Bushwhack Adventure Race.

Team:  Triangle Adventure Racing

Sean Butler, Brian Thompson


Check-in was set for 2:30 p.m. at Harris Lake, which was the remote start, so I met Brian there and we got our maps.   They had actually published the UTM’s of the start, finish, and transition areas earlier in the day, so I had made a google map, which I will embed here.  (Not sure how well it will work, but you should be able to click on each blue marker to see what the TA is…)

After we checked in and got the big map and UTMs, we drove a little away so we could plot the UTMs on a picnic table.  We were given all of the TA UTM’s and a the 1st large section of CP UTM’s…  After we plotted them we drove back to the start and put our gear together.  We were using Frog Hollow’s paid support to move our bikes and boat around, and found that they would allow us one small bin of gear.  We used that mostly for food.

My fuel strategy was to mainly use 4 20 oz. water bottles filled with a mixture of Hammer Nutrition products:  sustained energy, perpetuem, and heed.   I had mixed about 450 calories worth of those products in each bottle, and that was my main fuel that I supplemented with the following:  peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and honey, combos, pringles, gels, cliff shots, bite sized candy bars etc.  I had a lot more food than I needed as the Hammer Mix really kept me fueled well, but with the gear bin being carried by Frog Hollow, I never had too much food.

There was a pre-race meeting at 6 p.m., and we had to get our cars to the finish line from the remote start, about an hour round trip drive.  So we drove to Camp Agape and got a ride back from Jeff who was racing the 8 hour race the next day.   The RD’s went over the rules and answered questions at the meeting, and told us to be back at 6:45 p.m. for final instructions.

Bushwhack adventures tend to do rogaine style races, where there are many controls in each section, each worth varying points.  This allows both fast teams and slow teams to be on the course for nearly the same amount of time, as you can decide to not go after some controls if you start to run short on time….  This means that it does not matter who reaches the finish 1st — it matters who has the most points.  Finish time only comes into play if there is a tie in pioints.


At the final instructions, they told us we would have a prologue, which turned out to be a short orienteering course of 3 check points on either an A or B course, where each control was located at a small pond in the park.  I had to run get our running shoes since we had been prepared to bike first.  We got the maps at 18:59, had to hold them down until the RD yelled “go” at 19:00.

We looked at the map, chose to go with course A, and took off running.  We arrived at the 1st control just behind team Checkpoint Zero (CP0), the current leader in the national points standings for the Innov8 race series.  Brian graciously walked out into the pond, which was really more a swamp.  As he came out he said “I just took one for the team!”   It was pretty mucky and it did stink!

We raced on to CP2 which was relatively easy, and the on to CP3.  We found the pond and circled it, but there was no control.  We saw team CP0 again, and they said they could not find it.  We circled the pond several times but had no luck, and a couple other teams came up as well.  Eventually we all decided to bail and tell the RD’s they were off, but on the way back we all decided to circle another pond we had to pass, and there it was.  We still think the control was misplaced.

We raced back to the start and were 1st back, only a couple of seconds ahead of CP0.  There are no splits for the prologue, but we were the 1st team back.

I think the prologue was a good idea, as otherwise there would have been a ton of congestion on the early parts of the 1st bike leg…

Section 1: Bike

We jumped on our bikes and head out on the single track.  I immediately knew I was going to be in trouble.  The lights I had for my helmet and handle bars were nowhere near good enough for this kind of single track riding.  They were fine on paved roads, gravel roads, and jeep trails, but not here.  I was terribly slow on all single track and I bet we lost at least 30 minutes throughout the race because of that.  I need to get back to riding more single track, and I need better lights!CP0 passed us just before we got our 1st control….  Our strategy was to go across the main road outside of the park and pick up all the jeep trail controls, while CP 0 apparently decided to get all the single track inside the park 1st, as they took off in a different direction from us.

Across the road on the jeep trails, our navigation was not quite as crisp and we did overshoot a couple, but we eventually got them all and headed back to the rest of the single track.  Once we cleared those, we headed back to the TA and jumped in the boats to head out on the water.

The splits show this section took us 4 hours and 30 minutes, though that includes the prologue time.  That was about 4th place but there were about 4 or 5 other teams that all came in right after us.  CP0 had checked in well over an hour before.  It was now 23:30.

