Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Cradle of Liberty Race Report

Bruce Tells the Story

This is the third year that Team ARFE-SmartWool has competed in the Cradle of Liberty 24-hour adventure race organized by GOALS ARA. Our team composition changed a number of times for this year’s event. We were first a four-person all male team. Then a three-person all-male team. Then just a two-person all-male team, and then, finally, the best combination possible in adventure racing: a three-person co-ed team. Our final setup was an interesting combination of ARFE staples Bruce Swanson and Chris Edmundson with a last-minute guest appearance of Jennifer Shultis. We were joined by a field of approximately 30 teams in Hickory Run state park for an event that was centered on Jim Thorpe, PA during ideal weather conditions.

In a departure from many 24-hour race formats, this event had a mid-afternoon start on Saturday. This was a welcome change and avoided the usual scramble to leave work on Friday to arrive at check-in on time. The registration, gear assembly and route plotting would take place from 11:00AM to 1:45PM followed by a pre-race meeting and departure on buses for a 3:30PM start.

The event began in the town of Jim Thorpe with a short run to an assembly of 6-person rafts on the bank of the Lehigh River. We were fortunate to take an early lead and maintain a short, but critical distance ahead of the pack. This position gave us maneuvering capability around groups of recreational paddlers that was unobstructed by our own competitors and also gave us the ability to observe the lines chosen by the lead safety kayak around river obstacles. The roughly 10-mile paddle was very scenic, but it passed quickly. In less than two hours we were leaving our raft and transitioning to our bikes for some speedy biking back upstream.

The biking portion was an interesting combination of fast rail trails through the deep Lehigh river gorge in addition to some time spent on ridgeline trails and a couple passes through the town of Jim Thorpe. The ascents were on surprisingly gentle inclines, but one notable rapid descent from the town overlook into town required a little concentration. Nightfall came as we left our bikes to obtain two checkpoints on foot above a series of waterfalls. The final biking leg followed the winding river along the speedy, well-maintained rail trail. This concluded in the vicinity of our vehicles for a quick transition into the final orienteering portion.

The orienteering points were widely scattered and presented the usual challenges of distance, sharp hills, tight brush and navigation. One checkpoint, however, was placed on the opposite side of the park’s most famous geologic feature, a field of boulders 12 feet or more thick scraped from the nearby hilltops and deposited by glaciers and associated water flow during the last ice age.

We finished the event at the end of the orienteering portion on foot in approximately 22 hours. This landed our team in 2nd place for the elite category (3-person coed) and 2nd place overall.

We would like to thank GOALS ARA for organizing this event. The time and efforts of the volunteers, safety personnel, rafting company, park personnel and other involved parties were certainly appreciated.

Of course, this event gave us yet another opportunity to utilize the SmartWool, GoLite, and Gatorade products generously supplied to us by our sponsors. We couldn't have done this event without LEKI, either, who offset our carbon output for the year. Our 674-mile round trip produced 28 pounds of CO2.

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