Monthly Archives: March 2010
(Editor’s Note: The following race report was written by our friend, Susy, from The Golden Girls. She originally posted it as a comment on another post, but we wanted to publish it as a stand-alone post to inspire and entertain others. These ladies rocked this race. Great job, girls! And thanks for sharing this with all of us.)
We survived our race but I was beginning to wonder in the last few hours! We came in just about where we usually do…close to the bottom, but we were not last! When it started with about a mile and a half run to the first checkpoint, we should have known what we were in for.
The topography was quite steep, long long climbs and descents, which was actually worse on the bikes. It wasn’t smooth enough to ride down and too steep to ride up. Fortunately the long part of the bike was out of the Resort and relatively flat. Unfortunately it consisted of sand, mud, and thick chunky gravel on a lot of it. Combine that with several low water bridges and a few just plain water crossings. We waded through or attempted to ride through more creeks than I can count on the orienteering and the biking.
After our initial run, then orienteering, then canoeing, then almost to finish the first bike section we encountered a monster hill that really kicked my butt. I struggled in to the next transition area, where we dropped the bikes to orienteer again. It felt better to walk for awhile, let me tell you!
We knocked out the first 3 controls pretty handily, then headed into the next one there were a lot of people running around asking if we had found it. They said they had been down the first ridge I headed us to and didn’t find it. Well, I was a little foggy brained by that time, and with only two more controls to find had visions of a sweep dancing in my mind. Big mistake…I lost focus and went down the wrong ridge.
In looking at the land across a huge, huge re-entrant I realized my mistake. So we climbed back up a ways then descended and ascended just below where I thought it should be. Well, it wasn’t there either! Oh…demoralizing. So with the Cut-off drawing near, we decided to go on to the last check-point. In hind sight I picked a poor route and ended up going up the wrong re-entrant to find the last control. I screwed that one.
Then we headed back to our bikes to ride quite some distance to the finish. I was shot…I mean my muscles were screamin’, Connie splattered in the mud, I missed a turn and couldn’t figure out where the hell we were. She is thinking they are going to have to come find us. We retrace our path and find the turn and head on in.
We round a corner for a steep descent and are looking at this huge MONSTOR hill on the other side of it. Talk about having the wind kicked out of you. About that time someone appears behind us and I ask them if they knew where we were. They were kind of enough to say, “go to the bottom and turn left” not up that horrible hill. But as they passed us we realized it was the only other all female team that we had been leading by about 6 miles when we were on the bike. They had not even tried to find the last marker and headed in because of the cut-off.
So Connie starts stoking her pedals, not wanting to be left in the mud by them. As we came down the last hill, there were a couple men down there watching and Connie over heard the women say to them, “At least we are not last!” Of course she is speeding ahead of me at that point, trying to catch the thirty year olds. Mercy. (Editor’s Note: The Golden Girls are in their 50’s, although they don’t look it, and they kick ass at these races!)
So then we come staggering (pedaling) in at the end and they say we have a challenge to do. Some misguided race director thought everyone should carry 30 pound sand bags under several series of ropes and up and over a stage, then on to the finish line. Connie lifted the ropes for me, so I could crawl my way to the finish…but … FINISH WE DID! One other team came in later so we knew we were not last.
But, that is not the end of the story. After a miserable night of recuperating and pain after getting up every time this morning we took another look at the map to reassess where we went wrong. Lots of people towards the end got our competitive juices flowing causing a lack of focus, so we went down the wrong ridge on the second to last control. After retracing and moving over to the next ridge, I kept saying I think it should be right here. But it wasn’t. I did figure out what I had done wrong on the last control, but told Connie I would swear we were in the right place for #18, the second to last. When we got home this afternoon the results were posted and sure enough they admitted #18 was in the wrong place. Vindication!
But, that is not the end of the story. Another team came in after us so we were pretty sure we were not last. As it turns out we were third from the bottom…and who was the one at the bottom…the very last place??? The other female team! First in our category!!! They had refused to do the last challenge. Hey, we take them anyway we can get them. Only in an adventure race could third from the bottom feel like a victory.
(One Last Editor’s Note: The Golden Girls actually took 29th out of 35 teams, beating a coed team, an all-female team, and 3 all-male teams. So they were actually 6th from the bottom.)
Many folks would just laugh if I said we were third from the bottom, but they have not experienced the going to your limit (you think) and then going further. Sometimes you think you have just done your last adventure race, there is no way you can do another one. Then as you look back, reflect, take your bubble bath, share with your friends, then you realize just how much of a victory it really was…and you are figuring out how to do better the next time. Yes, The Golden Girls will be back.
I’ll agree w/ Luke about getting up at 5am; I’m not a morning person and I can usually think of at least 12 reasons to stay in bed on my day off. But.. knowing that I’d be hanging out with The Dragon and running through the woods was all the motivation I needed to get out of bed with a smile on my face.
Add to that, I knew today would be the first time I got to try some solo orienteering. Luke and I have been talking about this for a long time, and we decided it was time to take the training wheels off if I wanted to get any better at orienteering.
I don’t think either of us was truly ready for how beautiful Hawn State Park was going to be. I mean seriously, I didn’t know we had these kinds of places in Missouri. The rock formations, creeks and pine trees were awesome. The first 10 minutes of being in the park was worth the drive. I’m already planning a trip there w/ my ladyfriend.
When it was time for the race to start, Luke and I made a point of letting the other racers go ahead so we wouldn’t be tempted to follow them. We got to the 1st checkpoint about 5 seconds apart from one another and then it was off to #2.
By my figuring, if I headed North for a short bit I would cross 2 creeks before coming very close to the next CP. I didn’t want to ride Luke’s coat-tails, so I got a quick bearing and took off running. I needed to space myself out so there would be no temptation to follow.
5 minutes later I was laughing out loud knowing full well I would not be influenced by anyone for the rest of the day.
I was already lost.
Somehow I had gotten all the way to the Northern border of the park. Not sure how that happened, but hey, this is what I wanted. I found a landmark on the map, shot a bearing and found CP 2.
The trip to CP 3 was going to be a lengthy one, so I decided to take it a piece at a time. About 1/4 of the way there I got to descend a massive rocky hill making my way down to a creek. I’ve used creeks in the past to find CP’s and I figured today would be no different.
Pictures never do justice, but this is a look at the hill I came down.
I’m so glad I decided to follow that creek, because it was one of the prettiest sections of running water I’ve ever seen. I was really angry at myself for not having a camera, and made a mental note to never do an O-race without one again.
This race was a heaping dose of reality for me. I had a lot of trouble finding CP 3, and from looking at the map it seemed like I should have been standing on top of it.
At one point I was convinced that my compass was wrong, so I put it in my pocket and went where I thought I needed to be going. Not smart.
I eventually found it while I was trying to find a landmark reference. Talk about a relief. CP 4 was almost a straight shot through the open pines and I found it with no problems.
So, I’m sitting there in the woods looking at my map and deciding what to do next. CP 7 had water, and I knew there was no way in hell I was going to find all the controls before the time cutoff. I decided to skip 5 & 6 and develop a route to CP 7. It looked good on paper, run next to the road a few miles, cut in next to an old barb-wire fence until I hit the trail, and then start looking for boulders.
The route worked beautifully until I ran out of trail and there were no boulders to be seen. When I actually did find boulders they were on the wrong side of the trail and I knew I was lost again.
Where the hell am I? That was certainly my theme for the day. I never got too worried about it though, cuz I knew if worse came to worse I could just hike North until I hit the highway.
Every now and then I could feel a bit of negativity creeping up my spine…just itching to get in my head. When that happened I’d think about what I’d be doing if I were at work, and suddenly things were great again.
After a few hours of wandering aimlessly I decided my race was over. I still didn’t have a clue where the hell I was, but it was a beautiful day and there were still plenty of hours left in the day. All trails lead somewhere, so I found one and started hiking. I hiked and hiked and hiked, enjoying the day and taking it all in. Eventually I found my way back to the trailhead, got an idea on where the hell I was, and started the trek back towards the start/finish line.
When I got back, quite a few people had already finished and were lounging around waiting for the award ceremony. I grabbed my Beaver Stik and Luke’s camera and set back out to take some pictures. Along the way I met a lot of cool people who were out enjoying the day, and even made friends with some drunk guy who had a mohawk.
Hey, I may be a shitty orienteer but I know how to take pictures and have a good time.
Who knows, maybe next time I’ll find 5 out of 26 CP’s…..
