Shenandoah Tenderfoot

“No plan survives the realities of an Adventure Race”

With the Shenandoah Tenderfoot done and in the record books, the only thing left to do is write up the race report. Despite winter returning again and again like a bad Friday the 13th movie, the weather on race day could not have been more pleasant. It was a beautiful 72 degrees, overcast with a gentle breeze.

We arrived at the ‘check in’ a little after 8 am. We did an equipment check, staged our bikes, and discussed our race strategy.

The plan was to then take a nap until the 9:30 race briefing. The excitement of the upcoming race ruined that, at least for one person. I think the other three racers would say it was one person who was too excited to stop talking that ruined the pre-race nap, but who am I to judge.

The race prologue had us run approximately 200 yards before getting on our bikes to start the first leg. We were dead last leaving the bike area which was one of the few things to go according to plan. Our youngest team member still has not grasped the idea that swerving right in front of other riders is a bad thing so we wanted to let everyone get ahead of us. This is our first Adventure Race of the season plus we had a first time racer on the team so we intended to go slow and have fun, this time.

“Is this the trail we are supposed to take?”

Yes. Yes it was, as we all know now, but at the time, “no, its further down.”

After biking 600 of the 250 meters to the trail we should have taken, our navigator realized his error and after looking over the map and recalculating a course came up with a brilliant way to get back on course.

“You want me to carry my bike up WHAT?!?!”

Reading the expressions on the faces of the rest of the team a different course of travel was chosen.

Two Checkpoints reached and a time check was done to see how long it had taken us. If twenty minutes had passed we would go for two more biking checkpoints, thirty minutes we would grab only one more before going to the transition point and doing the challenge. It had taken us an hour. Time flies when you are having fun? We decided to head back immediately and hoped the challenge would not take a lot of time. The journey back to the transition areas included some very steep downhill single track riding, or more accurately walking. We said it was the safe thing to do for our youngest team member, but with the steep slopes that a slight move off trail could take you over, all of us were fine with walking.

The challenge was a lot of fun and a good break after the biking.

Not sure how much of the challenge should remain shrouded in mystery so I will just say it was fun, quick, and got us 5 much needed points.

Next stop the paddling stage.

We had to take 2 canoes but we anticipated that and brought along some paracord to put the “slow” canoe in tow behind the “fast” canoe. Well to the pleasant surprise of the “fast” canoe the “slow” canoe was just as fast and kept the tow line slack almost the entire time. Having the canoes in tow did help to keep us together when the currents swirled or when the gentle breeze decided to become a strong gust and tried to turn our canoes around.

“we are almost there!”,

was called out from the lead canoe about 15 minutes in, then again at 30 minutes, and then at 40 minutes.

“lets finish strong!”

After another 20 minutes of paddling and still no end in sight there were no more erroneous predictions about how much further we had.

Eventually we arrived at the transition area, docked our canoes and took a few minutes to recuperate. Looking at the amount of time we had left we decided not to go for the four checkpoints that were in the opposite direction as the finish line and would require us to double back. With our eyes set on grabbing three more checkpoints that were on the way to the finish line we packed up and started our trekking leg.

The first checkpoint required a stream crossing, I don’t think its an official AR if your shoes don’t get soaking wet.

After that we had two more check points that would require some hill climbing. About half way up the first steep hill we took a quick break to hydrate, check the time we had left, and assess just how spent we were. With over three miles of hiking ahead of us and under an hour to do it we decided that it was best to head straight back now. A brisk pace was set and we headed off deciding to hike around the hills instead of over them. We were overtaken by a team that was walking just a bit faster than us, later we would find out that they were the first place team in our division.

Side note:

For those of you not familiar with adventure races, the team with the most points wins. In case of a tie on points the team that did it fastest breaks the tie. The time that is used to identify a race i.e. 3 hour, 4 hour, 12 hour etc. is the time limit you have to acquire points. Every one minute that a team is late they incur a penalty of losing one point. Five minutes late, you lose five points.

OK, back to the report:

So there we were, hiking the final half mile of the course. We had ten of the possible twenty points the course had to offer. Even though we were just out to have fun and get experience not one of us wanted to lose any of our hard earned points. Another team had approached us from behind about a half mile before and everyone just speed up without saying a word. It was like a unspoken decision to not let anyone else pass us. A quarter mile left the team behind us still was still nipping at our heels. Time check, we had 3 minutes left. It was now or never, we made a break for it and started jogging as fast as our youngest team member’s tiny legs would carry him.

“Is that an electric fence?”

A bold grab let us know it was not turned on. After a quick scramble through the fence and an all out run across the parking lot we arrived at the finish line and used our e-punch to stop our time. 4:00:33, just 27 seconds from a penalty. We were so excited to have just barely made it under the wire, you would have thought we had won.

A few minutes later, in the day where almost nothing went as planned, we had our last surprise of the day.

“Adventure Class 3 person coed division, in third place with 10 points, We Don’t Quit!”