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

Currahee Adventure Duathlon
posted Sunday, November 18, 2007 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 9:49 PM - 0 comments

After a somewhat disappointing string of luck at the USARA Nationals race, I figured I needed one more race for the year, hopefully to end on a good note. The Currahee Adventure Duathlon was going to be my final attempt for the year.

The event is held at the Frady Branch trail system, in Toccoa GA, under the shadow of Currahee. This mountain was the training place for the original paratrooper divisions in WWII and was made famous most recently by the HBO series Band of Brothers. I'd ridden at Frady Branch several times before, and knew the trails well enough to know that CCW would be the way to go, not only to get to the rappel and ascent first, but the trails flow better that way. Especially the Leatherwood Creek Trail.

The event was a rogain format, with certain areas on the maps marked as foot travel only. There were a total of 18 check points, plus a rappel and ascent. The race started with a short run to get a poker chip, and then back to the start/finish area where the chip was traded in for pre-plotted map of the race. I barely looked at the map as I took off, because I knew I pretty much wanted to get to the ropes first, while I was strongest. Not taking the time to think about it almost got me into trouble.

There was one CP on the trail on the way to the ropes, and there was a second that was a short detour off that main trail. From that quick glance, it was a lot easier to pick off that one point (CP9) on the way out, as opposed to on the way back. As soon as I got to 9, I realized that all the other solo's would probably head to the rappel first, and I'd be stuck in line behind them. I busted my butt to make up some time, and caught 3 guys on the way up to the top. I was very surprised to find out that I was the first solo competitor there. I guess I got lucky there!

The rappel was pretty straight forward, and I had done the same one several years earlier in a different race. I was a little more nervous about the ascent, as I had never climbed up a rope before. I had borrowed the gear, practiced hooking up, but that was it. To my delight, I quickly got the hang of it and the 100 foot climb was over pretty quickly. I'm sure it wasn't pretty, but hey, this wasn't a beauty pageant.

The rest of the race was pretty straight forward for me. I loved getting to ride most of the great single track and fire roads in the area, as they are a lot of fun. Not having any mechanical problems was even better! At the end of the day I finished the course in about four and a half hours, and was the first solo competitor to finish.

If you've ever wanted to get a taste of adventure racing or have done some races but never done one solo, this is a great race to try. I know I'll be back next year.


Xstreamly amazing expedition in Moab
posted Sunday, November 11, 2007 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 8:54 PM - 0 comments

For us, the Xstream Expedition race Sept. 27 - 30 started several weeks before the event actually took place. Since Moab, Utah, isn't exactly in our back yard that meant early preparations to get gear sorted out, packed up, and bicycles shipped out to the hotel. This exercise alone was an adventure and probably deserves it's own blog. In the interest of brevity lest just say that in order to get a good price for shipping your bike across the country it helps to smile and look pretty. Paul, Allen, and I don't fit that profile. Suz managed to ship her bike for about $55, while Allen was charged almost double! How does that work again? Paul was quoted even more than Allen, and to be honest, I didn't have my bike maintenance done in time and figured I would be flying with my bike anyway.

Flying with a bike isn't so bad, if you pick the correct airline. Checking around it would appear that Airtran has the best policy for bicycles, and only charges $65 each way. When alternatives are considered, that is pretty reasonable these days. The bonus is that they didn't weigh the bicycle box, which easily weighed more than their 50 lb limit when I stuffed it with extra gear and food. Allen, who had shipped his bike FedEx a week in advance, was a little nervous as we left for the airport as the online tracking was showing his bike was all set to arrive Thursday, the day the race started, and a day after they had promised. We hoped it was just a glitch in the computer, but when we finally got to Moab, the bike was nowhere to be found.

We started scrambling, trying to find a PFD (his was in his bike box) and a bike for Allen. Luckily for us, Moab is the mecca of mountain biking and with only minimal hassle we were able to secure a replacement ride and source a PFD for the race. It wasn't going to be cheap, but it sure beat having Allen ride on the handlebars of one of our other bikes.

