Thursday, November 14, 2013

Raid the Hammer

Last year, Ali and Amy Rusiecki and I did this adventure race in Canada as Team Giggles.  We won the women's division, and were close on the heels of the men's teams, just five minutes out of the lead in 5th.  We planned to do the race again this year, to see if we could get any closer to the lead.  Unfortunately, Team Giggles lost Amy when she tweaked her hamstring pretty badly the weekend before in a 50 miler (that she still won. beast!). Though she could still sorta run, she didn't think she could run fast, and neither Ali nor I wanted to push a bum hamstring in a long race. So, we started casting around for teammates, needing someone faster than Alex, somewhat able to orienteer, and crazy enough to be willing to drop everything and drive to Hamilton on a four-day notice. Enter Ari Ofsevit.

Bonus fact: Ari was willing to wear a pink tiara. Woo! 

Team Giggles with their awesome glittery home-made shirts.

After a lovely evening at the Waddington household, it was go-time. The course was really physical, lots of running and lots of flat running. I started suffering pretty early on from an unhappy digestive track and very sore ankles; I guess I was rolling them around more than I thought in the first off-trail section. Not my finest day physically, but it's a team event, and you're only as fast as your weakest link, so Ali was a rockstar and towed me along for all the urban or big-trail stuff with a bungee cord. Can I hire her for my road races? There was also a wicked headwind, so it was fantastic to have Ali breaking the wind (as opposed to breaking wind; that was my job) for me.

Map 1:

We took the road around to 1, and that didn't seem any slower than cutting through the fields. Other teams were faster, but I tried to find a pace that felt comfortable yet fast.  My feet felt like in their X-Talon190s, which were the best compromise between road and hard-trail running and super slippery mud, that made up the themes of the day.  My ankles were a little floppy cutting through the woods on the way to 1, which was a bit of foreshadowing for the rest of the race. From 1, we had "the matrix", where we were allowed to split up to get three controls, and then meet back up at 2. I had the shorter, marginally technical control, Ali had the far away brambly control, and Ari had the far away trail + climb control.

The trail run to 2 was gorgeous, and knowing I'd been on the shortest leg I slowed down to a jog to try and recover. Ali arrived at the control within seconds of me, and Ari was 3:18 behind her, so we'd picked a good strategy, and we left control 2 with the top teams.  Amazing how requiring all three members to navigate breaks up the race!

Map 2:

We got stuck at a traffic light trying to get onto map 2, with the matrix-code-checker people on the other side of the intersection, so lost the top 2-3 teams there, who'd snuck ahead as the light was going yellow. Boo. I was struggling a little with the pace, and my stomach was not being happy with me, but we were holding even with the teams around us through the southern portion of the map.

From 5 we exited the orienteering bit and had some road/wide-trail running. The organizers had blanked out parts of the map, and they didn't say we were forbidden to use the roads that went through those areas, but they did say that the roads wouldn't be a huge help.  So, we stayed on the mapped areas.  The trails were a hard-packed gravel/dirt mixture, typical suburban running.  Ari had brought bungee cords, so I bungeed myself to Ali's waterbottle belt, and this lent us a smidge more speed, while bringing my heartrate back below threshold. This was where I noticed that my right ankle was really hurting. Ankles are small things, but apparently I'd tied my shoe too tight, and that was pushing on things badly at the front of my ankle, a known problem area for me. We got stopped at another light, where another coed team was stopped with us, so I loosened my shoe there, but the damage was done, and that foot felt really tender the rest of the race.  Rookie mistake!

Map 3:

We took a better route to 8, not losing as many contours, and got ahead of some teams there. But then to 9, first I needed another pit stop, then Ari's nipples started chafing, so I was digging out the tape from our med kit as we were running, and then none of us were paying any attention to the map and overshot a reentrant by a bit and had to correct by running through some tall burr things. Oops. But, I saw a decaying bicycle in the streambed, which was kind of cool. Just half the rear tire and the derailleur sticking out from the mud and rocks. We also jumped over a dead and decaying deer. ewww.

Up the hill and through the neighborhood to 10, munching on some food, and we did better with making sure that somebody was actually navigating at all points. I suppose that's an actual drawback of having more than one navigator on your team - you always assume somebody else is navigating. We were ahead of the other coed team down to 10, and dropped them on the climb up to 11, especially after I bungeed back to Ali on the flat part into the feed. In the sideways freezing rain. Both ankles were really killing me now on the flat hardpack stuff, but I was hoping that the next section of orienteering would be better, since it was softer footing. I was definitely not going to let ankle pain slow us down; they're just ankles.

The climb from 12 was a doozy, a real map-in-teeth-use-fingernails-as-tread sort of climb (see Ari's tiara photo up top). I was having a lot of trouble running fast along the trail to 13, sort of in a bad little world of hurt and pain and ow and tired and poop. Ali did a spectacular job of trail finding on the indistinct guy to 13, and then we were in the "void", a vague area with low visibility, where I just ran compass checks on Ali as she spiked controls, with Ari acting as cheerleader.  We put some time on the other teams in that section, as we nailed all the controls and were moving decently, considering Alex's sorry state of being.

17-18-19-20 were all trail running, with Ari nearly killing himself tumbling down one of the steep slopes and me trying not to whimper too much about my ankles, the right one in particular now was giving me sharp pain with every step. One of the teams that beat us saved 4 minutes and 8 contours by crossing the uncrossable river; I guess since it's AR and they didn't specifically say "you'll be dqed if you cross that river" it's ok. Probably better not to go that hypothermic for me and Ali, but frustrating to lose that much time. Anyway, a long climb on road to 21, where Ali was just pushing me from behind, then a cruise along the river to 22, a final muddy climb back to suburbia, and then bungee all the way in, managing to stay on my feet and mostly ignore the ankle.

We ended up 6 minutes back, but first coed, which was our category. All the flat running was tough, but so were the steep muddy hills, and overall it was pretty fun. Team dynamics were good, and there were no tears. woo!  Sounds like next year is the 15th anniversary of this race, and the race director promises to put together some of the best parts of the last 15 years, so it's probably worth the drive, though going that way twice in three weeks was rough.  Team Giggles for the win!  hehe.

No comments: