Friday morning Scott, Matt and I all had a good breakfast and a calm start of our day at Scott’s place. Then we headed over to CAOS. This was around 10am. Matt and I then went through the checklist of personal gear and group gear to make sure we had everything. We had a choice between 3 different day packs to choose from and Matt decided to go with the lightweight Vaude Trail 15 while Scott and I packed all of our stuff into a Black Diamond Hollowpoint. Scott helped us out by making a bunch of sandwiches with all of the bread that we could find in the rental center. We packed wetsuits and booties in a large canvas bag and then a bunch of gear and food into a 33gallon tote. I also brought along a cardboard box full of bike lights and miscellaneous other tools and spare parts.
We were hoping to be on the road by 12 but at 1pm we ended up finishing the last little bit of packing to head out. Some pictures were taken of us before we headed out and then we drove into the storms that were rolling past.
We tried to sleep on the drive down but it was not too easy for all of us. Somewhere down on route 79 we stopped at a rest stop – which was one of the nicest rest stops I have ever seen.
We turned off of 79 onto route 19 which headed down toward Summersville. I was wondering where Wintersville was located because it was starting to get pretty hot out. We saw off of the road some of the huge lake and all of the massive cliffs which are known for some pretty sick climbing. (all you need is a boat and a pair of climbing shoes)
Kept driving own 19 until right before the huge bridge. Scott wanted us to see where we would be rafting – or at least a short section of it. We hiked down the observation steps down to the last observation deck and checked out the bridge and water below. Next we had to hike back up – this was not the best for our legs which we were trying to rest up before the long day Saturday.
Next we headed to the motel / Quality Inn we were staying which was just a little bit more South on 19. We checked in there and then dropped a few things off and then headed to ACE Adventure Resort. From the Main street in Oak hill we followed some tight twisty road down hill toward ACE following their signs. We got there and someone pointed us in the right direction for registration.
At the tent we were lost – had no idea what to do until a girl, with a Odyssey Volunteer shirt on, asked us for our team name and she gave us a slip of paper. She told us that we had to start at the one table and head around the tent to get everything signed off. The first table was a bunch of liability papers then had to get all of them checked. We then got our Race numbers and some t-shirts and the of course our maps all in a roll. We received 3 maps and 2 papers with rules and the route, and then also the passport – which we had to mark at each checkpoint. We headed back to the Van and thought of what to do next. First thing we did was get our bikes ready and handed them over to 2 (very attractive looking) girls in the U-Haul truck. Scott and I put MTB shoes on the bike and we all hung our helmets on them. Scott R. took us over to the dining hall / restaurant that they had there and as soon as we walked in we headed out due to the high price and lack of selection of their salad bar.
We drove off back up to the Main Street and headed down the road a little bit to an Italian Restaurant. (I think the name of it was Gino’s Pizza & Spaghetti House, but I am not sure) I tried to look at the maps and figure out what all of these numbers with a N and the end and then a slash and a bunch of numbers with a E at the end meant. Matt ordered for the 3 of us and then Scott R. got something else. Once the food started coming I had to put the map away. We all decided that we were going to do the mapping and all of the plotting after the meeting which was at 8:30pm. After dinner we headed back to ACE
At the meeting we learned how many teams there were and who our competition was. Ron – the race director – also told us a little about the course and all the fun he had making it. After a bunch of questions from other teams and Ron thanking all of the sponsors and ACE he told us that we had to be back at the same tables at 6:45am and the buses for WW rafting were leaving at 7am.
We quickly left and headed out before the traffic got too bad in the parking lot. Then we drove back North on 19 toward our hotel looking for a place to stop for breakfast in the morning. We stopped at a large Shell gas station/ convenience store – bought some gallons of water and some Gatorade. We needed some sort of makers to mark the map so we headed to Walmart which was just a little up the road and bought breakfast, highlighters, markers, duck tape, and I think that was all.
Once we got back to the motel we unpacked everything into our room and Scott took a few things into his room and that was the last we saw of him until the morning. We spent a few hours getting stuff ready and mapping all of the coordinates on the map. All of our bags we packed into the large canvass bag and then in the tote we packed a bunch of water/ Gatorade and food. We finally got to bed at 1:30ish and I set an alarm for 5:10 in the morning.
