Summary: TeamOnTheMove Randy Spence, Dana Little, and Tony Coulson,
Date: September 14, 2003 Location: Eagle Creek Park (EC) in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Length: Approximately 50 Miles; Weather: Sunny and mild (approx. 80 degrees)
Since this was once again a local race, the team decided to meet at the race venue. All three members arrived at the EC beach early. We staked our claim in the transition area by placing a tarp on the ground in our desired spot. We then began transporting our gear. This was our first ‘special test’ of the day as the park rangers did not unlock the beach gate on time and all teams had to slide through the gate and hand gear through or over the fence. Eventually, a ranger did show up and unlock the gate.
Soon enough, the race directions (including bike and paddle maps) were distributed. Tony, our lead navigator, determined our plan of travel while the entire team completed the task of consuming final pre-race nutrition. Shortly thereafter, we attended the pre-race meeting where we were informed of the 4:30 PM cutoff to start the land navigation portion of the race and the 9:00 PM cutoff to finish the race.
At 8:03 AM, the race began with all teams having to run our bikes up to the top of the hill at the end of the beach road. Randy’s competitive juices were obviously flowing as he flew up the hill, with Dana and Tony closely behind. Once at the top, we were allowed to mount our trusty steeds and begin the ride to check point (CP) 1. Since most of Indianapolis is fairly flat, this ride quickly took the form of a road race, with different teams and racers taking turns pulling at the front. The teams with expert riders were quickly out of sight and our team was one of a handful in the first chase pack. At times the riding was slightly dangerous due to traffic, but most motorists seemed to be aware that some sort of race was taking place and allowed us to hammer unhindered.
Our travels took us Southwest to the Avon mountain bike park. Prior to reaching the park, we arrived at CP 1, which was down an embankment, underneath a railroad bridge, and across a creek. We dismounted our bikes and carefully made our way down into the creek. After punching our passport, we were required to travel in the middle of the creek with our bikes. We then trekked in this manner for a few hundred meters – just far enough to get our arms and other parts of our upper body sore from carrying our bikes. Knowing Michael Sapper (Race Director) well, it was obvious that this was part of his master plan of the day to wear us down. Mission and dare accepted!
CP 2 (and CP 3) was on the iron bridge adjacent to the mountain bike park. We were given a map of the trail system (without contours or many other features) and instructed to visit five control points within the park. This portion of the race brought out the only major weakness in our team – being unfamiliar with each other’s racing styles. Tony usually tries to gradually get a feel for the map whereas Randy feels the team must be continually moving at race pace so as not to be passed by other teams. Since Dana was an even newer addition, she didn’t even realize an issue was developing. For two of the five points, we had problems because the team was riding faster than Tony could decipher the map. Reading the map became harder and harder as we progressed because Tony held it in his hand while riding – with wet mountain bike gloves from the creek trek. Damn that race director – the map disintegrated in Tony’s hand and another lesson of map protection was taught.
Luckily, the park was small, so our errors were limited to approximately fifteen minutes of lost time. We learned from the experience, put it behind us and set out to collect CPs 4 and 5 on the way back Northeast to EC. These two CPs were fire hydrants, which we had to locate, and then write identifying information from them on our passport. While heading to CP 4, Tony made the mistake of reading the map while following too closely to Dana. She had slowed and he was about to clip her back wheel. Luckily he had just looked up from the map and saw what was about to happen. Instinct took over and Tony made a self-sacrificing move to avoid putting Dana on the asphalt. Tony managed to barely touch Dana’s wheel, but had to take an unplanned ride at full speed down a steep drop off into someone’s front yard. Amazingly, Tony was able to stay in control. He was soon out of the yard and back in tow of the team.
On the way to CP 5 we passed Indianapolis Raceway Park, where drag races were being held. Naturally, Tony had to act juvenile and pretend he was racing the dragsters. It was a neat experience to come across the drag races, which allowed us to take our minds off of our own race for a few minutes.
