Wow! That is really the first word that comes to mind. It has taken me a while to figure out how to write about the Adventure Xstream race, mostly because there is so much to process. It was one of those days that you anticipate for a long time, then it happens in a flash, then it’s all kind of a blur.
Papa Rich and I went down to Moab on Friday before the race just to make sure we had everything we needed. Packing for an adventure race is tricky. Its not like going on vacation where if you forget something you either live without it for a week or go buy a replacement. If you don’t have the right gear before you head out into the edge of nowhere, you’re out of luck. We packed for mountain biking, running (yay new shoes!), rappelling, and kayaking. On top of that, you have to think about food and water. It is a lot, but manageable.
After 4ish hours in the car we decided we needed to do some form of exercise without tiring ourselves out, so we decided to hike the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. It is probably the most iconic arch, and lines of people hiking with us were proof of that. None the less it is a pretty cool thing to see.
Race day: I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but I can honestly say everything that happened was different from what I had pictured. We drove 10 miles down Potash Road, northeast of Moab, to the race start.
Its a mass start that takes you 5 miles down a paved road to Long Canyon Road. We had been training, but I think I was expecting to leave the start and not see anyone the whole time. The group definitely thinned out as the pros and (lets just say) more hard core people sped ahead. For the first few miles, it is a gradual climb. Your heart rate definitely rises, but the incline itself isn’t too horrible. Once the “real” climb starts, its a steep climb and you gain about 1500 feet in elevation.Near the top the incline gets really sandy, and unridable for most people in our little pack. What really kept me motivated during this section of the race was just being around the people we were with. We were definitely the back of the pack, but certainly not last. We started short conversations with a team of guys from Florida, and team of girls in fun sparkly skirts, and some other random stragglers. You have this feeling of being the in the middle of nowhere, yet there are a ton of people around you. Once we reached the top of the climb at Dead Horse Point we took a fairly flat road along the Mesa to the Mag 7 trail system. Bull Run was a more technical downhill varying between slickrock and dirt, but it was more of a mental workout than the grueling physical uphill. The first checkpoint sort of sprang up on us. It was pretty obvious because of the camera men and group of people standing in the middle of a
trail, but unexpected none the less. Each team is given a passport and you are required to use braille stamps to mark each checkpoint. The remainder of Bull Run was uneventful as we made our way to checkpoint 2 and the bike to run transition. Unlike most long distance races (I imagine) this isn’t an aid station. There was a little cooler of water, but it was by no means a way to refuel. We took a quick look at our map and planned out the route to the next couple of checkpoints and the Gemini Bridges rappel. We started on a dirt road and made our way to a single track run called Getaway. Much to our surprise we were able to run most of this leg. I wouldn’t say we were speed demons, but it was certainly more than a walk. The time cutoff for the rappel was 2:00 and we had set our goal to be there at 1:30. That would give us enough time to not feel pressured to make it down the wall and be a little ahead of the cutoffs. We made it to the rappel at 12:30! An hour ahead of what we thought for timing (little did we know this was not actually the half way point of the run). Rappelling down a 300 foot wall is terrifyingly exciting. I learned to rappel a few weeks before the event and actually got to practice on a rock face, but my dad had only learned the basic technique inside. The rock face of Gemini Bridges is relatively flat, so if you lean back and trust the rope you can just walk down the wall. I am not particularly afraid of heights, but I definitely wasn’t looking around or down. My dad made it down mostly without incident. I had convinced him that bike gloves were ok for a rappel, but didn’t really think that short finger bike gloves would be an issue. I have full finger gloves and was able to feel the rope through the my hand the whole way. Near the end of my dad’s rappel, his fingers started to get rope burn and the lower third of the decent was a little sketchy. Standing at the bottom of this incredible rock wall was pretty amazing. I would definitely do it again. We underestimated the run/walk out of the rappel back to our bikes. We had the midday sun beating down us with very little wind to help with the hot desert heat. This stretch was a little less than 7 miles and took a lot of our energy. We managed to stay hydrated and continued to eat goos and trail mix, but exhaustion started to kick in. When we arrived back at our bikes there was a feeling of excitement and dread. Excitement that the run was over, but dread that we still had so far to go. We were not the last people through the checkpoint and were told that a couple of groups did miss the time cutoff for the rappel. With an hour left to make the kayak time cutoff we set out on our bikes into a dusty headwind. A dirt road took us back to a single track trail. By this point we needed to find checkpoints 8 and 9. We asked a biker not in the race if he had seen a checkpoint and he said it was a ways down the trail. Not fully understanding where we were we made our way down the trail to run into two guys asking if we had seen checkpoint 8. We had not and decided that if we missed a checkpoint it wasn’t the end of the world–lets just get to the kayak. Another mile down the trail we ran into two more races who told us that we were on the wrong trail and that their team mades (who we had just passed) were trying to find the checkpoint. As a group, we turned around and made our way back to the correct trail. The trail we were on would not have taken us to a trail where we could get back to Moab. The ride out was long and tiring. By the time we had realized our mistake and found the right trail we had no chance of making the kayak cutoff, so our goal was to find the fastest way home. For me that happened to be a truck ride back into Moab with 2 of our new friends, while my dad (to my amazement) rode back down the road. An hour later we had turned in our team passport and jerseys, received a (sympathy) medal, and collected our gear, and by that point I was a level of exhaustion I didn’t know existed.
We tried to go downtown for food, but it took forever and we weren’t really hungry anyway. Some one told me that the night after a big event they don’t really sleep well, and that is absolutely true. The next morning we woke up slowly and packed up all of our gear. To add some excitement to our day, rather than sitting in the car, we decided to do a driving tour of Canyonlands. We did get out at a few of the viewpoints, but overall physical activity was kept to a minimum.
I can’t say that I am going to rush and sign up for another adventure race, but I am pretty excited that we did get to experience one. Despite being incredibly strong willed and competitive people, my dad and I made an awesome team. We worked as a team and, once the race started, I don’t think there were any arguments. We were in it together and we had a great time. Or at least I did, might dad my think differently!