Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Momar 2009

Fun Factor:
 10/10 consistently for Momar events 
Extreme Factor: 8/10 only because there were some technical descents on the bike, and for the exposure on the rappel 
Cost: $130 includes dinner at the awards banquet/after party. Also notethat there is no kayaking stage in this event so it cuts the costs substantially 
Location: Squamish B.C 
Finishing Time:
 5 hrs 41 minutes 
3rd Male Team of Two, 7th Overall Yay! A Podium Finish! 
There is no better place than Squamish to hold an adventure race –
 it has after all, earned itself the reputation as the adventure sport destination in B.C. This year’s addition featured a new course designed by Jen Segger which always means quality and challenge. You do not know what you are in for until they hand out the course maps 15 minutes before the start gun goes off. It was also one of the first times they have offered a shorter sport course option so that newer adventure athletes can enjoy the satisfaction of completing an event like this. Race director Bryan Tsaka will be doing this for all future MOMAR events so be sure to try one! 

The start was staged at Alice Lake under bluebird skies – aperfect venue and day for enjoying the great outdoors. Parking was crazy – with 250 racers and their support crews converging on the start line you can bet BC Parks were enjoying the revenue being generated by parking fees. There were many familiar faces mulling around the parking lot and bike transition area. Billy and I were sizing up the competition and already getting grief from some of the other teams of two that we knew. MOMAR events have quite the die hard following, and many racers have been doing these events for the ten years that they have existed. I spotted Kyle Balagno and Dylan Berg getting geared up – it was nice to see some more connections to Innovative Fitness. 

Stage One :: Around Alice Lake

The excitement was building after we looked over the course map and realized that we would be summiting the first peak of the Chief to gain access to the rappel. This would be tough because it came at the end of the race – punishing!

After the usual pre race briefing Billy and I lined up at the front of the start line with all of the faster teams. We really had no expectations for the day – Billy had a back injury from a downhill crash and I had only ridden my mountain bike once this season. The goal was really just to pace it out and enjoy racing for what it really is - a personal challenge. 

The opening stage was a fast tempo 4km run around the lake and up De Beck’s hill – it quickly spread out the pack. I always feel lousy for about an hour at the start of a race and then I seem to settle and then I can stay out all day. Billy and I are a good match this way – he starts stronger, and we he starts to fade I pull stronger. 

Out of the bike transition we were behind many of the teams of two that were rivaling us. This was no big deal – it would be long day and Billy and I always make up time on the technical bike sections. We just let the other teams keep looking over their shoulders as we slowly ground down the gaps. 

The first serious climb was the Rock and Roll re route trail. It chewed up more than a few racers. At the top I decided to take my first taste oCarbo Pro 1200 for the day. As I tilted my head back and squeezed the bottle for a pull, the top popped off like a cork. I ended up pouring half the bottle of syrup into my right eye! It blinded me instantly and it glued my right eyelids shut. I had to get Billy to try and pressure wash it out with his Camel Back – this sight was comical. I was covered in a sticky mess all the way down my right side – bear bait for sure, especially with the berry flavor!

We wound up Alice Ridge making our way to the bottom of Slookum and Powersmart. Our tactics were simple – let others pull on the climbs and then pass on the descents – it really pays to know the trails here! We were quickly greeted by Billy’s girlfriend Heather at the transition to the first orienteering section. She was volunteering this weekend and not racing for a change. Nice to have a familiar face taking pictures of the action here! We got our maps and took a moment to orient ourselves before diving into the bush.

Let the fun begin!

Stage 2 :: Navigation

This is where things really start to spread out. It’s always tricky because everyone is paying attention to were you are going – in the end we are all looking for the same check points, it is just a question of who can find them all the quickest. Adventure racers are pretty good bout helping each other out here – there are no attempts made to throw other racers off, and everyone always helps others out. This is a refreshing aspect of this sport. 

The first CP was a nightmare – there were 20 of us mulling around this banked wall ride structure that it was supposed to bebehind on the map. It took a good 5 to 10 minutes to locate it under some dense underbrush, then everyone scattered in different directions. Billy is the navigator – he has a knack for finding all of the bushwhacking short cuts. We went to work and quickly picked off all 10 CPs. At this point we had no idea were we were in relation to the other racers, but you know that you are doing all right when you see Gary Robbins. He was racing solo for the first time without his navigator Thom Novack – this promised to make the day a little more challenging for him. It would not be the last we saw of him either.

Billy and I quickly arrived back at the bikes at the same time as two of the other teams we were battling. We all had a good laugh because we took completely different routes and still finished in the same amount of time! They beat us out of the transition but we knew it was along climb up Skookum and a very gnarly descent down Powersmart. We stopped for a couple of quick photos with Heather and then started our pursuit feeling pretty good physically. 

