Deena, Don and Jeff teamed up a week after the 12 hour Yuki to race the inaugural 24 hour Atomic Adventure Race in Georgia.
We went into this one aiming low. It was Jeff’s third racing weekend in a row, Deena’s first 24 hour AR, and I had only trained by doing last weekend’s 12 hr Yuki. The cutoffs seemed tight, so we prepared to make the call to skip points (4 hr penalty for each).
The race started off with an uphill prologue run for Deena, then we all hiked up 1,000 feet to get our bikes and fly down the paved park road. Another team had a rider’s rim brakes overheat the rim and burst a tire.
On the ride to the first foot-O section, a number of teams, including some of the top teams, mis-naved the roads and we got ahead of them. I think we were listed in 5th place at one point.
We had trouble with the 1:24k scale on the foot-O at first, but soon adjusted and got back on track. It rained on us during this section, and we were wet from then on.
The ride from the first foot-O section took us through some bike trails that were a red-clay slopfest with all the rain.
As we approached the next TA, we saw some CP flags that we didn’t have the UTM’s for. At the TA, we were given the choice to try to get 3 of these new CP’s in fifteen minutes. If we failed, we’d have to go get two more. We choose to go get all five up front, mostly because my knee was keeping me from running. Besides, you have to get ALL the CP’s to really “clean” a course, right?
From there we trekked about 3 km to the river put-in. We had to swim across the Etowah River to get the TA CP before we could paddle. The paddle was long, but the river was up two feet so it was moving pretty good. We had to be off the river by 2:30 am (first cutoff). I think it was about 6pm when we got there, so we were still looking ok at that point in the race.
The trek back to the bikes included a number of CP’s. We were able to use our namesake skill and bushwhack several of these successfully. Several teams kept passing us, again and again. They were running, we weren’t.
Night fell on us in this section, and we finally reached the TA to get back on the bikes. The volunteers were relaying that more rain was moving in on the final foot-O section already. I put on my first pair of dry socks (after about 12 hours of wet feet). They made it 15 minutes until we had to wade the river again, with bikes. The rain arrived again as we started 10 miles of uphill red clay trails and roads.
The big cutoff was to arrive at the Wildcat TA by 4:30 am. If we made that, we’d have 10 hours to hike 10 miles and ride 7 or 8 back to the finish. We arrived at about 3 and were trekking by 3:35 am.
The final foot-O was mostly on trails. The three points were so spread out, any bushwhacks would have had to be a km or more long, in very steep terrain, in the rain, in the dark. Our tanks were getting low, so we decided to stick to the trails. Our pace slowed almost to a crawl as dawn arrived and we topped the highest peak. The downhill on the other side was endless and nearly as slow out of caution.
We eventually made it back to the bikes to discover that there was only one other team still out on that section. All the rest had either not made it to the section, or had only picked up one or two points, or was one of the lead teams who were still running when they left and were long gone.
We granny-geared back out of the valley we were in and spun our way back to the finish area. There was a bit of brain-deadness happening in this section, but we finally reached the park and the start area.
The kind volunteer there cheered and gave us our final instructions. Drop your bikes, get all of your mandatory gear, and hike up the Amicalola Falls stairs to the top of the park. This was the same 1,000 feet of elevation gain that we started out on, except that was on a trail. This time we were to take the more scenic stairs. There are 600 actual stair steps in this climb, plus a bunch of steep paved trail.
I have never hurt so much on a stair workout. I don’t think it’s possible to get this kind of red-line burn in a gym on a stair machine.
We were met at the top by Josh and some of his crew. They had a tray of homemade brownies, which we dug into. Then they piled us into the backseat of a volunteer’s Xterra and he drove us back down to our bikes. We had to keep the windows down, for everyone’s sake. 26+ hours of wet AR fun had us smelling pretty strong by that point!
Back at the bottom, other vol’s had burgers and dogs going on the grill and we started the recovery process.
We managed to clean the course, getting all of the CP’s, even the two extras at the Burn challenge, and we made all of the cutoffs. We felt pretty good about that. Draft results have been posted , which put us in 6th place in our division. We had a blast and lived through the challenges. Everyone should attempt a 24 hour AR at least once in their lives!!!
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