4/21/17 Adventure Enablers Shenandoah Epic 24hr . Shenandoah region, Virginia
By Nick C
This was our first experience racing with the Adventure Enablers. This was also the first time we had received the order of events well prior to the race. We'd each prepared for this race on our own and spent less time in team training compared to prior races.
The evening before our departure, Mason put us on alert that he was febrile and may have to bail on this race. We were confident in his sheer will to race he would pull through. Early morning though the bug won. We drove to his house grabbed a gear bin, some random supplies, and began the drive to VA as a team of 2.
The 9 hour drive from NH was easy and we avoided any major delays due to heavy traffic by staying away from the coast.
We arrived at our hotel, checked in and proceeded to registration. We then headed across the street to Pave Mint for beer and food prior to the 7:30 pm race meeting. At the meeting we heard there would be 2 prologues to the race and no water would be provided to racers along the course. Initially we thought the plan was to receive the maps shortly prior to boarding the buses. Now we found out we could have more time with the maps if we chose to complete a short foot orienteering section. This would take about 30-40 minutes and involve 4 easily found flags on the trails around the DownRiver Canoe Company. We arrived at DownRiver Canoe Company at 7am, competed the prologue at a shuffle and had our maps before 8am. The maps came as a stapled packet of 14, double sided, 8x11, topo maps at 1:24,0000 plus a supplemental Bike-Orienteering map of the ATV trails in Taskers Gap.
We cut all borders off of the maps and had the time to tape each together to give us confluent routes for measuring distance and noting features. We didn't have our waterproof highlighter which would have made depicting the routes easier. Not taping the maps would have been ridiculously confusing and we felt completing the prologue was a very good decision.
We loaded the buses and drove 30 minutes to the starting line of the race. During the ride we agreed we would gather all of CPs along the first leg. We felt we were in good bike shape to handle the demand of this part of the course. Bikes were staged here for us. The rain was steadily falling at this point and the ground was turning to pure mud. This was to be the warmest part of the day and night.
At 11:30 Mark gave the go ahead to start the next prologue early. One member from each team needed to complete a 1 mile trail run without backpacks in an effort to spread the field for the mass bike start. Rob ran this for us and returned within the top1/3 of the pack. He tossed on his bike shoes and we headed out to CP1-6 along the Massanutten Trail. Equal parts riding and hike-a-bike were encountered. The rain, rocks, moss, and wet roots on trails that climbed for miles (8 miles on one alone) made us question if there was any downhill in VA.
We collected CPs 1-6 in order and suffered only one significant navigation error. We didn't double check our bearing and ended up descending west rather than continuing north. This cost us 35 minutes. We completed the first leg in 7hours 4minutes and covered 34.5miles.
When we arrived at TA 1 we only spent time fitting our bikes with lights and redistributing food. We stayed on bikes for Leg 2. We collected CPs 7-10 and decided to leave CP 11 given trail conditions and anticipated time commitment to get this optional point. We covered these 12 miles in 3hrs 45min. Again plenty of swamped trails, slick conditions, hike-a-bike, and absolutely ripping descents!
We TA'd at Camp Roosevelt, changed into trail shoes / sneakers, ate, and were drawn to the wonderfully warm fire built by the volunteers. This was a detrimental and healing distraction. The shivering could not be controlled yet the warmth of the fire was a temporary relief from the cold temps and wet conditions.
We navigated to CP 17, landed luckily at CP 13, doubled back for CP 16, then collected 18 and 19. CP 18 was initially elusive because the reentrant split and we followed the right fork through dense brambles and fight. We landed on the CP because we fortunately descended along the left fork. From here we shot a bearing to the fire road near CP 19. We used the slight bend in the road to shoot another bearing and find the CP along what was said to be a ridge but seemed far less distinct. From here we navigated directly to the TA rather than follow the road. We covered 5.5 miles and arrived at the TA 3 hrs later.
We got back on our bikes for Leg 4 and decided ahead of time only to collect CP21. We did not go after the optional points here. The time commitment would jeopardize finishing on time. Any additional time at the end of the race would be dedicated to the optional points near the race finish.
This quicker out and back was a sustained climb along a well maintained gravel road. We made very good time on this 7.5 mile ride/0.5 mile hike to the point. Nothing too notable on this point. The interesting points (all optional) were left out on the course.
This was our last transition at the Roosevelt Camp and our last access to gear. This Leg 5 was a long grind along the Massanutten trail to collect CP 29. The 13 miles was shared with the Rootstock AR team. Having the company helped maintain focus and provided good motivation to move quickly. The uphills were hiked quickly and the downs were shuffled. We planned 4.5 hours for this leg and completed it in closer to 4 hours. Few options for error were provided once up along the ridge. Trail signs were well marked.
We arrived at the paddle slightly ahead of Rootstock only to be passed by their 2 boats mid way along the 11 mile paddle route. We made a poor decision at the rapids and stayed too far river right. Our goal was to avoid dumping the canoe, but we were in retrospect overly cautious. Our far right route required exiting the canoe and dragging it over the rocks. The remainder of the river consisted of a gentle current with ripples of fast current.
Exiting the canoe was slightly comical. Legs had stiffened considerably over the 3hr 15min paddle. Making our way over the bridge was a waddle at best. The cramping of, and chafe between, the legs slowed our movement considerably.
We decided to get a minimum of 2 for the last section, however an error in selecting the wrong reentrant resulted in wasting time looking for CP C. We changed course and ascended up to A and returned to finish the race with 30 minutes to spare.
We found at this point that of the 41 teams that began the event only 16 had finished. The harsh weather and difficult conditions resulted in many racers either quitting early or not finishing before the 24 hour limit. Overall we covered nearly 85miles and 10,050 feet of elevation gain.
The post race food was excellent. The prize bags were appreciated greatly.
Congratulations to all teams who completed the race.
Mason was missed during this race and we will be using our “winnings” / discount toward a future race for next year.