Once a source of "Not all you want to know about Texas Adventure Racing," but now just some "leisure" adventure through the eyes of "The K-SPoT"

Sunday, July 29, 2007

RTNX: Just Never Give Up

Stage 3: Prince Rupert

taking a nature break with boats strapped to our backSo we quickly claimed our spot again on the ferry. We laid out all our clothes on the vents, hoping that they would be dry by the time we docked at Prince Rupert. I set up my sleeping pad and bag, hoping to get a couple hours of sleep before tending to reorganizing my pack for the final stage. I instead decided,unintentionally, to sleep for most of the ferry ride--apparently I was a bit more tired than I thought. I woke up just in time to see the islands on the horizon. Back to rush mode. Again, it wasn't too bad since we had downsized our packs quite a bit and didn't have to organize much now. We docked and disembarked the ferry at CP22 and waited for our final instructions for the final stage of RTNX. I was actually looking forward to starting up again...only because I didn't know the true pain I was about to go through.

After waiting a bit, Lawrence and the FAR bunch sent us on our way, on a short run over to our boats. The pack had now broken up into three distinct groups: the runners, the joggers, and the walkers. The walkers mostly contained those who had beaten up feet, legs, and/or psyches. We were at the tail end of the jogger group. Slowly we made our way through this group as one by one teams were adopting slower paces, possibly realizing that we still had a ways to go. Team YukonWILD was drifting back, but because of an injury--not sure if it was preexisting or if it just happened on this run, but I knew we would see them again as they would gain ground again on the non-foot portions of the race. First it was singletrack, then through a neighborhood and then alongside railroad tracks. We made it to the boat transition, CP23, in good shape, somewhere midpack. We had to pump up our boats, but one problem--our pump decided to break on us. So I rush to HQ and ask him if they have spares...of course, not with them. So we had to make due until the spare pumps came. Right as we were about to launch out to the water, the spare pump came. Thank goodness since we would need to reinflate our boats somewhere along the line again.

We were paddling nicely, making good time. But it seemed not to be Paul's day. Right in the middle of this first paddle of the last stage, he developed a pretty nasty nosebleed. It was almost hard to watch--his racing singlet was covered in large dots of red all over and it looked like the king of the mountains jersey after a few moments. He tried his darndest to plug it up and eventually it did stop. This paddle was pretty uneventful. I was just trying to ready myself for what was certain to be the Mother Of All Portages...MOAP. Hmmm, doesn't sound scary, but it was. We made it to the mouth of the stream where we needed to get out and portage along a forest road. Yes, the road was on the map and yes we were hoping it would be clear for once. With that optimism, we started the portage with the boats still inflated and lugged the mofos with straps over our shoulders. For some reason I HATED this setup as the strap kept digging into my neck and it was hard to keep the boat in the right rhythm as we walked. To make the conditions even worse, every 50meters there seemed to be a drainage ditch that eroded through the logging road, making travel very, very rough. I also had in my mind that I would rather have the boats deflated and carry one of them on my back than go on with this setup--it was killing me!

look at those smiles!Finally, I had enough. I told the rest of the team that I would rather pack the 60 pounds on my back than go on like this, and thankfully they agreed. It just seemed more efficient. Yes, that meant two people would have to bear 60lbs of plastic boat on their back each, but I figured I've gone on backpacking trips with that much weight before. What I didn't take into account was that on those backpack trips the trails were always clear. Not here. Right before this switch in tactics, we were handed some good luck for once. We were trudging along, again not fully paying attention to our surroundings (me because I was about to blow a blood vessel in my head), when the navigator for YukonWILD started backtracking past us. We immediately stopped and asked what was up. This is when he advised us to look at our map and asked if we liked where we were going. That's when I dropped everything and checked our bearing. Sure enough, we were heading the wrong direction! We were heading east when the trail was supposed to be heading more northeast. We backtracked (quietly, of course) and found the trail we were supposed to be on. SART had saw us go the other way, so they followed and passed as we were rearranged our boat portage system. Dancing Pandas passed us at this same time--they were in front of us before, so I figured they had the same mistake as we did. They were wondering how long it was going to be until we abandoned the inflated kayaks...and it wasn't too soon. Right as we started up again, Phil and I lugging the bastards up the mountain, the brush started to engulf us more and more with every step.

Ridiculous. The road just disappeared and we were now in a thick stand of baby trees. Yes, it was the right decision to hump these boats on our backs, but bulldozing through this thick brush was starting to get to my nerves. Some of the boat was jutting on either side of me so it would always catch on a tree as I tried to squeeze by. This bush was demoralizing...did I mention I had a 60lb boat on my back? We kept on keeping on and we actually caught up to a team: SuburbanRush/Secondwind. This team had one consistent comedian on their team--I think his name was Jordy. As we alternatively took rests from the brutal portage, we kept leap-frogging each other until we eventually started travelling together. It was good to have his wisecracking around as it helped keep my spirits up. The navigation was getting really hairy at this point, as we had to figure out the right way to head down to the water. We pushed on and caught SART when finally saw a saddle that looked pretty promising. SART planned a brute-force approach and tried to head down a pretty steep reentrant that had rushing water. We decided against this and went over the saddle and then began our descent, zig-zagging through the moist, muddy, mossy ground, trying to avoid falling face-first over a rotting log with 60lbs crashing behind me.

Jen and Phil saw it in my face--I had almost had enough. But I figured, what the heck else am I going to do? It was my idea and we can't go any other way. So I just shrugged my shoulders and shuffled along. Darting pain started to surface around my right shin, probably because of all of the downclimbing and I'm sure I MIGHT have rammed it into a log or two along the way. Just as I was going to utter my 157th swear word of the day, there it was: the beach!! We finally made it! It was confirmed as Suburban Rush had made it there just before us and were screaming for joy. This was definitely the toughest thing I have ever done in my life, to date. After about 8-10 hrs of portaging, I was reborn. I was actually glad to hop back into those inflatable thingies! That's when I told everyone there that I was going to buy one of these boats from Geoff, burn it in a pile, and dance around its smoldering carcass. Everyone seemed to like that plan. After a bit of pumping we were off again. The view was spectacular! The Work Channel was so quiet and serene--the water was glass. I was thinking, and so was everyone else, that this is why we adventure race. The view was almost surreal. The snow-capped mountains provided the perfect backdrop to our twilight paddle. It was going to be a long paddle to the next CP, but as I said, I didn't mind at all. No more portaging!

we da newz!We paddled, and paddled, and paddled, the day drawing to a close and soon all we could see were silhouettes and occasional blinking lights. Navigation here was easy--all we had to do was paddle to the source of the channel. We made it to the end of the channel and skirted around until we saw a boat ramp that seemed to be in the right place. Usually there was a welcome wagon of some sort, so when we beached and no one rushed up to greet us, we were a bit skeptical. We sent Phil up to investigate and after a few minutes it was confirmed--we were in the right place. CP24. As soon as we got out of the boat and out of our pfds it suddenly got really cold. It was like the Texas Dare when we finished that hellish paddle and as soon as I took of my lifevest I was shivering uncontrollably. Suburban Rush/Secondwind was still there, drying up by the inviting fire, which we took advantage of. One of the volunteers even cranked up the heater in his truck--I was sweating after sitting there for just a couple of minutes! I must admit this was probably my slowest transition--I hung out too long in the fire and got used to it. Thankfully Paul snapped me out of it and told us to be ready in 5. I pouted a bit, but put on my game face right away and we were off on our bikes in no time.

