I love adventure racing!! Not only do you get to spend the day (and sometimes through the night) with some good friends out on the trial but you get to switch it up over a bunch of different sports in the wild. Racing strategy is on a whole new level where your race can fall apart or work like magic when it all falls into place. Mix in some interesting challenges, team dynamics and having to navigate your way to the finish and it just does not get much better. Last year, I was fortunate enough to race my first adventure race, the Scout Challenge with Georgina and Marius who I now consider great friends. We met at the race and I didn’t fully know what I was getting myself into but now that I look back my life would never be the same. Last year’s race was such a positive experience that I am forever hooked. This year would prove to be just as magical and our race strategy just fell into place as fast as we could keep up. Ohhh if I could only get the DVD…. I would watch it over and over again. ;-)
Just like last year the race started at about 3am so after a gear check and and a quick bite to eat we were ready to head into the dark and enjoy the day before the hills got hot. We were racing for the first time as Team Ring Sting! Marius and myself had returned and now we were racing with Monique and Cisco. I am proud to say I would go ANYWHERE with these folks and was honored to spend the day with them. It is funny that I was looking all over for a great team to race with and these friends were all around and top notch in every aspect. We just "naturally" meshed so well together and our race would prove it with speed.
Our first checkpoints that we headed out to get would be on foot. Three-ish in the morning and running at full cadence down a dark road. I remember Cisco saying something about not being a good runner but we were all just trying to keep up around that first turn ;-) Over some rocks, through some bush and we got our fist checkpoint. Now fully soaked from sweat in the dark only minutes into a long race we were working as an integrated team with ease. Warmup complete! Although most adventure races have very few "rules" we had a few mandatory ones set for us at the race. One was that no bikes could leave the transition area until 9am. What made it more interesting was that we were racing rogaine format where it is not mandatory to get every checkpoint(or to get them in order) but mandatory to be back at the finish line at a set time(10hurs). The harder it was to find a checkpoint the more points. Planning and race strategy was key.
We headed out and grabbed the first set of CP's and then evaluated things a bit (a continual process in adventure races) on our way back to the transition area. Due to the fact we could not take our bikes out until nine, we had to make a choice on what we would get on foot. We opted for a big climb in the dark with few checkpoints (get it out of the way in the cool of the morning) and we would descend on our way back to pickup a bunch of CP's when we would have better visibility. Big and long hills! Watching the glow of the sunrise was amazing. Our trekking approach worked very well and by the time we were back to the transition area we had picked up nearly all of the checkpoints on the way.
The bike was the longest and hottest part of the day. This proved our teamwork and the spirits of everyone on the team. We bonded together, put our heads down and push, push, pushed... We had a four person toe line going up Blackstar canyon and were making amazing progress. I have learned from other races that a plan is only as good as the ability to execute it. The surprises that get in the way can erode the best of plans and the strategy that does not account for the unexpected is sure to fail. Sometimes you have to know when to move on and when to keep looking for those little checkpoint boogers... Our strategy and team were spot on and I was still amazed at how well we were working as a team to pickup checkpoints and make group decisions with ease. We didn't have time to discuss. We were racing here and our team had a unified focus to suck up the "unknowns" and keep our momentum going.
Between bike loops we made a stop at the transition to refuel and knock out another challenge. This one was a zip line where Marius and I had the fun time flying across the tents and parking lot... After hours of racing this really helped to wake us up. Before long we were all back on our bikes and headed for the lake for a quick paddle...
Out of the heat and into the water, I thought we would have a break from the sweat. Marius and I were off on our surfskis and pulling with everything our upper bodies could dish out. This was our only time to give our legs a rest but it didn't mean that we would let up. Checkpoints again came to us with ease and salt filled my eyes and we baked on that quick paddle back to the tent. Paddle complete. On to our bikes again and back to the main transition. Four person tow in full effect the whole way back as we tried to get the last few "challenges" complete with the time we had left.
By now we realized that we were doing something right. No big mistakes, no major bonks, no crashes. Our momentum was feeding our energy better than any powerbar and all I thought about on the way back from the lake was I wish it was not going to end. I love racing with these guys and I wanted to keep going... It is funny how the mental encouragement can push you beyond any physical exhaustion and the fuel from your team brings our the best in you. This is what I love about adventure racing. You get to bring out the best in other and yourself for things you/and them never really thought were possible and may not be if attempted alone.
Back at the transition we had plenty of time for some of the ropes sections but they had already taken down the rock wall. No big deal. We were finished off with another rope section that Marius and Monique made short work of and had time to spare as we got cleaned up and refueled for the closing ceremonies.
We ended up finished in a 5th place overall and we were so stoked about it. I am so proud to race with this crew and the plan that fell together could not have been better and more fun with all the last minute changes that make adventure racing what it is.