"For an occurrence to become an adventure, it is necessary and sufficient for one to recount it." ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Team POW/MIA Adventure Pt. 1

We all agreed that a dress rehearsal with all of our race gear was a good idea and Megan really wanted to ride the Berryman trail, so we decided to take a trip down there to test the waters.  Unfortunately Ryan had a family commitment and was unable make it out there with us.  He was definitely missed, misery loves company.
We met at White Castle at 9:30am Saturday morning, and convoyed out to Berryman.  We arrived at the campground around noon and quickly set up camp.  While setting everything up I discovered that one of my tent polls was broken, and realized that I need a new tent one that is free standing.  It was next to impossible to get my tent pegs into the ground but without them my tent doesn't stand up.
After setting everything up spirits were high as we prepared to go ride the trails.  The status of my wrist was cause for concern since I haven't been on my mountain bike for so long.  All I could do was give it a try and see how things went.  I was also under the impression that we were going out for a much shorter ride.  This is how I know my team makes up in determination anything they lack in skills and experience.  I'm the veteran the guy that gets out and does this stuff, and it was the other team members who are pretty new to this kind of thing who had no question that we were going to leave camp, ride the complete loop, and grill pork steaks when we were done.
Mark before the mechanical issues
We decided to ride in a counter clockwise direction because I thought that would be the easiest.  I forgot my Garmin, and my gloves, the gloves turned out to be no big deal but the Garmin would have been useful toward the end.  At first we were taking it slow as Megan and Mark got a feel for the trail but they came up to speed fairly quickly and I wasn't worried that they were going to do anything beyond their abilities.  It doesn't make sense to get hurt on a training expedition so close to the race.  Surprisingly my wrist felt fine, the brace really shored it up where it was needed and as long as I was careful there it didn't hurt a bit.  Somehow Megan mananged to hurt her wrist though.  She said that she just twisted it the wrong way.  I could see her going into therapist mode checking her range of motion and gauging the severity of the injury.  She said it would be ok and we continued on.  This team is full of tough individuals. 
At some point we stopped and discussed how far we were going to ride.  The only easy marker that I knew of was Brazil Creek which was roughly 10miles from where we started.  This was my first inclination that this was going to be a much longer ride than I thought.  I was game though.  We rode for what seemed to be a long time and came across another group of riders who told us that we had about a mile to go before we hit the creek.  The short stretch of road from the trail to the creek was a very welcome change especially for Mark since his bike had a rigid fork (Mark is hardcore for riding the trail on that bike). 
Megan Crossing Brazil Creek
Once we arrived at the creek I broke out my water filter and we filled our water bottles and bladders.  It was pretty hot out and we were drinking quite a bit of water.  I was glad that my pack had room for 2 bottles (I only brought 1 though).  The filter worked great and the water tasted good too.  Looking back if we hadn't had the filter we probably wouldn't have made it.  We took the opportunity to take some pictures riding through the creek even though the water wasn't very high, maybe 6-8inches at the crossing.  After a quick break we made our way up out of the creek.  This section is by far the steepest on the trail and we pushed our bikes to the top it was so muddy we couldn't have ridden even if we had wanted to. 
The second part of the trail seemed to be easier with long downhill runs that you could really fly down.  At times I was pretty far ahead of Megan and Mark because I just wanted to let it rip.  At one point I caught a pretty good sized stick in my rear wheel/derailleur area resulting in a severely bent derailleur hanger and a broken spoke.  Megan and Mark caught up to me and I told them that's usually what happens when you are the farthest away from the trail head.  Luckily I could bend the hanger back in place and the shifting was good for the most part.  There was really nothing I could do for the spoke, but anyone who knows me knows I have plenty of experience with broken spokes so I wasn't too concerned since it was just one.
