Checkpoint Zero/Inov-8 Team Blog
presented by Inov-8

A Hot Time at the Challenge 4
posted Thursday, August 23, 2007 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 10:32 PM - 0 comments

Not wanting to miss a chance to bake in the August heat, Jon Barker, Tim Abbott and I teamed up August 18 for the YMCA Challenge 4 sprint adventure race up the road from Atlanta in Cherokee County.

The race was very well done ... and so were we after an afternoon of running, biking, coasteering, and paddling in temperatures that hovered in the high 90s. We crossed the finish line after 4:47 in first place, along with Team Enduraventure/Outspokin' Bikes that included Checkpoint Zero/GoLite teammmate Allen McAdams and racing friend Bill Fletcher.

I really enjoyed navigating the first 6-point Rogaine section on foot. Jon was the map man the rest of the race. The next single-track biking section offered some excitement as teams passed each other in opposite directions on the tight trails, and the swim across a finger of Allatoona Lake cooled us off -- temporarily.

Though many teams complained of nausea due to the heat, our team -- AKA Team Two Limeys and a Leprechaun -- managed well until I sucked down an ice-cold popsicle offered by a race volunteer at the put-in for the paddle section. Good thing for me the race was nearly over at that point.

Jon's wife, Diane, and my wife, Lisa, and son, Henry, congratulated us at the finish line. Then it was off to the YMCA pool for a swim followed by the YMCA's excellent post-race meal of barbecue, cookies, baked beans and sweet iced tea (as if there's any other way to drink it in the South, Tim and Jon) .

Much thanks to all the volunteers that put on a first-race event.

- Paul Cox

A Black Sheep in the family?
posted Monday, August 20, 2007 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 12:41 PM - 0 comments

This weekend I had the pleasure of racing with my fiance and another friend as part of the Black Sheep Squadron at the Western Carolina AR. This was the first 12 hour race for both of my teammates and they were a little nervous going into it, not sure how they would make through the whole race with the heat and the distance. I'm glad to say they both did an excellent job and I think they are excited to try a 24 hour race with a little more training.

For us, the race started out the night before, we had decided to camp out because it was close to the start, and we like to camp. We didn't plan on the bugs or the car race track across the street from the park. Lucky for us it started raining, thundering and lightning just as we headed to bed so the cars didn't run much. Still, it was hot all night long and I didn't get a whole lot of quality sleep.

The races started up with a short rogain that had racers finding 5 CPs that were cost to the start, each with a look up code. When you got all 5 codes, you came back to the start, used the look up codes to find letters on a reference card. Once you had the letters you had to unscramble them and figure out what it spelled. The answer was "Modoc", the town we were in.

Up next was the paddle portion of the race. There were seven CPs which could be obtained in any order. We figured we would get the 6 closest, and use the time saved by skipping the furthest away point to get a point later on in the race. This plan didn't work out because I made a navigation error on the water and took us to the 7th CP by mistake.

As we got off the water, we made the horrifying discovery that we no longer had our passport. It had been in the jersey pocket of my teammate, it must have fallen out in the short swim we had to do at that last CP, or possibly during one of the times we got in an out of the boat on the way back. This was crushing, and we almost called it a day. We decided that the reason why we were really out there was to see if we could finish the 11 hours of racing. We took off at a leisurely pace, figuring we would finish the bike section and go from there.

The highlight of the bike section was a zip line over a river for both racer and bicycle at the same time. It was a lot of fun and you could hear the whoops and cheers as each racer made it across.

By the time we finished the bike section, we had about 2 hours left to do the trek section, and make the 45 minute ride back to the start. We managed to pick up one CP on the trek before the blazing sun and blistering heat took it's toll and we headed back. The last ride to the finish was pretty easy, but we were glad to be finishing up.

After all was said and done, we had picked up 19 CP's, but lost 7 because of the incident with the passport. Not a bad showing, and my teammates were stoked that they made it the full distance and still weren't last at the end of the day. The mental struggle of deciding not to quite can sometimes be the toughest part of a race. Just goes to show, the old AR mantra of "Keep going, you never know what can happen" is true.


Jon (almost) surrenders in Greenland
posted Thursday, August 02, 2007 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 4:44 PM - 0 comments

I could write another report but Team Feed the Machine captain Christian Burke has covered it pretty nicely here. I can only add that total elevation gain in meters, for the race, was 1.2 million...

Race Report for 2007 Siku Extreme Arctic Challenge
written by Christian Burke, Team Feed the Machine
date: July 20 - July 30, 2007


Hey friends,

I'm back in Greenland for another chapter of Adventure Racing at the end of the world. Tasiilaq, Greenland is the stage, for the second time. My team and I were here last year and accomplished what we set out to do: finish, and have a good time. This year, the team consists of a whole new cast of characters except for me of course, and we have some simple goals: finish very strong, and have a good time.

