Bend AR 30hr 2017- Scarlett's Report
Updated: Nov 5, 2020
Bend AR 30-hr
Sept 16-17, 2017
Team Quest: Dusty and Emily Caseria (aka- Dust’Em), Mitch Harter and Scarlett Graham
I have been hearing race stories and looking at photos of the Bend AR 30-hr for the past two years, and was excited to participate in my longest adventure race event to date in a new-to-me northwest playground. I had spent the summer spending long days in the mountains and felt confident in my ability to complete the race distance/length, but a little worried about my ability to keep up the pace. Dusty and Emily were a month out of completing Cowboy Tough, the Adventure Racing World Championships, and Mitch was pretty much born for adventure racing, so I knew I would have my work cut out for me. Here is my race summary of how the race played out.
Stage 1 – packraft – “Crooked Canyons”
Stage 2 - bike – “Redneck Ride”
Stage 3 – trek o-course – “Manzanita by Moonlight”
Stage 4 - bike – “The Forgotten Trail”
Stage 5 - trek – “Death by Dawdling”
Weather: Partly sunny with a a bit of Sudoku, er I mean smoke in the air, High 73, Low 37
Start time: 9am, but you were able to get a head start if you finished a sudoku puzzle early. We ended up leaving around 8:55.
The “Crooked Canyons” packrafting stage was comprised of Class II-III rapids (with one III+ “Final Exam” at the end), and it exceeded my expectations for awesome. We paddled two Alpacka Gnu tandem packrafts, known for their versatility in both whitewater (if you can handle it) and flatwater paddling. Usually Brent is our whitewater specialist, but without him on this race, Dusty and Emily took the reins of the lead boat. Pre-race Dusty had said our plan would be to “just Gnu for it” in all the rapids, plan on swimming at least once and getting back in the boats fast.
Mitch and I had paddled the Gnu’s in whitewater for the first time with Dusty’Em over the long Labor Day weekend. We had learned A LOT and gained confidence, but still had done our fair share of boat flipping and swimming. Going into the race we made a deal that I would always keep paddling forward (unless he said otherwise), and that he would communicate to me where the heck he was aiming the boat. This deal would hopefully prevent the following scenario from happening: Me performing turbo paddle moves and yelping at Mitch “We are sidewaaayyyys right now!”, as if he had no idea. We also seem to do better when he thunks me in the helmet a few times performing master steer moves. During the race, I think we held up our ends of the deal pretty well, and I got thunked at least 2 times. Nailed it. And we had no swims!
Dusty and Emily did have one swim in a small no-namer rapid about halfway down the river. But true to their usual composed form, they executed their quick body and gear recovery plan, and on we went. We passed 2-3 teams on the whitewater, most of whom were in single boats.
The flat paddling section on the reservoir was burly; and by the end of the dammed thing, the mantra of “I hate paddling, I hate paddling” was the only thing in my head. I was breathing hard through each paddle stroke. Mitch and I could barely keep up with Dusty and Emily who had their eyes on the two other Alpacka Gnu’s in the distance…Team Yogaslackers/Bend Racing. I was worried I was digging too deep too early in the race during the paddle, but with Team Castelli nipping at our stern and the Yogaslackers not far ahead, the time to push was now. Thankgod for all that shoulder work at Terrain Gym this summer.
We reached Transition Area 1 (TA1) just as Yogaslackers sped off on their mountain bikes. To be that close to a world class team was motivating. Jason threw us a little wrench in the TA though, Mitch’s steel Chromag hadn’t made it to the transition area! But a Large loaner bike with SPD pedals was available, and he was promised the Chromag would be delivered roadside ASAP.
Mitch maxed out the seat-height on the new bike and it magically fit his 6’3” frame, and the chase was on. As we sped up and out of the canyon, we formed a pace line at what seemed like a blazing pace. I struggled to hang on. ”Must stay attached,” I grunted and kept rising out of my saddle to pump my way back on the line, but grunting and pumping wasn’t enough. The pace felt faster than I ever ride, and we had 4-6 hours of this to go. I just could not keep up with those three villains on the bike! Help! Mitch’s tow package was on the Chromag, so Dusty threw me his tow line and I connected to my handlebars.
Being not as strong on the bike made me feel like a spectator just along for the ride at times. And I was slightly discouraged because I didn’t feel like I was contributing, but I kept actively pushing those thoughts away. What was best for the team was that I stay positive and keep my shit together so that I would be poised to contribute at some future time.
We had a bit of trouble finding the first bike checkpoint (CP), and our choice of shorter distance on gravel roads versus longer distance on paved proved to be slower than Castelli’s choice. All of a sudden, they were right ahead of us. Having other teams around you is both stressful and keeps you focused on going faster. Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise to keep us chasing at a fast pace.
After some fun down hills and meeting up with Mitch’s bike (Thanks Carol!), we transitioned from paved roads to dirt roads, counted the number of bullet holes in a “DEAD END” sign (was 52 correct?), and then started a hike-a-bike. At the top of the steep sweaty hike section, we emerged on top of a plateau. It was wide open up there, and had it not been for the wildfire smoke, you could probably see for miles around.
