Friday, March 27, 2009

Gorge Winds II - Adventure Training

I planned to race the Chuckanut 50km Trail Run on March 21st, but my friend (and former Primal Quest captain) Dave set up an Adventure Training weekend down in Hood River as well. When he called me up and personally invited me, I changed my mind, packed my kayak, bike and gear, and headed on down. My friend Andrew was also going, and I thought it would be a good chance for him to get some practice at what a 24 hour race might feel like.

We decided to go for extra punishment and got a mountaineering start, leaving Seattle at 4:30am to drive down to Dodson, Oregon, about 20 miles shortof Hood River. The other out-of-towners stayed at the campground there on Friday night. The campground was also a TA (Transition Area) and official Finish. There we met three other teams who were also doing the training: DART (Glenn, Matt Hayes, Aaron Rinn, RVG/JVG), Verve (Murray,Peteris,Christi) and a couple of Dave's friends whom I don't know off the top of my head.

After dropping off the kayaks at the appropriate spot and watchingit rain all morning, we all finally got going at 10am. The first leg was a trekking leg up to a nice waterfall (I don't know all the names - I'll have to come back and fillthem in later), then a short double-back to another trail that paralleled the highway for a while.

The next CP was at the top of a mountain; we discovered a steep unmaintained trail that lead all they way up the ridge to the top. The sky had cleared a bit, presenting us with beautiful views of the Columbia stretching below us. Mist rose off the wet mountainside as the day began to heat up (above forty degrees). DART reached the mountain top first (there was no real CP, just take a photo) and headed alonga faint trail along the ridge. We followed later, to find the trail eventually petering out as it headed south along the ridge top. As we needed to go east to the next CP at thebase of a waterfall, we decided to drop down the side of the mountain into the woods.

We were having a good go of it, but as we dropped lower and lower, valleys and ridges became sharper and steeper, and we found it very slow going. We hit a couple small cliff areas that required a little sketchy sidehilling to get around, but we continued on and down until we could finally see the waterfall. The good news was that we were right on course and the waterfall was only a quarter mile away. The bad news was that we were on top of a 200 foot tall cliff band and could not get there without wings. Hmmm. I didn't see this cliff on the map, but the contours are in awfully small print. At this point, the only thing to do was head back up. We hiked up 300 feet or so and then contoured over several ribs, heading north back towards the highway. We tried a couple more times to find a way down, but ended up cliffed out again. We only found a way down when we were within sight of the highway on the north side of the mountain, and we finally made it down to the trail and road. There was a wide trail at the bottom of the canyon that went straight to the falls, so the two mile round trip out and back was very quick and mundane in comparison with what we had just survived.

Next, we crossed the highway and headed to the kayak put-in, passing a cute CP that took us by a viewing area to see Herman the 12 foot sturgeon. Arriving at the kayak CP, we discovered that DART was even more lost than we were. I heard later that they also got cliffed out somewhere along the way, and they found some rope and belayed/rappeled their way down some (short) steep cliff sections. They were crazy.

The kayaking was really beautiful, and took us along a stretch of the Columbia right below Bonneville Dam. Several CPs had us getting out of our boats, running around for a bit, then getting back in for another kayaking section. In one case, Dave added a mystery CP that we were required to find by using back bearings to a couple other points. We found out immediately when we got there that the back bearings were incorrect and did not intersect inside the perimeter that he had defined for the mystery CP, but we spent 25 minutes anyways hiking around and giving it our best effort. No luck. Another CP was at the top of Beacon Rock, which was a beautiful climb up a very well maintained trail (complete with railings) to a prominent spire looking out over the Columbia.

My favorite CP (and everyone else's least favorite) was another waterfall checkpoint, but in order toget to it, we had to land on the beach, hike through a creek-filled tunnel under the road, then follow the creek for several hundred meters through a slot canyon to the falls. Dave instructed us to wear wetsuits and booties, adding that we would be in cold water up to our thighs for an hour. We saw Team Verve, who was ahead of us, coming back down the creek looking bedraggled and upset. They apparently hadn't gotten the memo, and had tried hiking up the creek in biking tights. The water was well above waist level in spots. Wading through ice melt is not the smartest idea when only wearing biking tights on a cool day. Enough said. Andrew and I were better prepared, however. I wore my drysuit bib, which is basically gortex waders that cover you up to your armpits. I laughed and danced, except for the very last section where the water was actually deep enough to come up to my armpits. Then I laughed nervously. Andrew had a wetsuit on and no booties. His feet turned to ice, but he made it through ok. Team DART saw Verve coming out of the creek, and as they had no wetsuits either, they skipped the creek CP entirely. A surprisingly smart decision for a team that had
decided to rappel down an unknown cliff with discarded rope earlier in the day.