In the morning I showered while the other guys tried to get as much sleep as possible and at 6am we left the motel. We drove down to ACE – put our tote in the staging area and then carried our large canvas bag up the hill to the tables we were at the night before. At 7ish they told us to hike further up the hill. Our team was performing right off the bat by having a good rotation with carrying the bag up the flights of steps. At the top of the hill we had to go into a building which we were handed PFDs and had to grab helmets and paddles (our weapons for the first section). We then handed a man on a truck our canvas bag with all of our day packs and running shoes in it. We then loaded us on the bus.
On the bus we got the safety talk like usual and then after some backing up and doing some 3 point turns to get around a bend in the road we got to the put in. We all took a pee break and then all of the teams were called over to the parking lot. They called off team numbers and put them in different rafts – there were 5 rafts in each heat and 3 heats of boats. We were called very last and put on the last boat in the 3rd heat. Our raft included us, another 3 person team, and 2 soloists oh and the guide. The girl on the other 3 person team did the race last year and knew about the start and volunteered to do it. Matt was trying to get the job from her but she was willing so he let her. The start had one person from each raft run up the steps and then down the road/parking lot to the other end and then down a trail to the river. Then they jumped into the New River and swam downstream to the boats. Once the swimmer got in the boat the engines were set to full throttle forward. Our crew got to watch the other 2 heats head off down river with 5 mins in between each heat. At the end of the race our finishing time was at 9:10. (1st heat’s finishing time was 9am and 2nd heat’s finishing time was 9:05am)
Our swimmer was first to the rafts and we were off. Throughout the rapids and the flat water we were tied for 1st or at times a little behind in 2nd. Our raft guide did not do that well making us spin around twice and not keeping us in the moving water. Our captain told us to use a 4 on 4 off technique to battle through the flat water. The front 4 paddled while the back 4 took a break and then switched after 10 strokes. It was key for us to keep in rhythm with everyone so the boat was moving together. There was a few times while rafting that our raft and the other raft that was a head of us were neck and neck literally pushing into the other boat. I kept my paddle going even if it meant hitting other paddles from the other boat out of my way. There was no way we were going to finish 2nd. At the last rapid we passed them and then they fell back even more.. we outlasted. Our whole focus on the rafting was to pound through and get to the end asap – there was no care in about picking the right lines and we were smashing through some class 5 rapids. The waves on some rapids were over our heads but we kept paddling like it was just another day.
Matt led the crew in cadence – especially when going under the bridge where Ron was watching.
At the end of the rafting we had to help get the raft onto the truck and then we went over to the other truck where we dropped off our life jacket and helmet. We then found our pack in the craziness of everyone changing and getting their stuff together. We stripped off our wetsuits and booties and dried a little, put our socks and shoes on, Matt handed our passport to the volunteers (sitting in beach chairs enjoying the show) for it to get signed ((CP1)), and then we threw our wet stuff in the bag, handed our bag to the man on the truck, and ran off. We were hasty through this transition but very sufficient.
Ron (the race director) asked us where our map is and we told him we got the first section memorized and that it was in our bag. He gave us a look like ??okay?? – he knew that this was our first adventure race and was glad that we were wearing orange so his search teams could find us.
Running up the road on the East side of the gorge we ran for 1:30min and then walked with a good pace for 1:30min. This off and on let us pass a bunch of teams – most of them were in the first 2 heats of rafts. We noticed other teams heading down on a lower trail and we decided that it was best to head down so right off the bat we were scurrying down a steep hill with loose rocks. We found CP2 and then the rest of the race was on. From here on out the race was on.
We continued on the trial until it took a sharp curve down hill where we decided to bushwhack up the hill. We got to a climbing area and followed a trail from there to the power lines. Then we took the power lines West to find CP3. It took us a while to get there and we were not certain where we were along the power lines. We followed a road that intersected the power lines for a bit until we found a big metal gate where the checkpoint was just on the other side of. At this checkpoint we had to sign our team name in and we could see that we were surprisingly in the top 10. (or just other teams did not sign it)
We then headed by a new house and pond with some really nice landscaping but could not find the trail that we needed to find. We picked a line and bushwhacked toward the top of the hill. We ended up intersecting another trail and headed toward the top of that and then off of that trail to bushwhack up to the top of the hill where CP4 was located. We ran back down retracing our steps and took a little break of on the side of the trail for some lunch.
