I’m still playing catch-up on my reports this year… here’s a long one about my longest race in 2015
Andrei of team Gearjunkie/Wedali facebook messaged me in early October asking if I’d be interested in joining the team for a 30 hour adventure race in Bend.
No really. That’s how it started.
After a lot of back and forth, deciding if a 30 hour adventure race was really even feasible for me, I figured… why not?
We met up in Bend and spent the night before the race graciously hosted by friends of Team Yogaslackers – who are CRAZY good racers and also the race coordinators. After the pre-race instructions we packed our bags, set up our bikes, and got the standard few hours of sleep before an early start and rainy bus ride to the race start.
Section 1: Trek
The checkpoints for the course were fairly spread out, as could be expected from a longer race. We started on foot, running through old logging fields searching for neon tape with words that we would need to record. Almost immediately, we came to a marker that was across a small river… so across I went! Feet rarely stay dry in adventure racing.
Section 2: Packraft (er, more Trek)
We were required to carry all our paddling gear, including packrafts and paddles, for the first leg of the race. We hit the edge of a lake, but decided that since neither of us are strong paddlers, we’d just take the long way hiking through the woods. At the time, it felt like the wrong choice – most of the time we were going up and over downed trees, not exactly a fast mode of transportation. Finally we got to the first TA, and learned that most teams had opted for paddling, batting brutal headwinds in glorified inner-tubes (aka packrafts).
Section 3: MTB
Still, we were happy to transition to our bikes. I put on our pedals (they had to be taken off for transport) while Andrei studied the map, then off we went! A few points and maybe an hour later, we arrived at a manned checkpoint by a lake… where we learned the punch was actually in the middle of a lake. One teammate would have to swim out to the marker and punch, then we had a few route options to get back on track towards our next check. We debated, and finally I decided I’d get the point. But, there’s no way I was going to soak my clothes. Luckily, there were no other teams around (and the women in charge of the checkpoint were a ways futher down the lake than where I wanted to jump in). Let’s just say… it was chilly. But really, not too bad. And I dried off fairly quickly before jumping back into my race clothes.
We decided to try the medium distance option to the next check point, hoping that the fire roads on the map were still in existence. There was a short route that looked like it would require ~1k of uphill bikewhacking, then no guarantee of a trail, or a really, really long bike around on more-likely-to-be-established roads. We were fine for a while, then had to hike about a half mile of road that was covered in downed trees (and the road didn’t really exist). We found the road again, and were on our way! Except the final link to the trail we wanted… simply did not exist. To make matters worse, it was a hillside covered in Manzanita – bushes that were about as tall as I am, and really hard to step on/through/over.
Sure, they’re pretty. Until you have to bushwhack through a field of them. With your bike.
This became probably the worst race experience I’ve ever had. Those bushes were brutal… you had to lift your bike as high above your head as possible, then try to push through the bushes while attempting to find footing (mostly on low branches). There was a fair amount of just lifting the bike, throwing it in the direction I wanted to go, then picking my way through the now bent-down branches. We finally, finally made it through to the trail we were looking for, and I stopped to put vaseline on my shredded legs. The rest of the points were much less eventful, despite climbing to the top of a mountain (including a LOT of hike a bike).
I decided we needed to start taking pictures… because we weren’t really on pace for anything. Don’t we look so happy?!
…This is how I really felt. It was SUPER windy and freezing cold. And starting to get dark.
We finally made it back down off the mountain, and stopped for another checkpoint that required swimming across a lake. This time, it was Andrei’s turn!
Everyone gets to swim in a high mountain lake during this race!
We got on our bikes again and arrived at the next TA I think around 9:30 for…
Section 4: Trek!
We spent 4 hours trekking through a volcanic rock boulder field. It was awesome for the first 30 minutes. Then, we were climbing up and down monstrous boulders, in the dark, from the hours of about 10PM – 2AM, where contrast isn’t really the best and the footing often shifts underneath you. I really wish we had seen this section in the day. It was awesome… but towards the end I was ready to be done. Up a big hill and down a big hill, then back to TA again for our bikes!
