Monday, February 20, 2012

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

2009 December Chill

Steve Kaczor and I teamed up for this race. Things went well for us and took fourth overall, second in division. A very strong showing for us.

2009 Nationals Pilot Point Texas

Rich, Hilary and I headed to Texas for Nationals.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Rage 2009

Hilary and I wanted to get into the four-person category, so we teamed up with another two person team, Eugene, comprised of Cris and Jeremy. The large number of UTMs we had to plot gave us a good idea that this race would be long and difficult. Beyond the 50 or so UTMs, there would be a 12 point o-course that is pre-plotted.

The race started in Kensington MetroPark with a canoe leg. A mass start off the beach would mean a lot of confusion and jockeying for position. As paddling isn't our strong suit, a slow start would be expected. However, as it is a long race we had plenty of time to make up a few lost minutes. We held our own through the early paddle and small portages. We eventually took out at Island Lake for a mountain bike leg. We cruised around the Island Lake single track and found the various CPs. When we reached what we thought was CP9, the volunteer said that it was CP5. There were specific instructions as to what to do at CP9, take the blue route. Since she said it was CP5, we stayed on yellow. A couple miles down the trail we hit a spot that we knew was wrong. We doubled back and took the blue trail. It wound around back to the canoe TA. We lost a few more minutes, but kept moving forward.

Back into the canoe to paddle to Huron MetroPark for an o-course. We were trying to push to get as much done before darkness covered everything. One surprise was that there would be no reflectors on the CPs. We came across the landing of canoes where we would start the points south of the river. A little mud and some scrapes got us around these points in a timely manner. Back to the canoes and across the river for the rest of the o-points. As we rounded the bend, we saw a team pulling away from the shore. It turned out to be Infiterra, they were already done with the o-course. We pulled in and ran up to check in. They said it should take a little more than an hour. We started running to get as much done before dark. The cover of the trees brought darkness earlier than anticipated. But we kept knocking off the CPs. We were making good time until the last CP. It took longer than we would have wanted, but we finally found it. Many other teams were also running around the area in search of it.

Back in the canoes for a short paddle to the start of a monster bike o-course. We filled up with pizza before starting the biking. We had a plan to bike close to many of the points, then continue on foot for short distances to get the CPs. This worked well for us. We nailed the first four points before hitting the single track. We started with team Hafke who were ahead of us earlier. We didn't know how many points they had already obtained. The had to find mile markers and track the letters or numbers written on the back. We were tracking mileage and found the markers easily. There was a gamble to skip a small loop and guess at the letter on the marker. Hilary decided it wasn't worth the gamble, so we rode the loop. Good thing, as the letter we guessed was wrong. Jeremy's bike light was fading fast. The batteries just didn't have enough juice for all this riding. He was having problems and crashed several times on roots, rocks or trees he just couldn't see. Hilary lent him her helmet light so we could finish the loop. That helped a lot and we cruised to the end of the single track. On and off the bikes for the next few points. We made good time then headed further west for a longer trek section. We dumped the bikes and headed into the woods. Again, we nailed the CPs. Until we couldn't find the CP by the dead tree. We followed a trail into a swamp, but the CP was no where around. We decided to move along and come back later once the sun was up. Fifty yards down the trail we came across a dead tree, with a CP hanging from it. We hit a few more CPs then came to the last one on this section. A wall of brush and branches slowed our progress to a stop. Instead of moving slowly through this stuff, we decided to head around on trails and attack from the other side. A good move, as we nailed it in no time from the opposite side. A few more easy CPs, as it was light now, and back to the bikes. We rode to pick up the last two CPs on this leg then back to the canoes. Wow, what a bike leg.

Another paddle down to the final o-course. They gace us pre-marked 1:10,000 maps of Peach Mountain. This would normally be a good thing, but this map was just a larger version of the 1:24,000 map with no more detail. Our lines to the first few CPs might not have been the shortest, but we were hitting them. After the sixth CP, we made a major mistake. Instead of staying on the trail system, we decided to go to the road and try to find the unmarked trail. Our assumption was that the trail would go to the road. It didn't. After searching around on what we thought was the trail, we headed further east. Eventually, we found a forked trial and got our bearings. We had to decide on whether to go back for the four CPs we missed or just hit the last two before getting back in the canoes. We were starting to drag at this piont in the race and didn't want to miss the final cut-off. We opted to go for the canoes and the finish line. We grabbed the last two CPs and paddled the short trip to the foot bridge, which was the finish line. Shortly after we finished, Hafke and Vyster crossed the line, with all the CPs. Going back for the four missed CPs could have moved us up only one spot as those teams still would have beaten us on time. It was frustrating to have missed those CPs, but also exciting to know we were running the race in second place. We were proud of our accomplishments. Hilary and I are excited about what this means for Nationals in a month. See you in Texas! We finished the Rage 2009 in fifth place.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

BreakOut 24 2009

Joe Shorb was looking for a teammate, and I was looking for a race. So we joined forces to make Team Founder's Brewery.

