Monday, September 24, 2007

Team Helly Hansen/MOMAR Take 2nd at Olympic Peninsula 24 hour Adventure Race

It wasn't until I took out the two sections of the map and placed them together that I realized just how far away from the finish we were. There was no way we could make it back by the 10:00am cut-off and for every 10 minutes that we were late, we would lose a control that we had worked so hard to get.

"How many kms to the finish?" Lina asked.
"About seven. Maybe eight."
"How much time do we have?"
"35 minutes!"

We had only one option at this point. We had to run to the finish and try desperately to limit our loses. We could have quit right there. It would have been so easy just to walk it in, let the clock run and take whatever place we got. I'm sure we both thought about it... maybe for a couple of seconds. This however, was not an option. We started to run.

This was the Olympic Peninsula Adventure Race put on by 4th Dimension Adventure Racing ( Roger Michel and Yumay Chang are the gears behind 4th DAR who put on a variety of grassroots level AR events for racers, by racers. They are also involved in organizing the BEAST series ( which are weekday evening races around the greater Seattle area. This was the first race held in the Olympic Peninsula as permitting, and more importantly explaining to landowners what adventure racing is, has always been an issue. After some long hard work, 4th DAR got the permits and really tried to make the race a success so that future races could be held in the area.

Course designer and DART/Nuun team-mate Glen Rogers put together an extremely tough but well thought out race that emphasized what, in my opinion, a 24 hour race should be comprised of: a tough course for everyone - Glen designed the course with a 10 hour option, advanced mtb section, optional short course, and a Rogaine finish which ensured that teams would battle it out to the end; a course that showed off the scenery of the area; and of course, some challenging navigation. Unlike other races this length, Glen designed the course in three solid chunks with limited transitions: a 3-4 hour paddle; 12-14 hours on the bike; a Rogaine finish (collect as many controls on foot as possible before the race cut-off). In the end, the winner came down to whichever team could collect the most number of controls in the Rogaine.

For Lina and I, this race was completely last minute. We registered on Wednesday, threw our gear together the next day, and tried to figure out logistics and the crazy ferry schedules (Lina had to take the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, and then both take the Coho ferry over to Port Angeles). Also, I was a little worried heading into the race since I had taken some serious downtime after competing in Raid the North Extreme, had just got off of some vacation time, and hadn't been doing too much. Thus, I wasn't really sure how I stand up to 27 hours of straight racing (while the race was initially 24 hours, the real time ended up being over 27).

The race started at sunrise on the water in Lake Cushman. The paddle was calm and we were able to keep a good pace even though we were in our two single kayaks. Then came the bike... 14 hours of long climbs, descents, repeat. Oh, did I mention the longest hike-a-bike we've ever done? This completely destroyed my legs and leg cramps started to make me feel that I might not be able to even finish the race. We continued to push on. Unfortunately, the weather for the race saw low cloud cover with continual mist which never allowed us to view the scenery and our accomplishment when we got to the top of the climbs. The bike section turned out to be a little too tough for teams with several dropping out or short coursing to the Rogaine section. No team made the cut-off for the advanced bike leg. That's right, as if 14 hours wasn't enough! After a short paddle back to the start/finish area, we headed into the Rogaine in 3rd place! There were 22 controls and what turned out to be not nearly enough time to clear the course. I had planned a route that would get the majority of the controls but the course and it's dense vegetation slowed things down too much and forced us to drop some easy controls in the end. Since we picked some harder controls near the beginning, and because all controls are worth the same amount, this did not work out as well as it could have.

The end of this race was definitely the highlight for both of us. During the run in to the finish, I kept checking my watch and trying to estimate our time. If only we can make it in before 10:20am we would limit our loses to two controls. We continued to push and at the gate to the park, we had five minutes to spare. We picked up the pace, and ran into the finish at 10:18am. Completely exhausted, we were completely shocked by the news. We would beat team DART/Nuun by one control and take 2nd overall! The timing just seemed to be one of those things. We seemed to know that we had to make the 10:20 mark and because we did, we took 2nd place by 2 minutes! I think the end of the race for Lina and I can best be described by 4th DARs slogan.

"Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional"

What I like about the races in the Northwest is that they are affordable, low-key, and really cater to the racers. They make it possible to attend a long event on the weekend without taking time off work and any team can race as long as they have two or more racers (some races you must have a co-end team of four). I'd highly recommend anyone to try one out sometime. The events typically have good draw prizes, good hot food at the finish, and welcoming volunteers without whom the events would not be possible.

Lina Augaitis was great to race with which was awesome considering that this was our first race together. I had a super solid race on the maps, made virtually no mistakes, and raced really smart which was my main goal before heading into the race.

Congrats to Team who took the overall win and thanks for helping me with my cramping by supplying me with some E-Caps (Adventure racers are the best! They even help out their competition!). Thanks also to DART/Nuun for putting up a strong fight.

Todd Nowack

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