Monday, December 03, 2007


We survived!
That's right, we survived the Fall Beast. I say survived because it was one of the harshest racing weekends I've yet had to endure. I talk here of not only the race itself but the drive to and from the race. It just so happened that a winter storm decided to show its head and start puking huge flakes of snow on the way down to Seattle.

After a windy crossing on the BC Ferries boat, I arrived late at the Tsawwassen terminal where Gary was waiting for me. We loaded my gear quickly and were off in blowing snow conditions. It didn't take us long to discuss whether or not the race was even going to be held if the snow continued. We budgeted for a least a 1/2 hour at the boarder crossing but were not going to be suprised if we had to wait for several hours; this has been due lately to the savings-crazed Canadian shoppers tring to save a buck in the US (by spending an entire day of their lives driving and spending money on gas!). I wasn't too concerned but Gary has an issue with not getting aggressive back to the US boarder guards whose job it is to make you feel like shit. So, with a plan to just be calm and be non-reactive we pulled up to the booth with no line-ups.
"Where do you live?"
"Squamish and Victoria"
"What do you do for a living"
"I manage an Athletic store"
"I do consulting work"
"Where are you going?"
"We're doing a race down in the Seattle area"

At this point he looks at the bikes on the car as it's puking snow and freezing cold, looks at us, smirks, and says
"Have a nice time" as he hands back our passports.

Whether the boarder guards were just too reluctant to get out of their booths or not, in less than five minutes, we were across the boarder and back on the road. Gary couldn't believe it. Maybe my calm demeaner is rubbing off on him :)

The weather from here was just constantly changing. At one point, it was snowing hard, the road was full of snow, and the lanes went from four to kind of three to basically wherever you wanted since you could no longer tell where the lanes were supposed to be. We counted no less than 10 vehicles in ditches and several more that simply pulled off the road and gave up. Luckily for me (who's from Ontario and who knows how to drive in a multitude of conditions), it was great to have someone at the wheel who I was confortable with (Gary is a skilled winter driver who comes from the far reaches of a place called Newfoundland). Unluckily for both of us, we were surrounded by complete winter newbies who were out to kill us. We went from travelling about 50km/h in these conditions to suddenly going into rain and no snow at 120km/h in under 5 minutes. The weather was all over the place.

After a few wrong turns and a trip to the 'Supermall', we made our way to Colin and Connies' place right close to the race site. I had sent out a quick e-mail to Eric Bone (the race director) about a place to stay and within a couple of hours, had a place all lined up. We had briefly met Colin and Connie at the Squamish MOMAR during our Baja presentation but didn't know it was them until we arrived. They set us up for the night after hanging out and partaking in some good dark beers. We couldn't have been happier and were flattered by their generosity.

Gary, me, Connie and Colin
It wasn't much of a surprise at this point that the rain turned to snow and the race area was covered in inches of the white stuff by morning. We weren't even sure if the race was going to go ahead but we still prepared like it was and headed to the race start.

It started to rain.
At this point, I think both of us were hoping that it WOULD be cancelled so that we wouldn't have to go out into the wet and snowy conditions. Gary, who is sensitive to the cold, was not looking very anxious. Fortunately for us, lots of other crazy adventure racers had showed up and quickly changed our minds into thinking that going out into slushy snow and rain to do a race was a completely normal and ok thing to do. The race was definitely a go. Team Dart/Nuun members Ryan Van Gorder and Aaron Rinn came out as part of a teaching type position for newer teams. I think this is a great idea and way to help teach new adventure racers and hopefully rub off some of their years of experience to them.
Eric Bone - BEAST Race Director
I should note that the Fall Beast isn't really a big competitive race, so Gary and I really treated it as a good training session and a wake-up call to get on the training program. It was definitely a hard cold weather training session.

The course was comprised of two back to back mountain biking legs (with a check-in at race headquarters after each leg) and then an orienteering foot course. In order to prevent bike congestion at the start of the course, Eric had us run a small loop to stretch out the teams. We hit the bikes in first and pretty much kept this spot for the entire race. We were both pretty cold at first but quickly warmed up. Ok, most of us warmed up but eventually our extremities (particularly our feet) became blocks of ice attached to our pedals that we could transer energy through. We both had our Helly Hansen waterproof jackets, which worked awesome in the conditions, but Gary didn't bring a shell pant which enabled the blocks of ice on his feet to move up to his knees similar to the freeze over in the movie 'The Day After Tomorrow' except in slow motion.

We hit the second mountain bike section and actually started to have some fun in a good singletrack section of the course. It was challenging to ride everything with the conditions how they were and we also had to fight through vegetation that was bogged down over the trail from the snow fall. We were essentially clearing the trail for the rest of the racers.

Once we entered the transition and put on the running shoes, I knew that the next 45 minutes on the feet was going to be painful. Running out onto the orienteering course, we both couldn't feel our feet and I ended up slipping several times on the snow due to having no foot awareness. Some early bushwacking warmed us up and after a few more checkpoints, I could finally feel most of my toes. We got all the checkpoints without issue and made it to the finish line happy but cold, extremely wet and with a unstoppable desire to get into dry clothes as soon as possible. It was great to see Colin's team come in as the first co-ed team (2nd overall) and it was great to see so many people come out in such unfavorable conditions and push themselves.

After some quick goodbyes, we were back on the road heading north to Canuck land. As we drove off, we were passing some of the course that we had just been on and all the snow had melted already. Basically, the race was held in the worse possible conditions and once over, everything was simply just wet.
Soaked and Frozen
We faced pouring rain and hydroplaning on the way home, had a quick stop for some Mexican food in Bellingham, and hit the boarder with a longer but equally uneventful crossing. In typical Canadian fashion, as soon as we hit the boarder, the snow had returned in full; it couldn't have been a better sterotype.

Thanks again to Colin and Connie for their hospitality and to Eric Bone and the Team members who helped make another Fall Beast a success.
Also, a big no thanks to whoever made the BC Ferries bomb threat and screwed up the schedule so that I was an hour later in getting home.


1 comment:

DARTvg said...

Well writen Todd! It was good to see you guys...glad you made it down to be miserable with us :-)