Monday, May 14, 2012

Rev 3/MK #2 Epic Adventure Race Report

Luray Va, 21-22 April 2012
Racers: John Courain, Aaron Courain, Bev Richardson, David O’Rear
Report By: David O'Rear

The Rev3 Epic Adventure Race was held 21-22 April 2012 at Shenandoah State Park in Luray Va. The race was conducted over a 28 hour period and teams covered nearly 100 miles via Canoe, Mountain Biking, Trekking and trail running, and orienteering. The Rev3/MK AR Teams had nearly every division covered with teams that promised strong finishes during the race.

Our team manager had put together an incredibly strong four person coed elite team with veterans Dave Ashley, Greg Voelkel, Ernie Lawas, and Britt Mason whom we all predicted would win. Our Team, Rev3/MK #2 was put together a few weeks before the race in an attempt to collect a second podium slot. Our team consisted of two incredibly strong and talented racers known to all of the Rev3 Team as “The Brothers”, John and Aaron Courain from New Jersey. Also brought in was Triathlete and Mountain biker Bev Richardson who was incredibly strong the entire race, and finally me as a navigator.
After a few email exchanges with each other we decided we would link up at the race expo.  I had only briefly met John and Aaron a few weeks prior at a training weekend but I was pretty confident I would recognize them. Bev and I had never met however I was on the lookout for in her words “short with a black cap” and she was on the lookout for short and old. We were able to link up, complete registration,  draw the maps, and plot our points. The race seemed pretty straight forward. River start, a bike segment followed by trekking all inside the park, then a long hike/bike segment, followed by the night orienteering course on Massanutten Mountain, then a bike segment back to the finish. Along the course there were 18 or so mandatory CPs and Transitions, and 16 or so optional CPs worth one or two points.  After a short discussion over the hood of John’s car, we were off to dinner to get acquainted and discuss race strategy.

At dinner we discussed the race. John would serve as the team captain, and would also head navigation along the river and inside the park as he seemed the most familiar with the trails and terrain in the park. My primary focus was cross country navigation and orienteering, specifically at night. The weather at the start promised to be warm and sunny however heavy rains and dropping temperatures were expected in the evening. This forecast was to hold true.