After collecting CP 5, we completed the mountain bike portion of the race and transitioned to the canoe. The canoe course required almost no navigational prowess, so we quickly fell into a rhythm and set out to the Southwest corner of the reservoir. We immediately passed several teams due to two major factors: (a) the team has a natural, fast, and cohesive cadence when using kayak paddles (b) Randy has a lot of paddling experience and knew the best way to move through the oncoming waves was to paddle more directly into them. Many times we heard Randy cry out “paddle hard to the right”. Once near the Southwest corner, we followed a channel due West past the sailing club and into a creek, where we collected CP 6. While in the creek we witnessed two teams capsize. Also, while making our way out of the channel toward the dam, we were swarmed by a canoe that kept passing on our left, then right, then left, etc. They were paddling like crazy, but just couldn’t seem to go in a straight line. We dug a little deeper to get away from them and then reached the canoe put out (CP 8) where we were instructed to portage our canoes up the embankment and over to the dam. Tony and Randy hoisted the canoe over their heads while Dana carried the paddles and directed them where to go. (Neither Tony nor Randy could see where they were going – Dana somehow found this sight rather funny). After a few hundred meters of portaging we were now even more sore (damn race director – once again a part of his evil plan), but were happily surprised to find out that we would be rappelling off of the EC dam (CP 9) into the water. We donned our climbing harnesses and Tony volunteered to go first. Once in the refreshing water, Tony was required to belay Dana and Randy. We scrambled out of the water, hiked back to the top of the dam (CP 10), and then finished the portage by trekking our canoe back down to water level.
The rest of the canoe leg was basically a painful sprint North back to the TA (damn race director). We passed a couple more teams and were almost back to the 56th street causeway when Dana momentarily stopped paddling for a quick break. Randy and Tony seized the opportunity to inform her that she would not be thrown overboard for the simple reason that per the race rules she was mandatory equipment (her new nickname). After a few quick laughs, we paddled strong all the way to the beach (CP 11), deposited the canoe in its designated spot, and were given the final race map – approximately fourteen miles of coasteering/orienteering/land navigation (race director now Tony’s buddy again).
After a quick transition to refuel, we checked back in at the Start/Finish tent (CP 12), and started the first coasteering section. We were required to enter the water and follow a series of flags around the coast of the South end of the beach to the causeway. Of course there were plenty of submerged trees to fall over and subsequently bruise various body parts. Once out of the water, we were required to follow the causeway to the West side of the park to collect ten orienteering controls. While following the causeway, we were not allowed to utilize the road other than to use the bridge. When we were sure that we would be out of the water for an extended period of time, we stopped and changed our socks (which were soggy and full of sand).
The West side of EC is a hidden jewel when it comes to orienteering in Central Indiana. The terrain is surprisingly rugged. The team alternated between running and hiking as we made our way through the course. Although embarking on slightly varied routes, we consistently encountered the same teams at the various orienteering points. Continuous movement was required while navigating through the woods in order to minimize the misery inflicted by the mosquito hordes. We collected all ten points in quick succession with spot on navigating and then crossed Fishback Creek on our way to CP 13. This was the start of the next coasteering section. In the middle of the deepest part of the water, Tony lost his balance and fell on his butt – all the while holding the map high in the air to ensure it would not get wet. Did Dana help the fallen? No, but she did manage to laugh hysterically!
We continued on the marked coasteering route to CP 14, which was a telephone pole from which we had to write specific information on our passport. From there, we again followed the marked coasteering course back to the East side of EC. We were involved in a navigational dogfight with another team and chose to stay with them until we got close to CP 15. From then on, the gauntlet was thrown down and the race was on to the finish. Both teams chose the same basic route to CP 15 (a spur along the inner East coast of the bird sanctuary), but chose entirely different routes to CP 16 (a small marsh near the ice skating pond). Once again, the teams reached the CP within a minute of each other and we had to dig deep to push to the finish line. Tony was battling a cramp in his thigh but he could smell the finish was near, so we simply pushed on. We arrived at the finish line to the cheers of the race organizers and those who finished before us. One minute later, the team we had been battling with for the last hour also crossed the finish line.
Our finishing position was 7th overall and we received certificates and compasses denoting this achievement. Both during and after the race our team members realized that this lineup has a special synergy. We will definitely do more races together in the future.
Elapsed Race Time: 8 hours 47 minutes