27 June 2016

Adventure is the Correct Nomenclature

I'm a broken record. I again toed the line at Cache Creek and again got third and again my thoughts were on the weekend. As a sponsor of the Teton Ogre Adventure Race, Kate's Real Food got a free eight-hour entry so I signed up on a whim, without a plan or a partner. J9, also in need of a partner, called me up with two weeks to go and we were in.
Claiming my customary third place at Cache
Pic courtesy of JHCyclng
During the Cache race I distracted myself from choking on fast ladies' dust by listing all the bike racing genres I've participated in, with varying degrees of success (and consent): XC, DH, enduro, super-D, short track, 4X, dual slalom, road, criterium, ITT, TTT, alley cat, cyclocross, gravel, six hour, twelve hour, twenty-four hour...but never an adventure race.

Sam and Jordan from The Hub were in town and their talk of PMBAR was a good reminder of why I never did that. Too scared. Eighty miles of Pisgah, Eric Wever's special brand of sadism, and the occasional wooden nickel were a surefire recipe for an emotional breakdown. But I wasn't too worried about the Ogre. We learned on Thursday that the venue was Grand Targhee so the biking would be straightforward and the trekking would be improved by less than horrendous bushwhacking and plenty of big obvious points of reference.

J9 and I dispensed with the ride quickly after only a couple of small missteps on my part. It was really easy terrain and we both know the Rick's Basin network well enough to fly through intersections. At two hours in, I thought we were being so fast and clever that we might take the win. Typical me. Counting every possible chicken. At the transition area we saw the bikes of Evan and Becca, leggy goddesses, which meant they had crushed us on the ride, and Erin and Jen, adept navigators, finished right after us. My expectations immediately righted themselves. We swapped gear and started walking up, and up, and up. We climbed from the base to the top of the resort and it was the finest piece of earth I've ever traveled on, a narrow path through wildflowers then up onto shale ledges with a precipice on one side, climbing a knife edge with the Tetons looming. I was dying to run but J9 was feeling some back pain and isn't a runner anyway.
Stoke levels were sky high all day long
Pic courtesy of J9
We dropped to Mary's saddle, catching a couple of fortuitous checkpoints, and climbed back up steep chunk to the summit of Peaked. We grabbed another checkpoint on the slushy remains of Burton's halfpipe, then stopped for lunch and a powwow. We were making good time and feeling way better than expected but we still decided to skip three points that seemed out of the way, instead plotting a route to chase five points in the direction of the base. I wish we had pushed for a couple more but we played it conservatively.
The halfpipe checkpoint...eighty degrees and a thirty foot wall of snow
Pic courtesy of Jen
The rest of the checkpoints required much more off-trail travel and use of J9's altimeter as well as a little luck and a sharp eye. We followed innocuous-looking contour lines down into creek beds and up thickly treed slopes. It reminded me of tromping around Desolation Wilderness with Rebecca Duffy, peering quizzically at the map, debating the merits of drainages versus ridgelines, and forsaking the trail, but in Desolation our reward was usually a crystalline lake cupped high in stone buttresses instead of blaze orange squares flapping provocatively in the shadows of yet another fir or aspen. It felt zen at times, moving slowly through undergrowth and steep off-camber choss, staring ahead trying to catch sight of a flag based only on vague hints ("downed tree" "bush on side of spur") and map coordinates.

A sight that brought so much joy
Pic courtesy of Jen
I would have liked to move a lot faster and run whenever possible but it was nice having plenty of energy and mental acuity at the end, when I could have been a stumbling basketcase incapable of reading a map. We finished with a generous time margin and discovered that our friends had grabbed all the points. We still got third in the women's duo category, but we're already planning our 2017 attempt, where we want to combine what was already good teamwork with better fitness and navigation. The entire event was flawlessly organized. (I won't even go into the daunting logistics of the 24-hour sufferfest but suffice to say: heroic.) Abby and Jason are world class adventure racers who want to expose more people to their passion and they created an eight hour course that was both challenging and accessible.

The view from Peaked
Pic courtesy of Jen
My main take away from the Ogre, as I unlaced my beloved Inov-8s and rubbed the dirt off my calves, was an intense longing for the big days on foot that I used to enjoy: the Shut-In, the Art Loeb, Heptapeak. Fortunately I live in the perfect place to pick up a map and get deep into the wild. Next weekend's plans are already being hatched.