Monday, March 29, 2010

Moab Adventure Race Report - 2010

The years first big race/adventure took us to Moab for the AXS series Moab Adventure Race where Annie and I would be doing our first race as teammates, which I thought would double as a funny marriage/social experiment aside from the racing. Both of which went fantastic - no public or embarrasing shouting matches, and a pretty successful campaign on the racing side considering it was our virgin run at this type of race. Race report with more detail than you care for as follows:

Check in: We (Tyler, Jeff, Annie and I) walked into the hotel where check in was taking place, and the first thing we saw were groups of racers huddled around tables and over their race maps. For me, with this being our first rodeo in the adventure racing scene, this was exactly what I was most insecure about, 1- would we be able to plot the course correctly, and 2 - if we figured #1 out, would we be able to stay on course once out there. We got checked in and picked up our race packets, ran into Matt, Laura, and Jeremy, and decided to all meet back at the townhouse to do the mapping together, which I think I was both publicly and secretly grateful for. The plotting exercise was fairly simple relative to what I'd imagined it might be, and I think we were all happy to have the reassurance of concurring bearing points on each others maps to check our work. We had 7 checkpoints to hit the next day, we had them marked on our maps, and from what we could tell, the route followed fairly obvious roads and trails, so the fear of blowing the race due to lack of navigation skill was put to rest that night. Discussion among the group the rest of the evening revolved around how cold the paddle would be, what to wear on the water, transition from boat to bike, where we could ditch the heavy packs without getting penalized, and the climb we'd encounter on the first bike leg up Long Canyon. Then everyone took off and we were left to get the packs and gear ready to go. Race sequence would be paddle, bike, run/rappel, then back on the bike to the finish.

Annie getting tired of checking and rechecking packs and gear, and Brock wrestling with grandma Leslie. My tendency is to overthink the nutrition aspect of these longer races, and I didn't dissapoint - loaded a lot more food than we'd take in during the day.

This is Annie about midway through the paddle, there's a point in all races (if you're really racing) where the race itself transitions from fun to long, regardless of distance. The smile is the giveaway that we're still in the fun stage of the day. We were one of the last to get into the water, but got into a good rhythm pretty quickly. We found the boat to steer better from the front seat, so back seat either skipped a dig for minimal correction, or called out for a sequence change wtih big digs to keep the boat tracking straight.

This is me with my "I'm a bad ass adventure racer who stops paddling to take pictures of myself" look, with the standard Moab cliffs in the background. The river section was all flat water, which is great for a cold morning when getting wet is unappealing. But, the tradeoff of having a calm/dry river leg is having to do a lot of work paddling in lieu of having a good fast current to ride. In those tandem boats, the difference between paddling hard and not paddling hard is somewhat marginal - thinking it will take a few of these races to figure out just how to approach this part of the day. Would call our effort here moderate, and I think it was exactly right for us. It's hard to get in good paddling shape without doing a lot of paddling - and we haven't, so we stayed right where we needed to in regards to intensity. The solo racers with the long creek boats were the exception, they were much faster.

The transition went well, we hit the checkpoint, stripped out of the wet tops/pants, and were on the bikes fairly quickly. First annoyance and rookie moment of the day for me came right away on the bike. I ride a Specialized Epic, which has a fantastic rear suspension setup that can be set stiff enough to darn near replicate a hard tail - it's tuned based on rider weight, and I'd made sure to dial it in the night previous - minus my pack. The pack was enough to make the suspension tune insufficient, and I had that nice squishy sag action that's undesirable in all but downhill terrain going.

Annie as we approach the beginning of the climb, which started at the river and topped out up near dead horse point. It wasn't far from this point that I realized Annie was having a really, really good day on the bike. Should also mention as a side note that her bike is not high end, it's heavy, made from left over tank materials I think - which makes her ride up this section all the more impressive. Long Canyon Road is short for Long, Steep Canyon road - it's a stout climb, with most of the vert coming on steep switchbacks, the kind of stuff Annie's never ridden, for the sole reason of it seeming like a stupid thing to ride up that type of thing on a bike. We tried to get her paced correctly, in a low gear that she could spin without approaching her limit, and I'll be damned if she didn't pedal up the entire thing, at a decent clip, with the exception of one rocky/sandy section that we all walked. Here she is at the top of the hike a bike section, one of my all time favorite race pics of her.
The rappell was just cool, nothing more needs be said. Annie stepped right over the edge just a week after a bout of height reservations on the Angels Landing hike down in Zion.
The run was where the day started to get long, we were fortunate to find out within 5 minutes of starting to look for it that checkpoint 4 hadn't been set out, this information came largely at the expense of a few mens team racers who had gone a mile down the trail before backtracking, thinking they'd missed it. We ran most of it, but true to my running form, I whimpered on a few of the bigger hills and had to slow Annie to a walk a few times. We also ditched off into the trees during this leg, for our one pee break of the day - our first ever tandem pee break.
Once back on the bike, we felt like we were dragging a bit climbing back up to the highway, but tried to push the pace knowing we had a huge downhill run with just a few miles of paved road left back to the finish. Annie saved a huge mistake by calling me back when I'd missed a turn on the paved road, and we climbed the last roller before the gradient plunged back down to the river. The descent went smooth and we spent the last few miles on the pavement recapping the highs and lows of the day, and how remarkably smooth it had gone for a couple of first timers.
In the end, we finished in 7 hours and 9 minutes - or 5th in our 2 person coed team field. We weren't close to the 4th place spot, so no second guessing certain strategies or sections thinking we could have improved our standing, just that cool satisfaction that comes from doing something hard and feeling like you didn't shortchange yourself/each other in the effort.

Post race, flying the Carborocket flag. Brad, that stuff got better and better the further into the race we got. Two bottles of highly concentrated pink lemonade combined with about 60 oz. of water in the pack worked for the entire day without a glitch. Annie loved it too, and looks even better in the jersey.
Takeaways from this one are:
1 - I dig these adventure races, will do more of them for sure.
2 - Would recommend doing your first adventure race with a teammate - can't say for sure, but I think it would have seemed like a lot longer day doing it solo. Although I think I know another who might differ on this opinion.
3 - Annie completely blew me away in regards to her performance. Funny that we're in our 11th year married, and she shed an entirely new light on her physical determination and capacity. It was not an easy day, and she lit it up.


Anonymous said...

Way to go! Weird to think we were on some of the same trail on the same day doing completely different races. I'd be back for an AXS if they'd get rid of that damn rappel.

Evilbanks said...

Nice work guys! Sounds like an awesome day.........Annie, you are a badass. Period.

Jonathan said...

That is awesome! Congrats you two!!

Jason said...

Brad - anxious to hear about your day. Not sure, but saw a few whom I suspect were doing your ride that day.

Banks/Lozy - thanks dudes. Working on getting some bike legs to chase you guys around at the races.

Marcia said...

Came across your blog from the Checkpoint Trackers website... Great job on your first Adventure Race! My husband and I also did that race (we are The Flatlanders) and it was really cool to see things through your eyes.

Hope to see you on the course again!

Jason said...

Marcia - thanks for stopping by the blog. We had a great time, and will watch for you as we're going to try and put more of these on the schedule. Look forward to meeting you.