Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Desert Winds Trip Report (Dave's)

Here is a trip report from Dave Russell, one of my teammates:

Desert Winds was a very cool race! The terrain was very bizarre. Once a desert, then the Hoover Dam flooded vast areas of land - and now it's turning back into a desert.

The race director is a very savvy guy who put together quite the brain puzzle of a course. He started the race with verbal instructions to head on a bearing of 286 for 2.5k. There you will find the maps on a small island. We had to swim out, find the maps and plot in the field.

A burro had eaten the first checkpoint, so everyone wandered around for quite awhile before giving up on it. I was a bit too stubborn and probably looked for too long. There was a short trek that included coasteering where we used our small inflatable rafts and fins. Two of the checkpoints were along shorelines and underwater about 6'! We skipped one of the 1st optional points because of time wasted on the burro thing. Then, it was back to the TA and into the kayaks.

From there it was a 15k paddle along a crazy complex shoreline that was hard to read on the map - because the water line in lake mead is about 60' below normal. There were only two mandatory Kayak CPs. The rest were rogaine style with 13 optional CP's. You could trek/kayak/swim to get them in any order. It was a very interesting nav puzzle that involved kayaking to a pullout, treking to a group of CPs, then moving on to the next section. Several of the CPs were "off map" and involved following written directions only. One section had a really nice slot canyon (in the dark). We ran past a buzzing rattler & almost put a hand on a poised scorpion.

All the CP's on the third trek section were mandatory, so you had to calculate your rate of travel while doing section 2 and leave the rogaine with enough time left to make sure you could get section 3 done before the noon cutoff.

Back to the TA around midnight, we took off again on a short kayak to the next section. These CP's were all given in bearing/distance format from the previous CP. So, if you plotted one wrong, the rest would be wrong too. We took care plotting. But, in the dark I managed to get us into the wrong cove anyway, so we had to trek a bit further and do some rock scrambling.

After about 5 hrs of trekking in the dark thru washes, gulleys, ridges and scrub, we got the sunrise and ran
around the desert for a few more hours. Leaving CP-5, a minor course deviation that led us into a wash became a major error when plunged deeper and deeper and led us down the wrong drainage, which nearly cost the CP.

Finishing up the trek, there was about 4k of swimming with the rafts, with the last CP on a very dramatic tiny island with a spire on one end - which Miles climbed in his slippery neoprean socks. Then a final kayak to the finish. Turns out we could have been more clever about managing the kayak/swim choices to avoid the long swim. But, frankly, it was really nice being in the water that morning.

There were lots of creative ways to solve this course. We left about 5 markers on the table because of the time cutoff - so totaled about 26.5 hrs on course. That got us 5th place. I know our team expectation was higher, but it wasn't my finest hour navigating and I made a bunch of mistakes.

The course was very cool and the company great. So all and all it was a really fun race.

Here's a link to the coursemap:
http://hatchcam. com/desertwinds/ coursemap08. html

and a Google Earth .kmz
http://hatchcam. com/desertwinds/ desertWindsCours e08a.kmz


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Desert Winds 26 hour Adventure Race

I travelled down to Temple Bar, AZ with Dave Russell, Kimberly Shavender and Murray Maitland to represent Mergeo at the Desert Winds Adventure Race along the shores of Lake Mead.

The race started with a 2km run along a bearing, then swim to a small island in a cover nearby, where we would receive our maps. I was introduced along the way to Lake Mead mud, which almost swallowed me up, and I had to make a hasty retreat back off the beach on my hands and knees. The first segment was a trekking/swimming rogaine. We got off to a poor start when we got to the first control and could not find it, spending far too long looking for it before we gave up. Apparently it was eaten by a burro earlier. A bit flustered, we decided to skip the second CP to get back on track (almost all the CPs were optional in this race). We hit CPs 3 and 4, both six feet under water along the shoreline, then headed back to the Transition Area (TA) for the next leg. A very intersting part of this race is that Lake Mead has fallen 100 feet in the last five years, and the maps that we have do not accurately reflect the shoreline, so we have to draw in where the new shoreline is.

The second leg was a long kayak, then a trekking rogaine. We set up a towline on our kayaks that worked very well and kept us all within talking distance, which we used throughout the race. We hit the first kayak CP(2-1), then carelessly overshot the second one. When we realized where we were, we headed back, and passed by a dozen other kayakers who had followed us going in the wrong direction. Back on track, we headed into the trekking rogaine, aiming for the bonus "off the map" CPs that were worth 2 points each plus a couple others (2-3a,3b) then looping back to the kayaks. We hit a couple other inlets to get CPs close to the water, then headed up a slot canyon into the washes behind it. By now it was quite dark. We aimed for CP 3e to the north (we should have gotten this from the north on the bonus CP loop more easily). At that point, we decided that we needed to save time for all the "mandatory" CPs in the last leg of the course, although they ended up not being as mandatory as we thought. Another mistake was not seeing CP 2-3i, which was close to our kayaks. If we had been paying more attention, we probably would have gone for 3h,3i and looped back to the kayaks, leaving only a couple of the distant CPs unfound.