Getting here has not gone without it's obstacles, namely, losing our 4th member to some Scottish haggis virus that severely infected his foot and ankle. After trying every reasonable avenue we knew to find a replacement, we decided to come to the race anyway and race unranked if necessary. We just needed to get here.

Getting here is of course no simple feat. A myriad of planes, trains, automobiles, boats, trucks and donkey carts (not really) and we arrive in the town of Tasiilaq, Greenland, about 1000 kilometers off the end of the planet. This is our base camp for the next week or so. It is very small Inuit town with seal and polar bear hunters, fishermen, and sled dogs waiting for winter again. Seventeen teams of four mostly from Northern European countries descend on the town to tackle icy fjords, man-eating glaciers and mountain peaks on foot, canoe, and mountain bike for about five days. Greenland, Iceland, Denmark, France, Netherlands, New Zealand, England, Scotland, and of course us Yanks are represented, I think I missed a couple.

After a couple days of non-stop preparation gathering food, testing and outfitting inflatable canoes, organizing gear, we start on Saturday morning.

As luck would have it (people tell me I'm the luckiest person they know), we found a 4th teammate; a local 22 year old who has placed 3rd in this race twice. He knows the island of Ammassalik (a-mass-a-lick) like the back of his hand crossing some of the glaciers on the island, over 100 times. His English sucks, only speaking Greenlandic and Danish, but all he needs to know is "GO-GO-GO!!!". We are very excited and are bonding as a team very well. Oh yeah, the other guys; Jon Barker, a UK guy living in Atlanta, seasoned racer with speed written all over him, Jeff Vicario; good friend from LA, fast, lean, too nice to be mean, built perfectly for this race, and me; yeah, me, just thrilled to be here.

Day 1 complete. Mission accomplished. Our team was good. Pretty fast. It was very short in comparison to the next three days. We started with a mass start in our inflatable canoes. We had nice movement together and moved quickly through the 35 degree water. It was short though and took less than an hour. We exited the water in fifth place. After that we quickly transitioned to our running gear and headed for Polheim's Peak, a very famous mountain peak in Greenland. If you ever see pictures from Greenland and they show mountains, you were probably looking at Polheim's Peak. We powered up the mountain very quickly, although it was no joke. Very loose rock and very very steep. Once we arrived at a ledge (the checkpoint), most of the way up the mountain, they smartly stopped the clock and allowed us to head to the summit with safety in mind and not worry about knocking someone off the hill to their imminen death trying to race to the top. When we arrived back to the checkpoint, the clock started and the game continued.

We flew down the hill right behind Egon (our 4th), who led the way with every tricky route choice he could come up with. He was not alone in the route choices since there are other Greenland teams here as well. But, it was invaluable to us gun toten' cowboy hat wearin' Americans. We arrived at the water, again quickly transitioned to our water gear and canoed back to the start/finish line.

After the results were posted, we now sit in fifth place. 1st and 2nd place are occupied by Greenlandic teams, 3rd by Team Explorer - last year's teammate, Neal, and packed with big time veterans, 4th place by Intersport Iceland (nothing but speed), then us. Very pleased, but reserved. It was a short day. Nothing to gloat about.

Needless to say, though, it gives us a very positive outlook for the days ahead and puts us in a great position to make a strong showing. I will stop short of saying that is gives us a chance to take it to these nordic freaks, but it wouldn't be bad to take a few out in the process. God, I hope they don't read this.

Best of all, the race organization was thrilled with our new found speed and there was nothing but congratulations going around. This was a perfect opportunity to remain low key and gracious. Although, I couldn't help but crack a smile or two.

Day 2 awaits. Back to gear prep, a beer, checking out the days' events at the Tour de France, and some well deserved sleep.

After the day is done tomorrow, I'll fill you in.

Day 2 in the bag. Not so easy though. It began with five laps of mountain biking on a course that makes you work for every hill, every turn, every downhill. In true fashion, Egon did it in his running shoes and a bike that I would have dumped off a cliff years ago. Damn, he's a strong kid. He matched us stroke for stroke. We got the bike part done, quickly transitioned, and were on to the trekking leg in, what else, fifth place.

The trekking venue consisted of ascending...then descending...three peaks, and back to the start/finish. It is very hard to describe the violence in which Mother Nature created these mountains. She must have been really pissed off, maybe really cold too. A trail in Greenland is non-existent. The rocks are severe. There is no such thing as gradual; it is either straight up or straight down. Of course, Egon led the way with me matching him step for step. Our plan during the first day was for me to tail him so he wouldn't get away from us. It worked very well even if we got away from Jeff and Jon at times. I could look back, check to see if they were in range and pull back the reins or keep on moving. That should be the plan for the remainder of the race as well. On each ascent, we took the most direct lines, usually the steepest too. On climbing the second peak, it was nearly vertical, ascending through these vertical slots of granite rock, with the ground sliding away from us with every cautious step.

