Pachaug Adventure Race

When: Saturday, August 25th
Who: Mike and Jill Nugent

Ok, I arrived at the race venue at 6am to get ready for the 6:45am registration time and there was not a car or soul in sight so I settled in for a nice 30 minute catnap until my team-mate showed up. We guessed we made the newbie mistake of showing up too early as the race promoter’s were sleepily setting up registration around 7am. There were 2 options of racing open which is the shorter, easier course with the points already plotted or racing the elite course which is the harder, advanced course that you have to plot and find 3 additional points. So we signed up for the open course and waited for the kickoff meeting at 8am. At adventure races they do not give you any information about the course or order of events until the race meeting on the day of the event. After attending the meeting and getting the details we now knew that the mountain biking section was first (yes!!!!), then the kayaking, then the trekking/running section. As I got our gear together Michael feverishly tried plotting the 3 extra points for the advanced course and felt confident enough to switch our race status to elite 5 minutes before the start of the race. My stomach was in knots at this point but we figured what the heck… So we lined up in the start shoot behind the EMS team (series leaders) and waited for the horn to signal the start. Immediately everyone started heading in different direction which caused me moments of panic but I continued in the direction we had discussed and hoped for the best. We ended up intersecting with the rest of the group at an fire road intersection and hopped in behind the EMS crew again. They were riding with a tow rope between them, the guy in the front and the gal in the back. The first punch was easy (you are given a punch card and have to navigate to each spot and punch your card) as there was a crowd but we decided to go for the advanced CP (checkpoint) next so we had to figure it out on our own. And we were able to figure out who else was racing elite. Found the next spot easily under a bridge and headed to the next one. At some point the EMS crew made a wrong turn because they disappeared. Michael was dead on with our navigation so we got all our check points (CP’s) and headed back to the transition area or HQ with only one wrong turn. There were only a few bikes in the transition area so I figured we were doing pretty well and I allowed myself to think wow, we might win!!! So back to the transition area and traded my bike shoes for water shoes and buckled the life jacket on, threw my camelback over it and we were off. It was about a mile run to route 49 and we were not allowed on the road so had to pass underneath. We downed some food on the way and got to the crossing in about 15 minutes and realized that we had to swim across the river to get to the kayaks. Nice, cloudy, smelly, nasty water. There was nothing else to do but jump in and swim to get across. I thought about all the tools, food, dry socks etc. that were in my camelback…not dry anymore! The kayaks were a 2 person sit on top style. We got in and decided to get the advanced CP first. The navigation was pretty easy because you could see everyone else in front and behind so we just paddled in between 2 other teams to the CP. The paddling seemed to last forever though and I paddled until I thought my arms would fall off and it seemed like anytime Michael stopped paddling we went nowhere when it was just me paddling so I had to wonder how much I was actually contributing. We didn’t lose much time during the paddling section and got all 3 CP’s but Michael’s legs started cramping while we were still in the boat. I didn’t realize how bad until he tried to get out and his legs seized up. One of the race attendants kindly gave him a icy cold Gatorade and he downed some Gu and after about 15 minutes he was able to walk again. One of the lessons learned was that plain water just is not enough and next time electrolytes will be mandatory. So we walked back to the transition area to try to give his legs a chance to recover and got ready for the trek by switching to running shoes, getting rid of all the bike gear in Michael’s camelbak and dumping 3 packets of Gatorade in it. I got rid of my pack altogether and just kept a water bottle, the mandatory whistle, my compass and the punch card. Michael navigated during the trek and I filled up the punch card. We missed the first advanced CP and ended up finding the first open course CP which we needed anyway but then had to backtrack to find the CP that we missed. After finding that one (did you know a double yellow line around a tree was a boundary corner????) we headed toward the next CP where we learned yet another valuable lesson. You should wear long pants when trekking or your legs will be scratched up and bloody. We had to walk across a log over a swampy river, saw a 5 foot black snake, and realized we were going the wrong way. Heard a yell and headed in that direction and saw the CP on the other side of the river. I was hoping my sneakers would stay dry but again, just had to jump in and wade through the muck to get to the other side all the time thinking about where that snake was. Getting out of this area was tricky and had to squeeze through all the brush but taking the less traveled way seem to pay off because it got us to the fire road a lot quicker than backtracking. Michael’s legs had recovered by then and we started running (smartwool is the bomb because running in wet shoes and socks did not result in any blisters!). Did I mention it was 93 degrees and super humid? There was one more checkpoint on the top of Mount Misery which we had a good idea how to get to because we had passed the trailhead on the mountain bike section. Found a water spigot and refilled, consulted with a local and headed toward the trailhead. They picked a tough CP to end with as it was all uphill and we ran up most of it until it got so steep you felt like puking. Great feeling when you got to the top but no time to enjoy the view. Passed a lot of people who looked a little worse for the wear on the way down but we got a second wind and booked it back and finished up strong with a sprint at the end. Wow, what an experience. It took just over 6 hours. The first place team finished in just over 3 hours so we need to whittle about 2 hours and 40 minutes off our time for the next race. No problem, right? – Jill

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