We met the next morning at the transition areas and Bev set up her transition at my Car and John and Aaron were right across from us. After our transition was set up we loaded busses and headed to the race start which would be a long river section. The mass start of the race was incredible. Over one hundred canoes and kayaks in the water at the same time promised to be interesting, especially for those unfortunate souls who decided to position themselves in the center of the flotilla. We opted to start on the outside near the far bank. Our race strategy for the start was to try and remain in the front pack. Having only come together as a team the night before this concerned me slightly as my memory flashed back to my race the previous weekend and getting swept downriver in a floating yard sale on the Toccoa River.
Once the starting horn sounded we were off. John and I immediately began paddling hard in a steady rhythm. We managed to start in the front quarter of the pack. After a short while we settled in a steady cadence and Bev and Aaron were right on our tail. Steadily we began to pick off teams in front of us one by one. After three or so miles we beached the boat and bagged our first mandatory CP. From CP1, a short mile or so trek led us to our first optional CP. Back in the boat we headed down river to a steep rock cliff face on the right side of the river for our next optional CP. We beached the boat right behind the Rev3/MK #1 team and scrambled up the cliff behind them.  We began our search and it was obvious after the first 20 minutes or so something was wrong. This came to be a tactical error for us as we searched for this point for nearly 45 minutes before we decided to drop the point. We scrambled back down the cliff, boarded the boats and off we went with an early missed point obviously weighing heavily on us. It seemed most of the coed elite teams made the same error as us so we were all in similar circumstances.  As we paddled 100 yards or so down river, low and behold off on the right bank was the missing CP. John quickly grabbed the point and we were off to the next mandatory CP and our first challenge which was very simple. We had to fill a 5-gallon container that was located 50 yards from the bank as fast as possible without moving the bucket. Using my dry bag, we were able to fill the bucket in two trips, get our photo taken and make it back to the boats quickly as many teams were using nalgene bottles or bailers. We picked up our paddling cadence quickly and after a short time and a quick stop for our third mandatory CP we were making up lost time and steadily passing teams down river. It never occurred to me our team would be strong on the water however it was obvious to all of us, and the teams we passed, we were very strong on the water as we made reasonable quick work of the 15 miles of paddling and came through the Compton Rapids section unscathed, clearing all five CPs.
After a quick and surprisingly painful portage of the canoe, and a short run to the TA, we began to prepare for the bike section inside the park. This was to be our strongest area as all four of us were strong cyclists and three of us had ridden the park a month prior. The three mandatory points, CPs 5,6,and 7 were all located on the fast and rolling Bear Bottom Loop. After sweeping these, we were off to the three optional points which were scattered randomly on opposite ends of the park trails. After clearing the 15 mile bike section we were quickly back to the TA transitioning to the trekking portion inside the park.
We estimated the trekking portion to be approximately 9-10 miles and should take no longer than two hours to clear the four mandatory, and three optional CPs. We started at a brisk pace and it was at this point I began to feel as I was dragging slightly. Although I wasn’t overly concerned I did let John and Aaron know that I would have to ease off the pace.  With a lot of trail running and some light bushwhacking, the trekking portion took just shy of two hours to complete and we were back at TA 1 for the last time before setting off for the Hike/Bike section and the night O-course. 
Once we had restocked with food, and our bike gear, we had our next challenge before leaving the TA1. We were fastened by the wrist to a rope and had to negotiate along this rope which was running through several open ended barrels as well as under and around several picnic tables. I lead off first having no issues squeezing through the obstacles.  It appeared Bev was making easy work of it as well however I must admit it was comical watching John and Aaron twisting and maneuvering their 6 ft plus frames through those tight squeezes.  After the challenge, and a second picture we were almost 40 miles into the race, in pretty good position, and headed back for the Hike/Bike segment of the race.
Once we were off on our bikes once again, we were headed up the grueling climb to Veech Gap. All was well initially however about a mile into the climb I began to feel as I was falling off the pace quickly. I couldn’t believe that I was actually struggling. This had a huge negative psychological effect on me as I considered the bike to be my strongest event, and only a month prior I ripped up Veech Gap quite easily on my single speed. Although a novice at adventuring racing, after years of racing experience I consider myself a pretty seasoned competitor.   I tried to convince myself this was only a rough patch and to just keep turning the cranks and I would work through it. Deep down inside however I knew something was amiss.  I told myself that once we were off the road and on the trail I would get back on pace however once I hit the steep section it was even more obvious that I was really struggling and I was actually pushing my bike. I felt horrible. Not only physically, but mentally as well as I wasn’t used to being the slow guy.  Looking back on it now I understand there were many factors that led up to where I was at that point but the plain and simple fact was this, for the last 7-8 hours I had been racing at a pace that was too fast for me to maintain for 30 hours.  Of course nobody recognized this fact since this was the first time we had raced together. This is where racing experience together pays off.
Once I made it to the top of Veech Gap, Bev, John, and Aaron were waiting and I really appreciated their understanding however I know they were probably feeling somewhat frustrated. As the descent began I began to feel better but I knew it was to be a long night for me.  At the bottom of the Veech descent we stopped  at the Little Crease Shelter to park the bikes and bushwhack up a steep hill to grab our first optional CP for this section. Then we were off on the Little Crease Mountain Trail for our second optional CP. I did make a tactical navigational error thinking we had passed the CP, I turned the whole team around and backtracked at bit before realizing my error after a recommendation from John and Aaron. After a while we came upon several teams that according them had been looking for the point for while.  At this point I knew exactly where we were and after a short traipse through the woods we grabbed the point, and were back on our bikes with several teams in tow up Mudhole Gap. At the top of the Gap we grabbed two other optional CPs, and decided to head toward the crossroads turn to TA 2. At that point we would readdress our strategy as we had to be at the TA before midnight. Once at the crossroads John made the wise call to go straight to the TA. I carried that decision on my shoulders for the remainder of the race as I continued to drag on the bike. We decided to take our time at the TA and get as dry as possible as the rain had began to fall and the temperature was dropping.
Once we were changed we were off! The night O-course was 12 points spread over a vast area. After plotting the points the day prior I was confident we would have no trouble navigating through this section. We did make one strategic error that would come back to haunt us at the very end. CP 1 was located at Woodstock Lookout Tower. I wanted to bag that one first however after a team decision we decided to get that one last. Deep down inside I would have preferred not to have that one hanging over our heads at the very end since it was out of our way, and I would have preferred to knock that one out at the beginning. Nevertheless we were on our way and made the first three CPs which were close to the TA easily passing many teams that appeared to be wandering through the brush aimlessly.  Next, we were off, up the Powell Mountain Trail  to the top of Green Mountain. I tried to get us up a short cut by gouging up the side of the mountain however a short effort of trying to bully our way through Mountain Laurel, we decided to move back to the trail. 
Near the Top of Walters Gap we ran into a team of my Army buddies who had given up looking for CP6 located above Walters Gap. I have to admit snickering inside  as we made it to the top and located the point easily. This was to be the case for all of the O-course as our navigation was spot-on the entire O-course! After bagging the points on Goliday’s Gap, Opechee Peak,  and the three CPs located on the rock precipices south of Waonaze Peak we were headed back towards the TA grabbing our final CP before heading to the TA and back towards the CP located at the tower. As we began gouging our way up toward the tower my heavy legs reminded of how I had wished we had grabbed that CP first. Finally we made to the tower and back to the TA to the bikes for the trip back up and over Veech Gap. Surprisingly enough once on the bike I felt my legs back under me as we began the grind up the Gap. One thing I did not anticipate however was my behind was soooo sore I could not even sit on the saddle.
Coming into the finish I think we all were relieved the race was over. We were all wet, tired, and cold. After a failed wheelie attempt at the finishline, a couple of finish line pictures we had a couple of hours to get cleaned and changed and ready for the awards.
After 24:52 we managed to locate 40 CPs which earned us an 7th place in the coed elite division. Although somewhat disappointing initially, once I looked at the overall standings we finished 8th which is pretty respectable when you consider 60 teams started the race.
All of the Rev3/MK Teams did wonderful, earning podium finishes. Our Rev3/MK #1 team won the coed elite division as predicted. Rev3/MK members also earned  1st Solo Female, 1st Two-person Female, 1st Four-person Male, and 2nd Two-person male. I want to say thanks to my Teammates, John and Aaron Courain who are both super studs and have unlimited talent in this sport, and Bev Richardson who is an incredible racer in her own right and has an indomitable spirit, even at 3 am in the rain (and she also put up with my off-color sense of humor for nearly 30 hours).  Great job to Mike, Mark and the all of the Rev3 race staff, who managed to put on a truly Epic event and somehow packed an awful lot of the 100 mile race into a small park.

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