So the bad part about having your bikes shuttled without a protective box is that it can get banged around a bit. The reason why I know is because after a few miles of riding, my rear dérailleur was acting up. I had to walk up a couple of hills. Even when I didn't shift gears my dérailleur would lock up. I just had to pedal easy from now on...grrrr! This race was just stifling me on the bike whenever possible! I was happy to know that the race volunteers had to drive up this road to get our gear over to the next TA, so I knew the road would be rideable the whole way...at least that's what I hoped. After a few miles of dirt road, we reached Highway 16--sweet! Paved road! Given, this section was a bit boring as we could no longer see the spectacular view (which was, well, spectacular) and it was smooth highway road the whole way. But it wouldn't be that easy, would it? Nope! As we cruised along, the road started to pitch upward a bit and then I started noticing signs advising chains be put on. I recognized these signs from traveling from Spokane to Seattle...over the Snoqualmie Pass! Frick! I had no idea how steep this climb would be, but I knew it would be steep if cars normally need chains to get up when it snows! I started to wonder, what is the Canadian Dept. of Transportations regulations on highway grades? Hmmm, would be nice to know, but it was kinda too late at this point. So the climbing started in earnest and of course Jen shot up to the front. It actually wasn't that bad--we were cranking at a steady, manageable pace, so it was over in no time.

What goes up must come down...we were flying! Thank goodness it was early, early in the morning and there were hardly any cars on the road...then again, I doubt there are many cars on the road at any time during the day up here! We went along happily and again we gained on a couple teams, so Paul seemed to want to break their spirits by speeding past them. In our gusto, we had flown past the turnoff we were supposed to take to the paddle transition. Nice. We didn't realize this until we passed a team that was portaging their boats along the highway. First of all, WTF?!? Apparently, they had had enough of paddling the inflatables and would rather portage them 7 miles then paddle them 5 miles. That was ridiculous in my mind, but heck I wasn't in their shoes. They told us where we had missed it and we turned around, having to go back up a hill we had just zoomed down. Crap. We got back to the turn off and got back on track. CP25 was just another quarter mile away. We didn't get near the fire this time--we focused on getting our paddling gear on. We had a pretty fast transition here and we were off on our last paddle of the race. The sun was rising and despite the persistent flying insects that seemed to escort us most of the way, I was in a good mood. Sleepmonsters started to invade and Phil was obviously having bouts with the dreaded creature. We would be paddling along when all the sudden he would stop. I'd cock my head in an inquisitive manner when again all the sudden he would start paddling again. I started to snicker and watch the on/off technique. We weren't mashing at the time, so I didn't mind--I just tried to enjoy the dawn.

Paul's gear exploded out on the sidewalk!We were told to park the boats before the actual TA point as they didn't want us to battle the Buzte Rapids. Sounded like another excuse to make us portage. So, it was obvious where we were supposed to get out as there were volunteers standing on the shore. They told us that the trail was paved and it wasn't that long of a portage. Well, they got 50% of it right. We hadn't brought our portage straps with us, so we went with our traditional method of carrying the inflated boats. But this time, even though the trail was paved and clear, without the straps it wore out our arms pretty quickly. Then Phil fashioned a clever portaging device out of a paddle--he broke down the paddle into two pieces and used one to get leverage while carrying the boat. We still had to take breaks, but it did lengthen the time between breaks. This friggin trail, as usual, didn't seem to end, when finally the trail opened up into a parking lot where CP26 lay and many boats were already deflated and shoved aside. Suburban Rush/Secondwind was there again. The volunteers here were super friendly and helpful again and that helped energize us for the final push. We left right after SubRush/2nd and were on their heels as we entered the trail leading up to CP27. We were told that the trail entrance would be marked and it was, but we quickly loss track of it once we got into the trees. Guh, more bushwhacking?!? They suggested that we take this so far nonexistent trail up to Mt. Hays. We looked and looked and we couldn't find the trail, so we were looking at possibly going around the mountain to a well-defined road and head up that way. But I was thinking this would take way too long. As we were wandering around, contemplating this route, we literally stumbled upon the trail! We tried to sneak away from the pack of other racers, but they had figured that we found the trail and followed along. We could not match their speed, so they eventually passed us. We powered up the hill. A lot of the trail was wiped away by mudslides, so it made travel a bit slower than usual.

this is one of the reasons why the course was changed!Up, up, up. Then we saw SubRush/2nd heading back down the trail. Uh oh. Apparently we were supposed to take this trail, but not all the way up. We had just passed a trail junction, the other trail heading to the "chalet"...I guess we should had thought about that a bit longer since the next CP was actually near an old abandoned ski lift. Hindsight. So we backtracked too and along the way picked up Dirty Avocados. BTW, they were the Team 6 calling for help way back on the first day--I hadn't realized that until we were on the ferry heading back to Prince Rupert. Anyway, we kept going and this is where the treacherous wooden planks were ubiquitous along the trail. They had good intentions, but in the moist conditions were death traps. They tempted us along the way when finally one of us would give in and use it as an alternative to sloshing through the mud or soggy ground....then, whack! Someone would take a header, slipping on one of the boards, so we eventually stopped using the boards outright. The trail led up to a clearing where we could see the old chair lift and a boardwalk and a couple of communication towers at the peak of the mountain, so we knew we were close. A jeep road seemed to lead all the way up to the tower, so we decided to take it and see where it went. Bingo! It was a manned CP and again the ATV productions car was there. We took our time here, knowing we were practically done...practically.

So after shooting the breeze a bit with the volunteer, we headed down the dirt road that they used to drive up to CP27. It looked to be easy and straightforward, so we were in high spirits again. I couldn't wait to get to the finish--my feet were getting torn up and every step was like driving my foot down on a rusty, jagged nail. I don't know why the volunteers do this, but they ALWAYS lie to us about distance. Again, they told us we would be down in Prince Rupert in about 40mins, but it took probably double that just to get to some semblance of civilization. The road started to flatten out and we really could smell the barn now, so as painful as it was, we started to jog a bit. Our final navigational error (we had a lot this race) seemed to be the most ridiculous. So, we made it into town and instead of going left down Highway 16, which would be a straight shot to the finish, we went right. Instead of running another mile to the finish, we made it a bonus 4 miles. We knew we weren't in Kansas anymore as we were running through neighborhoods and the people were staring at us like we were crazy. Our fears were confirmed when we flagged down a local and asked her how to get to Mariner's Park. Out of anger, or just frustration, we picked up the pace to a full run. We were now trying our best to ignore the pain--we just wanted to be done. Along the way, this nice, elderly couple pretty much gave us a van escort all the way to the finish--apparently they too were scared that we would take another wrong turn! We turned right on McBride and there was the finishing arch! We were home! As we got within 100m of the finish, we hooked up and crossed as a team. That was such an unexplainable feeling of accomplishment. They handed us a bottle of champagne and, yes, that was the best champagne I've ever tasted!


