Richard and I approach the start of the Lionheart 24 hour Adventure Race. Photo courtesy of Lionheart.
Overall report: It was awesome!
Going into this race, I was prepared for pain.
A bottle of ibuprofen would see to my IT bands. The occasional stretch would mitigate Achilles heal strain. For any unforeseen aches, I would grit my teeth.
So, let’s just say there was a lot of teeth grit.
My IT bands behaved wonderfully. My arches held up. But, there are a lot of briers in the woods around Ohiopyle. So, many many steps were taken with thorns ripping across my legs and arms. My shin right above the sock line got it the worst, I think.
And I learned something about brier patches. They like to grow in the same areas as poison ivy. So, the last few days have been pretty itchy.
About 40 racers started from Firetower Rd in Ohiopyle State Park in western Pennsylvania. The first leg took us up and then down down down the gravel road to the Middle Youghiogheny [yawki-gay-nee] River where we picked up (surprisingly heavy) inflatable kayaks and headed down river.
Richard and I approach the put out for the kayak section of the race. Photo courtesy of Lionheart.
Now, I’m not a boater. And I did not train AT ALL for the river portion. That said, the class 2 rapids were fun. But the drag of the boats on the flat sections dragged on.
We made it out of the river without capsizing, which is always good. We portaged the kayak about a quarter of a mile — maybe it was longer; it felt longer. Then we headed to the transition area where our rappelling gear was waiting.
We strapped on harnesses and helmets and headed for the rail trail bridge. The rap was easy, but my hands made soft by the river paddle didn’t enjoy the rope burn.
With harnesses and helmets still on we hooked a right into the woods and headed for the next checkpoint at a river overlook.
It was all trails to get there, so things went smoothly.
We made it back to the car to transition to mountain biking and then headed east on some steep trail.
Getting to checkpoint six was fairly self explanatory. The day was getting warm, but our bodies were holding up. Continuing on our bikes to checkpoint seven started out well — simple even.
When we got to the start of the trail we intended to follow up to the checkpoint, it wasn’t really there. I’m sure it was there in the 1950s when the map we used was charted. But in 2013, not so much.
Getting ready to lift my bike over the millionth downed log that fell over the “trail.” Photo by Richard.
We followed it anyway, as it WAS the most direct route. When we lost the trail part way up and over and under downed trees and brier patches 10 feet high, we just trudged up a 45 degree slope dragging our bikes. It was exhausting.
By the time we found the trail again, my rear tire was loosing air. We stopped to fix it and tried to find our way again.
We got to checkpoint seven without too much more trouble.
From there, we were almost instantly at a loss as to the best way to go.
The race director gave some off-the-cuff instructions right before we started to head south after checkpoint seven — local knowledge, he said. What I wouldn’t figure out until after the race was over was that by “south” he meant “west.” Whatever, same difference.
So, we headed “south” as best we could. The woods was full of trails that weren’t marked, evidence of decades of mountain bikers.
Our scratched up legs after the race. Photo by Richard
When we popped out on Beaver Creek Road right at checkpoint eight, I was very surprised. And also relieved.
The next stretch was a lot of road biking to make it south to a patch of the Forbes State Forest, nearly to the West Virginia line. Well, a lot of road biking with a 1km stretch of old trail with downed trees and briers.
Once we got to checkpoint nine, the map changed. We were given eight optional orienteering checkpoints to hit. Richard and I dropped our bikes and headed out. We turned one ridge too soon to hit OP6 on target, but found it eventually. We found OP5 pretty easily. Then went back into the woods for more bushwacking to a trail to some rhodedendrin swimming to OP4. We bailed on finding OP4. By this point it was dark and the thought of crawling through rhodedendrin bushes for very long wasn’t appealing.
We were asked by some random campers if we were lost.
“No, we’re good,” I said.
“Oh, okay. Have a good night then.” But I heard a tone of skepticism.
After scaling another slope to get to OP7, we decided to head back to our bikes and start for the finish.
One important rule with adventure races is the finish time. This race was 24 hours long, which is plenty of time to get lots of checkpoints in. But if you’re late, it could mean a loss of points to the extent that it was all for naught.
The way it turned out for Richard and I was we overestimated the amount of time we would need to get back and finished three hours early.
Oh, well. It’s not like we weren’t already tired, dirty, smelly, hungry and covered in poison ivy.
I stood under the hot water of the free showers and indulged for a while. Then fell asleep without eating.