Adventure Racing race 9:15:00 
Kevin and I (Becca planned on meeting us the morning) arrived at the CAP during check-in on Friday, got registered and began plotting our UTMs (about 15) for the optional points. The mandatories were all copied from a master map on the wall. The team meeting followed around 8:30. We were told that any significant overnight rain would scrap the paddle and make the course even shorter, as we would bike to the takeout. The meeting showcased that the race was expected to be a quick one; they were planning on having the fast teams finish with plenty of time to spare. The course was very straightforward; the only question being how to navigate the foot section along Blue Mountain and around Dan's pulpit without abusing the AT. It was clear to me that the best route went right along the AT - a brief chat with many other teams made me realize that while it shouldn't be used, they were no plans to monitor the trail (wink, wink). Kevin and I set our tent up under a pavilion with the car parked right next to us, making for easy prepping and a quick morning.
A terrible night of sleep ensued (maybe 20 minutes?) and I woke up feeling terrible, not at all excited about racing. This was the first time that I'd felt this way in my 6 years of racing, so I was a bit taken aback. Fortunately, I think it was just a combination of bad sleep and not being as fit as I would have liked. I shook the feeling and was in race mode by the end of the prologue.
Becca arrived and we coordinated our efforts to be ready for the 3 (or 4) legged race prologue. We were one of the first teams done, and grabbed a passport, gathered our mandatory gear, and made our way down the road to hit the first CP. A quick dive in at the turn, and we found it with relative ease (the convergence of 10+ people helped). We took a good line out and were the first team to hit F2 across the road. Not sure what happened after this, but where I was expecting a nice road I got a maze of mowed trails in fields. We spent 10+ minutes hoping to orient ourselves, and when we finally found the correct road (and the subsequent CP) we had lost 20+ minutes and knew that we would have to be clean to catch back up to the leading teams. To put it mildly, it was a frustrating start to the race. In retrospect, I should have been using the supplemental map instead of the topo, which would have highlighted the specific placement of the CP more clearly. We also could have used some more common sense to realize that we only have to travel 600-700 meters.
We found the next CP with ease, and used our speed advantage to descend a reentrant and travel on roads 1.5 km to the entrance to the State Game Lands that would take us up the Blue Mountain. This is where the wheels really fell off for the day. I had descended the same trail that we were on a few years prior. I remember it as an old logging road that was a bit of a gully, but tough to travel in as it was covered in downed trees and debris. We elected to travel next to the trail in a trodden path. As we ascended, we got further away from the gully, but I still occasionally saw traces of teams ahead of us. Quick glances at the map told me that the trail took a hard westerly turn at 950ft elevation. Unfortunately, it also took a turn at 750ft, a fact I didn't catch until we had reached 850+ft on a bearing. The trail was a bit overgrown, and I new that it might be hard to catch if we shot straight back to it. What we chose instead was a bearing that would take us all the way to the next CP (M3) with the AT as an immediate backstop. Unfortunately, this involved some tough side hill over scree. By the time we found the CP and the AT, we had been joined by another team who was equally off track, Becca had been stung by a few bees (without medical emergency!) and we had lost around 60-80 minutes. Having studied the maps well before the race, I knew that our hopes of taking 1st overall and winning the coed 3 category were finished. We were at best a full hour behind Rootstock, NYARA guys, and a strong MM2 team who had won overall the year prior. We were sure that some other teams were also ahead. We resolved to be clean and make good route choices from here out. We knew that in a straight race we were the fastest team, but with the lack of navigation choices, it would be tough to use our speed (especially on foot) to our advantage.
We finished off the foot section rather successfully, hitting the last 8 CPs without any real issue and doing so rather quickly. Once we hit M5 (which took some eagle eyes from Becca) we hit the rest dead on, passing a number of teams in the process. I was confident that our order was superior to others, but assumed that many other teams did something similar. A 3.5km jog took us to the canoe put-in. We got on the water right at 11:30, which was 30 minutes later than I had hoped in my super-conservative estimates the night prior. The paddle was crazy fast - we covered 8+km in 45ish minutes. When we exited the boats we were told that the first team got out 58 minutes prior, meaning that we had most likely made up some good time at the end of the foot section.
A quick portage to the bike TA and we were off on a short section. On map, it seemed like it would entail a bunch of hike-a-bike, but it ended up being very rideable, with less than 500m of pushing. There was very little room for creativity in route choice, so we just tried to be clean and efficient. As we approached a lower point early on (B2) we saw Rootstock, NYARA and the MM2 team all rocket down the mountain in less than a minute. Not only were we jealous of having missed out on the battle for the win, but they were locked in a great race. We had long been along on the course, not really seeing any other teams for 2 hours at that point. We gathered all but one CP on the way up to the Port Clinton fire tower (an icon in the KGMAR!) and snagged the last on the way back down. By the time we got back to the TA, we had spent less than 2 hours on the section, and knew that we had little time left in the race.
We took off towards Hawk Mountain road, a section of the race that still haunted me from last year. With memories of Eric pushing me (and my bike) up the mountain while suffering from severe hydration last year, I found the ride to be pretty simple. Becca was having no fun with it, so I stopped to support where able. Sometimes, these things are just unavoidable sufferfests... Kevin made good time up as well, and the three of use bombed the 3km back downhill in less than 4 minutes. "Heartbreak Hill" awaited us on Pine Swamp road, but we made it back to the base with plenty of energy left to tackle the rappel tower, obstacle course, and compass course. As we arrived, the MM2 team was finishing, securing their 2nd consecutive overall win. We flew through the rappel, and made easy work of the obstacle course, thanks to some great team work from Kevin. A personal highlight for me was realizing that, after years of struggling, I was able to climb the rope with ease. As we transitioned to the compass course, Rootstock came running in to secure 2nd overall and the USARA National Championship sponsorship. Congrats to them on a clean, fast race!
A little deflated, we heading around the woods in the back of the base for 7 final points. The map was little more than a blank sheet of paper, which made for some careful bearing following and pace counting. On the way to Z2 I got caught up on a small stick and tumbled slow-motion onto a sharp rock, losing a huge chunk of skin on my shin. With the end of the race in sight, I pulled my calf-sleeve up over the wound and tried not to think about the throbbing pain. The section was very efficient for us. We found ourselves trading places with a M3 team, to the point that I considered just asking them to finish together, until they tried to give us the ole okey-doke at Z6. I may have wished some bad karma on them for that (whoops!), but we found the point and shot a bearing to the last one, hoping to beat them to it and then win the race back. We didn't see them, but finished easily, coming in with a final time of 9:14, less than 1 hour behind Rootstock. The M3 team we saw in the woods just before the finish? They emerged after we had showered and eaten, wondering where Z7 (the final point) was. Apparently my wishes of ill-will ended with them spending 75 minutes looking for one CP in a small area. Mental note - don't do that to teams again.
Final thoughts on the race - it was nice to race well after the big bobbles at the start, but it was frustrating to have them happen. Hopefully they are just getting worked out before Nationals. We had a great time relaxing for a few hours afterwards, getting some good food and conversation with the Rootstockers. We also had the pleasure of seeing GOALS ARA 2 with Bruce, Diana and Jeff sprint in for a last second finish.