Wednesday, August 19, 2015 9:03 PM
*The format of this race report is borrowed from the Team Yogaslackers blog. Thank you Team Yogaslackers for being so inspiring to race with, growing the adventure racing community, and having a great format for race reports!*
Mission: Bend AR (Nationals Qualifier)
Location: Bend, OR
Time: 32 hours 9 min
Team: Brent Molsberry, Dusty Caseria, Emily Caseria, Annie Hewlett
Disciplines: Packrafting, trekking, slacklining, swimming, mountain biking, orienteering
Results: 3rd place overall, 2nd in our division.
Annie’s thoughts: This was my first longer adventure race, and I went into it with excitement, resolve, and a handful of worries and doubts. I had the great opportunity to race with Team Quest veterans Dusty, Brent, and Emily, who have completed three 24+ hour races and are very competitive at the national level, so I was prepared to be inspired and humbled while trying to hang with the pros. The longest I had ever been on my feet in a race before this one was 10 hours, and I knew I could go longer but wasn’t sure just how long. The Bend race was an experiment; could I stay strong enough to keep moving for 30 hours? (moving- yes, strongly- no) Had I trained properly to do such a thing? (I would definitely improve my training next time) What does one eat at 2 in the morning with 18 hours of racing down and 14 to go? (Ramen!)
The setting was incredible, and our route took us to some remote and beautiful places. Highlights were reaching the top of Maiden Peak at 8400 feet after a brutal hike-a-bike climb to take in 360 degree views of the lakes and hills far below, riding the buttery buffed singletrack trails that abound in Bend, traveling a section of the PCT, picking our way delicately across the loose lava rack as the full moon rose above us, and packrafting down a clear blue icy creek at dawn.
We raced against some very strong teams, and it was inspiring to be out there with people who were pushing hard. The winning Team Yogaslackers cleared the course at a blistering pace, and it was easy to see why this team places in the top ten at Worlds. Team Technu, currently the national champs, were not far behind. Knowing that such a huge quantity of strength, endurance, experience, and try-hard was out there on the course with us was a cool feeling. My own personal ratio of fun to suffering in this race was a generous 80/20, which was actually more favorable than I had expected, and I am already looking forward to doing another one.
Craved and Loved: The sweet bike sections! We train on rooty rocky gnarly west-side trails, and it was so fun to sail over the buttery trails this race offered. That said, there is such a thing as too much buttah, and at times the fine grained deep sand truly felt like butter under the wheels as we fishtailed and tokyo-drifted around corners. I even did my famous cartwheeling yardsale trick, but luckily the sand provided a nice soft landing.
The Depth of Despair: Occurred at about 3 am when the map indicated a short 500 yard bushwhack across a peninsula to the shore of a reservoir where we intended to put in our packrafts. After walking north, the direction of the shore, for well over 20 minutes through thick scrubby bush without encountering water we were utterly flummoxed and frustrated. How could we not have hit water yet? The answer finally came when Emily deliriously suggested that perhaps the reservoir had dried up. Crazy though it seemed, she was right. We were exactly where we thought we were, walking in the middle of the terrain formerly known as water. We kept our packrafts packed, walked on, and allowed our minds to be blown by this curveball.
Most epic place to take a nap: Our first long paddle was from 4-6 am. When you’ve been on your feet for 20 hours and you sit down in a boat on a lazy river it feels an awful lot like a bed. Emily and I repeatedly found ourselves dozing off and jerking awake to realize we were floating backward down a river as the sky grew light in the east. Rise ‘n’ shine sweetheart! Trippy.
Scariest Moment: Taking our 3.5 pound solo packrafts down class III whitewater. I will be the first to admit that I underestimated the capabilities of these featherweight crafts, but seriously, the first time I inflated my packraft I looked at it and thought, “cute! It looks like a little rubber duck!” So I was understandably a little nervous about sitting in my cute little rubber duck and flinging myself out to be pummeled by the rapid. After 30 hours of racing this was the point when my sleep deprived and undernourished brain started sounding the alarm and I almost had a full blown freakout. I maybe even said, in a moment of panic, that I hated adventure racing. It wasn’t true… but I thought I was about to die in a rubber duck. The only way out was through, and we all bucked up to the challenge and faced the whitewater with determination. 20 minutes later, we found out we are the only 4 person team in Bend AR history to have gotten through that section of the river in solo packrafts without swimming. It was a great lesson in pushing through fear to discover what we were truly capable of. I have also upgraded my assessment of the Alpacka Scout packraft from cute duck to badass river slayer.
