Mari Chandler, proper noun
1. Total badass
2. Undoubtedly one of the strongest racers in AR
A 1500m track runner in high school, college, and 5-years post collegiate, Mari spent a lot of time on the bike rehabbing from running-related injuries. Just before Olympic trials in 2004, she broke her ankle. Despite surgery, she still could not take the impact or tight turns track running required, and she retired from the sport in 2005. That same year, a friend took her out for a sprint adventure race, and she "never looked back."
She's now been adventure racing for 13 years, and she's done a hell of a job at it. Turning professional in 2014, she has since been racing with Team Adventure Medical Kits (formerly Team Technu). They are currently the #1 U.S. AR team (with-- shameless Bend Racing plug-- us in #2 spot!).
We were lucky enough to convince her and her AMK teammate Erik Sanders-- who formerly raced with us-- to join us for the most competitive race in the world, GODZone Pure.
Mari, Erik, Stephen, and Dan comprised one of two Bend Racing teams this year at GODZone. Their team, Bend Racing/Yogaslackers took the March 2018 race by storm-- making notoriously interesting navigation choices, hanging in the top 7 throughout the majority of the race, and constantly cracking jokes.
Then on Day 6, both Mari and Erik developed severe trench foot, a debilitating foot injury that nearly halted the team's movement through the course. With their final trekking leg lasting 24 hours longer than the lead teams, spectators watched the trackers as the team's once amazing standing continued to drop.
On Day 7, the team finally emerged, charging into the finish line for what could possibly be one of AR's closest finishes ever. The team quite literally tumbled over the finish line, rolling in the sand with destroyed feet mere seconds before team Bivouc inOv-8 (47) in a battle for 11th place.
After 7 days, 10 hours, and 22 minutes, the team managed to steal that 11th place and the title for the first international team to cross the finish line.
PHOTOS: Team Bend Racing/Yogaslackers charging into the finish line seconds before Bivouc inOv-8.
Here is Mari's take on their race:
What was your favorite moment of the GODZone race?
There were lots of great moments out on the course but one of my favorites was the decent off Percy Pass on the mountain bike. We had been pushing, dragging, and carrying our bikes for what felt like hours, and the guys even had to help me a bit on the steep stuff as I was having some shoulder issues. It was a huge relief to hit the top. We ate what little food we had left, put on all of our warm clothes, and enjoyed a huge decent. We were lucky to be there in the daylight to see the views from the top and the valleys below
The most breathtaking part of the course?
Paddling across Lake Harris was pretty amazing. We had been trekking through wooded, green mossy, low-light Hobbit habitat for hours and popped out next to an amazing alpine lake. It was very sunny which made the water sparkle and was surrounded by mountain peaks. It was so remote they had helicoptered in kayaks for us to paddle across. I'm guessing only a handful of non-race related people have ever even touched that lake.
What was the most brutal part?
It was so brutal to see a teammate struggle so hard to just put one foot in front of the other on the last trekking section. Erik was having major pain in his feet, and we all weren't sure if he was going to make it. I think watching him go so deep into the pain cave actually got me to focus on helping him and not give in to my own painful feet.
Did anything surprise you?
When Stephen piggy-backed Erik the last one kilometer to the beach off the last trek. He was moving so fast and hopping over rocks and even a log while carrying someone who was bigger than he was......and I could barely keep up. AR is such a mental sport, and this race truly tested the limits. I was surprised how I could push past how bad my feet felt and still trek, and then the moment I crossed the finish line, I couldn't take another step.
What was it like racing with Bend Racing/Yogaslackers instead of against them?
I had a blast racing with Dan and Stephen. This race had a lot of miserable moments, and we were still all laughing together and trying to push hard. I've raced with a lot of different guys that I had previously raced against. Dan and Stephen are so easy to work with and chill that it was no problem to become teammates. Now when I race against them in the future, I know how strong they really are.
What did you learn from this race?
1) This race confirmed that when you have time to plan a route pre-race while fully rested and awake, it is best to still stick to that same plan 2 days into a race.
2) I learned that adding powdered milk instead of only water to mashed potatoes makes for a very creamy and delicious meal on the trail.
Get the details on their journey, including their stage times, transition times, team goal, and more here. Want to see our finish line video and more photos? Find them below!
An enormous thank you to our generous sponsors!
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A giant thank you for gear and training support goes out to:
Hyperlite Mountain Gear, Ellsworth Bikes, Inov-8, Forage and Graze, Recharge Sport, Rebound Physical Therapy, 2XU, Joshua Tree Skincare, and Sunday Afternoons
But wait! There's more..
Finish Line Video