Section 2:  Paddle Harris Lake

Night navigation on water can be pretty tough, and we had a pretty long kayak section.  All controls were somewhere on the shore, except one which was mysteriously in the middle of the water according to the map. Our plan was to paddle to the 1st control, then back track a little to a boat ramp, and portage across the peninsula to save some time.  We did that, and while the portage was slow as we had some issues with the wheels we had borrowed, it still saved a lot of time.

We found the control in the “middle of the water” easily — turns out there was a small island there.  We continued to knock out all the controls here pretty easily.  It was amusing to see lights in the woods on the shore looking for controls, when Brian would say they were off by several hundred meters.

After the last control we paddled to the next TA.  I ran around trying to find the folks manning the CP, and finally did.  We were surprised to discover we were in 1st place!  But CP0 came out just a few seconds later.  Our time on this section was 3 hours 13 minutes, 27 minutes faster than any other team and well over an hour faster than CP0 (who had cleared the bike course way ahead of us!)

We quickly transitioned from boat to bikes, but CP0 was a few seconds faster.  They had a real support crew, which certainly helped.  While we had to re-fuel and refill water, they did not.

Section 3:  Bike San Lee

We had about an hour road bike to the bike trails at San Lee Park, with just a couple turns and one CP to find on the way.  We arrived at SanLee five minutes behind CP0 in 2nd place, and quickly headed onto the trails where the passport said we would find 4 CP’s “somewhere on the two loops.”  We found the 1st one within 100 yards of the start of the trail, which seemed too easy.  We found this trail pretty hard to ride at night, without good lights.  Brian’s good handle bar light was not working now, and the trail was fairly technical.   We rode when we could, and pushed bikes the rest of the time.  After a while we started thinking we must have gotten off a bike trail and on to a hiking tail, as it seemed unridable!  Then we stumbled across another CP, so I guess it was a bike trail after all.

From here we made our 1st major mistake, which would come back to haunt us.  We crossed a foot bridge to find the start of the other loop, and eventually did.  It turns out if we had not crossed the bridge, the other loop actually was right there!   Where we did start, we found the 3rd CP pretty quickly.  But this trail seemed to go on and on, and there were a few double black diamonds and bypasses… At one point we made the decision to take a bypass to get out, but when we did reach the end — at the foot bridge — we had not found a control.  We searched around for more trail, and never found the CP.  Eventually we went back to the foot bridge, rode up the bypass, and walked our bikes through the double black diamond.  Still not control.   I searched up and down the few trails at this junction a couple times with no luck.

We eventually decided to bail we had spent way too much time here.  I thought when we checked out of this section, we probably would have lost significant time and places.  It turns out we did lose a lot of time to CP0 who had done this section in about 45 minutes while we had been out for over two hours, but we were still in 2nd place.  Now, though, we had missed a control, and as this was a rogaine style race, points come before time.  The person at the CP and set the control, and he showed us on the map where it was, and it was right there near the footbridge.  Somehow we had missed it even though we checked a few times.  😦

We took the roads back to the Cape Fear River at highway 42, where arrived at 6:55 a.m. and received a couple more UTMs to plot.  CP0 had arrived well at 5:09 so we had lost a lot of time, but we were still in 2nd time-wise.

Section 4:  Paddle the Cape Fear River

This began as fairly easy paddling to the dam, about a 2 miles.   We had to portage up and over the dam, which was quite steep on each side.  From there it became a “hike a kayak/river walk” as the water was quite low and there were many rocks.  In a kevlar boat that is not good!

After about 3 miles of this, we came to the “ropes section” which was a simple trylean traverse across a side-let of the river, maybe 20 yards…

As we were leaving the ropes, we saw a boat behind us for the 1st time (the 3rd place team, Eastern Mountain Sports).  They had just missed the ropes and had to turn back, so we figured we were still up on them 15 minutes or so.

Then it was on to more hike a kayak until we reached a bit of rapids and the pull out for the orienteering section.  The splits show we had made up about 20-30 minutes on CP0 as they had headed out on the O-course one hour and 20 minutes before us.

