August 27th, 2002 07:14 AM
24 Hour Adventure Race Report, 8/24-25
Found this in my email.
“Who Are You Guys?”: Race Report from the Balance Bar 24-Hour Adventure Race
The Boston Balance Bar 24-Hour Adventure Race, the third in a five-race, $110,000 national championship series, started and ended on Fan Pier next to the Federal Courthouse on the Harbor. In between came 70 miles of kayaking, mountain biking, climbing, and cross-country running. And rain. And a good dose of fun and tough competition.
Sixty teams of three paddled out at 6:30 am Saturday into a clammy, light wind for a 12-mile kayak that wove through the Harbor Islands to Nantasket. Most of the teams were coed (although there were single-sex divisions), and all teams would have to stay together the entire race, including the long paddling sections in three-person kayaks.
Unlike many of the teams that have been together for a season or longer, our group came together on the Tuesday before the race. “Team One With” was led by Alyson Denk, an artist and social entrepreneur from Santa Monica, CA and included Jay Prichard, who owns a medical staffing company in Tallahassee, FL, and your humble correspondent. Because of travel (and Boston traffic) we were still sorting out logistics at 1:15 am the morning before the start, leaving us with about three hours of sleep before the all-important Dunkin’ Donuts pre-race pit stop.
Having entered the Pro/Elite Division (the first time for all three of us), we naturally felt obligated to speed off with the leaders around Castle Island and past the incoming freighters. Through the first checkpoint on Peddock’s Island, we tried to keep the three lead teams in sight as they steadily pulled away from our chase group of five boats.
Jay set the pace from the front of the kayak, while Aly navigated, steered, and gave me a paddling clinic on the fly. “Ken management” proved the most challenging, as I heard a constant stream of “watch your rhythm,” “rotate around your spine,” “dip your shoulder,” and “more weight on your left cheek.” The paddling was actually rather pleasant; a constant effort, but at a pace that allowed bantering with other teams and among ourselves…and opportunities to enjoy the harbor scenery.
We pulled into Nantasket about 9:00 and quickly transferred to our bikes. Now it was my turn to lead. Jay’s back pain (which I shortly would share) kept us from hammering the 23-mile bike section through the rooty singletrack of Wompatuck State Forest at the red line, but this probably meant a better overall pace for the long haul. A few local knowledge advantages and minor navigational miscues more or less balanced each other out as we jockeyed between fifth and ninth place for the next two hours, about 40 minutes behind the closely bunched group of three lead teams. A few of the other elite teams seemed a little surprised and slightly miffed to see us racing with them, but we were confident that we could compete at their level.
Back to the kayak, we set out for an eight-mile paddle with a stop at Bumpkin Island (what a great name—and what looks like great camping) and a portage across Quincy Shore Drive to a muddy tidal creek. We tried using a sail to improve our pace across the harbor, but the bailer proved to be the more useful technology in the choppy waters criss-crossed by fishing and pleasure boats.
A steady two-mile run took us up to Quincy Quarries, where we put on our climbing gear for a rappel and the ever-exciting zip line—hanging from your harness and sliding (seemingly very) quickly down a rope strung between a high point and the ground.
Next, we plunged into the woods of the Blue Hills for 15 miles of cross-country running and orienteering. Hometown knowledge again played a role in zipping us through the first twelve miles of this scenic section. However, a miscommunication about water and food (teams have to carry with them all of the fluids and food they will need, and at a burn rate of hundreds of calories and a liter or so every hour, resource management is critical) left me bonking for the home stretch. Fortunately, Jay came alive and out of back pain (with a little help from Vitamin I), and gave me a little towing assistance up the hills on a few critical miles of trail.
Down from the Blue Hills, we hauled our kayak back to the creek in seventh place with television cameras in our faces asking: “Who are you guys?” We were even more inspired to ensure we would not be asked that particular question again….
Undaunted by the warnings of grim weather on the harbor, we headed out at about 7:00 pm across a l-o-n-g tidal flat. Darkness and steady rain closed in as we churned toward the Long Island Bridge. Here again, we made a critical navigational decision. As we paddled around to the bridge, two other teams portaged across a causeway to bypass us on the way to the final checkpoint at Thompson’s Island. As we pulled for the dock on Thompson’s, we saw another team (Team Hi-Tec) headed back toward Logan for the finish, and with Aly leading the charge, we set out in pursuit.
After steadily closing the gap, we pulled ahead just as we rounded Castle Island for the Inner Harbor…and then ran aground. However, we recovered quickly, passed Hi-Tec again, and pulled away past the industrial docks on what seemed much longer-than-advertised eight-mile leg of kayaking, under the jet wash from the arriving planes at Logan and past a dozen party boats blaring live music and drunken hollering.
Back at the Court House, we hauled the now very heavy kayak out of the water and lugged it 200 yards to the finish where the announcer hailed “Team Hi-Tec” for claiming eighth place. Sigh. We were still “Who are you guys?” At 9:40, we dropped the boat, hugged, and sprinted for the warmth of the medical tent, where the shivering stopped about 20 minutes and several chocolate chip cookies later.
Although we finished well behind the lead three teams, we were not that far out of fifth place, ahead of several strong professional teams, and nearly two hours clear of the first non-elite team. You can watch the fun on OLN-TV on October 16 at 10:00 PM EST.