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Challenging the Coastal Challenge February 4, 2009

Posted by Dave Of Prescott in Events, Trail Running.
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It hasn’t done much good yet, but I DID get their attention!  I recieved this reply today:

hi dave,

thanks for keeping track of us. we´ve experienced internet connection problems over the last two days (i.e. no/little access), and are finally back on track.

day three and four should have been emailed to you and will be posted momentarily. features to go up as well.

gracias, TCC staff

They still haven’t got it all figured out and working, but at least they know someone is watching!

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Another Coastal Challenge Scoop February 2, 2009

Posted by Dave Of Prescott in Adventure Recreation, Events, extreme sports, Trail Running.
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Once again, Jacquiline Windh has an update posted far ahead of the Coastal Challenge website.  Her story about Day 2 includes a photo of my teammate Jonea. Jonea is racing as part of Robyn Benincasa’s Project Athena team.

Jonea nearing the end of Day 2

Jonea nearing the end of Day 2

Having raced with her many times, I can tell that she is doing a little suffering here.  But there is one thing about her, she has got tons of endurance!

The Coastal Challenge website has still not delivered on it web sites promises of a race tracker and an updated leaderboard…..dissapointing to say the least.  And they are not timely on the daily race news either, here it is 11:15pm and they still have nothing up for today.

Sand Storm Race was Tough! October 22, 2008

Posted by Dave Of Prescott in Adventure Racing, Adventure Recreation, Events, Mountain Biking, orienteering, trails.
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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.

Night Adventure Race October 12, 2008

Posted by Dave Of Prescott in Adventure Racing, Adventure Recreation, Mountain Biking, trails.
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On Saturday Jonea (my female teammate) picked me up at the hotel in Scottsdale where Tracie (my wife) and I had a room for Saturday night.  While Tracie was at a work related dinner and meeting, Jonea and I headed up to McDowell Mountain Park for the Extreme Heat Night Race put on by Rick at Sierra Adventure Sports.

The race started just before dark at 6:00pm.  To start, teams had to punch their card at 5 points that were shown on our first map.  It was a mad dash, as all 5 points were easily attainable in less than 5 minutes because they were all around the perimeter of the huge parking area.  Then came our first mystery event.

Teams were allowed 1 frisbee per team, the object was to throw your frisbee into a 4′ fire pit about 40′ away, and each team member had to make it in the pit. This was pure chaos, as all the teams were lined up, throwing and retrieving the discs.  People were running in the way and getting hit as they were trying to pick up an errant throw.  Someone was yelling “on per team!”, intending to let us know the one disc per team rule, but confusing some teams into thinking that they meant one make per team.  It was really rather hilarious.  Jonea made her 3rd throw, and I think I took about 5 throws, and then we got the next map and were out on the bike leg.

We took the longer but faster pavement route partway to CP1, and arrived there just as there was no more light at all in the sky.  It was a gradual uphill the entire way to the CP, and Jonea’s legs were having a hard time getting going.  She was frustrated that she was struggling, but kept pedaling, and eventually her legs muscles decided to get in the game, and we pushed on to CP2.  We were now 8.8 miles of up hill into the ride.  On the way to CP3 we were crossing a whole bunch of little sandy washes, and some of them were pretty soft and deep.  Every time I would hit one, I would yell out to Jonea, “sand!” so she would know it was coming.  After I barely stayed on top of my bike going through one, I heard a yell from behind me, and when I looked back, Jonea’s bike was still upright, but facing perpendicular to the trail.  The sand had almost put her into a huge cactus!  We caught up to one of the teams that passed us earlier at CP3, then started the 2+ mile descent toward CP4.  The other team made better time than we did going down the ridge, but we were still really moving fast for it being pitch black and a single track trail.  We got to CP4 just in time to see some other team’s tail lights heading down a trail that we knew was the longer of the two ways that we could go. This gave us a spark, and we blasted through the campground then headed back toward the TA.  In the last half mile, Jonea’s front tire finally succumbed to the cactus incident, and she flatted.  She was yelling to me that she had a flat, and I was yelling back that I know and just keep riding!  We made it to the TA, and on to the next mystery event at CP5.