The race started with a 400 meter sprint, packs and paddles in hand from the start finish line to the waters edge behind the Red Cliffs Lodge. There was a fair amount of confusion as each team tried to grab their boats and put them into the fairly swift moving Colorado river. The first paddle section was approximately 20 miles of winding river, through the deep canyons where one could see the hundreds of thousands of years of exposed rock, slowly washed away by the the water and time. As we finished the first paddle section and our first TA came into view, we were eagerly scanning the canyon walls ahead of us, looking for the route we would be taking up them, and trying to pick out which cliff they would have us rappelling from. As we quickly transitioned to foot and took off running, we quickly started climbing. It would be the first time of many through out the race that we would make some serious ascents of several thousand feet. We caught a glimpse of a team ahead of us and made an effort to catch them, we knew the ropes could be a bottle neck and a little effort could mean a 20-30 minute lead. Not a lot in a 3 day race, but could be enough. We managed to catch the team just ahead of us and sure enough, when we got to the bottom of the fixed ropes, there was one team just making their way up. We quickly got our gear up and got in line. The route to the top was relatively quick, and we were rewarded for the first time with some great panorama views of Moab. The rappel that was in store for us was fantastic as well, approximately 250 feet from a huge arch in the canyon wall.

After scrambling down from the rappel to the first TA, we got on our bikes for the first time. A short road ride turned into a long winding climb. As the road gradually made it's way to the top of the plateau, we were passed by a couple of teams. From the experiences we had earlier in the year at the Michigan Expedition race I knew we just had to let them go and race our own race. It's a hard thing to do. As the sun set for the first time in our adventure we eventually made our way onto a long series of jeep roads that would bring us back to our original TA, but not without plenty of adventure during the night. The trail we were following was obvious at some points, and somewhat hidden in others. We found that by looking for the scrapes oil stains in the rock made by the various off road vehicles that used the trail, we could find our way through most of it. At one point we got pretty turned around, and bumped into several other teams looking for the trail, there was a fair amount of cursing as we had all thought that Moab was supposed to have these awesome easy to follow trails. Apparently Poison Spider isn't one of them. Later on we found out that the locals don't ride that trail, mostly clueless out of towners and the victims of sadistic race directors. The parts that were rideable, were pretty fun though. The worst part of this section were several mechanicals: a broken derailleur, a locked up shifter, and a flat tire. After what seemed an eternity, we did make it back to the TA and were relieved to see Lisa, our one woman support crew, cheering us in with hot food ready to eat.

After frantically stuffing our faces and getting ready for the next paddle leg. By comparison, it was going to be a shorter leg, about 8 miles. By the time we were getting warmed up it was time to pull over at CP8 and get out for the next leg. We set out across the valley headed for what would be a steep scramble up to the top of the Amasa Back ridge. It we knew it was going to get hot, and most of this leg was going to be in the bright mid day sun, so conservation of water was going to be crucial. As we started up Pritchett canyon the stream that sometimes runs through it was completely dry, making each drop of water we carried even more precious. There were only 2 CPs on this section, and neither were difficult to find, they just seemed to take forever to get to. As we got close to completing our loop, we finished the water we brought. Lucky for us we came across spring that was coming out of the rocks by the side of the road which temporarily quenched our thirst and was a perfect spot to rinse off the last 24 hours of sweat and dirt. Shortly after we started too see a few bikers headed out on the trail to ride. I kept looking around and thinking to myself that this was no place fun to ride. It would be one thing if you could get a ride up to the top, but there were no roads that most vehicles could navigate. I guess the view was at the top was worth the effort. After scrambling down the same hill we had come up earlier, we dropped back down to the river and to the boats.

We got back into the boats for the third time, but this was an extremely short section. We just had to cross the river and get to a boat launch where we could drop the boats and take a 6 mile trek back to our bikes. It was a hot and unmemorable trip back, with the hot midday sun beating down on us. Getting back to the TA nice as we refueled and got ready for a long bike back through town and to the orienteering section in the La Sal mountains. The highlight of the trip was passing by the world famous Moab slick rock, but unfortunately the course did not take us through it. As we slowly rode toward the mountains I kept wondering why it felt like we were riding through sand, when we were actually on pavement. I finally checked my altimeter it revealed that the road I thought was flat, was actually a slight incline and that we had been climbing for quite a while.

Darkness fell during our transitional bike ride, and we ended up riding a large portion of Kokopelli's Trail. Of course you don't find out until the race is over that they were making us ride it backward. What's several thousand more feet of climbing? We finally got to ditch our bikes at the transition to the long orienteering section on foot. We hadn't had any rest yet so we opted to get everything ready and catch a 30 minute nap. I'm not sure if it helped or hurt, as I find it really hard to doze off quickly. It didn't help that I had to get up a few minutes earlier and plot all the points that we were to get in the next section.

