Team Osprey Packs at AR Nationals by Gretchen Reeves
My parents taught me early in life that something good can be found in everything. Even in a bad situation, if you look hard enough you can find it. If you scroll down to Travis’ report, you can read about the actual outcome of our race and the reason that I had to scratch my head for a few days to find the good. Here’s my tale of the awesome race experience that I had with teammates Travis Macy, Jon Brown, and Scott Swaney and our epic battle with the fine folks of the Yogaslackers team.
The race started at 8am on Friday morning with a riverboard swim. The temperature was 32 degrees and I was a little nervous due to some recent hypothermic experiences I’ve had and the fact that I swim about as good as a house cat. I was on a board that I borrowed from Mike Kloser so I figured at least the equipment had some fast juju. My board worked great as expected, and we made it into the boats in 3rd position and very happy to have that section behind us.
The paddling section was beautiful and we had plenty of time to enjoy the scenery as our blow-up kayaks cruised along at a near-stagnant pace. The paddle took about four hours and chalks up to being the longest paddle I’ve ever done at one time. It was quite cold so we kept our wetsuits on for this entire leg. Now, let’s do the math here…wetsuit was zipped up at about 7:45 am, the swim took about a half hour and the paddle another four. That would be almost 5 hours packaged up in a tight wetsuit whilst trying to drink as much water as possible to load up for the rest of the day. I won’t go into detail but let’s just say I chalked up another “first” on the day. We finished the paddle just behind the Yogis in second.
The next section of the race involved a Tyrolean traverse, an abseil, and a trek where we had to find hidden checkpoints (called a Rogaine). Since I am not the navigator, these treks feel a bit aimless to me at times. It’s kind of like I’m chasing chickens. Well, that wasn’t the case this time because we had the Yogaslackers team right with us and they are anything but slackers. We made good time ripping up and down the slickrock with these guys. About midway through the trek, we hit the ropes section, a route choice which turned out to be a major source of controversy (see Travis’ report for details on this).
Here, I want to interject a message to all the teams that protested our interpretation of the rules. Maybe, you should thank us for getting there when we did. The race staff admittedly did not have the Tyrolean dialed when we got there and we had to go one at a time. Furthermore, I’m a total chicken when it comes to ropes. In fact, I get so fidgety that I’ve only recently been able to put my harness on by myself. And, I can’t even do one pull-up unassisted so I had to take a few breaks across the line. So, imagine what the bottleneck would have been like if you would have lined up behind us? I’m lucky my teammates didn’t protest me. Really, we have no hard feelings about the protests but if you’d like to thank us later with a round of beers, we will gladly accept.
We made it down from the trek at around 5:30 to suit up for the bike and Slickrock orienteering sections. For me, the race was just getting started. To give you a little background, I have raced mountain bikes professionally since 1994 so I always feel at home on the bike. We had an option at Slickrock to either ride or run this section and we chose the bikes. Though we found later that the Yogaslackers beat us by about 25 minutes on their feet, I have no regrets about our choice to bike Slickrock under the moonlight. It was another “first” but certainly won’t be the last.
After Slickrock, we had just one checkpoint left before the finish. We had our work cut out for us as the Yogaslackers had left the last transition 20 minutes before us. I’m guessing that the climb took us about three hours. It was steep and loose at times turning into mud and snow once we turned off onto the Kokopelli trail. Scott and I had lost our bike lights towards the end of Slickrock so I was for once thankful that this part of the ride was not technical. I did find my way into a decent sized mud puddle and judging from the smell, it was quite popular with the cows as well. I fell sideways into it and covered my right side, derailleur, handlebars, etc. with the sticky, stinky mud. Did I mention I don’t like getting dirty?
We did manage to overtake the Yogaslackers near the top of the climb. We kept our eye out for them as we donned our winter gear to head down the long road descent to the finish. Though they were on our tails, we had to be cautious here because it was our race to lose at this point. JB and I unexpectedly hit a huge patch of black ice where fortunately, our mountain bike skills took over and there was no carnage.
We crossed the finish line after about 19 hours of racing. The Yogaslackers came in about 20 minutes behind us and we congratulated each other in the lobby next to a warm fire. We were both thrilled with our finishes and happy to have had such a tight yet friendly battle with each other.
I’d like to thank Gareth and Stephen at Osprey for their support and for my new favorite Talon pack. I also want to thank my teammates as each brought something more than fitness and fun to the table: Scott for suffering through 19 hours of racing with walking pneumonia; JB for being the pack mule, towing the line and carrying the extra weight including enough pickles and fried chicken for all of us; and Travis for killer navigation and who, after plotting points, was still faster in the transitions than the rest of us. And thanks to those Yogis that motivated us throughout. Think it’s time to start doing more yoga!