Bend AR 30hr- Mitch's Musings
Bend AR 30HR Race Report
September 16-17 2017
Team Quest AR
The week prior to Bend AR I had grand ambitions of packing my gear early in the week in order to try to fine tune things and be super dialed once we got down to Sisters. Inevitably I was frantically packing Thursday night.
We headed out of Bellingham early Friday morning in order to avoid the relentless rush hour commute in Seattle. After hours of driving we finally made it to Bend and met up with Emily who was already down in Oregon visiting family. Bend Racing put on a short packrafting clinic for folks to practice their skills before the race.
Our boating setup is as follows: Dusty and Emily were in the lead boat and Scarlett and I were trying our best to follow their line, or any line really, that would allow us to be in the boat at the bottom of the rapid. We paddled two person packrafts, the Alpacka Gnu. These boats are amazing for their portage-ability, and flatwater speed (in a relative sense, at least compared to a single packraft), but have the disadvantage of being slightly harder to negotiate through technical rapids due to their length and need for perfect teammate in-syncness. For me, this practice may or may not have been helpful. Scarlett and I capsized and swam a few times, in which I scraped up my elbow and we lost our yoga ball pump(it’s for topping off the rafts when they start to get soft). This left me in a hard place mentally. While it is good to get comfortable swimming and being in the water, I think capsizing has a detrimental effect on my confidence in rapids. Something for me to work on.
After the clinic we scrambled to get our things shoved back in the cars and rushed up to Sisters, Oregon for the race check-in, briefing, and gear check. After we got some more details of what Saturday/Sunday would look like we headed to our campsite for some gear organization. For me, the gear organizing and race prep is the hardest part. There is a need to be organized and thorough in planning and packing. If you aren’t, you might show up to a transition area and realize you don’t have running shoes in the bag for the upcoming trekking section. By 10:30pm we had all or our gear and food packed into our TA bins, and were off to bed.
The whirlwind of race start morning
We showed up at the Sisters Elementary School at 6:15am to turn in our TA bins and bikes, so they could be transported to the transition areas. After all of our things were turned in we received our maps and passport for the race. I looked over Dusty’s shoulder while he carefully planned our route for each section of the race while Scarlett and Emily Laminated our maps. Before we knew it everyone was loading up the bus for our transport to the race start. As we walked toward the bus with armloads of our paddling gear Jason, the Race Director, commented on our lack of organization and junk show status. It was true, it felt like we were quite the mess.
After a 30 minute bus ride we had a short safety briefing about the whitewater section as well as having a chance to clarify some logistics questions for the race, then we were off. Here is a snapshot of the race format:
Prologue- A 100 meter sprint and a Sudoku puzzle
Stage 1- Packraft/Trekking/Ropes/Swimming “Crooked Canyons”
17 miles total with class II-III+ rapids in the beginning
Stage 2-Mountain Bike “Redneck Ride”
Stage 3- Orienteering “Manzanita by Moonlight”
Stage 4- Mountain Bike “The Forgotten Trail”
Stage 5-Trekking “Death by Dawdling”
We got off to a rough start. Apparently we need some practice in Sudoku. We had some mistakes in our counting and problem solving skills which cost us a few minutes here. After a few corrections we were on our way descending the trail, packrafts in hand, to the river. When we got to the river I turned around and saw Dusty and Emily yanking on each others ankles to “fix” their rolled ankles which they acquired within 5 minutes of the race starting.
We got the Alpacka Gnu’s (our packraft of choice for this section considering the long flatwater section in the second half) inflated and were on the water 5 or 10 minutes behind Bend Racing/YogaSlackers, the team we were gunning to beat. The Gnu is a two person packraft which is more challenging to maneuver through technical rapids than a single packraft but excels at flatwater paddling because it has a two horsepower motor as opposed to a single horsepower motor.
Scarlett and I were in one boat and Dusty and Emily in the other. I told Scarlett at the start of the race that I was not going swimming today. We had a few days of good practice in these boats prior to the race. Some of those days were confidence inspiring and some not so much. The day before the race during the mini packraft clinic held by Bend Racing we swam multiple times, lost our yoga ball pump(which we use to top off our rafts), and I ended up with a bloody elbow. In the end, I felt okay about the upcoming paddle section.