My Trek
We rode on for a while without incident until we came to pretty good drop.  It wasn't huge or anything maybe knee high but it had to be ridden with a decnt amount of speed to avoid getting tossed over the bars.  I rode over it without a problem and Mark looked to be doing the same until his rear wheel came down.  I'm guessing that the vibration from the trail loosened his quick release and his wheel almost came off.  We stopped and made some adjustments, then rode and made some more adjustments.  It seemed like the wheel did not want to stay in place. Eventually we got it to stay but the I noticed that his front brake was unhooked.  Apparently it had been like that from the beginning.  He said he couldn't get it adjusted right so he went without it hooked up.  He said it would be ok, and since he made it this far without it...
We were all starting to wonder exactly how far it was to the end because daylight was in short supply.  Megan and Mark were smart enough to bring their lights so I wasn't that worried about the darkness.  I did have my headlamp so if it came down to it I did have a source of light.
After a long while we reached the Edward Beecher recreation area and once again had to refill our water supply at the spring.  When we stopped I was very worried because I could see an "aura".  This normally is a precursor to a migraine, and I didn't know how I would make it back if a migraine set in.  I grabbed some Aleve from Mark and hoped for the best.  Luckily a migraine never developed but I am at a loss for what caused the "aura".  Daylight was fading fast and we were anxious to get back so we didn't stay long.
Which way?
We hadn't gone very far when Mark had another mechanical issue with his bike.  He said his rear (only) brake wasn't working.  I checked it out and found that his brake cable had snapped.  This was real downer for all of us because it would slow our progress considerably.  We didn't know how far it was to camp or how long it would take us to get there but we all knew it was going to take a little longer.  Mark got back on the bike and started to ride.  Luckily the section we were in wasn't steep or technical so it worked out.  When he could ride he rode and when he couldn't we walked.  Sure it was a less than ideal situation but no one complained and we just kept moving forward.
At one point someone asked who would be the first person to hallucinate in the race.  I guessed it would be me because I have hallucinated at Berryman before when I thought I saw a bear that when I got closer turned out to be a log.  I know what you are thinking "If you thought it was a bear why did you get closer?" The answer is simple, I had run about 40miles at the time of the "sighting" and I was to tired to care about being eaten by a bear.  So as we were riding along I thought I saw someone standing on the side of the trail.  I was wondering what he was doing out on the trail.  Once we got up to where he was I realized he was actually a post.  So needless to say I am super excited to find out what hallucinations a 36hour race will bring on.
We kept going and going and going.  Keep in mind I had no watch and therefore had no concept of the passage of time other than now it was dark.  Even with lights it was too dangerous to ride since Mark had no breaks so we went into death march mode.
On and on we kept going.  When we saw the sign for the turn back to the campground we were very excited because we knew we were close.  It seemed to take forever to cover that last stretch of trail.  Finally there it was Mile marker 0 just a few more yards to the campground.  We were so relieved to be back. It was around 8pm so we had been out there on the trail for 7hours.
Megan and Mark got the fire going to throw down some pork steaks and I heated up my Chik'N.  The food tasted great.  We were too tired for s'mores and we went sleep in our tents.  Sunday we were going to meet up with Ryan for some paddling.
Before I settled in for the night I sent Beth a text to let her know that I was still alive.  I slept restlessly but woke up refreshed, without any soreness at all.  Mark and Megan felt refreshed too.  A blessing from the trail as a reward for our hard day.

