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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

2009 Thunder Rolls 24 Hr AR

This was my first time at the Thunder Rolls AR, but I've heard consistently great things about it, so I was pretty psyched to see what Gerry Voelliger of High Profile had in store for us. The race had a midnight start, which was also a first for me. (And for the record I now think ALL 24 hour races should have midnight starts. I loved it.) I raced with Matt Jourdan and Brian Betner from Msytik/Gray Goat (CITGO) on an non-traditional all male team.

The race started with a 2 mile prologue run then onto the bikes. CP5 was a traverse (with our bikes) so we knew we had to hammer to get there in the top 3 to avoid suffering from any bottle-necking on the three ropes they had set up. And hammer we did. The road cycling background of Matt and Brian came out and we set a blistering pace on the bike. Within 20-30 minutes it was just us and Alpine Shop* out at the front.

*(After the race we learned that even "sucking wheel" they were hurting, which I was glad to hear as the pace was putting the hurt on me too!)

Even a mutual nav blunder on CP4 didn't allow any teams to catch us on the way to the ropes.

We came screaming into the ropes station, geared up and knocked out the traverse quickly getting off the ropes first and heading off towards some single track biking.

And that was the last we saw of Alpine Shop. Until 10 minutes from the finish, but more on that later...

After CP5 we got our first real taste of the sandy single track in the area and let me just say, it was brutal. Rideable sections of trail were mixed up with thick wet stuff that would gobble up your front tire before you had a chance to blink. I had more than my fair share of spills, the majority of which were due to waiting about 0.7 seconds to long to try and unclip from my pedals. Throughout this section we saw bike lights on our tails, so we knew there were teams just minutes behind us.

At CP9 we got our maps for the O course that would cover some of the same ground we had just ridden on our bikes, sandy single track criss-crossed with sandy ATV trails. We were told it would be about 5 miles total. The topography was subtle, making off trail nav all the trickier along with the darkness. But, rather than take the safe attack points from trails and roads we were aggressive and took the shortest route from point to point.

And boy did being aggressive pay off.

We crushed the O course in under 2 hours, giving us more than an hour lead on the next team (which was, of course, Alpine Shop). We wouldn't know about this lead until hours later so we continued to push the pace.* More sandy single track along with a small amount of road riding brought us to our first TA at the Shady Pines campground.

*One of the disadvantages to being first. You don't usually know what your lead is, so you have to push the pace on desire alone, not some quantifiable gap you want to close with the next team.

We transitioned pretty quickly and grabbed our paddling gear and took off for the paddle put-in on foot, about a mile away. Arriving at the put in we realized for the first time the effects that all the recent rains were to have on our race. The small slough from the Mississippi was really moving.

Moving fast.

In the wrong way. Our paddle was to start upstream!

I wasn't entirely convinced that we would actually be able to move the boat upstream to be honest. But we could, and we did for the majority of the five hour paddle. (Downstream portions moved super fast) The start of the paddle was a reality check as our spot on navigation took a hit. I actually took us right to the first control, but didn't know it. When Matt called out that he saw it both Brian and I vetoed him because the terrain did not look at all like it was supposed to.

At this point we had two options. Check out what Matt saw, about a 50 meter paddle to the shore, or continue downstream to where Brian and I were convinced it had to be about a half kilometer away. Easy decision, right?

Apparently not.

For whatever reason, and I'm still scratching my head at this one, Brian and I insisted that it made more sense to head downstream first, and then stop by the suspected control location on the way back. That approach makes no sense to me know, not sure why it did then.

Well, we were wrong, Matt was right, and it cost us 20-30 minutes. (Keep this in mind for the end of this race report.)

Unfortunately the time lost was not the worst effect of this little blunder as Matt (somewhat justifiably) harassed us to no end for the majority of the next FOUR HOURS for not believing him. And let me just say, he is well versed in the area of verbal harassment...

The rest of the paddle was uneventful. The upstream portions were brutal and the downstream ones were fast. A number of times we kind of lost focus a bit I would say and lost that "drive" you need to keep pushing the pace, but that was mostly due to the fact that we never saw anyone!


We actually started to get worried that maybe we had done something wrong and even checked the passport to make sure that all the controls were punched. (They were.) Even though we looked back frequently, we never saw anyone.

Turns out that Alpine Shop saw us a time or two...

Coming off the boat we learned that our lead getting on the water was an hour. Great news and it made the trip back to the TA (with some much enjoyed homemade beans) a good one.

Next up was a short O section that we knocked out quickly with no real issues. Matt kept the pace up and we ran the majority of the time.

Unfortunately upon returning to the TA we discovered that our lead had shrunk to a mere 15 minutes... (Guess who? Yup, you got it. Alpine Shop.)


We knew our paddle was sub-par, but it was shocking to learn how much time they had gained. This race had just gotten serious. Our final transition was frantic as opposed to the energetic one after the paddle. The final bike was relatively short so we got rid of everything we didn't need and hit the bikes.

