March 31, 2007

Baja Race Report, Stage One...We Nearly Kill Ourselves!

I just sat here trying to do a quick update and after 30 minutes of typing I was just getting into our near death experience on the until I can get a proper update done, here is a quick cap of the race.

The race started on calm waters as we were in a sheltered cove, but just 10 minutes out the ocean was thrashing. We hit 10 foot swells instantly and had to paddle to an island for CP 1. It was super sketchy and although we were freaked out we managed to stay in control and actually paddle quite well. We had established 6th place by CP1 and 4 of the 5 boats in front of us were triple kayaks, verses our double and single combo.

As we headed away from CP1 the water was now behind us and I simply could not handle it any longer. My guts decided to get the hell outa dodge and I spent a few minutes dispersing of every single calorie that I had loaded before the race. I vomited 5 times and the water was so intense that I could not break stroke, so I ended up just turning my head between paddle strokes and trying to stay focused on a piece of land in front of us after that point.

The huge water from behind finally had its way with us and between the two boats we flipped 6 times. Each time we flipped we ended up drifting closer and closer towards a rocky bay. We managed to get Todd up and empty his boat and told him to go for help. CP2 was less that 1KM away, but we simply could not break through the water to get there. Megan and I were floating on top of our flipped Necky Amaruk and discussing what our options were. We had been in the water struggling for 20+ minutes already, I had lost all feeling in my toes and my fingers were like pieces of dead wood. We realised that we had to make it to shore, and pushed off from our boat to try and make it in.

We ended up caught in a current and stuck somewhere between our kayak and the shoreline. Megan is a lifegaurd and was yelling at me to kick harder, but I had lost all my energy from vomiting earlier and my body was reaching it´s limits. My legs were cramping and I was starting to get confused, I knew hypothermia was starting to set in. At about this time a half a dozen locals had spotted us from some houses and a road up above. They had made their way down and were waiting for us to hopefully make it out safely.

Megan got grabbed by a current and was gone. We were right next to each other one second and she was 30 feet away from me the next. I had lost sight of her as she was washed 90 degrees to my right and into some rocks. I was trying to focus on where I would hit when I caught a glimpse of her running up the rocks! I had no idea how she had gotten out so quickly, but I was incredibly relieved to know that she was alright. As the water was surging me towards shore I was doing my best to envision how to go about this. I knew that I would only get one shot, for if the waves bashed me once and pulled me back out again I would surely be too spent to fight my way through a second time.

The water threw me onto a rocky outcrop and I grabbed on for dear life. I had only found grip with two fingers on my left hand and I was screaming at myself to hold on. The water retreated over me and was tugging on my pfd and legs as I struggled to stay attached to the rock face. The second that I felt the water retreat I started climbing. A second wave hit and I grabbed on again. Once that water passed I was able to make it up above the water line. I was struggling to move my body, My feet were like planks of 2X4 as I could hear them hitting the rocks but could feel nothing. I knew I had to keep moving and as soon as I made it up to the locals who had watched in fear throughout the entire process they started stripping off my layers and putting their hoodies and pants on me. We had to clambor up a steep trail to the road and they directed us into a minivan and covered us in blankets. I could not feel my body at all, my teeth were chattering so visciously that I ended up biting my tongue to stop the noise. My feet were completely white and was having trouble processing exactly what had just occured.

The locals were aware of our event and drove us a few km down the road to CP2. It took me about 45 minutes to start to warm up and one of the english speaking locals came up to talk with me when he realised that I was coherant and aware again.

Did you notice all the crosses on the rocks when you were washing ashore?


We loose someone every year in those waters, and that is the roughest seas we have seen in a long time around here. You are both very lucky to be alive.

It took us a few hours to figure out what was going to happen. Our kayak was still offshore somewhere, although we assumed it was broken on the rocks by now. All of our mandatory gear was still inside, including our backpacks, headlamps, jackets, etc, etc.

I asked the race director via radio if there was any kind of time penalty we could encure while still staying ranked.

The answer was no. I even said we´d take a 12hr penaly, anything to keep us ranked, but to no avail. We had taken 4hr to get to CP2, we were half way to bike transition, sitting in 6th...and our race was effectivly over.

As we tried to figure out our options we watched team after team after team come to CP2 and refuse to return to the water. We were the first people to experience serious troubles and due to that, it seemed most involved with the race could not fully understand what our problem was.

Witnin 2 hours of our incident the Marines told the race directors that no more boats were allowed on the water. Everyone behind us from that point would race un ranked.

Before the end of the kayak leg, later that night, 8 boats would be completely destroyed, people would be telling tales of 20+ foot waves between CP2 and the bike transition, and two teams would still be unaccounted for. It was a nightmare that continued to get worse and everyone who raced here this year is amazed by the fact that no one was killed on the water section. It was pure insanity.

Eventually we sorted everything out and found transportation to the bike transition, and hour away. We arrived as it was getting dark, with two thirds of our mandatory gear still floating in the ocean. I jumped out of the truck and started asking everyone in sight if they had any gear that they could spare for us. In less than 10 minutes we had pieced together every single piece! From backpacks, to toques, gloves, first aid, bivvys, and on and on and on, somehow we managed to borrow it all. Adventure racing really is the best sport in the entire world!!

The team that was in 7th on the water came into the bike transition about 90 minutes ahead of us, so as a team we agreed that we would continue to race as if we were ranked. Had we been able to complete the kayak section, we would have been very close to where we were at that point anyways, so it was game on for us!

There is so much more to tell of our story, but all I can say right now is this. Megan and Todd ROCK! We have an incredible team and battled hard throughout the rest of the event. We only slept for 2hr in 3.5 days and were the 2nd team to finish the course. It as all summed up for us by the race directors at the final transition.

¨You guys are doing amazing out here! It breaks our hearts that you were not able to finish the kayak leg, cause you battled hard to come in as the 2nd place team. Congratulations guys, you should be very proud of yourselves!´´

It will be a few days maybe even a week before I can do a proper race´s just too damn nice out there to be inside!

We are all well, amazingly well actually, with very little blistering, some decent sleep deprivation and stories to tell for years to come.

I am not flying home until it stops raining, so if someone could let me know when that is, it would be greatly appreciated!



Anonymous said...

fucking awesome. Glad to know that everyone is ok. I cant wait to hear the stories, my palms were swetting from the get go.


Anonymous said...


That may be the karma sea gods showing their wrath when it was decided that MOMAR Squamish would not have any paddling.

Good to know your still around, still motivated, and still going to race (right?).

Anonymous said...

Good on ya Gary! Your perseverance after CP2 was stellar. I was trying to follow the race and knew you guyz had run into problems early in the kayaking stage....share the love with Todd and Megan while in Baja.

Doug D

Anonymous said...

You are fucking crazy

Anonymous said...

Tough Luck Big-Guy...although you guys did awesome once on solid ground!
Call when you're back and ready to run again ... maybe we'll go out for another w-w paddlin' session/lesson!?

Anonymous said...

Gary, Megan and Todd!
Utterly amazing...
Sounds like something only real champs could make it through.
Can't wait to hear your stories over a pint!