Saturday, August 9, 2014

Wilderman off-road 140.6 Race Report: The days leading up to this race had me in a panic! The thoughts of how logistically I can pull this race off were flying through my mind constantly. First off a little about this race. It is a first time race put on by, a company that puts on extreme endurance events. Their motto is "Harder. Better. Wilder." I believe this is the only off-road distance 140.6 race there is and to make this race "harder" it is pretty much self supported. The overall cut on the full distance is 28 hours (2 hours for the swim, 16 hours for the bike, and 10 hours for the run). The race was located just outside of Wahalla, ND (approximately 7 hours from Minneapolis). I arrived Thursday afternoon to Wahalla, which gave me the chance to settle in and explore parts of the race course prior to race day and get my gear in check. The time spent exploring the course was extremely helpful in preparing me for what race day was going to bring. Friday was registration, dinner, and athlete meeting. I believe there were a total of 39 people that signed up for the race and only 26 showed up to registration (4 woman and 22 males). The meeting was over at about 8:30 pm and I headed back to the hotel to try to get some zzzz's. I didn't sleep a wink! My alarm went off at 5:00 am and I hung out in bed until 5:30 am before getting up to start my pre-race routine. I was on the road by 6:30 to head to the swim start, which was located approximately 20 miles out of town at Mt. Carmel Recreation/Campground and Dam. Once arriving to Mt Carmel, we weaved through the campground to the beach area where they had two cones set up. I picked my spot between the two cones to set up my transition. There were no racks, you just laid your bike on the ground and your gear around the bike. You also dropped off your drop bins that housed your gear and nutrition for the race. You could access the drop bins at miles 12 and 60 on the bike and then T2 and mile 11 on the run. The swim:
The swim course was a 2 loop course with two total bouys outlining the course. You swim down stream with the current and back to the beach against the current. Given the size of the field the participants got pretty spread out making it difficult to draft. I took the swim fairly easy; really just focusing on my form and keeping my stoke smooth. The water was full of floating vegetation and water temp was 80 degrees. The swim was wetsuit legal and the majority of the field did wear a wetsuit. I opted to wear my sleeveless, which ended up being a good choice. At the completion of each loop you had to yell out your name to make sure that all the swimmers were accounted for and that everyone completed two loops. I was the first woman out of the water. I quickly made my way up the hill to my bike and changed my clothes-yes out in the open (there are no changing tents and no penalties for nudity). My pacer gathered my swim gear and loaded it into the car after I left. Bike:
You exit the campground and headed out onto a gravel road before taking a left onto a paved road to start your first climb (approximately 200 ft). I passed a guy and wished him good luck. At the top of the climb you took a left, back onto gravel road where you rode until mile 12 when you hit your dropbox for the first time. I stopped to gather my nutrition for the bike and took a gel then started back on the gravel road for about 1 mile, which led me to the first set of ATV/2-track. The trail started off fairly flat for a mile or so. Then you descended approximately 200 ft into the gorge. The descend was rutted and over grown. You had to be very aware of your sighting and the path you chose. A lot of people crashed in this section. The trail came to an end requiring us to cross a river. You had to cross the river by carrying your bike over head. The water depth was anywhere from waist to chest deep and there was a strong current making it difficult to maintain your balance! There was a volunteer that walk along side you holding you up so you would tip over. Once you crossed the river, you had to climb the embankment to the ATV trail. There was a lot of climbing and the climbs were steep with sharp hairpin turns. The descents were fast and flowing. A lot of the trail followed the ridge line and if you took the hairpin turn too wide you would go off the cliff! This was the pattern for the next 20+ miles of the ride. There were also a good 5-6 sections of deep wet clay that would spit sticky clay all over your bike and into your pedals. I was peeling off baseball sized balls of clay from the back of my fork and my bike frame and had to stop a couple times to clean out my cleats so I could clip in. Once completing the ATV/2-track section we were spit out onto a gravel road for about a mile with a 200+ ft decent where they had just laid fresh thick gravel. If you got going too fast you would start to fish-tail. Once reaching the bottom there was a place to refill your water before heading back into the ATV trail. This set of trail was shorter, but was all climbing with switchbacks along the ridge line and there was a lot of ATV traffic. After completing that section you shot back out onto the gravel roads for the remainder of the loop. By this time, the North Dakota winds had picked up and just because you were on the gravel the roads didn't mean the climbing stopped. We took the gravel roads to the ski hill (who knew North Dakota had ski hills), where we had 3 sleep climbs on loose gravel that were over 400 ft about a 1.5 miles in length. Once completing the climbs, the course flattened out a bit so you could make up some time and rest a bit before starting this all over again. We hit our drop bins at mile 60. I stopped for some nutrition and a red bull. While I was there I heard chatter about my buddy Jeremy crashing on the bike and breaking his foot. He was in the lead and now out of the race. I hopped back on my bike and as soon as I pulled away the second place woman arrived to the aid station. I tried to pick up the pace, knowing that she was a better mountain biker than me. I made it to the river, crossed it and at mile 70 she caught me. I tried to keep up with her and to continue to push where I could, but kept in my mind I had a run to follow. Once, popping out of the trail and back on the gravel road decent with the loose, fresh gravel, I met up with my pacer and Jeremy (the guy who broke his foot) and his brother Nathan at the waterstop. I drank a coke before heading back into the last section of trail and then onto the gravel roads. There was a strong head wind at this point and still a good amount of climbing before completing the bike. The sun was setting at this point and I ended up having to turn on my bike lights for the last 10 miles or so before hitting the transition. When I pulled into the transition area, the first place woman was just heading out. Once hitting the transition, I drank a coke ate some pretzels and applesauce. My stomach felt fine but, I couldn't tolerate anything sweet anymore. I threw on some running tights and a short sleeved shirt along with a long sleeve shirt. I also put a headlamp around my waist, headlamp on my head, and a flash light in my pack.
