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Saturday, September 17, 2016

2016 No Sleep 30 Hour

Our pre-race had been such a disaster that I had no emotional energy for last-minute nerves. More than anything I was ready to sink into my default stress-handling strategy: denial. Nothing like a long race to push your troubles to the back of your mind or at least give you pressing new problems to occupy it.  Shortly before midnight everyone converged on the start line for team pictures and last-minute instructions.

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Photo credit: No Sleep
It's a measure of just how far my head was from the game that it hadn't occurred to me that we had no passport until one of the more lucid teams asked about it. "You'll find them somewhere along the lakeside trail between here and the bike drop," we were told, and with that the race was on.

Prologue (lakeside trail to bike drop) -- 1ish mile?:

While most of the field dashed off, we settled into a fast hike in the company of Team Wickaway and 361 Adventures, enjoying the chance to talk AR and especially the return of the LBL Challenge with the guys who are bringing it back.  That race has a special place in my heart because it was my first 24 hour race and, more importantly, my first race as a Team Virtus member, so I'm happy it's fallen into such good hands. The 361 guys took over another of my favorite races, The Fig, and kept it just as awesome as before, so I know LBL will be on my schedule for 2017.

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Cool light antlers on the prologue run trek
We followed the trail to the volunteer with the passports and then continued to our bikes, where we transitioned slowly and then had to stop about 20 feet into the ride when my lights wouldn't come on; a quick check showed the cord had come unplugged. That was the first easily solved problem we'd had all day.

Bike to TA1/Redbud Campground (CPs 1-3 in order) -- 22 miles

Our first bike leg was largely uneventful. Chuck did a great job with the nav as we started on pavement and quickly transitioned to gravel. We ticked off CP1 (bridge) with no problem and then headed towards the next one. The roads became less gravel and more chunky rock and dirt as we neared the location of CP2 (crevice - failed spillway). We initially overshot it before locating the right general area and then, peering into a deep crack in the ground, spotting the reflective glow of the marker.
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It's deeper than it looks; or maybe, if you're a gigantic chicken like me, it just looked deeper in person than it looks in the picture.  (1:43 a.m.)
I was on one side of the crevice and Chuck was on the other, so he had a clear view of the dismay that spread across my face as I realized I was going to have to climb into the chasm of death to get the punch. Being the awesome teammate he is (and probably not wanting to lose the 30 minutes it would take me to white-knuckle myself down and back out), he held out his hand for the passport, which I gratefully handed over.

It is a definite strength of our team to not share the same fears.  I can look into Kate's  "Chasm of Death" and know that it would suck to fall in there.  But at the same time I'll be thinking, "This looks like an awesome playground!".

I'm not sure Chuck has any fears, which leaves plenty of room for all of mine.

I'm not entirely sure why I love adventure racing so much when most of the things that make it an adventure terrify me. If it was up to me I'd be doing "slightly out of my comfort zone racing" instead, but that would make for a lame story, and as I told one of my (non-AR) friends this week, "it's so much fun once you've survived!"

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Our intended route from CPs 2-3 highlighted in orange.
We're originally planned to take the more direct River to River Trail between CPs 2 and 3, but we took one look at the soft mud at the trail entrance and gave that plan a hearty "hell no". Apparently Alpine Shop was the only team to take this route and regretted the decision.

When we are plotting courses the night before a race we call these decision points "game day decisions".  After getting a real-life look at the area we generally make good calls that work out for the best.

Our final CP of this bike leg was in a cave. Riding uphill and watching for the correct left turn, I spotted a street sign reflecting in the distance. "Wouldn't it be great if that sign said something helpful like 'Cave Road'?" I mused to Chuck.

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Wish granted. (2:20 a.m.)
We turned off the gravel of Sand Cave Rd. onto some doubletrack, dodging rocks and skirting mud puddles until we neared the cave. I may walk faster than Chuck on pavement, but I'm way slower than he is on trail and at this point was hampered by the last gasps of my dying headlamp. The cave was totally worth the visit. It felt huge inside. Very cool. (My picture totally didn't turn out in the dark, but here's a link with some daylight pictures and another suggesting that Sand Cave was a stop on the Underground Railroad). One of my favorite things about adventure racing is getting to visit spots I wouldn't normally see, and by 2:20 a.m. the No Sleep team had already delivered.

And they continued to deliver non-stop!  No Sleep did an outstanding job showcasing how beautiful and rugged the Shawnee National Forest is.  We got an 'insiders' tour of the area that no casual visit would ever reveal.

I finally took the time to replace my headlamp batteries while at the cave, so our remaining miles to TA1 were well lit and happy. I've always used my hardtail for AR, but between the fact that Shawnee singletrack is far from the groomed trails we take for granted here and (more importantly) that I haven't yet exorcised the Thunder Rolls demons from that bike, I'd gone with full suspension. It was still early in the race, but I was delighted this first bike leg hadn't been marred by the horrible discomfort I felt at Thunder Rolls and that I hadn't yet had reason to regret bringing my full suspension SuperFly.

This first bike leg was perfect: long enough that we were ready for a change, but not so long that we were dying for one. Though we didn't know it at the time, that was the last time we would enjoy that sensation. Blissfully ignorant, we rolled into TA1 around 3:21, changed into trekking shoes, and headed out within a few minutes,

(To be continued...)

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