Team NYARA is proud of Eric and Ann Marie for a super strong performance at this year’s Krista Griesacker race. The race is put on by GOALS ARA and is typically a 12 hour Race. This year Team NYARA raced in the two person co-ed category and won it! Ann Marie gave us the following report. Enjoy!
Strategy and speed, or some combination of the two, is what will help your team win. It was an honor to race the GOALS Krista 12 hour race with Eric Caravella as Team NYARA this past Saturday. Although I had always been the navigator for my team for my past 10 years of racing, I was more than happy that Eric would be the navigator for this race so I could focus on trying to keep up with him – this was the dynamic that would work well for our team.
Monsoon rains came down just before the pre-race check-in on Friday night, setting up tents and getting gear ready was a soggy affair with the constant dripping of water through the trees, and the forecast was for scattered storms on race day, too. Of course we all know the race will go on regardless. The usual Hawk Mountain Civil Air Patrol base camp facilities were wonderful, and comfortably familiar. At check-in we get the map and start marking points, copying down from the maps hung on the walls. Eric immediately was focused and very detailed, really paying attention to the elevation of the points, putting together a list of question for the Race Directors to fine tune our race.
At the race meeting, Race Directors Brian Reiss and Derek Lawrence were clearly thrilled with the racecourse they had planned, and they set a fun and upbeat mood for the next day. Morning arrives, and Team NYARA totally missed the 6 am meeting, clueless, never heard the loudspeakers calling for us – fortunately we didn’t miss anything other than taking attendance. Then we hopped on the buses for an hour ride to the town of Tamaqua for the race start.
After a short prologue to spread out the teams, the race starts on bike, in a hidden gem of technical singletrack park that hosts some local Mt Bike races. There are no checkpoints in here, instead the course is marked with blue arrows and flagging, sending us up down and all around, full of alley-oops, and up and overs, some a little too dicey with wet roots and drops. Altogether very fun if you like Mt biking. Ultimately, the only checkpoint we were going for was M1 sitting atop the ridge. Once on the ridge, it looks like a 6k double track to the west, plus a road ride with serious elevation. Or, as we checked out when studying the map on Friday night, the other option was instead to bomb down to town and take the level road across the valley to TA1. The problem was that after following the marked course on the way up, I was turned around and unsure of the descent. Eric had a good feeling for it, and when Team REV3 went blowing by us on the downhill with the same plan, that locked in our decision to head back to town.
After cruising through the valley, we were the second team to arrive at TA1. TA1 sat in a saddle between 2 highpoints to the east and west. The next part of the race consisted of 2 optional foot sections, ‘A’ and ‘B’, each with 7 checkpoints, set up on those highpoints. When studying the map, Eric decided to start with ‘B’ as the terrain was more obvious. Eric takes off like the wind, I did my best in here, but my legs were burning on the endless uphill. Picture a mountain goat teamed with an old Galapagos tortoise. Once we reached the plateau, the navigation needs to kick in – we are looking for a minor saddle 1k west, and the saddle is so minor, and the ridge so broad, we were afraid of missing it. Fortunately, Eric nailed it right on, and we kept going. Eric’s pace counting was fabulous through the course of the race, of the 3 long stretches that he counted, the most he was off was by 5 steps. Yeah, just 5.