After shoving down some food we ran on down the trail across the power lines and found CP5 at an overlook. We met up with a Calleva team there and they were busy on their way out but for a while there we were one right after the other finding the CPs.
CP6 was not too easy – we were following the cliff top but it was difficult with all the rodos and other vegitation. We were with a soloist at this point which said he was going in circles but eventually we found some clear marked trails which led us up the hill to the Overlook at Wild Rock. It looked like some new roads were there and some new homes being built. At the checkpoint there was a nice patio overlook with some lawn chairs, but we had to keep moving. We followed the new road out to the main road and we were going to follow it do the parking area/CP8 where our bikes were but a team told us that there was a trail just up the road the other way to go down to CP7 – optional checkpoint down on Mill Creek. We took their advice and headed up the road and into the woods on the trail. We got to the power lines and there was a bunch of poison ivy but we kept huckin it down the trail and found some tributaries of Mill Creek. We met up with a few other teams and we all ran down this hill to a nice opening by the stream for CP7. It was a very nice area there but we had to go and hike back up the hill to the power lines and then we took those right back to CP8 – the transition to biking.
We handed the volunteers our passport where they signed it and highlighted our team off of their list. Then we found our bikes and suited up – Scott and I put our running shoes in our bags and we were on the bikes down the road. We rode up and down hills through Ames Heights, Grayden, and Lansing. Our first bike checkpoint was at the New River Gorge Campground CP9 which was just on the other side of route 19. (Team 57 was right behind us and they were in our same division – we knew we had to turn up the pace) There we had the chance to and we did fill up our water bottles. From there we headed down route 82 down the gorge. We took one slight mis-turn and when we stopped to correct it a bunch of motorcyclists roared on past us down the road where we were to go. We followed them on our breaks the whole way down the hill and across the river on the smaller bridge. There was 3 bikes in front of us and 1 behind us on that descent. When we were biking back up the other side of the gorge on Rt.82 we passed some bad ass old school biker guys and one of them said, “chug-a-lug, chug-a-lug” and then gave us all high fives when we passed.
After the next switchback we hoped onto Fayetteville Trail and rode that up hill into a maze of a bunch of other trails. We made some wrong turns in there and we started to head down toward wolf creek without finding the parking area for CP10. The Mims saved us and we headed back up to the last intersection and made a left to follow it around to the park. Got CP10 and headed back where we came from and down a nice descent to cross over Wolf Creek. and head up a trail to the Kaymoor Top parking area CP11. Once there we met up with Ron (race director) and he was surprised that we were up in the top of the pack kickin some ass. At the park there we were told there was water to load up but we opted out because the Mims were right infront of us and we needed to stay with them. We passed them on the trail because of our athletic ability and no fear descents. The raod made a tight switchback downhill and we stopped to look at the map to figure out where we had to go. The trail was not listed on the map and there was no trail signs or markers along the way. By the time we pulled out the map to try to figure out where we were the Mims flew past us. Matt looked at me with the map and told us to follow the blue aka Mims. We were happy with staying right behind them. The ride had some very beautiful overlooks and it was mostly downhill even though we were going upstream. Matt even offered to take their picture with the jungle of vegetation overlooking the gorge in the backdrop. The Mims stopped for a long food break and we had a short one and kept going without their lead. The vegitation changed and the trail had more turns in it and then it dumped us out on a road right outside of Cunard. We took a break in the shade to look at our map to figure out where we were and where to go next.
We met up with a soloist and he told us we were heading in the wrong direction so we turned around and headed up the stone road, past a few trailers and some chained up dogs. There was a gate we had to go around and then there were a few teams heading up the hill. We passed everyone in sight and kept biking up the hill until the Yellow Gate CP12. Once there, it was a manned CP, we were told we were the 1st in our division to check in and the 6th team overall. We were surprised but also determined even more. The focus of the 24 hr race turned from just finishing to finishing high up in the rankings.
