Race Report: The Longest Day

Cara Guilfoyle, Mikal Davis and Brice Wilson recently competed in NYARA’s The Longest Day 24 hour race. Cara chimes in this time with her thoughts on the race.

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From Cara:

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TLD was one of the most well organized races I have done. The course was challenging, lots of elevation, and very well planned. We started with a O section where we had 2 different maps with 4 checkpoints each and could divide up. Brice took the one with the more challenging appearing optional points, and Mikal and I took the 4 mandatory ones. I was pretty much doing the nav and we quickly got lost! We were convincing ourselves that we were at the right cliff and rock wall but the checkpoint just wasn’t there. We eventually went back out to the road for a point of reference and, while we were SO close to the the right trail, we took the wrong unmarked trail! once again no checkpoint, we went back one more time to the road and it started making sense. Once we were on the right trail, we quickly found the right cliff and after finding the checkpoint, found the final 3 without difficulty. We figured Brice would be waiting for us at the TA like, “what took you two so long?” But we all ended up getting there at the same time, he got turned around on the first one as well. We probably lost about 20 min.

From there we headed out to do some very nice mountain biking and eventually to the Hudson River to paddle. The paddle went well, no teams passed us. The rain started on the paddle at about 1pm and kept up till about 8pm. After the paddle we hit some serious elevation on foot (climbed 4 mountains) and were neck and neck with half way there for several checkpoints. We would pass, then they would pass then we would think we lost them, then they would pop up out of nowhere again. Eventually they passed us. We transitioned to bike at TA 4 and biked on a rocky/hilly multi use trail and roads to TA 5. We got there around 8pm to do a foot O. It was interesting because there were about 20 optional CP’s that you could get either at this time (from the north) or later in the race on the final foot section (from the south). We opted to get 5 checkpoints now and get the rest later.

When we finished, Goals and Rev 3 were the only ones out before us and they did the same thing so that was reassuring. From here we headed out onto a rather painful LONG ride (the one I was looking forward to the whole time, I should have known better) peppered with occasional checkpoints. You know its going to be bad when theres a street sign that says “steep incline ahead”. We climbed for what seemed like forever. The 30 miles took us I think 5 or 6 hours, this part is somewhat of a blur. We did hit up some drunk campers for water, they were awesome! We eventually reached the final TA to get ready for the final foot section. We switched gear around and went inside to warm up, look at the map, eat and drink.

We left there around 3:30 AM. We were all ready to get a bunch of those optional checkpoints when we found ourselves sinking (literally) in a swamp, the wrong swamp at that. I just remember Brice climbing a tree to get out of the hole he got stuck in and yelling go the other way! And Mikal’s light going up and down as he kept sinking and falling, they didn’t think it was very funny, but it was quite a scen. We then spent at least 2 hours bushwhacking through dense brush searching for a trail, ANY trail, because we had no idea where we were. We made an educated decision on which direction to head in and just went. By 6am we found a trail, and by 6:30 the sun came up and we found where we were on the trail. We were now back on track. We had 2.5 hrs to get as many of those optional CP’s as possible and get back to the finish. We ended up getting 4 more CP’s before heading in.

Overall it was a challenging race in many ways, weather, elevation, navigation. At the same time it was very satisfying in that through these adversities, we undoubtedly grew stronger as a team. I am looking forward to nationals!

A few thoughts from her teammates:

From Brice:

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Remember the last time I made a two-hour nav mistake? It was during the monster foot section of Infiterra’s 2006 Michigan Coast-to-Coast. I still remember the clue: “third depression.” Why do I remember that with such specificity? Because you don’t forget two-hour nav mistakes. At TLD this year, I made a 2hr 15min mistake that I will simply name “the confused bushwhack.” This mistake alone probably cost us 3-5 optional points. I’ll spare you the details. The main takeaway was that I had awesome teammates. Despite how disappointing this was, Mikal and Cara trusted their navigator. They knew I was trying as hard as I could to get us back on track. This ordeal was pretty unpleasant, and took place at a time of night when people are usually at their lowest… but they were always right behind me. Attitude is everything in this sport, and at times like this, it makes a real difference. Thanks guys.

Rodney and Amy, thanks so much for creating such a challenging and thoughtful event – it was awesome. Do me just one favor for next time: please cut out the 2hr 15min section where we wander aimlessly through swampy woods in the middle of the night.

From Mikal:

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The course was very well organized and the constant rain added another dimension of adventure! We started the race with some straightforward foot and bike sections, lost a little time with small nav errors, but all in all held a good pace and had fast transitions. Once on the water, we quickly found our rhythm and without any CPs to look for, lowered our heads and knocked out the rainy 12 mile upstream paddle. Cara and I both became acquainted with the art of peeing while kayaking and Brice apparently missed out. Maybe next time?

It was a great race, interesting course and very cold weather. All in all a great tune up for nationals and a good confidence builder for me personally since I didn’t bonk, held a good pace and was still feeling good enough to tow at 7 in the morning! Thanks Cara and Brice for the good times and thanks to NYARA (Rodney, Amy, Denise and all the volunteers) for a great race. Cant wait to race it again next year!

Great job Team NYARA — we are looking forward to seeing you all compete at Nationals.

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Race Report: Lion Heart

Congrats to Team NYARA for another strong perfomrance! This time at AAS Lionheart. Team Captain, Eric Caravella has the following report.
 