We collected 6 of the 7 CP’s in section B before we heard voices in the woods behind us, we tried to scurry up the next hill to stay hidden, but tortoises don’t scurry, and soon after we were caught by 3 teams, including GOALS. For the first time in my life, my hamstrings cramped and that pain just stopped me in my tracks. (My thanks to Val who shared some electrolyte tabs so I could keep moving). I was discouraged at this point because I knew Eric could be flying out ahead, but he was a fabulous teammate, he never gave up on me, and he picked some decent lines that I could follow. We grabbed the last CP and started the descent back down to the TA. We had to strategize here – do we try for anything on the ‘A’ side? Most other top teams were going for all or part of the ‘A’ loop, the phrase “staying competitive” was tossed around quite a bit. But it was a major hill climb to get up there, and my legs were already tired. And we were only halfway through the race – we still had the paddle on the river (if it had any water this year was still unknown), and a very long one direction trek to get back to the finish. We decided to skip ‘A’, go directly to the paddle, and concentrate on the Optional points on the long trek back, hoping that the clock would work against any team who took too long up there on loop ‘A’. Foreshadowing of things to come…
We arrived first at the paddle and were pleased to find enough water to float our boat, so off we went. With only 2 bodies in the boat, we did make it over most shallow spots, and finished the paddle in about 1 hour, way ahead of the 2 hours we planned for. Now I’m feeling guilty that perhaps I should have pushed the hill for the ‘A’ loop, but it’s too late now. Eric reset his altimeter, and we headed off for 3k on the road, then back into the woods we go. The 3 optional points in this section were tricky, set on vague state gameland boundaries and vegetation boundaries. F3 was set at post 20 on the vegetation boundary, and the elevation just wasn’t working. After looking around for a bit, we decided to skip it, go get F1, then come back at F3 from another angle. F1 was no picnic either, and as a navigator I would have walked away from this one, but Eric was determined and cool, and did I mention determined? And sure enough, battling though endless rhodo bushes, there it was.
We set out again for F3, and came back to the exact same spot we were before. Now we need to start widening our circle, something isn’t making sense. Ultimately we find the CP 65 feet higher than expected which causes Eric to question the elevation, the altimeter, and the map. But the good side of all the wandering around was we knew that the dotted line on the map indicating a trail was a lie, and on the trip to F1 and back we had also already found the re-entrant up to M8, so Eric was confident as we started the last hill climb. M9 was a beautiful vista off the AT, one of those uber awesome spots where you can see for miles and makes the race pause for a moment. Well, I paused and enjoyed the moment, Eric was checking the map and planning our descent. Off we went, scrambling down an endless major boulder field, Eric estimated 800 meters angling off southwest to hit the trail (it was actually 803 meters to step onto the trail, awesome!). We scrambled down this trail – more like a stream runoff – and popped out by the soybean field just short of home base. When we checked in at M11 around 5:30, they told us we were the first team out of the woods, which was another indication that for some teams that went for the ‘A’ loop, time was not going to be kind. When the Race Director seems relieved to finally see a team emerge from the woods, you know the cutoff time will become a determining factor in the results.
For Team NYARA to finish, we had one last bushwhack up and over. What we didn’t know was REV3 was right behind us, and instead of the bushwhack they decided to run the flat road around. As Eric and I skirted the active shooting range, heading downhill for the finish, we heard cheering up ahead as REV3 arrived first overall, AND clearing the course. Team NYARA came across the line as the 2nd team to finish, but short of points from the ‘A’ loop. Now it was wait and see who else could get in before the cutoff, and how many points they would carry.
Outside of the race clock, the Obstacle course was open for 1 additional bonus point, and it is just too much fun to miss! My teammate really stepped in to help get my sorry exhausted depleted body up the rope climb, and over the 6 foot wall, I had every good intention but I was so maxxed out I fell off the rope swing into the mud puddle, and I didn’t care one bit!
We found some food and chilled out, and waited. And waited. The clock ticked on. Where is everyone? In the end, only 10 teams that started the race made it in by cutoff. Our closest competition in C2 came in with 1 extra point, but too late, so they lost the point and tied our number. Team NYARA won with a faster time, 1st place in Co-ed 2 division, and 4th overall. Other teams missed points and/or the race cut-off because of the length and toughness of that last trek section, and spending too much time on the ‘A’ and ‘B’ loops early in the day. Strategically, we balanced out what my legs could handle with Eric’s sharp navigating, and it ended up to be a really good call. It was an honor to race with him, just to watch a good navigator navigate was cool, and he knew I was doing my best to keep up, and that I was determined to keep moving. And another of my favorite things is the time spent after the race reviewing the course with other teams, swapping stories and laughing. We agreed up front to have fun with the race, and we certainly did!
High fives to Aaron Courain and John Courain for taking 1st overall with an awesome showing, and to GOALS for winning the 3 person supreme divine category also clearing the course.