At TA2, we met Jason, the RD, and we quickly switched to running shoes and grabbed our headlamps. I also opted for my Black Diamond Z-poles that I had fallen in love with this summer. The Yogaslackers bikes lay on the side of the trail at the TA. I noticed blood on one of their top tubes. Intimidating. Team Castelli arrived while we were still in the TA. They were so strong on the paddle and bike! Now that we were onto trekking – which was our collective fastest discipline – we were hopeful that we would separate from them and heck even gain some time on those slippery Yogaslackers!
The orienteering trek leg was called Manzanita by Moonlight. We started running down a forest road with an hour or two of daylight still on our side, opting to do the course in a clockwise direction. Soon Dusty bailed us off the road and we started our ‘shwack to a ridge and quickly started collecting CPs and also admiring the golden hour colors on the horizon. After following an animal trail on ridgeline for a while, we descended a steep, loose section down to a dry creek bed. After grabbing that CP, we went up again, hand over foot, up a 1000 ft climb to the next ridge. On this climb, we really got into the spiny Manzanita plant. At first moving through the abrasive shrubbery seemed manageable, but as the skin on our bare knees got more raw, we started to slow down. We would end up finishing this section 1 minute faster that the Yogaslackers. So close!
Back at TA2/TA3, the volunteers served us hot ramen and coffees (Thank you!!). It was heaven, and also about 10pm and 11 hours into the race. Emily knew it is possible to get sucked into the comfort of the TA, so she set us a timer. It rang much quicker than I would have liked, but after chugging my vanilla latte and shoveling a few more scoops of the yummy warm noodles into my mouth, we rolled off into the dark passing by Team Krank who encouraged us to chase down the Yogaslackers. Apparently, we wear our race goals on our green sleeves…
The Forgotten Trail bike section required some climbing at the beginning but eventually turned into a long gentle mostly single-track descent. I ate my teammates dust and also the wildfire smoke as I rode in the 4th position. The result of this was a VERY dirty face and an incredible amount of black, bloody boogers (See Bloodiest moment note at the end of the write-up). We lost the trail a few times and would get spit out onto random forest roads, but were always able to quickly get back on it. With experience using old forest service maps, Dusty knew better than to trust the forest roads and kept his compass and altimeter handy to find our location. His precision with finding the CPs is amazing. We ended up with the fastest split time for this stage.
At the final TA, I was super ready to get off my bike and applied a liberal serving of Rocket Pure Chamois cream to prepare for the last 9-mile run in my bike shorts. I remember us all being quiet at this TA. Probably too quiet. This was definitely the hardest stage for us, and the results showed as we had the 9th fastest time and were 25 minutes behind the Yogaslackers. (In all the other stages, we had a top 3 time.) I was half-asleep, so I can’t speak to the exact difficulties. Jason named this leg “Death by Dawdling” for a reason though, and I think the dawdle demons caught up to me. It seemed as long as we were moving quickly, I was fine, but as soon as we stopped, I would get so tired! Future Scarlett needs to figure out a better way to keep pushing through the wee hours. It was the final stretch! I wish I could have been more supportive.
We continued to fight through the dawdle demons and made it to the 2nd to last checkpoint of the race. Here we were required to choose a heavy object, run to the finish line carrying it and grunting cross fit style. I grabbed the kettle bell (maybe 30 lb?) and willed my legs to run. Once at the finish line, Jason instructed us to drop our packs, turn around and run the heavy objects back to the last checkpoint, then sprint back to him. All this was timed and a silly end to an epic 20:15 race.
We finished at 5:15AM, less than 50 minutes behind the Yogaslackers, and were the #1 fastest team on 2 of 5 stages (the O-course trek and Forgotten Trail bike ride). The course that Bend Racing put together was first class. Full Results here: https://www.bendracing.com/results
This was the hardest I have pushed in a while, and I was happy with how I felt running at the end. I have some work to do on the bike for sure, but it is more a speed thing than an endurance thing. Maybe I’ll be calling on the ol’ Mr. Paxson at Peak Energy Performance for some pro tips. I am look forward to more races and self-imposed multi-sport adventures with Team Quest.
The opportunity to work together as a unit and take care of and be taken care of by one another. So many examples, but I’ll name just one here: On the hike-a-bike I was struggling with my short legs and capable but heavy duty full suspension Trek Fuel Ex 7. Emily who was sticking by my side came to the rescue swapping for her XC racing lightweight Kona Kahuna DDL. I wanted to protest, but knew better and was thankful.
On Bike #1, we dropped our bikes for a quick walk in the dry forest to find a cool bubbling spring with greenery all around. We paused for a moment to fill our water bottles here. For a moment, it felt like a regular old joy ride, then when we heard the voices of Castelli and had to hustle out of there.
Giving myself a bloody nose on the cliff jump into the reservoir. I apparently held my nose at just the right angle as to punch myself in the face on impact with the water. Once I climbed back into the raft, I realized there was blood pouring from my face onto the boat. It was actually kind of amusing at the moment, and even more so now.
Wear pants for bushwhacking, and pay attention to when the RD takes the time to name a race stage! The Mazanita by Moonlight was more painful than it had to be! Should have worn pants!