In this event, each team was allowed to have five pieces of 2×4 that were about 12″ long. With these they had to move from behind a line and around a cone about 15′ away and back across the line without touching the ground.  I have done something like this before, but it involved bricks on an uneven surface.  This was smooth wood on fairly smooth concrete, so I just stood on two of them like skis and bent over and grabbed the front of one as I slid my foot forward then did the same with the other.  This worked great, and I was done in about 1 minute.  Jonea was employing a different method using the other 3 blocks, but switched to the lift-n-slide after she saw the success that I was having.  We were done in a jiffy and then went to change our shoes for the trekking leg to come.

As soon as we got CP6, we turned off our lights and used the bright moonlight to see the trail.  We ran down a trail that paralleled a wash then at CP7 when the trail crossed it, we took the wash itself further down the canyon.  In the wash we came upon team E-Lyte, where Hollon’s team mate was lying down in the sand while Hollon was stretching out her leg cramps.  We asked if everything was ok, or if they needed anything, and then kept on toward CP8.  In an attempt to operate in “stealth mode”, we only used our lights when we needed to check the map, hoping other teams wouldn’t see us and either know how close we were getting to them (wishful thinking), or follow our lights (more likely to really happen).  The route from CP8 to CP9 was on the competative mountain biking trail in the park, so it was pretty gnarly.  We climbed up and over a ridge and were all the way down the other side punching our card at CP9 when we saw the first lights top out on the ridge behind us…..or….where other teams using stealth mode???  hmmmmm.

I am not a runner.  It hurts my knees, I get cramps in my calves, and I really don’t enjoy it.  BUT, for some reason at this race, I had some weird mojo going on and was able to run about 80% of the 6.1 mile trekking leg.  We had to look around a little for CP10, but once we had it, we were finally headed for the finish line.

We finished the race in 3 hours and 15 minutes, which was good enough for 3rd place overall, and 1st in the co-ed division!  Not bad for two old timers!

This was a super fun event, and racing in the moonlight was amazing.  I look forward to trying another night race.  The volunteers were great as always, and Rick and Kim put on another successful event.  If you haven’t tried it yet, sign up for a beginner friendly adventure race and get addicted!

The GAR is Almost Here! September 14, 2008

Posted by Dave Of Prescott in Adventure Racing, Adventure Recreation, Mountain Biking.
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Less than a week now to the Gilmore Adventure Race near Prescott, Arizona.  Kent and Bob and I did a mountain bike ride on the short course yesterday, and everything is looking good.

Teams are coming from all over the state and southern California to be a part in the what has become the largest (in attendance) and longest running (in years) adventure race in Arizona.

They will begin to arrive on Friday about mid-day, by Saturday at sunrise, we will have almost 200 people revved up and ready to go.

This year’s event will send teams of 2 or 3 persons out into the mountains where they will mountain bike, trek, hike, complete mystery events and finish up with a freestyle navigation leg that is very similar to an orienteering meet.

The weather gurus (yeah right!) are predicting perfect weather for the day.

I can’t wait!

Sand Storm Race Report March 12, 2008

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The final climb to the finishTeam Gilmore AR was made up of Kent Keegan, Jonea Mounsey, and me Dave Sewell. Not sure, but I think we might have been the 3 oldest racers that day. We started out with an uphill run of about 600 yards to pickup our passport, then out into the hills to pick up 4 other CPs in any order. We jogged down part of the Arizona trail past Kentucky Camp’s old adobe buildings and out into Kentucky Gulch. There was a point high up on a ridge, and we chose to go up the ridge-line to it. Once we had the point, we bailed straight off into the gulch and then followed it about a half mile to the next point. By now, my knees couldn’t run anymore, so we fast hiked. From that point we went over the shoulder of a hill into a narrow gully that we followed uphill to the 3rd point. We climbed out onto a road and followed it for a few minutes then descended into yet another draw to get the 4th and final point. From there it was half a mile up the road to the TA.

