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RACE REPORT EXPEDITION OREGON. A part of ADVENTURE RACING WORLD SERIES.
Since we like to write and tell stories, this is like a little novel. So take your time, sit back and enjoy our little trip to the states. It might inspire you for your own quests. So Long story long! ;)
Time for some Adventure Racing. You may not have a clue what that kind of race that is. Well we can briefly explain; It a multisport race, with often teams of four, racing nonstop until the finish line, facing some difficulties. You are navigating, with disciplines of trekking, mountain biking and paddling and what else the organizer might find fun and challenging. Your task is to get from one place to another, taking checkpoints printed on the maps you’ll get. All races are unique depending on where in the world you are, there can be stages with abseiling, climbing, coastering, caving, swimming, riding, snow shoe or glacier walks etc. All depending on the area and country you race in. But you are out there, in the wild, self supported. Though you will come to TA,s (Transition areas where you have packed boxes before with energy to fill your backpacks, new tools and equipment, just changing to next stages). The races can be from a couple of hours to about 10 days, then it’s likely called an expedition race.
Our team Leki/Merrell arrived in Bend a few days prior to the race. We had plenty of time to discover the surroundings, test packrafting and train our skills together. Micke is a true orienteer, but totally new in Adventure Race. Lars is also a good navigator, and long experiences from Adventure racing. Lina and I were the semi ones. Quite much experiences of miserable conditions, that you actually can go through in a couple of hours and finish strong. So mentality I would say is our strong side.
It will hurt, it will be tough, it might be some of the worst things you’ll experience. BUT still, it will be some of the most memorable moments in life, some unforgettable views up on the mountains, some adrenaline kicks you don’t want to be without, and untouched nature only you and your team will see in that very moment. Just the fact that we will be out there in the wild moving for own machine made me shiver. What else is better?!
I have to say we also got a mascot from one of the stewardesses on the flight. We named him Small Eddy, since there was a BIG EDDY close to the Lodge where we were going to packraft on the race they told us. As time went, more and more racers came to Lodge Entrada where everyone stayed. Always fun to meet people from all over. Merrell had sent us some new shoes, perfect for the various stages we were facing. I’ll tell you more about which ones we used. Clifbar supported us with gels and bars that was my main energy through the race in the end. My favorite is the chocolate gel and the chocolate chip bars. Though the caffeinated gels were gold in the end! Ultimate Direction also sent us 35 L fastpack and 25L fastpack which were perfect. Then we could use the bags for all stages throughout the race. Just pack all mandatory equipment in a drybag and move over! (Actually, we started with the light race vesta, since trekking was the first stage, and many other races where laughing at us, thinking we would run with them the whole race) We used the 35 L on the packrafting sections, and the 25 L on rest of the race. And it went out perfect!
In Bend training on saving eachother in the water park.
These shoes circulated during the week, and was of goooood use!!
Fun with prerace training. Always including FIKA.
Packing for the TA boxes was chaos as always. But soon enough we manage to organize everything pretty well, and briefing was fine, maps looked OK. WE WERE READY!
I took a screenshot of the stages. Have a look:
Of course the weather was bad on the race day. We have had sun and blue sky all the other days. Now the fog and rain clouds kept our heads down, just to remind us we shouldn’t think we had a chance against the power of nature. I fastened Small Eddy on my race bib, and thought, as long he is with us, we will be lucky! But since the race director liked to see us feel pain already from the beginning we climbed steep uphill with bushes and thick branches in our way. So with lucky, I don’t mean easy.. It took us over an hour just to get the first checkpoint. All of us were totally soaked and it was a disappointment we couldn’t see anything when the landscape opens. White, white, white. We only focused on getting forward taking next coming checkpoints. The field hadn’t spread up so much. We were a couple of teams scrambling up and down stony cliffs and jumping over fire burned trees and green forests. Until, suddenly we were all alone. Micke, with his long legs and orienteering speed stretch out though the tough vegetation and Lina and I tried to catch up falling and scrubbing our knees and feet on the terrain. Lars looked like a hobbit in between us, aggressively running forwards.
The green forest became even greener and high massive trees surrounded us. There were also some cool pink blooming bushes, in the middle of nowhere, and we got the feeling we were on a wedding, because it looked like a really organized flower arrangement. However. We finally came down to the river and everyone was cheering us. As the fastest runners we had taken the lead by 20 minutes. 4 hours and 51 minutes. (Though in the rafting section we lost this lead quite fast).
