Xtrail China Adventure Race Report

by Mari Chandler of Team Adventure Medical Kits

A new race popped up on the Adventure Race World Series calendar this year, and Team Adventure Medical Kits jumped at the opportunity to compete in China.   Rob, Kyle, and I teamed up with Bob Mclachlan who literally joined our team the week prior.   Bob is from New Zealand and was already in China for the previous 3 weeks racing in a few shorter staged races.  We had never raced with Bob, but he came highly recommended and ended up being a powerful addition to the team.  4 teammates arriving from 4 different flights and all arriving with 4 bikes and 4 gear bags to a tiny village in the middle of Northwest China was an adventure in itself.   

The race kicked off in Xinjiang Kanas National Park with 28 teams representing 10 different countries.   It was pretty unique that we were the first non-Chinese people to set foot in this particular area.  The first leg of the race was a 53km trek that began more like a 5km trail race.   The first checkpoint was at the top of a very steep hill where there was an observation tower.   Over 100 racers were trying to share the 1000+ steps up towards the tower with over 100 tourists.   Most people were aware we were racing and stood out of our way cheering us on and taking lots of pictures, but there were a few poor souls who were not ready for the ‘herd’ of racers overtaking them as they tried to enjoy the views.    After Checkpoint 1, the race truly began and we were off into the remote wilderness.    The pace however remained at warp speed and our team along with 7 others broke off into the lead and grabbed 2 more checkpoints as we went up and down hill after hill.   Since we were a large pack of racers, everyone was basically following the leader but when the dirt tracks we had been running on disappeared, we broke off on our own and chose our own route.   Unfortunately, this did not work out so well for us as we over shot the next CP (checkpoint) and then had to back track and sort out the confusion with the map.  We arrived at CP4 to find out we had dropped to 15th place and were now over an hour behind the leaders!!   Burying our frustration, we pushed on and knew that we still had a lot of race left to catch back up to the front.   We finished up the trek in 7.5 hours which was well ahead of the predicted time estimate of 9 hours and arrived at Kanas Lake for a 34km paddle.  

Kanas Lake was beautiful.   We pushed off while the sun was still shining and it felt great to give our legs and feet a break after the long opening tempo run.  The paddle was pretty straight forward.   We had managed to catch 3 teams by the end of the trek and as we paddled to the end of the lake for an out and back checkpoint we passed 2 more and were able to see the lead teams ahead of us.   As the sun dropped behind the mountains, the temperature dropped dramatically and the icy cold water that was refreshing at the beginning of the paddle was now chilling us to the bone.   4 hours after we had gotten on the water, we were carrying our boats 200 meters up to the TA (Transition Area).  

The 3rd leg of the race was an estimated 47km and luckily it started off with a climb away from the lake to warm us back up.  It was now just after 10 pm and the temperature would continue to drop throughout the night.     This race was amazing in many ways, but 1 that sticks out and sets it apart from most is the fact that an actual person was at every single CP waiting for us (except 1 during the paddle).   Not only is it nice to find someone standing in the middle of nowhere but this also gave us the opportunity to check and see how our progress was at closing the gap on the teams in front of us.   1 by 1 we continued to catch and pass teams as we trekked through the night up and over hillsides with lots of rock strewn trails.    At the end of the trekking section there was a small Orienteering course that had us running throughout a small village scattered with old wooden barns, houses and yurts.   We came to the final checkpoint just 30 seconds behind Estonian Ace Adventure Team and we were now in 5th place and still about an hour behind the lead 3 teams.  At this point all teams were required to stop and rest for 2 hours and also learn to cook some authentic noodles from some locals who also opened up their homes for us to rest in.

At 8:30 am we arrived at the next TA and were quite happy to see our bike boxes, despite the layer of frost covering them.   We quickly built our bikes and packed up for a 96km ride.   Rob flawlessly navigated us through the maze of roads and trails as we climbed and descended hill after hill.   We traveled through some very scenic valleys and along amazing ridge lines as the “k’s” clicked away. 

This first ride finished at the location of the abseil (rappel) where we temporarily left our bikes for a quick loop that took us to the top of the abseil and back down to our bikes.   We were now in 4th place and learned that 3rd place was about 30 minutes ahead of us and 1st and 2nd were now within 50 minutes of us.   All that remained now was 60km of more riding and with the true mindset of an adventure racer, we knew it was not over, until it was over.   Anything was still possible.

The beginning of this last section seemed pretty straightforward, but about 30km in, Rob found the navigation to get a little trickier and we had to stop a bit more to make sure his maps and the roads were all lining up.   After taking a hard left turn, changing roads and crossing a river to the next CP, we learned that we were now in 3rd place.   (Later we found out that several teams had missed this turn and spent many hours trying to get back to the right road.)   With only 2 CPs to go, darkness and a cold rain began to fall as we found ourselves away from the dirt roads we had been riding for the previous 100+km and pushing our bikes on what felt like an animal track along the edge of a very steep ravine.   I don’t usually doubt Rob and his nav choices, but I have to admit, I had some doubts about this route. BUT, after what seemed like forever, the trail started to improve and we saw headlamps just up ahead.   When we arrived at the next checkpoint, we found out we were now in 2nd place!   Now it was a fast decent down through the canyon along a flooded ‘road’ that crossed the creek/river so many times I wasn’t sure it was even a road.   The lights of the town of Altay were teasing us off in the distance and never seemed to get brighter as we kept riding.  Finally, we popped out on the edge of town and were quite happy to see the last checkpoint and a small group of people hanging out next to a street light.   We quickly dropped our bikes and shuffled our way 300 meters to the finish line, constantly looking over our shoulders hoping another team was not sneaking up behind us.   36 hours and 30 minutes since the race had begun, we crossed the finish line in 2nd place.   Team Thule of Sweden had won, only 15 minutes ahead of us, and Team Silva also of Sweden, came in only 4 minutes behind us.   Estonian Ace Adventure Team and New Zealand Adventure team finished a couple of hours after us rounding out the top 5.               

