May 28-30, 2005
Monongahela National Forest
Seneca Rocks, WV
18 teams set off across the North fork mountain at 06:00 Saturday morning bound for the South Branch of the Potomac River. The paddling outfitter had previously catered an adventure race where racers had carried their own PFDs and assumed this would be the case - unfortunately it was not, and a beautiful 24 mile paddle turned into a nine mile walk to an impromptu T/A along Smoke Hole Road. Being the unflappable lot they are, most racers took it in stride and continued on their bikes, through a sort but treacherous "bikewhack" and then on up, up, up to Dolly Sods.
The lead teams made it across before a summer thunderstorm rolled in, bringing high winds, rain and stinging hail, but it soon blew over and the rest of the teams were able to safely begin their trek to the Timberline ski area.
From Timberline it was back on the bikes and then into the Canaan backcountry where teams experienced every kind of bike riding possible - from technical singletrack to hardpack roads to decrepit jeep trails. After dropping back down of the Canaan backcountry, racers were faced with a decision - a risky ford of the Dry Fork, now running extra strong because of the afternoon storm, or a long road ride around to a bridge. The lead teams took the chance and waded across. Teams farther back in the pack reached the ford after dark, and most, hearing only the rushing waters and not being able to see the other side, detoured around. A little piece of railtrail (and another sketchy ford across a trail washout), and some mostly unridable hiking trail brought them into CP9 after more than 11 hours on the bikes. At this point it was Capital Bicycles, Broke and Team Godspeed/Action-Learning.com, all running a good margin ahead of the rest of the pack, and as most teams took a sleep break, the times between the leaders and the back of the pack really began to stretch out. It was also at this point that some teams, now on an unofficial course, were shuttled ahead by their support crews in order not to miss some of the best elements of the course.
From CP10 all the biking was on either manicured railtrail or gravel roads, and led from CP10, at an elevation of about 860, all the way to Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia, elevation 4960. By this time one of the members of Team Broke was having some knee problems and didn't think it wise to subject himself to that particular ordeal and the team dropped out, putting Team Godspeed/Action-Learning.com into second place.
On the way to Spruce Knob was the mysterious Sinks of Gandy - a kilometer long underground river and the high point of the race for many people. If you look at the 0bounds photo gallery, you will notice Capital Bicycles running across the cow pasture in their underwear - they didn't want to get their clothes wet.
The crux of the race was the rogaine course at Spruce Knob. 17 checkpoints were spread throughout the forest, and teams had until 14:00 Monday to visit as many of them as they could on foot. The earlier a team arrived at Spruce Knob, the more time they had to accumulate points, and Capital Bicycles took a full 20 hours, including a bivy in the forest to visit 16 of the 17 and assure themselves a win. Many teams were at least able to get out to a few, and then off on a hair-raising 13 miles downhill bike ride to the Nelson Rocks Via Ferrata.
The Via Ferrata is a unique climbing element that allows people the opportunity to climb safely without the need for technical skills or a belayer, and even teams that dropped out earlier in the race made a point of stopping by for this unique experience. Rafael Martinez of Team MorFun/Wheelworks could barely walk coming down off the rocks, but they had a rogaine score of 7 which would assure them of 3rd place if only he could ride back to the finish. It took him nearly 4 hours, but he did it and then collapsed in agony.
All teams seemed to enjoy the hot food at the finish and stayed around to clap and cheer on teams as they arrived, spent, but proud to have finished this very tough race.
Many thanks to our Ambush volunteers and also to the team support crews, without whom this race would not have been possible. It was good to see Ty Stevens of Adventure Sports Magazine and the mobile tour come by - thanks for the schwag!
Special thanks to Will Ramos of 0Bounds photography who did the best he could to capture at least a little bit of every team as they made their way across this beautiful course. Photos are available for viewing and purchase at the OBounds online gallery.
Morfun / Wheelworks
Unskilled, Unsponsored, Unrelenting
Life is Good
Hairy Scary ERT
Susquehanna Hat Co
† = finished "alternate" course (shuttled by support vehicle from CP9 to CP12, then resumed race)
* = finished "recreational" course (shuttled by support vehicle between CPs 9-14)
M/O = male open
M/M = male masters
Co/O = Mixed gender open
open = average age 39 or less
masters = average age 40 or greater