On December 4, Chris and I met up to head off to the race. We met at the base and then headed to Wal-Mart to meet up Marc and Kenny of Team Cyclewerx and Kenson who would be joining them for this race. We followed them to St. Louis to Jill's house where we would all be staying for the night. We all headed to race check in at Alpine Shop, I must say it appeared that there was everything an outdoor enthusiasist could ever want. After check in we headed to the bike drop off. It was a tough decision on what we should leave with the bikes hydration wise, due to temperatures being forcasted in the low teens. I left two bike bottles full of gatorade, hoping the freezing point would be lower than that of water. I think Chris just left water with his. We all put our bikes together outside of the pavilion where the rest of the bikes were, for the sake finding them easier the next day.
After the bike drop we headed back, stopped and got a few last minute necessities, ie. gatorade for in the morning, water to fill the camelback ( city water in the St. Louis area just doesn't taste very good), and some poptarts for breakfast. While we were in the grocery store Marc and the gang grabbed a couple of pizzas to stave the hunger off until dinner was ready. We all made our way back to Jill's and she prepared a delicious pasta dinner. Since we did not receive any maps to plot on or to study, all we needed to do was get our gear ready to go in the morning. After this we were able to just hang out and share some war stories about past races. I have to say it was a very enjoyable time to get to hang out with Team Cyclerwerx. They are a fun group of people and I look forward to seeing them at future races. A special thanks to Jill for the wonderful dinner.
Now to get down to business. We woke up around 4:45 to load our gear and eat breakfast, before heading to race HQ to board the buses. The thermometer in Kenson's truck showed a temperature of 16 degrees, all I know is that it was cold! We boarded the buses and headed out to the start location for the race. We unloaded and received our first map, but no passport. It appeared that we would have approximately a 2 mile run to where our passports were located. We all took off running, for the most part the pack stayed together for about the first mile and then everyone started to spread out, a few teams decided to cut off the road and hike through the woods. I am not sure if it was any quicker or not, but the big hill right before the pavilion slowed everyone down. We got our passport and headed out to get the first 12 checkpoints, they could be done in any order, but I think for the most part we hit most in order. After the first couple we were feeling pretty good. However it was somewhere around this time that we realized our tubes on our camelbaks were frozen solid. For future reference always blow the water back into the reservoir. For the most part I was spot on with my navigation and we were making decent time. However when we headed off to look for # 9 we strayed a little from our course thinking that we knew right where we were and soon were looking on what was inevitably the wrong hillside. Knowing from past experience that when this happens it is best to go back and start over. However on our way back to # 7 we ran into Team Cyclewerx, they were jogging right along and since we knew them and they appeared to know where they were going. We decided to follow them. ( We have tried this same thing at past races when we had less experience at navigation, and it usually never works) We kept up and followed them to another hillside, which looked like the right one. Long story short, we spent about an additional hour and a half, searching and climbing multiple hillsides, none of which held the elusive checkpoint. We eventually made our way back down and found a creek which led to #8. At this point knowing that we still had 2 more checkpoints until we were headed back to where we started. The guys of Cyclewerx only needed # 9, so we parted ways. We headed on to 10 and they shot a new heading to locate 9. We made our way to the next checkpoints without any trouble, checked in at 12 and headed off on our way to 15 which held our bikes. The next few were relatively easy to find, 14 took a few minutes, but not to long. We arrived at 15 and much to our suprise Cyclewerx's bikes were still there. We went in to transition and receive our maps and they weren't inside plotting either. We received four additional maps two were pre plotted, and two needed to be plotted. We made quick work of the plotting, despite the scale changes which nearly threw us off. We have a pretty good system of plotting and were ready to head out in 20 minutes. We were preparing to leave when one of the volunteers received word that there had already been a coulpe of teams finish the race. I have to say that was just a little bit discouraging, knowing we still had so much to do, and people had already finished.
We headed out on the bikes and were breezing right along until we made a turn and hit the hill on the Alt Rd I believe. This hill went on forever, I have seen steeper , but I don't know if I have ever seen a hill this long. I am not sure, but I would guess it was around 3/4 of a mile long. The only good thing was getting to the top and going down, it was cold though, especially when the bike computer was showing 36 mph. We kept pedaling and came to the Al Foster trail and continued on with the checkpoints. We did have a slight error at one point which led to a small hike a bike, it seemed rough, but I think it actually saved us time. We arrived to find several other teams in the area of #20. The ground had thawed out by this time of the day and there was some horrible mud. Chris left his bike and walked to get the punch. He came back and we headed on down the trail. The mud just seemed to get worse, it was slick to ride on, and eventually clogged up my brakes preventing me from even pedaling. I stopped several times, trying to clean it out, but just couldn't seem to get it out. I eventually caught up with Chris and actually had to take off my front wheel to get the mud from around my brake. This didn't suck up a lot of time, but it definetly zapped my energy level. We eventually made our way to the canoes and prepared to head out on the river. We had to load our bikes into the canoe, which we have done before, but we were having a little difficulty getting them both in. We eventually got them secured in and headed out on the river. Knowing that there was a five o'clock cutoff we elected not to go up river and get the checkpoint. Shortly after starting down the river, we realized that we had put the bikes in preventing Chris from paddling on the left side of the boat. Which meant that I would have to do all the paddling on that side. We made it down the river and arrived at the take out point, I think it was around 4-5 miles of paddling, but it seemed longer, only paddling on one side. We checked in, carried our canoe up the bank, and went back and got our bikes. There was a gear check before we were allowed to continue on. The volunteers said that there was about an hour or so of riding to get the last 4 checkpoints. After careful consideration, knowing that the hour was for a team probably faster than us, we elected to just head in to the finish and skip the last four checkpoints. This put us missing a total of 6 checkpoints, not what we had hoped for, but better than we have done in any other bonk hard races. We finished the race in 9:01, with 5 missed checkpoints. Definetly not a strong finish as far as standings go, but not bad considering we did not train at all prior to this race. On the plus side, my navigational skills have greatly improved from previous races. Chris was so comfortable with it, that he never even took out his compass all day! Castlewood was a fun and challenging race and I look forward to returning in 2010.