October 07, 2012

Rider Bio - Jeff Dickey

        Racing Age in 2012

        5’8” – 165lbs

        Gilmanton, New Hampshire

        Current Location
        Arlington, Virginia

        Attorney/Federal Agent/Investigator

        Favorite Trail
        Locally, the Montgomery County Epic Loop; Outside of the Mid-Atlantic, just about anything in Colorado

        Favorite Race
        While it’s no longer in existance, the 24 Hours of Canaan was my favorite race.  Currently, my favorite event is the Breckenridge 100 – incredible singletrack and a great vacation!

        Best Race Result
        2007 Master’s Short Track National Champion

        Mountain Bike Advocacy (trail work, rider leader, etc)
        Working on local trails in the VA/MD area

        Limar Carbon Ultralight – the lightest helmet in the world!  It fits great and just disappears on your head.

        My current favorites are my Optic Nerve Quazeye.  They have red mirrored lenses that work great in all light conditions and reduce eye fatigue

        Scott MTB Team Carbon Shoe.  Incredibly comfortable, yet stiff.  They feel like slippers on my feet.

        Other items you ride with
        I always ride with my Prestaratchet mini-ratchet tool.  It’s very lightweight and gets into spots that other tools can’t.  For bigger rides, I’ll bring along a Crankbrothers Multi-17 for even more tools.  I also have a Genuine Innovations Ultrainflate that accepts both threaded and unthreaded (bb gun cartridges).  It’s never let me down.

        Scott Scale 29er RC – Size Medium

        RockShox SID XX with a 15mm Thru Axle – it tracks great, has lots of tuning options and is light

        Ritchey Pro

        Front Derailleur
        SRAM XX – I added a piece of an ESI grip to the top of the cage and zip tied it in place to fill up the extra space so my chain doesn’t bounce off the big ring.

        Rear Derailleur
        SRAM XX – Awesome design that lets me run big/big chainring combinations

        SRAM XX

        SRAM XX World Cup

        Crankset and gearing
        SRAM XX – 39x26 gearing (perfect for a 29er) – with Crankskins crank protective tape (necessary for carbon crankarms)

        Truvative World Cup – I’ve used these for several years and keep using them becuase I’m comfortable on them and the sweep angle fits what I need for a proper bike fit

        ESI Racer’s Edge – By far the best grips available.  Look at any of the photos of racers in World Cup events and most are using these grips.  There are many a reasons why.  They reduce hand fatigue from vibration, are grippy even when wet, and don’t spin on the bars.

        Ritchey WCS C260 80mm – It’s a new design this year that prevents overclamping lightweight carbon handlebars (and it’s only 103 grams)

        Crankbrothers Eggbeater 11 – I started using these pedals last fall in cyclocross and was impressed with how well they worked.  I had used another brand of pedals for nearly 10 years, but I’m glad I made the switch

        Fizik Gobi 00 – Braided Carbon rails – Very lightweight, but still very durable and comfortable

        Stan’s 330 – Stock hubs on Stan’s Gold wheelset – I can switch axle sizes in minutes on these wheels and accommodate different bikes
        I also use a PowerTap Disc rear wheel with a Stan’s Crest rim for training to monitor power.  I’ve used wattage as a training tool on my road bike for multiple years and it’s good to keep following it on my mtb.

        KMC X10SL – Gold – If you’re using another brand of chain, you’re paying too much for inferior quality.  Plus, the gold color looks awesome.

        Cassette and gearing
        SRAM XX – 12-36 cassette – Lightweight and durable

        Stan’s Crest 29 – Lightweight all year round wheels

        Continental X-King Protection 29x2.2 – Durable, fast rolling and set up tubeless very easily

        Water Bottle Cages
        Arundel – I’ve never lost a bottle out of one of these cages

        I use a Simple Strap from ByeKyle to attach my CO2 canisters and spare tube to my seatpost.  It’s a lightweight and efficient means of attachment and I’ve never lost a tube.  Plus, you can use the strap to cinch things down if you ever are in trouble in the woods (like a cut sidewall – a frieind got himself out of the woods by clamping down his tire after he cut open a sidewall)

