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.
by Doug Theis
September 25, 2011
Team Ragged Glory loves the Indy Adventure Race. We’ve raced it every year since 2001. We’ve seen it go from a grass roots two-course event created and run by Greg Arnold to an charity fundraiser with a single course run by Michael Sapper and Indy Rootstock.
This year, TRG was made up of Nancy Gawrys, Bob Mueller, and me. Bob had planned to do four races this year, but an unexpected hernia surgery cut him back to just this one.
An adventure race consists of many teams navigating through a course that is unknown until shortly before the race. Most races include mountain biking, paddling, and navigating on foot. Teams must travel together as a unit visiting each checkpoint along the way. The teams use race-provided course description and maps to understand the course, plan routes and navigate. The passport is the most critical document. The passport is a waterproof small sheet of paper with grid of squares, one for each checkpoint. Each team carries a passport and uses a unique paper punch at each checkpoint to punch the passport and prove that they completed the course.
We also received a sealed envelope with instructions not to open before the race began.
Our team is good at navigation, paddling and fast transitions. We looked over the course description. A few details of the course were on our mind:
• We would not return to the start/finish line until the end of the race, so we needed to carry everything we needed.
• The first section would split teams up briefly, which is unusual in an adventure race. We would send one teammate (Bob) to an unknown point with a phone. A sealed envelope with a map remained with us. When the starting gun sounded, we would open the envelope, call Bob and direct him to three points on the map from the envelope, so he could punch the passport at each control before returning to us. We would need to be fast if we wanted to get out in front of the pack.
• The next navigation section on foot was the longest on-foot section of the race. Doing well in this section would be critical to finishing well overall.
• The paddle section at Geist was longer than usual, somewhere around five miles.
• The stop at Sunnyside Elementary would likely be using the ropes course there.
• We would ride the new mountain bike trails at Fort Harrison near the end of the race.
We marked our maps with the routes we would take between points.
Nancy wrote the clues from the course description on the passport and we were done with our navigation planning.
Each racer on Team Ragged Glory has a different role. Nancy would carry the passport and punch each checkpoint or write down the answers. Bob would carry the maps and navigate. I would carry the race directions to double-check clues and keep an eye on the overall course.
We packed our gear, Bob went with the group to the unknown starting point, and we waited for the starting gun.
The gun sounded, Nancy and I called Bob. The race directors had taken them to the middle parking lot north of the sledding hill at Fort Harrison. We described to him where the points were and he ran to each point and punched the passport.
We were able to direct Bob fairly quickly, and he made it back to us in just a few minutes. Bob gave the passport to Nancy and we headed out on the bikes.
We rode for about five minutes to the first on foot navigation section in the Northwest corner of Fort Harrison. We got to the checkpoint and received the map with the points we needed to get:
Bob picked up the map and we took a clockwise route through the points. We had a couple of misfires on the course, but found all the points quickly. We put this new map in a map case about half way through the loop after it started to disintegrate in Bob’s hands. We grabbed the last few controls, traveling with another team, Shrimp Cocktail, and returned to our bikes to head towards the paddling section.
A twenty minute ride took us to Fall Creek Trail at Geist Reservoir, just west of the dam. The aerial map showed a checkpoint in the woods across Fall Creek. We ran this section, punched at CP-8, and headed out of the south end of the woods section to 79th St. There were two good route choices from that point to the canoe put-in, one via Courageous Drive and the other via 79th St to Sunnyside Rd to Fox Rd. Nancy was familiar with Courageous Drive because it’s in the Geist Half Marathon. She suggested we take the 79th St route, and we ran to CP-9, the canoe put-in.
This year the race provided aluminum canoes with only two seats. The race directors were kind enough to transport all teams’ paddles, lifejackets and team optional third canoe seats to the beginning of the canoe section, so we grabbed our gear and headed for the boats.
After a short special test of team coloring (with crayons, we climbed in canoes and headed out. The paddling section was long, but we were able to see the teams ahead of us. We figured out that we were in fourth place, with Rootstock/Bushwacker in the lead, Kiss My CompASS in second, and Tenacious just ahead of us. We put some distance between ourselves, Dino and Flatlanders on the paddle and held our position with the teams ahead of us. The take out and portage were uneventful, and we climbed back on the bikes for the final big bike leg.
We rode north around Geist Reservoir, punching or recording answers at the checkpoints along the way. After rounding the east side of the reservoir, we headed to a Lutheran Church property near Sunnyside Dr. for a short navigation section. We received another aerial map, took off and punched each of the controls before leaving on the bikes for the ropes course.
