Team ARFE - SmartWool 2007 USARA National Championships
This year’s USARA team consisted of Chris Edmundson, Suzie Snyder and Bruce Swanson (representing Massachusetts, Colorado and New York, respectively). Our team had a great experience at this year’s National Championship race and it’s a pleasure to share it in this brief race recap.
Potosi? We all had a geography lesson this year as we added Mark Twain National Forest and the town of Potosi, Missouri to our internal maps and experience bases. From my perspective, it was quite similar to the southern Catskills where I live and train every week. The YMCA Trout Lodge was the host hotel for the event and provided an excellent lakefront location in the midst of the forest and included numerous recreation halls, boat launches and easy access to a labyrinth of secondary roads, gravel roads and trails. We spent part of the pre-race meeting educating our race directors and our fellow racers on Leave No Trace principles. It’s an activity we undertake at almost every race we go to, but it was nice to see how many racers were already educated, either by word of mouth or by our efforts in the 2007 racing season.
General Plan Unlike our recent 24-hour efforts, we decided to pamper ourselves with a reserved room for all three nights of our stay in the host hotel. We could then leave our gear in the room during the race and have a place to sleep afterwards. Our departure flights left on Sunday, so we had plenty of time to depressurize afterwards.
The Race Start – Short Version The race organizers inadvertently extended an act of kindness by denying us access to our maps, checkpoints, order of events and other instructions until 5AM the day of the event. This allowed us to get a reasonable amount of sleep the night before the race – especially for those whose traveling odyssey began that day with a 3AM alarm. The unfortunate implication of this blissful night of sleep was that our mapping, route planning and other preparations were completed in less than two hours prior to the 7AM start.
The race start involved a couple of twists to separate teams: sending one member on a mile-long mission to get the first passport while the remaining two paddled a half-mile down the foggy lake. This was followed by perhaps a mile of paddling as a team and a ROGAINE section that we would complete 3:12 into the event. We later determined that in our haste, we chose a ROGAINE route that was not optimal - we had traveled farther than necessary and our reasonably athletic initial efforts were surpassed by slower teams. Not to worry – the race was much longer than this.
Putting the Hammer Down We transitioned to our bikes after our mediocre start and we soon settled into an aggressive but comfortable pace. The temperatures rose above the sub-freezing level we’d started at and a clear, sunny day began. Thankfully, our performance beyond this point fell in line with our usual capabilities in terms of athletics, skills and equipment (top 10%) and navigation (something less). During the first biking leg we went from gravel roads to singletrack and we steadily moved up in rank. Conditions were dry and rocky with a full complement of fall leaves concealing some horrific rocks and other hazards that you would often notice when they’re too close to avoid them. We had one flat and one chain-break, but could just as easily have had a cranium-break at the speed we were going.
The biking leg was followed by a hiking leg. That concluded at the beginning of the paddling section. We had been warned in advance about the low water conditions and we weren’t disappointed. We chose to carry our own carbon kayak paddles and in retrospect, it was a good idea since we were able to pass several teams on the water. It seemed every couple hundred meters we found ourselves walking the boat across shallow gravel or over fallen trees. Although the low waterflow was seen as the enemy, a higher waterflow would not have been a panacea. The obstacles we encountered would have formed nasty sweepers and would have been far more hazardous, especially at night. Our paddling effort ended perhaps 40 minutes after dark as temperatures were dropping quickly. We made an awfully cold, wet transition to foot travel in the immediate vicinity of a blazing fire. Twenty minutes of walking allowed us to eat and heat up our frozen extremities.
The End is Near Several checkpoints found in the night on foot brought us to the bike drop once again. Our one flat tire for the event occurred a few pedal cranks away from our transition spot, but it was fixed in record time. We set off on a quick and smooth single-track section for perhaps 10k followed by gravel roads and a short jaunt in the briars for the final checkpoint.
We finished one minute shy of 3AM in 8th place. Overall, we were on foot for about 9.5 hours, paddling for around 3 hours and biking for 7.5 hours. It was a great reward to shower and to get some sleep prior to sunrise.
Acknowledgements We would like to thank our sponsors at SmartWool, GoLite, Gatorade, and CW-X for the support. It allowed us to qualify for, enter, and race in the National Championships. Thanks to LEKI for getting us here in a carbon-free manner, and, certainly not least, to Jason and Laura Elsenraat for a terrific race!
We had a great “support” network in the form of Jim Holden and Pamela Robbins who served dual duty as volunteers for the event and as our sponsors and organizers.
