By Ron Zadroga
Blue Ridge, Ga. The 13th annual Blue Ridge Mountain Adventure Race in Blue Ridge, Georgia last Saturday, April 10, began with 77 of the 79 registered teams. It was a perfect day starting at 32 degrees with frost on the ground, and rising to the low 70’s – sunny and clear all day. The unusual start put one of the three team-members on a bicycle (6.7 miles) in a North Carolina cow pasture where the three states of GA, NC, and TN come together. A second began in a canoe (3.7 miles) in Georgia. The third began on foot (3.4 miles) from a Tennessee location. All three racers joined up at Checkpoint (CP) 1, which was ultimately the finish line. The best strategy for this prologue section was to use individual strengths to have all three team-members arrive at CP1 as close to the same time as possible. Leaving from there, the team began a 9.5-mile paddle plus a ¾ mile portage to the bike staging area. The race course led the teams into three states, two rivers, a lake, and two national forests.
CP3 on the canoe route proved to be elusive – only 30 of the teams, including the top 10, were able to find it. And by the way, CP3 was the exact same location as one of the CP’s in the 2008 USARA National Championship event, where every team found it, also by canoe. From there, things heated up. CP’s 5 through 10 of this rogaine-style race challenged the thinking and creativity of the teams. Every imaginable route was selected by various teams. Some rode bikes, some hike-a-biked, some dropped their bikes and went on foot. There seemed to be no end to the order in which CP’s were retrieved, routes selected, and mode of transportation utilized. Keeping their bikes with them, even when on foot, proved to be the better choice, as roads and trails appeared that were not on the map. The shortest distance between points was not always a straight line. Teams were required to stay together as a team. On numerous occasions at remote locations, one member would set off alone to retrieve a CP only to unexpectedly find a volunteer who was there to keep them honest. They would then silently retreat to gather their team and return to punch their passport.
The top four teams swapped position throughout the day, using different approaches to the various CP’s. Eight teams retrieved a bonus punch that gave them a one-hour time reduction, which proved to be of little value to the top finishers, as all of them got it. This bonus punch helped only one team, moving them from 40th to 37th place.
Heading home after CP16, Checkpoint Zero had a 20-minute lead over their sister team, Checkpoint Zero-Masters, and an additional 15 minutes over Rare Form, followed closely by Taint So Bad and Enduraventure/Outspokin’ Bikes. These five teams maintained their relative positions through CP’s 17 and 18 on the bike ride to the finish, but enroute encountered a mile and a quarter railroad track ride and a knee-to-waist high wet crossing, carrying their bikes. Checkpoint Zero, held onto top position and finished in 7:09:47.
Only 48 of the 77 starting teams crossed the finish line in the allotted time of 10 hours, 30 minutes, and 59 seconds. The balance were unofficial, but completed the long and difficult course, and enjoyed a well-deserved welcome from the large and enthusiastic crowd gathered at the finish line in Horseshoe Bend Park in McCaysville.
For more detail and a complete list of the teams and finishing times, go to http://www.adventureracega.com/. Lots of photos on our Blue Ridge Mountain Adventure Race Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Blue-Ridge-GA/Blue-Ridge-Mountain-Adventure-Race/140564044050