This race was yet another example of how this team never gives up and pushes hard to the very end no matter what.   Great teamwork gets us through the hard moments and carries us from the starting line to the finish line and over everything in between.  It is truly never over, until it’s over.

A huge thanks for our sponsors: Adventure Medical Kits, Survive Outdoors Longer, Darn Tough, Leki, Champion System, Julbo, Out There USA, Nordenmark, Feed the Machine,and Zealios

Kyle's Prerace Thoughts on the 4th Cameco Cowboy Tough Expedition Race

The 4th Rev3Adventure Cameco Cowboy Tough Expedition Race starts Thursday and this year's edition is sure to provide the highest level of competition previously seen at any Cowboy Tough or any Rev3 adventure race for that matter.  It could also be the most competitive ARWS race this year.

After having won the first 3 editions, you can bet your bottom dollar we won't be going down without a fight.  The team will be comprised of Mari Chandler (2 time winner of CT), Garret Bean (1 time winner of CT), guest racer James Galipeau (more on him below) and me (undefeated at CT / 3 time winner).  This roster is by far the strongest team I have been on for a Cowboy Tough race.  Don't get me wrong I had strong teammates for each of the past events (Bob Miller (3rd place at ARWC), Karen Lundgren (3rd place at ARWC), Abby Broughton, Jason Popilky (4th place at ARWC)) but this team has some increased horsepower and personally I have never come into Cowboy Tough as fit as I will be next week.  I have typically had a short build going into this race (ie 2 weeks post 8 day Expedition Alaska last year), but I have had injury free and focused training the past 14 weeks.

History Lesson

2013 awards ceremony: Kyle Peter, Garret Bean, Karen Lundgren, Bob Miller as Team Tecnu

2014 awards ceremony: Kyle Peter, Mari Chandler, Abby Broughton, Jason Popilsky as Team Tecnu

2015 awards ceremony: Kyle Peter, Mari Chandler, Abby Broughton, Jason Popilsky as Team Tecnu

For those keeping score at home.  That is $15,000 collected from Cameco (huge thanks!), and essentially a lifetime supply of PowerBars that may or may not be past their 'best by' date. (Yuck!).  That is big money in terms of USA adventure racing paychecks!

2016 is here and we want to make it $20,000, Cameco!  How are we going to do that?  3 ways...

 

Garret Bean

Garret Bean is competing in his first AR of the year.  He is itching to get back out on the race course since winning USARA Nationals in October.  It's been 13 months since he raced in an expedition race (1st place at ARWS Expedition Alaska).  But that doesn't mean 'Bean' is not ready to go.  He has been enjoying the hot dry trails of Southern California and raced a number of MTB events.  Not only does Garret add horsepower to our roster, he adds a strong mental game in both his ability to drive a team and keep teammates awake with his non-stop hilarity!  Garret has been purposely keeping a few stories from me in order to have a full arsenal of humor for night 3 of Cowboy Tough!

We are an American Team (50% or higher) ;) Bean riding at 24 hours in the Old Pueblo.

Mari Chandler

Mari (pronounced MARY) has been training full time this year.  Since GodZone, Mari has been attacking the National Ultra Endurance Series which is comprised of 100 mile MTB races across the country.  With top results at both the Cohutta 100 and the Lumberjack 100 she is currently leading the series in the open (PRO) woman's category, and she is using the Tatanka 100 as a little warm up tomorrow!  We love Mari.  She also has been getting out for some long hikes in the mountains, but Mari doesn't broadcast her accomplishments, and it is this non-nonchalant attitude that keeps our team grounded and focused on what is really important to all of us...pushing ourselves to achieve the best possible team result we can achieve while keeping a smile on our face. I don't think it's a secret anymore, but Mari has been for years (in my opinion) the best (YES, #1) female expedition racer in the world series.  Bones and DART-NUUN had been doing a pretty good job of keeping it a secret. ;).  I personally love racing with Mari.  She is the yin to my yang, and has the best snacks.  A little know fact is that Mari eats 1/4 of the food she packs for a race with the race going to her teammates.  

Just another day in the office for Mari.

James Galipeau

We are really excited to race with James.  We have raced against him for years and have been attracted to his non-stop positivity and knack for always wearing 2 (sometimes 3) backpacks.  We had a simple theory that if we didn't have to carry our backpacks, we could go much faster.  So we figured we would ask James to join us with the clear task of carrying our backpacks!  Seems logical, right? In all seriousness we know James is ready to fit into the program and has experience racing at the Cowboy Tough.  

So who is this guy that is on loan to us from Team Canada AR (thanks, guys!)?

James didn’t start his outdoor adventure pursuits until 2000 when he moved to Ottawa. Since then, he’s spent most of his time and energy honing his AR skills in the hills of nearby Gatineau Park in Quebec, where he runs, paddles, and mountain bikes in the summertime, and cross-country skis and snowshoes in the winter.