About halfway down the whitewater section Dusty and Emily swam when their boat got stuck on a rock in the middle of a no-named rapid. Dusty quickly got the boat righted and back into the boat and Emily did the beach whale technique to re-enter the boat from the water. Overall a pretty smooth recovery. Scarlett and I didn’t have any swims.
I thought we were in the clear...Soon the river slowed as it entered Lake Billy Chinook and we were off to the races. We were pushing hard to keep up with this little yellow carrot in front of us which held Team Castelli. They are fast paddlers! We knew we would need to use our harnesses for some sort of fixed line on technical terrain to access Checkpoint 3(CP from here on out). As we approached it we saw Bend Racing/YogaSlackers on this ledge. I said “I think they will have to jump off that ledge so they can get back to their boats”. It seemed the most logical thing to me. No more than 30 seconds later we saw a giant splash, then another, and another, and another, as all four people jumped 22’ down to the lake and then swam back to their boats.
We soon got to CP3, harnessed up, and scrambled up to the ledge where a person was waiting to sign our passport before we all jumped back in the lake. I had never jumped off a cliff before. I was a little scared. I pushed the fear away and jumped, hoping I would not land on my back. Success! I floated to the top quite quickly with the aid of the PFD and swam quickly over to the packrafts. When Scarlett got back over to the boats her nose was bleeding all over the place due to the water pushing her nose-plugging hand into her nose. The bleeding stopped relatively quickly as we paddled back out into the lake. Once again we were chasing the yellow carrot.
We got to a short portage up and over this peninsula and our strength on land showed through as we passed Team Castelli and caught a glimpse of Bend Racing/YogaSlackers. Back on the water Scarlett and I were paddling hard to keep up with the blistering pace Dusty and Emily were setting. Shortly after we got our last CP on the water a motor boat came over to us and it was the Sheriff. They made us pull out our cell phone to prove that we were not emitting an emergency signal. I don’t even think our phone is capable of doing that since it is an old school flip phone. Dusty and Emily deflated their thwart to get to the phone. Emily was not happy as she pumped the thwart back up and we started paddling across the lake after losing 10 minutes to a useless cause. As we neared the transition area we saw Team Bend Racing/YogaSlackers paddling away from the TA. We were close.
At the TA we stowed all of our boating gear into a duffle and got ready for a long bike leg. Jason informed us that one of our bikes didn’t make it to the TA yet. Of course, it was mine. Luckily they had a loaner bike for me to use, and somehow it actually fit me. Being 6’3” I was shocked. It also had the same pedals so my clipless shoes would work with them. So fortunate!
After a 15 minute transition we were off on a long paved road pedal. After we left we realized that we didn’t have pump because it was on my bike. We did our best to stay away from sharp pokey things. We ended up taking a slower short cut on a gravel road which allowed Team Castelli to pass us again. Shortly after the first bike CP my bike was delivered on the roadside. I quickly swapped out the fancy carbon Ellsworth for my Chromag Steely Stead. After more pavement time we moved on to some gravel roads. I was amazed at how much terrain we covered and didn’t see a soul anywhere. Completely empty campgrounds on a saturday? Wierd! We finally came upon Team Castelli at the start of a steep hike-a-bike section. Once again, with our feet on the ground, we cruised past Castelli and moved back into second, with Team Bend Racing/YogaSlackers somewhere off in the distance.
Shortly before the TA we stopped at our final CP at a spring where we filled our water. When we returned to our bikes we saw Team Castelli’s bike on the roadside and knew they were still nipping at our heels.
At the next TA we had our fasted transition to the upcoming Orienteering section. While Emily, Scarlett and I made sure we had everything we needed for this section Dusty quickly grabbed the map for this section and planned our route. All the rest of the maps for the race we had seen and had been carrying with us since the start. This section was kept a secret, until we started it. After 10 minutes we were off, chasing Dusty down through the brush in search of a CP. With 8 miles, 3000’ of elevation gain, the impending darkness, and the known obstacle of Manzanita schwacking, we had our work cut out for us. With Dusty’s excellent navigation skills we found the checkpoints with ease and ticked off the trickier ones in the daylight. In the dark we made our way back up the 3000’ through thick Manzanita which slowed our pace due to the increasing pain to the flesh on our knees. To be fair, I guess we were warned about the beating that bare skin would take during this section. Next time, pants! All bloodied we approached the TA seeing a lot of teams heading out for the orienteering section, but no sign of Team Bend Racing/YogaSlackers. We finished this leg fastest overall. Nice work team!
