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

Are you Xtreme? (The remix)
posted Sunday, January 25, 2009 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 10:52 PM - 1 comments

Most race reports begin with "It dawned a beautiful day." And while this day was no different. There was one really obvious addition to this beautiful sunny was -9F. Yes it's true the January 16-17th 2009 installment of the Odyssey One day Extreme 30 hour adventure race was the coldest race I have ever raced in. And possibly the coldest temps I have ever encountered and we (Checkpoint Zero/Inov-8) were going to be out in it for 30 hours.

I was asked by Peter Jolles about 2 weeks ago to join Checkpoint Zero/Inov-8 and Michele Hobson and Bo Martin to race with them in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. My usual team of Roaming/Inov-8 had sense not to sign up for 30 hours of trekking, canoeing and mountain biking at this time of year. And now here I was standing on the start line at 7am wondering and really quite scared of the 30 hours ahead of us. In preparation I took every piece of warm clothing I had and even packed some serious mountaineering mittens from all my years of mountaineering here in the US and back home in NZ. However even this race was more bitter than some previous mountaineering expeditions.

We began in earnest with a trek down a dirt road safe in the knowledge that Ronny Angel has previously the night before at the race briefing canceled the canoeing section. Partly out of fear for participants dumping in the frigid New River, although for the fact that the river (which was considerably wide at the put in) was frozen. We soon left the 'comfort' of the dirt road to follow faint trails up hill. By now all moisture was freezing instantly and as cold as it was most teams were by now burning up and shedding layers of clothing. In fact the majority of race could be described at trying to figure out your wardrobe and whether you were too hot or under no circumstances able to get warm.

We continued to make good progress through the early trekking points being somewhere between exposed hilltops and creeks and rivers. We continued on foot back to the TA and had jumped around between 1st and 4th place. We blew through the TA really quickly and headed out on our bikes, but not before thawing out Peters back wheel as the hub had frozen. From there we biked on a combination of single track to dirt roads and of course there were the frozen creeks. These were a challenge EVERY time we encountered them, and we encountered them A LOT. This presented the ordeal of figuring out whether we could ride through or gingerly tip toe across the ice and hope it wouldn't break. This slowed us down considerably and when you have to cross the same creek 20 times, progress is slow.

We eventually biked and pushed our bikes up and over and along a ridge to another TA where we had to transition to a trekking section. This was a relatively easy section and it was good to be on our feet again after enduring frigid and numb toes and fingers. At times those mountaineering mittens were well used during this bike section.

We hit the o-section points in a counter clockwise direction and used the ease of trails and at times just bush whacked across ridge lines, creeks, re-entrants and saddles with relative ease. During the course of this section and the previous bike section we managed to get out into the lead through a combination of riding and running hard, Pete's great navigation and a chancy decision we made at the top of one saddle on the bike and whereby chose to head to the right instead of going left. This meant a little more climbing however it paid off as it created a good cushion between us and the following 2-3 teams.
After we finished the o-section we put our bike shoes back on (after I had to thaw mine out beside the camp fire made by the race staff). This was the last place we saw another team that was competing with us and spent the next 12 hours out there on our own. From here were rode mostly on gravel and paved roads on what was a longer ride to the next checkpoint, nevertheless a quicker ride rather than endless miles of single track. This ride was for the most part uneventful apart from a flat tire for me and the fading light of dusk and therefore adjusting to using bike lights. The intense cold meant that some of our lights didn't work and made travel difficult at times.

This mountain bike section eventually lead us back to trails and ultimately the TA to transition to the last section, an optional o-section. This wasn't before Bo bent the rear derailleur hanger on his bike. This under normal circumstances would spell doom, however Pete just happened to have one on hand... 'Who carries that stuff?'

When we got back to the TA it was 9pm numerous teams had dropped however we were pushing on knowing that we were in the lead and really wanted to win. We were glad to be done with biking as the cold was beginning to take a toll on our bikes and making it increasingly difficult to ride. As we entered the TA we agreed that we should get in and out as quick as we could. For numerous reasons including the evils of being inside out of the weather and how difficult it is to leave along with how demoralizing it would be for the 2nd place team to enter the TA and hear from the race staff that we had already left. Before we could leave the TA on the last trek we had to plot points and check we got them plotted correctly. After completing that and getting lots food and fluids in us we left spending only 30 minutes in transition.

