2nd Place at USARA Nationals

Written by Matt Hayes
Created Date: Thursday, 10 October 2013 16:04

The top adventure racing teams in the US (and a few Canadians!!) gathered in Indiana on October 4th for the USARA National Championships. Nice fall colors greeted the racers, but a heat wave turned up the temperature and humidity for the weekend.
The day started early with maps being handed out at 6 a.m. Teams quickly plotted checkpoints and determined a route strategy before gathering at the start line. The order of events was to be: 1 mile prologue run, 15 mile flagged mountain bike, 15 mile mountain bike, 10 mile paddle section (with 2 short treks), 14 mile trek, 8 mile mountain bike, 6 mile orienteering, 12 mile mountain bike, and 9.5 mile trek.
A small cannon provided a big boom to start the race and we ran hard on the 1 mile prologue run. For the next section, the first team to finish the 15 mile flagged mountain bike section would win the “King of the Mountain” award, and RVG took off like a rocket. We were 4th out of the transition, passed one team on the road before the single track, another in the first few miles, and then finally caught up to IMOAT. They were riding fast and the narrow, windy trails made it hard to pass. One of the IMOAT team members crashed on a tight switchback and we were able to sneak pass, only to get passed back a few miles later when Mari’s seat bag came loose and fell into her rear wheel. We quickly re-attached it and rode hard to catch back up to IMOAT. Just as we caught up, one of their team members took a hard crash while riding over a downed tree. We made sure they were okay and then continued to push the pace. Soon a giant Red Bull arch came into view as we claimed the “King of the Mountain” award. The chasing teams were not far behind and we saw many of them as we continued on the navigation portion of the ride, with a variety of route choices and strategies to get the remaining check points. We were first into the transition to paddling, but Tecnu was close behind and arrived before we left.

The first 3 miles of the paddle were more of a portage than a paddle. The creek had very little water and almost no flow, so we were in and out of the canoe constantly, doing whatever it took to keep the boat moving. As we got closer to Lake Lemon, the river got deeper and we were able to paddle consistently. We struggled to keep the canoe running straight and Tecnu soon passed us. After a couple short treks to get CPs, we arrived at a CP expecting to pick up an inflatable raft. The raft was to get us back to the same CP after dropping off the canoe on the other side of the lake. The race staff gave us 2 extra CPs here and said we could split up, so Matt ran to get the 2 trek points while RVG and Mari dropped off the canoe. 

Next was a 14 mile trek back to the start of the canoe section. After a few miles of road, we traveled on a network of trail and overgrown roads that we connected with short bushwhacks to find the CPs. The heat was turned up on this section and hit us hard, slowing our pace quite a bit. While running through Helmsburg we visited a common adventure racing stop, the laundry mat, to spruce up a bit or maybe just to fill up on water. 

After a short bike ride, we arrived to the start of the next orienteering section just as Tecnu was finishing up. They had a significant lead, but the knowledge that anything could happen and that there was a hungry pack of teams just behind us kept our pace up as we worked through the technical orienteering section. Our Light and Motion Stellas lit up the forest and made it easy to see the terrain and faint trails.

A foggy bike ride brought us back to Brown County State Park. We quickly dropped our bikes and unnecessary gear, picked up new water bladders and food, and headed out on the last trek section. The navigation was technical in several areas leading to a few mistakes. The worst error was following the wrong trail at a 5 way intersection and going almost a kilometer on a nearly parallel trail. Fortunately, we were able to bushwack to our intended trail and lost only a few minutes. We knew the teams behind were chasing hard, and sure enough, at the second to last checkpoint we saw headlamps in the forest. However, as soon as we saw them, they turned around and ran the other way. At the same time, a heavy rain storm moved through and limited visibility to just a few meters. The trail turned into a river as we ran up one of the final hills. The last checkpoint was a lookout tower, and we assumed that the tower would be similar to one of the two story towers we had seen around the park. The trail ended in a campground and park facilities area, and we looked around for one of the short towers until RVG shined his light to the top of a 100+ foot tall tower and saw the CP reflector. After a climb to the top of the tall tower we had just a few kilometers to shuffle run into the finish to claim second place.

Congratulations to Tecnu for a great race, we will be cheering for them at the AR World Championships in Costa Rica in a few weeks.

DART-nuun would like to thank Brian from the Dino Series races for putting on an excellent race – awesome course, well organized, and a good format for the USARA National Championships. Many volunteers helped put on the race and provided lots of support and encouragement. And, of course, we want to thank all our amazing sponsors for making it all possible. Congrats to all the other teams for a great race on a tough course. We had a wonderful time visiting with all our old and new friends at the awards ceremony.