May 14, 2008

Squamish MOMAR Race Report

First and foremost I have to apologize for being a lame blogger lately and not updating since Miwok. Coming home after work to an apartment full of boxes, having 'moved in' almost two weeks prior, has forced this stuff to the back burner for the last week.

So after getting back from Miwok and feeling completely crippled for three full days I was wondering if I'd be able to race the Squamish MOMAR Adventure Race at all. I spent the entire week between the two events popping Amino Acids like candy and just trying to suffer my way through a few short runs. On Wednesday I told Todd he was going to have to race it solo, then on Thursday I said I might race solo myself, just so I could take it easy and enjoy the course without having to beat my already battered body up any further. I went to bed on Thursday with absolutely no aspirations of actually 'racing' the MOMAR on Saturday. When I awoke Fri morning, I again headed out for a 1hr run, but amazingly, I was finally starting to feel good again. I opened it up a bit on some downhill sections and after telling myself that I still had one full nights rest to go before the race, I e-mailed Todd and told him that we were going to be able to race as a tandem and try to defend out title at the MOMAR.

Todd and I had managed a sweep of last years MOMAR races, and something else that I was reluctant to blog about, until now, was also the fact that Todd and I, as a team of two, had yet to lose a race. We were 6-0 since teaming up to tackle adventure races together in December of 2006. This included three MOMAR wins, two BEAST victories, an one Suburban Rush title. Even after all the success we had enjoyed, we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Justin Mark and Jeff Reimer of Team Helly Hansen Vancouver Island would be pushing us to our limits out there all day long. The Squamish MOMAR not only ended up being one of the toughest MOMAR courses to date, it also ended up being a true race between both Helly Hansen teams to make that finish line first!

The race started at just after 9am, and we were off on a 2km 'Le mans' running start back to our mountain bikes. We began just behind local Squamish Team 'Live To Tell', and after less than 100 feet of running Graham Schulz lost some gear off of his backpack. I tapped him on the shoulder and notified him of this, then watched in horror as Graham had to turn back and face head on, a stampeding field of over 200 racers! He later accused me of 'removing' his gear for him, and I guess since I was laughing when I told him of this originally, I could see why. For the record I didn't, but wish I had!!
After a few minutes of running I knew that although sore, I'd be able to race at 100% on the day. I jumped to the front of the pack and tried to set the pace. Justin followed right along and together we lead it out back to the bikes, with our teammates falling in just behind us.

We hit the transition, and were off and climbing up the Mamquam Forest Service Road. A group of us quickly settled in at the front and worked away at the terrain. As we cut left onto a rough single track trail Justin and Jeff were able to put a few seconds into the rest of us. This initial bike ride was only a few km as well, and then we transitioned back to our running shoes for a navigation section of about 10km.

Todd and I had a bit of a slower transition here...but in the end it didn't matter for as I raised my head to start running and try to track down the teams in front of us, it became all too evident what was about to happen. There was a pack...literally A PACK of people standing around and watching us while we transitioned. Everyone knows that Todd is the best navigator at most of these events. Team HHVI, having lost over ten minutes to us on the nav section at Suburban Rush just two weeks prior, were not about to make the same mistake again. The funny thing was, Todd and I fully expected this to occur and had discussed in great detail what our plan would be in a situation such as this.

We slowed the pace down a bit and were whispering options to each other at the front of this group. Eventually one or two racers decided to go their own route, and then we watched with envy as Shane Ruljancich and Garth Campbell of team 'Pain Is Temporary', went cruising by unchallenged. Todd and I know that these guys can navigate as good as anyone out there, but it seemed no one else recognized them as a 'draft worthy' team!

I kept suggesting to Todd that we had to make a move, and he kept telling me to relax for a minute. I could not see the map and did not know exactly what he had in mind. Once I realized that Todd was looking to make a break, I vocalized that my shoes were bothering me and stopped to fix the lacing on them. As I did this Todd made eye contact with me and basically told me to just keep up. He immediately bolted back the way we had just come from, and like a wild Sasquatch he devoured a section of bushwhacking like it had been sporting a strip of pavement down the middle. I just tried to hold on, knowing that we can move faster than most through rough terrain such as this. We hit an intersecting trail within a few hundred feet and then ran as hard as we could for a few hundred meters until we rounded a corner. As I did a quick shoulder check I spotted Justin and Jeff walking in circles a few hundred meters back. I spoke with Justin after the event and he said they came into the bush behind us, and it seemed as though we literally disappeared into thin air. Justin and Jeff thought that Todd and I had to be hiding on them somewhere and their conversation went something like,
"They have to be in here somewhere! They're hiding, they have to be, they can probably hear us right now!"

