Team: Media Perdida Goes Sola, comprised of Kerry Gross

Date: April 9, 2016

Location: Morgan Monroe State Forest, Indiana

Time on Course: 5:50

Results: 6th overall, 1st solo

Distance covered: 15 miles (all trekking)

 

First solo race. Tips from Steve are to stay on the map, check and double check bearings before setting off, keep my thumb on the map where I am, and have fun in the woods!

 

7:25 am:

Get to the Cherry Lake Shelter, check in, and get the map. CPs are scattered in all directions from the Start/Finish area, and there are a ton! It’s also a 12 hour team rogaine, so that makes sense. Not having any idea how far I can cover in 6 hours, I plot all the CPs in a clover leaf pattern that brings me back towards the S/F every 15 CPs or so.

 

9:45 am – Race meeting:

At the race meeting I learn that CPs (which range from 24 to 62) are scored for their number. This is a change from the other ARs I’ve done, and not something I took into account in my race plan. A quick look at my map shows that the point values  increase as distance from the S/F increases. Luckily for my original race plan, I have some high value CPs in my first path, so I decide to stick with the plan.

 

10:00 am – Race start:

Besides a little toe frostbite early on, the first three hours go swimmingly. CPs are right where I expect them to be, and there’s no tricky navigation to be had. Until I get to CP 60, which is a hollow in otherwise flat forest. Time for my first no-handrails bearing! I head off in the right direction and land on top of a hollow. Hooray! But the CP is nowhere in sight.

After some increasingly frustrating searching around the area, I realize that I’m 10 minutes past my eating time. Taking a moment for food, I’m feeling more positive already. I check the map again and it looks like there is another hollow due north of the marked CP hollow, so I take a gander that the CP might be in that hollow instead and head north about 100 m. And there’s the CP! We’re on track again.

Lessons learned: When things get frustrating or morale decreases, it’s probably time to eat some food.

 

1:00 pm (3 hours in, halfway through the race):

From the hollow, I clear a ridge and dive into a reentrant for the next CP. All good there. So, I pick up a path running along the bottom of the reentrant and head towards Cherry Lake. The next CP should be on the third spur to my right (north of the trail), but when I get close it’s really tough to tell what types of reentrants and spurs would be visible on my 1:24,000 map. I head up what I think is the correct spur, but make it halfway up and haven’t found anything. I head back to the bottom, check the reentrants on both sides of the spur to see how big they are, figure it’s probably the right spur and head back up. Still no luck. In desperation (and fair certainty I’m on the right spur) I tramp up and down the spur a few more times. Realizing this tactic is not working well, I decide to head back to the bottom and find a place that I really know.

So, I head back down the spur and towards Cherry Lake. When I see the lake in the distance through the trees I figure I know where I am well enough to re-attack (wrong). I head back and up the side of the same spur. Still the CP remains elusive. Disappointed, I head to the top of the spur with the plan of maybe attacking from the top (but knowing, deep down, that it would be better to move on). At the top on the next spur over, I find a trail headed back down to the bottom of the reentrant. I figure, what harm can there be in running the trail to see if I can spot the CP? An hour later, and still no CP found, I finally move on.

Lesson learned: When you can’t find a CP at first, always go back to somewhere you really actually know before re-attacking a CP. Half-assed guessing where you are leads to a lot of wasted time.

The final CPs of the race go smoothly enough. From the failed CP I move along a road and then head down a reentrant for a CP located at a stream junction. A steep scramble up a spur puts me on the trail back towards the S/F with a few CPs on the way. I get one just off the trail, shoot down a reentrant to try to bag another, but slightly miss my mark. With less than an hour left to go, I leave it behind. Along my jog back to the S/F I pick up a final CP by a water tower (but forget to check in, so unfortunately it doesn’t count). I’m out with 10 minutes to spare!

The takeaway:

  • Eat food for morale and clear thinking.
  • Go back to somewhere you really, truly 100% know before reattacking CPs.