“Team Tecnu wins 3rd consecutive USARA National Championships during the wee hours this morning near Pineville, KY. It feels good to be a champ! Next stop Brazil!!”
Team Tecnu Adventure Racing headed to Eastern Kentucky to compete in the 2015 USARA National Championships just as hurricane Joaquin arrived with two days of nearly continuous rain and chilly temperatures. The hurricane wasn’t the only thing we had to battle this weekend as 60 of the best teams in the nation came to the slippery, rhododendron-filled hillsides of Pine Mountain State Park all looking to finish their adventure racing season with a bang.
Flying Squirrel Adventures race director Stephanie was chosen for a second time to host the Nationals, and again she rose to the occasion producing a well thought out course that had us constantly on our toes (and cleats and paddles) as we navigated the 100-mile course. No leg of the race was longer than 5 hours, and we saw 10 transitions that tested our organization and teamwork. Adventure racers all suffer from a certain level of attention deficit disorder; otherwise we would all take up boring sports like triathlon or individual sports like ultramarathons. Stephanie kept things very diverse for us this year with a paddle on a moving river that flipped more than one team, a second paddle on quiet Cannon Creek Lake, bike rides that saw us on everything from fast pavement to muddy wet hike-a-bikes, and off-trail treks through some classic Southeast “fight” vegetation to runs on happy, smooth single track. We yearn for the “grunty” stuff, moan and groan while we are in it at 3AM, and tell tall tales about it to our friends post-adventure. We received exactly what we want as racers this weekend with none of the “building character” segments lasting too long to become downright miserable.
Abby Broughton, Garret Bean, and I reluctantly pulled off our Gore-Tex minutes before the 8AM starting cannon (Yes! Troy has a tiny cannon he uses to signal the start of Nationals) as the rain continued to fall in the early morning fog. We raced the first half of the event at the front with our friends on Team American Adventure Sports (AAS) and Goals ARA very close to us. We exchanged friendly banter at a number of out-and-back sections, but honestly I wanted to put the gas pedal down and never see these guys until the awards banquet!
Just before the sun set, it seemed that the team started to gel and rise up to the occasion. There was no desire to stop for the chuck wagon bbq in transition, and we started to feel the flow and moved like a well-oiled machine. It was GO TIME! We hammered the last bike ride up a 1,000-foot mountain climb and descended a sketchy, wet, loose powerline trail with daylight as our competitors would surely be slowed as they needed to don lights before descending in darkness. We then pacelined the flats into our final transition to the crux of the race, a 15 mile foot orienteering section in the hilly Pine Mountain State Park. We shared pack weight, ran the uphills, fed each other, and all had our heads in the navigation. After a very clean first 10 miles, we were reduced to a crawl as we moved like sloths down a 2 mile, 1,000-foot vegetation and cliff choked hillside. Thoughts of doubt began to creep in, and I started to second guess our route choice and began to assume our competition was happily strolling along on a trail as we army crawled our way through the thick bush. The negativity in my mind was soon relieved by Garret’s tenacity in leading the bushwhack charge down the mountain and Abby’s uncompromising persistence and relentless motivation. The TEAM was functioning as a single unit and pushing as hard as we could. Sure enough, we got through the nerve-racking bushwhack, ran hard the final 3 miles of the race, and crossed the finish line in 16 hours and 22 minutes as the first and only team to ever win Nationals 3 years in a row!!!
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