Training on the Tokul Trails
The Krank Events weeknight adventure race series was something I’d had my eye on for awhile, and I was finally able to participate in the May race with Quest veterans Brent Molsberry and Dusty Caseria. The race took place on the Tokul trail system in Fall City, which provided a fantastic labyrinth of singletrack and logging roads through terrain that varied from heavily wooded to clearcut.
My relationship with adventure racing has been largely behind the scenes up until this race. I’ve been active in race planning and course development for a number of races, but I have only legitimately competed in one race. Simply put, I’m about as green as they come. I thought I knew what to expect- maps, checkpoints, remote transitions, mountain biking, and trekking. The Tokul race delivered all of this, as well as a completely unexpected dose of thrill, drama, and tactical competition. I had an obscene amount of fun.
I will admit that I have always considered adventure racing one of the “long-haul” sports. The high profile multi-day races where racers endure epic sleepless nights on the trail might tempt you to think of adventure racing as a slog-fest for only the heartiest of our species. Adventure races come in many colors, and the sprint distance (~3 hours) events in the Krank Weeknight Series are anything but a slog-fest.
The Tokul race began on mountain bikes, reached a remote transition area (TA) where we ditched the bikes for trekking shoes, completed a series of checkpoints on foot, and then returned to the remote TA to remount and complete the race with another sequence of bike checkpoints. Both bike courses required racers to reach checkpoints in sequential order, and this made the bike legs feel a lot more like a traditional race because everyone was proceeding in the same linear direction. When the course is open and each team can pick their own route, it is impossible to know where you stand in relationship to your competition, but the sequential bike checkpoints kept us within a stones throw of our main competition for 2/3 of the race.
Legs, lungs, and flawless navigation (thanks to Brent and Dusty, who are simply virtuosic with a map) are great tools in adventure racing, but this race introduced me to a tactical element of racing I didn’t expect. For example, when three teams are close enough to be searching for the same checkpoint, and someone discovers it nestled beneath a sword fern, it does not behoove that person to shout out excitedly, “I found it! The checkpoint says BUS!” I learned to quell the thrill of discovering the checkpoint as Dusty, Brent, and I honed our covert and non-verbal communication over the course of the race. In a final neck and neck sprint to the finish (around a horse-racing track no less), I felt like we became a six-wheeled, three-headed, goal-fixated creature surging for the final checkpoint, and then the finish.
There were 28 checkpoints and we finished in just under two hours, which meant we averaged about 4 minutes per checkpoint. At this pace, there wasn’t a minute to spare on second guessing. We had to walk the line between bashing around in the woods in passionate pursuit of the checkpoint and calculatedly following the route we determined from the map. Equal doses of both were the ticket to constant progress, and it was incredibly fun to work with the number of variables at play in a race with no set course. I watched in awe as my seasoned teammates worked their navigation magic, and vowed to beef up my own navigation skills for future races.
We ended up crossing the finish line only an instant behind Matt Hayes of Team DART, but due to the time bonus we had picked up on a special section of the course where different “bonuses” were hidden in the trees we got the official win. Matt certainly kept us on our toes, and his skill was apparent as he deftly managed the navigation, clues, and passport while keeping his speed throughout the race. He kept the competition stiff for Team Quest, and it was exhilarating to keep trading the lead as we got closer and closer to the finish.
Darkness and drizzle did nothing to dampen the rush I felt from competing in this race. It was a blast, and the warm chili, hot dogs, hot cocoa, and recovery snacks at the finish line only sweetened the deal. Krank put on a well-organized event, and I will definitely be back for more! Next up in the series is a race in the Lake Union area of Seattle, which will also include a canoe course. See ya there!