Todd and I were fully aware of the fact that we had to hit the bikes with a decent lead as this particular race would definitely favor a strong biking team. We came into transition just ahead of Shane and Garth and with a good transition were out of there quickly.

We had another steep climb on the bikes, and this lead us into some of my favorite Squamish trails, the Pseudo Pseuda's (however that's spelled), and then eventually The Powerhouse Plunge, Crumpit Woods and The Farther Side. I know these trails inside out and once we hit the technical downhill riding I was in heaven. Todd wasn't far behind for most of these sections, but as the terrain became rougher, his bike became slower. We were both hoping he would have received his full suspension bike for this race, but it got delayed a few days and left him still riding his hard tail, which I should mention is the only bike I have ever seen Todd race on and we have managed all of our success with this ride. By the time we hit The Plunge however, Todd's body was screaming at him and he came off of his bike a few times in the rougher sections. I knew this was costing us valuable time to team HHVI and tried to verbally let Todd know what was coming around each turn so that he could prepare for it.

We hit the bottom of The Plunge still in the lead, and without another team in sight, but as we were turning into Crumpit Woods, just a few short minutes later, we spotted Justin and Jeff charging hard from behind. They had closed our gap of almost five minutes from the trekking stage and I knew we were in for a full on battle to the finish line.

As we transitioned onto the final run of the race, that would lead us into our rappel, Justin and Jeff departed right before us. Todd and I caught up to them after about 1km and although we put in a push to try and distance ourselves from them before the rappel we effectively hit the ropes at the exact same time. Todd was clipped in first, and Jeff, on a separate rope second. There was only one rope per team, and although we were first on, we were last off in a big way. The luck of the draw gave us a stiffer rope set up and I was literally using both hands to filter the rope through the damn harness to actually let gravity to its job. We hit the ground running, knowing that there was very little race course left to cover. As we made our way into the final transition back to the bikes we watched Justin and Jeff departing up ahead of us. Unfortunately, we had our absolute worst transition of the entire race as my fingers seemed to fumble with everything.

Onto the bikes and hammering on the peddles for all we were worth to try and catch the lead team. All I wanted was a glimpse of them in the hopes of setting off some form of adrenaline within my body to help deaden all the pain I was feeling from head to toe!

We blasted through the last sections of the race, and as we rounded the corner to the finish area at Quest University, we peered up and could see Team HHVI about to snag their first victory. I mumbled to Todd, one last gasp of hope for us to win,

"Maybe they'll trip and break a collar bones..."

We crossed the line in a time of 4hr05m50s, or 1m42s too slow on the day!

If we had to lose, and we both knew it would happen sooner or later, I am certainly glad that it was to Justin and Jeff, especially Justin, as he's been racing the MOMAR's for years now and was kinda like the Ray Bourque of the series, always right there at the top of the standings, but never quite exactly where I know he wanted to be, and with a possible semi-retirement on the way as his incredible wife and former racer Carey Sather is now pregnant with twins! Future MOMAR champs in training I'm sure!

Special thanks, as always to Bryan Tasaka and the entire MOMAR crew. Jen Segger-Gigg worked long and hard to come up with a completely new course this year, and certainly did not disappoint! Congrats to each and every racer who came out to try their hands at a MOMAR event, hopefully you'll out be out for the next one as well,

July 26th, MOMAR Cowichan Valley, the countdown is on...

Full Results Here:



Anonymous said...

Gary, it was great to watch you and Todd race last weekend. Love to read your blog on it as it was my first long course MOMAR and I am now hooked!


garobbins said...

Hey Nell, Congrats on completing the long course out there, that was a tough course to call your first!!
Amazing how addictive these events can be...I spend all year counting down to my next MOMAR t-shirt now...loved the SQ shirt this year, can't wait to see what we get at the next one!!