This October, we’re happy to feature an amazingly dedicated team of individual athletes and adventurers. Meet Gold Rush Adventure Racing – our Athletes of the Month. Here, they’ve recapped an epic championship race – the 2013 Gold Rush Mother Lode 4 Day Expedition Race.
The 2013 Gold Rush Mother Lode 4 Day Expedition Race was a tight competition between the top 4 Teams in the beautiful California Sierra Mountains: Bones (USA), Sweco (Sweden), YogaSlackers / GearJunkie (USA), and Adventureteam.dk (Denmark), all teams vying for a winning free entry into the Adventure Racing World Series in Costa Rica. Weather was a factor, as it was very hot the first day, mild the second day, and cold with snow, hail, and rain on the third day and night, clearing up on the fourth day for a spectacular finish.
The Day Before – Wednesday, Sept 18th
The Racers Arrive
The day before the race, 15 3-4 person coed teams gathered at the Long Barn Lodge in Long Barn, CA. That afternoon all racers were required to do an equipment check, rope climb, and swim challenge to make sure that everyone had the basics. That evening we all congregated for a hearty meal and warm welcome and introduction by Adrian Crane, race founder. After dinner was the moment everyone was waiting for – the revealing of the maps and race directions by Mark Richardson, course director. Racers spent hours looking over the maps and charting the check points from the masters to their copies, making sure each one was correctly placed. Then it was off to bed to try to get some sleep. Not so easy for everyone as the excitement was building!
Race Day – Thursday, September 19th
At 6 AM all the buses were loaded and ready to take the racers to the starting line on Lake New Melones. Once we were all gathered, the clock started ticking at 8:00AM marking the start of the race. It began with a 3 mile run, followed by a 30 mile kayak interspersed with a 15 mile fast trek. Skies were clear and the temperature rose close to 90 degrees by noon. Not really a problem but a bit challenging to those not used to the heat. At the end of the first leg teams tied their kayaks to a buoy in the middle of the river, swam to shore and trekked up a steep bank for 3 miles to the first TA (transition area).
TA1 – Kayak to Bike
Teams started arriving at TA1 in the early evening and on throughout the night. Here teams rested a bit (or not!), resupplied with food, built their bikes and started a 60 mile mountain bike out of the canyon. There was a tremendous amount of very steep climbing involved. Teams rode all night, up and up and up. Some stopped for a quick cat nap and to fix any mechanical issues due to all of the fine dust on the climbs.
TA2 Sponsored by FRS –Bike to Trek
By now in the teams started to be spread out. This is typical when you have world class athletes competing with weekend warriors and every combination in between. At TA2 racers took apart their bikes and repacked them into their bike boxes. Once again they rested if needed, resupplied and planned their next assault – a monster trek!
This trek, which was the crux of the race, started with a 45 mile trek to the climbing site, a HUGE ropes course. Each person had to carry their climbing gear to the site. The ropes course was epic with a 300 foot free hang ascent, then a low angle repel to a 300 foot zip line and finish with a 300 foot repel. They then scrambled back to the CP to get some water and drop off their gear. The accent was daunting and not for the faint of heart. A number of people were unable to complete the ascent as it was technically and physically very challenging, especially after such a long trek and so little sleep.
The trek continued after the ropes course for another 30+ miles and climbed to over 8700ft. No one can predict all the variables that will be encountered in an adventure race, especially when it comes to Mother Nature. This year was no let down as far as surprises go! Up to this point the weather had been excellent… But then it turned ugly with an unexpected winter storm rolling in. Slower teams that got caught before doing the climb and ones that were well on their way past the climb fared better. It was the ones in-between that got hit the hardest with a 30 degree drop in temperature, drenching rain that turned to sideways sleet and finally snow.
It’s always a hard decision on whether to accept outside support since this will take teams out of the running according to race bylaws. But given enough lack of sleep, fatigue, cold and lack of supplies, it can be the only choice. This is a hard decision for an adventure racier, but sometimes any other decision could be disastrous.
TA3 –Trek to Bike to FINISH LINE
As the storm raged on many teams accept outside transportation and were dropped off at TA3 were they got something to eat, rested and most importantly, warmed up. Then it was off again for the final leg of the race, a 60 mile bike ride that was, thankfully, mostly downhill! By the time most teams did the bike ride the storm had blown through and the skies were sunny and clear. Hard to believe that just 18 hours before there was a howling storm with sleet and snow whirling in sideways.
All together the teams had traversed hundreds of miles using just a map and compass to find as many check points (CPs) as possible. In all there were 30 CPs with the podium teams getting them all. Quite an accomplishment!
And a big congratulations to everyone for their valiant effort…
Teams competed non-stop, navigating with map and compass to find checkpoints in four disciplines: Trekking, Paddling, Mountain Biking, and an awesome Ropes Course. The Ropes course featured a difficult free ascent with Jumars and a 500 foot Tyrolean/Zip Line over a 300′ deep canyon that ended up being the Achilles Heel for a few teams. Partly through careful strategy, Bones was able to throw Sweco off their trail, and Sweco ended up missing CP25. YogaSlacker / GearJunkie and Adventureteam.dk were the only other teams besides Bones to capture all checkpoints on the course.
The final standings were: First Place: Team Bones, Second Place: YogaSlackers / GearJunkie, and Adventureteam.dk came in Third, Sweco in Fourth. The competition was outstanding, and as usual the Gold Rush Team put together a fantastic race.
Check out more videos here.
About Gold Rush Adventure Racing
Gold Rush Adventure Racing is proud to be the North American qualifier for the Adventure Racing World Championships. We offer an event where US teams can test their mettle against international opposition and potentially win a place at the World Championships. In 2013, the Championship Race is in Costa Rica. We also work to attract international teams to the race so they can experience the incredible natural beauty that is California. We never lose sight of the fact that we live in such an incredible part of the world. Our event in 2013 attracted teams from Europe and South America. In 2014 we plan to increase the home and overseas entries and cement the status of the event in the 10 race circuit of Adventure Racing World Series qualifiers. With the help of our sponsors we hope to host the Adventure Racing World Series Final in the near future. The Gold Rush Mother Lode expedition race has been a 4 or 5 day event but we plan to expand it to an 8 day event in 2015 to become a true destination event for Adventure Racers the world around.