Section 5:  Orienteering

Raven Rock is a great place for orienteering, and Brian again showed his excellent navigation skills.  While we were just a little off on the 1st control, and felt the next two were slightly misplaced though we found them pretty quickly, we went through this section in what we thought was a good time, clearing the course in 3 hours and 50 minutes.   Here it is hard to look at the time splits as many teams were starting to skip controls due to the time, but we can see we gained just under 30 minutes on CP0.  However, EMS had made up 40 minutes on us!

We were still in 2nd place leaving this section (We had seen EMS a few minutes earlier, and they came up as we were getting ready to pull out, and we got on the water about the same time.

Section 6:  Paddle

We had about an hour paddle to the last boat  take out, still on the Cape Fear River.  Along this section we nearly had a disaster… The boat hit a rock hard, with enough momentum to get the middle of the boat on the rock, with me in the front and Brian in the back putting a lot of stress on the kevlar.  We heard what I thought was the boat cracking, but it turned out to be the sealant cracking, and the boat did not take on any water, so we were ok.  We reached the pull-out at the same time as EMS.

Section 7:  Bike

We biked up a long gravel road to some paved roads, and then on to the north side of Raven Rock State park.  This took about 30 minutes.  Splits show we got to the check in before the trek 10 minutes before EMS and 70 minutes after CP0.

Section 8:  Trek

The trek section was along two horse trail loops, with just 4 controls to get.  We got the 1st two easily, and then bushwhacked through the woods to pick up the other loop. This bushwhack saved a lot time vs. taking the trail all the way around to the other loop!  But the 3rd control proved difficult.  We went up and down the spur where it was supposed to be, much higher than it was marked, and couldn’t find it.  Another team came and we felt certain we were in the right spot.  Eventually Brian tried to call the RD, but we couldn’t get signal.  We had decided to abandon this CP has time was starting to get short for getting to the finish before the cut-off at 7 p.m. and we still had one more CP to get.As we were going down the back side of the spur, we should have hit a trail, and we never did.   So we were not where we thought we were!  We headed back to the trail where we had come up the spur, and then started the trail again.  We soon hit another spur, checked that out, but no CP.  Back to the trail, and a few minutes later, another spur.  And there the control was… We had been off — way off.  We probably lost a good 20-30 minutes on this CP.  Oh well, on to the next.

We had more trekking/running to small waterfall, where I spotted the CP across the stream.  After going around to grab it, we headed back to the TA, and then got on the bikes.

Section 9:  Bike to finish

The last section was about a 30 minute bike on a gravel road (with a decent climb!) and then on to the finish.  We reached the finish at 6:24 p.m, or 23 hours and 24 minutes.  I do note based on the splits we had the fastest time on this short section by 5 minutes.  I think we were just ready to be done!


We had missed one control on the course, and we did not know if any other teams had cleared the course, though we assumed CP0 and EMS had.  Turns out EMS had missed one 50 point control, while we had missed a 60 point control, so they did beat us (barley!)

Here are the final standings:


We finished first place in our open division and third place overall.  I am quite happy with how I raced since it was my 1st long race in over 5 years.  We were right there with two very good teams for most of the race.  Brian’s navigation and me drafting behind him on the road bike allowed me to hang with him without slowing him too much.  (Other than the night single track, where I was terrible!  We probably lost 30 minutes or more on those 2 sections!)

I loaded up all my gear, ate a little at the post race cook out, but did not stick around for the awards.  I just wanted to go home, get a shower, and get some sleep!

I had terrible chaffing and a rash from being in the same wet bike shorts for nearly 24 hours.  And the next day I was tired and sore, but that is expected.  I had pushed pretty hard to keep up with Brian’s pace, but overall I am recovering nicely and look forward to my next adventure!  🙂

Here is a link to the final results.

(I’ll update this with more pictures if/when the volunteers upload them!)

Here is what my leg looked like after the race.   This is due to way too much bushwhacking!  🙂


5 thoughts on “Bushwhack Adventure Race.

  1. Pingback: Triangle Adventure Racing Team » Bushwhack Adventure Race.

  2. Pingback: Race reports « Bushwhack Adventure Race 2009

  3. Pingback: Raven Rock Rumble 10 miler « 2sparrows

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