In addition to adventure racing, James has also completed the Trans Rockies 7-day mountain bike race (twice), the K2O 125-mile paddling race, and the 2-day, 100-mile Canadian Ski Marathon (5 times), in which participants camp out overnight in bivvys in the frigid mid-February Canadian weather.    

James not only competes in AR, he also studies it. He has a Master’s Degree in Sport Psychology and a Ph.D. in Education and has conducted research on the dynamics of small groups, as well as the psychological skills used by experienced expedition-length adventure racers.   

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

Competed in over 20 expedition-length races (3+days)

Competed in 9 ARWS races since 2009, including 3 AR World Championships

2nd – 2016 Maya Mountain Adventure Challenge (ARWS)

3rd – 2012 Sting in Stirling (ARWS)

4th – 2011 Raid the North Extreme

1st – 2015 UltimateXC 60km Ultra, Quebec, Canada

1st – 2012 & 2013 E2C 24-hour Orienteering Race, Halifax, Canada

1st – 2012 Hot Summer Nights 24-hour MTB – Duo Male. Ontario, Canada

3rd – 2014 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50km Ultra, Bear Mountain, NY 

Final Thought

The hay is in the barn, my bike and gear is already in Casper, I've memorized every trail w/i a 300 mile radius of the start line and Mari's RV is moving west.  We will receive our maps on Wednesday, race starts Thursday and race finishes before midday next Sunday.  Aaron Johnson will be out on the course with us reporting back via our Facebook page all next week. Let's have some fun!  In the words of Kathy Lynch what we have done so far at past Cowboy Tough races is "donkey speed."

WASH YOUR BIKE LIKE A PRO (AKA THE EASY WAY)

Now that you've done the hard yards, your drivetrain is a black mess, and your frame is covered in who knows what.  It's time to clean that bike!  If you've ever seen the bikes the pros ride, you could eat off their shiny new looking drivetrain.  It's really about having the right combination of chemicals and brushes.  Here's how...

This is a great video with one of the Quickstep mechanics showing step-by-step instructions on how to get your bike as clean as the pros.  We won't mention that the bike he's cleaning isn't the least bit dirty.  But hey, this is the big time after all.  His name is Kenny and I've stood in some of the best parking lots this country has to offer washing bikes with him ;)

You'll notice he puts a chain keeper or "ghost hub" in the rear dropout after removing the rear wheel and before cleaning the chain.  It's made by Morgan Blue and you can find it for $7 at ChainReaction.  It will cost you about that much to get it shipped from England.

If you want what the pros are using, Abbey Bike Tools has a "Wash Buddy" for $75.  Like all their tools, it's a work of fine art; durable, precision crafted, and beautiful.  I have one and it's the best $75 I've ever spent.

You can do better than Kenny's brushes, however.  A not-so-secret among American pro mechanics is the use of Tampico brushes.  They are made of vegetable fibers (from Mexican agave plants) and don't hold onto grease.  Dip them in a bucket of water and the grease/grime literally falls off.  The cheapest place to source Tampico brushes is a website called DIYcleaning.com.

 

My favorite 2 brushes are:

 

 

 

15" conical brush - perfect for hard to reach spots on the frame, derailleurs, bottom bracket, brakes/brake pads, and hubs, etc.

20" long handle in foam block brush - perfect for cleaning the cassette and spokes without bending over so far.  I choose the foam block for durability to outfox the inevitable drop in the aforementioned parking lot.  They make a wooden handle version as well which I've cracked more than a couple.  After letting the cassette sit for a few minutes with degreaser and hitting it with this brush, you're well on your way to a brand new looking drivetrain - and you won't need to use a cloth in between the cogs like Kenny does.

 

For degreaser my hands down favorite is made by Muc-off.  JensonUSA has it for $20 

To lube pulleys, pivots, and springs, I like both Tri-Flow with the applicator straw or Motorex's spray lube.

There are plenty of great chain lubes out there.  No real favorite...

 

For frame polish there are plenty of good options.  Pedro's Bike Lust or even Pledge.  The Lampre mechanics loved putting Pledge on their bikes.  Just don't get any on the brake pads or brake surfaces!  WD-40 makes a good polish:

And perhaps the best chemical of them all... is Dawn detergent.  If it was good enough for the U.S. government to clean up the Gulf oil spill in 2010, it's good enough for me ;) (Seriously... that's what they used).  In every pro wash bucket is a hefty squirt of Dawn.  The Muc-off degreaser knocks 80% of the grime off your chain.  A sponge with a dollop of Dawn gets it the rest of the way.

And finally, a word about water.  When rinsing off your bike, do your best to aim the spray away from bearings as much as possible.  While the pros can swap out bearings every few races if need be, that's a total pain for the rest of us, not to mention time consuming and expensive.

You now have the means to clean your bike like the pros.  Thanks for reading and happy washing!

About the author:  Stan Barrett is a professional race mechanic.  He's worked with SRAM Neutral Race Support as well as a number of World Tour teams including:  Radioshack, SaxoBank, Lampre, and Tinkoff.  He lives in Oakland, California.

 

Trinity Alps Wilderness Pictures

Check out some photos from our Memorial Day Weekend trip to the Trinity Alps Wilderness in Northern California.

Team Kits and Hats by Champion System for Sale! ORDER BY Friday the 20th!