This past weekend, ARFE Management almost did not participate in the USARA National Championship.
We were not on time for the pre-race meeting. We almost missed the pre-race meeting! We were so late that we did not stop at the famed Gateway to the West on our way there. This is what the thing looks like from I-55: We watched our smart, wonderful team run 250 people through a Leave No Trace presentation from the wayyyy back. This brings our tally of people educated in Leave No Trace by ARFE's involvement, by the way, to a whopping 2000. Way to go, team! We also did not get a good night's sleep before the race. Instead, we spent it meandering around the huge Wal-Mart SuperCenter in lovely Potosi, MO. When we finally did get to our campsite, we speculated that it must be a beautiful campsite, although we did not see any of it, because it was pitch black. We did not see the campsite the next morning, either. (Still pitch black when we left.) We almost did not find our team before they left, because this is what race start looked like: We just barely found them, thanks to our trusty Crew Queen. After race start we had breakfast in the lovely Trout Lodge YMCA and almost did not see our team go by our their way to the first checkpoint, because we thought they were misguided, badly lost, Loch Ness monsters: Your Crew Queen, Crew Minion, and Gatorade Jim then drove off to our first checkpoint, where we were not active: and where we most certainly did not abuse a certain food-scientist-turned-cabana-boy so much that he felt compelled to leave on his bicycle, taking our mascot with him: Whatever happened, we most certainly did not fall out of our chairs because we were sleeping while teams were being checked in, and certainly not in full view of a camera: We spotted ARFE-SmartWool in 28th place, far behind where we thought they would be, but who are we to talk? We were most clearly Not Racing. Still, they looked like they were having fun, and we were pleased for it. we drove onto the next checkpoint, not finding at first try, or even second try, but we were not late! we sat about with some great supporters for team Road Rash from Nebraska, and Jerry and Sherry Simpson, of SportRaxx, and their crazy awesome dog-with-the-handlebar-ears Gonzo. (Gonzo did not like our Sprocket. I suspect that's largely because Gonzo spotted Sprocket being dressed up like a patsy at the pre-race meeting the previous night:) From there we trudged back to HQ, where we were to spell the folks who'd been working since race start, and were told that we could sleep for the next three hours! Oh, joy! We piled into our team's room (who knew what they were doing, anyway? Racing, or summat?), and did not get three hours of sleep. We got half an hour of sleep, and then were told that the first teams were coming into the finish, stat! Two of us piled out of the room, where we did not realize that it felt warmer outside because it was not yet the deep of night (our sleep cycles were all verklempt, you see), found a room to cram into, rather than mucking about outside, and cranked up the heaters for the racers that were coming in. Then we did not fall asleep or make much coherent conversation until the Team M.O.A.T., our pals from the northeast EMS, Washington State wunderkinds DART-Nuun came in. Crew Minion waited anxiously for a little while longer, looking for ARFE pals Timberland, before she gave in to sleep. She's told she missed Team ARFE-SmartWool by a mere 1/2 an hour, but the Crew Queen was on hand to welcome in her racers, and all was good. What? You want to know what happened during the race? Well, this is what we have racing teams for. Stay tuned for a race report from Team ARFE-SmartWool.
ARFE-SmatWool takes 8th place! Team Travel Country Outfitters FINALLY wins Best Garbage, after three years of trying. Team Terra Firma wins 2nd place Best Garbage after picking up after ARFE-SmartWool (inadvertently) drops a water bottle on course! Aaaand, Jason and Laura Elsenraat pu on a terrifically good show! Stay tuned for the full news and photos tomorrow morning. Pooped now; going to bed after a great weekend! Thanks, USARA and Bonk Hard! As always, huge thanks to our sponsors, SmartWool and CW-X, for making Best Garbage available, and to LEKI, for making our travel to these events carbon neutral.
can't wait to see our old friend EMS and Timberland there; looking forward to a strong showing from our ARFE-SmartWool members Bruce Swanson, Chris Edmundson, and Suze Snyder! good luck, everyone, and stay warm!
Team ARFE-SmartWool, captained by the ever-vigilant Bruce Swanson, finished second in the four-person championship category at NYARA's Shag race this weekend. Our friends at Team GOALS came in first place after a battle in the orienteering section, as relayed by Mr. Swanson, and team A-List came in first place in the two-person category. Big thanks to Chris Edmundson, as usual, and to guest stars Jen Shultis and Sara Percy, for pulling off another great race for Team ARFE-SmartWool. Now it's onwards and forwards to nationals!