August 24, 2013
Snowbird Adventure Race, 6 Hours, 17 Aug 2013
It's been too long since I've done an adventure race...months I think. Which is also probably the last time I've ridden my mountain bike. Or any bike for that matter! My summer has been filled with backpacking and paragliding and road trips. I can't complain. My bike should.
I signed up for the 6 hour Snowbird Adventure Race with just a week or two to spare, thinking it was great that the race was so close to the house. It got even closer when I got the map of the course and saw that the start line was down in my favorite running gully...my stomping grounds, if you will.
But as I traced the course from the start to the finish...I may have groaned. UPHILL ALL THE WAY. I prefer downhills myself. Anyway, the race started near the TRAX Station at the Sandy City Dog Park. I took a shortcut here and gained 50 feet on the rest of the racers. It was a momentary lead. From there we found several checkpoints in Dimple Dell Park a.k.a "The Gully behind my neighborhood". It was a hot morning already, and before every transition I *almost* ran out of water...whew.
At Granite Park, after miles of sandy running, we grabbed our bikes. Since the main section of the bike was all on road, and I had pre-decided not to do the off-road section, I was riding my hybrid bike. It's a beast but might climb on pavement better than my mountain bike. I'm still not actually sure...it weighs a lot. At any rate, I spent the best part of the next 2 hours slowly riding up Little Cottonwood Canyon all the way to Snowbird Ski Resort. That climb is a beast, too. I stuck close to the boys in Lederhosen and hoped they wouldn't shake me.
We were all happy to arrive at Snowbird, after ascending from 4500 feet almost to 8,000 ft. The boys opted to continue on their bikes but I was ecstatic to ditch mine and finish the race on foot. The rest of the course was a romaine (orienteering) style section, where each racer could choose which controls to reach in whatever order seemed best. This is my favorite style of racing and I was happy to be thinking and navigation again rather than just mindlessly riding or running a straight line.
The only mandatory control on this section was the Tyrolean Traverse, where we had to bring a harness and carabiners to essentially ride a zip line across a canyon. The climb up to the traverse was brutal, though...by this time I was hot, sweaty, really tired, and trying to suck enough oxygen at 8,000-odd feet to even breathe. I kind of stumbled up to to the traverse, enjoyed the wind on my face as I crossed the canyon for a few seconds, and then it was over. Back to the navigation.
I spent the rest of the race running up and down and between the ski slopes at Snowbird Ski Resort.
Just between us, it's more fun to ski down them and get the lift back up! A few of the controls were easy to find. Some of them weren't. I worked out a route that looked to minimize how many ups and downs I had to do. I still waded through a creek and bushwacked through some scrubby trees and tripped over a few things. And I was doing pretty well until I got to a control labeled something like "Aspen tree grouping". I navigated near it using a mountain bike trail, which got me to about 100 meters away, but in front of me at the trail zig-zag was an impenetrable line of dense bushes marching both up and down the steep hillside. I couldn't see any way around and decided to go through. I sort of closed my eyes, push my head down, and blindly grabbed onto branches hoping that there would be somewhere to put my feet on the bushes, too. Because the ground was out of sight by this point, as well as the sky, and I couldn't see through the other side, either. There could have been a whole family of bears living a few feet from my path and I wouldn't have known. I did see a moose later, who seemed more surprised to see me and ran off leaving some very fresh scat!
I may have tripped and fallen a few times...the scratches on my legs are now a week later starting to heal up. Somehow I worked my way over to the holy grail, a group of aspen trees. Finally out of the scrubby stuff, although the terrain was still pretty terrible. I guess a lot of snow covers a lot of bushes in the winter time.... Anyway. No control in site. Another racer shows up. We look at every group of aspen trees we can find, painfully working our way up the hillside. Nothing. He disappears. I decide to give up after about 30 minutes of looking. While trying to find a way down which doesn't involve going back through those bushes, I stumble onto the control. Success. At least by accident. But I'm convinced the location wasn't right on my map...I guess shoving through bushes seems a lot further than it really is.
Almost out of time now but get 2 more controls on the way back to the finish. I'm just under the wire and happy to get everything but 3 controls. From what I hear a couple of those were tough too, so no time to have gone looking for them. No one gets the uber-prize, for the final control on the tram station at the top of Snowbird. I couldn't fathom the idea of climbing another 3,000 vertical feet and didn't attempt it...but the prize was a weekend retreat at Snowbird so bummer that no one else made the attempt either. Maybe next year.
Points get counted and I'm surprised to get second overall! Only 20-odd racers but I'm psyched to be very close to the win...only 14 minutes behind the 1st place guy, who was the one I got lost with looking for the Aspen tree point. I don't think I could have pulled out 14 minutes faster anywhere but getting the same number of controls feels great!
Congrats Graffiti Racing for a great inaugural AR at Snowbird...hope you keep the surprises coming next year!