Friday, April 14, 2006

DART-nuun takes second at Cal-Eco 24 Hour Race - Auburn, CA

Eager to start the 2006 season we decided to head down to Auburn, CA for the first

Cal-Eco 24 Hour Adventure Race. The team was comprised of Aaron Rinn, Jen VanGorder, Ryan VanGorder and myself. Saturday morning we arrived at Folsom Lake ready for our 1:30pm start. We were all a bit nervous for several reasons; Jen had actually said to me, “what am I doing racing with you three? What have I gotten myself into?”. In the airport the night before Aaron was sick and throwing up. We were all still in base training mode, which just means none of us had gone all out race pace since last season. Plus I had never raced with Jen or Aaron, although we train together enough for me to know it would be awesome.

We knew there would be a competitive field at this race. Team Salomon Silly Rabbits was the previous season’s series champions and Team Subaru was there as well. The competitive juices started to flow as we lined up – every team sizing other team up. With an “ok you can go” Dan Barger sent us off on a short orienteering section in

the park. There were four checkpoints and we only needed to get two. Easy right? Well we did nothing right on this section. We went to basically the two farthest CPs away from each other in a snap decision. On the way to the first we were sprinting even though we had over 17 hours left to race. The mud on course was shoe sucking. Within four minutes of the start RVG in two strides had lost both Montrails in the mud. His momentum kept him running in his socks for the next couple of steps. I laughed and thought to myself that won’t happen to me.. then of course it did. Actually I lost both shoes on two occasions during this race (and one mtn bike wheel).

Back to the O section: We got the first CP without issue however our pace was red lining Jen so I put her on tow and continued to hammer. That became part of the problem as we way overshot the next CP and wasted a good deal of time. When we arrived at the boats for the kayaking section there were depressingly few left on the beach. With 38 teams (largest in Cal-Eco history) in the four person co-ed category we had just put ourselves in a hole.

We then paddled across the lake and jumped out of the boats for the next CP. As we got out of the boats we saw Salomon Silly Rabbits getting into the boats with at least a 30 minute lead on us, and they were in 2nd place at this point. Team Subaru was long gone. In our haste we went up the wrong peak. But we figured it out, got back in the boats and started to pass teams as we paddled to the end of the lake. We were about 3 hours into the 24 hour race and already over an hour behind 1st place, and 30 min behind 2nd in 28th place. We had some work to do.

From there we hit the trail with lightning speed, taking turns towing as we passed teams. Now were in the chase and it was so much fun! The next few hours of trail running we really gained some ground. As the night fell for the next orienteering section we had a decision to make, take our bikes with us or do it all on foot. This was a strategic decision, we took our bikes and trail shoes. We would ride as close to the CP as we could with our bikes then ditch them and do the off trail running/bushwhacking to the CP. Aaron and Ryan were navigating really well and I started to get this creepy six sense about where the CPs were. For the rest of the race I would pretty much be the one that found every CP. As we neared I’d look at the map or just have Aaron where to tell me to run. Then I’d do my freak out, frantically sprinting around the area until I found it.

On our way to our second to last CP a team was coming up to the area from another direction, it was Silly Rabbits. I saw the CP first (creepy 6th sense again) and sprinted for it, which led them in the dark right to it because of my headlamp. That was there last CP of the section. We still had one more which we found with relative ease. When we arrived at the TA we were told we were now in 3rd place. Very good news. Team Subaru who trains in the area still had an hour lead on us that we couldn’t seem to chip away at… but Silly Rabbits was in striking distance. Within 10 minutes of starting this foot section we caught and passed them. That didn’t last long as we couldn’t decide which route to take. This run mostly on the Western States trail along the American River and it was just beautiful. It made me want to do the Western States 100 (another one on the list).

From here we had a few checkpoints to find on our bikes. We were riding pretty well but I didn’t feel like we were riding fast enough to catch either Silly Rabbits or Subaru. When we arrived at CP8, which turned out to be the crux of the race, Silly

Rabbits was still there looking for it. Sweet! Our two teams spent the next couple hours looking around the same area together. Then Silly Rabbits pulled a fast one. They regrouped, to “look down here at some tracks on the left that Subaru made.” “On the left side of the trail? That doesn’t make any sense” I said. They sort of lied about finding it, walked their bikes around the corner and were gone! Hey it’s a race, no hard feelings right? I eventually stumbled upon it and had to call RVG over to punch the passport that he had. He had walked by that section a couple of times, as we all probably had. I think the CP was slightly misplaced and it was on one side of a tree trunk, very hard to see.

Either way we hit the last TA to hear that Team Subaru had dropped out. Apparently they couldn’t find CP8, or CP10. Whoa. Here is what I don’t get. They had just under an hour lead on us and Silly Rabbits. So why weren’t they still there looking for CP 8 when we got there? By my math that means they looked for it for under an hour and gave up. That is not very long, it probably took us a couple of hours to find it. In the end we were able to make up some time on the hour run up to the finish line but it was not enough as Silly Rabbits finished about 39 minutes before us in first. We finished in 17:39 at about 7:30am Sunday morning... DART-nuun finished a strong 2nd in our first race of the year.

I have to say that being a mountain biker I would have enjoyed more biking in this race as we probably ran 40 miles during it. Overall however it was a great race.

Special thanks to Joe, who was the best support crew ever!

See the results here and pictures here and here... as well as a race report by Silly Rabbits here.

Great race Rabbits! You'll be going head to head with DART-nuun again at the Mighty Mo Expedition! I won't be racing but we have a strong team comprised of Jen VanGorder, Aaron Rinn, Glenn Rogers and Ryan Fleming.

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