The first part of the final bike came as close to breaking us as any part of the course would. It was the worst sand we had ridden yet. I suspect this was due to the sand being much drier than during our earlier single track riding. Whatever the cause for the worsened conditions, the constant off and on and bike pushing was wearing us down.

After punching the final CP I almost wanted to kiss the packed gravel as we made our way on towards the final single track loop for the race. (I didn't though. Didn't want Matt yelling at me for taking too long to do it, and I wasn't sure my legs would cooperate with the standing back up part.)

Thankfully the single track final loop was well packed and rode quickly. To this point we had seen no sign of any teams in front of us. No tracks, no visual sightings. We were starting to feel like we would hold our lead to the finish.

After finishing the loop we had three route choices to get to CP46, our second to last control. Knowing that Alpine Shop were solid navigators and could push the pace at the end of a race, we chose the most aggressive route, thinking that's what they would do in an attempt to catch us.

It didn't go. The little gravel road I was hoping would take us to the CP petered out and turned in to a driveway. We quickly backtracked and made our way around to the east to CP46. Cost us about 3 minutes. We also stopped to hook up our tow system which took one to two minutes.

After CP46 the finish line was pulling and we rode hard. The pre-5PM finish that Matt had obsessed about for the past 6 hours was a sure thing.

But, the race wasn't over.

As we neared the access road that would take a couple hundred meters down to CP47, the final control, I saw something that elicited the second worst feeling* I have ever had in adventure racing.

*The worst feeling was a bone-headed decision a couple years ago that turned a podium finish into a DNF. Stupid boat drag...

Alpine Shop was riding away from CP47 and on to the finish.

After 16+ hours it was over just like that. In the final hours of the race they just kept at it and kept closing the gap and in the closing meters of the race, snuck past us.

By sheer chance we were totally oblivious to them being that close due to differing route choices. We never saw them in front of us, hell we hadn't seen them in over 14 hours! They just popped out from 47, saw us, and put their heads down on the way to the finish.

When the dust settled and we had all crossed the finish line they had edged us out by seven minutes. Now, seven minutes can be made back anywhere (everywhere?) on a 24 hour course.*

*(This should be, and will be, the subject for a blog post all it's own.)

But, I keep going back to that massive mental flatulence on the first paddling control. I'll kick myself for that one for quite some time.

Now, like I told Jeff, Carrie and David of Alpine shop after the race, I'll ALWAYS be happy when a coed team takes the overall win. AR is a coed team sport, and seeing a team racing in the true spirit of the sport take the overall is just plain cool no matter the circumstances.

That being said, it sucked being on the team that got nipped at the finish.

Oh well!

The course was great (even with all the infernal sand) and the organization was top notch. Kudos and a big thanks to Gerry, all his fantastic volunteers, the town of Oquawka*, and Big River State Park. Matt, Brian and I had a blast and the weather could not have been better!

*If the race goes back to this area again next year I might be able to pronounce the name of the town on the first try, no promises though.

Now, time to get ready for nationals...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Three weeks to the Indy AR...

We only three weeks to the IndyAR, things are finally going well. After three unique course re-designs, due to inaction by those paid to take action, the course is set. I guess turning in permit requests last October 15th was not early enough!! The only thing left to do is finish the testing! I have begun the volunteer organization and logistics so those that inquired about helping will be contacted soon. This year's course will be challenging and a bit longer than the prior few years. More info will be posted in my race update #3 at

This year, my tenth, will be my last year as the primary event organizer and director. I will be making an eventual announcement about the future of the Indianapolis Adventure Race where I hope for it to continue along with its charitable mission. Thanks to all those who have volunteered, participated and supported the race throughout the years. Expect a fun and challenging course this year!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Carmel Amazing Adventure

Just a quick note to say thanks to James and Jerry and all of the other volunteers at the Carmel Amazing Adventure! You guys pulled off a great event in not a lot of time. I'm sure there were a number of headaches and hassles with everything having to be so last minute. Couldn't really tell from a racer's perspective.

Tracy, and I, and most importantly Dylan, all had a blast!!! (Dylan said 3-4 times during the race "this is so much fun!")

We're still working on getting the Crisco out of all the nooks and craneys of everything, and I've gotten the golf clubs out and have been practicing my sand shots so we'll fair better at the HAA. : )

But as for the sling shot...that's a lost cause. I figured all those years of launching water balloons at the other fraternities would have paid such luck! I have to just accept the fact that I'm not as young as I once was.

The bike drop/pick up was an issue that I thought you all handled very well. You did the only thing you could do and I thought you communicated the rationale very well. Just part of racing.

Again, great job!!! Thanks guys.

See you all at TNT &/or PAU!


Friday, June 19, 2009

Rootstock Repair Job

What happens when Rootstock takes the trailer to a race?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Don't forget to register...