But as the day went on, it took its toll on Jon. I have to say, this guy is a true adventure racing champion. I have nothing but respect for him. Everyone has a tough day, and today was Jon's turn. Never bitched, never showed anything. Just kept on chugging even if he had to move ever so slow. "How you doin? "Fine. No problem." Over and over again. But when we finished, the day showed on his face. Major dehydration, pains in every joint, nauseous, he had it all. Not going to throw it in though. He's getting ready for tomorrow, and personally knowing how that is, he's going to come back strong as hell. I can't wait to see it.

We finished the day in seventh place. Combined with yesterdays' results, we'll see. We don't know yet. But it doesn't really matter because the big days are tomorrow and the next.

Tomorrow, we have more mountain biking in the morning, then off for a loooong trekking stage including our first glacier travel. Can't wait. It's just so surreal to step on one of those freakish things. We will end up at a base camp far away from the cozy town of Tasiilaq. We will have a short night's sleep and head out for a day and a half for the last stage. We don't know what exactly is in store for the last stage, but we will find out when we get to base camp.

Day 3 (and Day 4.5) is done. In fact our race has been completed. We finished yesterday evening at around 8:30pm.

Day 3 did start from the town again with a two man time trial followed by the other two men (or women) doing the same course. Egon and I went out first. Since the second team of two could not start before both members returned, it didn't really matter how fast I went, just as long as Egon was very close behind. With that said I couldn't help myself and decided to push hard and se who I could track down. Not too soon after, I found myself with only the Danish (freaks) team in front of me and I was closing slowly. What was more amazing was that Egon was less than a minute behind. Eventually, I was forced to back off a little bit so we could finish together, but we did our jobs and finished a few minutes back in second position. Jeff and Jon went out and attempted the same, but were met with a few "anchors" on the other teams. They did very well though and we had a good head start to the trekking section. Off we went.

We started out on a cross country run with a path to the Kittimenfkasfnaf (I can't remember) glacier. Famous though. Once we passed a long valley, we started our climb up. Once again, steeeeep and rocky. In what was now usual form, Egon and I pushed our way up followed by Jeff and Jon. As much as Jon tried to shake the problems, they were relentless, and our pace was again slowed. We watched Greenland, France and Iceland go by us. So be it. We made it up to the glacier, started our way to the checkpoint and eventually down the glacier. Yes, glaciers have crevasse and I went up to my armpits into one with one of my feet in my face. I'm not usually that limber but I didn't have much choice in the matter. We worked our way down to the end, finished with a canyon bouldering session, all the rocks that the glacier just shoves out of its mighty way, and made it to base camp on the beach.

Base camp was spectular. A tent for each team, big tents for dining, staff, crew, even crapper tents. We were entertained by of course other teams coming in, helicopter fly-bys, live musical performances, food, Siku vodka and appelsin (orange juice), it was hard to believe we were at a race. It was even harder to tell time and there really is no night, just a dusk-like reminder. We were supposed to race the expedition stage the next morning and had to force ourselves to shut it down. So we did.

Day 4
We woke, ate, received our maps and instructions, and began to prep for the day (plus). It was a long hard navigationally difficult course that covered the entire island in total. The stage would start with a short canoe section, then a difficult trek section, glacier work, canyoneering, coasteering (for us at least), canoeing, the longest glacier trek on the island, more canoeing, trek with very difficult nav, short glacier, canyoneering, then finally a canoe to the end.

With our course instructions understood, the short canoe section started with helicopters flying overhead and what became very common, a motorized paraglider (fan man) doing scary flybys as well. It turns out that fan man (real name Anders, unrelated to the director Anders), and I have something in common. When getting ready for the party in the communal bathrooms, he and I got to talking. He asks what part of LA I'm from. I say Hermosa Beach. By the way, he's from Denmark. He says, "no sh**, I lived in Hermosa Beach for about a year!!!" We have some mutual friends. Weird, hanging off the end of the planet, and you meet someone who you might have crossed paths with at some dive bar in your own little postage stamp of the world.

We get out of the water uneventfully in about fifth place. Off on what we could see would be a difficult nav section. It did not disappoint. Everyone was everywhere. We eventually decided to take a very uncommon route and it paid off. We hit the glacier very quickly and without much expended energy, which would turn out to pay off in a big way later. Unfortunately we took forty-five minutes to figure it out. Climbing up the glacier, as we had done before, Egon thought it was no problem to travel without crampons even though we would rope in. We spent so much time putting them on, and fixing them every fifteen minutes, that it was easier to just travel without. But, unlike last year, the crevasses were simply out of control. I mean every five steps; you were jumping over one or working your way around. Every so often...slip...oops, "help guys". To the top of the glacier in seventh place. Lost two positions, but the other teams that heard of our route were jealous.

