2017 Castlewood 8-Hour

Note: Written by me, of course. Commentary by Mickey in pink. Additional commentary from me (because it's my blog and I get the last word :D) in blue.

This year marked my sixth year racing in the Castlewood 8-Hour, my eighth year participating in some form, and only my second year racing it as part of the exact same team. Those years have included three different race directors and temperatures ranging from 16 degrees to 70. With all those changes, the one thing that has stayed the same is that Castlewood never fails to be a fun day.

That said, race eve found me decidedly unexcited about the upcoming event. I used to count down the minutes to my next race with the breathless anticipation of a kid at Christmas, but I've seen students walk to the principal's office with more joy than I felt as I drove towards Kirkwood. A difficult school week after my very busy Thanksgiving break probably didn't help matters, nor did the extra two hours at work preparing sub plans in advance of Monday and Tuesday's jury duty.

So it was a very grumpy Kate making the drive to meet up with Mickey, Renee, and Brenden to go over maps and plan for the next day. Mickey and Renee did the plotting, and Brenden contributed both dinner and a vast knowledge. I ate pizza and watched 20/20, and since they finished the map work before the episode ended I still don't know whether the wife killed her estranged husband or not.

The hour drive to the 5:45 a.m. bike drop made for an early alarm on race day, but I was the first of our team to Castlewood State Park. Mickey and Renee arrived shortly after I did, then we picked up breakfast (Mickey: Where we ran into the No Sleep Adventures crew for the first of several times that day.), dropped off my car at overflow parking, and realized we had no idea what the name of our start location was. Eventually we just searched for elementary schools in google maps and looked for a name we recognized.

Any lingering crabbiness was dispelled at the race start, which was basically a huge AR family reunion. It's such a great community, and many of my favorite people were milling around. Shortly before 8:00 Emily gave last-minute instructions, then everyone collected passports and headed out to the start line.

Trek ~6 miles, 1:05, CP 1-13 any order
This map includes CPs for trekking leg and the end of the final bike leg.
The race started with a run down the paved Rock Hollow trail. Though Renee and I have both been running lately and the guys have not, we trailed behind them as teams passed us by. I watched semi-desperately for the attack point for our first CP, when we'd start bushwhacking and thus move more slowly.

Photo credit: David Frei
The first four points were in reentrants on opposite sides of the paved trail, and we'd decided to attack them 2-1-3-4. From there, we did a mix of bushwhacking and trails to collect CPs 5-12, punching 13 at the paddle put-in. Brenden navigated this section while Mickey did all of the punching; I carried the clue sheet as a backup in case there were any questions, but mostly what I did was remind people to eat and compliment them.

Paddle:  ~6.5 miles, 1:25 (no CPs)

We put in at a Meramec River access point along the Al Foster Trail and paddled about 6.5 miles downstream to Castlewood State Park. Mickey had nominated me to do the paddle nav (despite the terrible job I did of it at Mission), but I "accidentally" "forgot" to get the map from Brenden. This leg was noteworthy mostly because of our team's improved paddling. Mickey and Renee were cruising. Brenden and I were usually close, but rarely in the lead, and both of us were very, very happy to finally reach the take-out point.

Mickey: I'm convinced the problems Renee and I had last year were due to bad weight distribution. That was probably the most enjoyable race paddle I've had. I think I'm finally getting this paddling thing!

Towards the end of the paddle
That said, it was a very pretty float and we even saw two bald eagles. As I told Brenden, if I liked canoeing I would have really enjoyed myself.

Bike 1: ~ 10 miles, 1:06

After a somewhat leisurely transition from paddle to bike, we set off onto the Castlewood trails, where Brenden once again led us straight from point to point. The points were in close proximity and could be found in any order, which meant bikes were zipping around in both directions on the narrow trails, and apparently in a race no one cares about the whole "uphill riders have the right of way" etiquette. After about the third time I was forced off the trail by someone flying downhill at me, my scowl started to feel permanent.

Singletrack CPs in Castlewood
Thankfully there were only a few CPs to find, and then we were off the singletrack and riding down the road. We only had one tow, and since Renee wasn't interested in using it I was happy to take the assist. Alpine Shop passed us during this section, and maybe it was the distraction of seeing our friends, but I let go of the tow just before starting the biggest climb of the day. (Mickey: Ugh!) I tried getting back on, but after dropping it twice I resigned myself to riding without assistance. It didn't feel easy, but it felt easier than I remembered it being in the past. And he can "ugh" all he wants...I wasn't the last person up the climb, so my dropping the tow didn't cost us any time.

Road section of the bike leg
Before long we were pulling into the parking lot at Sherman Beach State Park to get our optional extra map. We'd guessed ahead of time that the mystery leg would be a trek, but instead it held more bike points. I made a quick stop at the cleanest port-a-potty in the world, and then we hit the trails again.

Bike 2: ~9 miles, 1:14
(Mickey: Wow! I would have never guessed it was that long or took that long!)

The bonus map. CP39-42
The extra points were all set in the Castlewood flats, and we made quick work of them before heading onto the Al Foster Trail towards Zombie, one of the newest and best trails in the area. It's a great trail, but it has plenty of places, from rocks to switchbacks, where I struggle. As one of my most frequent riding partners, Mickey is well aware of my mountain biking issues, and as we approached the trail he reminded me, "Don't make it any harder than it has to be."

All of these final points were set along the trail, and we took full advantage of Brenden's trail knowledge. I had to laugh as Mickey, unaccustomed to being without the map, kept asking, "Are you sure about where we're going?" I could tell it was driving him a little crazy to be in the dark. Welcome to my world.

If his head was full of unanswered route questions, mine was full of self-doubt. I felt like I was riding badly, getting more frustrated with myself with every time I had to put a foot down, and I couldn't believe no one was passing us with me riding so slowly. At one point I told Renee, "I feel like the guys would have so much more fun if they raced together and didn't have to keep waiting on me".

We did some chatting as we rode, earning us a scolding from the guys. "Get your heads in the game! This is a race!" Eventually Mickey dropped back to provide some encouragement, and before long we were coming to the end of the singletrack.

One of the iconic Zombie photo ops.
Photo credit: Bill Langton
All we had left was the climb back up the paved trail we'd run down that morning, and I was happy to have the assist from the tow. (Mickey: We killed that climb! That 2P male team we passed couldn't even thing about jumping on.) Looking at the maps the previous night I'd been sure the race was going to take us a lot longer than last year's; instead we crossed the finish line in just under 5 hours, even faster than in 2015. We ended up 5th in our division (out of 23 teams) and 18th overall (out of 80).

Type 2 Fun at the finish!
Thanks to Alpine Shop and especially race directors Emily and Erl for a great event, thanks to all of the volunteers who helped the race run smoothly, and thanks of course to my teammates, who did an awesome job. (See? A complimenter's job is never finished.)


  1. Every team needs a complimenter. I am often happy to fill that role, too! Nice place overall (see? Like that.)

  2. One of these days I'm going to try an adventure race - your reports always strike a good balance between the pleasure and the pain


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