Lessons Learned: If you are racing with a pack, train with a pack. Duh. Guess who went on plenty of training runs without a pack? Yours truly. And I paid the price when after only 2.5 hours of running with a loaded pack I developed an inflamed IT band that plagued me for the rest of the race. Lesson learned.
Relish discomfort. In a race like this it is impossible to stay comfortable, clean, dry, and perfectly nourished. If someone wanted to rename the sport they could actually call it: “Dirty Tired Cold Wet Racing.” That’s what it often is, and that’s what we signed up for. Our weakest moments as a team were when we made choices to prioritize comfort over speed and efficiency. We had an option to proceed through an orienteering section either on foot only or with a combination of packrafting and trekking, and we opted to leave the rafts behind because the sun was setting, we didn’t want to get wet, and we didn’t want to have to carry them with us to the next TA. The team that used their rafts completed that section over an hour faster than we did. Lesson learned. Don’t languish in transitions. Yet another example of when the siren song of comfort can drown out the need to stay focused on the race. In transition areas there was water, hot food, friendly volunteers, our team bin full of tasty treats we didn’t have to carry… you can understand the appeal. But the clock doesn’t stop in transitions, and eating top ramen while you leisurely change your socks can kinda kill your motivation to return to the course. Lesson learned.
How a 30 hour race became a time trial: The cutoff at the finish line was 3:00pm sharp, but 8 miles from the finish line a team could earn up to 20 minutes of time credit per team member by successfully running the rapids. This is how it went down for Team Quest: 3:00pm was rapidly approaching and there was no way we would make it back to the finish line, so we had to gamble on earning a time credit in the bonus whitewater section. We screamed into the TA on our bikes at 2:59, and were allowed to go for the time credit. Whew, close one. So that terrifying whitewater? Yeah, it was now mandatory or we wouldn’t finish the race. We ran the mile to the put in, 3 out of 4 of us had minor internal crises as we contemplated our impending death-byrapid, inflated our boats, survived without swimming, repacked the boats, mounted our bikes, rode the 8 miles back to the finish, and crossed the line with TEN MINUTES TO SPARE!!!! YEEAAHH!!!
Best words of advice: The river knows when you’re afraid. You have to take it with confidence. Jason, the race director and experienced adventure racer, gave us this advice before we started the bonus section. If he hadn’t said this, I would have been a goner. Somehow I think I convincingly transformed my fear-screams into war cries and the river did not know I was terrified. Thank you Jason, those were words for the ages.
Key gear list:
- Compression calf sleeves to protect from bushwhacking wounds
- Ergon 17L pack with plenty of options for stuffing and strapping on gear
- Magicshine headlamps
- Niner EMD hardtail (the trails weren’t techy and the hike-a-bike was plentiful. I didn’t for an instant wish I had rear suspension as I repeatedly hoisted my light rig over massive downed trees and thick brush)
- Steri Pen for remote water purification (though next time we would use purification tablets to save time)
- Zoot tri shorts
- Homemade power pancakes with oat flour, banana, and chia seed
- Peanut m&m’s
- Gummy bears
- Nutbutter blended with maple syrup
- Dave’s Killer Bread Sin Dawg
- Epic Buffalo Cranberry Jerky Bites
- Dried Mango
Good times at the Bend AR, first 24+ hour race completed for this girl, and I already can’t wait for the next one! Jason and the Yogaslackers AR Empire of Bend put on a classy event with some very cool sections, and Dusty, Emily, Brent, and I had a blast.
Emily is a member of the Quest Adventure Race Team. She loves getting outside for adventures and sharing them with others.