Raid the Ridge
The pre race trip started like every trip does for Gravity Matters, about an hour late. This phenomenon is has generally been attributed to Casey but now it’s been proven that it truly is a Gravity Matter group effort to be late. Deron, Jason, Rick and I grabbed a quick lunch at Goodscents, starred at the star for good luck and hit the road. Oh yeah one more stop at the Wal-Mart to replace my used space blanket.
We rolled into Iowa in time to set up the tents, get the gear check done and hit the climbing wall. Two of us would have to climb the wall and our combine time would be ranked against the rest of the field to determine our starting position. Deron and I climbed first meaning that Jason and Rick would have to climb during the race. We finished with a combine time of around a minute thirty. This seemed decent but we really didn’t have anything to judge it by.
After the team meeting at 8:30 we got the maps and proceeded to plot the UTM coordinates. About ¾ of the way through this process I went back to our campsite / transition area to put a few things together and try to get some rest. I came back into KC on a flight that was delayed getting in till 3am the night before so I was a little low on sleep.
The rest of the crew wasn’t too far behind me. I think we hit the sack around 10 pm but of course no one slept immediately. The race was starting at 2 am with a 1:45 am team captain meeting. We all were up around 1:15 and we packing for a beginning bike ride. When Deron got back from the meeting we found out that we had to hit 3 checkpoints about a mile away before being able to start the bike. Our climbing effort made us the 2 nd team to start just 13 seconds behind the first team. In a race that would last around 12 hours 13 seconds wouldn’t mean much.
The first trek was about 2 miles and change, at least that’s what I’m guessing. We had to hit 3 check points. We hit the first and second check points and came back for number 3 which was on the other side of a pond. A short jog back to the transition area and we were changing into bike shoes.
The bike started out with a nice climb up a muddy hill followed by about 4 mile of double track. The bike section was nice but a little crowded as the teams really hadn’t spread out much. Jason road out front with his HID we dubbed the sun. None of us really need lights behind him.
The double track dumped us out on the road for about 30 miles. This was where we would find our first mini challenge. About 10 miles after being on the road we had to get off of our bikes and jog about a half mile down a path to hit a check point. This didn’t take very long and it seemed that we were in the top 3 teams at this point.
Once we got the check point we lined up and pounded down the road. We had opted out of our knobby tires for semi slicks since most of the riding would be on some sort of road. This allowed us to draft and make incredible time. On more than one occasion Deron aka the machine, pulled me up some pretty monstrous hills.
When we reached the 2 nd challenge we were out in front but not by more than a minute. This challenge involved taking 3 bearings from point to point in a huge reed field to find our next instructions. Each point had a number that we had to remember for the task at the end. I was really wishing I would have worn my long spandex here, the reeds torn our legs up. Day was breaking too so we were getting the usual morning energy burst. Once we got the 3 rd bearing it pointed us to a little island in the middle of a shallow pond. Jason had to get in the water for the first check point so I volunteered for this one. I waded across the pond to find a big box pad locked shut. Here is where the numbers come into play. I used the numbers to open the box and found several 12 packs of Casey’s Doughnuts. I grabbed a box and headed back to the team. We ran out to the road probably the 2 nd team out. I’m pretty sure this is were Team Witness passed us. When we got back to the check point to my dismay we found out that there were actually instructions in the lock box. Somehow I missed them. I took off on a short run, unlocked the box and sure enough in one of the boxes of doughnuts there were instructions. Now I don’t remember what they actually said but it was something to the effect of “here is where you need to go next....If you take any of these doughnuts off of this island you will be penalized 10 minutes for being a moron and not reading the directions.” I may be exaggerating a little here but that’s what they should have said. After 3 years of racing I had just made the all time rookie mistake of not reading the directions…
The rest of the team took the news pretty well and we hoped back on the bikes. After my little adventure we were behind several teams now. We knew this didn’t mean much since we were less than 4 hours into the race. At the next check point we opted to ride down a levy b/c we couldn’t see a piece off of our map. Turns out that if we went the other way it was straight to a road. I’m honestly glad we went the other way because it provided some of the best comedy I have seen in a race yet. At the end of the levy we had to jump a fence go up a hill and jump another fence to get back to the road. After jumping the first fence and getting halfway up the hill we realized that we were now in a fenced in area with about 3 or 4 bulls. We weren’t too worried because they were at least 200 yards away. We moved to the next fence and as Deron went to jump over he came flying off, stunned perhaps shocked for sure…I definitely remember some explicatives at this point. This fence was electric and he had touch his bike cleat the part the was keeping the bulls in the pen. We opted to go under a side fence where Deron promptly shocked himself again.
Now on the road we put our heads down grooved down the road, passing a few teams as we went. A monster hill or two later and lots of help from Deron we were walking down the side of a bean field with about 4 other teams. No one was in that big of hurry but once everyone got back to the roads the tour was back on. There were 2 huge hills to climb. We all had to walk parts of each. We were a little tired but knew several teams were behind us and several were right in front of us. We lined up and proceeded to rocket down the road at one point almost losing Rick because he was so bent on catching teams. We did make up tons of time here and caught all but one team we could see. When we got back to the transition we found out that Team Witness was in front of us also making us 3 rd with several teams less than 2 minutes out.
We had a pretty slow transition then Jason and Rick hit the climbing wall. No problems there and then it was off to the trek. Oh I think I caught a few “Who wants a doughnut?” jokes too.
The first thing we had to do was a Tyrolean line across a road. Being Gravity Matters we found the biggest hill to get us to the Tyrolean covered with the most stingy nettle possible.
The Tyrolean was great. I haven’t done many races with all the little things that RtR had to offer but it really made it a great race. That is where the funny ended for us though. For the next 2 hours we walked all over without a clue searching for checkpoint number 12. For some reason we could not get the scale of the maps down and for at least the first hour we were more than half a mile short of the check point. After so long of looking for number 12 we found our bearings and moved on to number 8.
We were pretty sure that we had successfully taken ourselves out of the top third of the teams with this little mishap. We opted to just move to the next checkpoints cleanly and not try to run and miss anything. I don’t have the maps to remember exactly where we went but I know we hit number 8 right on and I think 13 was after that. Basically once we got our grove we were moving really fast. We skipped the road going to number 14 or 15 and passed several team in the process. 16 took us a little while to find but I think we were getting a little tired of trekking at this point.
The last check point we got was number 17. To get to the check point we had to cross a small pond. Rick was up for this brief swim and then we were rolling down the road back to HQ. As we were walking the we noticed that Rick was about a hundred yards back. We waited for him to catch up at which point he told us that he was pretty sure something was burrowing into the back of his leg. The three of us were a little shocked to hear this. Upon looking at the burrowing creature we realized that Rick had a cut on the back of his leg…maybe a little infected but no aliens.
When we got back into HQ we had to shoot paint ball guns at targets. For each target we hit you got time taken out of a 12 minute stop zone. We hit a few targets and only had to wait 3 mins. This basically just gave you time to get your harnesses back on for the zip line. After the zip line we had a short jog to the finish line. I think we ended up around the 7 th team to cross the finish line but that didn’t include any time accessed for the doughnut incident.
Overall this race was put together very well. The nav was a little tricky because the maps were older but that’s part of racing. Since there wasn’t a canoe section all the the extra challenges really filled out the race nicely. I would highly recommend this race to anyone looking for a shorter race to bolster their summer schedule.
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