We broke camp and headed to the Bird's Nest to meet up with Ryan for Part 2 of the weekend's adventure...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Prelude to Adventure

What is it about this place that makes me always want to come back for more?
So this weekend most of Team POW/MIA will be heading down to Berryman for a some re-con on the terrain.  Mark, Megan, and myself will be the POW's and Ryan is going to be MIA.  We are going down Saturday morning for some running/riding, I'm interested mostly in riding the trails at night.  I have never ridden  trails at night and I am anxious to try out my new light.  Sunday on the way back home we are going to meet Ryan at a friend of Mark's for some canoeing.  This weekend is going to allay some of our fears or reveal a bunch of new ones.
I was pleased to find the NathanSports pack that I ordered had arrived when I got home from work today.  I loaded it up and tried it on and I couldn't be happier, although the real test will be this weekend.  I was disappointed that it didn't come with a hydration bladder (I thought it did).  I should have read more closely.  My 100oz Camelbak bladder worked fine though so no harm.  I will post a more in depth review after I have had a chance to actually use it.

My bike needed some work in order to be adventure ready so I got busy on that also.  I moved my bottle cage, changed pedals, mounted my lights (front and rear), and loaded and installed my new seat bag.  It's safe to say that the Trek is ready to roll.
Tomorrow I will finish packing for the trip and load the van in order to get a relaxed start Saturday morning.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Laumeier Orienteering

Our Jerseys
Okay, 3/4 of Team POW/MIA took part in a orienteering class/meet at Laumeier Sculpture Park this morning held by the St Louis Orienteering Club.  The remaining 1/4 was off in Colorado for the Warrior Dash (I guess she was too good to go to Joliet like the rest of us).  But before I get into how we did this morning a little background information might be helpful.
Not long after I broke my wrist Mark came to see me at work and asked if I would be healed up by Sept. I thought I had agreed to do a race and forgot about it, so I was a little confused.  When I asked what was in Sept. He said "Berryman" and with a crazy look in his eye "36hour".  He told me Ryan was in and that Megan would do it if I did (He probably told Megan I would do it if she did).  I thought about it for a minute, this was not a decision to be taken lightly the 36hour is a quantum leap in the world of Adventure Racing for all of our prospective team members.  I realized that if I didn't do it they would find someone else and I would be hearing the stories for a long time to come.  So that is the story of how I became a member of the rookie team POW/MIA.  Which leads us back to why we out at an orienteering meet this morning.
Laumeier Orienteering Map
Getting to the park this morning was a challenge.  The class was scheduled to start at 8am.  I got there early and all of the gates to the park were locked.  Eventually someone showed up right at eight to let us in the park.  We got the class and it turned out to be very basic, a little too basic.  If today was your first time ever trying to navigate with a map then you were in the right place.  There were kids there who really seemed to be enjoying the class.  Once the class was over we were let loose for a 45min Score-O (go out on the course to find as many points in 45min in any order).  The park is not that large so it wasn't very hard to find the points, even though we did miss one.  The hardest part was running with my fully loaded pack.  I realized that I need a new one more suited to racing.  Mark has a new Osprey Manta 30 that he really likes.  After we finished I went to REI to buy one and of course they didn't have any.  The brick and mortar REI store never fails to let me down.  I know we won't be doing a whole lot of running on the 36hour course but I need a pack that will stay in place and not bounce around like mine.
Ryan did an admirable job as navigator, and shouldn't feel bad about missing a checkpoint.  We were running around so fast from point to point it is surprising that we didn't miss more.  Berryman will be a whole different animal though, the pace will be more relaxed and the distances much longer.
Today's exercise was a success in that we did something together and did it well.  I think it was also important for us to apply our orienteering skills in a real world environment, at least now we know we can.  Berryman is going to run us through the ringer, but hopefully once we get through to the other side their will be a finish line in sight.
Currently Mark and Ryan are somewhere paddling a canoe out on the river, and I am guessing that Megan is still trying to wash off the mud from Warrior Dash, as for me I think I'm going to get some dinner and watch a little television.
Team POW/MIA is alive and well...for now.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Maiden Voyage of the Gojira Lark

So a couple weeks ago I bought a kayak, but I had to wait until my broken wrist healed a bit more before I could take it out for its maiden voyage.  Michael (my nephew) and I went out to Horseshoe Lake for a few hours.  Launching of the boat ramp was a bit tricky because it was so slippery.  I almost fell getting in.  Once I got out the water was a little choppy and I was a bit nervous about being in the boat alone.  Up until now my only kayaking experience has been in tandems rented from Grafton Canoe and Kayak Rental which if my memory serves me correctly are more stable.  It only took a few moments to get comfortable on the water and we were off.  We stayed close to shore and ended up going down a side channel that was very calm.  Once we realized the channel was a dead end we turned around and headed back to the lake.  We paddled on for a while and staying close to the shore eventually we could see the St Louis skyline in the distance and felt like we could keep going until we got there.  Obviously we were in a lake so that was not possible.
We stopped and ate some Honey Stinger Energy bars and talked strategy for the MR340.  The result of our strategy session was that we have much to learn, plan, and figure out, it is a good thing we have year to prepare.  During the meeting of the minds a small snake tried to get into Michael's kayak.  I think he was a bit freaked out I don't blame him I wouldn't want a snake in the cockpit with me either.  On that note we decided to head back toward the boat ramp.  It was harder to work against the chop on the way back but we made it and we pulled out without any problems.  It was a good day and I can't wait to get back out there again.  Over the next year I will be spending a great deal of time in the Gojira Lark, and I am looking forward to it!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Congratulations to ROCK Racing for Making Nationals!

Rock Racing: Nationals: "ROCK Racing has been collecting points all year in the Checkpoint Tracker race series. We have placed well in several races and earned eno..."

My friends, RObin and chuCK Qualified for the Check Point Tracker National Championships in Moab Utah!  I am also a part of the team as an alternate but they are so good I never have to do anything.  I am looking forward to more training opportunities and trying out some new skills.