An incredible season of racing just continues to get better for Team Helly Hansen/MOMAR.
This past weekend was the first Mind Over Mountain Adventure Race of 2007, held right in my hometown of Squamish, B.C.
Squamish is the self proclaimed "Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada", and the perfect destination for an adventure race.
The night prior to the event Bryan Tasaka of MOMAR fame, gave Megan, Todd and I a stage to tell our tall tales of racing in Baja. I would like to sincerely thank all the people who took the time to listen to us babble on for 45 minutes. Thank you to all of our sponsors as well, we had numerous items on display for all to see.
Saturday May 12th was the nicest day of the year so far, and over 220 people were lined up at Alice Lake to tackle a course designed by fellow adventure racer, Jen Segger-Gigg.
At 8:15am we were handed our course maps for the day. Todd and I grabbed a picnic table and it took me all of 7 minutes to memorize every turn in the race...finally a home field advantage! Then the surprise, we would be given an additional map, as the race started, which entailed a trekking stage where we had to locate 6 checkpoints. Instructions were simple,
"Do not open your maps until we say GO!"
Todd and I waited anxiously until all maps were handed out, then Todd heard the word, ripped open the map bag and we were off and running...until Race Director Bryan Tasaka started yelling at us on the microphone..."I didn't say GO!!! Robbins, get the hell back here!"
Me to Todd,
"I thought you said you heard GO!"
"I did! Someone said it!"
220 people were staring right at us...
With our tail between our legs,
"Sorry, thought we heard the word...he he".
We made for damn sure that we heard it when he finally did officially start the race and once again we were off.
A few weeks back Jen and Bryan had posted a few pics on the MOMAR Blog of their course scouting weekend. I immediately recognized one of the photos as being Debeck's Hill, a slog of a climb from Alice Lake that gained almost 1,000 feet of vertical. There are only two trails off the top of Debeck's, after you climb the road to the top, and but one of those makes sense for a course such as this. Todd and I were the first people to make it onto the downside of that trail. You could collect the 6 C.P.'s in any order, so about 1/2 of the pack were going the opposite way to us. Unfortunately for one racer, he decided to bomb down the wrong trail off of Debeck's Hill. He managed to recover, but not before loosing over 30 minutes to his mistake.
Todd and I made good time as we ran the steep and technical trail back down the 800+ feet we had just climbed.
From there we had a short bush whack onto a single track trail that was hiding our second to last C.P. We blasted through the forest and out onto the trail expecting the C.P. to be within a few hundred feet of where we stood, but we could not seem to locate it? We first ran up the trail, then down, way down, until we knew that we had gone too far. We thought we had lost time to our competitors until we noticed them searching as well,
"Have you found the C.P. yet?"
Todd and I stopped to take a second look at our maps. We could not figure it out and as we started to run up the trail again we both halted in shock...the C.P. was but 30 feet away from us! It was in some trees on the opposite side of the trail to which we had been searching, and was all but invisible as you were running down the trail, in fact, if Todd and I had not stopped to check our maps we probably would have run right past it again! We were quick to grab it and go, as we did not want to lead a flurry of teams to what had taken us so long to find ourselves.
From there we had but a quick run back to the lake before transitioning to our mountain bikes. As we hit the C.P., at the transition, we were told that only two solo racers had made it back quicker, and they were but a few minutes ahead.
After a speedy change over we were off. I was familiar with pretty much the entire bike route and we did not have to stop at all to check our location. Coincidentally enough, our local Squamish Toonie Mountain Bike races (held on alternating Wed nights), had covered a decent portion of the MOMAR course just three days prior! I was able to communicate to Todd throughout the 1h40m ride what to expect,
"Hike a bike around the corner. Big climb coming up. Technical trails just ahead. Last climb before it's all downhill!"
We managed to close the gap and pass the 2ND place racer within thirty minutes of riding. I was well aware the the leader of the race was an incredible mountain biker, having won mountain bike specific races in the past. I told Todd that our goal at that point was to make sure no teams caught us from behind, while trying to limit our time losses to the leader in the hopes of catching him on the next trekking stage.
At every C.P. along the route we would ask how far ahead he was,
After an hour and forty minutes of riding we had lost but 11 seconds to him! I knew at that point that Todd and I had a legitimate shot at winning the overall race. Something a team of two guys has only accomplished once in 22 MOMAR events!