The race had three stages that could be done in any order. Based on certain dark zones, we thought the only logical order was Silver Lake, Owasippe, then the paddle leg.

The bike to Silver Lake was about 20 miles on a paved rail trail. We took a little longer route to get to the rail trail simply because we knew the route was paved and where we were going. The alternate route was shorter, but unknown if it was paved and actually crossed the freeway. We hammered up the rail trail pace lining with another team. They dropped us toward the end of the ride but missed a turn. So we actually beat them to CP1. We dropped the bikes and headed to the sand dunes. It was rough going up, but with the help of a rope we summitted the first dune. Down the other side to the lake and followed it to CP2. It was easier walking along the beach than the loose sand. Beach goers gave us strange looks as we hurried past with our backpacks.

Up and over the next dune to CP3. Around the off limits area and past the off-road/atv area to Lake Michigan. It was a nice trek, except for the blazing sun. The sand in the shoes started causing blisters. Once we reached Lake Michigan, we could move easier along the wet sand down to CP4. We then continued around Silver Lake to CP5 and did a run/walk back to the bikes. After a long time in the sun, we still had 20 miles back to the central TA. We caught one team that looked to really be struggling. They soon dropped from the race. Now knowing the alternate route would work, we took it back to the TA saving us 1.5 miles.

A quick TA and we were back on the bikes heading to Owasippe for climbing, single track and orienteering. Joe needed a break, so I volunteered to climb the wall. The recent climbing Lisa and I had done really came in handy. Up to the top, punch the CP and back down. The single track was good, but not well marked. You needed to keep your eyes open for the trail markers. We were pushing to finish the first half before dark. It was close but we made it. We drop the bikes and chamge into trekking attire. We get a bearing on the o-course and head into the darkness. We work well as a team getting close then picking the reflector from the darkness. The first three go very well. We are using the single track bike map to give us some direction between the CPs. Going to the fourth CP gets confusing. The trails aren't matching the map. We travel around looping back to the single track. We knew we past the area, but weren't exactly sure where. We travel around and get close but still not exactly sure where we are. I replot the UTMs, it is right. I remembered being lost here last year at the BreakOut. I eventually locate where we are and head for the CP. Frustrated but relieved we head for the last two. Both are found spot on and back to the bikes. The two other teams that were on the o-course are still out there. We change and jump on our bikes. As we head out, the two teams are heading in. The second half of the single track is even more difficult to follow. The trail just disappears then reappears. In the dark we hope it is right. Bike tracks from earlier teams give us some confidence in the route. We eventually reach the last CP and the end of the single track. Now just an 8 mile ride back to the TA.

We check in and grab supplies for the paddle section. It's about a 4 miles trek to the canoes with pfds and paddles. The trek is on the rail trail so no navigation is required. A couple CPs have been stolen so we can skip one and need to read a sign at the other. We launch in the darkness and paddle into the lake. It is difficult to navigate the shoreline in the darkness. We think we are around the first CP, but can't see it anywhere. We continue on for the next CP. We will hit either one around the next peninsula. We will then know where we are. We find the boat ramp and read the sign. This means we need to head back and get the first CP. As we approach we see another team leaving the CP. Now we know it is there. We punch and go north up stream. The river is matching the map and we find the next CP. Up on land to the last CP. The trek follows some trails so it is rather straight forward. Once found, we now have all the CPs. It is now just a race to bank as many minutes on other teams. We have no idea how others have faired on other courses. As we get back to the canoes, the next team pulls up. They tell us the other team by us has dropped. We figure we have about a half hour lead on this team. A fast paddle downstream to the take-out. I coax Joe to run as much as possible the last 4 miles to the finish. A team on bikes passes us just a quarter mile from the finish. I think we just lost first place. However, they didn't get all the CPs. We finish in 21.5 hours getting all the CPs. Good enough for a first place finish. After all the races, it feels good to get a victory!

Monday, September 14, 2009

SMAC 2009 10 hour

John and I signed up for the SMAC 10 hour race as team Sparty On. This will be the longest race for John. He was a bit unsure of what would happen to him after 6 hours, his previous longest race. We had high hopes for this race.