There were 8 points total, and we were allowed to get them in any order. We opted for a roughly CCW attack, which gave us a nice gentle climb to start off with. Compared to the orienteering I've done in some local Georgia races, these points were pretty easy. They were at significant features, not hidden, just lots of up and down. The first peak we had to climb over was 9515 feet. The second was 10715'. Third, 12272'. Considering this highest point in Georgia is about the lowest point on this course, that was a lot of work for 4 flatlanders. The views we got from the tops were unrivaled, and it would have been nice to stop for a cup of tea, except we were in the middle of a race. And there happened to be 70+ mph winds blowing over the tops! I have never been out in wind that strong, several times we were nearly knocked over by the force of the wind. I desperately clutched the map, as I knew one misstep and we would be stuck in the middle of nowhere, up a creek, without a paddle.

The first 7 points were achieved without too much trouble. We got a little turned around looking for CP17, only to realize I had misplotted the point by a couple hundred yards. We got a little lost coming down off the peak that CP17 was on, frustrating me to no end, but we did recover and made good time up until CP16. We had left this point for last as it was the most remote, and furthest out from every other point. We were told at the pre-race meeting that we should go for all the points, don't skip them as we would be held up on course if we did. Knowing this, we struck out for CP16 around 4:45. It was to be a about a 10 km total round trip, and we had plenty of time before dark, and before any cutoffs. Sounded easy enough at the time. We knew something was up when we first saw a little hail coming down. It was small, not very much of it, and we were somewhat amazed by it as we had been in 90 temps the day before. Like they say, get prepared for anything in the mountains.

As we finally got to the top of the ridge line we had to follow, we heard the sound of thunder off in the distance. We started looking at each other, not sure what to do. Checking the map, the fastest way out was along the ridge line, to the CP and down. We decided we had made it that far, and we weren't about to give up. Half way across the 3 km trek to the CP, the lightning came, and started flashing around us. I looked over an saw it strike the next peak over. I started to wonder if we were next. About this time, Suz started to feel a little sick and we realized she was getting altitude sickness. We knew we really had to get out of there as soon as possible. Oh, did I mention it started snowing as well. The flakes came fast and soon snow was accumulating on the ground. We dropped down the side of the ridge line a little bit to take refuge from the wind and lightning, scrambling out to CP16. It was now 6:40, it had taken about 2 hours to go 6 km, but it was mostly uphill. Suz was really feeling bad now, and we had to make the decision, stay out on the ridge line a little longer staying well above 10000 feet in the lightning and snow, or drop off the side to lose altitude as long as possible, but heading into who knows what. With the blinding snow and sun already down, we opted to get as low as possible as fast as possible.

What followed was the slowest 4 km of my life. Since we could see where we were going, we blindly dropped off the side of the mountain, hoping we wouldn't be cliffed out, and that the way would be relatively clear. The pace was slow, the footing unsure, and the conditions miserable. We had long ago run out of water and I know I wasn't eating enough. As we made it down into the valley, my memory of the race starts to blur. I remember an endless hike, stepping over rocks and logs, fighting our way through an endless maze of underbrush, all the while wondering where we were and how much longer it would be. We could see what we thought was a road up ahead, but it never seemed to get any closer. We thought we saw parked cars, but it very well could have been hallucinations at that point. Paul finally started shouting and we got someone to answer. After figuring out we were less than half a mile from the TA we regained our energy and our spirits lifted.

As we finally made it out onto the road and up toward the TA/CP23, we were informed that the race had been called off on account of the weather. We were also told that the race officials were just 30 minutes away from calling a helicopter to look for us. When we looked back, it never occurred to us that we were in trouble. Since we had never expected to be out past any time limit, we never even checked what the cutoff for the section was. I guess it pays to read ALL the instructions, even when you don't think they apply.

Since the race was called, and set to be restarted, that gave us a slight reprieve from the racing and we got to head back into town where we stopped and made the late night trip to Denny's. I gotta admit it was tasty, but it ain't no Waffle House! We got to drive the van to the start of the paddle which saved us from an 70 km bike ride. Since we got there early, we managed to catch a couple hours of sleep in the car before the race was set to resume. Around 8 AM the teams gathered by the waters edge and made a somewhat unceremonious dash for the boats and put into the river for the last paddle. This section of the river proved the most entertaining with several wild sections, and kept us awake for the remainder of the race.

As we finally reached the Red Cliffs Lodge 3 days after we had left, a sense of relief washed over us. We were unsure of our placement, but knew we had given it our best. As it turned out we were not issued a penalty for reaching CP23 late, but the time it took for us to come down the mountain relegated us to 4th place. It was a little disappointing at the time, but looking back there was little we could have done at the time. Each race is a new experience,and we take away new lessons. Let's just hope one day we get a chance to apply them all!

- Peter