Upcoming Adventure Races:

Planet Adventure Urban Sprint - August 15th

Indianapolis Adventure Race - Septebmer 19th

NSAAR Women's Only Adventure Race - October 10th

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Race Series

Rootstock Racing is happy to announce a new trail running race series. Coming this July, the Tuesday Night Trail Race Series (TNT) will present a series of 6 trail races on Tuesday evenings. The first race will be held at the beautiful Indy Southwestway Park on July 21st.

For more information, please see the TNT Race Website.

Directed by: Rootstock Racing

Monday, May 04, 2009

Race Report: 2009 3-State 3-Mountain Challenge

By Michael Sapper

Just returned from my third year riding in the 3 State 3 Mountain Challenge starting in Chattanooga, TN. In excess of 2,000 cyclists participate. The 3 State is a single day century (100mile) road ride with major climbs up Suck Creek (Tennessee), Sand (Alabama) and Lookout Mountain (Georgia) plus dozens of minor hills we refer to as “rollers” that would be featured climbs in Indiana’s Hilly 100. The total elevation climb for the day is in excess of 7,000 feet.

After two prior years of rainy less than perfect weather, we were greeted to another Saturday morning 8am start with overcast skies and a probable chance of moderate rain. Well at least this year it didn’t start to rain until 7:55. I’ve now ridden 300 miles at the 3 State with certainly less than 30 miles of that on completely dry pavement. The only good news this year was that the temperature was in the 60’s and much warmer than prior years.

The Suck Creek Mountain climb begins about 10 miles into the ride and by that time it had been pouring for miles. Climbing in the rain is really not that bad, even though the temperature drops as you gain altitude, the heat you generate with the effort compensates. I stopped at the summit to put on my thin water resistant jacket for the chilly 5 mile decent. This is where things can get interesting fast. At last years event we had dry pavement descending Lookout Mountain and I remember approaching 50 mph in sections. However with rain sheeting off the road it took heavy pressure on the breaks to keep my speed under 20. Kissing the pavement this early in the season was just not an option. It’s quite amazing how little stopping power you get with the rear breaks in wet conditions. I would guess that on the decent I passed just a few riders while being passed by 50, 75 riders? Needless to say I got quite cold at the bottom of the decent which ends at the first SAG stop. Grossart and Garrison having crushed the climb before me were nowhere to be found. They, like me made a brief stop at the SAG to get some water and continued the ride in an effort to maintain some body warmth in the wet conditions.

It would be 20 miles before the second SAG and I spent that time mostly riding by myself while occasionally hopping into faster groups as they passed. With the rain soaked roads, group riding was only an option if you didn’t mind “rooster tails” from the other rider’s wheels spraying your face with a nice water/road grime combination. I was riding this section a little harder than I planned but I figured that would be my best chance to catch the GG train (Grossart/Garrison). After dealing with some to close for comfort lighting strikes, the rain started to taper off vastly improving the riding conditions from “this really sucks” to “OK, I guess I can deal with this for another 5 hours”. Rolling into the second SAG at mile 40 it was nice to see the GG train parked with Garrison walking around the parking lot in his socks. (You’ll need to read about that in his blog post).

I stayed on with them until the base of the second major climb when they dropped me (like a brick) going up Sand Mountain. At the summit I had the fortune of joining up with another rider and we made some nice time pace lining on the increasingly “not so wet pavement”. I re-joined the GG train at the mile 60 third SAG (would that make me the caboose?) Around 75 miles out I was wondering if it might be a good idea to consider if I wanted to stay with the train and get de-railed on the last major climb up Lookout Mountain or pull off and “smell the roses” for a while, rest up, and solo in for the last climb/ 15 miles to the finish. The roses won! I did a micro pull of the pace-line (Nano pull if you’re an Apple fan) and pulled off. By that time the weather had cleared a bit more and I actually spotted dry patches of pavement. The fourth SAG is ¼ mile before the start of the last major climb and the fifth is at the top. The climb is only 2.4 miles but starting at mile 83 and very steep near the top, it does take a bit of effort. Having the last two SAG’s less than 3 miles apart might give you an idea of just how hard this climb is. The third climb came and went with a good deal of effort and even more focus. After a short stop at the fifth and last SAG to grab some water you continue on with lots of those “rollers,” one being immediately after the SAG.

I rode this entire 15 miles primarily alone and not so much “smelling the roses” as I was hoping to finish in 6 hours 30 minutes or less. This section has about 5 or 6 of these rollers until you gradually reach the Town of Lookout Mountain before descending the last few miles into Chattanooga and on to the finish. The Lookout decent is my favorite of the three and the skies had cleared enough for a spectacular view to the valley some 1,500 feet below.

I rolled into the finish with an unofficial time of 6 hours 32 minutes. The GG train had finished about 15 to 20 minutes prior. I will be returning for a fourth trip in 2010 and you guessed it, hoping for no more freaking rain.

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