our wonderful sponsors: AlpineAire-InfernoAfter about 100hrs of racing, we were done...and we weren't ready to kill each other! We hung out at the finish line for a bit, mostly because there was free pizza and cinnamon rolls. We eventually started limping our way to our hotel, but decided to take a taxi. This was one of the funniest part of the race--we had walked, ran, biked, paddled, clawed our way for about 300-400k and at the end had to take a taxi for less than a mile. Actually, it wasn't because we were tired, it was because we were shuffling so slow and we still had a lot to do before closing ceremonies and their planes left early in the morning (I had until later in the afternoon the next day, so I wasn't in so much of a rush). We reclaimed our nasty, funky gear, got cleaned up, and got shuttled to a restaurant down the highway for closing ceremonies. The food was great as usual and the ceremonies were fun--each team was called up to get their award and we had time for final thoughts/comments. I think after Paul was done with his speech we all just said "booyah!" They had dancing scheduled, but we just wanted sleep at about this time--we took the bus back at around midnight. The next morning the team got up and all but me left for the airport. I just ended up napping a bit more before gathering my gear for the final trip back to Houston.

waiting for the bus to the airport :(I must say that it was definitely one of the times of my life--I am so glad I decided to take Paul's invitation to race with such a great team! Thanks for all the HART members, most especially Rick, for their support along the way. Special thanks to Team MOAT for their advice and to Team Dynamic Health, Warship, Jackie, Monty, and Tracie for training with me, be it on overnight treks or ascending and rappelling training. Thanks also to Geoff Fletcher of the University of London, who administered compatibilty and team building exercises for our team, better preparing us for racing as a TEAM. And finally thanks to Frontier Adventure Racing for such a beautiful, challenging, brutal course (yes, guys, you NEED to go up to Canada and do their races!) and AlpineAire-Inferno, our main sponsor, for providing all the food we needed at transition areas, and then some!

Now off to train for the next adventure...PRIMAL QUEST 2008!

Friday, July 20, 2007

RTNX: Crawl If You Must...

Stage 2: Moresby Island

setting up for paddle to MoresbyDuring our scurrying around the Heritage Center getting all our gear squared away for the restart, we would periodically run into members of Gregg's Fat Tire Race Team, formerly known as MPGear.com who raced in PQ last year. They too were getting ready to head out. As we got our boats seaworthy, it seemed that we would finally have a chance to break out Paul's sail. We only had one set, so we had planned to tow if the sail was too efficient for the other boat to catch up (i.e., Phil and I). The wind was kickin and in the direction that we wanted to go, so I was really excited! After a group photo on the beach, we shoved off right before GFTRT...and wouldn't you know it, the wind shifted. Motherf...we launched the sail and it was pushing us in the wrong direction! Man, our luck, bad that is, was starting up again! Paul took the sail down and we just paddled on our perturbed way. About 1/3 of the way we get hit by a squall--I'm talking about 4ft whitecaps. Now, this is adventure racing! I was used to this crap already (ummm, Big Chill), so I didn't mind much. I just tried keeping us going in a forward direction. And as we were approaching the other side of the inlet, searching for a buffer against the wind, it suddenly all went away. I'm sure GFTRT timed this right as they kept on a B-line for CP12 while we were skirting islands left and right just trying to stay out of the wind. The only bright spot of this section was that it seemed that Jen had gotten a hold of the steering duties as their boat was keeping good pace with us now.

smile for the camerasWe slowly progressed along the coast in these inflatables and eventually came up upon CP12. Here we would transition into trekking gear (hey, it was like dejavu...well, hopefully not completely!) and head over and up to bag CP13, on top of Mt. Moresby. The support staff at the TA told us that we were lucky that the tide was up--some teams had to drag their boats several meters further up the beach because of low tide. Thankfully we were on the water during high tides throughout the race. We started our trek at a jog, but Paul suggested that we keep it at a brisk walk so as to conserve our energy for the monstrous climb to come. I agreed wholeheartedly! This part of the trek was pretty straightforward--this was one of the few times that we got to use a nice, clear logging road for most of the way. GFTRT was right behind us and I was sure they would pass us soon if they kept their jogging pace. We first passed the junction we were looking for that would lead us to the trail to Mt. Moresby, but eventually figured this out and backtracked. In the meanwhile, GFTRT made the turn and were ahead of us now. The smooth logging road was now disappearing, turning into the rough, overgrown paths we were used to back on Graham Island. It was obvious that streams were flexing their muscles here too as we had several crossings to negotiate to keep on the trail. Eventually, the path turned into singletrack and this is the point at which we started seeing teams heading back from the top. All were in good spirits and happy to give us pointers on our ascent. Gotta love adventure racers--always chock-full of information! One word kept coming out of their mouths: epic!

shovin offWe started our climb in earnest. The paths were muddy and well-trodden by the time we got there. As long as there was a true path to the top without any cliffhanging required I would deal with the mud...and thankfully there was. But that didn't mean the climb was a cakewalk--it still was a huffing and puffing ascent. Slowly we made our way up and once in a while would pass a team heading down. We even had a pair of fixed ropes to climb, but protection was not deemed necessary. If I set it up, I would have thought some kind of redundancy would be required since a slip would definitely ruin your day--ahh, to be an engineer. Anwyay, we got passed these ropes without incident and started getting into the snow. The only good part of being in the back of the pack was that most of the footholds were already kicked in for us, but as we made our way higher up the mountain we were forced to make our own routes. As we ascended into the treeless landscape, the snow was everywhere and we had to mind our steps as one false move and you could be unpurposely glissading off of a cliff. Jen started taking a cornucopia of photos at this point. I turned my head to see why and wow...the view was spectacular! I kept having to stop and look back in awe. The view was superb as we got to the peak--360 of the entire island! And the sun was setting, which pitched the sky in an awesome display of reds and oranges. This is exactly why I came here. We grabbed CP13, at 3900ft, briefly talking to GFTRT at the peak and then made our way back down--it was windy and cold, making a longer stay out of the question.

Mt. Moresby!My second glissading experience, except the slopes were steeper here! Jen made fun of me because I had my eyes closed, but it was because the snow was getting into my eyes...really! We had to pick our glissading routes carefully because there were some definite overhangs that would sail you into oblivion. I eventually got comfortable with this fast technique of decent, at one time almost knocking Paul over like a spare at a bowling alley as I screamed pass him--no, we didn't have ice axes to arrest ourselves. Of course, like all fun things, it had to end. We got back to the non-snow portion of our downclimb, which wasn't as exciting. Thankfully we completed most of the downclimbing right before the brief night engulfed us. As we were making our way down an ever-improving logging road, heading for CP14, we ran into SART. These guys were a hoot and their reputation definitely preceded them! The Singapore Adventure Racing Team was there to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible it seems, as we were told of their harrowing tale where they stayed up on the mountain ridge heading towards CP3 for two nights before they actually made it there. And although they were quite behind, they were in the best of spirits! We had warned them of the gnarly trail up the mountain and suggested that they wait out the night before ascending. We later found out they listened to our advice--I would not have liked going up that thing at night!

guh, yet another bikewhack!So I was hungry again and had "Booyah" on my mind--I was in full speedwalk mode. Jen even noticed my determined pace. We charged ahead and we eventually made it back to the main road that led to CP14, our mountain bike TA. Yes, another thing to look forward to--since we were short-coursed we hadn't had a chance to use our bikes yet. I was so looking forward to this leg! But first, Booyah! The support crew here had food, water, and, most of all, fire! As soon as we were sure all of our gear was there, we zoomed to the fire and gathered around while eating our Infernos. The support staff were really nice and very helpful, we almost didn't want to leave. Almost. We realized that we needed to head out fast or be here forever, so we started readying our gear for the bike leg. This is where I realized my bike computer was missing. Nice. Then, later in the course, I realized I left my compass at that TA. Man, even in Canada I'm losing stuff! Anyway, that just meant I couldn't help out with measuring the distance to the next attack points. We headed out just after GFTRT. This section was a bike rogaine...I was just soooo happy to be on my bike, finally! Well, you know this wasn't going to last long.

