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  • Writer's pictureBrent Molsberry

USARA Nationals- Highs and Lows in the Hilliest Part of Indiana - Quest Takes 4th Place

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

- Quest Race Team - Matt, Annie, and Brent -

Location: Near Bloomington Indiana

Distance: 22 miles paddling, 25 miles trekking, 75 miles mountain biking

Team: Quest Sprint Squad 2018 = Annie, Brent, Matt

Place: 4th out of 55 teams from 26 states

Annie: I’ve never flown to an adventure race before. Flying to an adventure race IS an adventure race. There are many critical checkpoints, lots of gear logistics, a bit of discomfort and elements of the unknown, and staying fed and hydrated can be challenging. On our journey from Bellingham, WA to the fair state of Indiana, it was obvious to anyone who looked at us that we were up to something epic- we had massive bike boxes in tow, and a sporty look in our eyes that invited a handful of folks to ask, “Where are you headed? What’s in that box?” More than once we were assured, “Oh Bloomington, well that’s the hilliest part of Indiana.”

And so it began.

Matt: Adventure races always treat teams to a journey of highs and lows along the course, both in the racers heads and in elevation gains and losses. Because we were going to the hilliest part of Indiana, we knew this race would be no exception:

Low – Not much map planning time. Maps and race instructions were handed out 30 minutes before the start. Our quick look showed a complicated race with several orienteering sections with detailed instructions, lots of route choice, and about 2/3s of the race was rogaine style with the ability to get checkpoints in any order. OK, maybe not a low, but a busy time nonetheless.

High – Everyone was in the same boat and had limited planning time. Most of our strategy and planning would be done on the fly. Speaking of boats, everyone really was in the exact same yellow plastic canoe- all seaworthy except the one issued to Untamed NE Masters. Theirs had a hole and they had to go back after the start to replace their submarine canoe (this would be a low for them).

The maps were 3 feet across

- 30 minutes to sort out this 3' x 2.5' map with 30 CP's on it. -

High – Thick fog was over the lake at the start. It was beautiful, Annie thought we were in the ocean, and after about 5 minutes we couldn’t see or hear other teams. As we got close to CP1 several teams suddenly appeared out of the fog.

Low – The fog made it hard to hold a bearing while paddling. At one point we did a complete 180 degree U-turn due to the shifting breeze and being disoriented in the fog! Fortunately, we caught it quickly and then bumped from landmark to landmark to get to CP1.

- I don't think this is us, but it is too foggy to tell. -

High or Low – depending on your perspective. In the middle of the bike ride to TA3 we stopped at a checkpoint near a small pond. On the way back to our bikes Matt was walking in front and came across a 5’ long black snake. Mr. Snake was apparently not as surprised as Matt and slithered toward him which caused him to leap mightily backwards and yell “WHOA!!” three times at progressively increasing volume (according to Annie’s eyewitness report. From afar she thought he had been stung by bees). Brent announced the presence of the snake to the team next to us and one of the team asked “what did you see?”, but before Brent could answer his teammate said “oh nothing, just a beautiful butterfly, or maybe a unicorn”.

Low – Lake Monroe, of course. Water always flows downhill.

High – Checkpoint 21 on a lookout tower. The checkpoint was 8 flights of stairs up a wobbly lookout tower, from the top we were pretty sure we could see the whole state.

- Luckily we had our resident Engineer Matt with us who assured us that despite the way the tower wobbled, it wouldn't collapse. -

High or Low – still up in the air. The race included an orienteering leg in the middle of a long bike section. The format allowed teams to choose when they completed orienteering. During the pre-race meeting the race director said he thought the orienteering would be the deciding leg of the race. We decided to take a more direct route to the orienteering to try to complete at least part of the orienteering in the daylight. We were the 2nd team to arrive and had about 2 hours of daylight on the course. Starting in the daylight allowed us to travel quickly and get comfortable with the map before the sun set. The trade off to our route was that our return bike route had 6 checkpoints along the way that were 50 – 800 meters off the road we traveled. It was critical to stop in exactly the right location to hit the small topographical features the points were located on, which was not easy at night. We tried hard to be efficient at the multiple transitions from biking to foot but probably had a bit of a low / sleepy point while on this section in the middle of the night.

- The dog bone Orienteering map. Lots of running through the woods. -

Low - 2 AMish: When Annie went to punch the passport at one of our checkpoints during the return bike leg following the orienteering course, counted the remaining number of unpunched boxes on the passport, and yelped, “Wait a minute!! Do we still have to punch ALL of these?!” It was more than she thought. (Spoiler alert: we successfully punched them all, eventually.)

Low – We took a bit of a risk and choose a route along the lake on our return bike ride. Everything was going well until the road dead ended at an inlet in the lake. We stopped at the edge of the water and though “what’s next?”.

High – Turns out the water was only 6” – 8” deep and the road picked up directly on the other side. We waded across with our bikes, and resumed our ride on the opposite lake shore.

High – Most of the race traveled on nice quiet back roads.

Low – Apparently those quiet dirt roads go to some important places. We were only passed by a few cars, but they made up for it by roaring up behind us and keeping the pedal to the metal as they passed.

- Lots of the course looked just like this, except most of the time it was dark, and you could hear chestnuts randomly bombarding the woods. -

Low – The rogaine format meant there was no way to know who was leading for the middle 2/3’s of the race.

High – Since it was impossible to know who was leading you weren’t influenced by other teams and just had to do the best you could.

High – There was lots of interesting plants, fungi, bugs, and animals in the Indiana woods. Besides the previously mentioned snake, we saw what appeared to be tiny white bits of cotton slowly breezing in the wind on a few plants. After race research determined that these were “Asian woolly hackberry aphids”. The mushrooms had to be the highlight though – we saw fuzzy fluorescent yellow softballs, purple, red, big, and small mushrooms.

Low – None, it is always cool seeing interesting stuff in the forest.

- Wooly Alder Aphids. We Googled "weird puffy cotton ball bugs" to figure that out. -

High - Seeing old friends and making new ones. Adventure racers are some great folks and it was nice to see everyone!

Low – Last race of the year means it might be a while before we see them again.

- High fives from Rootstock on our sprint to the finish. -

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