        Total Bike Weight
        21 lbs

October 05, 2012

2012 Checkpoint Tracker Adventure Race National Championships

Date: September 28/29
Location: Oak Hill, WVa.
Conditions: 50s-70s - rain for 20+ hours - mud, puddles, brambles, jumping fish
Disciplines: Orienteering, river rafting (Class III-V rapids), riverboarding (Class I-II/III rapids), trekking/trail running, mountain biking
Distance: Approx 100 miles - up to 28 hours to complete
Place: 4th, Co-Ed Elite
Food: 22 GU packets; 12 nuun tablets

Last Thursday, I made the 6 hour drive from DC to the New River Gorge area of West Virginia for the 2012 Checkpoint Tracker Adventure Race National Championships.  I chugged Nuun throughout the drive to get myself well hydrated and topped up on electrolytes for the upcoming 28 hour race.

I was moonlighting with the Rev3/Mountain Khakis, a team I used to race with more consistently, but now I sometimes race with in either the winter/early spring or fall.

I've been adventure racing for about 10 years now, so it's not too bad to just jump into a long distance event without much prep work.  I've done some races with limited training, and still survived, but those kind of events hurt.  Here's a writeup from one of those type events:  http://www.zdap.com/racereports/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=5014

Luckily for me, I was going into the Checkpoint Tracker Adventure Race National Championships with more preparation and a heck of a lot better fitness!

The long range weather for the Checkpoint Tracker Adventure Race National Championships looked great, with mild temperatures and only a few showers forecast -- we were sadly let down as it rained for more than 75% of the race.

Collecting gear (and teammates) seemed to be a the biggest challenge for this event.  One of the discplines was riverboarding.  Riverboards are hard to come by, and the place the team had ordered them from, still hadn't delivered on the order, despite ordering them 3-weeks before the race.  We ended up with 3 good riverboards for a team of 4...

I decided to race this event on my good race bike, my Scott Scale RC.  I usually raced adventure races on my nearly 17 year old 26 inch hardtail (transport of bikes between checkpoints by race management in a big box van can sometimes be rough on bikes), but after switching to 29er wheels this year, I couldn't stand going back.

Just before the pre-race meeting Thursday night, I met up with my teammates, Dave Ashley (an Air Force Lt. Colonel stationed in Florida), with whom I'd raced a bunch of times before and new teammates Julie Lee (from Tennessee; new to adventure racing, but a good athlete) and Bev Richardson (from Charlottesville, VA; also new to adventure racing (through she'd done one 4 day event earlier in 2012), but with a strong endurance racing background).

L-R - Jeff, Julie, Dave, Bev
We had a short gear check to test our ability to use a safety throw rope in the water:

Dave, aiming for the fences...
At the pre-race meeting after our gear check, the race director, Ronnie Angell, ENTHUSIASTICALLY (yes, he has a very loud voice and he's totally amped up all the time!) filled us in generally about the course and said he didn't believe that any team could clear all of the mandatory checkpoints on the course as well as getting all the optional checkpoints (one team proved him wrong).

At 5:30 Friday morning, we woke to torrential rain and headed to the start area to get our maps. Dave (our team captain and navigator) began plotting out routes between the checkpoints and I helped out when I  arrived.

Route plotting
 The race would go generally like this:
  • 12 mile raft down the Class III-IV/V world class whitewater of the lower Gauley River (the fall is when there are dam releases on the Gauley and it earns its reputation as one of the top 10 whitewater rivers in the world)
  • A long trek (maybe 13 miles) out of the Gauley River valley to collect up checkpoints and end up at our mountain bikes
  • Ride 15 or so miles out of the New River valley to a 5k time trial (to be done on foot) 
  • Ride through a trail network and end up at the orienteering point (another 20-22 miles)
  • At the orienteering section, we could each split up and find any of the 8 checkpoints (a change from any other race I've been to where the rules are normally that all teammates need to stay within 100m of each other the entire time). We were required to get at least one of the 8 points to stay ranked.
  • After orienteering, we could either bike or run to get more checkpoints on our way to the riverboarding segment about 8 miles away (we chose to ride half way, then trek) 
  • Start the riverboarding (9 miles down flatwater and Class I-II/III whitewater on the New River) between 7-9am.  If we missed the 9am cutoff, we would no longer be an officially ranked team.
  • After the riverboard, trek or bike back to the finish, getting more orienteering checkpoints along the way.  As we'd decided to ride and drop our bikes in the deep woods, we'd trek from the riverboarding section to get our bikes, then ride to the finish.
  • 28 hours to complete the course, collecting all of the mandatory checkpoints and as many optional checkpoints as possible.  The team with the most optional checkpoints would be the winner (and a tie broken by which team completed the course the fastest)
Our race strategy was steady and strong; let other teams burn themselves out in the first 10-15 hours of the race while we were careful about navigation and conserved energy for the final 10-15 hours of the race.

