I teamed up with Bruce Dale for this race, a local NC racer with a strong AR background. We had trained several times together over the past year or so since Kelly and I moved back to NC, but had never raced together. This race had a recreational division as well as a competitive division, the only difference being about 4 more miles of paddling for the competitive groups. However, we did find that the courses were actually much different as well on the morning of the race.
The race start was delayed, as there were some issues with the rented boats that were being brought in. Once that was resolved, the recreational groups got underway with some staggered starts, as they ran off towards the boats. They were to run to the boats, and paddle around to a boat drop, which is where the competitive races that did not bring their own boats could pick up the rentals. Bruce and I had already dropped off our boat, my Dad’s tandem kayak, at this point a little earlier.
The competitive 4 person division soon started, and then 5 to 10 minutes later, the competitive pairs started, followed by the soloists. We had a short 50 yard dash or so to our bikes, and then headed out on the bike course. Bruce was 1st onto the trails, and I had to pass one racer right at the start before I was behind him. We soon built a pretty good lead of 1 to 2 minutes, and eventually passed one of the 4 person teams.
Bruce looked like he was out for a Sunday stroll, while I struggled to keep up with his strong pace. But with about 2 miles to go, a stick caught his rear derailleur and bent it between his spokes. We had to use a stick and a lot of force to pry it out — I was worried it was going to snap right off! Meanwhile, one of the teams behind us caught up and passed us. We were soon back on the bikes, but Bruce had a few more problems shifting, and another team passed us. Once we got everything straight, Bruce was stuck with a single speed for the rest of the bike leg, but we were still able to catch the other teams, though we never did build a lead again.
Unfortunately, we missed the turn for the transition and probably rode 2 or 3 extra minutes before we realized it. One of the two teams was with us, while the other one did not miss the turn. Bruce and I headed back over the trails to the TA, while the other team must have jumped on the roads. On the way back, we saw the 3rd team, and knew we had lost several minutes.
We quickly dropped our bikes and ran towards the boats. Once we got under way, we could see the 1st place team ahead of us in a canoe. We knew we had a big advantage in the kayak. We paddled about a mile or so to a boat drop, and actually pulled in just as the lead team was taking off on foot.
This section was a long (6 or 7 mile) orienteering leg. The map was a 1:24,000 vs. a 1:10,000 like I am used to for orienteering, so it was not nearly as detailed. We had trouble with the 1st control and decided we’d get it on the way back. At the 2nd control flag, the lead team came up and had already found the 1st. We then ran with them towards the 3rd, and eventually caught the lead 4 person team. We then were all together as we ran through the woods finding the next two flags. We all had trouble with the last one, and even when we saw the four person team take off and we knew they had found it, we still couldn’t locate it! We eventually did, as other teams were catching up. Unfortunately, I was a few hundred yards away from the control and everyone else was closer, so the other teams did get a big jump on us.
Bruce and I made the decision to head back into the woods for more bushwhacking, even though the other teams headed out on the roads, which looked to be longer, though easier. We bushwhacked for some time as we tried to make our way back to the 1st control which we still had not found. We again had a lot of problems with this one, and this is when I decided the map scale must be off! We eventually found the control at a lake about 3/4’s of a mile in-land from the big lake, even though the map scale indicated it should only be 1/4 in-land!
After that, we ran back to the boat drop and jumped in, for the final 4 or 5 mile paddle. We were disappointed that we didn’t really see any other teams in front of us for quite some time, though we eventually did pass a soloist. We finished the paddled and had a portage of about 3/4 of a mile, which we knew was going to be tough with Dad’s heavy (88 lbs) boat. The fast kayak gave us a big advantage in the water, but was a big disadvantage on land! We struggled through the portage, and had a running sprint of a hundred yards or so to the finish line.
We came in 3rd in the competitive 2 man division, and probably 5 or 6th overall. The times on the board were time of day, not total time, so it was a bit hard to tell exactly where we were overall, because the start times had not been exact or recorded! Either way, we had raced for about 2.5 hours, and finished about 10 or 12 minutes behind the lead 2 man team. We were a bit disappointed in that we had mechanical and navigational mistakes, but 3rd place was enough $$ to cover our entrance fee. When we got the envelope and opened it, we felt better — it’s always great to race for free!