Monday, July 14, 2008

Extreme Heat Coon Bluff AR Race Report

Monika cruises along the adventure tubing portion of the race.

Well, they say the first time is always the hardest. I hope that is true.

In my first competition of any type since my knee surgery, I was a mess. A hot, slow, out of shape and out of breath, nearing the edges of my limits mess.

Looking back over my list of goals, I will say that although I didn't die, cry or get Montezuma's revenge, I am not sure I accomplished everything on my list. I don't think I was all that intimidating in warm ups (mostly because we were super late getting there and didn't warm up) and unfortunately, I wasn't all that awesome at the navigating part either. But I did eat a huge breakfast afterward, and we beat exactly 12 women's teams (out of 18) and 28 teams total (out of 50) so #8 was accomplished. I also had people ask me if my brace was good to run in which I emphatically told them NO, it sucks! Cause it did. But mostly, I did accomplish #9 which was to have fun. My teammate Monika was great and overall, even during the painful times, I had a blast. So mission accomplished I say.

It's hard to simulate the fitness needed for sprint adventure races without just doing sprint adventure races. But if I had to guess, running would be a good training technique for next time. I make lots of loud noises and boisterous claims about how I am just doing this for fun and that I am going to suck and blah blah blah, but really inside, I usually refuse to believe it completely. There is a part of me that is convinced that I will be magically awesome. This when I do completely suck, I get really mad like it was unexpected.

So the was hard. The course was so similar to last year, but the way I felt doing it, not so much. It started out with 5 checkpoints all close to the TA. I can jog at a medium pace for about a minute before I slow down to a slow pace, so quickly Monika and I tried to find a pace that I could maintain. We knocked out 1 - 5 pretty good, including one steep hike up a loose trail which required all my concentration to run down. I could feel that my bionic knee brace was definitely changing my running form and I could feel my hamstring in that leg starting to cramp very early in the race.

After the first quick five checkpoints, the race spread out with some further trekking points on some surrounding mountains. Being that I was not able to run much off trail, I decided to try a shortcut bypassing hiking over ranges via the river. I knew that we could swim down stream for awhile and exit very near the next checkpoint. A valid method which failed miserably. Firstly, we had to exit the river in a swamp. It took us three tries to find hard enough ground not to get sucked into the muck. Next, we had to decide which one of the two washes (at a v), was the correct one...we picked wrong. Third, we quickly ran into a pack of wild pit bulls which blocked the only passage forcing us to stop and wait and then eventually retreat. I am not joking, angry pit bulls guarding their hood were blocking us and every time we took a step they growled. It was crazy.

We ended up climbing up a mountain, realized we were now close to another checkpoint. Grabbed it, grabbed the next, doubled back to grab the first and then had one more ridge to climb. It basically meant we climbed an extra ridge...oh well. We came back into the TA much slower than we wanted to and by this point, I could do a slow shuffle jog, but was really starting to struggle. We zipped through a couple of easy mystery events (walk with a golf ball on a tee) and then pumped up our inner tubes and put on our life vests for the long jog to upriver to the checkpoint that would start the river tubing.

This part of the race was my least favorite: jogging up hot blacktop with a backpack, life jacket and a black tube. Uggh. At the TA, we noticed that the teams that were surrounding us pretty much looked like teams that I was not really willing to finish behind. Our obvious struggles on the earlier trekking had put us back in the back. We determined to start picking people off. Problem was, I was in a world of suffering. My knee was at a continuous ache (not terrible but not pleasant), and my lungs were dying. I was super overheated because I think jogging was pushing my heart to the max (just not used to it). So Monika grabbed my tube and I held on and she pulled me up the road.

She was a total stud really and for her first adventure race, really quite the amazing partner. We passed maybe three or four teams on the road, then one more on the 1.5 mile trail run to the water. By the time we got to the water, I was barely able to jog, it was more like a really fast walk but the cool water immediately refreshed us. We figured out a pretty effective way of river running while leaning on the tube that was much faster than paddling with your arms and ended up picking off a couple more teams in the river. The best part of the whole race was the wild pack of horses who were drinking on the side of the river as we floated by. There were a couple of foals that were beautiful and the horses did not spook at all as we quietly went by. These horses are famously known to reside in this area but it is always a total honor to see them.

We ended the race in the middle of the pack with our fellow teammates cheering us on. Team ODP (our women's AR team) entered two 2-person teams and we were pretty pumped to hear that Team ODP #1 (consisting of Angel and Laurie) came in first in the women's division and fifth overall (out of 50 teams). That is awesome for us as a team and totally made my day. We are trying to build a name for our team and first place finishes are great for that. Plus they only lost to a couple of well known pro teams sponsored by companies like Monster. Not bad for some girls who drank way to much and stayed out way to late on Friday night.

Reflecting on the race, I am glad I did it. Although I was not fit at all for it, I think I was physically ready. The gimpiness during the running is from lack of running, it takes time to build up your body's ability to handle the body weight. It will come. I love the sport of adventure racing and even though I was hating life during parts of it, I immediately want to do more once I am finished. The next race is in one month and is trekking and mountain biking (haayo!) in my regular training grounds and I intend to be in much better shape for it.

*Everyone asks us what Team ODP stands for...but seriously we could tell you but then we would need to kill you. It is top secret and even the hubby is not privilege. Also, some people were confused when I said that I learned from Primal Quest that there is no crying in adventure racing. While watching the updates on the website this year, this was this awesome video of a women who was riverboarding the crazy Gallatine River and she was sort of sobbing as she went along. Someone yelled "are you okay" and she sobbed "I am fine, there is no crying in adventure racing". It was pretty awesome. [Update: I found it here]


Gary Robbins said...

I forgot to Congratulate you on an incredible achievement, way to go Hannah, I'm well impressed!!
GR said...

why you not try to go to bali and enjoy it...............its in Indonesia

see u...........