Sunday, April 25, 2010

Minnesota Orienteering Club 2010 Adventure Race Tune-Up

or The Lost Boys found.

We did it and we did it at an extremely short notice: Bryan and I entered MNOC's annual AR tune-up, starting at Riverbend Nature Center in Faribault, MN.

Neither of us knew quite what to expect, neither the sequence of legs nor had we ever done anything like it. All we knew was that we would be running/orienteering, kayaking and bicycling.

When we needed a team name, Jen at work came up with a good one without delay: "The Lost Boys." I was just hoping that this would not prove to be a premonition ...

I picked up Bryan at 6:15 and we were on the road. Warnings about traffic delays due to the Ironman Bike Ride proved to be unwarranted. We moved at a good clip and were soon in Faribault. We had a quick pit stop at Hardee's and then dropped off our bikes at the appointed location in Two Rivers Park near downtown Faribault. Like at the bike drop, the parking lot of Riverbend Nature Center, participants were busy readying their gear.

The sky was leaden, the temps anything but mild, with a brisk northerly wind. Thus, after signing the waiver, the next order of business was deciding what to wear. I wore shorts, my orienteering gaiters and a rain jacket. I warned Bryan not to overdress, but the cold got the better of him.

At the pre-race meeting we were told that for the first leg we needed to carry all of our gear. That meant that those of us who insisted on using their own paddles would carry them through the woods. The sequence of events was orienteering, kayaking, cycling with a short orienteering (i.e. UTM location followed by compass bearing) interlude, a score-o and another bike leg.

On the Straight River, in my mind the most difficult leg

It didn't take long before we got going, a little after 9:00 AM. The Orienteering was rather simple and my experience helped us quite a bit.

We arrived at the start of the kayak portion within the first quarter of racers. Here, the decision was whether to install a seat. I decided against it, which may have been a mistake. I should have either invested that time or knelt in the inflatable craft. Quite a few parties passed us, our rhythm was off and I had a hard time sitting up straight. Furthermore, my rear end received a good soaking from a puddle of water that formed in the hollow I created in the back of the rubber boat. We made it without serious hangups but fell back by probably 10 places or so.

At the take-out I let Bryan clean the canoe while I plotted the UTM coordinate of the orienteering interlude of the first bicycle leg. A volunteer checked the plot for accuracy and off we went. One more control point within Faribault followed by a steep climb, then the country roads were ours.

The climb revealed what would turn out to be a major draw-back: Bryan’s studded tires were slow on smooth surfaces and his soft fork made climbing difficult. We plodded along and eventually made it to Caron Park, to the UTM coordinate at the picnic shelter. From there, we took an 11° bearing to a large boulder. We found it without problem. Back onto the bike, to Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, familiar to me from previous orienteering meets.

I do like Nerstrand Big Woods, it's one of my favorite parks. Here, we had to run a score-O, i.e. to tick off as many controls as possible in the allotted time. The control placements were generally simple and we hit all but the last one right on.

They were placed more as during a regular O-event, it was easily possible to create a route not requiring any detours. As I said, I made a mistake at the last control. Since we only had about five minutes left, I had already resigned to dropping this one. However, it was so close to the check-out point that I decided to go for it. Fortes fortuna adiuvat, we got that last control and made it back with a minute to spare!

Back on the bikes and a tactical decision that would help us quite a bit: we switched bikes. I am a little fitter than Bryan and my smoother rolling Gary Fisher helped him a lot. Three controls on the road and three in Riverbend Nature Center, all by bike. The first one was not a problem. South, with a brisk back wind, that made even steep hills seem easier.

Easy ridin' downhill and with a back wind

The second control was where the road intersects with a drainage ditch. A strong, fast-riding team overshot this control and was out of sight by the time we had punched our card. I wonder how long it took for them to notice. The way back to Riverbend was a little more difficult because the NNW wind and a rather soft gravel road surface. The occasional farm dog would jump out at us but never persist. Just doing their job, keeping the riff-raff and varmint (like us) away.

The short bike-O in Riverbend was a fun piece of single track, nothing technical. Again, my orienteering helped except that I turned the wrong direction (left instead of right on the road back to the finish. This probably cost us a minute.

All in all, what a great experience for participating in an adventure race. It also boosts the ego to finish 8th out of 38 teams, for the results, see AR Tune-Up Finishers. For Mike Carlson, the meet director's thoughts, a description of all the work that went into preparing this and how the final scoring worked, see AR Tune-up review.Garmin Connect (click next to move to the next leg, they are in sequence, 1 to 5)

1 comment:

bryanbearss said...

What a great time. Christian’s description of my contribution was too kind. I slowed him down by at least an hour over the course of the day – with a better preparation (mainly bike gear) AND better conditioning, he could have finished closer to 3rd place. Overall, I was happy to be competitive and 8th out of 39 teams was better than expected. By far, the best part of the event was the actual orienteering – nothing as fun as running through open woods in Spring. My favorite image was of a bleached deer skull surrounded by purple flowers. However, the image most often was of Christian’s back while I just tried to keep up. Christian, you are a beast… civilized, but a beast nevertheless!