After wading through the creek, we kayaked back to the campsite/TA just before dark for a change of clothes and some food. It was difficult getting out of camp for the biking loops, and we spent at least an hour and a half there. Andrew and I picked up JVG as a third teammate for next part. She and RVG have a vacation home in Hood River; RVG took their daughter and went to bed, but JVG was itching for more, so she hooked up with us. I suggested a five hour effort, as that would put as back at the campground at 2am, and then we could get at least some sleep for the night. It was misting rain a bit, but eventually Andrew and Jen and I headed out.

The bike route headed along the old highway and was punctuated by trekking loops up to waterfalls. We did a couple of these trekking loops, each about 4-5 miles long and quite steep climbs. Dave had a third trekking loop in his course; however, we skipped that in order to bike up to Crown Point, which was a monument on a Columbia river overlook. The lights of Portland lit up the western sky. We would have liked to go further, but time was already running out.

Coming back down from Crown Point was quick and cold. I was a little worried about traffic, as we encountered a couple joy riders in the parking lot at Crown Point and all the drunks come out at 2am, but the old highway was very quiet. The only vehicle we saw while coming back was Dave coming out to check on people's progress. We told him that we had had our fill. There was another orienteering loop higher up on the mountain (if we had finished the last of the biking) that we skipped entirely, but sleep was looking pretty good right now. We got back to the campsite and packed up, then drove Jen back to their house in Hood River, where we all crashed for the night.

The next morning, we had lattes and omelettes at one of the nice breakfast spots in townbefore our drive home. Sweet!

Total time out on the course: 15.5 hours

Total distance: Not a clue

Total accumulated elevation gain: 8500 feet

Colinoba V

Chase and I were looking forward to Colin's fifth annual outdoor birthday event, Colinoba V.He designed an Urban Adventure race that involved bus riding, beer drinking, trekking, andvarious "special" events. We decided to call our team "Disco" (after all our runs in Discovery Park), and got outfits to match. We both showed up with the same crazy afro.

We started the race at Eastlake Bar and Grill with a collection of ninjas, leprechauns and other costumed creatures, and we all caught the bus down to Denny Park for a group pictureat our first checkpoint. Then the race was on.

In our first leg, we looped through Seattle Center and got to ride the bumper cars, play with orcas, and go to the theatre. We hopped the bus to Fremont for the mandatory pub CP at the Red Door.Here we had a choice between collecting business cards and doing a sudoku puzzle. I chose the latter,as I was still finishing my beer.

Our second leg took us north to Woodland Park, past the Tangletown pub, and back into wallingford.In Woodland Park, we had to discover the name of Colin's third favorite beer by running around to look for letters on trees, and after finding enough of them, build an anagram. How do you spell "xxxxx"?The answer was "Pike XXXXX Stout", but when we read an E as an F, we were temporarily stumped. Eventuallywe worked it out.

At Wallingford Center, our attempts to buy a cupcake were foiled by a large mob of teenagers
who had gottenin line in front of us. Is this how we want to spend our day? Jen Jerabek saved the day by buying a cupcakeoff of one customer so that we could all get our picture taken, and then we quickly headed off to Murphy's.

At Murphy's, we completed a crossword puzzle to discover a hidden message: go to Wallingford and 43rd to doa special task! The special task turned out to be a human wheelbarrow obstacle course. As the wheelbarrow,I did not have enough core strength to finish, and I crumpled into the dirt, sustaining injuries when I landedon my disco ball neclace. But the race must go on.

Chase and I finished with a long sweet jog back to Eastlake, passing Speedy Reedy to try on some cycling clothes,and passing the infamous "WALL OF DEATH". We retired to the upstairs of Eastlake Bar and Grill for the afterpartyand some great stories.