We had our slowest transition at this TA. Maybe it was the hot coffee and ramen that was being offered as we tried to efficiently swap our trekking wear for another bike leg. After buckling our helmets and strapping our shoes we were off. The saddles were not quite as comfy as they were during the previous bike leg. We started off pedaling up some old forest roads and soon found the “Forgotten Trail” actually the Green Ridge Trail. It did seem like it was forgotten. A bit overgrown and hard to follow at times we did our best to stay on track. The smoky air was starting to get to me a bit. With wildfires nearby that have been burning for months the air quality was quite poor, it made my throat burn.
It would be nice to ride this trail during the daylight as it seems to follow this high ridge overlooking the Metolius River for miles and miles. I was glad it was dark though, it meant we were still going fast. I was not wearing a watch and had no idea what time it was. All i knew is that it was dark and had been for quite some time. I was also starting to get cold. At one point Scarlett asked to stop for a layering break. I wished I would have put on more layers then as I was cold the rest of this leg as we had mostly downhill riding in the chilly late night hours. We heard sounds of a highway and we knew we were getting closer to the final TA. With only a few wrong turns we ended up having the fastest time on this section as well.
We came into TA4 very quiet. No one said much. Jason asked us how we were doing and we forced out some whispered “okays”. Everyone silently put on some dry running shoes and shoved helmets into our bin in preparation for our final trek leg to the finish.
We knew this leg would be hard because we had been moving for a long time, it was dark, it was mostly flat, and probably the hardest hours of the day to function after being up all day. It was somewhere between 2 and 3 in the morning. Shortly after leaving the TA we wetted our shows by walking across a river in the campground. The first CP came up shortly but took a little wandering to find. After finding it we slowly moved off trail in search of the next CP which was on top of a very small bump on the map. There terrain was very nebulous and flat which made it hard to tell which way was higher ground. I was amazed when Dusty said “it should be over there” and we stumbled into the glowing marker.
This section was appropriately named “Death by Dawdling”. We were moving slow. Scarlett was in the back mumbling to herself trying to fight off the urge to nap while leaning on her trekking poles. Dusty and Emily were attached with a bungee cord in order to “tow” while walking through the woods. I decided it would be good to hook Scarlett up to me so at least we would stay together. We soon got back onto some roads and started pushing the pace a little. Scarlett said being attached with the tow was a good motivator and gave her something to think about, “follow the rope!”. The things we do are hilarious!
I think at this point we started smelling the barn and wanted to be done. We had a hard time finding the appropriately numbered power pole. After a few back and forths we finally found pole 21 and were on our way the final CP.
We got to an intersection with a man sleeping up against a post, CP 31/CP33. How can it be two CP’s in one? Well, we needed one more challenge of course! We had to grab either a kettlebell, a log, or a sandbag and run to the finish, then drop our packs run pack to CP 31 and leave the kettlebells, log and sandbag, and sprint back to the finish. The sprinting to the finish was not mandatory but we knew there was a prize for the team that did this section the fastest, so we sprinted. Ouch!
I asked Emily what time it was and she said 5 something. Crazy! We were finally finished. We had finished 51 minutes behind Team Bend Racing/Yogaslackers. The last stage was definitely our slowest overall.
I don’t remember the number but it was during the first bike leg. We got to a sign with a smattering of bullet holes in it. We had to count them. We counted them many times until we reach a number of 52 bullet holes in the sign. Is it weird this was my favorite?
Biggest smile on my face
During the first part of the orienteering section we were running downhill through the brush and I couldn’t help to keep the ear to ear smile off my face as I was experiencing pure joy of a kidding running around in the woods.
It’s a tie here between my bike not being at the first TA and how annoying the skratchy Manzanitas were towards the end of the Orienteering leg. I practiced my tolerance for adversity and uncertainty here, something I learned from working for NOLS for a long time. The bike thing worked out surprisingly well since they had a replacement that worked nicely.
Jumping off the cliff.
I can keep going for a long time. Even if my muscles hurt, I know they will stop hurting once I am at the top of the hill, and will probably hurt again at some point soon, but that is ok, because in the end they will stop hurting, maybe, at some point. Ha!
I was impressed with the high quality nature of this race that Jason and Bend Racing put on. It was well organized, solid logistics, fun, creative and challenging course and great swag. Thank you so much.