Monday, September 29, 2008

Cumberland MOMAR Race Report

September 27, 2008

I partly credit the Mind Over Mountain adventure race series for getting me into endurance sports. I had dabbled in running a bit in high school track, but was never too serious. It was my desire to participate in an adventure race that promoted me to get into better shape and started me down this road which I now love so much. While pure running may be my strength and what I love the most, these sprint adventure races add some great variety to my race season and I always look forward to them.

Once I looked at the huge registered racer list and saw the level of competitors that would be out for this race I knew we would have to race well to have a chance of being on the podium. Here is how it played out.

Stage 1: Kayak

The race started in the water with a mass start. Over 150 boats lined up in behind the imaginary line, eager to get going. These starts are always a little chaotic, with boats hitting each other and paddles hitting things other than water. Luckily, after a few minutes things calm down as the boats spread out. As soon as the race started, the wind picked up which made the first leg more difficult. Although we didn't see any boats go over, we later heard that quite a number of racers took an unexpected swim along the way. The kayak stage is always my least favorite part of the MOMARs and after about 10 minutes, all I was thinking was "Are we almost there?" I suppose it doesn't help that neither Garth nor I kayak outside of these races so it always feels like an unpleasant grind. One reason I dislike this stage so much is that the kayak's speed hardly seems to change, even when we try to dig deep. Despite our dislike for this stage, we tried hard to keep our speed consistent and actually managed to pick up our pace a little bit for the last 10 minutes passing a couple of boats. The map said the stage was 9km, but I really think it was a little longer as it took us 1:05 to complete the course. We ended up being the 15th team to the first transition, which really isn't that bad considering our complete lack of specific training.

Stage 2: Orienteering

Thankfully finally out of the kayak, we punched the first checkpoint and picked up the next map. It was an orienteering stage in the area very close to the start line. I took a moment to get my bearings then we moved out. I was planning to get a checkpoint a small distance up a trail, then backtrack and pick up another trail just up the road. After a very short run, I had us head up what I thought was the appropriate trail, but the trail soon didn't seem to match with the map and I realized that we were actually on the second trail, damn! A mistake on the first real checkpoint didn't bode well for this race. The problem was that the map was a larger scale than I had expected which made me miss the first trail. It is important not to dwell on any mistake in these races though and just refocus and move on. We picked up the next few checkpoints with little issues and then moved on to the west part of the course where there were a couple of checkpoints that were only reachable by a single trail. Normally this would have been fine, but over 200 racers were rushing all over the course by this point and the trails turned into a human traffic jam. There was just no quick way to go anywhere; it was really quite frustrating. The crowds also mostly defeated the purpose of this orienteering stage as the checkpoints became pretty obvious when a train of people were heading for it. It kind of reminded me of ants going for a chunk of cheese! Eventually we made it out of the crowd and headed for the last checkpoint on the beach. Unfortunately, I again misjudged where we were on the map forcing us to backtrack for a short distance. I mentally kicked myself for making such rookie mistakes, but at least we were done. Definitely not a clean stage, but at least not a disaster.

Stage 3: Mountain Bike #1

As usual we had a very quick transition to our bikes. Garth and I both use flat pedals rather than clipless. We lose some efficiency on the flats and climbs, but gain time by not having to change shoes. Our strategy has elicited some flack from other racers who think that we are losing time, but on a race of this length I still think we may end up ahead. The stage started with a few km on paved road and a flat rail grade. We passed one co-ed team of two and caught up to Jeremy Grasby. He was just waiting for a team to draft on the flat sections because he was riding a single speed! He actually ended up pulling ahead, but I thought we would catch him on the climb when he was forced to hike the steep hills. Little did I know what level of rider he was and he not only beat us up the climbs and the subsequent downhills, he also repaired a flat and still managed to beat us! Pretty impressive. The first single track climb was frustrating for me as the roots and rocks bounced my bike all over the place, I just couldn't get any momentum going. Garth fared better and had to wait for me a couple of times. Fortunately, soon enough we made it to a logging road. This is where the climb began in earnest and several sections necessitated shifting into the granny gear. We passed John Barron and Tom Jarecki of Team Night Hawk Playing Hookey and Roger MacLeod on our way up, but had to work to do it. Finally we hit the top and started the decent on the Bear Buns trail. This trail turned out to be very rough and punishing on the body. My hands ached from constant application of the breaks and it was unrelenting. Garth and I were able to ride pretty much all of the trail, but it was at the upper limit of our abilities. The next trail, Teacup, was much smoother and was pretty fun. On the final section of single track before the next transition, I heard a crash behind me and Garth swearing. This is never a good sign so I called back asking him if he was OK. The reply was "I just went over the handle bars and landed on my head, but go go go!" Fortunately no permanent damage was done.