Want to own Team Adventure Medical Kits clothing?  Place orders by noon (PST) on Friday the 20th (May 20th).  Yes, that is soon, but we have friends and family that have been champing at the bit to get their hands on the new apparel since we debuted the Champion System kits at GODZone last month.

 
 
Tech Short Sleeve Jersey (club fit, raglan sleeve, full-length zipper, M's and W's sizing) $48.  Click on image for more details including a size chart.

Tech Short Sleeve Jersey (club fit, raglan sleeve, full-length zipper, M's and W's sizing) $48.  Click on image for more details including a size chart.

 
Bib Shorts (full wrap panel, long length, M's and W's sizing) $64.  Click on image for more details including a size chart.

Bib Shorts (full wrap panel, long length, M's and W's sizing) $64.  Click on image for more details including a size chart.

 
Fleece Lite Arm Warmer (unisex sizing) $36.  Click on image for more details including a size chart. 

Fleece Lite Arm Warmer (unisex sizing) $36.  Click on image for more details including a size chart. 

 
Short Sleeve Performance Top (M's and W's sizing) $38. Click on image for more details including a size chart. 

Short Sleeve Performance Top (M's and W's sizing) $38. Click on image for more details including a size chart. 

 
Long Sleeve Performance Top (M's and W's sizing) $46. Click on image for more details including a size chart.

Long Sleeve Performance Top (M's and W's sizing) $46. Click on image for more details including a size chart.

 
Performance Link Tri Shorts (M's and W's sizing) $48. Click on image for more details including a size chart.

Performance Link Tri Shorts (M's and W's sizing) $48. Click on image for more details including a size chart.

 
Not just another cotton T-Shirt! American Apparel Unisex Poly-Cotton 50/50 Short Sleeve Crew Neck $25.  Click on image for more details including a size chart.

Not just another cotton T-Shirt! American Apparel Unisex Poly-Cotton 50/50 Short Sleeve Crew Neck $25.  Click on image for more details including a size chart.

 
Visor Cap $18. Embroidered. Click on image for more details.  One size fits all. Black and white available.

Visor Cap $18. Embroidered. Click on image for more details.  One size fits all. Black and white available.

 
Sports Cap $25. Click on image for more details.  One size fits all. Black and White available.

Sports Cap $25. Click on image for more details.  One size fits all. Black and White available.

 
Transformer Cap $24. Embroidered. Click on image for more details.  One size fits all. Black and White available.

Transformer Cap $24. Embroidered. Click on image for more details.  One size fits all. Black and White available.

 
  • Your clothing will not feature the USA championship American Flag rings that the team wears.
  • The team wears the higher end version of clothing compared to the ones offered for sale here.
  • CS logos on all 3 hats are subject to change.
  • Order: please specific item, gender, size, color (hats) and quantity and send your request to team@teamadventuremedicalkits.com by noon (PST) on 5/20/16.
  • Availability: 4-6 weeks from Friday the 20th (July 1st) + shipping time to you from Oakland, CA.
  • Payments: Send Product total + 10% sales tax + shipping to Paypal account kylerpeter@gmail.com
  • Shipping:
    • Local pickup in Oakland, CA $5
    • Shipping to lower 48 $10
    • Shipping to AK and HI $20
    • International shipments $50

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mt. Shasta - Casaval Ridge

One of the 3 sections on the ridge that require us to use all 4 limbs.

Last Saturday evening Aaron, an AMK co-worker Ryan Barnett, and I drove north for 3 hours in preparation to have an alpine start on the 14,162 foot Mt. Shasta Sunday morning. Jiggles, Ryan, and I started climbing at 4:30AM. We chose a later start to allow for the forecasted strong winds to subside a bit. This is the earliest time of year I have been to the mountain and the snow was all the way down to Bunny Flat Trailhead (6920 feet). (Last May Garret Bean and I summited via West Face and didn’t put crampons on until 10,000 feet.) We walked up the hill (not on the trail or on the herd path in lower Avi Gulch) to HorseCamp (7880 feet). The plan was to NOT take Casaval Ridge due to the forecasted high winds, but the ridge looked good from Horsecamp, and it wasn't windy. We decided to go for it and glad we did! We had epic views as we crawled up the ridge. There are a few nearly vertical sections of snow to climb, loads of very steep / high exposure traverses, and sweet rock formations to negotiate.

 

Casaval Ridge with Avalanche Gulch to the right and West Face to the left.

 

Clouds starting to gather.

Ryan felt poor so he turned back at 11,000 feet via the West Face at about the same time I turned back my first time on the mountain. Aaron and I pushed on and faced some strong winds and low visibility as clouds keep passing through above 12,000 feet. I started to feel like dog feces and got a headache around the 12,000 foot mark. Felt strong and agile up until that point. I was wearing Julbo’s all day, but had multi-sport glasses on instead of one of their glacier glasses and some light reflected off of the snow gave me a mild case of snow blindness and associated headache. The ventilation in the Aero's are amazing for riding and running, but that same ventilation was not ideal for snow. We somehow inched our way up Misery hill (13,800 feet) where we found a bizarre sheltered part of the ridge to watch the ice covered summit rocks get pounded by spindrifts, wind, and clouds. We sat there for a good 5­-10 minutes observing the weather and the rime ice encrusted summit pitch. We played it safe and didn't go for the final 300 vertical feet to the summit along with an experienced team of 3 and 2 solos. 1 solo came back to our spot after a failed attempt. The main reason we didn't go for it was the increasing cloud cover. The valley below had a few happy looking clouds, but they quickly changed to a full blanket of white. As the clouds hit the ridge they encompassed the summit. It was a good call in hindsight as the summit stayed in the clouds the rest of the day, and apparently no one reached the summit that day.

