Thursday, August 24 2006 @ 08:20 AM EDT Contributed by: bobcat Views: 807
My report from Jay! Pics to follow
The Jay Challenge is a 3 day stage event in Jay, VT. 90 brave souls started this 26 mile kayak, 31.5 mile trail run, and the 68 mile bike ride. Each day the event was also open to mortals to join the “challengers” for the day’s event. It was the middle day for the 31.5 mile marathon that Taz, Gilly, and I were going to attempt. Yaz was there with a few of his nawth friends and another runner from Chapel Hill, Keith Houk, but due to health reasons Yaz was the support man.
Day 2 of the challenge was the marathon and it was going to be the hottest day of the week when I was in VT sunny and in the 90’s with 90 plus % humidity. During the week, I got to speak with the RD Dan and learned that he was the former North American Orienteering champion and this was his new hobby since retiring from racing. I learned that the French Canadian, had a sick sense of humor. This proved true when we finally got on the course. Also during the week, I had done some scouting, but never thought it would be as tough a challenge as it proved to be.
The race meeting started at 7:45, with our French Canadian host giving the 350 or so runners that made it to the start (150 no shows) the rules to follow and professing that we would suffer under the conditions and the course. At precisely 8 am Jay, VT time we were told to GO! The start was a mad dash up a 50 yard incline to a flat that lead us to a logging road, at about the ¾ mile mark, was the first minor mud pit which would prove to be a theme throughout this race. The trail quickly narrowed to a bottleneck that was added to spread the field out. It was a steep climb that required ropes to pull yourself up the hill. This early in the race, this was fine conversations and jokes were plenty. Once up the 2 rope climbs, we were treated to a logging road / trial that were unable, but became very muddy at numerous places. Let me define muddy now. Ever see a kid playing in the yard with rich black soil and a garden hose? The water on top makes for a nice mud soup, well that describes the mud at Jay. Oh yeah, it was deep and shoe sucking strong. By the time we all emerged from this first mile, no one had clean shoes or legs below the knee.
After passing AS #1 we started to climb toward the 3900 foot mount Jay. However, before we arrived at the base of the mountain, we were forced into a nice cool riverbed where we were forced to “run” up the riverbed for around ¾ of a mile on the wet slippery rocks. This was interesting and fun watching folks try to move fast, only to fall or hit a deep spot and get stuck. My plan was to pick a line and go slow. Once through this we headed to the base of Jay Peak for AS#2 and a change of shoes to climb the peak. We were greeted by my family and the familiar faces are always encouraging during these events. The climb was long and steep at times. We basically had to walk the entire way up. At about the half way mark, we entered a cloud that hung over the mountain all day and reduced our line of sight at times to 10 feet. We climbed to the summit to AS#3, which was cold and completely cloud covered. We couldn’t see a thing up there! Gilly and I were now ready to attack the downhill portion. The plan was to take it easy going down so as not to trash our legs for the rest of the run. Well the trail sign with the 3 arrows pointing down broke that plan, we were forced into a quad burning controlled run down the slope, which later smoothed out and became more run able, but not after leaving a fire burning in the legs. From there back to the base of Jay for AS#4.
The first portion of this section was pretty normal, no big mud pits, a few dirt roads and some nice trails in the woods leading back to the town of Jay. However, as we neared the end of the section bringing us to the 18 mile point, we were thrown back into the river for another mile riverbed run! This lead us to AS#5 and the 18 mile point of the race, this is also where the half marathon runners would finish their adventure for the day. I was definitely staring to feel the heat and was holding back to ensure a finish. After the AS, we crossed a pasture, then a creek, then uphill through another pasture, all of which was exposed to the midday heat. After 2.5 miles or so we dropped back down towards the river for the longest river run yet. It was scenic and refreshing, but required us to be very careful with foot placement, and numerous times we needed to sit on the rocks and slide down to get through the rapids. We swam a cross a small deep section and climbed up some rocks only to drop back in to a steep rock section and into more rapids. We crossed through a tunnel under the road that lead us to more rocks, but these were out of the water, and the word trail would be generous at this point. This section along the river was beautiful and covered from the heat, but I was running low on fuel and began to cramp / bonk. We crossed through a swamp and more mud, and then came to a 50 yard river crossing. The plan was to use a guide rope to pull you across. Actually it was fun and very refreshing! I actually wanted to stay there for a while, but needed to press on. Back in to the woods and up to a nice organic blueberry patch to AS#6. This was a bag drop, so I changed my clothes, and shoes again (3rd pair). I tried slamming in food and drink to replenish, but the potato, banana, m&m food supply wasn’t cutting it for me anymore. Fortunately for me my family was there and I was able to get a candy bar and some pretzels to break up the mix.
We headed out again through the woods to what I think was the worst section of the race. We hit an exposed field that we had an endless climb that seemed to never end. It was hot and we were forced to walk. At the top, we finally got a break and were able to get running again. My bonk and subsequent binge had now gotten my stomach turning so I told Gilly to go on and moved slowly along mostly through logging roads, but still pretty muddy at times. Frankly, by this point I didn’t even notice the mud anymore, it was just another part of the trail now. The logging road lead us past some interesting country sights, there was a family with a half built house, some tents a campfire and a pile of garage on the side of the trail at one point and it was pretty weird and I know I wasn’t hallucinating cause others said they saw it too. WE came down to a nice sand pit. This was clearly the place where the kids learned to shoot. There were 2 cars turned over and rusted out, and tons of shot gun shells. Then we got to climb 2 nice big sand dunes, up to a corn field and out to AS#7. At this point we were 3.6 miles to the finish but I was overheated and upon my arrival again found my family and Yaz there waiting and so I grabbed a few ice packs from the car and sat for a few minutes with this on my neck to cool down. Yaz, threw on his pack and offered to run in with me. We set out together starting slowly and alternating running and walking for a few miles. The trail took us through some nice farm fields and then under a powerline to AS#8. One more mile to go. I got excited and my stomach had finally settled, we set off on the trail only to hit another mud hole. This one was nice enough to suck my whole leg into it! I pulled carefully to not cramp or loose a shoe! The first half of this last mile was mud, mud, and more mud. Finally we got to a logging road and we could sense the end. Back to the lodge and down the steep grassy hill to the finish. I saw Gilly, and Taz sitting happily on the side cheering me in for an 8:07 finish.
This was by far tougher than the Uwharrie 40, and toughest race for me ever. Then throw in the heat, and mud for fun.
After getting my legs back under me, a drink, and a hose off. Zap and Leyton found me and that was a fitting end. Zap looked great and was glad to know that she actually finished the race 3 times! Gilly and I had one guy asking us about the pictures during the race ands when we explained it to him it felt good running with Zap.
I would certainly recommend this race for others, but likely wouldn’t do it again. On Sunday, I went to town and watched as the mountain bikers passed and wondered how the Challengers could even manage getting on a bike after that run, never mind that they had 68 miles of trail and at least 3 climbs up Jay Peak before they were done. We went up to the bike finish line around 9 pm on Sunday night (the bike race started at 7am), there were 9 riders still out on the course. The winner of the challenge was just over 18 hours for the 3 events.