The short ride to Sunnyside Elementary put us right on the heels of Team Tenacious. We hit the ropes course and climbed into harnesses for the four-segment zip line course. There was no waiting as we went one at a time through each segment. After finishing, we climbed on the bikes for the final road riding section back to Fort Harrison and the new mountain bike trails.
We entered the mountain bike trails knowing that Tenacious was just a few minutes ahead. The trails form a 3.5 mile loop, and we were told that we would find two punches along the way. We rode steady and I fell behind a little. We punched at one control, then Bob and Nancy caught up with Tenacious, and as soon as I caught up with the group, Tenacious let us by. With less than two miles left in the race and were now in third. Nancy punched the second checkpoint on the bike trail and we headed to the final checkpoint.
The final checkpoint was marked as a special test on the south side of Delaware Lake near the start/finish line. We rode to the south side and realized that the test had been moved to the north side. Thankfully, Tenacious didn’t catch up to us by the time we hit the challenge. Each of the three team members had to paddle a paddleboard out to a log in the middle of the lake and return. One paddle board, three teammates, one at a time. Tenacious showed up as Nancy finished the first leg. I went next, then Bob, and we maintained our lead. We finished, climbed on the bikes and rode the final few hundred yards to the finish, placing third overall and second in the coed division. Congrats to Rootstock/Bushwhacker and Kiss My CompASS for a great race.
Thanks to everyone who helped make this event a great one. A special thanks to those of you who help every year. It’s always a good race, and the course this year was great. And Kudos to Michael and Debbie Sapper, Ryan Burke, Greg Grossart, Dave Kauffman and all the individuals who worked to make this race happen in 2011!
Photos Doug Theis on 14 Sep 2011
Here are photos of Team Ragged Glory from Dave Kauffman and from Gail Henricks.
Team Ragged Glory really appreciates the photographers. Looking at the photos is a great way to relive the race. Thanks for spending the time to capture the race forever.
Once again, thanks to all the folks who made the race happen. The Indianapolis Adventure Race is one of our favorites.
We’ll post more photos as they come available.
All photographs by Gail Henricks. Gail’s full gallery of the race can be found here.
John McInnes and John Farless, course designers of the 2011 Planet Adventure 30 Hour Challenge, stayed true to the original format by staging a single 100+ mile race course for all participating teams. The race’s published start time was “sometime after 9 pm” on Friday night, June 17. The race would continue for 30 consecutive hours into Sunday morning. Disciplines included mountain biking, trekking, paddling canoes and some ropes.
Team Ragged Glory decided early in the year to participate in the event. Our planned team was a threesome including Bob Mueller, Nancy Gawrys, and me. We signed up an invited fellow TRG member Julie Nor to race with us as a foursome. Julie joined up in March. Then Bob Mueller bowed out in April after being diagnosed with a hernia. His surgery was scheduled for the morning of the race. We asked fellow TRG member Eric Henricks if he would take Bob’s place as the navigator, and he agreed. Then, during the week preceding the race, Nancy bowed out with an aggravated IT band and collateral quad problems. She had to make a difficult call, but it was the right one. Rather than look for a fourth team member, the remaining team members decided to race as a threesome: Eric Henricks, Julie Nor, and me.
Past experience told us that a 30 hour course would be somewhere between 90 and 120 miles long. We knew that John McInnes, chief course designer, was a veteran adventure racer and has done many long, unsupported races. We therefore assumed that we would be carrying most everything we needed and that we would probably have little or no access to additional food, water and gear along the way.
This race means a lot to me. My second adventure race ever was the original Planet Adventure 30 Hour Challenge (PA30) back in 2001. TRG has raced in all but one PA30, and we volunteered at the one we missed. We love PA30 because it has always been as a racer’s race. A racer’s race is an event where the cost of entry makes sense, where the course and the event are designed to be fun and challenging for the racers, where an average team has a chance to finish.
On Friday evening, we arrived at Paoli Peaks around 5pm and unpacked.