We carefully picked our way down to the start of the Avi Gulch descent in very low visibility. After some good ass-­sliding we were back to Horse Camp and began slipping and sliding down the soggy herd path back to Ryan and the car after nearly 12 hours on the mountain. My headache increased in severity as I descended. It didn't really go away until I got home at 11PM that night. Although it did improve after a monstrous calzone in the town of Mt. Shasta.

I didn't stop to put Zealios Sun Barrier SPF 45 on my face until 10,000 on the way down, and I have a nasty face burn. Stupid! Been using AfterBurn to heal it. I wore thick/fleecy tights, soft shell pants, DarnTough socks, craft s/s baselayer, l/s thermal shirt, synthetic down jacket, Buff, and lobster mitts the whole time.

I used my jacket's zipper and gloves on and off to regulate temps lower on the mountain. Added a fleece hat and shell jacket at the top of West Face. I used a single Leki pole on the descent, a AS-3 OutThere backpack. I also didn't eat much on the mountain: 100 cal GU Chomps, 2 egg sandwiches (fried egg and English muffin),and 1⁄2 quart bag of scroggin (Australian for Trail Mix). Need to Feed the Machine better!

Want more? Check out the full photo album and a 2.5 minute recap video Jiggles quickly put together.  Huge thanks to Aaron for documenting the adventure.

Click the map to take a look at our Strava activity.

Click the map to take a look at our Strava activity.

GODZone Adventure Chapter 5 - Race Report

Team Adventure Medical Kits (Kyle Peter, Rob Preston, Jarad Kohlar, and I) met up in Kaiteriteri, New Zealand to take on the GODZone Adventure Race.  This race had been on my ‘bucket list of to do races’ the past few years and I was excited to find out the team was able to experience it this year.   We have competed against the race director, Warren Bates, several times and knew he would put together an amazing and challenging race course.   This was the 5th year for GODZone, and although the majority of the 58 teams were from New Zealand, there was a mix of international teams toeing the line as well.  This year’s race was held in the Tasman District, which is located in the northern tip of the South Island.  The race could not have had a more difficult start for me…………swimming.   Crap.   We started off with about a 300m sprint along the beach before jumping into the ocean.  Luckily for me, my teammates are good swimmers and helped me get through the 150m swim which felt like 400m to me.   Once back on shore we ‘coasteered’ along the coastline for a quick kilometer or so and popped out onto a beach were a fleet of kayaks was waiting for us.  

 
 

   Once I was sitting in the tandem kayak paddling with Rob, I felt relieved to be done with the swim and excited for the adventure that lay ahead.    The 30km paddle was pretty uneventful until we started heading into the take out beach.    We were enjoying ‘surfing’ in on the short sets of waves until we got closer to the beach and saw a few boats flip including Jarad and Kyle.   Rob and I managed to catch a good wave in, landed on top of Kyle and Jarad’s upside down boat, pushed ourselves off of it, and then caught another wave in and landed safely on shore to a cheering audience.  We quickly transitioned out of our kayak gear, built our bikes, and were off for a 60km ride.   The first part of the ride had 2 short bike orienteering loops which we were allowed to split up and clear simultaneously before continuing.  Unfortunately, while Rob and I were out on our loop, my pedal broke off the spindle.   It’s pretty much impossible to fix a broken crank brother pedal, so I had to adjust my pedal stroke and continue on, worried that this could possibly cost us an enormous amount of time with the 250+ kilometers left of riding in the race.    After we re-joined Kyle and Jarad, Rob checked the maps and said we would be passing through the town of Richmond and hoped that we could find a bike shop or something.   We took a short detour to the local K-mart (the only thing open after 5 pm) where we learned that cheap bikes do not have the same size pedals as our bikes.   Luckily there were lots of friendly Kiwi’s lining the streets to cheer the racers on, and we found a kid who was willing to sell us his flat pedals off his bike.   We lost several places (~1 hour) while trying to solve my pedal dilemma, but once we were back on our bikes we moved well and started to catch and pass several teams.   By 10pm we rolled into the next transition area (TA) in 4th place and got ready for a 52km trek through the Red Hills.

The 1st part of the trek started out along gravel roads, then onto single track, then onto a partial trail along a ridge line, before disappearing completely into rolling hills of large boulders and uneven clumps of grass.   It was hard to tell if it was raining or if we were just in an enormous cloud bank, but either way it was wet and the ridge gusts almost knocked us over and put a chill through our bones.   We bumped into a few teams as we all searched to find the right hill top where our first checkpoint (CP) of the trek was waiting.   Shortly after sunrise we reached the hill top we had been searching for and began a technical decent back down towards the river where we would find our next CP.   The next section of the trek had a lot of route choices and we decided to cross the river and head up into the hills while 3 teams continued to follow the river.   Some local knowledge would have been helpful on this next part as there was an unmapped trail that would have been a better choice to take, but this is adventure racing and although our route took a bit longer, we eventually made it the next checkpoint but were disappointed to find out we had dropped to 11th place.

