Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mountain X Race, France

After an epic 24 hour journey on the train from Olomouc via Vienna we arrived in Bourg St Maurice for the start of the Mountain X Race the following day. We had packaged our bikes up like blue ukelailes in order to get them on board the ICE, Inter Continental Express.

Dan, Josiah and Cassidy picked us up from the station and we ate out with the other Nike team at a pizzeria. There was mist swirling about the rocky peaks as it had recently rained. We drove up the windy road after dinner to our accomodation at Les Arcs, a very famous French skifield.

In the morning it was all go to get organised for the first event of the race - a 10km trail run starting at 6pm. After many hours spent gear checking and rushing around buying forgotten gear and food race time arrived. The pack took off insanely fast up the hill and it was immediatlz obvious that this field was filled with some amazing runners.

Look at this guys moustache!!!!

Before long the first runners were hooning back along the cobbled streets into the finish - Josiah leading the pack! Dan came in not much later, followed by Chris. Our team had the fastest combined time of all the teams and so took the yellow jersey to wear the following day as race leaders, a great start.

A petite female runner sped in not much after Chris in an amazingly quick time, who we later found out was a kiwi racing with a British womens team - these talented kiwis pop up all over the place.

After the run we drove up from Bourg St Maurice to Le Chapeau, a Refuge and campspot in an alpine meadow amoungst some magnificient peaks. Actually, we remembered having been there in the previous RIAD Race in France. We were quite high (about 2000m) so the night was chilly and we snuggled down into our cozy sleeping bags.

Teams crossed this glacier from left to right beneath the rocky buttress of the peak.

At 4am we hopped up and got organised for the nasty 5am start.

It was still dark as the racers raced off up valley on a 50km run, involving a ridge climb and glacier travel climbing over 3500m! As the sun rose over the peak I could make out tiny figures on the snowy ridgeline.

A cycle up valley took me to a pile of friendly cows and some racers decending from the summit. Chriss team had already come through so I zoomed back down valley and Cassidy and I hung out at the finish line with some smelly local cheese and a baguette.

The team came in about 7th overall having had a bit of a tough time - Chris wasnt feeling great and Josiahs legs had died a bit at the finish. Chris sat in the stream for a bit while the others napped before we packed up our funky wee Quechua tents (with some help from the lady from the French team - they take some tricky folding manuoevers) and headed to Beaufort for trail run No 2. Luckily today was a shorter downhill run so the guys blasted around in a mere 30 minutes, once again taking out the trail run section with the fastest combined time.

Day three came around with yet another horribly early start; this time it was onto the bikes and riding by 6am. We had to drive (me at the steering wheel!) over another windy Col de Saises, then drop down into another wee town called Bellacombe to meet the teams from Stage 1 of the biking and transfer them to Stage 2. Team Nike came in first after a very strong ride and looked so longingly at the yummy pastries we had bought for our team that we had to donate them some. Nike Beaver Creek came in around third so we headed down to Flumet to hang out before the next start.

Chris was feeling really crappy by now and I was amazed to find out he had been towed up most of the 2000m climb by his team mates! Still after some delicious sorbet ice creams he was feeling a bit better as they set out on Stage 2 of the biking. Other teams were having some tough times too - Travis from the Crested Butte Team still had giardia which he caught in the Primal Quest and had spent the whole previous night throwing up, but he was still struggling along. We headed off to Thones, where the mountain bike finished and another trail run took place.

We set up the tents amongst the 'tent city' in a grassy green paddock right beside a clear flowing river.

We completed our twice daily ritual of grocery shopping and in swooshed the team, our guys in 2nd place after a much better ride. We all swam in the icy stream then headed back to the start for Trail run number 3. Today they had to run about 10km with about 300m climb and the pace at the start of the race was looking significantly slower. Yet again Nike Beaver Creek took the trail run victory before some well deserved showering at the local pools and a very cheesy potato fondue dinner.

A slightly easier day had arrived in the form of an untimed Canyoneering section in the morning and a Via Ferrate and rock climb in the afternoon of which only a small bit was timed. The canyoneering sounded great fun and I decided it should definatly have been a 'support crews must complete also' section. We drove up to the rock climbing at Col de la Colombière, one of Cols in last years Tour De France. I walked to the base of the Via Ferrata with the team and enjoyed wandering in the mountain air amongst the cows with bells and green green meadows while all the teams just seemed tired and miserable... sometime this seems a very silly sport.

