Tommy Lingbloom’s account of his first Adventure Race: Kulshan Quest, 2015
6:00 am: I finally get to see it. The map I’ve been thinking about on and off all summer. The map that dictates how Kevin and I will be spending the next 12 hours of kayaking, mountain biking and running. Immediately we dig in and start plotting the kayak route. It seems straightforward enough, but that won’t lessen the suffering.
6:23 am: The race begins! We run to Marine Park and hop in our boat, a sleek Frankenstein by the name of “Chopsticks” loaned to us by Brandon and Heather Nelson. This boat had the strange capacity to make me fear for my safety while still feeling unworthy of its capabilities. Beach balls from Yeager’s played the role of bulkheads. The primary goal was not to flip.
7:05 am: After successfully bagging two checkpoints, Kevin’s legs are completely asleep. We beach Chopsticks at Mud Bay so that he can get out and stretch, and after lifting himself from the boat he collapses into the water, unable to support himself. I consider how much time it will cost us to make stops like this every 40 minutes, and as a supportive teammate am sure to share my sentiment.
8:20 am: My arms already feel like noodles. Kevin has figured out his leg issues, and we have 7 of 8 kayak checkpoints finished. Trouble is, we’re at Governor’s Point, the finish is at Marine Park, and the last checkpoint is at the north end of Boulevard. We have the wind at our backs but it’s still a long way.
10:00 am: We finally finish our paddle. It’s the longest I’ve paddled in my life, and my skinny arms are totally spent. That, and we still have 8 hours of racing to go. For some, this may be discouraging, but as runners and cyclists 99% of the time, we are ecstatic to be off the water.
10:05 am: Being on our bikes feels amazing. I know exactly where the first five checkpoints are, and we have them done in no time. Then our first mistakes. Realizing we’ve missed the turn for Chuckanut Falls we opt to “get it on the way back.” Dumb. Also, I’m feeling so confident I drain some of the water from my platypus to save weight. I will come to regret that choice.
LESSON #1: Do not change your route unless you’ve stopped and really thought it through. That checkpoint you missed was next on your list for a reason!
12:30 pm: We’ve completed our route to Pine and Cedar Lakes and Raptor Ridge, and find ourselves cruising down the same descent we’ve done together many times in the past. It feels great to feel totally in control.
1:00pm: Off on the trek, we see one team go left to Lost Lake and another go right to Fragrance Lake as we opt to go straight up Chuckanut Ridge. We cruise up, over, and down the Rock Trail on our way to Lost Lake. As we run past the north end so as to hook back on to the trail to the eastside, we debate the feasibility of saving time by swimming straight across.
2:30pm: We find the CP below the dry falls and head to our “shortcut” to Burnout.
LESSON #2: A route that other people traditionally choose to avoid due to steepness is not necessarily a shortcut.
3:30pm: I’ve been hiking to Fragrance Lake since I was a kid, so these two checkpoints should be a piece of cake, right? Wrong. Brent takes on two trails I didn’t even know existed. One circled around a huge cliff overlooking the Lake, while the other essentially sent us straight up one. When we eventually found the second trail (more aptly described as a place where somebody once walked) we were hurting. Nevertheless, we persevered, and eventually made it back to Cleator road.
4:30pm: As we jogged along the connector back to the Ridge Trail Kevin explains to me that he’s really more of a sprinter. I am completely out of water.
LESSON #3: Bring plenty of food and water and trust your planning!
5:00pm: Back on our bikes we meekly make our way down the Salal trail, grabbing two checkpoints before heading back to Chuckanut Falls.
5:45 pm: An incredible day wraps up, and we cleared the course of all 31 checkpoints. It was the most fun I’ve ever had racing.
As we sit down to eat I try to engage Kevin in a conversation about the upcoming San Juan Island Quest, but he is unsure about it.
“Kevin, it’s a forgone conclusion that we’re doing that race. The only variable between now and then is your attitude about it.”
We’ll see ya’ll in Roche Harbor!
April is a co-founder and former co-Executive Director for Recreation Northwest. She has a passion for place and loves exploring, experiencing and sharing the beauty of the pacific northwest. She is currently working with Ocean Conservancy to protect our oceans, specifically the Arctic.