A few pics:
Getting up at 5:00 AM is never fun. It’s a little easier when you know you’ll be running wild through the woods with a map and compass, though. So I hopped into the Virtus-Van and picked up the one and only Bob Jenkins at 5:30, and we then headed off to Hawn State park for the Gateway Grunt Orienteering Race.
I’m so used to sprinting to the registration table right before the start of a race, that it never even bothers me anymore if we’re running a little late. Bob, however, gets a wee bit nervous if we’re running behind. At last year’s Bonk Hard Chill, I thought Bob was going to have a heart attack when we had to drive 70 mph in a 30 mph zone just to make it to the start of the race in time.
Believe it or not, though, on this day we were actually early – definitely a first for Team Virtus. We paid the entry fee, signed our lives away on the waivers, and received our race numbers and SI Sticks (An SI stick is an electronic punch instead of a mechanical one).
One thing I’ve noticed at Orienteering events is that it seems sort of clique-ish. I’ve pretty much felt like an outsider at every orienteering event I’ve ever done. At adventure races and mt. bike races, it seems like everyone is there to have a great time and everyone is laid back and easy going. At O-races, though, it seems like everyone is out for blood. It’s kind of weird. I mean, everyone is nice enough, and they’ll speak to you if you initiate the conversation. It’s just sort of awkward conversation.
We did have a nice conversation with Jeff Sona from Team Alpine Shop, though, and he seemed like a genuinely nice guy. He has an adventure racing background, though, so maybe that’s why he seemed more like our type of guy.
Anyway, we finished checking in and got dressed. I decided to go with shorts and a short sleeve jersey since it was supposed to be so warm. I don’t think we could’ve asked for better weather for race day. The day started a little cloudy with temps in the low 40’s, and as the day wore on, the sun would shine and the temps reached into the upper 50’s. It was simply perfect racing weather. In hindsight, though, I really wish I would have worn long pants – not because of the weather, but because of the brush that shredded my shins and knees.
At 9:45, we walked down the road to the start of the Grunt. We received our maps, although we were forbidden to look at them until the start of the race. The race director went over the rules. We were allowed to skip any two of the 26 controls we wanted, and there were three time cutoffs. You had to hit Checkpoint (CP) 10 before 12:00, and you also had to hit CP 20 before 2:00. The final cutoff was at 3:00 when the race ended.
We decided to do this race separately, so this would be Bob’s first solo endeavor. I’ll let him tell you about his experience in a future post, though. At 10:02, the race director yelled, “Go!” Everyone took off… Except Bob and me and a few others. We were still looking at the map and trying to figure out which way to go.
Getting to CP 1 was easy enough. We just had to follow the other 40+ racers. Bob reached #1 slightly ahead of me, and then we headed off for CP 2. Bob took off running at a pretty good clip, and I maintained my “endurance pace” (aka – a really slow jog). I saw Bob heading farther east than I had planned on going. I was about to yell, “Yo, Bob! Where you goin’?” After double-checking the map, though, I saw that there was a trail in that direction that would lead almost right to CP 2. I thought this was a pretty good idea, and I almost followed Bob. I decided to do my own thing, though, and I continued to bushwhack straight to CP 2.
I got to #2, and by this time there was no one around me. I didn’t see Bob, and I wasn’t sure if he was ahead of me or behind me. I found CP’s 3, 4, and 5 with no problems. I ran down the trail that skirted alongside the creek for awhile, and I realized how beautiful Hawn State Park is.
On my way to CP 6, I saw several racers on their way back to CP 10. Wow. Those dudes were fast. I found #6, and I found #7 which was a water drop. I slammed some Gatorade and water and ate a couple of cookies. I didn’t stay long since the 12:00 cutoff was looming over my head.
CP’s 8 and 9 were not a problem, but it was getting close to noon. As I neared CP 10, someone doing the Runt (the shorter version of the Grunt) asked me where I thought we were. For some reason he had to cut his race short, and he wanted to head back to the parking lot. After showing him where I thought I was, he took off towards the parking lot. I then somehow managed to walk right by #10. I soon realized my mistake and found the CP shortly thereafter.
CP’s 11 and 12 were found fairly easily, but it seemed like it was taking me forever to get to each CP. I found CP 13 (another water drop), and I slammed some more Gatorade and water. I really wanted to save my two skips until later in the race when I’d be worn out, but I knew that I wasn’t going to get to CP 20 by 2:00 if I didn’t use my skips soon.
