I picked Reed up early from school and we drove 7 hours to our hotel the night before the race. A 4:10AM alarm woke us in time to hit Denny's before the bike drop. Despite the apparent need for a security guard stationed in the restaurant, we had a quiet meal and fueled up on cheap pancakes. On the way to the bike drop, we were treated to site of a giant orange "supermoon" moonset - wow.
At the frosty race registration (and future finish line), we geared up, got a look at the maps and huddled in the heated car as long as we could before boarding buses back to the bike drop. The finish line was situated among rolling fields and historic barns and farmhouses in a scenic highbrow (think DuPont money) agrarian landscape. The last leg of the race would be a "farmgaine' through these properties. Major kudos to race organizers Abby and Brent for securing access to this unique terrain.
|Photo: Vlad Bukalo|
After a quick jog on frosty gravel, we were off on bikes in the White Clay Creek State Park in Newark. These trails were FUN! So flowy and smooth - what a contrast with New England. I swear there were maybe seven rocks in the whole park. Our initial plan was to skip a section of this park, but once we experienced the rad trail conditions and found the CPs coming fairly quickly, that plan changed.
Following this section we rode to the canoe put-in. This involved a 6 mile ride through a busy commercial and residential area, down to the tidal Christina River.
The river would lead us 8 miles to downtown Wilmington. It was a bit of a slog in the canoe which handled like a bathtub in the early miles as we worked against a mild current. It required near-constant corrective steering to track straight. If I looked at the map or spaced out for a couple seconds, we began to fly off left or right. Things improved a bit later in the paddle, as the tide switched. Along the way we grabbed several CPs in the reedy side channels and hunted for a specimen of wild rice, which was required for us to get credit for a CP on the leg.
|New racer with an accomplished paddle|
|Photo: Vlad Bukalo|
We grabbed food and ate as we began the next leg, trekking along the riverwalk into Wilmington and picking up a few CPs along the way.
Once in downtown Wilmington the urban-O course really began. We found a dozen CPs in the city and recorded a clue at most of them, typically historical info found on art (statues) and architecture around town. The CPs were sited in differing parts of town, including poor residential areas, which provided an appreciated balanced tour of the city, rather than simply presenting the tourist-friendly highlights.
At one point Reed really needed to use the bathroom but the area we were in for 30+ mins was primarily small residences and the occasional tiny corner store/restaurant. We asked a few places and eventually got a yes at the Mt. Zion Miracle Station Church which was unlocked for an afternoon service. The kind folks there also invited us to come back anytime after the race and gave us a church leaflet, which we stowed in the map case. At the end of this leg, we trotted along the river in the pleasant Brandywine Park en route to the next TA under towering I-95, in the scenic peri-urban river valley.
After switching to bike mode in the waning daylight (3:30 in December), we began the 2nd bike leg, which would take us out of Wilmington toward the finish line, just across the state line in PA. I had several nav bobbles on this leg which was actually very simple; not sure what my problem was. Basically we trucked along a road and then a long linear trail into Brandywine Creek State Park as night fell and the big fat moon rose. There was a second bike trail orienteering section available here, but there were dozens of CPs to be had on the farmgaine leg, which we were most interested in, so we skipped the bike-O and headed into the fields. This was a very fun leg - working through fields, trails and patches of forest and finding antique farm structures. The highlights were Reed spotting a couple silent deer silhouetted on a nearby ridge and trekking without headlamps for a bit in the bright moonlight. The lowlights were some continued inconsistent nav and bits of bad luck and near misses. We did not end up covering that much of the farmlands, unfortunately, and time was getting tight. Throughout the race, Reed had been his usual able, agreeable race-buddy self and was fine with jogging whenever I suggested it. Because I was getting nervous about time, we jogged most of the last half hour.
I knew there was a ford of the Brandywine Creek near the end, which I was secretly hoping to have to do, although I wasn't sure how it would work into our route plans. As time dwindled, I got my wish - we found the site of the ford with only about 30 minutes left on the clock and there was no good route option, in the time allotted, other than to ford the creek. It wasn't bad - no more than thigh deep and not icy cold, maybe 25m across - and was a fun highlight to the leg. Once across, we waded a small creek, found our last CP, bushwhacked some odd humpy vegetation, and jogged up to the big barn to finish with ~10 minutes to spare. We covered just under 45 miles on the day.
|Reed emerging unscathed from the deeper first part of the ford|
This was a great 12 hour course - Reed's longest race so far. The varied and interesting terrain made for a great day. While the initial mountain biking was terrific, the urban-O and farmgaine, not typical AR activities, were equally enjoyed. Thanks Rootstock Racing for a great race weekend.