February 05, 2007

Winter Adventure Racing

This past weekend, Megan, Todd and I headed to Snoqualmie Pass, Washington (just east of Seattle) to compete in a winter adventure race. It was the first time that all three of us had raced together.

The race was put on by 4th Dimension A.R. and once again they hosted a stellar event.

The 75+ racers basically took over a small mountain lodge called Hyak Lodge the night before, and although the rooms were a bit small (because we had four people in there), it all boiled down to cheap accommodation right at the starting line of the race...not to mention that included in the race entry was a pre-race dinner and post race lunch! AND they also provided Gluten Free food for myself and one other Celiac racer. I had my first ever G.F. brownies (made with Rice Flour) and G.F. muffins (made with Cornmeal) and they also purchased G.F. nachos and pasta for us...now that's going WAY ABOVE AND BEYOND expectations! The brownies alone ensured that no matter what the outcome of the race, I was walking away a happy man.

When the race finally did start, Team MOMAR got schooled...

OK, it's not nearly as bad as I make it sound, we finished 2nd. However, Dart-Nuun beat us by a full 40 minutes...actually I'm gonna call it 39 minutes cause I think that sounds better...and I guess I should throw in that they are the most accomplished team in the Pacific North West.
None of that mattered though, this was a sprint race and I knew that my team could give anyone a run for their money.

When the race started Dart-Nuun, a second team I did not know, and MOMAR all sprinted away from the pack. Megan managed to loose a glove in the first km of the race and had to do the entire event with one mitt (I offered her my glove but she said she was fine). We ran on pavement for about 2km before we hopped a snowbank and started bushwhacking up a hillside. The three lead teams all took different entry points and this is why I love the 4th Dimension races so much. Almost every competitor will take a different route to each checkpoint, you actually have to navigate these races, whereas many of today's sprint adventure races have eliminated this discipline. Unfortunately, what I love so much about these races, ended up killing us on this day.

At the 2nd CP, D.N. arrived about 30 seconds ahead of us and we watched them punch their 'passport' and continue on bushwhacking. On our way to CP 3 and after about 45 minutes of racing we came across a small river crossing and D.N. we directly up stream from us. After we crossed the river we had to search for a forest service road, which would obviously be buried in snow, and then follow it to the top of a ridge. The terrain was deceptive in the snow and some open areas made us stop and think twice as to if we were on decommissioned logging roads or not.
(I think we are all scared for life after last year's Raid The North 36hr race in which the logging roads on the maps hadn't been touched in 50 years and were almost impossible to distinguish from dense forest. I don't believe I've ever been so lost and frustrated in my entire life!(Todd raced on a different team than Megan and I in that event)).

Anyways, we ended up veering a bit too far right and when we finally made our way back to the left we stumbled onto a wide open, very distinct road. We sprinted up, grabbed the CP and knew that we had lost valuable time to our competitors.

From there we headed into a X-Country ski area and this is where we had to put on our snowshoes. For the first part of the race the terrain was hard packed enough that we all got away with wearing some form of a spike on our shoe. I had on a winter trail running shoe from Asics called the Gel Artic, Megan was wearing a pair of YakTrax, and Todd was running in Kahtoola's. Funny enough I own all of this traction gear...it only takes one expedition length adventure race before you own more gear than you will ever know what to do with!

As we came into the ski area we happened to catch a glimpse of D.N. about 10 minutes up on us. In our efforts to cut into that lead we completely overshot the next CP. We had to back track, re-orientate ourselves and then work through the frustration to find it. Instead of cutting into D.N.'s lead, we had just doubled it for them.

Again, what I love about adventure racing, is eerily similar to what I sometimes hate about AR!

Over the next few CP's we were told (from volly's...thanks to all the great people that volunteered and made this event such a success) that we had managed to make up 5 of the 20 minutes D.N. had gained on us. We were 15 minutes back and I was dieing to get everyone moving as quickly as possible because we were starting to run out of race course to make up for our errors. In hindsight, this is where I helped seal our fate for the race. Todd was taking the necessary time to look over the map and plot our next course of action. I was hopping up and down and starting to run in random directions in the hopes that one of them was correct.

"C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, we gotta get movin!"

I should have relaxed for five or ten...maybe even fifteen seconds and let Todd do his thing...it's just so hard for me in a race situation cause this feels like an eternity to me.

Todd pointed to a trail, I took off and the team started running...in the wrong direction. It took us five minutes to realize our mistake, five more to figure out where we actually were and a couple of minutes on top of that to finally locate the CP. It was maybe 3 minutes from the last CP.
We would later learn that D.N. had also taken a wrong turn at this intersection (one of their few miscues in the entire event), but they managed to recover faster than we did.
Had I given Todd the necessary time to make the right call, we would surely have cut the lead in 1/2, instead we gave away more time, became more frustrated and effectively took ourselves out of the race for the win. This forced us into more mistakes and the eventual 40 minutes of time that Dart-Nuun had put into us.

By no means am I about to say that we would have won this race without our mistakes. All I am saying is that we would have pushed D.N. a lot harder than we ended up doing.
Hell, Dart-Nuun were smart enough to pack along mini crazy carpets...they slid the whole way down the ski resort to the finish line! Just one more reason why this team deserves so much respect, they are smart and fast...and just about any fool can be fast.


P.S. Todd's not really a foot taller than us, it's partially the snow bank! (Although he is 6'4")

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