Grizzlyman Adventure Race report
To begin, as Bill did, at the end: going as a team is harder, and going as a team is easier. Harder because there is communication, differences in ability, and at least twice the internal doubt to coordinate. Faster because if all of those are done fairly well synergy happens, one pulls the other at alternate times, two brains are better than one, stress is relieved, and you go harder because you don’t want to bag on your partner.
A team is harder and easier, especially in adventure racing.
Josh continued to raise the bar this year, asking his volunteers and himself to plan, set out and run a 24 hour races worth of checkpoints (60 were planned, 59 set due to snow). He then asked we racers to plot all those points late Friday night, formulate a coherent strategy, and then be at the line by 5 am to execute it. As Bill said, it was almost a 24 hour race already.
The profusion of checkpoints served to only briefly obscure the fact that, even moreso than last year, there was no obvious best choice. An even further twist was that, unlike last year where the order of run-boat-bike was obligatory, here nothing was, save crossing the finish line with your bike. Even the boat itself was optional, though with the after-boat checkpoint counting for 10 every team decided it was in their interest to paddle, and all did within the 10-2 time slot. Bill and I decided to maximize travel in the ~80 minutes of functional darkness, and maximize our strength on the bike, by running the two miles from the start to the bikes immediately, then pedaling along the river on a decent dirt road out almost to the far NW corner of the course. There we’d execute a big cross country loop on foot up and over minor mountains before returning to our bikes and reassessing based on time remaining.
This strategy worked well. We made a few minor errors, and occasionally suffered at the hands on less than ideal plotting and some very sneaky checkpoint placement (as well, coughGcough, some checkpoints that upon computer mapping really didn’t seem to be where the GPS said they ought to have been). Some more running-specific training could have sped things up a bit, but our route finding and slogging/bushwacking was consistently excellent.
We returned to our bikes with over half the time elapsed, and concluded that we needed to return to the bike transition, leave the bikes, and run over to the boat transition post-haste (before boating back to the bikes). [Apparently one team did what I thought was too risky to do with our ducky, and loaded their bikes on their boats to expedite matters, good on 'em!] I pinched my back tube halfway back, and made a mess of the switch, but we shambled over to the boats, snagging two checkpoints on the way, and proceeded downriver quickly. Bill and utter novice in moving water did very well following my instructions to either paddle or paddle like hell, and I tried to not run us into too many holes. Our tandem duckie was as fun to pilot as a dump truck, but did blast down the middle of the wave trains well enough, and reminded me that self-bailing floors are pretty cool. I believe Bill was impressed with how warm a drysuit is.
We won the race in the last three hours, by keeping most of our focus and apportioning our resources to bike to within striking distance of several more checkpoints, one which we found about 4 minutes before our designated run for home time. (Miss the time cut, and you DNF.) We made it back with 13 minutes to spare, and that last checkpoint made the difference. It added immensely to the satisfaction to’ve worked so well as a team, and to have raced a good race and had that consistency make the difference.
Looks like next year is set to be a full 24, and I think we plan on defending.
Adventuring racing is a curious creature, at least on this course. Relatively intense efforts biking, hiking or running fairly short distances between points is interspersed with necessarily calmer, slower moments looking for little white and orange flags in country with plenty of small curves and nooks for hiding them. For next year I’m going to train better overall, definitely with more foot work, and more importantly, do some real classical orienteering training. Some teams (like Ed and Laurie) were out the following strict bearings and pacing distances to find points. Bill and I, both with altimeter watches, relied much more on navigating bearings to a certain point before walking a contour with a sharp eye. A greater level of precision would augment and speed up our approach quite a bit.
That’s the plan, anyway.