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

Sawyer 3 Way Water Filter - Long Term Test Report
posted Thursday, April 30, 2009 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 3:08 PM - 0 comments

When I first got my hands on the Sawyer 3 Way Water Filter I was somewhat skeptical if it would be practical enough to use for adventure racing. After having used one extensively for almost a year now, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend one to anyone looking for a lightweight worry free water purification system.

Hooking up the filter is trivial; you can cut your current bladder hose and insert it in line, or use the supplied tubing to connect it. Depending on your pack, you'll have to determine where in line to install it. On any of the Inov-8 Race Pro packs you'll need to attach the filter close to the bladder so it doesn't kink the hose and so it fits inside the pack.

One of the most common questions I hear when I tell people about it is "Doesn't it make it harder to drink?" and my answer is no. You need slightly more suction to take a drink, but most of the time I don't even remember it is there.

Why not just use chlorine tablets or iodine? The filter certainly weighs more than a bunch of tablets, but at 1.8 oz it isn't a lot of weight. The biggest advantage is that you can fill your bladder and drink immediately. There is no need to wait 15 minutes while the chemicals go to work on whatever might be in the water you just scooped out of a river. There is also no fumbling with nearly impossible to open foil packets or tiny tablets that spill all over the ground when you job the jar. In addition, the filter doesn't add any flavor to the water like iodine will.

One of the best things about the filter is that it can be used with your favorite drink mix or electrolyte tablets, like nuun. The instructions warn that anything added to the water must be completely dissolved, or it may clog the filter. I've run more than 5 tubes of nuun through mine without any issues.

You don't have to use the Sawyer filter with a bladder if you don't want to. On several occasions I've hooked up a hose to the filter and submerged the filter in water and used it like a filtration straw. It's a great way to travel light and fast when there are many water sources available.


Getting our Endorphin Fix
posted Monday, April 27, 2009 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 8:18 PM - 0 comments

Two of the southeast's most competitive adventure racing teams, Checkpoint Zero/Inov-8 and ROAM/Inov-8, teamed up this past weekend to take on the Odyssey Adventure Racing Endorphin Fix.

After three hundred miles of mountain biking, trekking, paddling and orienteering we came away with sore feet, swollen ankles, bruised muscles as well as 2nd and 3rd place overall, along with second place in the co-ed elite category and first in the two person male category.

About a week before the race, both Inov-8 teams were left with only 3 team members each due to last minute injuries. Seizing the opportunity to race together, we joined forces and decided that racing as a 6 person group was worth the risk.

Known for their brutally difficult courses, Odyssey once again lived up to their reputation and gave us over 300 miles of torturous terrain. We went up mountains, down mountains, across the tops of mountains, and through the valleys and rivers. Typical fare for adventure racing, spread over 80 hours.

Unlike most races that put a ropes section far enough into a race to spread teams apart, this years E-Fix had a relatively short 35 mile bike ride before the rappel. Our starting strategy was to be one of the first teams there so as not to get held up by any bottle necks. As it turned out, we hammered the first bike ride and wound up at the ropes first. We managed to get 4 of our 6 people down before ATP / Salomon showed up at the top.

Knowing they were right on our tails, and only able to send one person down at a time, our two person team of Bo and Charlie got down first and quickly set out for the paddle. There they started getting both teams bikes situated in the boats, in anticipation of the longest paddling leg.

Paddling with a bike in the boat is not high on the list of things that I want to do on a regular basis, but as it turned out that the paddle wasn't too difficult. We took on some water dropping through a series of rapids, but fared much better than the pack that was spread out for miles behind us.

As the race progressed through paddling, biking, and trekking sections, our lead over ATP/Salomon stretched and contracted depending on mode of travel. We were slower on foot, while they were slower on bike. By the middle of the second day, we had come into CP 23 together. As we took a moment to rest our feet, we watched as ATP passed us. I had a feeling we wouldn't be seeing them again.

Because of course cutoffs in place, we were fairly sure that no other teams were going to make it to the point we were at. All we had to do was make it to the finish to secure second place. It is hard to let someone pass you by, but when running around for days, even feet shod in our fantastic Inov-8 shoes needed a break. The hard part of just making it to the finish, was that it was still at least 18 hours away.

