Similar to Nationals, the course was fairly linear, with the teams being bused from the finish line, dropped off far away, and trekking, mountain biking and kayaking their way back to race HQ. Getting off the buses into the 50 degree night air, we were stoked to get started with some racing to get the blood flowing. The actual race was preceded by a prologue, which would help spread out the teams and avoid the massive game of follow-the-leader which accompanies a mass start. In this prologue, teams had to find 2 pairs of nearby checkpoints (CPs) and then return to the start to receive their maps for the first leg of the proper race. If a team could do this in less than an hour, they would have the advantage of an early start on the first leg. NH Trail Vets did not fall in this category. Early jitters and some difficult and swampy night navigation left us skunked at our first 2 intended targets. Looking back at the maps, we were within 50-100m of both CPs but just couldn't close the deal on either one. We ended up finding 2 CPs and then made our way back to the start to wait 5 minutes for the hour to pass so we could get our maps and begin the initial trekking leg. We used this short down time to shed some layers and eat and drink a bit.
|Deer in headlamp. Nick after prologue. 12:30 AM.|
The sun was up now and our next task was riding 7.5 mi on roads to TA2 where we would begin the paddle. Shortly into this ride, Nick got a flat tire, which we changed without incident. That makes 2 races in a row where Nick flatted on pavement. We longingly rode past an open diner in Walden, NY and continued to Wallkill, the location of TA2 and the kayak put-in.
|Mason and Nick. TA2. 6:30 AM. Wallkill, NY|
|Morning on the Wallkill River.|
The paddle ended at TA3 in Gardiner, NY. This was another long TA as we had worked up quite an appetite during the paddle and we needed to cover up a bit since we were wet and the 7.5 mi road ride ahead would cool us quickly. Our bikes had been trucked from the beginning of the paddle to this TA. Mason found his bike and shoes sitting in a deep patch of poison ivy, but, writing this 5 days later, no ill effects are evident. Windbreakers were donned, maps were changed, food was eaten and then we hit the road. Near the end of the road section we refilled water at the hose of a friendly homeowner in the Tilson Lake area and then continued onto dirt road in the Awosting Reserve. From here to the end of the race we would be in the Shawangunk Mountains (aka "the Gunks"). This part of the race was consistently scenic and the gorgeous environs definitely took the edge of the physical suffering occurring at the end of the race. This was the beginning of a 4-mile 1400 ft climb on winding gravel/dirt roads with mandatory CP7 found about halfway up the climb and about 100m off the road at a pretty stream. .More climbing and then a level hike-a-bike section led to the south shore of Lake Awosting at 1880 ft. The shores of the lake were made up of flat slabs of exposed granite bedrock and interspersed forest. TA4 was on the south shore. We were the first team in our division to reach the TA and only the fast coed teams were ahead of us, which was encouraging.
|Rob on the shore of scenic Lake Awosting, TA4 Photo:NYARA|
|Gun show. Mason and Nick transitioning to trek mode, TA4 Photo: NYARA|
This looked like a long ride back on the map, but almost all of it was downhill or flat on gravel or paved roads and the miles came quickly. We had to pick up mandatory CPs 10, 11 and 12 along the way. 10 was easy. 11 was also easy but we seriously overshot it zooming down Rt. 44 and had to backtrack on forest road to the CP which was 200m into the woods by a stream. Then we continued to CP12, where we also encountered a bit of navigational delay as we followed the crowd rather than the map. This CP was found atop a steep 100ft ridge just off the road. There were lots of teams around for these last few points, as everyone was making their way back as the clock was ticking down. After 12, it was some more easy riding on really pretty gravel forest roads all the way back to our cars and the finish line.
Although the grill was going and post-race festivities were ramping up, we still had over an hour until 5:00 and there were up to 6 OPs in the hills around us to be had with a little more effort, and so we transitioned back to trekking gear and headed back out to grab OPs Q and S without much difficulty. The next closest target was T, but it was across a valley atop a cliff and a full 2km from the finish line. It was very questionable whether that could happen in the remaining 40 minutes and so we called it a race and mustered a slow jog to the finish line 1.5km away.
The parents of co-course designer Amy Bartoletti put together a delicious post-race BBQ for everyone that was exactly what we needed. We 3 definitely did some damage trying our best to gain back all our calories in one sitting. The post-race awards were announced soon after. The overall win (fastest 3/4-person coed team) went to Checkpoint Zero, with Untamed New England in a close second in that division. The best time on the course was had by the 2-person coed Untamed Team. We managed a win in the 3/4-man division and each received probably our best prize so far, a gift card for a pair of Scott running shoes of our choosing. We found all of the mandatory CPs and 17 out of 25 possible OPs, while covering 72.6 miles in 17 hours and 9 minutes. That gave us the 9th best overall finish out of 32 teams.
This was a great race, very well designed and executed by NYARA and especially course designers Rodney Villela and Amy Bartoletti. The fact that all the top teams were tightly racing each other in the last hour to clear the course speaks to how well-designed the course was. Thank you NYARA, we will be back!