The white water started easy and not too scary but increased as we followed the stream. We manage sitting in the boat the whole first section. I felt tough, we had overcome this river with water everywhere flying down in our tiny rubber boats. We went in to shore many times to empty them though, and that may have been why we lost time. My Merrell Agility Peak Flex had surprisingly good grip on the wet stones, and had worked perfectly during the first leg too, I was happy wearing them.
Though other things made me sad.. In full speed after some big waves Micke and I headed towards a big fallen tree. A thick branch was hanging right in front of me. And you now when something comes on a sudden and the world stops for a second? Well it didn’t this time. My face was hit and I felt my sunglasses with prescription from Sportbrillor crashed. It seems they got the smash, since I only got a tiny scrub on my chin. Though my swearwords came hailing anyway. Now I would have glasses for rest of the race! …
Lars and Lina were in the front of us all the time, since Lars was the ones scouting for green tongues and best way going through. I directed Micke how to follow: ”Left now, LEFT, LEFT! ” or ” Stone to the right!” Screaming all the time. In the end I felt my throat aching. We got plenty of water over us every time there were big waves. Both Lina and Lars became so frozen so they were shivering and didn’t paddle so fast. Micke and I had warm wetsuits and I didn’t freeze at all. It was hard to see Lina so cold and unable to move, I just wanted to switch suit with her. I rather be the one having a hard time than seeing someone else suffer. After what seemed like ages, when even the big waves didn’t increased our pulses we finally came to the trekking leg. Small Eddy was still with us! Everything smoothly packed into our Ultimate Direction Fast Packs 35 Liters this time, paddles on the side pockets and new Clifbars and gels in the front pockets, we could recharge and warm up again in the now sunny weather!
We past the other teams quite fast when we had our feet on the ground again. Then there were some bush walks to get to the next river. Here there were camera men ready. Apparently a place where things would happen. Together with Bones and Bend Racing we infiltered our water machines once more and jumped into the unknown.. Oh fuck. Just scum and almost waterfall! In the first wave I saw Lina and Lars flipped. Before I had to think how to throw the rope to any of them, I was in the water as well. Grabbing the boat fast. Looking for my paddle, that I then realized was clustered in my other hand. Thank God.
In my white eye I could see all the other teams also swimming. Micke and I corporated well. We did exactly what we had done on or trainings before the race. He on the other side. I jumped in with the stream from behind helping me up. I took both paddles and Micke crawled in. Less than a minute and we were steady paddling again! Wow, that felt great. Our team mates were also fast, so we continued down. The other teams still swimming. And even though we were close to flip again in the white water, we didn’t.
Changing to bikes in the rain took some time. But I just laughed at Lars suggestions not to change clothing because of the rain. ”We will get wet anyway” he said. BUT NOT SOAKED for christ sake! When you are totallly freezing and are going out for a long leg, and be out for days, you better get dry clothes on when available, and not continue with wetsuit on (!). He was stressed for sure. I think he didn’t except our team to be fighting with the ones in front. I didn’t want to remind him we hadn’t gone far into the race yet. Better keep the speed while he was trigged. Dry GORE and Merrell clothes and dry backpacks as we switched to the 25 Liters ones felt good.
A quite flat start on asphalt before a long, long climb began on dirt roads. During the never ending uphill it both started to rain and to get dark. But we had Moonlight Mountain gear lights on the bikes which is THE BEST on the market, so we could see every little stone in our way! Our lamp is named BAD, but it wasn’t bad at all, it was BRIGHT AS DAY!
The never-ending road abruptly ended and was (according to our navigators) supposed to be a trail. But of course, there was no trail there and we were about to go bushes.. AGAIN. WITH BIKES. UPPHILL. IN THE DARK. (but of course, with the B.A.D lamp). Right in front of us we found Team Bones though who also searched for that non-existing trail. We had some kind of company pushing and carrying the bikes in the very unfriendly forest. I was exhausted and so fed up lifting the bike over all the fallen trees. This is not a real forest! It’s a fucking tornado devastated graveyard! Eventually this never-ending bush uphill also ended (they all do actually). We found the control and a single track downhill appeared. I refused to bike on that since the sides were super steep and the trail not nice in my opinion. But I can run! And so I did. With the bike. Lars looked a bit frustrated, but since there were so many fallen trees (we were still in the graveyard you know) I could catch up quite easily while he clicked on and off and got on and off the bike. The trail was very steep in some parts and you could hear all brakes squeaking in the air from both our team and Bones further down. We also met Team Bendracing who had taken another way and were pushing their bikes up the trail instead.
