Early start Saturday @ 4.30am as we drove 45mins to drop our bikes in the middle of no-where (this is normal for AR) then over to the start line at a state park
At this point we were still unsure how the start was going to be. This IS unusal for AR at least the night before or right up to start time. We knew there must have something different because the straight line distance to the bikes was now 22miles… straight line!!!
Then as we were waiting for brief pre race meeting 2 school buses roll in… we were being transported somewhere to start. so we loaded on the buses for a 45 min bus ride to our bikes… Weird huh oh well. It gave us a little more sleep and a chance to catch up with our good friends from Team Wedali (Minnesota) who were also our biggest rivals in this race. But still good friends.
Race started with a big Mtn bike ride up over a mountain. Not cool having to start a race riding up hill. We quickly shot to the front to be joined by 3 other teams all within a few minutes of each other, including Wedali. Rode down the mountain on some sweet single track, to ride more dirt roads to the Toccoa River, getting one flat on the way but changing it in 2 minutes (no joke). The now paddling section. Normally in AR you bring your own boat or they supply and almost ways its in canoes. Well this year they said they were supplying them but they were canoes. So we all thought they were flatable ‘duckies’ (sturdy boats, and good for moving water)because we had to bring a pump.
We get to the river to find flat, flatable yes, duckies NO. they gave us they tiny little inflatable boats built for 2 people, max weight 300lbs. I weight 190 and peter is about 200 and michelle… we have a problem. this was the dumbest thing i have ever seen or done on AR. 3 people in a 2 person boat. On moving water with a boat that was suited for a swimming pool. Some words/phrases that come to mind here.
Dumb, stupid, dangerous, negilent, mocked, naieve…
And they were serious. Us, Wedali and one other team all arrived about the same time. Wedali got on the water and immediately flipped in the cold mountain river water. No was equipped for this. For 9 miles of paddling in these, you couldnt even paddle it was so cramped. Another team hit the first rock and the bottom got ripped of. Peter and i took one look at this and said. “NO, not doing that” so deflated our boat and paddles and PFD’s and waded across the river and decided to run the now 11miles on the trails we could find on the map. Very Silly idea to have made us paddle those boats. Those race directors (3 of them, 2 are brothers, thought it was hillarous) Wouldnt be laughing if someone got hurt.
Don’t worry the AR message boards are alive with comments now. AR is a hard sport and is about self reliance and relying on 2-3 other people called team mates. you try to lower the perceived risk by being fit & healthy to race for that length of time. You practice mountain biking, running for many hours, kayaking or canoeing, knowing how to use a compass, be able to keep moving with very sleepy or not feeling good or crappy weather. The sport is full on inherent risks as it is. Then to have this added to is isn’t funny at all.
Anyway we ran this entire section. Oh and i have the extra 10lb weight to carry to my pace is slow, but still running. We get to the end of that section where we would have got out of the boats to run some more in the real running/trekking section.
At point its mid Saturday afternoon and we are joined off and on by Wedali. For the entire race we were never more than 15-20 minutes ahead/behind each other. Always there keeping each other on our toes. But still finding time to laugh about other races we have done together. And seeing a snake, some turkey and LOTS of Poison Ivy. thankfully to this day i am not allergic to PI
Get to the of the trek to be greeted with our bikes that were transported for us.
Part 2 coming. stay tuned