HQ's ride seemed to be everywhere...and sometimes inhabited by a snoring bear! :)We were cruising and eventually took a right on a side logging road. It was a bit muddy and lined with fallen tree limbs, but I was just happy to be rolling. Then the fun started again. The bridge was out! So much for my dry socks. We forded the river and started pedaling again, but there were many ditches eroding through the road, so we were frequently dismounting and remounting. We were looking for a road intersection and eventually we got there, not before we slipped and fell on the downed limbs--it was like riding Jack Brooks right after a rainy day: those limbs were deadly! We caught up to GFTRT here at CP18 and after a few minor adjustments to Jen's machine, we took a right and headed for CP17. Daylight was breaking and we were getting our groove on on the bike. We passed GFTRT as they were deciding which way to go. Hit an intersection and went left, eventually hitting a bridge where CP17 lay. We ran into a bunch of teams here, camped out seemingly. I was getting my first attack of the sleepmonters at this point, so I just wanted to keep moving as it seemed to get worse when we were stopped. We backtracked to get to CP19. The road was pretty rideable except for some sections of mud. We got to CP19 and since the road didn't look too bad, we decided to keep going on this road to get to CP16. This was a good decision, but it was, again, not the easiest route.

our main TA at Haida Gwaii was like a garage sale!A few k's down the road and the path took a turn for the worse. The road disappeared and it was nothing but old growth forest again. Not again. We knew this was the right way to go and it was too late to turn back, so guess what, off the bikes again and a nasty bikewhack was in order. We saw orange and white flagging along the way, so we followed this in the general direction we wanted to go and this led us back to the road, thankfully. But not before a long and arduous hump through the forest. As we hit the other side, we saw another team, oddly without their bikes, and missing one team member. Apparently they had been looking for CP19 for hours and had just decided to drop their bikes close to CP16 and then hike around to find it. We knew this was illegal, but we weren't the race police. In a hilarious move to enforce the rules, though, Lawrence had saw that their 3 bikes were lying there, so he confiscated them without their knowledge. So, basically, they had to make it back to the last TA, several miles away, with only one bike! Genius! I bet Rick would have loved that! Anyway, we made it out to the other side, mostly on our bikes and CP16 was right there, with Lawrence and an ATV productions camera man. We were so happy that we ended right where we wanted to be that we didn't curse once to Lawrence. After referencing the map again, we cruised down the side of the mountain to CP15, the last checkpoint of the rogaine.

as much as they loved hosting us, the Haida nation had to get back to work: logs that would later be turned into long boats replaced our gearAlong the way, we saw GFTRT climbing up the road we were roaring down--they must had decided to go around instead of risk it like us. I was happy again, on my bike. In fact, everyone for the most part were in good spirits. Then came actually trying to find the last CP of this leg. As we got close to the CP, we saw another team wandering around, befuddled. It looked like they took a road turn in too early, so we waited until they cleared the area to continue on. We went down the road a bit further then turned in. It was a bit spooky at first because it looked like we were riding through a genuine ghost town! Then, since nothing seems to be easy in this race, the road just ended at a river. The road had been replaced with a dam and we didn't see any evidence of the road picking up again on the other side. Regardless, we forded the river with our bikes to check it out. We were not alone as at least two other teams were scurrying around trying to find the right path to the CP. Phil thought he had found a path through the nasty forest, so we did our best to sneak out of there without the other teams noticing. But our plan had been foiled as the trail quickly disappeared and we were surrounded by fallen, moss-covered trees yet again. We pushed on, bikewhacking, and I reluctantly followed. I really didn't think we had enough time to bikewhack to the CP and make it back in time to make the cutoff. After scouting the area a bit, we decided to forget CP15 and just head back to the final CP of this stage as quickly as possible. My feet were beaten up by hiking around in my bike shoes, so they thanked us for this decision.

By this time, GFTRT had caught back up to us and were ready to leave this CP as well. They headed back before us and Paul, thinking it might be crucial for us to get back early since other teams may have missed one CP on the rogaine as well, ordered us into a paceline. We were cruising. We passed up GFTRT again and we were making good time. I think we passed two other teams on the way to CP21. We were getting close to the CP and Paul was determined to beat one team there, so he barked at me to pull as hard as I could. This was my element, so I didn't argue--I just hammered. We made quick work of that section and had arrived in Sandspit at around noon, I think. We tried to transition as quickly as possible into paddle gear for the final paddle back to the Haida Heritage Center. A bunch of other teams were there, some of them, like YukonWILD, finishing up the advanced course. Paul was deep in sleepmonster mode, so we decided to switch up the paddling order, with me and Paul and Phil and Jen. Plus, again, it looked like we would be able to use our sails to cruise us back home. Our boat had the sail, and we unfurled it shortly after we shoved off. We were getting a tailwind, but unfortunately it was only strong enough to fill the sail, and not enough to give us much more additional forward force. We struggled, but we made it back. They had a finish arch up and had a full welcome home crew set up for the finish of the Haida Gwaii stage. We hammered in, pulled our boats in off of the surf and ran under the banner to finish the stage. Even though it wasn't the final finish, it felt just as good crossing that line. Geoff was there to welcome us and he interviewed us in front of the tv cameras. I don't think I said much, except "Booyah!" maybe.

sweeet long canoes--if only we had time to test them out!As they say, there is no rest for the weary. It was a good idea for us to finish up as soon as possible, because we had a tight schedule to get back on the ferry for the final stage of the race at Prince Rupert. But first, the Haida nation was taking care of us again and had caught Salmon for the racers and had grilled them up nicely. It was the best salmon I have EVER tasted! And that's not just because we had been racing for about 3+ days already--it was so fresh! We devoured everything in sight, but the fish kept coming! I love these people! We stuffed our faces as much as possible and then had to convene for another meeting. We didn't have much time if we wanted to make it onto the ferry. We had to repack our gear boxes for the next stage and we wouldn't see them again until the stage had already started, so we had to be very careful here. Stress. I was extra unhappy because I had no more dry clothes--I even had to borrow a pair of tights from Paul! Packing the gear wasn't as stressful since we were just prepping for a 24+hr race now--we were planning to race light. One by one our gearboxes were closed for the last time until the final stage and next thing you know we were done. Jen and I walked back over to the ferry terminal while Paul and Phil rode their bikes ahead of us to pack them away on the ferry. I was looking forward to some real sleep--we would for sure need it for the final stage of our journey.