I decided to hit CP 14 and then skip CP’s 15 and 16. I was dead-on with CP 14, and again with CP 17. CP’s 18 and 19 came and went without any problems, and it looked like I was going to beat the cutoff time. Then it happened…
On my way to CP 20, I heard some rustling in the leaves behind me. Was it Bob sneaking up on me? Nope. It was an armadillo scurrying away from me. It was the first armadillo I’ve ever seen in the wild (other than dead ones on the side of the road). I tried to follow the guy for a little bit, but he magically disappeared. I turned around and headed towards #20 again.
I got to where I thought the control was, but I couldn’t find it. I headed down to the creek to try to figure out where to go. It was obvious that I was in the right place. I headed back to where CP 20 should have been. No luck. I headed up and down the creek two more times. Nada. I was getting pretty damn frustrated at this point. It was now a little after 2:00, so I was technically past the cutoff time.
By this time, though, it was personal. There was no way I was not going to find this stupid checkpoint 20. I decided to find CP 21 and work backwards. I found #21 easily (although I did not e-punch 21 at this time), and headed backwards to CP #20. When I found #20, I couldn’t believe it. I seriously don’t know what the hell happened. I must have walked by this thing at least 3 times, but I never saw it. It had to be The Curse of the Armadillo! The stupid armadillo distracted me, cursed me, and then disappeared. I know that’s what happened. It’s the only logical explanation.
I went back to CP 21, the final water drop, and I drank some more water and Gatorade. I found CP 22 easily, and I headed out for CP 23. I knew I wasn’t going to get all of the CP’s in time. I wanted to make sure that I finished before 3:00 so that I would not be disqualified. As long as I finished before the final cutoff, I would get credit for finishing the race. I would just be ranked according to how many CP’s I got (which means probably last, but the results haven’t been posted yet).
I climbed what felt like a mountain on my way to CP 23. When I got to the top, I was wiped out. My feet and legs were pretty beat up, and I decided to scrap the thought of getting any more CP’s. I was going to have to push the pace just to make it to the finish before 3:00. I bushwhacked my way back to the road, and then I made it back to the finish line with 5 minutes to spare. Bob’s stuff was in my van, but he was nowhere to be found. What happened to him? (Check back in with us for his race report.)
I skipped CP’s 23-26 in addition to the two earlier skips that were allowed. So it wasn’t a great performance for me. The park was beautiful, the weather was perfect, and I got to practice my orienteering. So it was a great day even though I would’ve liked a better finish.
I heard that the winning time was something like 77 minutes which just blows my mind. That’s ridiculous! (UPDATE: the winner of the RUNT finished in 77 minutes, and the winner of the GRUNT finished in 110 minutes – still unbelievably fast!) I’ll just keep plugging away at losing weight, getting faster, and getting better at orienteering. Next time we do something like this, you should really come. It’s always fun, and you can’t help but get better. Just be sure to avoid all armadillos. Stupid armadillos!
UPDATE #2: My “Official” finish was 34th out of 35 competitors, but it’s pretty clear that they screwed up my results… They had me with a finishing time of 140 minutes when my actual finishing time was 295 minutes, and they had me finishing with a total of Zero CP’s when I actually got 20 CP’s. So that should have put me 31st place out of 35 racers. I’m not going to contest the results or anything since it clearly doesn’t matter, but I just thought I’d let you all know.
Things are going really well. I’m down a total of 17.5 pounds for the year, and I’m feeling great. My clothes are starting to get a little baggy on me, my lifts are still going up, and my conditioning is improving dramatically. So far so good. If you want to see weekly pictures of me (and if you do, you’ve got problems), then you can find them right here (older photos are at the bottom, and they get more recent as you go up).
I’m very confident that I will be below the 200 pound Clydesdale mark by May 1st – the day I’ll be shredding some single track at Syllamo’s Revenge. I can’t wait. I can even visualize my future, not-so-fat self:
So as of this morning, I weighed 212.5. Not too bad. That means I need to roughly lose 1.5 pounds per week between now and Syllamo. I can do that. I WILL do that. No problem.
So how are you doing with your goals? Have you already forgotten about your New Year’s resolutions? Well, about 20% of the year is already gone… forever. You’ll never get it back. If you’ve been slacking, you still have time to get back on track, but start today! If my fat ass can do it, then so can you.