Erik Sanders and I met up in Driggs, Idaho to take on The Teton Ogre 24 hr Adventure Race. The race was put on by our friends and fellow adventure racers Jason Popilsky and Abby Broughton, and we did not want to miss it! This race would be Erik’s first race as lead navigator and a great training opportunity for us as we prepare for the World Championships coming up in mid-August in Wyoming. We received our maps on Friday night and with only 3 transitions to prepare our gear for, it was a very relaxing pre-race evening.
At 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning we dropped off our gear drop bags and took a 1.5 hr bus ride to the start in the Caribou Range Mountains. We quickly took the lead as the race started with a big climb on the mt. bikes up to CP1 (checkpoint 1). After reaching the top we enjoyed a fun singletrack roller coaster ride down through a beautiful wildflower filled valley. We grabbed another CP at the edge of a creek before popping out at Bear Creek Trailhead and then had a short gravel ride to our first transition area. At TA1 we dropped our bikes and picked up our packrafting gear and had a short run down to the Snake River.
When we reached the river, we were greeted by several curious campers who thought we were crazy for wanting to paddle an inflatable boat down the cold river. With all of the snowmelt coming down from the mountains, the river was moving very fast and was basically at flood stage. We quickly inflated our Alpacka Gnu packraft and shoved off before the next team arrived. Despite the river being so high, it was a pretty uneventful paddle. We had to watch out for a few trees and had fun navigating the maze of smaller channels that provided an occasional short cut. After stopping for one CP at a boat ramp, we got out at Rocky Canyon just over 2 hours since we had started the paddle. I think that was the fastest packrafting I had ever done that did not have actual whitewater rapids in it.
We quickly packed up our paddle gear and were off for a short trek to pick up 2 more CPs. It was very hot out and we chose to bushwhack in our shorts. This quickly became a very bad idea as we came into a large patch of waist high stinging nettles. Of course, we could have stopped and dug out our paddling pants from our packs, but instead we chose to holler, groan, and curse out Abby and Jason as we pushed on to the CP which we could see 100m ahead of us at the top of a small cliff. I’m sure we provided some entertainment to the volunteers who were at the CP which required a small rope climb to reach. Back of the pack teams would thank us later for creating a path through the nettles. With our legs on fire we continued up onto the ridge where we spotted Team NYARA paddling down below. We estimated we had about 40-45 minutes on them at this point. Unfortunately, we quickly lost this gap as we had a hard time with the next checkpoint which was at a cave. We made the mistake of dropping all the way down to the river before we realized the point had to be somewhere above us. It took us several minutes of checking every possible spot/cave between the bottom and the top. By the time we corrected our mistake and got the CP, we could hear NYARA talking just above us.
We made it to the next transition area, dropped off our paddling gear, picked up food for the next trekking section and saw NYARA coming in as we were leaving. We were now less than 10 min apart! This next section had 3 mandator checkpoints and 6 optional ones. Erik had planned the route to reach every point, but unfortunately, he made a rookie mistake in his planning of the order we got them. It wasn’t until we were heading down from the highest CP of the race at 8400’ when he realized his mistake. We saw Team NYARA, and then Team Journey, and then a 2 person male team and Erik quickly realized why they were all traveling in the opposite direction as us. Ooooooops! We chose the longer, harder way which easily cost us over an hour. At this point there was nothing we could do about our mistake. We still had 7 more cps to get and knew that in adventure racing the race is never over until it’s over.
We buried our frustration and picked up the pace to try and make up some lost time. We were able to pick up a few more checkpoints without any problems, but just as darkness was setting we somehow managed to make another mistake and ran right past a CP at a trail junction. Oops! Luckily Erik sorted it out when we reached the next junction, but we lost another 25-30 minutes going back for the point. We managed to finish up the trek with only a couple of minor tricky moments which we were able to quickly sort out. When we reached the final transition area we learned that we were over an hour behind NYARA. Ouch!
We weren’t particularly motivated to go fast anymore as we knew the last section wasn’t long enough to make up much time. It was a mountain bike ride that involved several raging creek crossings, 2 checkpoints, a bit of climbing, an amazing star filled sky, a bit of a challenging steep downhill, and a chilly road ride into the sleepy tiny town of Victor just before sunrise. We finished in 2nd place overall by 39 minutes to 3 person Team NYARA and won the 2 person division.
Congrats to our friends of Team NYARA (Olaf, Whitney, and rookie racer Hanna) on a great race.
A big thanks to race directors Abby Broughton and Jason Popilsky and all of their fantastic volunteers on a fantastic and challenging course with friendly transition areas.
Thanks to Darren Steinbach for his amazing photos
Thanks to our sponsors Adventure Medical Kits, SOL, Darn Tough, Leki, and Champion System.