Finally, Stage 3: Prince Rupert...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

RTNX: Walk When You Have To...

Welcome to Haida Gwaii

rolling outSo, we all got up pretty early the next day since its daylight at about 4am in the morning! Geez! Phil and I even stayed up a bit longer the night before to watch to finale of Ultimate Fighter, but still our internal clocks woke us right up at the crack of dawn. I had a million thoughts buzzing through my mind, mostly about stuff I had decided not to bring. Wanting not to regret not having something, I made a quick stop at the Highliner that moring to retrieve a little more gear. Phil wanted me to get his sleeping pad, so I didn't feel too bad. As soon as I got back, we all rolled out to Mariner's park, where the bike prologue would start.

rollin thru the PRWe got to the park and the only indication that we were in the right place was one Raid the North vehicle--no other teams were there yet! We had to ask and yes they confirmed we were in the right place. Yahoo! We won the pre-prologue! As we sat there by the monkey bars, slowly other teams started to trickle in. ATV productions also rolled in with their cameras--I really can't wait to see their video of the race! After a few more minutes, the park was swarmed with racers, stretching, chatting, and using the monkey bars as a bike stand! The invasion has started! Race management then arrived and tried to bring order to the chaos and soon we were lining up at the main promenade near the park.

A few more anxious moments passed and then finally we were signaled to roll on out towards the ferry docks, through Prince Rupert. Although this was just a ceremonial start, the excitement was palpable--you could tell everyone was just glad to have their gear packed away and were ready to get this thing started! We cruised our way to the docks where we had another stint of waiting. The sun had made a rare appearance, so Jen and I decided to lean back on a set of concrete traffic barriers (perfectly shaped for basking in the sun) while Phil and Paul took their bikes up on the ferry (due to space limitations, two bikes had to go on the U-haul trucks while two had to go up on the higher decks of the ferry). We sat there and chatted until we were told to get up and wait inside the gates this time. Tickets were distributed and we started our exodus up the ramp to the ferry. At about this time I had the pleasure of talking to Will and Brian of Dirty Avocados. I briefly met Brian in the flesh at USARA Nationals last year, during a hellish bike carry up the side of a mountain. I say in the flesh because we had previously interacted as Suunto T6 test pilots. We quickly settled in as the ride to Haida Gwaii would take about 5hrs.

arriving at the docksSpace was definitely a luxury on this ferry as there were regular patrons on the boat with us. We had snagged window seats when we got in, but apparently squatting was not allowed. Whenever we left our seats to do whatever we had to do, we'd come back to see that someone had usurped our domain. Oh well. We figured they were here to sightsee so I didn't want to get in the way of their vacation. It turned out to be a series of trying to find an open piece of floor to lay on. Sometime in between our naps, we decided to open up our first set of AlpineAire Inferno meals. We did a sample of the Chicken Booyah (our rally cry for the entire race), Hearty Beef Stew, and Chicken Pasta Parmesan (my favorite!) It tasted really good and everyone around us was so curious that even vacationers were taking pictures of us. Hilarious! As we were enjoying the moment, I noticed that, suprisingly, all the teams seemed really relaxed, as if there was no race of epic proportions about to start in less than a day! Well, when we saw the islands of Haida Gwaii creep up on our horizon, however, that all started to change. Everyone was a buzz of activity again, going over gear strategy, reviewing the maps, filling camelbacks, and packing up sleeping bags. The fog of race was about to begin.

Since two of our teams bikes were on the gear trucks, Jen and I had to walk about a mile to the Haida Heritage Center, our main headquarters for this stage of the race, while Phil and Paul rode ahead to get started unloading our gear. As soon as we got there, gear was just flying everywhere! As the race volunteers shouted out team numbers, their respective boxes shot out of the trucks. Organized chaos. Main TA was situated under a shelter where each team was designated a small island that would be their home for 3.5 days. We barricaded our small plot of land with our gear boxes. With that secured, we tended to pitching up our tent for the night. It was non-stop movement. We had a moment of unwind time as the Haida nation wanted to welcome us formally. They fed us first (always tops in my book!) and then they had a program of talks and ceremonial dances. As they performed their ceremonial dances, I was again in awe of the uniqueness of this race experience. To encourage full participation, they even had all the racers come down and dance traditional female and male dances. That for sure broke all of the tension. But we were abruptly brought back to reality after the welcome program as Chris "HQ" started belting out instructions about our inflatable boats and gear box deadlines that night.

Kenny in KitWe broke out the boats, which were still in their original packaging, and started setting it all up. Although it was probably 10pm at night, we still had enough light to see what we were doing and we even took the boats out for a spin...for some of us, literally. Even though the Tomcats are longer than the dreaded Sevys, they still spin as soon as you stop paddling. I, though not a super paddler, have had experience with the rubber duckies, so I didn't have much trouble steering. But Jen had to take a crash course. After a few test runs, we called it a night and turned in. Yes, the tent was a multi-person tent, but we were still quite cramped. My face was into the wall of the tent for most of the night, which didn't make for much confortable sleep. To accentuate the experience, the team next to us was a set of chatterboxes. Thankfully, they eventually fell asleep. But lets just say it wasn't that hard to get up early--they were up chattering like birds at the first sight of daylight! I barely got any sleep, so it really wasn't that hard for me to get out of that cramped space. It was race mode now.

Stage 1: Graham Island

We were set and staged our boats on the beach. The sunrise was spectacular and well-timed. With a few parting comments from Geoff, we were off at 6am sharp, running our boats to the shore. The start was the expeceted bobbing and weaving through traffic and finally getting into a steady cadence. At first, both of our boats seemed to be equally matched, but as we took the turn around the small island Phil and I started to gap Jen and Paul. Obviously the tough steering was starting to show its effects. We weren't the only team having problems, so I wasn't too worried. We were paddling, of course, into a headwind, so there was a definite decision point as we paddled to CP1, which was on the other side of a big island. Going right of the big island seemed to be shorter, but it put you smack dab into the wind. While going to the left looked to be a bit longer, it gave teams sufficient shelter. At this point, we decided for shelter. As we got closer to the lee side of the island, it was obvious that it was working--the water was turning into-near glass conditions. We then had one other decision point--go left where there was an obvious wide gap between islands (most teams did this), or go right where there MIGHT be a small gap between islands. We went for this riskier route because it was shorter. As we could see, only 3 teams went this way. It was like being in a cove as there was no wind at all and I was actually getting a bit warm. The opening was not visible for about 9/10ths of this leg of the paddle, so we were nervous for the whole way. But as we got closer, we saw one of the top teams glide by the opening! Considering we were quite a bit back from the leaders at the start, this was confirmation of our good route choice! We shot out of the opening and we were in the thick of things again!

loading upHere we ran into Dancing Pandas, which are a fun-loving group of racers with the right attitude. Tom seemed to fixate on the fact that I was from Houston, but that seemed to be popular at the race--every other team seemed to call us the team from Houston! Too funny, but there were a few teams who knew of HART there, so that was a good feeling. I looked back at the teams who decided to take the route into the wind and I could tell we were back into midpack. We skirted around a few more smaller islands and "booyah!" CP1! We arrived there in 11th place--not bad for being our first expedition! We quickly transitioned out of our paddling gear, which is not easy considering the mandatory, yet useful, wetsuit we had to wear. We took time to apply Desitin as we knew foot care would be paramount, especially in this wet environment. It must have been quite a sight with Paul rubbing Desitin on my feet using surgical gloves...I'm HOPING that Jen didn't take a pic of that! In no time, we were off for the monstrous trek of my life.