The start sent everyone down to a lake shore where Paul was waiting. We took a slightly longer route, but were there close to the leaders. Due to the cold conditions, Paul removed the relay swim across the lake and has team relay run around the shore to the CP on the far side. John went first. He did well and upon his return, told me it was very clear as to where to find the CP. I headed out with my bike shoes. It wasn't far, so no need to change and waste time. Like John said, it was easy. I passed several other runners to make it back to Paul near the top of the pack. Upon return, Paul gave us the next map and we were back on the bikes. A fast ride to the canoe put-in had us on the heels of the leaders. The paddle was through a swampy river, upstream, to find four CPs around a lake. The first CP was right on the water and easy to see. We overshot the second CP and had to back track through some tall grass. We followed another team to the next two CPs and we back our trip back down stream to the take-out. We were well within sight of the team ahead of us and would see them around every bend. But then they were gone. I could not figure how they could have gained so much distance on us. We paddled around a couple bends then hit a long straight away. There was no way they gained that much distance. We turned around to see if we missed the turn to the take-out. When we saw what we thought looked familiar, we turned around again and paddled back. We then realized we must have missed the take-out and headed back upstream. As we rounded the bend by what we thought was a familiar area, we saw another team making the turn to the take-out. Arrggg, plenty of time and energy lost. We came off the river near the back of the pack. A quick TA and back on the bikes. With a small nav error, we rode and extra couple miles before we hit the single track. A bike-whack on the horse trail got us to the first CP and the single track riding. We made good time and passed a couple teams. All turns were clear and we were able to finish the single track in good time. There was an option of pushing the bikes along trails or riding roads back to the central TA. We rode, it was probably about even in terms of time. Back at the central TA, we dropped the bikes and donned our trekking gear. A review of the O-course map showed 41 CPs. That's a lot and the map looked like a shotgun blast. They were everywhere. I quick laid out a rough plan and we were off and running. We hit the first few very fast. The 1:10,000 map scale was nice. I could even find the rocks that were indicated on the map. We were ticking them off very efficiently. It wasn't perfect, but mistakes were quickly corrected. I would get us close then send John to punch the passport. It became a game to tell John to fetch the CP like a good hunting dog. As the day wore on, we weren't sure if we would have time to get all the CPs. The lost 45 minutes in the canoe truly hurt us. After the ropes course, a cargo net and long zip line, we decided to skip the farthest two CPs. We looped around the O-course knocking off all the CPs. Even the one on the island. I had to wade hip deep through the swamp to reach it while John kept a watchful eye on me. After getting our last CP, we ran to the finish. We indicated we were done and our time of 9 hours was entered into the computer. John pulled out the passport and noticed we had more than just the two CPs missing. There were two more we had missed. Looking at the map, we saw they were only about 100 yards from where we stood. However, since our time had been entered, we were done. That mistake only cost us one position in the final rankings, but it steams me make such a dumb mistake. Note to self: check passport before finishing. It was a great day out in the woods, and John realized that he can go longer than 6 hours. We finished 6th overall, but can only dream how we might have done without the canoe error and missed CPs...

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Michigan Expedition Race (MIX) - 2009

Just watch the video. Look for my neon green pfd.

Or, to read Mike's report click here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

