Paul and I rendezvoused in Covington, Va to throw down at the 2 Day Equinox Expedition Race. Covering 150 miles by bike, foot and boat with over 20,000 feet of elevation gain this race was one for the books. This was our first race together this year. We had great expectations and knew that we would be challenged. Boy, were we challenged in many ways. This area is littered with mountains rolled out in a way that requires much up to move forward. Paul travelled all the way from Illinois to meet me on Thursday night to set up and get our things in order. This was also the debut for the Sette Phantom Mountain Bikes. Now, if you know anything about adventure racing, then you know that the mind, body and your gear is tested in ways that only an R&D department could muster up.
The morning of the start had us line up at the Boy’s Home, which is a beautiful campus. We started off on the bikes, so Paul and I lined up on the front and got the hole shot.
Feeling good we kicked up the pace and put some distance between us and the others. All of a sudden my climbing helmet decided to eject itself off my pack and the lead we established fell to the wayside. We got the helmet secured and off we go for some bushwhacking that shredded our legs up, but we jumped back on the bikes after grabbing the first two checkpoints and began a climb that never ended. Let me also mention that the temperatures were horrendous. Hovering in the mid 90’s with humidity to boot you right over the edge describes the climate we were dealt. Climbing our Phantoms up over the mountain with a solid push got us right back to the front of the pack. We did a bomber descent down into a valley and we noticed an opportunity to cut off a few miles by crossing a swift Jackson River. Luckily for us we had sub 20lb mountain bikes and we hoisted them over our head and jumped into the raging waters and began our swift water crossing. We teetered back and forth eventually crossing over. The Sette Phantom bikes felt weightless as we held them up while battling the swift current making it fairly easy for us to cross over even though our bike shoes did slip multiple times threatening us with a dunk that would have sent us downstream for sure. Back on the bikes we kicked our pace up and made our way to the boat transition. Coming in second overall we began portaging our boats down to Lake MooMaw. We made a huge mistake in bringing our solo touring kayaks. After 17+ miles on the lake we were exhausted as others had 2-3 in their one boat while we were doing 2-3 times the work to move forward.
However, we soldiered on and got out at dusk to only be welcomed by a 3 MILE portage that required us to carry these big boats up and over much elevation without any devices such as carts,which the other teams had. Another mistake we berated ourselves for as we devised ways to carry these boats by rigging our climbing harnesses to carry these boats side by side resting on our shoulders. Finally, after be totally exhausted and halfway through the portage, we resumed to dragging the boats on the shoulders of the road in the grass and eventually on the road itself. In an adventure race in case you don’t know, you reach a point where you just don’t care and that usually occurs more than once, especially in a 48 hour race. Finally, we made it to the put in on the Jackson River. We embarked on our river paddle at a late hour and it was DARK. Not only was it dark, but the river was shrouded in fog. Literally, we could not see more than 10feet in front of us. Now mind you this is a class 1-2 river. At night having done 12 hours of racing in 90+ degree weather all day, we were less than enthused about the next 17+ miles of river paddling that would all be done in the dark. Whatever, off we go hugging the bank and listening for where the rapids were, like it really helped. Basically, what unraveled over the next 6-7 hours was wild game of bumper cars on the river as we surfed over, banged, bumped, beached and jarred over the rocks. At one point we had a tree that was across the river and Paul capsized his boat taking a swim for a bit, which he was less than enthused about. Scrambling to get to the shore and I was totally useless in a daze, Paul pumped his boat out while trying to stay warm. On we go and eventually we made it to the TA to begin our journey on foot for a 30 mile trek. I forgot to add that we had been in the boats roughly for 15 hours off and on. In this process we stayed wet most of the time, which caused chaffing to begin on our derrieres. This can become quite painful and later it would very much be the case. Out of the boats for the last time and beginning day two of the race, we tried to get ourselves dry as the humidity battled us on this effort. As we were trekking through town to enter the path to cross over the mountains we were hoping for a store, but it was closed. Dang, continue forward and about 30 minutes in my chaffing was becoming unbearable, so I started thinking and came up with this great idea to wear my rain jacket as a kilt and nothing else underneath. This would allow drying to occur and reduce the amount of friction on my rear end. Probably the best idea I have ever came up with as through the day my chaffing became less of an issue and I was able to trek freely. Now, Paul saw me dancing around in my skirt probably thinking what an idiot and there is no way I’m going to bring myself to do that. Oh contraire, Paul couldn’t take the chaffing anymore and now we both hobbled down the trail shouting praise to the Scottish for such a wonderful solution to our woes.
Our feet became tender, eventually resulting in blisters that required walking on the sides of our feet. Mentally, we were falling and the trek was unrelenting as we traipsed over mountains to a never-ending meat grinder on our feet. The heat was blistering and we were like, Come ON Man. Out into the opening as we were about to fall off into the dark side, and our wives welcomed us at the TA with cheers and smiles. It is truly amazing what that can do to one’s psyche. Seeing Jackie created a release of adrenaline that overcame the mental fatigue and physical pain that we had been enduring over the last 24 hours. After getting some hugs and kisses, Paul and I headed over to McDonalds for a big meal that we needed in the AC. Bellys full and ready to set off on the final leg of the race, Paul and I jumped on the Phantoms for a long bike section that would take us through the second night with somewhere around 10000 feet of elevation gain. We hunkered down on our bikes and began driving hard. We knocked out checkpoint after checkpoint like we were marking off dates on calendar. Paul’s chaffing seemed to be getting worse during the bike resulting in him standing for a lot of the biking during the dark, but he pushed on without delay. As we continued making progress eventually ending up on someone’s private land for a rappell off a cliff, which we knocked out in minutes. Off we go down the mountain side on a trail that wasn’t really a trail, but more of a follow where there is an opening. After getting aggravated with this night time path, we found a fire break and followed that down the mountain ending up in someone’s backyard. Easing across the yard onto the road we set out for the final push to the finish. Along this mountain road we came across what might be the most picturesque waterfall, Falling Springs Falls, I have ever seen. I have seen a lot of them in my time. We let our eyes wonder for a few moments on this natural creation and continued our long climb, which eventually resulted in a fun 5 mile descent into Covington. Feeling the finish closing in, we found a bit more energy to pedal harder and pulled into the finish elated and exhausted. 2nd place!
This was one epic race and what a blast it was to overcome the obstacles that we were faced with along our journey. We took second place in a race that is truly a wilderness race. Very proud and embracing hugs from our lovely wives we made our way over to the dining hall at the Boy’s Home for an amazing breakfast. I must have eaten 20 pieces of delicious BACON.
Thanks to the race management of American Adventure Sports for putting on a thriller of a race. The competition was worthy and caused Paul and I to dig deep in order to finish strong, thanks for giving us that. Our Sette Phantom Carbon Mountain Bikes truly got tested in conditions that will make it or break it. They held up so well that I was truly amazed as we barreled off down through the woods off trail and crossing that river in swift water conditions and being able to just hold them above our head allowed us to do things that we might not normally be able to do. A huge HUG and much THANKS to Jackie and Autumn for supporting us and greeting us with smiles and hugs. I’m sure when we came out of the woods in skirts, they were truly wondering what they had married.
Super sweet folks!