Okay, Lawrence said it would take us 5-10hrs to clear the whole trekking leg, up to CP3, so that's what we had planned for. It started of quite nicely with a clear logging road that skirted the channel in the direction we wanted to go. In an attempt to conserve energy, we started with a brisk walk/light jog combo that seemed to be working. Along the way, we caught up with Race the Rockies, the team Andrew races with up in Canada. They were really nice and we had a good convo with them, but they obviously wanted to put distance between us and them, which was fine. As we were following the logging road to the base of a mountain where CP2 was perched upon, Phil spotted a side road that split to the left. At first, we disregarded it, but as we continued on the road it seemed to veer too far north and then we could no longer see the mountain ridge we were shooting for. We also lost sight of Trounce Inlet, which we were supposed to be skirting up until a stream inlet. So we doubled-back, accompanied by Team Zissou, which turned out to be the correct route. But of course, correct does not mean easy.

Haida children performingThe logging road was clear for the first mile or so, but we then ran into a landslide of trees that seemed to be caused by an avalanche. And that pretty much marked the beginning of the end of our smooth ride. We were now climbing downed trees, scurrying up and down steep scree, and whacking through ever-thickening brush. We caught up to Dancing Pandas and traveled a bit together until a major bridge crossing presented itself. This was the stream that we had decided early on (with the recommendation of Lawrence) to take up to CP2. We stayed on the eastern side of the reentrant while DP went on the other side. At first, it looked like we were making better time, albeit through a lot of mossy, rotten, large fallen trees. Then they disappeared. No worries--we were going our own way, racing our own race. But apparently our "race" was going to be tough. It was tree after tree after tree that we had to either scoot over or under. At the same time, we had to go higher to make the saddle we were shooting for, so that made it even more tiring, especially for this 5-yr Houstonite. Even more disheartening is that we kept running into crevasses and reentrants along the way that we had to sketchily negotiate. With a 1:50,000 map and 100ft contour intervals, it was easy to miss these things, even though they could be 100ft in height! After talking to teams, it seemed that they all had experienced this headache, but for our inexperienced team it was grating on us hard while we were in the moment.

As we pushed on, I looked over my shoulder to the left, up to the peak that we were hoping to get to and I noticed little figures trickling down the slope. Friggin-A...teams were already heading down from the CP! And they seemed to be so far away--at least 5 more hrs of trekking if the terrain was going to be like this. 5-10hrs my arse! It was going to take us at least 10hrs just to get to CP2. Regardless, we kept on, because what else were we going to do? We eventually hit the saddle we were looking for, but we still had a lot of climbing to do. We were at about 2200ft and we had to get to 3500ft...and the climbing was getting steeper. I knew I should have done more hillwork...then again, I doubt it would have made a difference in this terrain. We started to see snow and at the same time we started running into teams who were on their way down. These teams included Race the Rockies...wtf?!? They ran off straight on that road while we veered off on the "right" road. I still, to this day, have no idea how they got up that mountain so fast using that route...unless they doubled-back eventually like we did. Anyway, we put on our extra layers as the temps were starting to drop significantly. We began hitting snow fields and this was my first glissading experience. First on feet, but eventually on my butt since it took a lot less energy...the tradeoff was a wet rear end.

how low can you go?!As we ascended into the treeless landscape, we started to see victims of the trecherous terrain. One of Team Supplier Pipeline's members had suffered a hematoma from falling on a rock. Having experienced a serious one like he did, I understood the pain he was going through--if was anything like mine, where my leg ballooned to at least 3 times its normal size, he was not going anywhere fast. They were in the process of calling for an extraction via helicopter and as we trudged past them and gained some elevation, we heard the distinctive rotors of the chopper descending upon their location. It was surreal with the magnificent backdrop--we could now see the Inlet we skirted, far in the distance, as we were at about 3k feet. As we observed this, Running Free was heading down with one troubled teammate of their own. Apparently he had been feeling off all day long and hasn't been able to shake it off, so they too were going to decend to the same, flat spot on the mountain to radio for help. This is ridiculous, I was thinking to myself. Thankfully, we would get slight respite after getting CP2 code.

On our way back down, we stopped and rested a bit with Running Free as they waited for their extraction. There was a fire, so it was nice to just sit by it for a short while, but we had to keep going. So we were off again, shooting for the saddle we had just past to get to the other valley on our way to CP3. This involved more precarious downclimbing that was sapping our energy, so as soon as we got to the saddle, we observed a 15min rest period. We sat as the frogs around us chirped away as soon as we were quiet for a few seconds. It was starting to get dark so we pulled out our headlamps and plunged into the dark abyss of the thick rainforest. The brush and fallen trees just kept coming at us with no respite. After a few more hours, we decided to bed down for a couple of hours until sunrise to get some rest and hoping that we would be fresher mentally and physically in the morning. Whatever we did on the side of that mountain, it wasn't sleep. Although we welcomed the rest and quickly plopped down in "puppy-pile" position with emergency blankets over us, we were still freezing, unable to really fall asleep. Let me tell you, spooning with 3 people you just met a couple days ago was definitely an odd experience, but I got over it quick, to say the least. We were all shivering. I think I was able to lose consciousness for a few minutes, but alas the light had come back and we quickly, and amazingly, sprung right up. More with this damn forest.

boats stagedI had basically had enough of the combination of off-canter climbing and hopping large fallen trees, so I requested that we try going lower on the hillside, closer to the stream. Although this didn't give us respite from the logs, it did give us level ground to work with. We stopped at a stream at the bottom of the reentrant to refill our water bladders and then we pushed on again. A welcome sight--a logging road! We wouldn't use it, but it gave us some confirmation that we were heading the right way. Then, it seemed that we were crossing streams every 500 meters or so, making the threat of trench foot very much reality. In fact, throughout the entire race, our feet were never really dry. We got to the stream we were supposed to follow up to the next reentrant and saddle and followed it west. In a preemtive strike kind of way, we decided to start climbing the side of the reentrant pretty early--this would be a fatal flaw. As we made our way up, we kept running into cliffed out sections again. The climbing was so steep, the only protection we had was grabbing onto grass and roots coming out of the ground. No, we are not smart. In fact, on one dicey section, Jen, who was just in front of me and just below Phil, out of reach, was crossing a slippery rock. She lost hold and thankfully, last second, grabbed onto a tree branch, arresting her fall. If she hadn't been so nimble, she would have easily tumbled down at least 50ft, most likely ending our race right there.