As we completed the last major trek section, we found out that one other team, Untamed New England, had made an all out effort and made the trek cutoff. Now they had a chance to catch us. Instantly, our strategy instantly switched from just getting to the finish, back into race mode. The six of us debated on the gap we had, and decided we had to go for several orienteering points at the finish, just to provide a little extra insurance.

We ended up nabbing 2 optional orienteering points, figuring that was enough of a cushion, and started the last haul up to the finish. To our amazement, Untamed New England caught and passed us about 6 miles to the finish! We panicked. Did they have more points than us? Why would they be moving faster than us? Certainly the person at the last TA would have told them how many points we had, and how far ahead we were. Not taking any chances, we pushed the pace to catch up with Untamed.

As we asked them how many points they got, we new that we couldn't trust what they said if we really wanted to keep 2nd place. What if they were tricking us?

Realizing we had no choice, we upped our pace and assaulted the last climb to the finish as best we could. After 77 hours of racing, an hour of sleep, and two hours of rest, we crossed the finish line.

Having left almost three hours on the clock, we knew that we left points out on the course, but sometimes pointless suffering must be cut short, no matter how much fun you think you might be having.

In the end, Untamed New England obtained 3 CPs less than we did, and we kept 2nd place overall.

As we all sit and nurse our feet back in the land of the living, we can only thank Inov-8 for making such wonderful shoes. It's rare for me to be able to race for 3 days and come away blister free. Now if only I had some Swiftwick compression socks like Julia has, my feet wouldn't look like overstuffed sausages right now.


Inov-8 teams on the move!
posted Thursday, April 09, 2009 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 11:53 AM - 0 comments

Invariably it always happens. Teams get formed for a race, and somewhere along the line life gets in the way. Whether it's family commitments, work related, or just playing too hard, someone has to pull out. Then begins the scramble.

Last year, when putting a team together for the Planet Adventure Race, it was two days before the start before we found a final teammate to compete. Looking for teammates for a 24 hour race isn't the easiest thing, but it's a whole heck of a lot easier than finding someone who is in shape, has a flexible enough schedule, and actually wants to go out and race a 3.5 day expedition race.

First you start calling your other teammates, asking if they can get out of whatever commitment that prevented them from coming in the first place. Then you ask the people you've race with before. Then onto people you may not have raced with, but come recommended. Finally, you start asking complete strangers. One never hopes to take it that far, but with all the time and capital invested in preparing for an expedition race, you aren't as likely to walk away and just not race.

This year for the Endorphin Fix, we didn't take it completely to the wire, but it was close. Just 6 days before the start we figured out, in the words of Paul Humphreys, a Wall Street merger...AR style.

Checkpoint Zero / Inov-8 along with Team ROAM / Inov-8 have combined forces to form the feared 6 headed monster at E-Fix. We'll be fielding one co-ed team of four, and a 2 person male team with plans to race together for the duration.

There are always risks associated with combining teams and trying to stay together the whole time, but in this case we've decided the reward is worth it. To all you other teams racing E-Fix...Inov-8 is on the move!

Be sure to check out all the action on Checkpoint Tracker starting April 16th!

The Barkley 2009
posted Tuesday, April 07, 2009 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 3:52 PM - 0 comments

This, so called, race is best summed up by Race Director Gary Cantrell's pre-race BBQ chicken;

Burnt on the outside & frozen on the inside!

Watching Gary slather on the BBQ sauce with his bare hands and timing the cooking process by the amount of cigarettes he inhaled sent a chill down my spine. Of course it didn't stop me from eating the chicken; I mean, c'mon!

So back again. After being totally humbled last year I figured I could only learn from the experience and improve; right? Right? RIGHT?

In true Barkley fashion, Gary kept all the racers in suspense about the start time (signaled by him blowing on a conch shell one hour before the race start). The race can start any time between midnight and noon on Saturday. You never know. Gary eventually blew on the shell just before 10AM signaling a start time of 10.55AM. We'd better move fast if we wanted to complete the first loop before dark.

The course this year was the same as last year with eleven books to "find" although a couple of book placements had changed. To make sure you complete the course as instructed, Gary gives you eleven book locations and a set of written instructions. You have to copy the locations from a master map then, literally, navigate to a book, rip out your page # which is the same as your race # and at the completion of each loop, hand in to Gary all eleven pages with your race # (if you are starting a new loop, Gary gives you a new race #). Only upon him verifying that you have completed the loop are you allowed to continue. The navigation is not impossible but you have to concentrate and it gets exponentially harder in the dark. Add some exhaustion and sleep deprivation into the mix and you can see why people miss books and why pre-race scouting is so important! Oh yeah, a few examples of Gary's written instructions; "Go a long a ways", "climb down one bench", "take this trail some" are what you can expect!

The first lesson that I forgot was not to go out too fast. Up and over the first climb to the top of Bird Mountain (1600 vertical feet in about 100 yards!!!) had me tailing just Byron Backer & Carl Laniak both accomplished, fast ultra runners who had both completed three loops the year before (three loops is fondly referred to as the "Fun Run" reserved for women and children only as it is so "easy"!). This first section is all on "Candy-Ass trail" as Gary likes to call it. I find book 1 with no problem and head around to book 2, which is in a new location. After whacking through some briars to find the trail again, straight there with no problem then down to a bunch of deserted old strip mines known as the Coal Ponds. I got very "misplaced" here last year on my second loop and wanted to really figure it our better this year. This area was out of bounds for training/scouting so I was concentrating hard. I still wasn't too happy getting though it but noted a couple of points for my next loop. Up to book three, no problem then down to one of two water drops on the course and bumped into Team CP0 Captain Peter Jolles who had volunteered to crew for me and was out on the course taking photos and getting a bit of a work out.

I had got very lost on the next section, the previous year and had scouted it out pretty well a couple of weeks ago so up onto Stallion Mountain then Fykes Peak (the peak had actually been mined out so it's really Fykes crater!) then the long downhill to the New River towards book 5, picking up book 4 on the way. I was traveling in third place and got passed by a bunch of runners, led by veteran Mike Dobies on this section as it was rocky and wet underfoot and I tend to ease off a bit on this stuff to protect my dodgy ankles.

We headed up the Testicle Spectacle, which is a long, steep power line cut that just gets steeper. Then down Meth Lab hill and onto the Neo-Butt Slide to book 6 at Raw Dog Falls (don't you just love these names?). My calves and quads are seriously kicking up now and I'm starting to regret not doing more hill work; second lesson forgotten.

Up and over Dangerous Dave's climbing wall (a hand over hand scramble/slide/scramble, probably about 100ft high) and down the other side. Up a steep draw, cross the main road and then up, up, up towards the next infamous climb; Rat Jaw. This used to be a lot tougher as the saw briars were up and over your head but in recent years prisoners from one of the two jails bordering the park had cut them all down, well down to about six inches, just enough sticking up to constantly rip up your ankles and lower legs. I'm down to one eye at this point as one of my contact lenses was totally fogged up and Appalachian Trail speed record holder Andrew Thompson passed me at this point but takes the time to chat for a bit although I'm sure he couldn't understand my gasping attempt at conversation and we picked up book 7. At the top of Rat Jaw a crowd of spectators were enjoying our suffering and we hit the second water drop where someone had thoughtfully left some cokes. I thirstily downed one and set about changing out my contact lens with the help of a camera crew making a documentary about the race for the Sundance channel. The day was warming up and I was starting to feel the heat a bit. Andrew had barely stopped to fill up his water bottle and had left a few minutes before. I caught up with Mike Dobies, Dewayne Satterfield and co and stuck with them up over The Hump to book 8. Down the other side and along to book 9 at the Indian rock.

