When you last heard from me, I was gallivanting through the hills of Bear Mountain, NY, struggling through my first trail run of the season, which also happened to be my first race of the season. Fast forward 2 weeks, and I was back out there competing in another race. However, I opted to go back to one of my other passions, Adventure Racing! I figured that since my foot has been a problem, I should dive a bit back into multi-sport racing. So with that, I found myself at the start line of one of my favourites, the 8-hour Raid Pulse Adventure Race with many old friends. Although it was my first AR in 2 years, I had high hopes, and was racing solo. Whatever the course may hold, I knew either way, it would be fun. Did it all go to plan? Definitely not, so read on to learn more about his adventure!
As is always the case, the exact route for an adventure race is never known prior to the event. You know the start/finish location, but beyond that, you are left to your imagination on where you will actually race. Modes of transport are generally known, and in this case we had a little more info, knowing we’d start foot, then bike, then foot, then bike, then paddle, then bike to the finish, in that order. That way, we were able to at least pre-plan our ‘transition bags’. These are the bags where you pack your gear for different legs of the race. I mention this as it was particularly important for me in this race, since I would be away until Friday, and racing on Saturday.
Where was I coming from? Well, San Jose, California!! That’s right, I’d spent the entire week on the far west coast, in a very different time zone, flying back VERY early on Friday just to make it back in time Friday to sleep, and again get up VERY early to drive to this race. As a result, I had physically packed all my gear a week in advance, and had to hope I packed everything right! Friday was a quick scramble to set up bike racks and roof racks on the car we’d JUST gotten back from the shop, then shove my gear, including filming equipment, before crashing. Oh yeah, that’s right, I’d also be filming my race to produce a video. Have I made ample excuses yet for why my mental acuity might not be quite up to par yet? I hope so, because you’ll hear all about it soon…
Since I was a bit jet-lagged, and would be racing all day, Deanna decided to come out and spend the day at the race as well. That way, she figured if I was completely beat at the end of the day, she could drive my broken ass home. Sounded like a good plan, plus it’s always nice to finish a race with her around. We drove up early in the morning, and I got to work arranging my gear as well as doing some filming for my video. At race briefing, we learned the opening leg was a multi-checkpoint rogaine-style section of about 4-5 km of trekking around the start/finish area. I liked this plan, as it would spread teams out and give us a chance to sort ourselves out before launching into the bike leg, which would then be our dominant transport for the rest of the race, linking together the remaining trek and paddle sections in a giant loop.
After a briefing, we had some final prep time where we had to ensure our transition bags were loaded with all we’d need and dropped in the right places. Since it was only an 8 hour race, there really wasn’t much in my bags other than changes of shoes, other key gear for the other legs, and a bit of food. Clothing wasn’t a concern since the weather was set to be pretty stable through the day. When the opening gun sounded, all teams took off running to chase the opening CPs as fast as possible. Right away, there was a divergence in strategies, with basically 2 groups taking two different options. This really just amounted to picking off the points in a different order. Since I was still early in my return to running, my pace was obviously not at its highest, but I was happy with my overall speed. I’d say I did a good job in the opening section, with only one small overshoot on one checkpoint. It was on the far end of a swamp, and although I think I actually came out almost on top of it, I failed to see it, and ended up hunting and going in circles before finally spotting it. I probably lost 5-10 minutes on it. Not the end of the world, but enough that I was not in the lead packs arriving back at transition and heading off on my bike.
Now on my bike, I felt more comfortable, as I didn’t have to worry about twisting my ankle of overdoing it on my feet. I got to work spinning those pedals and making good decisions. Even though it was early in the race, it was already time to decide a strategy on the advanced checkpoints. In the opening bike leg, there were two advanced checkpoints. The first was a no-brainer, as it was only a slight detour. However, the 2nd one was off the beaten path, and a pretty obvious one to skip if you were a novice or didn’t think you had time to clear the course. However, when the time came to decide, I opted to go big or go home. Doing the math in my head, it totally made sense, provided I wasn’t too sloppy in the trekking section. By looking at the map, I didn’t think I’d struggle too much there though, so went ahead and chose the longer bike route.
