The spirit of the adventure racing community and the athletes willingness to go out for an “adventure” regardless of the obstacles laid before them, was clearly seen at the map handout for the Shenandoah Tough in the USA. While no doubt nervous, many athletes put on brave smiles and joked with the media about the weather forecast as they prepared for the start.
Race Organisers Adventure Enablers have enacted contingencies as Hurricane Florence has approached the East Coast of the USA. The course, which was handed to athletes at 4pm Wednesday 12th September local time, has been reduced and some of the legs cancelled.
Teams now complete 6 legs of racing including a Trek 21km, Mountain bike 95km, Trek 21km, Mountain bike 95km, Trek 21km and Mountain Bike 47km. All the paddling legs have been cancelled due to river safety.
In an attempt to get as much racing as possible before the rain arrives, the race start was moved 12 hours earlier than originally scheduled. Teams set off at 8pm Wednesday local time guided by their headlamps and in low visibility (but not rain!)
Dealing with these contingencies is a huge organisational challenge and AR Live Coverage commentator Craig Cook said “In the last 48 hours Mark, Margo and the Adventure Enablers team have gone from making contingency plans in case Flo hits to completely reconfiguring their whole race! This has been done quickly, professionally and seemingly without effort. Not only have they got the race ( complete with updated Tracking ) started on time but 12 hours early. Amazing Effort! If your planning on doing an Expedition Race make sure it’s with someone who knows what they’re doing so if the proverbial does hit the fan, then there is a satisfactory outcome.”
While the forecast for Hurricane Florence is still changing, it is reasonably certain that heavy rains will move into the area of the course late Thursday and through Friday. Teams were briefed in detail on the weather and the course contingencies prior to the start. They know that further course changes could happen, and the race could even be stopped early. If this occurs the winning team will be the team who has travelled furthest at the time the race is called – meaning there will be no holding back from the competitive teams. They will be racing flat out and leaving nothing in reserve.
The first leg is a trek and started with a 3,000 foot vertical ascent up to a ridge line on Great North Mountain. USA BendRacing/YogoSlackers split from the field early going for the direct route through rough terrain to the ridge. There weren’t any other takers on this choice and Storm Racing from Canada lead the rest of the field on a longer and possibly easier route along a rough single track to the ridge. The gamble by BendRacing/YogoSlackers didn’t pay dividends, arriving at the ridge CP at the same time as the rest of the field. There will be some exciting dot watching as you can be sure this is just the first of many attempts by the lead teams to make a break on the pack – knowing that at any minute the race could be decided by who is in the lead.
Coming off the ridge towards the transition area at the finish of leg one, this time it was Untamed New England who split from the field opting for a more direct descent route.
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Released 13 September 2018 written by Craig Bycroft, Adventure Racing World Series
Photo Randy Eriksen