Even More at Ripley
Posted Thu, November 18, 2010 - 9:20 PM
A lot to write about the Camp Ripley weekend, I guess! As I mentioned previously, we got permission to hold a night-O, but had a hard requirement to be downrange by 9 PM (remember those rules and procedures.) But all the MNOC volunteers have had excellent practice in meet management, and we were actually broken down and ready to leave in less than 10 minutes from the course cutoff time at 7:45 PM. Everyone showed up at Range Control around 8:30, and a number of us headed to the barracks that we had rented out - another perk, since it was A) convenient, B) cheap, and C) right next to the mess hall - all you can eat breakfast, 4 bucks!
Each barrack building is arranged into 6-8 units, and each unit is a single long cinder-blocked room with about 20 single beds. Each bed has a footlocker, and this year we unlocked the door to find the Guard had upgraded! Last year, they had old, kinda-sketchy wooden footlockers. This year, there were nice new 48 gallon Action Packers, familiar to many of us as a favored adventure racing tote. Still, it's not like we needed to use them for anything but tables. This year we had about 25 people staying in the barracks, so we rented out two units and designated one for the church-mice and one for the partiers. I'm sure you can guess which one I stayed in.
Despite the relatively spartan accommodations, the building was warm and dry, the restrooms were right outside the door (and had four shower heads), and since we all brought our own bedding, within a few minutes it was a very colorful and homey place to spend the night. After we got settled in, we continued last year's tradition and played a communal game of Celebrity. Afterwards Justin got out the maps from their amazing run and first-place finish at Checkpoint Tracker Nationals and most of the room started to geek out.
Sunday morning we all headed back uprange for the classic distance course. The weather hadn't changed - still gray and drizzly, with intermittent dry spells and rain showers.
The run to #1 was quick and easy down the trail, and pretty much everyone decided to run back out to the road and down the trail to #2. We found this out early, as the very first starters came right back through the start triangle (and later, I did too.) Only two people took the cross-country route, and based on the splits, it wasn't really an advantage. But I got some good photos of people coming back over the little saddle before I went back to car to change into race clothes.
From #2, I headed around the south end of the marsh and followed the elongated hill to the east, passing Jim Mullin on the way. Then I took the usual bearing upon leaving a control and headed west of the line to minimize the elevation change, but not too far. I came around the top of the reentrant system and approached #4 over the shoulder of the hill to its west. The route to 5 was a little slower, with less obvious contours on the way in, but not particularly slow.
At this point I had been running a 7:30/km pace, and definitely started to feel the oxygen deprivation. I was starting to just stare at the map without being able to make specific, conscious decisions, so I stopped on the trail next to the two boulders to recover a littel bit as I planned the route to #6. Unfortunately, it was basically across a long, flat, indistinct area, and although I judged the distance well, I didn't judge the direction quite so well and ended up too far north, east of where the number "6" is printed. I had suspected this, though, and knew to correct back to the south until I spotted the right marsh and homed in on the control. On the way to #7, I contoured around the depression and passed up Georgia on the spur immediately preceding the control. Now I was faced with a long leg - and took the usual strategy of "divide and conquer."
There was pretty much no "easy" route, so I headed SE, keeping the ridge on my right and staying out of the depression on the left. I went up over the little hill with the two boulders, seeing one, and intentionally turned a little to the left towards the pair of small hills. I climbed up to the saddle between them, and at that point I could see the dark green just ahead of me, a lower area filled with what looked like aspens. I edged around the west side and caught the ridge to get around the big swamp - later I learned that Molly had tromped right through that swamp - and then climbed over the next hill to stay on the west side of the next dark green patch.The vegetation boundary was very distinct and easy to follow, and as soon as I got around it and the view to the left cleared, I headed east. Except is was too far. And all the way down to the flats.
