A few weeks ago several of us traveled down to Noel, Mo for the OGAR. If you don't know where Noel is, lets just say that I heard a lot of banjos as we got near there. The teams were as follows.... Holly and Danessa, both of whom raced with us last year, Steve, and Myself would be racing 4 person coed while Chris and Dr. James ( I later found out he preferred to be called by his first name, Weldon, and not anything that had to do with Doc, Dr, or so forth) would team up for a 2 person team. Everyone had raced before except Weldon, this would be his first and to say that he was excited would be a major understatement. In a visit to his house the week before the race he had ran around like a kid at christmas showing us all of his new clothes and camelbak, He also purchased a brand new Gary Fisher Cobia 29er for this race. I did take the opportunity to "test ride" it while I had it at the base, and I must say it would not take much to convince me to ride a 29er. And by not much I mean getting one of my own by any means necessary. =)
Race check in was on Friday evening with the race on Saturday. Steve and Weldon were not going to be down until late, so Chris and I arranged to take all the bikes with us so that we could do the bike drop before it got dark. Chris took three and I took the other three on my new trunk rack that I had recently purchased for the upcoming DK200. It is made to hold three bikes, but there is not any extra room, that is for sure.
Crystal, Ethan, and I headed down early Friday morning, her brother David just so happens to live in Noel and he wanted to hang out for a while and eat lunch. In true fashion, just like the past two years, the day before the race was filled with rain and bad weather. We found his house and visited for a while then he took us to his favorite place to eat, which turned out to be a gas station cafe. Crystal was not overly impressed, but I thoroughly enjoyed my double cheeseburger and fries. David soon headed off to work and we drove around exploring while waiting for Chris and the girls to arrive. Once they made it we headed off to the bike drop, and staged our gear for the next day. We then headed off to check in, where we received our race numbers, t-shirts and even had time to eat a little pasta. We had planned on camping and sleeping in our tent, but between the torrential rains and the fact that Davids house was only about a ten minute drive from race headquarters Crystal decided that we should just stay at his house, he was more than happy and had already prepared his spare bedroom in anticipation. Everyone else ended up sleeping in their cars rather than setting up their tents, unfortunately there wasn't room for me to invite them to share in our accomodations.
I got an early start on Saturday and headed down to headquarters for the 530am map pickup, Crystal elected to stay asleep and get a ride down to the car later. The maps were handed out, a few last minute course changes due to high water, and we boarded the buses to head to the start of the race. We were bussed to a gravel road intersection about 4 miles from where we had dropped our bikes the night before, which would also serve as the TA from the orienterring leg. The race started with a road run just over 4 miles, mostly gravel, then ending on pavement. The faster teams took off like a shot, the slower teams took off walking, and we were in the middle. Chris and Weldon were out in front followed by the rest of us.( Important note: We were two different teams, but decided prior to the race to just stay together due to lack of navigational experience of some team members) I did have to take a few breaks and walk a little, but was overall satistfied with my performance, especially since I ran absolutely none in preparation for this race. I had actually debated even doing this race, just to prevent injury to my ankle, due to the fact that DK200 was only two weeks later. We made it to the TA for the start of the orienteering leg and eventually corralled everyone onto the trail. This leg was made up of 5 checkpoints, they could be done in any order. On the map they all appeared to be pretty close to the trail, which later proved to be not exactly so true. We hit the first two pretty easily, probably mostly due to the beat down path where everyone else had went, and headed on to the next one. I knew it was going to be a little bit more difficult, but figured with the stampede trail to the others it would be the same. Wrong! We ran, then walked, then ran and pretty soon we thought we should be in the right spot, but we couldn't see where anyone else had been. Needless to say we wasted well over an hour looking around before we finally went back and found a reference on the map and led us right to it. ( Should have done that from the beginning, or just took a slow and steady approach following the map closer from the beginning) Next we could take the trail up and around, which was what the girls wanted to do, or a short bushwack to the next point. I insisted on the bushwack, and even though they were apprehensive that we could find it that way, we went off trail. It was thick, dense, tick infested brush, but we came right out on the trail only about fifty feet away from the checkpoint. Score one for my navigational skills. That was our last one and we made our way back to the TA.
Next up was the biking leg, the part I was most excited about, since I had been training and riding a lot. We quickly realized just how much time we had lost once we got back to our bikes, I think we were the next to last team out of that TA, but we were having fun, and that was most important. We hit the road, then across a field to the creek where we had the privilege of wading through waist deep swift water while carrying our bikes. This was followed by a muddy hike/ bike push fest across some private property to intersect with a trail system which started with another bike push up a hill from HELL! It may not have been too bad early on, but after a hundred or more people come through and rut it up and get it all worked up, it was pure cardio intensity. The rest of the "technical bike" was mostly uneventful, a few sweet downhills followed by a lot of pushing on trails that were not really trails, and one more navigational blunder which cost us another 30-45 minutes by going up a wrong hill.
We eventually made it back to transition to the " road bike" section. While some of us were filling up on water I overheard one of the volunteers saying that the winners had finished about three to four hours ago. What a slap to the face, we still had 8 miles of highway and then 8 miles of paddling to go. Once on the highway I really started to feel good, finally something that we could actually pedal and ride for a while. I actually had to make myself slow down and wait so as to not get to far ahead of everyone. I think we covered this part in around 40 minutes or so, and found our way to the river.
We had made up a little ground while on the bikes because there were still about a half dozen canoes left when we arrived. We paddled on the elk river, it was pretty wide and calm with a little bit of current. A little bit of scenery, but not the prettiest I have seen for sure. The wind was really starting to blow as we progressed down the river, sometimes it would almost stop the canoe in between strokes, or it seemed like it anyway. We kept a good pace and covered this leg in about 1hr 40 minutes I think. Not to bad considering that for about the last mile I was so nauseated that I thought I might puke or just fall overboard. I guess I forgot to drink anything once we got into the canoes, I had taken my camelbak off and sat it behind me, out of sight , out of mind I guess.
We made it into the finish line in about 10 1/2 hrs. I don't know where we ended up placing and I don't really care. There was still food and beer left and it was still daylight. We had a great day, no one got hurt, everyone was still smiling, Weldon had a positive first race experience, and we all made it home safely. Luckily, because the next night was when the tornado struck Joplin, which it just so happens is less than twenty miles from where we were.