Sunday, October 06, 2013

USARA National Championship - Team Pangea

I knew a lot of folks were waiting for this - the writeup of the USARA National championship. Team Pangea consisted of Ron Eaglin, Greg Owens, and May-Li Cuypers. We would be racing in an extremely competitive Masters category and against the best teams in the country. The race was in Nashville Indiana, and incredibly picturesque town in Central Indiana.

Greg and I actually rented bikes (29") from a local bike shop (Hesitation Point Bike shop). We arrived before checkin, got our bikes and headed to the checkin. Brown County has an incredible set of single track bike trails and and IMBA Epic designation - so we were looking forward to some wonderful single track. We were also looking forward to some great weather - highs near 80. lows near 60.

We received our maps at 6 AM Friday morning, 2 massive 1:24K scale topo maps, and 20 points to plot. I got to plotting while May-Li and Greg got to planning. We finished at 7:45 AM and were just in time to make the 8 AM start time.

Start and Leg 1

We started with a 1 mile cross country run to split the teams up before hitting the single track. This would be followed with a 15 mile marked single track bike course. We went out incredibly fast with the strategy of getting a good placement heading into the single track. Of course so did 180  other top class athletes. We flew through the run and the next section was pure concentration, flying single track at all levels (beginner through expert), no CP's - marked course and some fast biking. It was also for me - battling cramps (many other experienced cramping due to the ultra-fast start). After 15 miles of screaming single track - we arrived at Hesitation Point and CP1. From this point on it would switch from a bike race to an adventure race as we would be navigating.

Despite the early cramps we were moving well and picked up CP2 quickly, though not as quickly as I would have liked, since I was still getting used to the map and the terrain. I handed the map to Greg to find CP3 - while I concentrated on controlling my cramps. (I don't remember anything from this section at all other than pain). After what seemed like hours (it was probably 15 minutes) - I was feeling better and took the navigation back - and we took an interesting off-road bush-whacky route to the road leading to CP4 and CP5 which was a long out and back. As we headed south to CP4 we saw some of the lead teams heading back (and biking at an unbelievable pace). CP4 and CP5 went without incident - and we were with a number of other teams at that point. Interesting because we did not see any teams due to route choice from CP3.

From CP5 it was north to the TA and the start of the paddle. We would be passing through a small town called Helmsburg and I had high hopes for a convenience store. It worked out pretty well, there was a corner store where we purchased Gatorade and Milk - which we drank in the TA just a mile from the store.

The Paddle

From the looks of the TA there were at least 40 teams in front of us at TA1. The instructions were to drop the bikes and take our boats and head for the water. Well water would be a strong word for it, the sliver of a creek on the map was just that, a sliver of a creek. We proceeded with the boat-whack/portage section of the race. After Patagonia 2012 no portage looks hard and Greg worked hard dragging the boat along through the shallow water. In some spots we were actually able to get in and paddle - but the real paddling did not start until we reached the wider channel east of Lake Lemon.

The checkpoints on the lake were pretty easy, especially since the prior racers had really turned the routes into foot trails. We had fun with CP9, where we had to squeeze through a culvert to get a point where we were allowed to drop our boats. It was all pretty straight-forward and we were feeling pretty good when we got to CP10.

Split Up

As we approached CP10 we could see 2 person teams rafting from CP11 to CP10. We were not sure what this meant - but we soon found out. At CP10 the team was split up. I headed out into the darkness 2 checkpoints (blue dots I drew on the map) and Greg and May-Li had to paddle the canoe across the lake to CP11 where they dropped the canoe and then rafted back. Even though it was dark I had no real trouble with the 2 checkpoints - there were lots of other folks out there looking for them, and we worked together to find them. It took me nearly 45 minutes - much more than what I estimated it would take Greg and May-li to paddle 1 km, drop a boat, and paddle back. Sure enough they had been waiting for about 30 minutes when I came jogging in. Had we planned it better I would have gotten the map and took off while they messed around with gear (the opposite of what we did). Now back together - we headed out on the long trek and our only issue of the race.

Long Trek

The  next section was a long trek 5 checkpoints. We did not get off to a great start here. We attacked CP12 from the south re-entrant - and did it again. And again. Eventually after about 90 minutes of attacks and re-attacks we gave up and moved on. The remaining controls proved much easier and we even took some risky route choices - including an almost direct route from CP15 to CP16. This leg still took us nearly 7 hours and we were really happy to pull into TA1 again.


At TA3 we were given and Orienteering map and we headed out on my favorite - orienteering. This was pair orienteering - so some strategy was involved. In pair orienteering you are given checkpoints in pairs - and you must collect both points in each pair for them to count. So there will be a CP A1 and CP A2 - you must visit them both to get credit. The strategy is that we only needed to collect 4 of 7 controls pairs - so you must decide which ones to visit. We completed this section in just under 3 hours - my legs by now were toasted - though we still were jogging a lot of the downhills.

  Bike to Start/Finish

The sun came up during the orienteering, and now it was early morning with 2 sections left, a bike ride to the main TA with 4 checkpoints (CP17-20)

and the final orienteering. The bike leg was easy - Greg navigated it and we had one minor error. We ended up at the main TA with 2 hours left to race. We only had enough time to get one checkpoint and chose to get AA (it was far, but easy).

No comments: