Wenger Patagonian Race Report #1: Preparing to Race

This post is part of a series of live race updates from southern Chile, the location for the 2011 Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race.

By T.C. WORLEY

Tonight as I returned to my hostel, I heard distant church bells chiming, Chilean trash-men cheerfully yelling to one another and hurling trash, and old men speaking in rapid, smooth Spanish — not at all like my caveman version of their language. As I crossed a street, one of the city’s hundreds of stray dogs slinked behind me, with beggar eyes and a full set of visible ribs. These familiar sights and sounds cause me to smile without knowing it. It’s good to be back in Patagonia.

Team GearJunkie.com sorting race equipment

The gear-check warehouse

This morning, the four team members of GearJunkie.com met in a seaside warehouse with race staff for a four-hour-long gear check. Men with clipboards looked on as Team GearJunkie.com counted, sorted, organized and packed all the gear they would need for the (up to) 10-day race. Organization of gear does not come easy for the GJ team. Of the teams I witnessed, they were in a podium position for “worst organized.”

“I need all your paddling gear in this bag right now,” shouted Jason Magness. GearJunkie founder, Stephen Regenold, paused from his bike maintenance briefly to stare in Jason’s direction — then continued loosening his stem. It was comical to watch. The one piece of gear not organized was Jason’s mountain bike — last seen in Seattle, but believed to be on the continent. We hope it arrives tomorrow.

Stephen Regenold, ignoring Jason’s instruction

Later, on the beach, video crews interviewed the GJ team with questions like ”What do you find most challenging about adventure racing?” and “What kinds of hard decisions do you have to make out there?” These are the pre-race media circus items that come with a race this size.

The guts of Regenold’s race bag, complete with family photos

Gear sorted and interviews completed, they moved to the “super mercado” (super market) to buy lunch. The trip yielded items like mangos, empanadas, fresh avocados and dulce de leche cookies. After lunch, further organization back at the Hostel Victoria segued into midday naps for several members. Once the race begins, sleep, when it comes will be short — and one of the few reasons teams will ever be motionless on the course.

A racer unloads his bicycle for the mandatory gear check

Tomorrow’s schedule will include more appointments and team meetings. Tomorrow night the opening ceremonies will welcome all teams to Patagonia. Last year, this event was attended by local politicians, military leaders and the like. But perhaps more exciting to the teams is the release of the course maps. A full-on cartographical nerd-fest will ensue in the hostels of Punta Arenas, Chile. Like racehorses in the starting chutes, these racers are practically foaming at the mouth to see the maps they will use for the race. They can’t help it — its’ intrinsic — it’s what brings them all to the end of the world.

T.C. Worley will be reporting live from Patagonia through the end of February. Follow Team GearJunkie.com and the Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race at The GJ WPER Channel.

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