LBL Challenge - Kentucky 2009

By: Mike LaFontaine
The start of the 2009 race season for me began with the Land Between the Lakes Challenge, put on by Bonk Hard Racing. Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area is situated on the southwestern edge of Kentucky along the Tennessee border and boasts rolling hills, large tracts of forest, and of course, the Cumberland River which is damned to creat the two large "lakes that surround the recreation area. This race had me racing with Scott Eveningred, Hilary Witbrodt, and Phil Shrader as Michigan Racing Adicts. This was our first time racing together and we were treating it as a training race for the upcoming MIX, a 3.5 day race in northern Michigan.
After meeting up near Elizabethtown, KY, we drove together to Grand Rivers, KY, home of race headquarters. We spent the remainder of the evening preparing for the next mornings race start and plotting points on our map.
The race started at 8 am with a noon cut-off on the following day, making it officially a 28-hour race. The first leg of the race was a short trek of about 3 miles on mostly paved trails with some bushwacking. The end of this trek took us to a bike transition where we then took off on several miles of single track, picking up check points along the way.
The single track started out fairly muddy, and I was having derailer problems that kept me lagging behind the rest of the team for a while. Once I figured the proper way to shift to keep my chain from slipping, about 30 minutes into the ride, I was able to stick with the team. The ride took to the noon hour, where we found our next transition, a boat dock that would eventually be our return point off the paddle.
Leaving the bikes, we were once again found ourselves on foot searching for three check points. The first check point required a fair amount of bush-wacking. Once attaining the CP, our original plan was to drop back onto the easy to travel road and make it to the next attack point. We decided, however, that we could navigate directly to the next CP through the woods, as it was still fairly open this time in the spring. After easily getting the following two CP's, we made our way to the next TA, a canoe put in.
At this point, I was starting to first feel the effects of a bonk that would keep popping up the rest of the race. As we surveyed the coming paddle, it did not fill any of us with confidence. The water was very choppy, the wind brisk, and the provided canoes were heavy aluminum. We were also about to pay the price for using the provided canoe paddles rather than our personal kayak paddles. The trade-off is that we didn't have to carry paddles through other sections of the race, but now that was looking to be a bad choice.
Teams using kayak paddles clearly had an advantage, as heading into the head wind, the powerful but slow strokes of a canoe paddle were no match for the rapid strokes that can be taken with kayak paddles. Without such a wind, this wouldn't have been the case. At one point, as we neared a channel marker in the lake, it was obvious how slowly we were going by gauging our progress against the marker. It wasn't pretty. By now, I was pretty well bonked. One position that worked a little was to lay full back and row.
As night began to fall, we pulled into a manned checkpoint. This gave us a brief respite from the sitting position. Paddling is my weakest discipline primarily because sitting so long really bothers my lower back. Getting the chance to move around helped. Once back in the boat, we made our way to the paddle take out a few minutes before 10pm.
Now in the dark, we geared up for the bikes and after a brief stop to water up we were on our way. Being back on the bike rejuvinated me quite a bit. I am strong enough on the bike that even bonked I can typically fare better than most. Our short ride to Hematite Lake required stopping for a couple of CP's and a short "hike-a-bike" through the woods, perhaps 300 meters of bike-whacking.
Hematite Lake was the location of the score-O, the portion of the course where we could attain points in any order. Prior to taking off, we sat for a bit around the fire at the TA. Filling our stomachs and drying our feet, it was at this point I realized I had a dime-sized blister on my heel. Up until know, it didn't hurt, and probably wouldn't have had I not known it was there, but of course, once you see it...After feet were dried, we set off on the O-course. Hilary was kind enough at this point to give me her caffeine shot which did some serious kickstarting once it took. The first two points I felt sluggish and would have loved to curl up for a nap, but after that second point, I woke up and was ready to go!
Our original plan was to grab a slew of clustered points near the north end of the course, points that we had deemed easier because of obvious attack points and relatively short distances to hold a compass bearing. After the first two points, however, we decided that since we were using this race as a training race, we weren't too concerned with the number of points we got, so instead made the choice to go after the southern portion of the course. With fewer points that were a bit harder to get to, we knew this would cost us at least a few easy points (and ultimately a few positions in the final ranking), but it would be a great chance to practice some night orienteering.
We grabbed a few points pretty easily, easily enough that we became pretty confident with our navigation system. Essentially, our set up was such that I kept the pace count for distance approximation with Phil taking the lead with a rough bearing to give me proper directional. Scott was on the map calculating bearings and distances, and he and Hilary held back behind Phil and myself, giving us the fine bearing, guiding us as we strayed too far to one direction.
While searching for a hillside checkpoint, we had our first set-back. Although the pace on that particular point should have been accurate, there was little in the way of undergrowth to interferre with it, and the topography matched well with the pace I was keeping, we could not find the point. Perhaps we misplotting the point the night before, but at any rate, we gave up hoping to get back on track with the next point.
Our following point was 355 degrees from our attack point at 1900 meters. Unfortunately, we made our first tired mistake, as we instead went 55 degrees from our attack point. This put us way off course, and although we ultimately found our location (along the southern shore of Hematite Lake, we decided to abandon the point since time was getting late and the map indicated the likelyhood of swamp between us and the point. We instead opted for a different point, but unfortunately took off from the wrong attack point...maybe. Essentially, we realized we were making mistakes due to fatigue, and rather than mire about with a poor cp-to-time ratio, we decided to call it a day on the O-course.
Back on the bike shortly before 6am, only a few hours on the bike stood between us and the finish. Much of the first part of the route was on road, and we cruised on the easy terrain. A river crossing that we had already done once turned problematic when Hilary nose-dived into the water. Soaking wet, we paused while she changed into drier (less wet might be a better word) clothes. Scott and I also divied up the contents of her pack, as her knee started to bother her as well, and the lightened load would be much easier on it. At one point, I bonked completely on the single track and had to stop for about 10 minutes to get some sugar in me, but once that soaked in, I was ok.
The last half of the ride back took us on a few miles of muddy single track looking for a couple final CP's. Around 9:30, we bypasses a large chunk of single track for a much shorter, faster hike-a-bike along a powerline row, followed by a short bushwack to a paved trail that took us to the finish.
We rolled in to the finish around 10:30 to cowbells and applause thanks to a sparse crowd of volunteers and families of other racers. The post race festivities were unfortunately unlavished, as only the top 3 or 4 teams were even on hand to enjoy it! That was the disappointing part of the race; typically at Michigan-based races, the post race meal and ceramony is held only after the last of the teams come in. When we came in, over half the field was still out on the course, yet none of them would be able to be a part of the post race either. Final standings had us in 11th place, not bad considering the first race together as a team, injury, and my bonk issues.