I watched the teams cross a 3 wire bridge high up on the rock face and then climb ladders up a steep rock face before jogging back down to Cassidy who had been cleaning out the car. After driving to a town and buying a pizza for the guys we decided to wander up to the base of the climb - Cassidy in her jandals much to the amusement of our team when we met them. The rock climb was a bit silly; each team member had to climb one of the 3 climbs, one was quite hard (about grade 17 NZ) and the other two were easy. Chris had to do the hard because the others had done even less than him managed to scrape up in 5 minutes, the maximum time allowed. If he fell however he got a 1 hour penalty! Thanks to the Kiwis of team Orion Health he at least had climbing shoes and chalk.

So the timing for the race meant that if you did the climb well you gained a huge advantage on the other teams, it was easy to do the 6 minute climb in half the time...but on a trail run even if you are brilliant it is impossible to do it in half the time of another competitive team..oh well I now have an excuse to get Chris to do some rock climbing before next year!

Another trail run took place that evening in Megeve. This time it was a longer 15 km run and lots of teams opted to sit out and lose points rather than race and feel even worse. Josiah came in strongly in 2nd showing he was not getting any slower. Chris and Dan came in a bit further back and the British Team Saab Solomon had the best overall time that night. We were camped in a big parking lot and ate dinner at the local sports centre.

Friday, the 5th day of competition was canoe time. From Sixt-Fer-a-Cheval teams embarked on the river Giffre and careened down through the Tines Gorges, some fairly dramatic looking white water.

Our team all loved it, even if they did lose some time with a lost paddle on the second run having capsized. We then drove with the team to the final trail run in Morzine. This time the trail run took place in the form of a 2km lap relay and we knew our guys could definatly pull off a good victory. Sure enough Dan came in near the front of the pack from Leg 1, then Chris had a storming run to charge in way out ahead, and Josiah easily took out the victory. We all felt pretty stoked even if we knew the points wouldn't count for much.

The final day had come round with an 45km 'Adventure Run' invloving (to Chris's excitement) some level of route choice. In the dark the teams zoomed off up the hill. Cassidy and I snuck back to bed for a few hours and only just made it back down into town to hear that Nike Beaver Creek were just coming in having had a brilliant run and easily taken the victory for the final stage. The French Quechua's had won overall, and the British Salomon came in second. Nike had beaten us to take third and the strong run by our team today had moved them back into fourth.

So it was all over and we headed out for some delicious French cuisine to celebrate before Dan and Josiah dropped Cassidy, Chris and I off at her place in Chamonix. We pitched the tent on Cassidy's lawn and enjoyed a very good sleep.

We spent 2 days muchling around in Chamonix thanks to Cassidy's hospitality and biked some of the local trails and basked in the shadow of the snow puff Mont Blanc. Finally we caught the train out of the mountains and over to Freiburg to Julian and Jana's place where we now are hanging out, enjoying their company, some good German beer and the black forest mountain bike trails!

Friday, July 18, 2008

WOC 2008 Middle

The day for the Middle Distance Qualification and Final had come around and we had an early start to get Neil to the check in (he was the first runner). The Qualification and Final were held in the same area on a rolling hillside in the drizzle which persisted most of the day.

Neil charged into the finish first giving it everything. The finish shoot was grueling as we could see runners for at least 2 minutes before they crossed the line so they had to run hard for all the cheering! Ross came in next having had a great run and qualified in 15th spot...the first Kiwi to qualify for all 3 finals at a WOC. Chris flew into the finish running very strongly, but we knew he had made some mistakes because his time was too sow to qualify.

Ross, Maja and Jim shot off to the quarantine zone while we persuaded Neil and Chris to drown their orienteering woes with a blast around the spectator course. The course was a middle distance with dense forest and some tricky rock sections which made for a fun course. Chris came past me and completely bungled it up leading me astray! He then charged off into the forest giggling while I floundered more slowly along behind him cursing myself for following him.

After the race we headed back to the Final area to watch the exciting mens race broadcast over the big screens, followed by the womens. Ross had a strong finish, but we were all gutted when he was disqualified due to a failure of his Sport Ident to register the final control...even though the whole crowd and TV crew saw him punch it! Stupid IOF rules.

All feeling a bit knackered we drove back to Olomouc. Today we ran a fun spectator race in some open fast forest with a few rocky features. Chris, Michael and I arrived so late the start was closed but they let us start and I ran they whole course as fast as I could terrified the controls would be collected in while I was still out! Luckily they took down the finish 2 minutes after I arrived in, phewee.