Matt led the way to Confederate Rock overlook which was CP13. The pace was pretty good but our water levels were pretty low. We took the trail right to Confederate Rock and punched our card and went back to the main trail and up some old coal roads to a turn in the trail where the team ahead of us bushwhacked one way while we bushwhacked a slightly different angle. The team ahead of us was a little more on their game with navigation but we passed them later on. We spent a while bushwhacking but then eventually headed straight up the hill to a road. We took the road to the right a little – found an intersecting road which we took to the Vista View Overlook CP14. It was a bare spot of land and had steep sides to both sides of it with 2 great overlooks.
Matt led again the way to CP15 – I was a little tired and was hanging in the back but I managed to stay with the 2 runners. After some steep climbs in the beginning it was mostly flat and fast. A guy on a dirt bike came roaring toward us on the trail and he yelled to us “3 more.” We kept going after he passed but then shortly following was a guy on an ATV. Not knowing where the other 2 were we kept going, passed the Calleva team doing yoga in the trail and got to CP15. From there it was a fast descent into the “town” of Cunard. On our way down we found 2 ATVs about ready to start up – they were taking up the whole trail but we could scurry around them. I guess they had to make a beer stop before catching up to the 2 others up ahead.
Once on the road in Cunard we politely asked the men on the porch of their trailer for some water and they told us that we were crazy and to use the spicket on the side of the building. They were very nice people and we were very happy and gracious. Matt headed to their backyard to get CP15A which was a Power Pole with some numbers and we had to find the middle letter. (which was A) (The Trakkers trekked out of the people’s yard just as we were trekking in)
We then ran up down the road – passed some people pumping water from a stream- and then went around the gate and hiked and jogged up the hill back to yellow gate CP12/16. Once there we were told we were in 3rd place overall and the Trekkers were right ahead of us in 2nd. (so at that moment we were technically tied for 2nd because we were standing right next to the 2nd place team)
We mounted up on our bikes and headed down the road toward Truman Lake. It was a really good ride there but then the puddles in the trail/road kept getting bigger and night was fast approaching. The Trakkers passed us backtracking telling us that they didn’t find anything. We turned our bike lights on and our headlights but we were still disoriented – our map placement of the CPU was not accurate. We biked around a little and then passed the lake we think – there were a ton of frogs. We were up near Maggies trail and then came back looking but since our placement on the map was not correct we were looking in the wrong place. A soloist which was done – dropping out – passed by and we tried to get some help from him but he did not have it correctly mapped on his map either. I tried not to get down but it was hard to keep the head in the game/race. I was about ready to take out everything and re-map the CP. A female soloist came up and she told us that it was just down on the other side of the lake and that there was a team there right now. We quickly got on our bikes and headed for it CP17. Found it no problem and realized that we passed it and were standing right next to it not too long ago. We then headed straight for HQ / CP18.
We checked in at HQ and then got ready for the mountain bike time trial. They also took our passport and gave us a new one. After a little bit of food recovery we headed out. We didnt need to carry anything but decided just to carry all of our gear and the ACE map which we highlighted the route – the route was marked with orange flags and blue arrows. We also taped the small batteries to our bikes because we knew each battery was only good for maybe 3 hours. The ride was very fun and easy according to me. Matt – “Cross country mountain biking is gay” Anyway, Matt’s chain got stuck between the frame of his GF Tassajara and the cranks. We tried to backpedal it out but I decided to just break a link out of the chain and use a SRAM masterlink to put it back. Everything was great until I tried to put it back together – there was so much mud that it did not want to get locked in. Eventually we got it together and we were back on the trail. We passed a few teams that passed us while we were stopped. At one point we thought we were doing the loop twice – maybe we made a wrong turn and were just doing laps. I looked at Matt for the ACE trail map and he realized that it must have fallen out of his sternum strap somewhere along the ride. We just kept going. Not too long after that we saw a big finish sign and we hit the road with full steam ahead down to HQ. All of the mud was flying out of my tires and into the air – I had my glasses on but still a big piece got in my eye. I had to cry it out and with everything covered with mud it was not easy. I got it well enough to kind of see out of it and headed the rest of the way back to HQ CP19.
