Sand Storm Race was Tough! October 22, 2008Posted by Dave Of Prescott in Adventure Racing, Adventure Recreation, Events, Mountain Biking, orienteering, trails.
Tags: Add new tag, Adventure Racing, AR, Monsoon Adventures, Mountain Biking, mtb, orienteering, Race Report, sand storm III, trekking
I raced with Jonea as Team GO-AR in Tucson on Saturday. Actually it wasn’t in Tucson, it was east of Tucson on Reddington Pass Rd.
We arrived at the race site at about 6:00am and began to get our gear together. At the 6:15 pre-race meeting the race directors Aaron and Rick told us that those of us doing the long course would be doing things in the following order: A short “scramble” to two points to pick up our checkpoint card at one, and a ziplock baggie for trash at another, then a mountain biking leg with a bike drop in it, at the bike drop there was going to be an orienteering section, then biking back to the TA, then a final trekking section.
Looking around, I noticed that the terrain was going to be a challenge. It was rocky with lots of grass that had cat-claw and cactus hiding in it, and it most certainly was not flat! The directors had suggested that racers have slimed tubes, and now I could see why.
The first two points on the scramble could be retrieved in any order, so at the start teams went two different directions. We chose to run down the road, and let the uphill be on jeep trail. Within about 100 yards, teams were already spreading out, and the white and yellow streak ahead of us was the last sign of Dave and Windy on Team Big Fish Creative that we saw all day! Not far behind them were 6 racers all racing as 3 different Adventure Racing Concepts teams. We picked up our ziplock baggie (this was to help us control our snack and goo wrappers) and headed around a hill toward the next point. The map we were using was an USGS topo that was old and did not show all the roads that were actually there now, and instead of trusting my sense of direction, when I saw another team coming down a road toward us from the point, I just assumed (yes, I know about that word) that was the right way to go….oops. It actually did take us there eventually, but not until we had gone half a mile farther than we needed to. The silver lining behind this cloud is that two other teams that have great navigators on them (Rick Eastman on Sierra Adventure Sports, and Ron Birks on Team Tubac) both made the same mistake, so I was in good company in my errant route choice. We got the checkpoint card and headed back to the TA to transition to mountain biking.
Rather than actually plot the biking points, I just looked at the coordinates and eyeballed the point locations so we could get to pedaling. We biked a couple of miles up Reddington Pass Rd. to B1, then took a nice piece of single track that was part of the Arizona Trail down a long ridge. We got B2 then continued down to a jeep trail that started back up the next ridge over. Jonea had something weird going on with her breathing in that she was panting and out of breath, and 4 teams passed us as we headed for then found B3. When the jeep trail hit Reddington Pass Rd. we crossed over and back onto more single track that was part of the AZ Trail again. This trail climbed up, and up some more to B4 where another 2 teams passed us. Then we started a descent that was filled with water bars and rocks, with a very tight hairpin thrown in for fun. Right after the hairpin, we came upon a “rec course” team of two girls, and one of them was hurt. She must have gone over her bars, because she had scraped up the knuckles on one hand, torn loose a fingernail on the other, and had a huge dent right in to top of her brand new helmet! We stopped and checked on them, asking if she could see ok, and if she could move everything. Once we were sure that they didn’t require emergency help, we continued down the trail. Let me tell you, this single track was very challenging because not only was it filled with obsticles, but the grass on both sides of it was knee high. When the trail ahead of you is straight, no problem….but when there are turns in it, you can’t see the trail ahead because of the tall grass. There was also a section that was thick with puncture vine and cat-claw on the trail, boy am I glad we listened about the slime! We got B5, then B6 was where the trail dropped us out on a ranch road. As we turned onto the ranch road, we saw Team Tubac stopped and stretching out Brad’s leg cramps. We asked if they were ok, and then headed toward the bike drop. On the way there, we saw one of the teams that had passed us heading back toward us. As we passed, he asked if we was sure that we were going the right direction. When I said “absolutely!”, they turned back around and passed us again….they didn’t know where it was! Meanwhile, it appeared that Jonea had recovered and was breathing fine again.
