Saturday, December 8th 2012 in Dover, NH
Racers: Michael, Rick, and Jill
Michael found the website for the Dover Raid and quickly recruited Rick and I as teammates. It was billed as a 6 hour adventure race with orienteering, trail running, and urban shenanigans. We were sold! However reality hit as the forecast began looking ominous leading up to the race and we met up at the commuter lot in Killingly to a steady rain. After about a 2 hour drive to Dover, NH we drove around the city a bit to get our bearings then parked at the train station and walked over to the pizza joint/start location to register for the race. No information or maps are provided until 15 minutes before the race starts so after registering we headed back to the car to try to figure out how to dress for a chilly and rainy race day. On our way back to the car we were excited to run into Ben and Kerry and caught up with them a bit before seeking shelter in the car to get dressed. After donning our rain gear and making some last minute decisions regarding what to carry and what not to carry in our packs we grabbed our map cases and compasses and headed back to the restaurant to await instructions for the 11am start.
After a slight delay we were told that we would be bused to the start location which was about 20 minutes away. The race finish was at 5pm and teams would be penalized 1 point for every minute they returned after 5pm. There were 62 checkpoints and the team with the most checkpoints wins however they cautioned that they did not expect that anyone would return with all 62 checkpoints. Four maps, a control description guide also known as the clue sheet, and a blank control card were distributed on the bus and all was quiet as each team poured over the maps. We hurriedly split the maps up between our 3 mapcases, Michael taking the maps we would use first, Rick taking the checkpoint guide, and I took the map we would use later in the race and the control card.
The rain starting pelting down as we hopped off the bus, listened to the last few announcements, then we were off. Immediately there was confusion at the first checkpoint as Michael told us where to look however I went down to get the checkpoint punched as is the norm but there was no control flag or punch. Chaos! Rick then read the clue from the guidesheet and we realized it was a visual clue and we had to write down the number. Oops, rough start but after that we fell into a rhythm. Michael would read the map and get us close to the checkpoint, Rick would read the clue, then I would be off and running to find the checkpoint and punch the control card. Michael and Rick are both excellent at navigating which is great because I am a hopeless navigator. My strength is finding the checkpoint or control flag once they get us close to it and while I’m locating the checkpoint and punching the control card Michael and Rick are plotting how to get to the next location, this strategy seems to work well for us.
The next few checkpoints went smoothly then the real adventure began. We decided to cut across a field to get to one of the checkpoints and ended up in a swampy stretch of muck. Michael was running in front, then Rick, then me. All of a sudden Rick stopped short and I looked down to see a shoe with a gaiter still attached stuck in the mud in front of me. The mud sucked Rick’s entire shoe and gaiter right off his foot! Rick then had to struggle to pull the shoe and gaiter back out of the muck, it did not want to let go. He ran with only one shoe for a bit until he found a dry-ish spot to put it back on then we all chuckled, what a classic race moment. I’m laughing again remembering it… We pushed on navigating down river banks, through the woods, and across a fast running river while my legs were shaking as I hopped from rock to rock hoping I wouldn’t fall in. Unfortunately today I had what I call my Pinocchio legs, very stiff and heavy legs preventing me from really getting into a running rhythm so at times Rick and Michael had to slow up a bit while I caught up. We had to stay within 100 meters of each other at all times so it was important that we stay together.
We ended up with 46 checkpoints so I won’t go tediously through each one but I’ll hit a few memorable ones. The first sketchy one was hanging from a branch of a tree that had fallen and settled about 3 or 4 feet over a river. I had to shimmy out on all fours and punch the card with my hands shaking, not only from fear of falling but my hands were also wet, cold, and fairly numb as well. One of my favorite and I’m guessing it might have been high on the list for Michael and Rick too was in a mill building in downtown Dover. We had to run up 3 flights of stairs and set up a Nemo tent at their headquarters on the 3rd floor. This was heavenly for a number of reasons. We got to take our wet rain gear off, we were warm, there was a “real” bathroom, they had a friendly doggy, and the tent was pretty cool. If you haven’t heard of Nemo tents, they have an inventive system that uses air instead of poles to hold up the tent. I’m pretty sure this is the one we set up if you are interested in checking it out: http://www.nemoequipment.com/nemo2012-morpho1p-tent. We were sad to leave this venue and especially sad to have to navigate down three flights of stairs.
My least favorite checkpoints were on both sides of the Cocheco river. The first one I had to navigate through some nasty mudsucking swampy-ness to get to it then had to go back the same way to get back to Rick and Michael. The tantalizing part was that directly across the river you could see another checkpoint flag which we wouldn’t get to for more than an hour or so. Later we learned that one of the newbie teams actually swam across the river to get to the checkpoint. Swimming across was something none of us considered as it was a considerable distance across the murky river and it was 40 degrees and raining. Once we finally got to the checkpoint on the other side I had to slide down the loose dirt of the riverbank on my butt to get to the checkpoint then crawl back up. There was some heated debate as to whether the seat of my rain pants ripped here or when I got stuck on top of a spiky fence that separated us from our checkpoint…L. Another checkpoint was at the top of Garrison Hill Tower which had 9 flights of stairs and that was after climbing an almost vertical jeep road to get to the tower. At this point Michael took pity on me and hoofed it up to the tower to get the card punched. Rick and I were starting to grumble a bit at this point. Michael had a second wind and took off running after every checkpoint and Rick and I ran raggedly behind him wishing he would slow down a bit. Or stop! After 3 hours of running it was getting kind of rough, after 4 hours we slowed down considerably (except for Michael), and after 5 hours we were all numb and just ran because that’s what we had to do to finish.
Our rough estimate as far as mileage covered during the race was somewhere around 18 miles. We’ve all been doing 5k’s and a 5 mile race here and there over the past couple months so to say we were under-prepared might be an understatement… Regardless it was still pretty exciting despite the rough spots. The dinner and award ceremony after the race were excellent, all you can eat pizza and drinks and a free pitcher of beer. The winners were 2 men that actually got all 62 checkpoints and clocked 27 miles on their Garmin Forerunner. The three of us had fun (mostly…) and are considering signing up for their summer adventure race however we decided that a 6 hour race that includes running, biking, and kayaking would be preferable to 6 hours of straight out running. Thanks for reading! – Jill