Over the weekend, Team NYARA took a trip out to Western Pennsylvania to race the 24hr AAS Lionheart. The team was Cara Guilfoyle, Mikal Davis, with your humble writer Eric Caravella deciphering maps (sometimes well, sometimes poorly… but more on that later). We rented a cabin near the race start, and Cara’s husband Gregg came to show his support. He made us dinner the night before the race, for which he earned a dozen gold stars. Here’s a pic of Gregg killing it on the camp stove:
 
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Having Gregg as support crew turned out to be very fortunate for us, because otherwise we may have found ourselves dining at this weird local establishment:
 
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There was some discussion about why there is mustard all over Joe’s face in the sign (and whether or not it’s even mustard). Just another reminder that we were deep in Pennsyltucky for the weekend.
 
At check in, AAS provided us with roughly the first 8 hours of checkpoints with more info to be provided mid-race. We packed our bags, discussed our strategy, stuffed our faces, and tried to get some sleep.
 
Then came race morning:
 
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There was no prologue, so everyone dashed off and arrived at CP1 together. We tried a couple of bushwhack shortcuts to get to 2 and 3, but they turned out not to pay off quite as well as we’d hoped. During these bushwhacks, Mikal discovered the “Devil Plants” indigenous to Western PA. Since he was the only one in shorts, Cara and I had no idea why he was complaining so much. Apparently whatever they were, the leaves irritated his legs as he trekked through them. Based on his description, Cara did some research and discovered the species:
 
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The “Devil Plants” became a recurring theme throughout the race, much to Mikal’s chagrin. 
 
We arrived at the paddle put-in roughly 30 minutes behind the leaders but in a dead heat with Odyssey. The paddle was slower than expected, and we got hung up on rocks several times. But our all-star support crew (aka, Gregg) miraculously appeared on the riverbank and was able to snap a photo of us:
 
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We lost another 30 minutes to the leaders during the paddle and the subsequent jog to the rappel, but were entertained along the way by the “Amish Armada” of whitewater rafts floating everywhere down the Youghiogheny. Apparently there was an enormous group of Amish out for a day on the river, and they were just having a grand old time splashing one another and getting stuck on rocks just like us. It was nice to have some company on the river for those long paddling hours.
 
The rappel was preceded by a slackline traverse across the river:
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mikal slackline
 
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Then we rapped off the ledge to the left of Cucumber Falls:
 
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Then an amazingly confusing trail run/bushwhack took us back to the start, which was also CP9/TA3, but most importantly…where we found out what the rest of the course had in store for us. We came in at the exact same time as Odyssey. The second part of the race was a long bike leg with 8 CPs and a couple nasty looking bushwhacks. Mikal and Cara were very efficient through the TA as always, we developed a great strategy for the bike leg and set off. It was going very well for the first 6 CPs… we were working extremely well as a team and everyone was feeling pretty good. We took a chance on a trail not on the map and it paid off big time, and we found two of the tricky bushwhack CPs with little problem. We were in good spirits and on track to clear the course in 20 hours for a potential podium finish…..
 
Then…. adventure racing happened. We had to hike a huge hill to get the second to last CP. It would have been possible to ride our bikes off the other side of the hill to cut a little distance after grabbing the CP, but I made the call to leave our bikes at the bottom and come back for them to save energy on the climb. It was supposed to be a quick up and down, but when we got to the top it became apparent that the trail network was far more confusing than the maps suggested. We ran into Odyssey once again, but they had their bikes with them. It turned out to be the right call, because they were able to scout the area much quicker than we could on foot. I rushed my decision and took the trail in the wrong direction. We hiked it for what seemed like ages, hoping that each turn in the trail would reveal the CP or at least some feature that made sense. We ultimately decided to backtrack to where we started, when I knew exactly where we were. We managed to find the correct trail in a matter of minutes and went and grabbed the CP. GOALS passed us at this point, also on their bikes, and we knew we slipped a bit in the rankings. But we forged on, and went back to our bikes. We managed to grab the final CP with little problem and turned toward the finish.
 
And then the pain came. The final climb to the finish covered 1200 vertical feet in just 6 kilometers. Cara was battling severe chafing, and Mikal was battling the bonks, complete with nausea and dehydration. But they were champs and pushed through. Our pace was slow in the end, but we helped each other make the finish line with all CPs in just under 22 hours. Our rank was 5th in the Coed Elite division and 5th overall.
 
While our results weren’t quite what we hoped for, we had fun and would do it all over again. American Adventure Sports put on a great race, and Ohiopyle State Park was beautiful. The race was a lesson in maintaining focus and managing pace, but it was also a lesson in teamwork and the value of appreciating your companions. We all learned something from the Lionheart, not the least of which was how much we enjoyed racing together.
 
Boy, that was cheesy. Luckily we have Cara to close out the report with her thoughts:
 
“Overall this was a great race with a great team. I haven’t done a 24AR in about 4 years, so I knew this might be a challenge and at a high pace (Eric demonstrated the fastest bushwhacking pace I have ever seen and Mikal is a rocket on the runs!) Eric and Mikal were nothing but helpful and supportive. We came together as a team and I would think that we accomplished more together than we would have as individuals. We ran into some problems at the end of the race, but we will learn very much from our issues/mistakes. We supported each other well and will apply what we learned in the future. I am really proud of the work we did out there 🙂 Thanks guys for getting me through, you were both inspirational, loved racing with you and can’t wait for the next one!”