At the bike drop, we were given a map and punch card for the orienteering section. The Tucson Orienteering Club was going to have an O-meet the next day, so Monsoon Adventures had collaberated with them on this section, pretty cool idea! We found O1 right away, then somehow on the way to O2 we lost the punch card! While we backtracked to find it, Team Tubac passed us again. Luckily, I found the card that had blown into some grass by the side of the jeep trail we were following, and we continued on toward O2. On the way to O3 we caught back up with Tubac, and then dropped down into the wash that the point was in, then followed it up to the point. We got there about 30 seconds before Tubac! We headed up the wash again toward O4. I took us too far up the wash, and we had to go up a different canyon than I had planned to get to the saddle that O4 was on, so we were pretty sure that Tubac was ahead of us again. As we traversed a hillside on the way to O5 we could see a team ahead of us, but it wasn’t Tubac, it was someone else. Both our camelbaks were out of water, but I was carrying a small bottle in my hand, so we sipped on that the rest of the way. We got O5 and headed down across a valley toward O6. Now we could see the other team and ahead of them, we could see the guys of Team Freedom. We went up over another ridge to get O7, then back to the bike drop. The volunteers told us that Tubac had not come in yet. They also had lots of water there, so we refilled our camelbaks, and changed shoes again for the ride back to the TA. We had done the 4 mile orienteering section in a little over an hour and a half.
We knew it was going to be a long climb, so we hooked up a towing system so I could help Jonea go a little faster up the hills. When we were almost to the top, I could feel the toll that running out of water earlier and the hot mid-day sun was taking on me. Nauseous and dizzy, I was about to bonk! We unhooked the tow strap, and walked up the last steep hill slowly while I tried to get some electrolytes and water back into my system. We rode into the TA, having done 16.6 miles on the bikes, and I sat in the shade beside the truck while I changed shoes again and then plotted the points for the upcoming trekking leg. We ate some bagels, and again topped off our packs with water.
As we headed out toward T1 I could feel the beginning twinges of a cramp in my left quad….bummer. We got up to T1 when I tried to unzip the pocket of my shorts to get the checkpoint card, it was jammed. I even broke the pull off of it trying to unzip it! We need that card! I had to take out my knife and cut my pocket open so we could punch T1 and continue. We went down and across a small valley to a saddle where we got T2. In looking at the map, I figured that the best way to get to T3 was to go across to the top of the canyon that it was in and just go down the drainage to it. As it turned out, this descision probably cost us about 10 minutes, because the canyon was chocked full of manzanita and oak brush! We battled through the thick brush and made it to T3 eventually. We then continued down the canyon and across another wash to the bottom end of a ridge that would take us to T4. We climbed for what felt like forever up this interminably long ridge, and caught up with another team just as we topped out and found T4. It turns out that this other team was also a “rec course” team on their trekking leg. I found myself feeling sorry for anyone who was using this “rec course” as their very first race! At T4, we rested in the little spot of shade we found before our assault on the 5th trekking point that the race directors had labelled BFM. They said that stood for Beg For Mercy, but after plotting it on top of a mountain, we knew that it stood for something else entirely! We made the climb up to BFM by just putting one foot in front of another the whole way up. I plotted our course on my MapTech topo program this week, and found out that the hill we climbed straight up to BFM was a 56% grade. My cramping quad was killing me on this ascent. At the top, we took a minute to high-five and look around at the amazing view of all the territory we had covered since the start of the race. This was a very beautiful venue for an event. The last point was on top of a smaller hill between us and the finish line, so we headed back down the other side of the mountain toward T6. We picked up T6 and made the short trek to the road where we ran (barely) in to cross the finish line 7 hours and 43 minutes after we started.
We finished 3rd in the 2 person Co-ed division to ARC (Jim and Jane) and Big Fish (Dave and Windy), and figured that anytime you can podeum with those 2 teams, you are doing something right! We were just glad to finish the entire race.