Kayaking back to the TA, we arrived at just after midnight. The last leg was a sequence of CPs that needed to be plotted with distance/bearing rather than coordinates and then gotten in order (it turns out that it was only mandatory to get 6 out of 8 of these). Kayaking around the point to get to CP 3-1, we turned the corner too sharply and ended up in a small inlet several hundred meters from the CP. Although we recognized this reasonably quickly, we ended up going overland to get to the other CP rather than via kayak, which slowed us down a little. At CP 3-1, we got the coordinates for the last mystery CP. At this point, the smart teams (DART) went back to their kayaks and kayaked a couple kms to the bay where they were going to end their loop, then hit CP 3-2 from there (which in fact, was even a little closer than CP 3-2 was from CP3-1). Most of the rest of us went overland. We moved about 20 minutes per km over uneven broken ground. Our navigation was fairly spot-on here, with the exception of CP 3-6, in which we dropped into a gully that slowly took us too far left. I recognized that I didn't know where we were, but I somehow thought that we would be funneled into the saddle that we were looking for; however, the saddle was between two east-west valleys, not two east-west ridges, and so we ended up being funneled out of where we wanted to be, and had to climb most of a kilometer back up to the CP. That was definitely a low point.

Next, we ran down a wash to an inlet to get the "swimming" CPs. This required about 2.5km of swimming, which we could have avoided if we had moved our kayaks. However, the morning was getting nice again, and we almost forgot we were racing as we boogied along the water. We swam back to our kayaks (remembering where we put them at 2am), then headed on in to the finish. We finished at 10:15am, which was almost two hours early, so we could have definitely picked up some of the optional CPs in leg 2. I think that we were 5th out of 16 co-ed teams.

I feel that I learned a lot on my first 24 hour AR. We made a lot of errors in navigating, we could have saved some weight on swimming gear, we misunderstood some of the directions, our route selection could have been better and we didn't even notice one CP on the map. However, we did hang in there together and have a good time, and it was a excellent and beautiful course, so overall I was quite pleased.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Andrew Tames the BEAST

While Kathy and I were in Vancouver, Andrew was doing the 15 hour Beast race. The course got changed last minute into a staged format due to a permit that was denied, which did not make it as much fun, but since Andrew has only done one small AR before, it was going to be a learning experience, nevertheless.

He signed up for Lotto team, and spent an anxious week as other Lotto members dropped out. He ended up doing the race with Ian Hoag w/o any communication between the two ahead of time. Ian was an experienced racer, luckily, and they both showed up ready to rumble.

The last stage found them in front of the chase, with several other teams minutes behind them. Another team, Kagome, quickly caught up with them, and they traded the lead on and off for the rest of the rest. Kagome seemed faster, but Andrew and Ian could actually navigate. Towards the end, they decided to finish the race together, and Andrew did all he could to keep up with the combined group as they rocketed through the last several bike controls and finished in first place. Kudos to Andrew for being the only racer to dare to do the race with a mountain bike with no suspension. I think that's kind of like fighting your opponent left-handed.

Kathy runs a marathon

I went up to Vancouver last weekend to watch Kathy run her first marathon. She was a bit anxious the night before. Kathy rocked the course, however. I rode my bike around to see her at various points, and it took me a while to catch up with her, as she was running much faster than both she and I expected. I guess it's the excitement of the race. I carried extra GUs and potato chips for her if she wanted them. Kathy was not in the mood for potato chips (a normal running staple of her, she tells me), but gave me the evil eye when I started eating them while watching her run by.

Kathy finished the race in 4:35 or so, a half hour better than expected. She also felt great afterwards. I think that she wants to do a 50km trail run next. Go Kathy!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Beyond Backpacking

I'm reading Ray Jardine's "Beyond Backpacking". It is out of print, but I checked it out of the library. It is a classic lightweight backpacking reference. He's the guy that inspired the founders of Golite to create their company.

I like this comparison:

Standard Backpacking Approach: It is better to have a piece of gear and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

Jardine Approach: If I need it and don't have it, then I don't need it.

New (to me) Cascadias

Our feet are getting larger.

Andrew bought a pair of new Cascadias a half size larger than his old ones, so he gave his old ones to me. I've been thinking about getting some shoes that are slightly larger, especially for Primal Quest, where my feet are guaranteed to swell a bit. Now I have a new pair of these to try out. I really liked the Cascadias in the past, but the joint on my big toe always seemed to wear a hole in the side of my old Cascadias far too fast for my liking. This year's shoe has some extra reinforcement in that area, so I'm hoping it will last longer.