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Sunday, March 1, 2015

New race on the schedule and a new teammate

Adventure racing is spreading in my family.  My brother Jim was my very first AR teammate, back at the 2011 edition of the Berryman Adventure Race, and four years later my sister-in-law has come over to the dark side.  Kristy actually started mountain biking when I did, going with me to my second Dirty Girls bike ride, but she ended up taking a break from the bike in order to provide me with an adorable goddaughter.

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She melts my heart.
With Bonkhard's absence from the 2015 race calendar, our chosen race (the Smithville Challenge) was off the table, and while quite a few new options have presented themselves, none both fit  my schedule and met our race criteria. We were looking for an 8-hour race, somewhat local, on a date that was likely to have decent weather.  In the event that we raced as a 2-person team, I'd be navigating, so we needed to avoid temperatures where we could freeze to death if I got us lost.

While March weather is notoriously unreliable (as evidence, note the 5ish inches of snow we got yesterday), the Physically Strong Adventure Race otherwise fit the bill.  It's an 8-hour, and it's less than three hours away.

Kristy and I committed, and we were all set to sign up as Moms Incredibly Lost in the Forest (Team MILF for short), when my husband raised an objection. He hated the name, totally not getting the joke or not thinking other people would get it.  While I thought he was being silly, I also figured that if a guy who is cool with me going out of town on a regular basis with male teammates wants me to change a funny team name, I can respect his opinion.  The later addition of Chuck and Patrick made the name obsolete, anyway: we were no longer all moms and no longer likely to be incredibly lost. Now we'll be racing as 100+ Project.

With her first adventure race on the schedule, my new teammate needed some experience.  She's been running as long as I have -- in fact, her question "Do you want to do this 5K with me?" back in 2010 is the reason I started running -- but hasn't spent much time on trails and even less time hiking off-trail.  The St. Louis Orienteering Club's February orienteering meet was the perfect training opportunity.  The three-hour course would give her a taste of what our race would be like and get me some navigation practice.

While we were technically limited to three hours, the course was open until 4:30. Interested more in practice than our score, we warned the meet director that we were going to try and clear the course, which would almost certainly mean we'd miss the three-hour cutoff.  "Don't worry if we're back late. I promise we'll be in by 4:30."

Gary, who knows me pretty well, replied, "You do realize it's 4:30 PM, right?"

We jogged down the park road in search of our first control, and I promptly took us into the woods too early. Thankfully I caught my mistake pretty quickly and shifted us over to the correct reentrant. Seeing some of the BOR guys further up the hill from us made me question myself, but I stuck to my plan, staying low instead of following them, and we walked right to the first control.

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Kristy punching her first ever control. :)
We found the second and third without any significant issues, and then we had a long trek to 4. There were two main route choices: down along a trail through a creek bottom or up along the ridgeline.  I opted to go high; trails sound like the easier choice, but so often the reality doesn't match the map. Terrain doesn't change the way that trails do.

Once we got up to the ridge, it was a pretty smooth trip to our attack point. If we were a running team, it was a very runnable area.  I bobbled our approach a little and we did a little back and forth in the creek bottom before settling on the correct way to go, but we found the control with little problem.  Hurray!  Other navigational triumphs were twice following a bearing (basically, connecting the dots and going as the crow flies) between points; I was a little nervous about this after my colossal failure at staying on a bearing at Perfect 10, but both times we went straight to our next point.

It wasn't all smooth sailing, though. While I'd managed to stick with my own plan despite BOR taking a slightly different route to the first control, I let other teams distract me on three other legs. Seeing someone come from a different direction or start their approach earlier than I had intended threw me off, making me question myself and end up off track when I'd been going the right way. My navigation has improved immensely; now I just need to work on confidence and focus.

Kristy mentioned later that she'd been surprised by how little we were actually on trails, but she did a great job. Even though this was her first time following along on a topo map, there were a couple times when she noticed things I didn't; by the end she had a pretty good feel for the map, and I don't think it would take her long to pass me up if she got some practice. Navigation definitely doesn't come easy to me, though I think I've reached the point where I can give good input if there's a question, which has been my goal all along.

We did, indeed, clear the course, and though it took us an extra 45 minutes to do it, Kristy got a good taste of what it's like to be racing for nearly 4 hours in hilly terrain. If I'd had any concerns about her ability to hang in there (I didn't), the Meramec o-meet would have dispelled them.

With trekking experience checked off, the next goal was to get her some time on the bike.  Unlike for orienteering, however, the weather did not cooperate. The unseasonably reasonable temperatures this winter mostly left the singletrack unrideable muck, but (semi)thankfully winter decided to make an appearance just before spring hits, leaving us some solid(ly frozen) trails.

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We met up with Chuck and Lori at Indian Camp Creek Park, one of my favorite places to ride, and hit the trails.  The bottom layer of ice made riding a little tricky, but the combination of bumpy surface and top layer of fresh snow left me relatively comfortable. The temperature started in the high teens but was very comfortable once we started riding.

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Conditions were definitely more challenging than riding on dry dirt; snow's a good teacher. You're reminded how much it helps to look where you want to go than to stare down in front of your front wheel, and you learn about how important it is to downshift to an easier gear so your rear wheel doesn't spin out on uphills.  Still, I had a blast. If I wasn't smiling at how much fun I was having, I was laughing about how bad I am at following a line.  Last night we got another 5-6" of snow, and if the weather gods smile on me tomorrow and deliver a snow day (looking sadly unlikely), I'll be back out on my bike.

Our race is in just under two weeks, and I can't wait.  I hope Kristy has as much fun as I think she will. With the team we have, it'll be hard not to.  Chuck was my most regular race partner last year; Patrick is my oldest adventure friend, and though I don't think we've ever raced together we've done plenty of training together. I have full confidence that we're going to have a great time.



7 comments:

  1. I personally think your team name is hilarious, but then, I'm a sucker for puns. I expect plenty of fun adventures from you guys in future posts!

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    1. Right?? I mean, clearly it's tongue in cheek. But like I said, when a guy who complains about so little that I do speaks up, it's worth listening (and keeping my eye rolls to myself, lol).

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  2. For once you have snow and we don't. Oh wait I totally lied. We've got at least 12" lingering. We just didn't get NEW snow. Well maybe an inch or so. All the best with your crazy races!

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  3. I'm going to try fat biking in a few weeks, can't wait to see what that's like

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    1. I so want a fat bike. Hard to justify with our limited and very inconsistent snow here.

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  4. Your are always ready for new adventures. I like your attitude.
    Go Superkate!!!!!

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  5. Do these adventure races always involve bike riding?
    MILF would have been perfect.. sometimes none needs to get the joke but you. Still... support is important. :))

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