waiting to startThat was about the time we were losing our taste for taking unneccessary risk. Thankfully, we finally reached the top of the ridge we were climbing. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the wrong ridge! I knew something was wrong when Paul was shouting out bearings that made no sense. I wasn't paying much attention to the detailed navigation as they were lead naving, but I did remember needing to go in a general northwest direction...so when he said we were going in a southwesterly direction, alarm bells started to sound. I looked at the map, terrain associated, and realized we were way off course. We had unknowingly took a southwestern branch of the stream, meaning we would have to ridge walk quite a way just to get back on course. Meaning, at least another half day just to get to the saddle. Considering we had already run out of food several hours back, were running out of water on this ridge and the fog was decending on the mountain tops making it almost impossible to see crevasses, it was big decision time. I looked over to the other ridge we needed to get to and just saw snow-filled crevasse after crevasse (of what I could see through the fog), so I knew travel would be dangerous, especially in our weakened state. And I could tell that our team didn't think it was worth risking our lives. So, reluctantly, we finally called it.

we're off!We broke out the radio. Well, we actually tried using the radio earlier in the day just to let HQ know we were okay since we were way overdue but we could not get a hold of them. We could actually hear Team 6 calling for help too, but we nor anyone else could seem to reach them either. Anyway, we tried again, but same result--nada. We tried and tried, but to no avail. We finally decided that they wouldn't be able to land a helicopter in this rough terrain anyway, so we looked for a route down the other side of the ridge that would be safer. We figured we could head down to water and then try the radio again, hoping the coast guard would be able to come and ferry us back home. The way down was treacherous still, but we had already committed to this route, so no going back now. I just couldn't believe how there were no easy routes--this truly was wilderness navigation! We finally got down and followed a river, hopefully leading us to an inlet. And when we thought we had seen the worst of it, it just got ridiculous. Now the logs were just piled up on top of each other, making us have to scale 3 or 4 large logs at a time! WTF?! There had to be a better way, so we looked at the map again. We, again, had to collect ourselves and figure out where we were, then realized that there SHOULD be a logging road just south of us. We headed south and BINGO! It wasn't very clear, but it was clearer than the crap we were muscling through earlier, so we took it.

easy road right after paddle--that would change (CP2 on snow-covered peak in background)This leg was thankfully uneventful and we eventually made our way to the inlet. What made this even better was that we saw a group huddled around a fire at the end of the logging road...it was another team! It was Team BanffLodgingCo.com. They had already built a large fire, called into race HQ, and ordered a Coast Guard boat extraction. So all we had to do was wait and hitch a ride. It was amazing because if we had taken about 45min longer, we would have missed them...our first break of the race. We sounded our whistles and launched our flares then headed to the beach. There was the coast guard--they eventually saw us and sped towards us in their zodiac. The zodiac could only take 4 at a time, so they had to make two trips out and back to the ship. They had turned on the heater full blast, so as soon as we got below deck we were in heaven. Considering our situation, everyone seemed to be in good spirits. In about 30mins we were at Queen Charlotte City, where Geoff was waiting for us. A couple of the BanffLodgingCo.com team members thought we were closer to the Haida Heritage Center and decided to hoof it back. Geoff didn't realize this until we were already driving down the road, so he vowed to come back to pick them up since it was a lot longer of a run.


old growth forests are fun!So we had all resigned that this was the end of the road for us and were already trying to plan what to do: ride our bikes around town, chill in the center, etc. But first, we were very, very hungry! We arrived at the Heritage Center and Geoff informed us that the Haida nation had provided some food for the volunteers, staff, and racers unexpectedly. We were all over that! We charged to the dining area and scarfed down whatever was there--it was soooooo good! That's when I heard some interesting news. Aparently, following their mantra of letting teams complete as much of the course as physically possible, Geoff was allowing teams to continue from this point even though they were provided assistance. This included the teams who were provided assistance to make it to CP3 as well since they were then rerouted to the Heritage Center (Lawrence was PHYSICALLY going up on the mountain to escort teams to CP3). I, without a doubt, was all over this--it was a second chance! But not all of us were up for it at first--when the engine is turned off its hard to restart. So we agreed to sleep on it and wake up early and decide what to do. My reasoning was, "what the f*** else are you gonna do?!?" Anyway, I maintained patience and slept in the dark, warm auditorium and was out in one second...

view from one of the mountain passes on first leg (Team Expedition Canada)"Kenny! Kenny!" I woke up dazed and not knowing where I was or who this strange man calling out my name was. It was Paul--I was out like a light! Thank goodness he was in charge of waking us up in the morning or I probably would have slept through the rest of the race! We slowly got up and had breakfast and discussed the race. Thankfully everyone had a cheerier outlook and we were definitely going back out there! So it was back to rush mode, trying to get everything packed and ready to go in gear bins and backpacks. You can bet that we packed a lot more food this time around--or at least I did! Man, I was so pumped--I didn't care how hard it was going to be...I was just so happy for a second chance. And, yes, it was hard.

Next, Stage 2: Moresby Island...

*special thanks to teammate, Jen, for some of these photos

Saturday, July 07, 2007

RTNX: Run When You Can...

check the panorama i made from pics from our hotel room!

Run when you can, walk when you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.
-- Dean Karnazes

Wow, that definitely describes our race experience! This is gonna be one of those multi-part race reports, I can feel it...even then, I doubt I will do the race any justice. If you want to spare yourself my personal details, Team Adrenaline Rush has a pretty concise writeup on Sleepmonsters. Before I go deep into it, I think a bit of scene-setting is in order. The original race course for Raid the North Extreme was supposed to be entirely centered around the Prince Rupert area. However due to a large snow pack and a rapid and large snow melt this spring, flooding had reached the 200-year mark in the region, making any kind of travel in the wilderness hazardous at best. So basically, Geoff and Lawrence of RTNX had to scrap the first 2/3rds of their original race course.

gear box explodes onto our bedsAs crappy as that sounded, this actually turned into a great opportunity that the race directors I guess have been only dreaming about in years past. The locals stepped in to help with no delay and next thing you know we are starting the 2007 edition of RTNX on the Haida Gwaii Islands, also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. This remote chain of islands is inhabited by the great Haida First Nation community and they embraced us with such fervor that we were still rubbing our eyes in disbelief as we left the islands after the first stage of the race.

Phil checks out a cool totem poleEven with the racecourse coming together nicely, we still had dicey logistics to maneuver through due to the new format of traveling to and from the islands with limited ferry space. One huge change was with the gear bin assignments. Before the announced course change, we were allowed one personal gear bin per racer and one team gear bin. Now, since transportation resources were limited on the island, we had to now make each gear bin a team gear bin, each being strategically placed and moved around, being avaiable at certain TA's throughout the course. So basically we had to be a lot smarter about how we packed each gear bin since we would only see one of them at each of the TA's along the course and some we would only see once and then it would be gone for the rest of the race. We had gone over the bin packing strategy several times before getting to Prince Rupert, but still it was a headache once it came to actually loading the boxes.

Welcome to Prince Rupert

nick, i tried to get you a new pimp cane!Before we could even get to that stage, we were experiencing a team crisis. I had met Phil for the first time on the flight into PR from Vancouver on Friday and we were concerned about our gear and bikes getting on the small puddle jumper because of our short connection times. Thankfully, when we arrived in PR, our stuff was there. We rode the ferry from Digby Island (that's where the airport is located) onto the main island and rode the bus to the Inn at the Harbor. After checking in, that's when we found out that even though Paul had arrived safely a day before, his gear did not. This was extra bad since he had a lot of the team gear. Even more alarming, Jen, who was supposed to arrive the same time as we did, was not there. She missed her connecting flight and was now staying overnight in Vancouver. All this certainly made arranging our gear boxes impossible.