In the tornado devastated graveyard I thought I had a puncturing! BUT! Thanks to my local sponsor Egons Cykelaffär (Bike store) We have tube less tires, which meant that we only had to pump it up a bit and it was all fine! (Last year in China when we attend at Xtrail Expedition we got TEN puncturing and our team mates had to quit the race… So since then, ALWAYS tube less! )
The rest of the first bike stage were on dirt roads until we got to the climbing stage where we had 2 hours mandatory stop. There were three options you could do, and on the fastest one which we chose only one team member had to climb. That was a bit sad since I think all of us had liked to do the quite spectacular climb. But Lars was the one who did it, Sanna and I worked as lighters and Micke belayed. Then there was one more easy climb to do (also only one member) and then we had about 45 minutes to rest before we were allowed to get going again.
We were all freezing, but Jason (the organizer) had a big fire where we could make a little camp and sleep for about 30 minutes in our mandatory bothy bag. Team Quest who came before us didn’t take the chance to close their eyes on this forced stop, they chattered all the time and it seemed like that they had taken out the victory already…
We got to next TA in the early morning, changing to trekking gear and shoes, both of us using Merrell Agility Peak Flex 2. We had planned to eat some real food here, so we poured cold water in freeze dried food bags and let them set when we packed the bikes. It wasn’t like a gourmet meal, but we hadn’t expected that either, we had Mexican Bean and Quinoa stew. Really tasty actually. Cold and crunchy though, but a bit of crunch hasn’t kill anyone? We took them on the go. Eating in TA is only for beginners ;)
The trek started directly with a steep, steep hill right into the forest. We scrambled on rocks and tried to find the best way up without sacrificing anyone’s lives. We really enjoyed this part and as the forest opened we came out on the lava stones and climbed up a little lava mountain, it was AMAZINGLY beautiful with the sunrise, the view and being above clouds! All of us had the best time here I think. We ran on great trails and I could once again think how much I love to run!
Sanna and I continued munching on our Mexican stews but after a while my stomach started to make bubbly noises, and so did Sannas… The rest of the trek wasn’t as fun.
The lovely part higher up ended and we had to come down in the forest again. Now Micke and Lars couldn’t find that trail again. …BECAUSE THERE WASN’T ANY!! Lars went straight into the bush, and this isn’t any regular bush with soft branches you can easily push away, these Manzonita bushes are ALL OVER YOU and goes in ALL directions! We crawled, climbed and fought these bastards until we got stupid! This just Can’t be the right way. WHY are we in here? They looked at the maps all the time, but WHAT could they orientate on? WE WERE LOST! In the middle of this jungle. I can’t even describe how thick the vegetation was, and it’s absolutely impossible to do any sort of navigation in there.
Weeeell. In some way our navigators knew where we were, because all of a sudden the control was there! This happened all the time during the race. It looked like and it felt like we were completely nowhere, aaand they found the control. In one way it was nice to not have to navigate yourself, Sanna and I could just follow. But on the other hand, it was very frustrating not to have a clue where we were going and what to expect. Many times I just wanted to take the map and find the way myself, because we both get irritated when we couldn’t get a fast answer what direction to head to. I’m though VERY happy that the guys did the navigation, I would still be in the jungle at this time if I had had the map. I’m so impressed by them.
When you are facing hard things like this, not sleeping and not eating very good, you will get in a bad mood at some point. Both Sanna, I and Lars had our lows several times, being rude and bitter at each other. But Micke didn’t complain once. I guess that has both its’ pros and cons…
When we came near the TA we found a toilet and stole some more toilet paper. Ours was long gone and we had used what nature provides the last three bush visits, which was big green leaves. Lucky us being raised with outdoor-minded parents and already have that experiences. We prefer paper though, that’s why we became thieves for a second…
Team Quest was still in the TA cheering surprisingly at us. We were as surprised as them. Still number 2! After that last nightmare-trek!? Hurry up guys! Let’s catch em!
LONG BIKE LEG
It started directly with single track. Old wagon trail or something. Quite dusty and stony, not to mention steep. I switched from biking to walking and vice versa several times during the uphill. Now the sun grilled us and reminded us of our lack sleep. Lars was the first one noticing his eyelids didn’t want to be open. So after some argumentation we had to stop for 15 minutes for a nap. Lars once again had a really bad idea; ”We sleep in the sun”. HAH, NO FREAKIN WAY! Is he going to get us dehydrated or what? Shadow we went.
