Monday, April 16, 2007

PA24 Race 2007 – Team Report

This year’s Planet Adventure 24-Hour Race was held in the Hoosier National Forest in southern Indiana - perhaps 45 minutes west of Louisville, KY. The conditions were very wet with temperatures ranging from the low 30s at night to 50 degrees during the day. The terrain featured rolling hills with hardwood forests that easily accommodated off-trail navigation. The ground was saturated with water and made the bike travel very muddy and slow, especially for teams like us who chose narrow, semi-slick tires.

The race began shortly after 8:00AM Saturday with an orienteering course, requiring that we locate checkpoints worth a combined value of 15 points. Two strategies presented themselves: run far and gain fewer high-value points or stay near and use our orienteering skills to find a greater number of checkpoints. We chose the latter strategy and returned to the transition area in 3rd or 4th place after a few challenges – including the strangely misplaced checkpoint 10 which was found nearly 100m down from its “hilltop” position.

We transitioned quickly from the orienteering leg to our heaviest packs in preparation for biking, climbing, trekking and paddling. The biking would have been fast and fun in dry conditions. The road and gravel sections were unaffected, but much time was lost pushing bikes or riding at degraded speeds in the mud. After biking, the ropes crew was a welcome sight and added some variety to the event. They took advantage of the interesting rock formations to rig a traverse and a rappelling section. A couple checkpoints followed on foot and ended at the paddling start. This paddling leg started rather quickly with approximately 6k down a tributary stream followed by 9k upstream on the Ohio River. This latter portion found us close to the river bank in an effort to avoid a current that appeared to range from 1-4 kph. We were fortunate to have our take-out in sight before nightfall, though we finished in full darkness with glow sticks lighted.

One of our team was suffering from mild hypothermia upon completion of the paddle. A warm support vehicle, food, dry clothes and a heavy dose of inner strength gave this person the capability to continue – through the lingering effects that continued for hours.

A navigation section followed on foot within and near a quarry. The mining activity had altered the topography that appeared on our maps and created interesting challenges in the form of cut-away bluffs that were commonly 10m to 30m in height. This section took much longer than we had hoped, and we returned to the TA with the knowledge that only one discipline lay before us. The final bike leg was modified to remove the trail portions, though it was not short overall – an effort of approximately 4 hours in our case.

We finished the race to a decidedly low-key reception. The low temperatures, rain and muddy conditions created huge challenges for the competition and it was unfortunate to see that 23 teams out of 33 starters had withdrawn from the event.

The final results should read a start time of 8:05AM Central Time with a finish of 7:59AM the following day, for a total time of 23:54. This put us in fourth place overall, third place for the 4-person coed category.

We would like to recognize and thank our sponsors, support and other well-wishers. SmartWool clothing provided the first 1-3 layers of our base clothing along with numerous hats, gloves and accessories. GoLite packs, shells, hats and other products were put to good use. Gatorade fluids and other products were always within reach. ARFE and Yi Shun Lai provided the organization, support and identity for the team – the genesis for our effort and a great help.

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