Race: Race the Ridge
Date: November 4th 2017
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Rider: Jessica Kutz and her partner in the race Michael
Results: 1st place co-ed team
After racing the Buff Betty in September, I got in my head that I wanted to tackle a bigger adventure race. It’s a fun way to stay in shape for mountain bike season and a great outlet from work in the Fall. In my opinion, there is no better time to be outside. Something about the smell of leaves and cool temperatures warms my soul! I knew Race the Ridge, which was a 15 hour adventure race requiring elite level navigation, was not a race I could do alone (remember my team name for the Buff Betty race was “Directionally Challenged.”) Lucky for me I was able to talk my two adventure racing buddies, Michael and Barry, into racing. This adventure race was only mountain biking and trekking/running, which is helpful for me because I’m crap in the boat. I watched the forecast all week leading up to the event and came to the conclusion it would rain a little bit in the afternoon, no big deal. Whelp, as per usual the weather man (or woman) threw me for a loop. Instead we got rain the majority of the day!
The race kicked off at 6am sharp (we were almost late for the start!). After a short prologue run we jumped on the bikes, riding trails at the Blue Ridge School via lights. The Blue Ridge School is a private all boys boarding school outside of Charlottesville, VA and they have an amazing trail network that they open up to the public (THANK YOU!) The temperature was reasonable and the weather at the time was dry. We rode a big climb to a trail called “Moonshine”. I was warned this trail may or may not be the best downhill on the east coast! The race was perfectly timed so that we were hitting the peak of the ridge at sunrise and riding the sweet, flowing trails of Moonshine by the first mornings light!
Michael's navigation was on point the whole race. We quickly hurried through the early check points, holding the lead for all teams. We had a grueling 8 mile climb to the highest privately owned peak in VA, Flattop mountain. On the way up the mountain we had a checkpoint in a winery….no wine though! The weather started going south while we were on a trekking section at the top of the mountain. The next thing I knew I had all my clothes on (including my rain shell) and I was struggling to stay warm. It was going to be a long day. The race seemed to chug along, lots of riding…little bits of trekking, all the while getting more and more cold (we were already soaked at this point).
Moral was lifted when we got to some special private mountain bike trails not generally open to the public. Thank you to the owners of Blue Ridge Cyclery for opening up the trails on their home properties for us to ride! Just after finishing these sweet trails, mother nature opened her soul and we were getting poured on. We made it to a check point at a cabin that had volunteers where our team gathered ourselves as the weather worsened. At this point in the race I was graced with a Honey Stinger Waffle, a sip o’ beer and a trash bag for added warmth! Those three items are probably the reason I was able to finish the race! After a foot trekking session, we were headed back to the Blue Ridge School. At this point we had been racing for 12 hours; I was cold and couldn’t feel my hands and I could feel myself emotionally losing it. I rode ahead of the guys on my team and had a few minutes to myself to generate some extra body heat while pedaling hard and to get myself together. I wasn’t going to freeze, I was just really cold…time to move faster.
When we got back to the school head lamps were on and we were out for the final trekking session. We struggled finding a few of these checkpoints. Probably a combination of it being 13 hours into the race, cold/dark and pouring rain. We were getting pummeled with rain and before I knew it we were concerned about not making it back by the 9pm cuff off. We quickly shuffled our way back to the finish with 10 minutes to spare.
This is the first time we’ve not cleared a course (acquiring all the checkpoints), but given the weather we were pretty pleased with our performance as a team. We snagged the overall win for the co-ed team division and were the 3rd place finishers out of everyone. Another adventure race in the books and some solid mental training! Thank you Adventure Addicts Racing for another great event!