We got some nice views of the snowy mountains ahead. I was longing for them, but didn’t know if the course would get us that far.. We slide down some more sandy roads and finally came to the orienteering leg. All of us happy to be served coffee. Though my stomach wasn’t good yet, and might gotten worse of more coffeine.. But hey, who wanna stay awake?! On this stage we used Merrell All Out Crush 2. So smoothly and nice on both soft trails and harder terrains.
Now it was Mickes turn to show some skills, and he looked nervous about the task. I thought, he had to slow down not to get wrong here. But he ran away like if it was a orienteering sprint sort of. Shouldn’t we be out for about 3 hours?? Firstly we ran too short, then too long, then focusing on too small details. LET’S FACE IT, IT’S A TOUGH MAP! A CRAPPY MAP, NOT SHOWING THE SHITTY BUSHES RIPPING OUR LEGS UP BLEADING US TO DEATH...Well, we did take some checkpoints fast, but others were longer away then expected, and hidden behind those bushes you was sooo fed up with.
A camera man followed us in the beginning. And after some 20 minutes I thought he was lost and couldn’t get back to the shelter. But he was eager to film us, and I asked for his name, cause we hadn’t said anything to him so far. Just ignored him, thinking we were cool actors. ”I’m Scott.” He was going to follow us that whole stage. So better he has energy with him. Cause both Micke and Lars was running out, and non of them had taken water with them. Hello guys, are you experienced or what? Lina and I got to feed both. However it turned out all other teams also had a tough time, and we actually was the fastest ones around! Whoa. 4 hours and 50 minutes. I must say it was really fun to have good navigators in the team. I’m really proud of them. Lars swam naked out to a checkpoint, and Micke balanced on a tree to another island. Lina and I held us in the background on those too. Other checkpoints were by a waterfall, on the top of a big rock, a cliff, and in the forest.
Off the bikes again, second night coming closer. All of us were happy know and were looking forward to the long bike leg ahead (137 km). There were bumby endure-like roads soooo fun to bike on! Like a roller-coaster! We turned on our BAD –ass lighters from Moonlight Mountain gear again and could see perfect in the dark. The stars and moon were also shining and it was a beautiful night! We continued on gravel roads both uphill and looong downhills which were quite scary with a lot of holes, but I if I used the brakes too much the others would have been far, far ahead of me, so I really challenged myself on these sections too, and in that way also built some more self-confidence!
When Lars and Micke had brief stops to look at the map we took the chances to eat and drink. We had dried or own fruits- pineapple, banana, apple and mango and also had other favorite snacks as nuts, seeds and coconut flakes. Sooo good. But maybe not so good for our already messed up stomachs… Anyway I like to eat this more natural snacks than candy. We also had (as mention before) clifbars and gels, rice crackers with peanut butter (that was the best in my opinion) and wraps with chocolate almond butter.
Lars of course missed some of the bush wagging (or bush swagging as I said, don’t even know if they say wagging? Is that a word? ) When I wrote this and read it out load Sanna just told me that they all have been saying Bush WALKING. Ahaaa, make sense… so I guess he thought we needed to find some on this leg too.
We were very angry at each other at that point and took a nap for 5 minutes. Well needed. It was really nice to just lay down on the road, look up at the stars and feel how tired you are. A moment I will never forget.
On the road again to next Checkpoint. When we got there on a trail and just were about to get off our bikes to get to the Checkpoint further down in the creek, Team Quest is coming from the opposite direction! Woohoo, now we’re talking! They got the Cp first and hurried away on their bikes, should we try to catch them or just be cool staying a bit back to beat them later? We had no plan but all of us started to bike faster, then Sanna had the idea that we should use the pull-straps on Micke and Lars bikes since it was an easy gravel road. Now we all pushed hard and continued past them Hahaha! They had no chance! All the way up the road we pushed and felt great since the others were long way back. Until Micke confused stops at the top and asks Lars if HE is the one navigating. YES you now have the map-board says Lars. (they shifted at the last checkpoint).
Òhh, we’ve missed the checkpoint. WAS THERE A CHECKPOINT NOW!? It was like in a bad comedy. We had to roll down again looking foolish meeting Team Quest who quietly had dropped the speed and punched the checkpoint without our notice. As fast as they had come, as fast they were gone.