Run: The run started with the first mile down a gravel road and my legs felt AWESOME-probably the best they have ever felt off the bike! About mile 2 we turned into overgrown ATV trail-the brush was thick and waist deep for the next mile or so. You then dropped into the first creek bed. I passed a man and wished him good luck and the proceeded on. During the pre-race meeting, the race director said the first creek bed was runnable, but I shortly learned that it was not. My initial thought was that I will just run down the water, until I stepped and sunk about 1.5 ft into the clay bottom. I stopped and quickly scanned the area and found some foot steps and then just followed them as well as I could. The foot steps took you from bank to bank, through deep brush, and over rocks and over downed trees. There was fresh bear scat along with fresh bear tracks everywhere. You could hear soft growling coming from the brush! I checked to make sure I had my whistle attached to my pack and scanned my flashlight back and forth from bank to bank until I hit the end of the creek (approximately mile 5). You then had to climb about a 7 ft cliff and pull yourself up over the ridge to get on the overgrown trail. You had to make your way through waist deep brush for about 2-3 miles before dropping back into another short creek section that was about 1 mile long before exiting again into overgrown trail. This section had lots of climbing! The climbs were over a 20% grade! You climbed until you reached the ridge line. The trail narrowed to about 1.5 ft. wide, but remained heavily overgrown. When you looked side to side and it was pitch black! I took my flashlight and shined down to the right and it was a 200 ft drop and I did the same on the left and it was a 50 ft drop! I started to shuffle my feet, trying to be careful not to step too far to either side for fear that I would fall. I ended up catching my toe on a root and went down on the left side of the trail! I grabbed onto the overgrown brush to stop my fall and then had to pull myself back up onto the ridge. My heart was pounding! The trail finally turned and we ended up dropping deeper into the thick woods to start climbing again up to a remote cabin. We were 8 miles into the run at this point and we could refill our water at the cabin. They were also a few snacks in the cabin that we could help ourselves to as well. During the pre-race meeting we were given the challenge to memorize the snacks that were in the cabin as this was a question that you had to answer at the finish. Once I left the cabin I had to descend the overgrown trail. The descents were a 20+ grade making you having to grip trees for support. I stayed on the trail for another 2 miles when I came upon another remote cabin. A man name Dex had a refrigerator stocked with Coke and Sprite for us take. I took a can of Coke and headed out onto the road. I only made it about a block before dropping the can of coke and it spilled all over the road. I had about a mile on the gravel road before hitting our only stop at the drop bins. I picked up my pacer at that spot. I stopped briefly at my drop bin to drop my garbage. My pacer wasn't exactly ready to go and I just wanted to keep moving, so I took off and told him to catch up. We had a 5 mile section of gravel road. I came up on another racer who walking down the road drinking a beer. He told me that a drunk cowboy gave him the beer and that he wanted to drop from the race. I wished him good luck and continued down the road until I had to drop into the next creek bed. This creek bed was thick with brush and there was a ton of bushwhacking and climbing over downed trees. Not long after dropping into the creek bed, I met up two other guy racers who were struggling to get through this part. We ended up teaming up and navigating the creek bed all together. The creek bed range in water depth from ankle deep to knee deep. The air temp had dropped to about 50 degrees and we were all getting pretty cold at this point! Once we reach the end of the 4 mile creek bed we came to the river again. We had to cross the waist deep, fast flowing river to the opposite shore. We climbed up into ATV trail which brought us to a make shift trail (An ATV drove down the middle of some crop). They called this part "The Tires"-meaning we had to high step through this crop for a mile or so before dropping back into another creek bed. This creek bed was filled with boulders that we had to climb through. The rocks were slippery from algae and the greasy clay that were on the bottoms our shoes. I ended up slipping on a boulder about 3/4 of the way through and landing on my right knee. I was saved from hitting my head on the rock by the brim of my hat! At this point I was ready to be done! Everyone stopped and was asking if I was alright and my response was "Let's just go!" We climbed out of that creek section and one of the race directors was at the top cheering us on and then he broke the the news that we were entering the worse part of the trail. He told us that this was section that we were most likely to fall and break an ankle. I was like GREAT! The next section of trail was a mowed path through a clover field, which doesn't sound so bad, right! The path was filled with deep ruts and holes that we had to avoid. We quickly developed a call system to alert each other about the holes. Mike (one of the guys in our group), ended up catching his foot and twisting his knee. This caused him to fade a little bit, but at this time we were a TEAM! We slowed a bit for Mike to catch up until he got some energy and walk out the pain from the fall. Once the clover field ended we dropped back onto the ATV trail which took us to a fence that we had to climb. From there we had just over two miles left of the course about half ATV trail and half gravel road with a 200+ ft climb into the finish.
Overall finish: 2nd female and 8th overall! 17 total finishers. STATS: 6700 ft of climbing on the bike and 2500ft of climbing on the run! What an experience! I was a little beat up but, can't wait to do it again!

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