So... a minute and a half later, I run up the large reentrant, turn right into the subsidiary reentrant, and get the control. Funny, that I nailed the long leg, and then bombed it near the circle. But it wasn't a big enough mistake to rattle me, so I followed the contours just south of the line, kept the hill on my left, and spiked the control in the depression. #10 was similarly easy, in principle. I crossed over the shoulder extending from the large hill, and caught the slim west-pointing spur which was indeed a little slower due to the light green. That ridge pointed me right towards a large depression, and inexplicably I veered off to the left and got caught on the wrong side of those light green depressions, much like the previous day's mistake. I realized it after a quick compass consultation, though, and made a beeline to the control around the west side of the depressions. And now, I was entering the most technically challenging part of the course.
Tom and I were running close to each other now, and I headed northwest to catch the narrow hill and weave west, then northwest to the control. Tom took a more southerly route and we arrived at nearly the same time, then both turned 180 degrees to head back towards #12. I went around the north side of the depression east of #11, and skirted the south side of the subsequent hill. The long spur extending SE from the hill was larger than you'd think from looking at the map, but I climbed up over a low spot and was able to see the control on the hilltop ahead of me. So far, so good. I had lost Tom at this point, and as I headed northeast looking for the next ridge, I picked up Joe Sackett a hundred meters or so ahead. He climbed up to the top of the E-W ridge as I was coming through the flat area, but he paused at the top, and I had already started climbing the ridge myself by the time he spotted the control and dashed off. I was able to see exactly where he was headed and drafted him into #13. Then, we both contoured along the base of the west-pointing ridge, practically on the line, and ended up punching #14 at practically the same time.
On the way to #15, I took a direct route, aiming for the marsh just before the control. Joe took a curving, more southerly route along a bumpy ridge. Unfortunately, I fumbled near the control - I spotted the marsh just fine, but then inexplicably veered to the north and started to have trouble matching up features. I stopped myself quickly, took a bearing and reoriented. I was only about 100 meters NE of the control, but - that's not what I thought at time. So instead, I ended up taking a curving route that brought me over west of the control. I'm not sure how to justify my thinking, in hindsight, although I think some of it had to do with an hypoxic unwillingness to gain in elevation. I had run the last leg pretty fast. Anyway, I finally climbed to the hilltop SW of the control (obscured by the control circle) and reoriented properly. Even though I still couldn't see the control, I finally ran down into the correct depression. I'd given up all the gain I'd made on Joe with my better foot speed from 12 through 14.
#16 and #17 were more straightforward - a ridge run followed by a short leg that I unfortunately bobbled, so the split doesn't look so good percentage-wise. But I recovered on the way to #18, threading my way along the ridges and cutting the corners of the depressions without descending too much. The dark green area of aspens provided an obvioous handrail, and I spiked the next control without a problem. After this, the intricate terrain was done, and the rest of the course was flatter and more subtle.
The next leg was a 1.3 km run to the north side of the road. I just ran, using the compass every couple hundred meters to keep me on course, and giving my brain a much needed break from matching the terrain to the map. I climbed up over the hill with the knoll, crossed the road and passed right by a mapped boulder, then slowed slightly to pay attention to the small hills. Even though most are only one contour on the map, they were pretty visible on the ground, and I spotted #19 from almost two hundred meters out.
The next two controls were similarly straightforward, but I was running a little slower now, both from a deteriorating energy level, and to ensure I stayed in contact with the map. In these wide open woods, my distance estimation was working nicely, and I was able to gloss over some of the subtleties in the terrain (which had to be simplified on the map). There was a lot going on "in between" the contours, but it didn't faze me. Not long after leaving #21, I could start to see the cars parked around the start, and just ran a beeline right past my car into the finish. The rain had started up again, but I hadn't noticed, and I ended up with a time of 1:05:52, 3rd place well behind Justin and Maricel, but still a full 6 minutes ahead of the next runner. I was expecting a battle with Andrei, and indeed he was running a similar pace to mine early in the race, but he bailed out with a bad ankle about a third of the way through, leaving me in the "second wave" of finishers - as so often is the case.