Stage 4: Navigation Trek

We soon hit checkpoint #7 where we dropped our bikes and got the 3rd map of the race. We were encouraged to see that there were fewer than 10 bikes there. This most likely meant that if we could have a clean trek we would likely place decently. As soon as I looked at the map, I realized that the trek encompassed a fairly wide area and we would have to climb back up to the same elevation we were just at on the bike. That was actually good for us as we are both pretty good climbers and runners. I picked a route and we were off picking up the checkpoints along the way. The navigation was actually pretty straight forward as all the checkpoint were on or near trails. The climb was significant, but not insane and soon we were headed back down. On the final trail back to the transition, I noticed that Garth was starting to hurt. He was suffering from a minor bonk most likely caused by not taking in enough energy. He took in some more calories which helped him recover after a short time. The stage took us 1:15 which turned out the be 3rd fastest overall.

Stage 5: Mountain Bike #2

We hit the transition back to the bike at the same time as Jeremy. Although his official trek time was slightly faster than ours I think we made up some time on our quick transitions. The last bike stage was short only lasting 15 min or so. Partway along the course, I asked Garth what position he thought were in. "Top 10, maybe" was the answer. I was more optimistic, thinking maybe we were in the top 5. No sooner had I said that than we hit the next manned checkpoint and the volunteer there told us that were were in 4th place. Wow, way better than we had thought! News like that always helps to give a little boost late in the race.

Stage 6: Urban Navigation

In under 16 min we hit the final transition in Cumberland, dropped our bikes and picked up the last map. Three more quick checkpoints to get and then to the finish line. As we ran up to get two checkpoints on the main street, we saw John Markez coming up from the other checkpoints. "Damn", I thought, he already has that one, we will not be able to catch him. We found the two quickly and with John just behind us headed over to get the last one. I was surprised to find that he followed us when we turned off the main street rather than continue to the finish line. Apparently he had been unable to find the checkpoint on his first visit so had to go back. The checkpoint was hidden in some brush and I didn't see it right away and ran past it. Garth spotted it soon though and we punched in before John. A quick hop up to the next street and we were at the finish line placing 3rd overall (2nd team of two men) and only a minute and a half behind Jeremy. We were quite happy with the result considering the competitive field and it capped off our best ever MOMAR season never placing worse than 4th. As mentioned in my last post Gary Robbins and Todd Nowack crushed the field posting the fastest time in 4 of the 6 stages. A very strong DART-nuun team of 4 (Norm Hann Ryan VanGorder, Jen Segger, Tom Roozandaal) placed 5th and Roger MacLeod placed 6th. Final results are posted here. It was great to see a lot of other fellow Prairie Inn Harriers runners and triathletes come out and tackle this course. Sonja and her race partner Joelle McCartie may not have had their best race, but did pick up all the checkpoints and finished well inside the cutoff time. Thanks to Bryan for setting up a great new course and putting on another well run event. If you want Bryan, you can add in some more running:-) Now we have the winter to figure out how to gain 30 min so we can give Gary and Todd some competition!

Garth and I before the race


DARTvg said...

Great race and write up Shane!

Gary Robbins said...

Gonna need to get some clipless pedals sooner or later!! Awesome race man!


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