 
 

We reached the TA and decided it was time for a rest as it was now our second night without sleep.   After a 4-hour sleep, we popped up from the warm comfort of our SOL Escape Bivy’s, built our bikes and headed out for a quick, cold road ride to the orienteering Course.   Rob flawlessly lead us from checkpoint to checkpoint through the fun, flat, fast course.   At one point I managed to trip while running through the trees and landed on my face.   The next few days we would be entertained by the ever changing color of my black eye as well as trying to come up with more interesting stories as to why I looked like I got in a bar fight.   After the O course, we hopped back on our bikes and rode another 30km and climbed a few more hills into Nelson Lakes National Park before bombing down to Lake Rotoroa as the sun began to rise.

We packed up our bikes, inflated the race provided canoes and headed out for a 2 ½ hour paddle across the peaceful, beautiful Lake Rotoroa.   We had 1 team to chase on the lake and managed to catch them at the take out area where we deflated our boats and continued on foot.  Luckily we did not have to carry boats, paddles, or PFDs with us for the remaining 8 ½ hours.   After grabbing a CP at the edge of a small lake high in the hills we had a long decent down to the Makaki Lodge. 

It was now 6 pm and unfortunately our race had to come to a halt.   The next section was whitewater paddling down the Matakitaki River and we were not allowed to do so between the hours of 6:45 pm and 6:15 am for obvious safety reasons.   As much as it is enjoyable to sit down and take off your shoes, bust out the stove to eat a hot meal and get a full night’s sleep, it’s also very frustrating.  2 teams had already cleared the river and were already on the next section and 3 other teams had started the paddle but would be forced to stop for the night somewhere along the shore.   But, there was no point in stressing about it.  We still had a fair bit of racing left and it’s never over till it’s over in adventure racing.

At 5 am we awoke to find many more teams had come in throughout the night.   It would be a bit of a ‘race re-start’ down at the river.   At 6:15 am we managed to shove off onto the river with only a few other teams that were also ready.   The first part of the river was mainly fast moving water with a few class I rapids to get us warmed up.   As we moved further along the rapids began to get a bit bigger but were still quite enjoyable.    The first few teams who had paddled the river the day before had all had some trouble getting through a particular section so the race river safety people decided everyone else would have to portage their boats around it.  (After the race we saw pictures of the beating the first teams took and we were thankful for the forced portage.)  Just after 11 am we pulled our boats off the river for good and had a short run into the town of Murchison.

The next section was a quick, uneventful 34km ride to Owen Valley.   A Kiwi team called Team Motueka left the TA with us, and we formed an 8 person pace line for a while.  Eventually we dropped them, but we only came into the next TA about 5 minutes ahead.    Once again we packed up our bikes into their boxes and set off for a spectacular trek across the limestone of Mt. Owen. This trek was by far my favorite one of the race.   We had several hours of daylight to enjoy the amazing “Lord of the Rings-ish” scenery. 

Luckily we were able to reach the highest point while the sun was still out and managed to get off the technical ridge with huge rocky crevasses and holes before darkness once again fell.    Navigation was tricky out in the open rolling range of hill tops and headlamps were popping up off in the distance both in front of us and behind.   After a slippery muddy decent we popped out onto a road and slogged our way to the next TA.   

 

At the TA we learned that we were in 7th place, but 1 team had left within the hour ahead of us, 1 team was currently sleeping there, and another team was just leaving.    The thought of needing/wanting sleep immediately left our minds, and we quickly transitioned back on our bikes for one last ride.   Somehow we managed to fight off the sleep monsters that were attacking in full force and 140 km began to tick away as the sun began to rise.    There were basically 2 big climbs on this ride.   We managed to catch Team Next Generation just as the road flattened out a bit after the first climb and held them off while descending some fun single track and picking up a CP along the way.    While we were making the final push up the 2nd big climb, we saw Team Bivouac sneaking up behind us only 2 switchbacks below.  They had started the ride ahead of us, but apparently stopped to sleep at some point.    We kept pushing hard and used everything we had left in our legs to get to the final TA. 

After literally throwing our bikes back into our boxes and grabbing our kayak gear, we pushed off the beach only minutes ahead of Bivouac and saw Next Generation coming into the TA.   We were now in 4th, and 35km of paddling through the Abel Tasman National Park was all we had left to do.  It was near low tide, so the 4 remaining CP’s all had to be reached by getting out of the boats.   This allowed us to keep the 2 teams chasing us in check as we ran back to our boats each time.   After 4 days of racing it was literally a sprint to the finish.   We rounded the final point and reached the beach from which it had all started.   We crossed the finish line in 4th place, with a race time of 4 days 5 hours and 44 minutes.   Bivouac finished 4 minutes later and Next Generation came in only 17 minutes after that.   It’s truly not over till it’s over.

A huge thanks to Adventure Medical Kits for making this adventure possible as well as support from Darn Tough, Leki, Champion System, SOL Survive Outdoors Longer, Julbo, Nordenmark, Out There USA, Feed the Machine, and Zealios.  Use code TEAMAMK2016 at check out to receive a discount from some of these partners.  See  Partners  for details.    

2016 Maya Mountain Adventure Challenge Race Report

Team Adventure Medical Kits planned to get an early start to the 2016 schedule with a stop at the first ARWS event of the year.  The Maya Mountain Adventure Challenge is new to the world series, but is in its 2nd year after debuting in 2014.  The team planned to use the race as an opportunity to secure entry to the World Championships in Australia this November, develop team synergy as a new teammate was added to the team, and have a fun time exploring a new part of the world.

Sunset from the race hotel, Cahal Pech Resort, in San Ignacio.