Getting our mandatory paddling gear - helmets are not as nice or as light as those from Limar!
At the start - L-R - Dave, Julie, Bev, Jeff
The first leg, whitewater rafting, did not go well.  We were in a 9 man raft (with fellow racers from Team Halfway There) and drew a guide who didn't seem very with it.  Prior to the 10:30am start, other guides were provided their racers with advice on how to paddle, swim out of the rapids if they fell out of the boat, etc. and our guide was no where to be found.  He finally showed up 5 minutes before the start and asked if there was a race or something going on....

The Gauley - we rafted the Lower Gauley
Ours seemed to be one of the fastest boats on the flatwater sections, but lost tons of time after getting hung up on rocks, repeatedly.  Our intrepid guide (I think he was stoned), had to get out of the boat multiple times to try and lift the raft over the rocks.  This, after being warned repeatedly not to stand up in the river because of the risk of foot entrapment.

So, by the finish of the raft section, we were already a couple of minutes late.  

We quickly transitioned out of our wetsuits (lots of naked adventure racers on that beach doing the same thing!), grabbed out packs and set off in the pouring rain for a long slog to our mountain bikes.  

Copyright Chris Radcliffe http://www.chrisradcliffephotography.com/
After a seemingly endless climb out of the Gauley river valley, we finally got to the first checkpoint and drew first blood on the tons of brambles separating us from the point.

From the first point, we cruised down a long ridgeline descent to get another point and then out of the woods at the Hawksnest Overlook where we'd take trails all the way to out mountain bikes.  

Checking in at CP4
Heading out for more trekking
We trekked under some cool climbing walls (dripping with rain) down to the river, then back up a railroad grade path to our mountain bikes.  I was so glad to get on my bike!

On the first descent, we had our first mechanical issue when Dave's Lupine light battery came un-velcroed from his bike and jumped into the river next to the road.  Darn.  Those batteries are expensive.  We spent 5 minutes looking for it and had to keep going.  Shortly, thereafter Julie's seat bolts came loose.  That was a quick fix, with my Prestaratchet.  I got to carry all of the team's cycling gear (spare tubes, tools, repair kit, etc.), so having such a small multi-tool was something I was glad to have!

The next segment was on a wet, muddy and rocky trail that followed the contours of a bluff near the New River.  We made good time through the mud, puddles and brambles, crossed the New River and made a great route choice to cut off a long distance by climbing to the top of the bluff via some stairs Dave knew about, rather than riding a long distance around and to the top.

On the ride to the the base of the stairs, Julie had started to get a bad calf cramp.  We pumped her full of nuun and salty foods and hoped that would do the trick.

Worse luck struck at the bottom of the stairs as Julie realized one of her running shoes had fallen out during the mountain bike section.  She'd have to continue with her mountain bike shoes over the next 15-20 miles of trekking...

I had a rough time at the start of the time trial.  While enduring strong verbal pressure from Dave to get to the start (I was having trouble ditching all the team's bike stuff that I was carrying for everyone, and get my running shoes on), I left the passport at the bike drop.  I ran back to get it, then back to the team, where I realized I'd checked in at the start of the time trial, but not gotten our passport signed.  We all had to run back to the start.  Not good...

We took it easy through the TT and got back to our bikes to head out for another long mountain bike leg.

Good luck followed us, and another team (Howler Monkeys) found Julie's shoe and carried it all the way to the TT start.  Awesome!  Plus, all of the nuun and salty foods seemed to have worked and the cramp was gone.