So tomorrow is the Long Final which we will try to attend, however Chris and I are about to depart on our way to France. Chris was asked to compete in the Mountain X Race in Bourg St Maurice near Chamonix. It is an area I love (snowy mountains, cheese etc.) and Chris was tempted because he thought the race sounded fun. He is racing with Nike Beaver Creek - against his usual team mates Mike and Michael, so that will make things exciting.

For some extra time wasting next week check out the Mountain X Race website, I'm sure it will provide plenty of entertainment (and it has really dumb music). After that we are off to Freiburg to hang out with Julian and Jana for a while. Happy adventuring!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

WOC 2008 in Czech Republic

A good crowd for the sprint final in Olomouc... orienteering until a little bit of pressure perhaps?

Late at night we arrived to the hustle and bustle of Prague. We caught a taxi to our rather shabby youth hostel with our tonnes of gear and slept until 1pm the next day! That afternoon we wandered the streets of Prague and ate pasta in the old town for dinner...a pleasant afternoon but not really taking to the 'clubbing scene' which draws Europeans to Prague we headed off to Olomouc (pronounced Olomoutz) the following day.

Olomouc is the base for this year's World Orienteering Champs (WOC). We cycled across town with huge packs strapped to our backs and arrived gratefully at the University Campus where all WOC teams stay. To our delight we were directed down a muddy little track through a wheat field to a massive mall containing 'Globus' which was soon to become the Kiwi's favorite destination due to its huge and well stocked supermarket and its multitude of cheap delicious eateries. (We were rather hungry at this stage).

Our apartment consisted of a small hall area, a tiny kitchen with all the Kiwi team members rooms off the hallway (or living area you could say). Seating in 'the living area' includes a comfortable seat in the cupboard.

Chris and I headed out for a orienteering run in the forest with the South African team in the morning and found ourselves running amongst a group of blueberry pickers. At the end of the training a thunderstorm rolled in so we scurried back to the car. The other Kiwi's turned up that afternoon and we shared stories about our Czech impressions so far.

After a couple of days training in various forests and a bit of mountain bike O on my part (and numerous visits to Globus!) the day of the sprint qualification arrived. The top 15 of each 3 heats were to go through to the final that took place that afternoon. All week the old town centre of Olomouc had been embargoed, so anticipation to watch the final and finally see the old town was rising.

Tom Reynolds had a really good first run, but not quite good enough to put him in the top 15. Chris squeaked into 15th place by 1 second and Ross stormed into 8th place in his heat.

After a lazy afternoon we caught the tram to the old town. The Finals took place in the beautiful town square with a huge and noisy crowd. Large TV screens projected the action to the crowd live via camera's out on the course, accompanied with an on coming thunderstorm the atmosphere was buzzing.

Chris took off as 2nd starter and charged around his course, but took a wrong turn and lost some time on control 1 so his overall time was not so flash, but he did pip all the Aussies. Poor Ross had a bit of a disaster in the form of some forgotten shoes at the start line, so he had too borrow some extremely large ones... not the recipe for a speedy sprint but I guess that's one mistake he will never repeat.

The finish was exciting and the Gold was taken out by a flying Russian. We ate dinner in the town at a local pizzeria as the light faded and the dripping cafe umbrellas dried out.

Tom had to head back to New Zealand the following day, having come to Europe principally for JWOC university was now pressing. However Georgia, Tessa and Todd had come to spectate, generally hang out and run the public races. While the guys had a rest day we (Jim, Maja and myself) headed to the Public race. Seeing as we were entering on the day we ran the 'Open category' which was a 8.8km, long and 380m climb! A whoper for me, but I managed it in a respectable time.

We had a cool finish charging down through the ruined terraces of an old castle. On the way out you wandered through the castle and amongst pavillions selling beer and sausages to hundreds of hungry orienteers... a bit different from a PAPO event!

Today was the Long Qualification which Neil, Ross and Mike were running. It was the first race for Neil and Mike, but they had trained well and were psyched to give it everything. Up on the grassy hill at the start a cool wind was blowing - ideal conditions for running. Neil raced into the finish first to our raucous cries of 'Go go go!' Ross came in with a pack of top runners and qualified in 15th place....tight, but he made it. Neil and Michael sadly missed out on qualifying in their heats having both had average runs.

I ran the open grade again that afternoon.. another 8km with 27 controls! I zipped round the first 11 very nicely but after that things went downhill through the swampy forest terrain.. it was a bit of a relief to finish. So tomorrow is another rest day for all, then Thursday brings the middle qualification and final both on the same day with a spectator race sandwitched in between, it will be an exciting day!

