Tell City, Indiana. The place where a Northwest Airlines plane crashed in 1960. The place where, in 2007, the most brutal Planet Adventure 30 Hour Challenge took place. Reading the location of the 2012 Planet Adventure Race conjured up a cramp in my stomach. What were we getting ourselves in to? The answer: brambles, endless poison ivy, the remnants of a forest fire, and a rappel into a gravel pit, mountain biking, road riding, and huge amount of fun.
Julie Nor, Bob Mueller, Nancy Gawrys and I (Doug Theis) planned to race together. I like racing with four; it helps keep the team dynamic positive and it puts an extra set of eyes on the team. Julie and Nancy had not raced together, but the four of us had been racing with each other as Team Ragged Glory in different combinations since 2004. The 30-hour event and the 10-hour event were to be held on the same weekend for the 12th edition of this great Midwest adventure race. That meant one less race in our 2012 schedule. We decided to do the 10-hour course.
The weather forecast was all over the place and kept changing in the week leading up to the race. Race day we expected strong storms, a low of 54 and a high of 70. It would turn out to be a little different from what we had planned.
Saturday morning, we packed our bags at the hotel in Tell City and headed to the start line at Mano Point on the Ohio River in Derby, Indiana. At 8am, we received the maps and the race directions. The race would begin at 10 am play out as follows:
• Short paddle
• Huge trek/orienteering section with a rappel
• Mountain bike
• Another Trek
• Bike roads to the finish line
There was a hard cutoff of 8 pm, or ten hours of racing. Teams would lose one checkpoint for every minute they arrived after 8 pm.
At the pre-race meeting, after we were briefed on the race, Nancy announced to the group that it was Bob’s 52nd birthday. All the racers collectively sang Happy Birthday to Bob.
We planned, marked maps, dropped bikes and readied ourselves for the race. Nancy would carry the passport, Bob would navigate, and I would manage the race directions. Nancy and I would be in one canoe, and Bob and Julie would be in the other. It seemed warm, but we all packed plenty of clothing, expecting strong storms and a wet race.
The gun sounded at 10:06 am. The temperature was 61 degrees. We grabbed our canoes, and put them in the Ohio River. We paddled on the Ohio for 200 meters, long enough to get to Little Oil Creek and paddle upstream. Race Director Mike Garrison eliminated paddling checkpoint CP1 from the race, so we skipped the originally planned portage, picked up a punch at CP2, and paddled to the take out at TA1. This first leg took us a little less than two hours.
Looking at the map, the first trekking section didn’t look too challenging; seven controls in a hilly wooded area about 2 miles wide by 3 miles long. We had to swim back across the Little Oil Creek about half a mile into the trek, wearing our PFDs . The temperature was 73 degrees, much warmer than we expected. The sun was shining and there was no sign of rain.
But as soon as we crossed the creek, the brambles got thicker. We crossed a large area where there had been a forest fire, climbing over burned fallen timber, slowing us down even further. But the control placements were cool. CP4 was down under an overhang in a deep reentrant, only visible from Nancy’s point of view as we passed it. CP6 was hanging from a tree accessible only by climbing a 20 foot boulder. We were all bleeding from the brambles that seemed to be everywhere. Poison ivy looked like carpet. We found the fourth of seven controls in the trek section and headed to the rappel at CP9 on the edge of an old gravel pit.
Skirting the north edge of the gravel pit was rough going. We shared the trail with Brian Schaffer’s 30 hour team JAMBS and arrived at the ropes together. We were the first 10 hour team to the rappel! Great news, but there was plenty of race left. Going down the ropes was fun, but the snake grass, the heat and the crazy hills at the bottom of the excavation started to take their toll on my body. The temperature had risen to 80, and the air was still and humid. I was heating up fast and the climb out of the gravel pit took most of what I had. Nancy, Bob and Julie all gave me a little helpful advice and kept me going as we headed towards the final control in the trekking section.
All along the course we had seen fellow 10 hour team Dude Where’s My Car. As we approached the final trekking point CP10, we approached from the high ground, and Dude approached from the low ground, converging at the same reentrant. Neither team could find the control. The area was overgrown and there were multiple small parallel reentrants that al looked the same. Bob and I decided to reset from the trail and take one more run at it before skipping it and heading to the bike transition at TA2. When we got back to the area, Dude had done the same thing, resetting from the low ground. We were again in the same area. Julie decided to check one more reentrant and found the control. We punched CP10 and headed to the bike transition. The temperature was holding steady at 80.
We got back to the bikes, refilled our water containers, ate a little and changed out of the long pants that had heated us up but protected us from the poison ivy. The next section was a mountain bike leg that was being cut short to just two controls, CP 12 and CP 16, roughly six miles total. The race directors also were cutting the second trekking section because the first trek was so difficult it had taken more time than estimated. Also, the cutoff rule was changed so that teams arriving late would only lose a maximum of two checkpoints. So a team that wanted to complete the course would have that option, albeit in the dark.
So all we had to do was finish six miles of mountain biking and about 12 miles of road riding, picking up a total of four more controls along the way to the finish line. We left everything that wasn’t mandatory at TA2, and headed out to the Mogan Ridge Bike Trails. The trails were a combination of single track, fire roads, gravel roads and horse trails. We had plenty of downhill and big rocks to negotiate. We kept moving and saw Team Wales as we picked up CP16. One of my great joys is seeing our friends racing with us side-by-side on the course. Wales’ Dana Fielding and Dave Tanner are old friends; they were the only team on the course with a higher average age than Team Ragged Glory. We old racers stick together. As we finished the mountain bike trails, we picked up our gear at TA2/TA3, and rode out for the final bike leg. We spoke to Aaron and Chase of Dude; they had failed to find either mountain bike checkpoint. If we could pick up the final two controls and finish the race, we had a good chance of finishing first!
The final twelve miles of the race was relatively flat with a couple of big climbs. The temperature had dropped 9 degrees in first part of the ride. The wind seemed against us. Bob towed me, then Nancy, helping both of us to recover as we picked up the final two bike controls and headed back to Mano Point and the finish line. In the final few miles, we passed Dude and another team. We finished with 45 minutes to spare, the only team to gather all the controls on the course.
Here are some comments about the race from the team.
Bob: The swim was great; at first it felt bad and then it was refreshing. I’m glad we went after CP 10 again and ended up getting it. All in all, it was an awesome birthday!
Julie: I loved the CP6 on the boulder and Nancy’s climbing skills to go and get it. Bob’s navigating skills were once again impeccable. Love the fellowship of the trail with TRG and also the teams we bump into.
Nancy: I always love the water, and in this race the creek swim was cool. I loved the fact that we reset on CP10 and found it.
As for me, I’m proud to have teammates who are friends. They helped me when I was weak. We race well together because we are friends. We win because of great navigators like Bob Mueller.
The biggest thanks go to Planet Adventure and the race directors, John Farless, Mike Garrison, and John McInnes, and all the volunteers. Even though the volunteer pool was small, the group pulled off a great race.