Section 5: Bike
We had a quick, peaceful moonlight ride to the next TA, highlighted by falling asleep while riding then letting the caffeine kick in and feeling awesome. There was some dispute as to where the next TA was, so we wound up going back and forth on a gravel road for quite a while. Finally, we made it into the TA and swapped our bikes for our trekking shoes and shoved our packrafts in our bags for the next section.
Section 6: Trek/Raft
Through the last hours of darkness, we trekked to get a few more points and took a route that allowed us to stay on foot. Andrei was in a dark place, and I was just starting to feel energized (I don’t know what it is, but I felt super sluggish at the start of the race… I suppose it could have something to do with the ultramarathon and 90 mile MTB races I’d done in the last month-ish prior). Regardless, I had started feeling better and we just trudged along, knocking down checkpoints as we went. Finally, the sun started to come up, and we gained some life, realizing that there was a very slim chance we’d be able to finish in time, even if we had a fairly direct route back into town. We grabbed all the points we could along the way, then inflated our packrafts for the first time all race and had a great float down a small creek!
Andrei for size
At the end of the paddle, we were both back to freezing time for another trek!
Section next: Trek
We hiked along more roads, occasionally running but mostly power-hiking. We grabbed a few more checkpoints, then were met by volunteers with HOT COFFEE near the headwaters of the Deschutes. It was absolutely gorgeous, clear blue water. The volunteers gave us advice on the fastest way back to the start and the checkpoints along the way. There was one more ‘fun’ checkpoint that they hinted involved a ropes course, so we took off down the trail (again, opting for a hike instead of a paddle). We hit a few more checkpoints, then turned onto a dirt road that would take us to the final TA to bikes!
Along the way, however, we had to stop at the special CP… which was actually a CP set up in the middle of a slackline! On the way, Andrei informed me that he ‘doesn’t do ropes’ so I booked it to the volunteer, throwing on a harness and helmet then onto the slackline! It was really awesome. The line was set up across a natural split in some rocks, so the perceived exposure was actually pretty high. Still, I wasn’t in a mood to take my time… we still had to try to reach the TA before they cut us off!
Section next: TA to Bikes
We jogged a bit down the trail, finding as much energy as we could to try to hit the TA. At this point, it was looking like we’d hit the TA around the 29 hour mark (maybe?), which definitely didn’t leave us enough time to get back. We crossed the road and hit the TA… to find volunteers waiting with our bikes, who informed us that everyone would be allowed to finish the race (phew, although we still had a long way to go). We put the pedals on our bikes, stuffed our pockets with snacks, then set off on the most direct route back to Bend!
We had received directions from the volunteer, but they didn’t totally match the route. As soon as we reached an intersection (about 3 miles later than expected), we discovered we needed to actually turn right on the main road, then left onto the back road that would be more direct. When we stopped to look at the map, Andrei started talking at me… in Russian. I think I mustered a few repetitions of ‘…what?’ before he started getting impatient, until I explained that he wasn’t actually speaking English. I thought for a while it was just my tired brain that wasn’t understanding, but then he also realized he’d slipped back into his first language.
That sorted out, we took off! It was a long, not flat retreat, but finally we made it to the start area, where my car was waiting for us (and very little else). We grabbed showers and hit the post-race event at a local brewery, then stuffed our faces with burgers.
I took off for home, stopping every few hours at first for a nap. Eventually, I arrived back in Seattle.
This is basically just how I travel.
After a few days of recovery, I decided I should train more (have you noticed a theme yet?) and that I like adventure racing as more adventure, less race. Also, caffeine pills are magic. Huge thanks go to all the race volunteers – it was great to see such happy faces at the TA’s, and particularly the jetboil-special ramen and hotdogs in the middle of the night. Big big thanks to Gearjunkie for sponsoring us and the race – and sending some awesome giveaways! Yogis put on one heckuva race… in 31.5 hours I think we managed to complete like 70% of the course? This race is a fantastic place to truly challenge your skills and teamwork. And it’s definitely a great advertisement for Bend – I’ll be back to check out the lava flow during the day!