We had another solid transition before running out onto the second trekking leg. Our excitement got the better of us and somehow we managed to run right past some flagging tape on our right hand side. It was not until Todd noticed that we were on the wrong side of the river that we managed to right our mistake. We turned back and upon locating the BRIGHT PINK flagging tape (two sections of the course required navigation, while two sections were flagged), we both looked at each other in disgust at what a stupid mistake we had just made, throwing away precious time to the leader while running out of race course to make up for it.
The second trek had two very steep climbs. After summiting the first we started to run down the opposite side, and were just a little shocked that an even larger additional climb was staring us in the face. It was over 3hr into the race and the legs were starting to feel it. I just kept telling myself that everyone else would be suffering at that point as well.
After thirty five minutes of what seemed like and entirely uphill trek we ran back into the transition area and the final biking stage.
"How far ahead?"
"C'mon, we should see him at the ropes!"
For the first time in MOMAR history there was no paddling section. Instead it was replaced with a rappel off of a 70 foot rock face. Squamish is one of the epicenters of Canadian rock climbing, so it was only fitting!
As we came into the ropes section we were told that the lead racer was just ahead. We threw on our harnesses and ran up the trail to the ropes...and at the same time we saw the guy we had been chasing all day running right back at us!
"Todd, that can't be right, he must have forgotten something!"
We hit the top of the ropes in 1st place, but were only allowed to utilize one rope, as they had a one rope per team rule. I made it down and as Todd was clipping in I watched the racer we had just passed click in and practically jump off the rock and down the entire rappel in one swift motion! (he had initially forgotten to grab his carabiner and descending device)
Todd immediately responded by quickening his pace and we were all back onto our bikes for a 300 meter downhill ride into the final transition and last stage of the race. I basically glued my front tire to the rear of the guy we were chasing and after three and a half hours of racing the three of us arrived simultaneously into the last transition.
We were given another map, with four clues to the location of the final checkpoints.
One was a ridiculous math equation, followed by deciphering a word, to give you the exact address of a store. I didn't even bother with the math, just deciphered Cleveland Ave and knew that we had to run the length of it to the finish anyways. We were bound to find it along the way. (I was later shocked to learn that the C.P. was located right inside the store that I manage! I must give serious props to Bryan Tasaka and Jen Segger-Gigg for lying to me, outright, for three months!!)
The second C.P. was located at a bike shop, there was only one on this side of town, so that was easy.
The third C.P. was in the Squamish Estuary and behind a bench. It took me a few minutes to remember the exact location of the bench, but again not a problem.
The fourth C.P. said something to the effect of "This would be Kermit the Frog's favorite garden".
Just down the road from us was a local flower garden called 'Lily's Garden'...I run past it almost once a week...Todd and I started to run and so did our competitor...we slowed down and so did our competitor...we sped up, he sped up, we slowed...you get the point. It was the smartest thing he could have done. Everyone knew I lived right in Squamish and should have the easiest time with the clues. If we lead him to the first C.P. I was convinced that he would be able to out sprint us across the finish line...
"Todd, I'm cramping, I can't run!"
Our competitor ran off in the wrong direction and Todd and were able to sneak into 'Lily's Garden' (which was on the map), grab the C.P. and sneak out the opposite side. We looked up and noticed him asking some local volunteers which way to go.
From there we crossed the highway and grabbed the second C.P. at Corsa Cycles (thanks for the water station guys!).
At that point I looked over to see our friend running down Cleveland Ave...
"Justin, come here! Did you find the Lily Garden?"
I knew at that point that we had enough of a gap to close it out,
"It's back across the highway, off to the right."
Todd and I ran down Cleveland Ave and right into the store that, as mentioned I work in, North Shore Athletics, then to the end of town and out onto the Squamish Estuary, before running back into town and across the finish line...FIRST OVERALL FINISHERS!!
YEEEEE HAAWWWWWW!!! I tried to pick up the race director in my excitement, but my legs cramped and I nearly hit the ground...it was time to stretch and carbo load on beer!
Our team Helly Hansen/MOMAR teammate Megan Rose was also competing on the day, with good friend Adam Smith from Code3 Racing. They managed to outpace their competition at the line to win the co-ed division, and our good friend from Whistler Lina Augaitis was racing on a team of four co-ed and also walked away winning their category!
From there we were all off to get cleaned up and have a few pre-drinks at my place before attending the legendary MOMAR after party. One of the best band's from Whistler, The Hair Farmer's, were out to rock the crowd. I crawled into bed at some ungodly hour and was only able to make it out for breakfast and groceries on Sunday...an absolutely perfect weekend!
Thanks again to Helly Hansen, and Mind Over Mountain for hosting such an incredible race in Squamish. I know that more then a few people are already looking forward to another great race here next season!