Down the glacier, into a valley, down the valley, once again the only team to travel that way, on to our loooong coasteering session to CP3. A short canoeing section to CP4, but this time it turns out that a couple of teams lost their way. Out of the canoe in fifth. Up, up, up the longest glacier of the trip. Again, no crampons until we needed them. At CP5, what? We're in fourth? The French now seemed to have lost their way. Down, down, down the other end of the glacier and then what seemed a forever long trek to CP6. With this started the cracking of Egon. We had figured out early in this stage that Egon's best friend had come to join him at Base Camp. Let's just say his friends and some of the ladies partied quite a bit and he was only on an hour or two of sleep. So, about twenty four hours into this stage, Egon starts coming apart. I'm now solo out front, with Egon dragging. He looks like hell, starts sounding negative (in Greenlish of course). He feels we are only about halfway through the course at this point and is thinking bad thoughts. He starts dry heaving in a big way. Wow, Egon crack??? We didn't think it was possible. But, hell, twenty two, master of his own world, Don Juan of Tasiilaq? Burning it at both ends? Go figure. We make it to CP6, and it's a well set up checkpoint. He heads in and sees Erwin (the Erwinator), a legendary figure of the race, now race photographer, and former champion. He tells Erwin..."I quit." I head over to them, Erwin, says he wants to quit. Erwin and I calmly tell him that it's not going to happen. We will rest and everything will be OK. As well, the finish is only eight hours away or so, not another twenty four. Eyes welling up, he nods his head OK, and we smile together. As we're doing this, of all things, third place is just heading out on the canoe section. Totally energized by that, the rest thing gets thrown out the window and we frantically inflate our boat, ready our gear, and start to head out. As we are doing this, France is coming in, a few minutes later, we see Intersport Iceland, and in the distance, Explorer. Now this race is on.

Into the water. We move. In the distance, we see third place, the Greenlandic team. But then we see confusion out there. We eventually make it to CP7 only seconds behind third place. Third place??? Us??? Now the pace picks up. France lands on the beach. This next section turns out to be one of the trickiest navigation sections. We head out. Greenland takes a different route than us. We absolutely nail the first part of our route and re-join them again. At this point, we turned off the racing for a bit and traveled together. I'm out front about twenty meters, and seven people hanging behind talking and moving. We make it to CP8 in what felt like record time. Now up a valley, up the final glacier, with, get this, second place at the top of the glacier. We're sans crampons of course, but Greenland does pull away ever so slightly. Race is back on. CP9 is at the top. Looking back down the glacier and valley from there, we see zero teams whatsoever. How could this be? Earlier in the valley, I had suggested that this was our chance to put a gap on the competition since this race was about overall time. The sense of urgency was felt by the others and we tried, especially Jon, to move as such.

Off the glacier, we had a simple downhill to the final canoe section and to the finish. Starting down the hill, Egon and I separated from Jeff and Jon suggesting that we head down the hill and prep the canoe and all the gear to save even more time. Jeff and Jon could simply arrive at the checkpoint, jump in the boat, and off to a great finish. That was simply my single biggest mistake of the race. Egon and I arrive at the bottom, get everything ready in a friggin' hurricane of mosquitoes, and wait. And wait. And wait. About an hour later, they arrive with stories about going down the wrong canyon, blah blah blah. As we hear on the radios of the CP officials, France is now close behind. "Hurry!!!!!!", I am yelling. "Go go go go go!!!!" In the canoe we go, paddling for our lives. Out of the boat on the other side and up to the finish line with the canoe on our shoulders. We have finished the last stage and completed the 2007 Siku Extreme Arctic Challenge. The expedition stage in fourth place! Wow.

Now, the clock runs as we wait for the other teams to finish. A change of clothes, food, and stories abound. The times start coming in and our fears become reality. We have landed in sixth place overall, twenty five minutes behind the French, and ninety minutes behind Explorer. My BIG mistake cost us fourth place overall. AAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

With all of that, respect came our way by finishing highly on the expedition stage and congratulations came from everywhere. But, I'm still traumatized by the failure of my personal goal of a top five finish overall. But, it did assure me that a top three finish is very doable, and perhaps a victory is possible if all conditions are perfect. The sixth place finish has just put the Siku Extreme Arctic Challenge on my 2008 schedule. I honestly didn't think it would happen, but now I can't help myself.

Final results (they all have team names, but here are the countries as well):

1. ISI Salomon - Danish (freaks)
2. Neriusaaq - Denmark/Greenland
3. Maniitsoq 225 - Greenland
4. Explorer - US/Kiwi
5. Les Couleurs - France
6. Feed the Machine - US/UK/Greenland

The post race party did not disappoint. Good times had by all. We now relax, pack our things, and begin the multi day journey back home to the US. Another great race in the books