Upon arriving and checking in at HQ with our new passport they gave us a half sheet of paper. I took my biking stuff off and tied into my running shoes. Matt sweet talked someone into giving us a new and the last ACE trail map – much needed save. We mapped out the 2 mandatory CPs and the 3 optional CPs and told them that we were leaving and left out into the night/morning on foot. It was pretty foggy but we could see 2 people on a trail off in the distance and followed them. We got to the first checkpoint which was titled Reentrant.(CP20) There was a lot of stinging nettle but with all of the mud on my legs I really did not care. I toughed it out and we passed the 2 man team which was out in front of us.
CP21 was titled Hilltop/Power Pole and we ran into another team there backtracking. Matt made the crucial find of the small trail that led up to the power lines. Scott and I followed Matt and his tune of J-Jumping in Shadows, J-jumping in shadows. the 2 man team took the lead once and we jumped in their shadows to the power pole which they found. They told us the number which we needed from there – 7, but we ran up to double check. He headed down the trail back to the main trail where everyone else was heading to HQ / or at least back the way we came. We chose the way which would take us to the optional checkpoints. We got half way there and the headlights were turned off because we could actually see where we were going. The trail was very, very muddy and we were spending more time finding dry routes around lakes of water in the road/trail then actually moving forward. It was going to be another mile out to the checkpoint and then a mile back and the team was not feeling 100%. Soo.. we turned and saw Truman Lake and headed to HQ.
We made a huge error by taking a road down hill which took us 90 degrees in the wrong direction (South). About a mile down we realized and took Cuncho cut off to trek back to where we wanted to head. This then took us back to HQ.
Once at HQ CP25 we were given CP26-33. We had to kick it in gear and move fast to finish on time. Thankfully we decided that at this point our goal is to finish the race and skip all optional checkpoints. We were in fast mode – Scott and I got our bike shoes on and Matt was getting hte UTMs plotted. We left for the biking just before 7am while the cut off for leaving for biking was at 7:30am. We biked to the radio tower and then did some hiking when it got steep. I got the number off of the trailer and then we biked/coasted down hill back to HQ, out around the climbing cabin/entrance to ACE, and then onto Arbuckle trail. Arbuckle trail had a lot of loose big rocks and it was all down hill following a creek. The trail eventually ended right on the creek and I was looking around for where to go next and Scott and Matt pointed across the river to the CP27. I dismounted from the bike and rock hopped across wearing biking shoes. The female soloist was there and she was taking off her shoes to climb a boulder slab but I just used all hands to get up it. I punched it and headed back a different way across the creek which was a little dryer. Once back to the bike I started hiking back up the trail pushing the bike. Matt had already started up and Scott was right behind me. We were all in pain. We finally hit the road and got on our bikes to make the last little surge to HQ – CP33.
We had just finished the most grueling race any of us had ever done.
Time to do some relaxing – but it was not even 8:30am.
Scott and I changed out of our biking shoes and then we moseyed on around – going to the bathroom, and then went to the dining hall/ restaurant where there was a free buffet for us. We all ate a lot – biscuits, sausages, pancakes, eggs and some OJ.
We then took all of our stuff to the van and grabbed some stuff for showers. Scott R. loaded the van while the 3 of us hiked up a hill to where we got our PFDs and helmets and they had showers at that building.
After a long shower we walked down to HQ, said bye to Ron – received our Odyssey visors, and headed in the van to go back to Garrett.
We all slept on the van ride back – at one point Scott R. stopped for some food and I guess he offered but either I was full from breakfast or I was too tired I don’t remember. The next stop we took I made sure to get out and get some food. The van smelled so bad of all of our gear and rotting bananas.
Once back at the school we had to unload everything and clean up the bikes. Scott R. had to go so he took the van once we put the 2 benches back in and left me to lock up the rental center. This was at about 2-3pm.
Scott Hess left to go back to his place after he cleaned up his stuff and I put his clipless pedals back onto his road bike.
Matt and I hung out in the rental center; slowly cleaned up, checking the internet, and doing some wash. We ate some more food and did a lot of chillaxing.
Matt and I finally got in our cars after I locked up and fell asleep.
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