Lawrence imparts knowledgeWe couldn't do anything about it now, so we just did whatever we could while we waited. Paul did attend the opening ceremonies earlier that day and we received our maps, rules of travel, and coordinates. We jumped right into planning our course since that's all we could do. As we started plotting, we noticed that the trek right after the first paddle would be very tough. This feeling was emphasized as Lawrence, the course director, had forbidden us from taking certain routes that he deemed dangerous and even gave us safe waypoints to hit along the way to keep us out of harms way, or so that's what he had planned. In fact, as we were planning our route, Lawrence walked pass our door and we called him in for some advice. We were talking about crossing a certain reentrant and making our way gradually up to CP2, a mountain peak, but he said simply, "go up the reentrant." So that's how we planned our course. This would dictate our experience for the first trek of the race.

Helly Hansen didnt share their shots :(We worked through the night on the 4, big, 1:50 scale maps and eventually bedded down, exhausted. Since we were further north, sunset was at about 11pm and then sunrise was at a freakish 4am! This jacked with my sleep pattern, but I guess that wouldn't matter much during the next few days. We got up bright and early to good news. Paul had just talked to Jen who would be arriving in Prince Rupert at about 10am and she was almost 100% positive that she saw them loading up Paul's gear boxes. We still weren't out of the woods since we still had a strict time schedule to adhere to--we still had to register and go through all the skills tests and get our gear bins ready for them to transport to the island. As soon as Jen arrived, we were buzzing like worker bees, frantically packing each gear box. I had to ditch a lot of the gear I had brought since our gear boxes were filled to capacity now with each other's gear. My head was spinning at the end of it. We then lugged the heavy boxes over the Highliner Hotel, which was the HQ in Prince Rupert. We quickly went through the mandatory gear check and then the skills tests. After all that, we had to jet over to Farwest Bicycles for our bike check and then across the street to the Museum of Northern BC for a sushi meet and greet and then the final pre-race briefing.

our home before and after the raceAfter getting some food into our tummy and checking out the museum exhibits, we went over the race course one final time with Lawrence and got more detail about course cutoff times, which would turn out to be very important. We then headed back to our hotel to clean up a bit and then headed over to Breakers Pub for a bit of dinner and a couple of drinks. We had planned to get our food and get out of there so that we can get last-minute things done and get some rest before the start tomorrow, but apparently Breakers had different plans for us. We ended up waiting 2 HOURS for our food! They kept saying that the kitchen was slammed, but for some reason people after us were getting their food before us! We were so steamed...not a good way to start a race. Oh well. We walked back to our hotel and went to bed after dragging the last of our nonessential gear to the Highliner.

Next, Prologue...

Friday, July 06, 2007

First RTNX Videos

Here are a few videos that should hold you over until I finish up my race report:

Vancouver 24hours Podcast

Paddle Start at Haida Heritage Center

DART/Nuun Race Video

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Raid the North Extreme 07 Final Rankings

Taken from Sleepmonsters:

Final Rankings
By RtN Officials
With course changes due to weather and other factors, medical issues, assistance provided to teams and two race stages, figuring out the overall team rankings has proven to be a challenge for race officials.

Here are the final rankings:

2. DART-nuun
3. yukonWILD
4. SSS
5. Playground Bullies
6. Dancing Pandas
7. Adrenaline Rush
8. Suburban Rush
9. Coastal Disturbance
10.Race the Rockies
11.Racing with Giants
13.Helly Hansen / MOMAR
15.Dirty Avocadoes
16.Intrepid Travel
17.SMAC / HART / Alpine-Aire Inferno
18.Running Free
20.Expedition Canada
21.Banff Lodging Co.
23.Greggs Fat Tire Cycle

RTNX Expedition AR Suunto T6 Log - Stages Combined

I tried piecing back together my heartrate data and I think I got it. The spaces in between should represent times where either the T6 stopped logging (first gap) and where we rested before the Prince Rupert stage (2nd gap). Interesting to see that I never got over a TE of 3...

RTNX Expedition AR Suunto T6 Log - Prince Rupert Stage

*SmartBelt Data

RTNX Expedition AR Suunto T6 Log - Moresby Island Stage

*SmartBelt Data

RTNX Expedition AR Suunto T6 Log - Graham Island Stage

Here's the first set of data from the race. My SmartBelt data was corrupted somehow, so I have to sit down and analyze it and figure out what is what before I can report it here. This data is from my T6.

* report only covers first day of travel from start to rest period after leaving CP2 due to memory full
** pods not used due to race rigors
*** altitude calibration off by 200-400ft

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Extreme Indeed

Its been pretty much a day since we crossed the finish line yesterday and I am plum tuckered! This race was the toughest I've ever done and was beyond any of my imaginations. I still can't believe the stuff we went through just to finish...but we did. We were categorized as unranked because we had to be rescued by the Canadian Coast Guard after we got turned around, ran out of food, were running out of water, and were high up in the snow-topped mountains with socked-in conditions. Thankfully, Geoff let us a several teams go on, unranked, to finish the course.

I don't think I have the time or energy to do a full race report right now, but I want to lay out the course so that I will remember later on:

Sunday, Prologue: Rode bikes to Ferry and ferried to Haida Gwai Islands (Queen Charlotte Islands). Set up multiple gear bins, attended Haida Gwai welcome ceremony, prepared for race.

Monday, Race Start: Paddle to Trek Transition
CP1 to CP2: Trek up to mountain peak (3500ft)
CP2 to CP3: Trek to Bike Transition

Tuesday, STOPPED: Rescue by Coast Guard and returned to Haida Gwaii Center

CP11 to CP12: Restart. Paddle to Trek Transition
CP12 to CP13: Trek to Peak of Mt. Moresby (3820 ft)
CP13 to CP14: Trek to Bike Transition
CP14 to CP18: Bike/Hike a Bike to CP

Thursday, CP18 to CP17: Bike to CP
CP17 to CP19: Bike to CP
CP19 to CP16: Bike/Bikewhack to CP
CP16 to CP15: Bike/Bikewhack to CP. Not found
CP15 to CP20: Bike to Paddle Transition
CP20 to CP21: Paddle to End of Haida Gwaii Stage

Friday, CP22 to CP23: Start Prince Rupert Stage. Trek to Paddle Transition
CP23 to CP24: Paddle/Portage/Boatwhack/Paddle to Bike Transition (carried 60lb boat on back)

Saturday, CP24 to CP25: Bike to Paddle Transition
CP25 to CP26: Paddle/Portage to Trek Transition
CP26 to CP27: Trek to Peak of Mt. Hayes (2100ft)
CP27 to Finish: Trek to Finish

That's the outline. You'll have to wait for the final draft!

ADDITION: you can do a search on "RTNX" in this blog to find all entries related to the race, including my multi-part race report.

*special thanks go out in advance to all the RTNX photographers. No credits are provided on the RTNX website, so I can't thank them all individually. You can see all the originals using the Gallery link.