The next mountain bike section started out on a network of well constructed trails and we all had some fun riding the swooping berms and fast, well drained terrain.  We then headed into the deepening fog, down a mountain road with a significant cliff drop to one side to get to the next transition area.

Just before reaching the next transition area, Dave's rear tire suffered a large cut from a rock.  I tried to boot the tire with a GU wrapper and install my spare tube, but found my spare also had a hole.  

I pulled out my secret cycling repair weapon, rubber toughened super glue, and patched both the sliced tire and tube within 5 minutes and we were off and rolling again, getting to the orienteering transition area around 1:00am.

Happily, my Stan's Crest wheels and Conti X-King and Race King tires rolled fast and were flat free during the full event.  Another flat would have been tough to fix, but after a full season of no flats (thank you Stan's!), I felt pretty confident in my setup.

At the orienteering transition area, we had a full gear check.  I haven't seen one of these in a race before.  I've always tried to carry all the mandatory gear in AR races, but never been checked on all of the gear before.  It made me happy that everyone was going to be held to the rules of the event and everyone needed to carry the same stuff (and not shade the rules...).

As we were able to split up, Dave and Bev headed out to get some of the harder points (Dave is a good nighttime navigator, but I'm not and Julie and Bev have limited navigation experience), while me and Julie headed out to find 2 easier points.  We would all try and meet back at the transition area by 3am.  

The map was tough to follow.  Julie and I dutifully pace counted what should be the right distance to the checkpoints, but still ended up hunting around in the dark and heavy fog for nearly two hours.  We got one of the two points.  Dave and Bev got 3 of the 6 they set out to find.

From the transition area, we had about 3 hours to get to the riverboard section, so we headed out on our bikes and immediately found ourselves hiking up a 1 mile long climb strewn with rocks.  At the summit, we entered a maze of dirt roads, 2-3 foot deep puddles and mud, picking up one checkpoint and hunting through heavy brambles for 40 minutes, unsuccessfully, for another.

Finally, we ditched our bikes in the woods around 6:00am and trekked to the start of the 9 mile riverboard/swim down the New River.

Gearing up for the swim

The section of river that we'd swim was mostly flat water, interspersed with some small rapids.  The water level was very low and the water was not moving very fast.  So, we'd have to kick a lot with our swim fins to keep moving.

Dave, getting ready to jump in the water

Paddling away downriver
I drew the short straw and got the makeshift riverboard - two duct-taped together boogie-boards.  The boards rode low in the water and I hit nearly every rock on the way down the river.

While on the river, we saw some birds (a bunch of kingfishers, and one massive hawk) and very large fish that kept jumping out of the water.  Other than that, it was a monotonous swim for nearly 3 hours.  While kicking downriver, several teammates fell asleep.  Dave drifted off while still kicking, and Bev interspersed kicking with naps (she would have killed all of us had she continued at her normal pace - long distance swim training really paid off on this section of the race).  

Photo Copyright Chris Radcliffe Photography - http://radcliffe.photoshelter.com/
Finally, we crawled out of the water and faced another 5-8 mile trek back to our bikes.  We collected a few points along the way, slogged through some heavy brambles, slipped through large muddy puddles, out ran some vicious dogs and stumbled our way onto our bikes.  We were all getting tired and snappish...

Dave's prior race knowledge helped us to navigate the trails leading back to the finish.  We collected three points and decided to go for a fourth one with only 30 minutes left before the finish of the race.  If we didn't make the finish by 2:30pm, we would be unranked and all of our effort would be for naught.

Luckily (and more as a result of Dave's good planning), we easily collected the last point and rolled down a fast downhill to cross the finish line with 25 minutes to spare.  Whew!

I hadn't been running much before this race, so it took a big toll on my legs.  And as I'd done no upper body work for most of the summer, the rafting segment was pure torture.  I also ended up with the start of some trenchfoot and got a bunch of blisters - my feet were white and pruned from spending 27.5 hours either rafting, swimming, running or cycling in wet shoes and socks.

We worked well as a team, and Dave guided us through some very difficult navigation to our 4th place finish.

I guess that's the end of my adventure racing for 2012.  Time for the off season of cyclocross and orienteering racing.

Here's the track from Strava for the part where my Garmin had batteries (I put it in a plastic bag and left it in my pack for the race):

- Jeff