The WOC website has pretty good live coverage so check that out if you want to see the action.

I will post again with results from tomorrow!


Post Race Big Sky

Chris out on our ride through some awesome single track in the mountains.

Lone Peak that Chris climbed on the first day of the race is in the background. Plus note my very nice bike.

Our own spa pool at the resort in Big Sky...and the colours even changed. (Sara you are not to see this picture... Aaron's accommodation included no such luxuries.)

This was THE best bed, with an enormous amount of pillows.

Chris tries out my new sleeping bag, isn't he cute (-:

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Primal Quest Montana

Hello! Hopefully you have checked out the PQ website and seen that Nike won! I am sitting in Denver airport writing this blog. Here is an account of the race more from my (support crew) perspective, because you can read a lot of puff about the team on the website....but you won't read about encounters with bears and flipping inflatable duckies on that!

We arrived in Big Sky with Michael Tobin after a long drive up from Boise. There was snow on the hills, and Lone Mountain which stands at the head of the valley looked spectacular.

The next two days were spent busying ourselves getting organized: Chris and the rest of the team sorted gear endlessly as well as attended the odd TV interview; I drove around to 1 billion supermarkets with Emily K buying tonnes of food.

Race morning came and we were ready with our rented RV and truck alongside. The other guys supporting the race were Chris (a Big Sky local) and Dawes (a friend of the Klosers). The racers set off with a bang up Lone Peak and it was with a significant twinge of jealously that I waved them off. The weather was beautiful and we zoomed down to TA 1 beside an extremely swollen Gallatin River.

The team arrived in after dark from a long trek before a compulsory dark zone before the paddle/river board section the next morning. The river was flowing very high due to all the snow melt and our team had a fun time (the boys loved it!) before heading off on another big trek. Later on in the day the lower half of the field had an interesting time (even involving the sherriff shooting one stranded duckie boat 5 times with a pistol!)

Chris shows off his skills on the river board.

As Nike support crew things were a bit stressful and we seemed to average about 3 hours sleep a night for the first few days.A few things went wrong; like the team not being informed about needing snowshoes and not being given corrected TA coordinates, but on the whole they seemed to charge along pretty well.

Another grassy TA....

Chris is famous!

I was very excited at a bike drop to glance 20 m down the road and spot....A BEAR!! A beautiful black bear was just ambling across the road! That was cool After that I (with assistance from fellow support crew) compiled a list of animals sighted by Emily for the first time:

A bear (wow!)
1 snake
3 dead and smelly skunk
2 moose
1 beaver
1 hummingbird
6 long horn cow
Several white bummed deer

I was most excited by the wildlife around here. We had several chilly swims in the snow melt rivers and generally spent the rest of the time packing, unpacking, making food and napping where possible. In the meantime Nike was storming along gaining a greater and greater lead over 2nd place Merril. We spent the afternoon on the 4th day peering up at the dramatic ropes course (me a little longingly).

The support team.

Finally the team was on the final ride into Big Sky and we all waited to cheer them into the finish line before they got engulfed by the media ! This is the photo they don't show on the website 2 seconds after Nike rode in (they are in there somewhere!):

After that it was up to the fancy pants accomodation the team won up in Moonlight Basin (never have I seen so many pillows on one bed!) (and a spa mmmm).

Note the NZ flag for Chris, just as well (-:

We spent the next 4 days at that very nice spot. Chris and I got out for an awesome bike ride on some single track with a bit of snow bashing. On the last day we joined up with the guys from Merril and a took the inflatable kayaks (duckies) down the river boarding section of the race on the Gallatin. It was awesome funny, super bouncy with huge standing waves, and icey cold. It's kind of like Maori Gully on the Hurunui only 5 times longer with no bluffs...oh yeah!

After we reached the end of the paddle the boys (Chris, Mike, Aaron, John, Jeff and Travis) decided they had to try House Rock, which is a knarly big rock with the 'Mad Mile' streching out after it (I wisely decided just to watch this bit). No surprise...carnage (-: Chris and Mike went down it out of control backwards and were soon flipped. The other tow boats flipped two and I saw 5 people corwding onto one duckie...another floating away with noone on it, and someone trying to negotiate the rapids with a paddle and no boat! Needless to say it was hilarious for me and the two media guys watching (-:

That evening we went to the prizegiving and buffet. This morning we departed Big Sky after an exciting and eventful week (Big Sky is an awesome place) and are now at the airport in Denver awaiting our flight for Czech (via LA, London etc.). Bye for now!