We then started the difficult descent to book 10 at the confluence of two creeks. The footing is slick, steep and rocky and I'm amazed at how fast these other guys can move down it. I'm hanging on for dear life. This area is difficult in the dark and banned from scouting so I was really trying to suck it all in. We hit book 10 OK and then up for the last really major climb "Big Hell" which is another 1600 vertical feet in about half a mile or something equally as ridiculous. While climbing this I notice I'm dropping back from the other runners and my head was starting to swim a bit. It's a long climb, I should imagine at least 45 minutes, maybe longer and by the time I hit the top I'm feeling really lousy and puke a little bit. Hmmm, not what I was really wanting at this stage. The other runners had long gone and I didn't hear anybody behind me so I took my page from book 11, kept on moving and picked up the Chimney Top trail and took it in totally the wrong direction for about 15 minutes. I was in a funk at this stage an NOT concentrating. I happened to notice the sun coming down in front of me and realized I shouldn't be heading west. A complete vocabulary of swear words later and I'm heading back to take the trail the right way. That little maneuver cost me almost 30 minutes.

I'm really feeling like crap now and this section of trail goes on and on and on. My memory was that is was all downhill but in the middle you start climbing again. My legs were total jello at this point and another runner, Wendell Doman (another veteran) passed me sprawled out at the side of the trail and, very kindly, gave me some crystallized ginger to settle my stomach. I swallow a couple of pieces, throw them straight back up and stagger on down the trail.

After a couple more miles I hit the main park road and take it to the start/finish line at the infamous yellow gate at the north end of the campground. I'm vaguely aware of a few cheers and Peter asking me what I wanted to eat but I'm not sure if I responded. I touched the gate, handed my baggy with my race # and pages to Gary and collapsed in a heap on the ground.

Head spinning, stomach churning, Peter half carried me back to our campsite and started getting my pack resupplied for the next loop. He had ravioli cooking for me and anything I wanted to drink. Unfortunately all I could do was crawl into my sleeping bag and curl up in the fetal position. I still had three hours to get back out before the cut off but in between bouts of sleeping, cramping and whimpering, all the while refusing Peter's offer of food and drink, it was soon obvious that my race was done.

And so it was.

2008: Rookie - one loop and partial second loop.
2009: Seasoned veteran - one loop; barely!

Congrats to all who started and especially to Fun Runners; DeWayne Satterfield & Byron Backer. Extra special congrats to Andrew Thompson for completing all five loops in just over 57 hours to become only the eighth finisher of this race.

Am I going back to try it again? Probably. Maybe. One day. I think. Possibly...

The Barkley Marathons - "The race that eats it's young!"


Another victim claimed
posted Monday, April 06, 2009 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 6:19 PM - 0 comments

As I made my way back to the main TA to wait for Jon to finish his first lap, I could only imagine what punishment he was enduring. After more than an hour of agonized waiting, I finally caught a glimpse of a lone figure staggering up the last hill to the infamous yellow gate that signifies the start and finish of each lap. As the wavering figure got close enough I recognized it as Jon, and feared the worst. Dehydration had taken its toll on him, and he had been unable to eat or drink much in the last miles of the loop. After getting a chance to lie down and try to re-hydrate, Jon decided his day was over.

It was a disappointing result, but the Barkley is a cruel mistress, and has no mercy. For the complete story of what happened out there, we'll have to wait for Jon to recover and reflect.


The hills are alive...
posted by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 6:08 PM - 0 comments

With the anguished cries of the broken souls attempting to finish the first loop of the Barkley. Several of the climbs on the course are long, wide open climbs that allow the spectators a great view, and the participants an all too visible reminder of how much work they have to do. This climb in particular is known as Rat Jaw.

Is there any better way to suffer?
posted Saturday, April 04, 2009 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 5:10 PM - 0 comments

This weekend Jon has decided to try the Barkley Marathon again. Known as one of the toughest running races around, it draws a motley crew all trying to make their way around Frozen Head State Park. I am currently waiting at the top Rat Jaw, watching for the tired expressions on the runners faces. Almost makes me happy I didn't get in.

- Peter

Patsy is ready. But is daddy?
posted Thursday, April 02, 2009 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 10:09 PM - 0 comments

My baby daughter, Patricia, is cheering for Team Checkpoint Zero/Inov-8 and daddy as they prepare for the MIX next month. I can't believe I'm going back to race the Michigan Expedition again. I guess I can't turn down a challenge that involves mosquitoes, sand and log-jammed rivers -- the usual adventure racing fare. At least now I'll have another fan at home cheering me on.

- Paul