Sunset from the race hotel, Cahal Pech Resort, in San Ignacio.

The race proved to accomplish all 3 of our goals and acted as a self-guided speed sightseeing tour as we ran, biked, and paddled over 600 km (375 miles) throughout the Chiquibul National Park, visiting the area’s highlights of 3,000-year-old Mayan ruins, amazing limestone caves, and stunning waterfalls.

Some pre-race thoughts from the team here at the Maya Mountain Adventure Challenge in Belize.

Day 1

We started on Saturday with a hot and fast road run down the Western Highway from our host hotel at Cahal Pech Resort and neighboring Cahal Pech Mayan ruins.  We then paddled in the crystal clear and fast moving Mopan River from the Guatemalan border to San Ignacio, Belize with stops at the Xuantunich and Actuncan ruins to stretch our legs.

Starting the paddle on the Mopan River

Starting the paddle on the Mopan River

Quick team photo on top of the Xuantunich ruins

Quick team photo on top of the Xuantunich ruins

The price for the fast and hot day was paid during the first night on the bikes. Shortly after visiting the ruins at El Pilar and taking a hand cranked ferry at Spanish Lookout, cramping, fatigue, and vomiting began to take hold. Backpack weight was redistributed, leg massages were given, hills that should have been ridden were hiked, electrolytes were consumed, and tow lines were used.  Through the pain and sweat we still enjoyed visiting Rock Falls under the full moon and exploring Rio Frio Cave.

We arrived to the end of the 160 km bike in Las Cuevas in need of some TLC. Thanks to the volunteers at this TA, we were treated to hot rice and beans and 4 beds in a bug free cabin.

Day 2

After a 90 min kip, we began the longest trek of the race as the sun rose on Day 2. We hiked a 13 hour, 53 km loop in the most remote and newly explored part of the Chiquibul National Forest.  

Mari loving her Leki trekking poles

Mari loving her Leki trekking poles

Darn Tough socks kept our feet happy

Darn Tough socks kept our feet happy

Miles of mud walking and a few battles with ants in our pants brought us to the rim of the NoHoch Chen Sink Hole and a rappel off of a 325 foot karst wall.  

NoHoch Chen sinkhole overlook

NoHoch Chen sinkhole overlook

We visited a giant Ceiba tree that would rival the Redwoods in Northern California.  Just as Day 2’s sun was threatening to crack the team and our water stores were depleted, we traveled into Kabal Cave for a refreshing soak in the cave’s river.  

The giant Ceiba tree

The giant Ceiba tree

Kabal Cave

Kabal Cave

Kabal was just discovered in the 1980s and is reputedly the largest cave in the Western Hemisphere.  As we trekked out of the remote jungle we pondered how many features were yet to be discovered.

After swapping our muddy trekking shoes for bike shoes, we jumped on our bikes for a fast and mostly paved ride to the top of the Caracol ruins. Although night had fallen by the time we arrived to this massive ruin, the full moon’s light was bright enough for us to enjoy the sights, and we enjoyed our dinner of cold Ramen noodles at the top of the ruin as we pictured what activities took place at Caracol thousands of years ago.  

After more rice and beans back at the Las Cuevas TA, we hit the sack hard for a 3 hour sleep. We awoke to learn that no other teams were within 6 hours of us.  It would take a big mistake to lose our lead now.  

Day 3

Excited to get our packrafts unto the Monkey Tail Branch of the Raspaculo River we trekked in darkness and arrived at the river for sunrise of Day 3.  No more than 200 meters into this 40 km paddle we tore a 4-5 inch hole into one of our packrafts.  WOW!  We thought the Alpackas were indestructible! After surviving hundreds of miles in a previous race though the Alaskan backcountry, we were shocked the Monkey Tail had done the Gnu in!  The sun wasn’t shining over head yet so out came our SOL Fire Starter kit to make a fire to dry out the raft and attempt to patch the hole.  Making a fire in the jungle is probably one of the hardest things we did in Belize, but teamwork, many tinders and lots of blowing got things going.  Jarad took charge with the patching, and we were back paddling after 60 minutes.  The river was quite low and very rocky.  Even without our compromised boat this section required lots of hiking, wading, and combat paddling.  Combat paddling involves many unorthodox techniques.  Maybe we will write a post on them later.  Rob essentially combat paddled his now leaky 2-person packraft solo down the river, and I paddled the good 2-person packraft picking up Jarad and Mari for a few shorts trips in deep water here and there, but they mostly walked along the slippery rocky shore for hours.  After 1 more stop to add another patch to the tear we finally reached the Challilo Lake.  Rob continued to paddle the leaky boat while being towed by our boat.  He spent more time blowing up the boat by mouth instead of paddling.  Jarad and I paddled our boat while Mari sat backwards in the middle, not paddling as the boats are too small for 3 to paddle efficiently.  After 3 more stops to add patches (for a total of 5 stops) we made it to the dam and portaged to a short and dark class 1-2 paddle down the Macal River into TA.  We made it!!!  Teamwork and grit got us through that one.  

We quickly transitioned and were back on our bikes for a relentlessly hilly ride through the night.  After climbing along Pine Ridge on the Devil’s Drive it became necessary for us to have a 90 minute sleep on the side of the trail in our SOL Emergency Bivvys.  Even with our Ben’s InvisiNet Headnets on, we didn’t have the most pleasant rest.   After a visit to the highest point of the course at the 929 meter Cooma Cairn Fire Lookout Tower, we arrived at Hidden Valley Inn where we were welcomed with cookies, watermelon, and coffee just as the sun rose.