The final trek went without a hitch thanks to some fantastic navigation from Peter and our desire to 'clean' the course we remained really motivated. We encountered some snow but generally good conditions. At times we utilized the trail system then other times we navigated from hill top to hill top using ridge lines, creeks and saddles. Our feet stayed dry on this last section apart from crossing a spillway on a dam right near the finish line however by that point we were home and would be sitting down relaxing within minutes. This section took us about 7hours a lot longer than what we imagined.

We entered the TA and the finish line to wake up race officials and tell them 'we were done'. We finished in 1st place at about 4.30am in 21hrs 30mins. A good 90 mins ahead of the next team! As we sat we went through the usual litany of 'I quit this stupid sport.' 'I am never racing in this weather again.' 'I am selling all my gear and finding another sport.' Etc. however as I write this I have already raced this past weekend in a much shorter 6hour race and my addiction to this sport which I describe to people as an exercise on misery, continues.

This race presented numerous moments of test and trial, and we came out on top. A win! The cold we experienced took us to new levels of endurance and being able to manage ourselves our equipment and ability to take care of one another. The cold would have killed you if you got in trouble. Hydration was a constant issue with EVERYTHING freezing. Drinking bladders in our Inov-8 packs were unusable; however we soon solved that by coiling the tube around inside the pack so that it was next to our back and therefore able to stay unfrozen from the warmth of our backs, it works... try it.

A great race and with a lot of testing moments, however we made it. It was fun racing with Peter, Michelle and Bo again and I hope we all can again soon... however of course in warmer weather!

-Paul Humphreys

Are you Xtreme?
posted Tuesday, January 20, 2009 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 10:33 PM - 0 comments

This past weekends Odyssey One Day Xtreme certainly lived up to it's name. With temperatures at the start registering at a staggering -9 F, it was clear that this race would be no walk in the park. With visions of icicles hanging from brims of hats from last years Checkpoint Zero Adventure Race, I was questioning if I had brought enough clothes, and if I was truly insane. Being there with a crowd of like minded individuals at least assured me that whatever I was, I wasn't alone.

Within 20 minutes of the start, any bladder that had an exposed hose had frozen solid, rendering any liquids trapped behind it undrinkable. One wouldn't think that dehydration would be such a big issue in the cold, but it can be just as bad as those hot days. Thankfully, one of the design features of our Inov-8 packs is to have a back loading bladder, and using that rear access hatch I was able to coil up my frozen bladder hose. Over the course of the race the heat from my back melted the ice and as long as I kept it tucked in there, I didn't have any more freezing issues. Other folks used equaly creative methods, with varying amounts of success. I say numerous water containers underneath jackets, down pants, and who knows where else, trying to keep their contents in a liquid state.

The cold weather was a benefit at times, especially when it came to the 42 million stream crossings we encountered. Not wanting to get wet at all, we stopped at each stream to assess the width, depth, and danger. When we were lucky, there was ice covering the entire creek and we could walk right across. In other instances, we had to jump between ice covered rock, no small feat. I think each of us got our toes wet at least once, but none of us ever fell completely in. One fall like that would have surely been the end of the race.

As we charged through the course, barely keeping warm we ticked off all the CP's and made it back to the main TA. We had a final orienteering course ahead of us, and we weren't particularly thrilled about heading back into the cold, but what can you do? We ended up having a little difficulty on a couple CP's, but we managed to clear the course and make it back before anyone else.

Given the bittersweet finish of the end of last year, to start off with a win felt good. I once again have to thank our sponsors Inov-8 for the great packs and shoes and nuun for the hydration. Hey nuun, if you are looking for a new product, can you figure out a way to make your hydration tablets prevent a bladder from freezing solid in -9 degree weather and still taste good? Being from Georgia we won't need many, but that one or two weeks a year when it gets cold down here it would really help.


A Killer Deal ...
posted Sunday, January 04, 2009 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 9:04 PM - 0 comments

It was as soggy Sunday, but I was able to fit in a road ride from my house to Stone Mountain Village. I pass a few interesting cemeteries along the way, including the City of Stone Mountain Cemetery that serves as the final resting place for many Confederate veterans. Along the front of the cemetery are the graves of 150 unknown Confederate soldiers who died as casualties of the Battle of Atlanta in the summer of 1864.

I've always appreciated cemeteries, and get an especially somber chill when I read the headstone of Confederate veteran A.J. Thomson that proclaims he was murdered in 1876.

Not so historic is the Melwood Cemetery between Clarkston and Stone Mountain, which apparently has some vacancies. I had to snap a picture of the sign encouraging passers-by to quickly come to terms with their mortality if only to save 40 percent on their eternal parking space!

I'll pass on the deal for now. I'm hoping to TAKE IT with me.

- Paul