At this point, the decision was solid. I made good progress, and when I finally got into the network of trails in the woods we had to follow to find CPA2, I made all the right decisions, tracking it down with zero issues. I caught and passed a few other teams, and was now mixing it up with folks I knew were strong, meaning I was back in the game. I cruised into the next transition zone in high spirits. While there were plenty of teams already on the trek, I knew many of them had skipped at least CPA2 (if not both CPA1 and CPA2). Deanna was there, and I briefly chatted with her before trotting off onto the trails. In this section, there were 3 regular, and only 1 advanced CP. The regular points were on relatively established trails, whereas the advanced CP would require bushwhacking and careful choosing of a maze of trails that crisscrossed the area. However, since it was only 1, I thought ‘what could go wrong’?
That final thought was my undoing, because what could go wrong was exactly what DID go wrong. I messed up. Royally. Honestly, if you just look at my track, you’ll see just how screwy I was with CPA3. On the ground, I was able to reconcile most terrain features, and thought I was on the right track. There were ridge lines and swamps as I expected. However, it seemed I was walking much further than I should. Eventually, I crossed a trail I was sure I had biked on. A quick map consult confirmed if that was the case, I’d well and truly overshot. However, I then compounded my mistake by taking a backtrack, but slightly different bearing, thinking I’d also had a bad bearing. Eventually, that also became an obvious mistake. Rather than giving up, I tried one final time, and AGAIN was hopelessly off. I finally threw in the towel when I realized I’d essentially wasted an HOUR on this CP!! In an 8 hour race, that is GAME OVER. Sad face…
However, in AR, as in life, you shouldn’t give up. I retraced my way to the last ‘known’ trail, and eventually made my way back on track and picked up the final CP on this section (which incidentally took longer to actually get to than I had budgeted as well owing to the terrain). By the time I got back to transition to grab my bike, I was deflated to see almost no other bikes. I had really blown it. Luckily, since the race was rogaine style, all that mattered was that you cross the line as close to the 8 hour mark as you can, with as many CPs as you could. They were all worth exactly the same amount of points, so I’d still be fully ranked no matter how the rest of the race unfolded. Hopping on my bike and consulting my watch, I now realized that I’d also most certainly miss a cut-off which prevented me from attempting any additional advanced CPs, and have to settle with just the 3 normal CPs. The real fast teams could try for an additional advance paddling CP, PLUS a remote advanced trek from the boats of another 3 checkpoints. So I was now missing a total of 5 advanced checkpoints, and might not even get all the paddling CPs! Hard not to be disappointed with this race, but my consolation was that I was really having fun just being out there!
My dear sweet Deanna was at the paddle transition awaiting my arrival. Somewhat concerned, seeing as I was almost last man standing at this point. She knew I’d be rather annoyed, so gave me some space. Rather than be angry though, I was more just focused on a quick transition to hit the water and get as many CPs as possible before the end of the race. About this time, the weather had also changed. On the water, the wind had kicked up a fair bit, temperatures dropped, and there was the beginning of rain. Not a good recipe for success. Ultimately, given this was my first paddle in nearly 2 years, I only ended up grabbing 2 of the 3 regular checkpoints before high-tailing it back to my bike to close out the race on my bike.
I’d done ok on the water, and once back on shore, left my PFD and jacket on for the final mad sprint to the finish, partly for warmth, partly to speed up my transition. I was definitely feeling the efforts of my race, but was determined to at least finish just under the 8 hour mark. There was only one final checkpoint to grab, and I did so with no issues, finally cruising under the banner under the 8 hour mark, but having missed a total of 6 checkpoints (out of 20 total). When all was said and done, I managed to snag 4th in the solo male category, but a dismal 27th out of 40 overall. Such is life, and I regret nothing!
As usual, the race was top notch from start to finish. The course was well laid out, and provided an excellent challenge for all participants, whether it was their first race or they were seasoned racers. It is a testament to the course design that out of those 40 teams, only 3 teams actually cleared the course, and only 2 did so in under 8 hours. As usual, I’m now looking forward to doing another adventure race, and I have my mind on whether I should race the August Sprint race just for retribution! Till then, it’s back to the trails for me though, to do some ultras. Hope you’re all having as much fun as me these days! Till next time, make sure you check out my video of the event below!