Day 4

Leaving the comforts of the inn, we visited the highlights of Hidden Valley’s property, including Tiger Creek Falls, Bull’s Point Overlook, Butterfly Falls, and 1,000 Foot Falls overlook.  

Morning at Hidden Valley

Morning at Hidden Valley

Butterfly Falls

Butterfly Falls

The ride finished with a stop at Barton Creek Cave to paddle canoes 900 meters into the cave to grab another checkpoint.

Barton Creek Cave

Barton Creek Cave

Lunch at Mike's Place

Lunch at Mike's Place

Jarad treated us all to a massive lunch at Mike’s Place before we headed out on a hot 20 km slog to the Roaring River and our final paddling stage.  

Rob cools off

Rob cools off

Brutal heat

Brutal heat

Sunset, nearing the start of the pack raft section

Sunset, nearing the start of the pack raft section

We packrafted from the ATM Cave down to the Roaring River Golf Course.  We had to do the whole paddle in the dark as we started just after the sun set, but the good news is that Erik from the Yogaslackers let us borrow one of his boats for the paddle so we didn’t have to deal with our leaky one.  Thanks, Erik!!

Sleep monsters were battled with stories, entertaining songs, bright lights, and more fun combat paddling.  This river had much more water in it than Monkey Tail, and we spent 95% of the time in the boats.  We took out at Paul’s golf course.  We needed sleep desperately, but with a simple 65 km MTB ride between us and real beds and real relaxation we pushed on.  After a few hours of ridiculous singing and impersonations we amazingly managed to stay awake though Night 4 without sleep and crossed the finish line of the Maya Mountain Adventure Challenge at 3:40am in first place and secured our ticket to worlds in November.  

The Maya Mountain Adventure Challenge is organized by the enthusiastic and passionate husband and wife team of Doug and Julia Crytzer and their company American Adventure Sports. They have spent the last 5 years building relationships in Belize which enabled the racecourse to visit some amazing locations. Much credit for this event must also be given to the staff and rangers of the Chiquibul National Park and Friends for Conservation and Development who manage the land and have maintained the unique environment in pristine condition.

A huge thanks to my teammates Mari Chandler, Rob Preston, and Jarad Kohler.  Without them I would be still cramping in the jungle.  Also thanks to Aaron Johnson at www.ajphoto.net for producing all the race photos and videos, my mom Thomasine Peter, and Andrew Peterson for race support and keeping everyone updated back home while we raced.  And none of this would be possible without the support from the following: Adventure Medical Kits, Survive Outdoors Longer, Champion System, Darn Tough, Leki, Julbo, Light & Motion, Nordenmark, Out There, Zealios, Feed the Machine, ProBar, and Gu Energy.

Stay tuned for our next race coming up fast - GODZone New Zealand on April 2!

Team Adventure Medical Kits Adds Some Horsepower - Jarad Kolhar

Top Aussie multisporter Jarad Kolhar joins Adventure Racing World Series roster

Source: jaradkohlar.com

Source: jaradkohlar.com

Jarad Kolhar hails from Melbourne, Australia and is keen to include some nonstop expedition races to his 2016 calendar that is already full of much shorter and higher intensity multisport races.  But Jarad is no stranger to the grit that it takes to compete in a race that that is won over days rather than hours.  He has placed 5th at the 2011 Adventure Racing World Championships in Tasmania, and most recently had a terrific race at the 2015 XPD but was unable to finish as a result of an injured teammate.

Jarad runs a kayaking business that sees him out on the water almost every day.  Team Adventure Medical Kits is no slouch when it comes to this discipline, but on a world stage it is the area for biggest improvement.  Jarad is the answer to increasing our paddling game as well as adding overall horsepower to the team.

Source: jaradkohlar.com

Source: jaradkohlar.com

Of course, a team is not simply the sum of its stats - more important is the synergy and teamwork that allows the team to function as a coherent unit.  Jarad has raced with Rob Preston (Team Adventure Medical Kits' navigator for 2016), but he will be meeting Mari Chandler and Kyle Peter for the first time a few days prior to the first team race of the season at the ARWS Belize race (Mayan Mountain Adventure Challenge).  This race will serve as a training grounds and an opportunity for the team to learn how to perform efficiently with the ultimate goal to be more prepared for the very competitive ARWS New Zealand (GodZone Adventure) in early April.  Prerace communications and expectation setting will set the team up for success in Belize, but nothing compares to experiencing the team decision making on tired, dirty, hungry, sleepy racers on night 3.

2016 is looking to be an exciting year for Team Adventure Medical Kits with Jarad added to the roster!

Team Adventure Medical Kits Ranked 3rd in World

The Adventure Racing World Series rankings for December 2015 have been released, and show Team Adventure Medical Kits (previously Team Tecnu) maintaining our previous ranking of 3rd in the world, thanks to consistent top results in 2015 races. Racing for Team Tecnu, our athletes went undefeated in 2015, with the exception of Tecnu's 8th place finish at the World Championships.

Team Seagate, after their dominating performance at Worlds, has moved back into 1st place, with Team Columbia Oncosec dropping to 2nd place. Haglofs Silva is nipping at our heels in 4th place, with Swedish Armed Forces Adventure Team rounding out the top 5. We look forward to defending our top 3 ranking this upcoming year!