We received directions and maps at 7:30 pm Friday night and found out that we would begin at midnight. The course was long and heavy on paddling. We read the race directions and plotted the coordinates. The course and our route choices would have us doing these disciplines and distances in this order:
- Paddle about 2 miles
- Trek on foot in the woods roughly 16 miles, hitting 8 checkpoints
- Paddle about 10 miles to Transition Area 1 (TA1)
- Mountain bike around 13 miles
- Rappel down a 150 foot cliff
- Mountain bike another 35 miles, hitting 3 more checkpoints to TA2
- Paddle 4 miles
- Trek on foot another 5 miles, hitting 5 checkpoints
- Paddle 2 more miles to TA3
- Mountain bike18 miles, hitting 3 more checkpoints
- Cross the finish line
We were allowed to tape our bike shoes and helmet to our bikes for transport. We also were allowed to pack a single box of additional gear, food, water and clothing. The race directors would take the bikes to TA1 and the gear to the TA2. We estimated we needed to carry enough food, water and clothing to last us 14 hours until we made it to our gear box at TA2.
The start line was a 45 minute bus ride away from Paoli Peaks at a boat ramp on Patoka Lake. All paddling sections would be on this huge reservoir. We readied our gear and got on the buses at 11pm for the ride to the canoe put-in.
Once we arrived at the start line, we were told that there would be a short swim in PFDs (life vests) to get us started (and wet). The gun sounded, the racers swam, and we jumped into the canoes to paddle two miles to the first trekking/orienteering section. Julie kept an eye on the map while Eric and I paddled. Eric later said that Julie’s help was hugely important; it helped us make sure we that didn’t commit any early navigational errors in the dark on the water.
For the first trekking section, the checkpoints we had to visit were on a huge plot of land separated by a wide creek. We decided to split the section into two loops connected by a short paddle. We had a little trouble with the first control, so we decided to catch it on the way back. Eric immediately dialed in and we found all eight checkpoints like clockwork. At about 3 am the lightning and rain rolled in and it stormed continuously for about four hours. Our route covered eighteen miles, enough distance that we hiked into the dawn. The storms delayed the first light of day, but when it finally came, it brought new life to each of us.
After finishing the first trekking section, we got back in the canoes for the longest paddling leg of the race, a ten mile circuitous route to the Little Patoka Boat Ramp. The storms had subsided and the wind was light as we enjoyed the beautiful scenery along the way. About half way through the paddle, Julie asked me if my knife was handy. I gave it to her, and she proceeded to cut off her underwear! We had all been soaking wet for hours and she had decided that her underwear was chafing her enough that she was going to get rid of it without stopping the boat! Julie accomplished this amazing trick and we continued on, with the wind picking up near the end of our paddle. At the end of this long boat ride was TA1.
Seeing the race directors, our teammate Nancy Gawrys volunteering, and Gail Henricks taking pictures at TA1 was a welcome sight. We changed into dry clothes, ate some food out of our packs, and spent about twenty minutes preparing for the long mountain biking section that was ahead of us. This bike leg would prove to be the most difficult section of our race.
We stopped just after we left the boat ramp to buy a gallon of water at a convenience store. Eric’s bike developed a flat on the rear tire shortly thereafter, and we stopped again to repair it.
About 13 miles into the 48 mile bike loop, we arrived at the ropes section. The rappel was down a spectacular 150 foot concave face called Hemlock Cliffs near Mifflin, Indiana. The view on the way down was amazing, with the wall many feet away from the rope after the initial descent. The climb back up was perilous in bike shoes. But we made it, got back on the bikes, and headed out for the remaining 35 miles.
The bike route was almost all paved and gravel roads. We stopped by the English Reservoir to investigate a shortcut, but opted to ride around rather than bike-whack through some pretty thick brush that we later learned was private property. Julie fell one on elbow, then fell on the other. We had been racing almost 18 hours and we were all running out of gas. The team decided to rest for a while in the yard of an empty home near CP5. We catnapped for about 20 minutes and resumed our ride.
The bike went on forever. The hills were unending. We rode through the town of English and decided to rest again. Julie and I went to the convenience store and picked up some water, Fritos, Cheetos and a Coke. We headed back to Eric, who was resting, and we all feasted on the junk food. A few minutes and a few hundred calories later, we set out revived for TA2.
Arriving at TA2 was a huge milestone. The TA2 location was at the same boat ramp as TA1, but now we had access to our food, water and gear. Even though each of us privately considered quitting during the bike leg, we confirmed with each other that we were in the race to finish it. We ate Arby’s Roast Beef and Taco Bell Bean Burritos that tasted like steak and lobster. We spent a luxurious 42 minutes offloading climbing gear, fixing our feet, changing our clothes, eating, and repacking for the final three sections.