We transitioned to bikes, remembering to pack our trail shoes for the trek we had been told would be somewhere on the bike section. We headed out down the same section of Arizona trail that we ran down before. No sooner had we turned up a rocky forest road than my back tire felt mushy. It was going flat. We stopped and began our best pit crew impression and got it changed is just a few minutes. Then back on the bikes and up into the hills. The we arrived at the next CP at the same time as 3 other teams, it was on an old piece of equipment in a field by the road. The other teams out-climbed us to the next checkpoint, but the blew right by it and we got it before they figured it out and came back to get it. Shortly after that, there was a big nasty rocky section that we had to hike-a-bike. At the top, we stopped to make a route choice decision and while we were doing that 2 teams went by us on up the forest road. 2 other teams were also looking at their maps and we all decided to to take a single track down to some hairy-steep switchbacks that went down into Gardner Canyon. We got onto Gardner Canyon Road and followed it up to the third biking checkpoint which was also our bike drop. While we were changing our shoes, the teams that had chosen to continue on the forest road arrived.

The first trekking point was back down the road we had just ridden up about a mile then up a canyon to the mouth of a cave. Only one team member was required to go into the cave to punch the passport, but all three of us wanted to see the cave! So we probably gave up about 5 minutes so we could enjoy the experience. After that, the next point was back on the other side of the bike drop at the very peak of a mountain. We decided to to go to the drop and get rid of our helmets (they were required in the cave). From the bike drop it was about a mile and a half of up hill, and more up hill on a seemingly never ending rocky forest road. We encountered teams coming back down as we were going up, and vice versa. One the way up, Kent said he saw something in the road ahead of us, and then it was gone. A minute later he saw it again (hallucinations?), nope he did see something, it was a grey fox trotting a few yards ahead of us up the road. It had a huge bottle brush tail. We got several good looks at it until it left the roadway on a bend and disappeared into the tall dry grass. Coming down was hard work, it was steep, and hard on the knees and feet.

We got back on our bikes and had to ride another 3 miles up Gardner Canyon Rd. At the 4th bike CP we had to take a hike-a-bike trail up a creek-bed then switchback up through a fairly recent burn area to a junction with another forest road on the spine of ridge. We road down the forest road and crossed the creek several times, getting another CP along the creek. Then we followed the road back around the mountain to the Gardner Canyon Rd again. Here we followed it back down to the base of the same hairy-steep switchbacks we had descended earlier in the day. Now, we pushed our bikes up them. We got to ride about 5 miles of the Arizona Trail on our way back to the TA, and it wound through some beautiful country. The final hill up to the finish was enough to put me over the top, as my legs had turned to silly putty. We finished in 6 hours and 12 minutes though, not bad for a team whose combined age is 136 years!

Heading Down to the Sand Storm AR March 5, 2008

Posted by Dave Of Prescott in Adventure Racing.
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This weekend my two team mates and I will be driving the 265 miles down to Kentucky Camp to compete in the Sand Storm II Adventure Race.

We have done very well the last 12 months in the co-ed division on the short courses of the Desert Rage Series, so we are going to move up and try our luck on the long course this time.  They promise us 30+ miles to be comprised of mountain biking and overland trekking with some surprises thrown in to boot.  We (or should I say “I”) don’t run very well, so on the trekking legs we have to depend on good navigation and smart route choice.  We usually do fairly well on the mtb legs.

Our female team mate broke her foot not long ago, but swears she is ready to go.  I am sure she is because she is one tough cookie.  Our other male is strong on the bike and on the treks, but has had some problem keeping fueled well enough on longer outings, but he too swears he is ready to go.  After writing about my two team mates, it occurs to me that I am definitely the weakest link on our team.  The must just keep me around out of pity.

Good Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise, I will live to tell you all about how it went.