WE KEPT SAYING … PRETEND THAT YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING
With a completely new squad, team Bend Racing took off to Rocksylvania for the second edition of the Endless Mountains Adventure Race.
We were really happy that the race was close from home and that we could drive straight to registration with our van and a box trailer from Attache Remorques Gatineau. After picking up Dan at Newark airport, we drove the last 3 hours, quickly acclimating to the summer heat and humidity of Pennsylvania (our AC was busted).
Registration was held in the beautiful little town of Williamsport. I have to admit that Abby and Brent really scored some points in choosing this location. Each team was given a dorm room suite at the local college. There was plenty of space to get organized and to move stuff from one box to another one, and make sure we had enough 4hourfuel and everything else we may need for the race. It was just the perfect set up. The most amazing thing was that we could leave all our unused gear inside our room until we reached the finish line at the college - AR luxury.
After 3 days of sorting out gear we were ready to party!
All race infos can be found here: https://www.endlessmountainsar.com/2023---the-grand.html
After Jesse Tubbs played the national anthem on his trumpet, the race started with a packraft/trek section. We enjoyed this section because there were many options to choose from. You could start the race trekking, you could start paddling or you could start trekking with your packraft stuff in your backpack.
We decided to start our race running light without our packraft to collect the first five checkpoints along the crooked creek and then, come back to our initial point to inflate our two tandem MRS barracuda packrafts. The second part of that first stage was on a reservoir. We pushed pretty hard and eventually got to our first transition area. Our plan for that race was to be as efficient as we could on the transition and we were quite happy once we left on our bike in less than 16 minutes.
It was the longest one of the race. On that stage we had to stop twice to do a trekking loop. The first loop on foot was about 20 kilometers from the TA. After dropping our bike, we had to collect 11 checkpoints on foot. The navigation was pretty straight forward on that trek and Alex and Dan did an amazing job in finding all of them running almost the entire time. Once we got back to the bike drop, we could see that we had company … Rib Mountain, Bones and Salomon Canada were trekking. We knew that we were in first place, but how far was the second team? We had no clue. We keep saying to ourselves, let’s try to race our own race and limit the mistakes. We rolled down some trails and roads as fast as we could and we drafted in a pace line when it was possible. We arrived in Wellsboro after midnight where we had a mandatory stop in front of a hotel. Brian Gatens was there to interview every team for exactly 5 minutes. While Dan and Alex talked with Brian, we got organized for the night, grabbing food from our uswe packs, throwing garbage away and looking for water to fill up our hydrapak bladders. That’s one thing that we try to do, every time that we need to stop, we try to maximize that stop by doing all the little things that need to be done now or soon. After leaving Brian behind at CP 17, we continued west north west for a few hours to the second bike drop. In hindsight our route choice was not the best there but we were moving quickly so it must not have cost us that much.
We then dropped the bike and had to trek for a while in order to get to a climbing site. This part of the race was really cool! There were 4 different climbs that needed to be climbed. Every member of the team had to choose a climb. The easiest one was 5-5 and the hardest one was 5-9. Once again, while one of us was climbing, the other ones were feeding, drinking and putting Angelinas #skindoctor on their feet. We got back to our bike and followed some fast riding roads up to a really challenging CP 22. Even though we lost some time finding that CP, we realized afterward that we were definitely not the only team. This is where we had to take a minute and "pretend that we know what we are doing". Sometimes, just assume that you know what you are doing and good things will come.
I only wish that we could have paddled that section because that trekking stage was set in a beautiful canyon!
We had to collect the first 8 cps along the river going in and out of some of the reentrants on either side of the canyon. We were quite happy to have our leki poles during that stage!
After clearing the first section of stage C, we continued south to the 5 other optional CP where the navigation ended up being more challenging and also much slower … thanks to the mountain laurel (casse-croûte in french)!!! Mountain laurel flowers are so beautiful, but at the same time, they are a nightmare. We were surrounded by mountain laurels for about 5 hours. Our top speed during that specific time of the race was, at some points, less than 1 km per hour!!!! Mentally challenging, we knew that it would be tough for everyone.
This bike stage was a fast one! We were happy to be on the bike and our goal was to get to TA4 before dark, get organized for the longest stage of the race, then eat like it was our last meal, then fall asleep for 90 minutes. Unfortunately, for pretty much the entire team, we did not sleep very well. We believe that it was because we ate so much before going to bed, that we spent the entire time digesting instead of resting! Lesson learned!! Do not expect to get a good rest if you eat 2 pounds of french fries and greasy pork before a power snooze!
66km with more than 9000 feet of elevation gain! The fastest estimate for that section was 28 hours. Brent and Abby told us in the race briefing that during that period, we would be on our own and they were right - we did not see a single soul (except a photographer towards the end)
Our plan for that trek was as always « smooth is fast ». Limit the mistakes (especially at night), stay fed and hydrated, and for god’s sake … take care of your feet! Every 5 to 6 hours, we would stop for 5-10 minutes and do a foot care stop. Skindoctor has been a game changer for our team. We came to realize that if we take good care of our feet, we will move faster and it works really well for us. The only checkpoint that gave us much trouble was CP 38 (Elk Lick Knob) - we managed to clear stage E in a little less than 28 hours. Just in time for our second 90 minute nap of the race.
After a really good sleep in a wood shed and a little more than 24 hours on our feet, we were really happy to get back on our bike for a MTB O-course. We started the stage climbing a steep hill in the middle of a hot/humid day. We felt like we were climbing for ever, when in fact, it was only for a few miles. Eventually, we arrived at the top of an old mining site to collect 14 checkpoints in the order that we wanted. It is quite funny how sometimes what you see in reality is not necessarily what you see on your map! This happened to us on this stage on a few occasions where some features had seemingly vanished - after a few CPs, we came to realize that the mining company had run away with some spurs, and filled in some re-entrants. Unfortunately, they also left some really contaminated water behind.
Paddle and try to stay awake for 48km. That was our mission. We still had no clue what kind of lead we had, so we could only assume that teams were not far behind!. Luckily for us, it was in the middle of the day. After about an hour the sleepmonsters started to manifest themself … In previous races, we have tried what we call the «floating hotel»! While 3 people paddle, 1 of us gets to sleep in the canoe or the packraft. It did not work really well this time (has it ever worked well?) and we eventually got the speakers out and started singing. In no time we arrived at the TA.
While we were assembling our bike after the paddle, we realized that our bike boxes were the only ones there so we guessed that we had at least a few hours in front of second place, but we stayed focused and we tried to get out of the TA as fast as we could. We also knew by the height of the sun that we would pedal that last leg mostly at night.
We quickly noticed that even if we had music playing out loud from our speaker, there was no way that we could do that last 8 hour long leg without sleeping. In addition to that, the last bike section had a little « twist »! Just before the finish, there was some private land that we needed to cross and the owner did not want us around at night. So because of that, we had to pedal around an extra hour, and missed out on some fun singletrack, but on the other hand we got to stop in a convenience store as we rode in town. The clash with normal people is always a funny one when hungry and stinky adventure racers run into a store at 5am!
After a little more than 3.5 days, we crossed the finish line in first place, happy with our execution, and proud to have defended our team’s title as Endless Mountains champions!
Thanks to all of our family, friends and sponsors, you guys make a world of a difference!