Friday, October 7, 2011

2011 Summer Groove Adventure Race. Hardest/Best Race Ever.

On Friday the 30th of July I awoke at 5:30am. I showered, ate breakfast of Eggs and Bacon, then drove to work. It was a lightly stressful day at work, I left by 3:30pm, Home by 4.

Time to Shift Gears.
I am no longer, work Erik. I am now Race Erik. I Feast upon 2 Sauteed sweet potatoes, in coconut oil, and a can of chicken. Feeling quite full and anxious, I start to pack the car.
Bike, Kayak, Race Bag, 2 Totes, Cooler, Food, change of clothes, sleeping bag, pillow, and 2 Gallons of water.

Having double and triple checked my list, every day throughout the week, I am satisfied that I am fully packed. I kiss the wife and kids, and embark on my 1hr drive.
I have two freinds who are also in this race, Dwight, and Chris, they are set to arrive, at Ionia State Recreation Area, around the same time as I.
The drive is nice, I go slow, because I have never had the kayak mounted in this particular fashion before, but it seems to be holding nicely, at right around 70.

At around 6pm I arrive at the Rec. Area. I know I am real early, but I have planned for this, and try to take a nap, as planned.
I rock the seat back, open the windows, drop the hat over my eyes, and relax. Soon I realize that it is just too hot and muggy to sleep, and my anxiety is not helping at all.
By this time, some other racers have started to arrive there are between 3 and 5 vehicles in the parking lot, with all kinds of mountain bikes, kayaks, and canoes. I am constantly comparing my gear to the others.
Is my bike as good as theirs? Definitely not. Is my kayak as fast? I have no idea.

After people watching for a while, I decide it is time to unload.  I take down my bike, put the wheel back on, and true it. I check, brakes, shifters, pedals, lights, chain, and tire pressure. All seem adequate, I add a little air to the tires for good measure, after all it is easier to deflate than inflate. Bike Gear Check.  I make sure all my required bike gear is on my bike. Spare tire, Multi-Tool, Tire Levers, Pump, Helmet, Lights, and Batteries. All is present and accounted for. Lets fill that water bottle. I fill my bike bottle with a light mixture of HEED and Spring Water. I don't want it to get too warm, so I put it back in the cooler. Hey! There is a carrot in here, Lets Eat It!     Delicious.

More and more people keep arriving, but still no sign of Chris and Dwight, it is fast approaching 8pm. Oh well, they are not the most punctual bunch. Pulling in I see a Black Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, Full Cargo Rack on top, Giant CB antenna, Winch on the front and back, mild lift, aggressive tires, and a but load of thick rope. It pulls up next to me, I see the big burly driver of this rig emerge. He is all business. Black Cargo Pants, and Black T, I cant quite make out the print. He goes for a chat with the race director. I have to pack my bag.

I spread out all of the items I need to carry with me: Hydration Bladder, GORP, Jerky, Fruit Strips, First Aid Kit, Extra Socks, Sunglasses, Compass, Knife, Emergency Blanket, Long Sleeve Shirt, Glow Stick, Pencil, Note Pad, Cell Phone, Lighter, Epi Pen, Gloves, and HeadLamp.
First off I fill the bladder with a watery HEED mix, and slide it in. I love my bladder, The Osprey system is so easy to use. Then I place items I want to keep dry in ziplock bags, and pack it all in. I always try to pack my bag to be as flat as possible, and have no items that are loose and rattling, This way if I need to run, I am not annoyed by the jingle jangle of mixed gear. Small stashes of food in the waist pockets, and the rest in the Pocket at the top of the bag, easy food access is the key to staying properly fueled.

The Big Burly Brute is heading back to his Jeep, I can read his shirt now. Kent County Search and Rescue.
I think, this must be one hell of a race.

Finally, Dewey and Legard ( Dwight and Chris) show up, some hugs are exchanged, but then it is down to business. Lets go Register. We head down to the registration tent, sign in, and get our swag bags.
In our bags there are some random stickers, water bottles, some hammer gel, our race passports, team number signage, and a hat. Not a bad haul. Now that I am all packed up, I just hang around my buddies, eating carrots and avocados, while they prep their gear. We chat about past race experiences, and expectations of this one. We compare gear, and weigh the pros and cons of clothing choices, Pants vs Shorts, Long vs Short Sleeve. Typical pre race discussion.
We also discuss race strategy. Legard and Dewey, are racing as a 2man team. My partner ditched me. So I have chosen to race solo. There is no 3person division, So we decide that we will kind of all race together, each person contributing to the group. That sounds awesome. It sets some of my nerves at ease. After all a 15hr race is a long one, for your first solo undertaking.

Around 10pm I decide it is finally time to change clothes and prepare myself. I decided on pants, with a short sleeve shirt. After all, the lower portion of the pants zip off, so I can be wearing shorts in under 2 minutes. Time to prep my feet. My feet have still not completely healed from a 30+ mile hike about a month ago, and am worried about blisters. I put Moleskin, on top of Bandaids, on problem areas, I use Duct Tape, for potential hot spots, and do a liberal smearing of Vaseline over the entire foot. Wrap that all up in a SmartWool sock, and you have an awkard pair of feet. Hopefully this works.

It is getting close to time for the race breifing, a kind of still, anxiety fills the air. It is now dark, people are wearing headlamps, some people have lanterns on, and some are using car headlights, Everyone prepping, checking, adjusting, and double checking.
Legard and Dewey emerge from their gear prep, we meet in between cars, and notice we all have the exact same shoes. Team Green Salomon is born.

11:30 hits and we head over to the registration tent for breifing. I would guess there are around 30 teams, most of the people appear more fit than me. But isnt that always the case.
Our Race Director starts with an overview of the race. The disciplines will go as follows:
Night Orienteering, Night Single Track Mountain Biking, Night Road Biking, Canoe/Kayak, Ropes, Canoe/Kayak, More Ropes, Canoe/Kayak, Road Biking, Orienteering, Road Biking, Mystery Event.
I just think, that is alot of everything.
He mentions that there is alot of poison Ivy out there, and waits for a reaction from the crowd, there is none.
He mentions the abundance of Stinging Nettles, Everyone moans, I wouldn't have been surprised if I heard a scream. Our Race Director tells us that we will have to plot all of the 30+ Check Points using UTM coordinates.  We expected this...... But then he drops a bomb, he is only giving us 6 of the coordinates now. All other coordinates will be found at random checkpoints, and will have to be plotted on the fly.
Everyone is in awe. We have never seen anything like this in a race before, it seems ridiculous. No ability to Pre-Plan routes? Is he crazy?
They hand out the maps. They are all oriented funny, some landscape some portrait, some 8.5x11 some 14x19. Just awkward. The first thing I notice is that there are no points plotted on it period. I know he just told us there wouldn't be, but it is still a menacing thought.
He reads aloud the first 6 UTM coordinates. I thought they would be in order, CP1,CP2,CP3, etc...Nope.
Just random. He gives us 20 minutes to race start, everyone starts plotting franticly. Team Green Salomon scores a table, and we spread out. Luckily I came prepared with Markers, Highlighters, Ruler, and Plotting tool. Dewey reads off coordinates, while Legard and I plot, on our own maps, then compare, and make adjustments if necessary. I can tell immediately that teaming up was the right choice.
We have 3 of the 6 plots pointed when he starts the count down to race start.
10, 9, we obviously will be leaving late, 8, 7, 6 we find multiple errors, 5, 4, real late... 3, 2, 1, GO!!

Read my next blog post for what happens next.