Mood not as high we continued through the night, Lina and I just had to stop, almost falling off our bikes of sleepy eyes in the early morning and we took another 5 minutes nap. A long uphill on a trail-like gravel road before we got a beautiful sunrise and the sky so red and colorful as we felt on our legs and asses. Blue marks all over, beaten up by nature. But isn’t that beautiful too?
We biked nice single tracks in a burned down forest. It was so open, and really cool. Though I could only think about what the forest would have looked like before the flames took it. It must have been fires on many areas around here, since this wasn’t the only trees we had seen black. But this was a whole field, a big forest fire. We biked the ashes and came out on a road. For long now, we had realized the snowy mountains and peaks would only be our views, since from now on we continued dirt roads and trails away from them. A long uphill got it’s reward when there were special built mountain bike trails all way down. SOO MUCH FUN! Creeks, bends, jumps and a real energizer.
Now it was time for abseiling with bikes on the back. Yep, you heard me. Nothing left on top. We were going to repel down with all our gear and continue from the bottom. Lars and Lina did good and it didn’t look so hard. The security guy on top helped me put my bike on, and then I was by my own. I had a prusik knot (a more secure way to repel, like a backup that tightens onto the rope to stop a fall). Though I didn’t make the knot so good, so when I was abseiling it went so fast, and I couldn’t really control over it. I lost very much energy cause I was so scared, and breathed heavily. Halfway down I thought I was done, but then saw Lina and Lars far down.. I started crying and they had to tell me where to put my feet and I just wanted to finish that stupid wall.. When it came an overhang I fell backwards with feet up, what an amateur.. bobbing up and down, side to side, but not moving where I should..It took me a while to come out of that position.The last meter Lars could catch me and take off the bike. I was so shaky and pale and felt like a little weeping child. Lina pressed a clifgel in my mouth and I just laid down some minutes while Micke abseiled.
After that we had a long biking leg in the heat. We biked up single trails and down funny ones. And then dusty endless roads here and there, crissed crossed us forward mile after mile. We came down into some sort of civilization on a bike park where we meet people again on the small trails. I would love to have that kind of flowing trails at home. Around Bend they have loooooads! We had a great time, but the sun was too hot for Scandinavians.
I was really out of energy and a bit dehydrated once we arrived to TA7. Luckily it was by the water since the only thing left was 3 k white water, it was time for BIG EDDY! (Before the last single tracks on mountain bike into finish line). However we had to run 4 k upstream to get to the rafting starting point. It took us awhile. I was so hot and tired. And these 4 k;s seemed way longer. We changed quickly though, we were really good at fixing the boats and paddles, everyone had their own task. We all were prepared of flipping in Big Eddy. And actually, I think we looked forward to it, to be a bit freshen up.
In the boats I had knew energy and so positive. We were in the lead! Somehow Quest had made a orienteering mistake on the bike leg and we had passed them! As we paddled the flat parts approaching the more violent sections butterflies got in my stomach. I squeezed Small Eddy. LET’s DO THIS!
We came right into the first wave and just got splashed all over us, but floated on top and it went fast out next section. A guy in a single packraft besides us was ”the safety guy”, he was the one picking our stuff up if (when) we flipped. He was facing the waves backwards and seemed totally calm. ”If he can do it like that, we will do it too!” Micke said. And we did good, until we glided right towards the lava cliffs. Micke couldn’t steer the boat and we hit the stonewall on the side. Almost tipped, and I held on the ropes on the boat, taking a deep breath preparing for a swim. When just of a sudden we were loose and paddled hard the last waves to steady water. Was this it? Did we paddle Big Eddy without flipping?!! There wasn’t any more white water behind next bend, and we were both laughing. Lina and Lars did excellent too! Apparently, we have had some audience on the beach side, who cheered on us as we won over the sketchy water section.
Pictures taken by Violet Cameron.
Everyone in the team were happy and exhilarated and we were fast on the bikes again. We were abit familiar with the bike trails around Lond Entrada, so it was easy to cruise around them, catching the last checkpoints, and eventually we rolled out on asphalt and realized; we are done, no more checkpoints! We pedaled in a line together into the finish. 58 hours and 11 minutes of adventure. Thank you for hearing our story. We hope that we have inspired you in some way!
Well deserved rest in recovery pants by the pool.
Taco night (though there were rise and beans).
Nice to eat some greens and salad afterwards! Best comression socks from Gococo on.
Lina and Sanna (and Small Eddy)
Pics from Bendracing photographers and Violet Cams, and ourselves.