Leaving TA3 as the sun set, we evaluated the maps of final trekking section, which held five checkpoints surrounding a large inlet. Doing the whole section on foot would involve miles of backtracking. We decided to drop our packs on the near side of the inlet, paddle and park the boat on the far side, and swim with PFDs back across the inlet to our packs. This strategy would let us walk a line back to the boat picking up controls along the way. This would minimize our effort and time on foot. The plan worked perfectly, and Eric’s navigation was incredible, in spite of our fatigue. We got a little help from another team on the last control. We then found our way to the canoe and paddled to TA3, which was located at another boat ramp just a few miles away.
Arriving at TA3 we found that we were in sixth place. We learned of a surprise optional six checkpoint swim navigation section that surrounded the boat ramp’s inlet. We also learned that the final three off-road bike checkpoints were optional as well. We could choose to skip up to nine checkpoints, ride our bikes straight to the finish line and be official finishers. We talked as a team and decided to skip all nine optional checkpoint controls and head for the finish line.
We had heard that the ride to the finish line was about 12 miles, but it tuned out to be 18. The ride was very hilly, and as the early hours of the morning passed, we ground out mile after mile to the last hill before Paoli Peaks and the finish line. We hiked our bikes up the steep hill, then rode together to the finish, elated to completed the course and be official finishers.
Words cannot express how critical Eric’s navigation was to the success of our race. His innate ability to watch the land forms and feel the distance allowed us to travel straight down the center of the course. It is so easy to want to quit when you’re lost; Eric never gave us that option.
Julie’s positive attitude, her life experiences, stories, and her amazing transparency makes her a perfect teammate. Her ability to bounce back in the midst of adversity is second to none. The team dynamic couldn’t have been better.
And even though we’d rather have her racing with us, seeing our teammate Nancy at transitions gave us energy and moral support. Gail Henricks’ amazing photography skills and encouragement made this amazing race even better.
Crossing the finish line of this race was big for me. I hadn’t finished a PA30 race since 2003. Three DNFs in past years weighed heavy on my mind in the days leading up to the race. I thank my team for working together and making our goal a reality.
Congratulations to the top three finishers: Alpine Shop, Bushwacker and Climb4SMA. Great racing on a tough course. Thanks to Planet Adventure organization including Matt Jourdan and James Nichols, and to all the volunteers. It was one of the great races of my career.
Eric put together a MapMyRun of our course here.
Here are all the pictures of Team Ragged Glory from the race. 2011 Planet Adventure 30 Hour Challenge – TRG photos
Planet Adventure did a fantastic job on the 12th installment of this classic Midwest adventure race. The course was heavy on paddling and hilly as it could be in Indiana. We started at 12:00 am on Saturday morning and raced until 5:00 am Sunday. Words cannot describe the great teamwork, the fun, the difficulty and the elation of completing the course and hitting the finish line.
Gail Henricks took some amazing pictures of the Planet Adventure 30 Hour Challenge.
Here is the Team Ragged Glory gallery, a combination of TRG team photos from Gail Henricks and Planet Adventure:
It’s people that make races awesome. The Planet Adventure Race organization, directors like John McInnes and John Farless, and volunteers like Frank Baukert and Nancy Gawrys made Planet Adventure 30 Hour Challenge a racer’s event and kept it true to the eleven year tradition that Greg Arnold began.
All three father/child teams finished yesterday in the 2011 Muddy Buddy Nashville. Thanks to the Gullahorns for being exceptional hosts to this nomadic endurance tribe. All the Dads agreed that racing with our kids was amazing.
Photos Doug Theis on 01 May 2011
Photos Doug Theis on 08 Feb 2011
Team Ragged Glory won first place in the coed division of the 2004 CCSAR. Foursomes were still okay in this urban race. Team Shackleton passed us late in the race but skipped a control, giving us a window of opportunity for the win. The rappel photos at the Stutz Building are some of my favorite racing pictures of all time.
Photos Doug Theis on 05 Jan 2011
This wass the first race ever for Team Ragged Glory.
We had no idea what we were in for. We lasted about 18 hours, joining up with Dick Whicker and hiking Nebo Ridge at a 12.5 minute pace. Try walking that fast.
But we were hooked on adventure racing. And we’ve been coming back ever since.
Photos Doug Theis on 28 Dec 2010
This was only the second race ever for Team Ragged Glory. Leslie and I had done a sub-24 hour race in 1999, but this was the first 8-12 hour race as TRG.
The race was held at Eagle Creek and Greg Arnold ran it.
Leslie twister her ankle near the end, but she took off like a shot when she saw the finish line.
It was a super fun day.