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2010 Atomic Race Report – Team ATP/CP0 [2010-06-02]

Jenn Rinderle and I signed up to race with old friend and team mate Scott Pleban for this year’s race. Peter, Paul Humphries and Michele were also racing as Checkpoint Zero and Race Director Josh Forrester was ken to hype up the competition between us citing “old vs new”, “former captain vs new captain” yadayadayada…

We received our maps during check in and I was keen to see if any of my scouting had paid off. I was very surprised to see the Bull Mountain trail featured and even more surprised to see the Etowah River prior to Dawson Forest for the paddle section. Not what I had imagined but the second section of this two part race, it turns out, would involve some familiar territory.

This race would be split into two halves; the first featuring a prologue run then a short team run then longish bike to the paddle. At the take out another short run to Dawson forest then “up to a six hour rest period” before the second half of the race began at midnight with a long trek then bike to a foot “O” section with an ascend/rappel for one team member then a short bike ride to the finish.

The pre-race meeting was long on words and many a racer were yawning and checking their watches knowing the preparation they needed before getting a few hours sleep before race start. Joe Moeschberger from PuraVida Adventures gave a short, concise speech regarding river safety and rope discipline. Hopefully the RD can learn something form his style. Notably there was a tunnel during the river section which had us all a little nervous but excited to get in there. Each team was given a small plastic trash can liner in which to stuff a tent, three sleeping bags, spare clothes and food for the mid race rest period. Unfortunately the bages were vastly inadequate but we duct taped ours around a large dry bag which we stuffed full of food and a few clothes. We added a tent but had no room for the sleeping bags.

We all lined up in Amicalola State Park at just before 7AM for the prologue. Scott took care of the short run at great speed and we started up the trails then the long staircase up the side of the falls where we picked up our bikes and started north to pick up the first few points. Although Scott was navigating, I knew this area well and we didn’t have to think too much until the turn off after Nimberwill Gap to a hidden waterfalls for the next CP. This was a cool CP placement and there were three teams sticking together, leading the field. We hit the first TA at Nimberwill Church to start the first rogaine section where we had to pick up four of five points, our choice. Unfortunately Jenn’s rear tire was deflating rapidly and we tried a quick fix but as we approached our bushwack to CP6 we soon realized a more permanent fix was required. This took us a good 20 minutes to sort out and we continued this section knowing we add to make up time. A couple of good route choices by Scott, picking up CPs 6, 8, 9 & 10 where a great bushwack got us back to the TA trailing the leaders by 20 minutes. We kept our pace up for the next section, still on bike to the river (seeing Jenn’s husband Ed on the way) and hit the river with about the same distance between us.

We figured our paddling & river skills would help make up some time in this section through class I & II rapids but we lost concentration a few times and ended up flipping twice and actually sinking a couple of times also. Most memorably in the tunnel where we hit the wall, filled up, sank but still managed to keep paddling. It was obvious that exiting the tunnel would be a mess with the rapid involved so, with superhuman strength we managed to haul the canoe up and empty it while standing in the moving water inside the tunnel. Another canoe came flying past us at this point which was interesting considering there was only supposed to be one canoe at a time in the tunnel! We jumped into the canoe just in time to exit the tunnel and carried on laughing hysterically at the situation. Just another AR moment. The tunnel was shut down a few teams later after only three out of seven teams had made it through without mishap. Notably, during the paddle, there was one class IV with a portage where there was supposed to be someone from race staff to direct us. Nobody was there unfortunately…

The paddle took close to five hours and we exited (after seeing Di on the riverbank mid paddle) at Hwy 9 to see Di & Ed questioning what had took us so long. Clearly all our “issues” had cost us more time and, after a short run into Dawson forest to the TA, we found out we were about an hour or so behind the leaders. Agghhhh!!!

The top teams were over an hour ahead of RD’s prediction so we set up our tent and hunkered down for the midnight re-start. That’s when the fun starting. A terrific thunderstorm bore down on us with torrential rain making the rest period not so restful and for most teams a wet and unpleasant experience. There were still a bunch of teams on the river section and we did not envy them one bit. The storm passed and, eventually, the rain stopped. The race staff had Ramen noodles and cookies which went down really well as the storm had lowered the temperature and we had all cooled off. We had been given a new map with UTMs to plot when we first entered the TA with one UTM missing so we could not totally plan our final route. We were given this shortly before the midnight re-start and Scott Eyeballed the map to quickly get a feel for the direction. The race management had decided to re-route the re-start as there was a crossing of the Etowah River which would have been very dangerous with the amount of rain that had just fallen. I had tried to cross at the same spot the week before, without any major rain fall and it was way above normal. The new route had us cross Shoal Creek at a ford on Shoal Creek Road which is normally a shin to knee high depth. Our team, CP0 and Imonpoint were the first teams to arrive, all together, and straight away realized this was going to be more then a quick walk across the creek. Peter & Scott were first into the creek and quickly got pushed off their feet and swept briefly downstream then, fortunately, into the opposite bank. The rest of us all linked arms for the chest high crossing but, quickly got pulled apart and swept down by the fast, powerful current. Incidentally, there was no PFD carried during this section. We were all fortunately swept to the far bank with Jenn Moos from Imonpoint grabbing our Jenn for the most precarious crossing of any of us.. Thanks Jenn M! We shouted warnings back to the next teams approaching the crossing and continued on the trek. The navigation was fairly simple during this section and I had some local knowledge which gave us a slight advantage and had us first into the next TA where we changed to the bike. Tony Berwald & Yak were managing this TA but we were about an hour ahead of race management’s predictions so everybody was asleep in their tents. We woke Tony up, signed in and were off as quick as possible. We held the lead through the next bike section, culminating with a long, brutal 20+ minute climb up Burnt Mountain to the next TA. Here Joe had set up the ascend & Rappel on a tall tree and Jenn & I graciously volunteered Scott to do this . CP0 arrived as Scott started so we knew our lead was slim.

The next foot orienteering section was a rogaine but the instructions clearly stated that one of the points was not part of the rogaine. To our interpretation, this turned the rogaine into either a clockwise or anti-clockwise route decision picking up the one point, right in the middle, at the end. After making a clockwise decision we picked up the last point, noticing that another top team who had been behind us had already got it then hit the Burnt Mountain road and ran back to the TA as CP0 passed us, already on their bikes heading to the finish. We knew that they probably hadn’t interpreted the instructions the same as us so we were keen to discuss with race management at the end. We rode back down Burnt Mountain (a lot quicker than we hade rode up it although I was dragging at this point) and hit Amicalola State Park where RD Josh unsurprisingly told us we would have to climb the staircase again. We saw CP0 running towards the staircase as we rode in so took off after them as quick as we could (with me slowing us down some) but could not catch them and finished about one minute behind. Wedali, our good friends from Minnesota were a few minutes behind us and after adding in the time difference from the first half of the race which was divided in two for some unknown reason, CP0 got the win with Wedali second and us third. Imonpoint were having some health issues but hung tough to take fourth.

We spoke at some length, post race, about the miscommunication between the written word in the instructions and the apparent spoken word before the re-start. The Race Management made their decision and will hopefully improve things for the next race.

Overall, a fast, fun race with some neat CP placements and cool locations. Fewer words and clearer instructions would be my only suggestions for next year’s race. Thanks to the Forrester boys and their staff and all the volunteers.