for next time.

Trekking. At night. My favorite. The TA was in a tomato field (sandy field with tomato plants growing out of bags of soil). We found all 10 CPs in order. But the forest was killer on the legs. The ground was covered in vines with giant spikes. By the end of the night anyone in shorts had hamburger meat exposed from the knees to the ankles. During this section I caught some fierce poison ivy. My second time this summer. At first I (and people at work) thought I had been bitten by a brown recluse because of the wound in the middle of the big blotchy patch on my arm. After seeing a doctor Friday he was convinced it was an insect bite, but not a spider. I realized Saturday it was poison ivy when my arm started to ooze.

Back in the tomato field there was bonfire where my teammates warmed up and I plotted out the remainder of the course. We were back on the bikes for another exciting ride through the roads of back-country Virginia. After criss crossing the highway (and a stop for coffee at a diner) we were back in the boats for a quick paddle to the next and final orienteering section. We took a while to get going in this one because we found it hard to judge the distance between check points. But finally I dropped the compass and just followed the contour lines and we finished the CPs in a snap. It was back to the kayaks for our paddle to the finish line.

There we met the one last volunteer waiting for us. We were last to cross the line. And the only ones at the after race party, once we showed up. But after assessing penalties for missed CPs we were 20th out of 28 finishers, with 10 more teams that did not cross the finish line at all. My virgin teammates were thrilled.

Then it was a fast drive home and now I am here. The end.

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