Adventure Racing 5:40:00  17.9 mi (19:00 / mi)
NYARA's 6hr Trilogy AR, racing solo but with the plan to shadow my kayaking friends and first-time adventure racers Janet and Steph as they tackled the race.
The race started with a mandatory route along the main lake shoreline to the boat launch, which we walked, arriving toward the back of the pack. From there, the paddle was a mandatory route from flag to portage to flag to portage to flag to the bikes. Chatted with glewis and Noah in their packraft and then dug in to catch up with my friends before the first portage.
We got to the bike T/A in time to pair [quad?] up with Jess H, who'll be racing with me at Two Rivers AR, and set off on the lollypop-shaped mandatory bike loop [from Hell], opting to skip/postpone the optional points to the north. A wise choice...
My friend in Williamstown had predicted the course would be muddy, given the last week of rain. It was that, and more. Near-constant mud on the in/out "stick" of the lollypop, and then a bog-walk out to the tip of a peninsula for a CP. I've been reading of the horrors of traveling across tussocks in Alaska recently, and the peninsula was much the same. We opted to wade across the water rather than bog-hop down the neck. This was the first of several "water up to the crotch" bike CPs.
The first real nav decision of the race: clockwise or CCW around the lollypop? We went clockwise, choosing to climb steeply on bikes (or rather, while pushing bikes) and were all happy with that choice. Janet mountain-goated her way up steep, chunky streambeds that were supposed to be mountain bike trails, while the rest of us pushed, swore, and occasionally pedaled. The descent off the ridge was a refreshing stretch of actual biking, and then we were back in the mud again. We joked that since we hadn't seen a race photographer on the crazy steep muddy stuff, that there must be something worse waiting ahead. There was.
A pretty trail along a pretty lake lead us out onto an earthen dam. The CP was just below, "stream". There was a photographer with a telephoto lens. And a raging torrent coming from the spillway of the dam. And a jumble of fallen, snagged trees. And a flag, smack-dab in the middle of it all, dangling from a tree over a rush of white water.
We were all going whitewater kayaking and packrafting at Zoar Outdoors the next day, and the first rule of moving water is: "don't stand up in moving water". That rule quickly got washed away, and after much sketchiness, we had the CP and were back at the bikes and ready to cross the bridge and continue along the shoreline trail.
Except there wasn't any bridge.
Another round of "WTF?" discussions ensued, and we settled on a human chain across the outflow stream, passing bikes one at a time across the current. All four of us were extremely glad to be travelling together at that point - I can't imagine crossing that current with a bike as a soloist.
Back to the stick of the lollipop, where in an attempt to ride around one of the larger mud holes, I speared my rear derailleur on a protruding stick. My derailleur hanger, seeing it had finally been called on to make the ultimate sacrifice, chickened out, and emerged completely unscathed as my SRAM GX derailleur sheared completely off behind it. I said goodbye to my travelling companions and they went off to finish the race on their own, while I completed an AR bucket list item: limping back to T/A on a field-repaired single-speed.
[A defining moment from my first adventure race had been watching Strong Machine come tearing in to T/A at dusk with Claire on a bike with a duck-taped stick filling in for her trashed rear derailleur, and then racing off on foot into the darkness. That was one of the most bad-ass things I'd seen, and I hope that anyone that saw me Fred-Flinstoning my way back to T/A feels similarly inspired.]
I was now on my own for the foot O section, with just under 2 hours left. I hustled off, knowing the route that Janet and Steph had pre-planned and expecting I'd run into them at some point. After the race, we realized they may have seen me en-route to the first foot control on a different approach than they had taken, and so we were on our own until the finish line.
The foot O was a straight-up advanced-level orienteering course, and as soon as I realized this, I was pretty worried that my friends (and the other 30% of first-time racers) were going to get hopelessly lost, as there were some very tough controls, well off-trail, that would only be findable if you were paying close attention to your attack points. Steph absolutely crushed the nav and they ended up getting almost all of the controls, adding on more than they'd planned to do. I saw almost no one for the majority of the time I was out, and then got swept up by Untamed NE on their final 2K back to the finish and the overall win.
Ended up 3rd solo male, missing only the 3 optional bike points. Janet and Steph won their division, and Jess took first solo female. NYARA showered us all with pizza and some seriously-sweet swag. Mother nature then showered us on the drive back to Williamstown and a half-hour of spraying mud out of everything we owned with an outdoor hose.
This was a much harder, much more technical course than I'd expected, and that I'd promised my friends for their first AR. Everyone took it in stride, though, and we certainly ended up with some lasting memories. I can't wait to see some of the "whitewater biking" photos.