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  • Tue October 18 2005
  • Posted Oct 18, 2005
The Thunder Rolls [Jeanne Baum's first hand account of The Thunder Rolls Adventure Race held October 8-9 2005.] The thunder rolls and boy does it. This is one of those MUST DO races. Gerry Voelliger is the race director and someone I consider to be an adventure race purist. In other words his race is true to the sport-it consist of the four basic elements: biking, canoeing/kayaking, ropes and orienteering. There are no “Mystery Events” like pin the tail on the donkey or spell your name backwards. So if you want a great-challenging race, then the Thunder Rolls is for you. The Thunder Rolls takes place in the Quad Cities in Iowa and Illinois. This is a two day stage race-expedition style that follows the trails, waterways and migration routes of Chief Black Hawk and the Sauk and Fox Indians of the 1800’s. We traveled over 100 miles through forest preserves, state parks and historic sites that included indian burial mounds. We had up to 12 hours on both Saturday and Sunday to complete the course and whichever team did it the fastest-picking up all check points and avoiding penalties would win. We were in a tough field of competitors, many teams having already qualified for nationals in previous races. So, though the number of teams were few, they were mighty. My team-Team I.O.W.A. consisted of myself, Jason Plunkett and Gary Roll and we were about to find out just how well the three of us could pull it together as a team. Friday night at the race meeting we received our maps and race instructions. We then made our way to our motel to prepare for the race. Once we had our coordinates plotted on our maps and our packs organized, we then settled in for about 3 hours of sleep (that is if you’re able to sleep). 3am came early for me and I figure I got about an hour of sleep. Oh well, it’s race time and sleep or no sleep it is time to perform. At 4am we were headed to the race starting area and at 5am we were off. The race began with a 5 mile trail run (I highly recommend bright lights for trail runs in the dark). It’s funny how logs always want to grab my ankles. It’s as if it’s a sport for them to see how many times they can trip me. From the trail run we went into a grueling 18 mile paddle section down the Mississippi. Fortunately, the three of us are pretty good paddlers and so even though we weren’t the fastest in the trail run, we were able to make up time and pass a few teams in the paddle section. A few miles before the canoe take out, we had a short orienteering section-that we flew through. We then finished the paddle section and it was onto the bikes. The bike leg was a short 20 miles into Loud Thunder Park and the finish line. But before we could cross the finish line, we had to pick up 3 check points; and this was our undoing. Going into this section we were in 4th place and coming out of it-we crossed the finish line in 6th place. Whenever you spend over an hour looking for a check point that should have taken 15 minutes-it’s going to hurt.Oh well, tomorrow is a new day and we’ll just have to do better. As a whole though, we had a good race-very few mistakes and the 3 of us gel well. Same routine Saturday night as Friday-receive maps, race instructions, plot points, organize packs and go to bed. As you might imagine, after 9 hours and 15 minutes of all out racing-on one hour of sleep-one feels slightly exhausted. So at 11pm we settled in for hopefully 4 hours of sleep. Sunday morning I woke to a tap-tap-tap on our door and immediately knew this wasn’t good. Thank God Jason was there to wake us or I would have slept right through the start of the race. We had 15 minutes to get dressed, packed up and out the door. We got to the starting line with 60 seconds to spare. This time we were starting out on a single trak bike leg. So I spin my front and rear tires to confirm they are spinning freely and of course my rear tire is rubbing against my brake. I quickly adjust my wheel, spin it again and with 10 seconds to go-jump on my bike and we are off. I’m here to tell you, single trak at 5am, when I’m still rubbing the sand out of my eyes is not ideal. This is what I call a rude awakening, couple that with the fact that at 5am I can barely tie my shoes, much less keep a bike on a single track and it “ain’t” pretty! But I managed to “git’er done”. From here we went into an orienteering section, made an adjustment to minimize mistakes and came out of that in 4th place. One of the good things about our team is that all three of us can orienteer, which means we can come to a consensus-thus reducing errors. Most races are won or lost in navigation. We then jumped back on the bikes. The three of us are pretty strong riders and were able to catch the 3rd place team just before the next orienteering (O) section. This O section was at Wild Cat Den St. Pk. (which if you haven’t been, I highly recommend, it is beautiful). We got through this O section quickly and came out of it right on the heals of the 3rd place team. Canoeing was next, we shot over to an island on the Mississippi River to do a rope accent and rappel and then jumped back in the canoes. All we had left was a 5 mile paddle up river and then a short trail run to the finish line. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th place teams were now all in the water together, all within 100 yards of each other. Racing towards the finish line these three teams finished within 8 minutes of each other. We ended up 5th overall and 4th in the Open division. I would like to thank my teamies for a great race and I’m looking forward to racing Nationals with those guys. I also want to thank Gerry Voelliger, Race Director, the volunteers and sponsors. We all very much appreciate all your hard work and contributions. I look forward to doing your race next year. Those of you interested in tracking our progress at Nationals can go to www.usaranationals.com. The race will begin Friday, November 4th at 7am in Florida! We will finish sometime on Saturday. At any given point in time during the race you will be able to see what place we are in, by visiting the above web site. Wish us luck and thank you for your support. Jeanne Baum Team I.O.W.A.

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