Stage 3:: Epic Squamish Single Track

If you like single track – tight, root infested, and loamy trails with lots of flow, Squamish is heaven on a mountain bike! Billy and I were on the heels of the other two teams we were chasing up Skookum in no time. Itwas not long before they were all pulling over to let us by on the descent. We were not wasting anytime here. Both of us just had these big grins on our faces and we laughed hysterically all the way back down to the logging road where we transitioned out of the navigation section. From here we just turned on the afterburners andhammered our way up to the top of Recycler – one of my favorite single track descents anywhere. Carbo Pro 1200 is a wonderful thing.

I arrived at the marshaling point just a few seconds before Billy, and I was told that we were in third place. It took a moment to sink in. I instantly got excited – neither of us thought that we would pull of a podium finish at the start of the day. We still had a ways to go though and I also remembered our last MOMAR race in Cumberland the previous year. Billy and I had rolled into the last checkpoint to start the final stage of urban navigation. Gary Robbins came running over and started yelling at us to let us know that we were in third place. This just put Billy and me into a state of panic and we ended up chasing our tails looking for a hidden CP in a park. With this in mind I just shouted at Billy to hurry up so we could get started on a sweet downhill – I did not tell him what place we were in. We made short work of Recycler, Psuedosuga, and some other sickeningly steep trail at the bottom of the cut block. 

I let Billy know our position as we rolled by the university on Garibaldi Lake road. He let out a big woohoo and we picked up the pace. We just had to conquer the Chief and a rappel and we could be on our way to a podium finish. A sharp left turn dropped us into a short steep decent onto Carpenter’s Bridge. Usually you need to hit the downhill fast and use momentum to power up the climb on the other side. The problem was there were to people walking there bikes down to the bridge. We both locked up the brakes but Billy missed shifted and blew hischain apart going up the other side! Another team of two we knew – Marshal and Duane, rolled by while we threaded the chain on and snapped a quick link back in. The whole process only took a few seconds but when you are sitting still the time cost is much greater. Before we got going again a solo Gary Robbins appeared on his bike – turns out he had gotten lost. This is whatadventure racing is all about – dealing with the little challenges that pop up around every corner!

There is something about the thought of a podium finish that makes you dig a little deeper. We both pushed the pace to catch Marshal and Duane. It did not take long - we ended up riding with them and talking about the day all the way to the base of the Chief. There was no rush to depart this CP – we were all out of water and needed to reload. It was going to be a tough climb on the way up to the first peak since we had all torched the legs pushing on the bike.

Stage 4 :: The Chief

I still do not know how they got permits to include the chief on the course. I am glad they did – it is a defining landmark for this town and an epic hike on any day. The four of us set out on the climb together. It was packed with day hikers and they were bewildered by the sigh of racers in bike helmets and climbing harnesses clawing their way up the trail. This stage was eating many of the teams – there were many people sidelined with cramps and bonking on the way up. The first 5 minutes of stairs at the bottom were tough – I tried to talk my legs into not cramping as I pushed the pace of our group upwards. Billy was hurting at this point and slowing down considerably. I backed off and let Marshall and Duane go ahead while I waited for him to catch up. We saw Gary again hammering down the mountain desperately trying to catch the second place solo male – the guy is like a mountain goat on speed. I gave him an estimate on the time gap and wished him luck.

Billy and I scrambled up the rock slabs to the summit for the CP. Neither of us was in the mood to climb the extra 10 feet for a photo so we said thanks and chased Marshal and Duane back down to the rappel – what a battle we were having with these two!

Stage 5 :: Slam Dunk

On the descent we were again neck and neck with Marshall and Duane. The four of us decided to finish together and share the third place spot. After all, we had pretty much raced together all day. This was a great example of the spirit of adventure racing – man versus nature is always a bigger than man versus man. We all made short work of the descent with this competitive pressure lifted. It was an easy bike back to town with a little bit of navigation. We did get turned around a couple of times until we found the river crossing.

The river brought welcome relief to the legs. All that was a left was a quick spin through Valleycliff and into downtown Squamish. At this point I noticed that my back brake pads were sticking to the caliper and would not let go – it kind of felt riding in the big ring all the time. Difficult but I could not be bothered with so little distance left to cover. It must have been from the Carbo Pro incident from earlier today. Regardless the four of us rolled into the finish guided by the sound of the cowbell. We all crossed the line arms linked and raised, and this seemed to confuse poor Dave Narona announcing the finishers on the mic.

On a closing note I have one thing to say -compression socks are sexy, and they work too. No calf cramps for the first time ever in an adventure race!

Possible team of four for Cumberland? Definitely – see you all there.

Thanks for doing support and cheering us on Nina!

If you would like to try a beginner local Adventure Race, come join us for the Innovative Fitness Canuck Place Adventure Challenge

Mark Coates

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