By JASON MAGNESS
The weekend of October 1st included another big race for Team GearJunkie/YogaSlackers after a year of events. For more than 24 hours, we biked, trekked, paddled and wandered in the dark following a topo map. But this time our squad was not actually racing — we were directing an event, our debut adventure race, the BaBAR (“Best around Bend Adventure Race”), which included a 6- and a 24-hour course in the mountains and rivers around the new home town of three GJ/YS team members in Bend, Ore.
We partnered up with Glenn Millar, race director of the Desert Dash series, to host the Bend event. Bend was last in the AR limelight when it hosted the Raid World Championship U.S. qualifier six years ago. The area’s topography lends itself perfectly to wilderness multisport racing, including access to world-class mountain biking, climbing, whitewater paddling, and trail running. Having moved to Bend earlier this year to train, we put together some epic routes during our frequent, multi-hour training “missions” this past summer and eventually turned it into the racecourse for the BaBAR event.
It would be a lie to say that we didn’t take some amount of pleasure in planning for other racers’ fatigue and suffering on the course. That’s what this game is all about! For BaBAR, both courses in the race (6- and 24-hour versions) included highlights of class III whitewater, amazing single-track mountain biking, trail running, orienteering, and caving. The 6-hour race was designed for newer racers, and it was no surprise that a local team (“Team Stoopid”) completed the course nearly an hour ahead of the second place finisher, a soloist (“Team Szucsko”).
The top co-ed team was comprised of four first-time racers, “Team Lost and Found,” which included members of the YogaSlackers’ slackline teaching team, a bike mechanic, and an outdoors-industry celeb, Beaver Theodosakis, the founder of the prAna clothing brand. The race was not only Team Lost and Found’s first adventure race but also some of the squad members’ first time paddling whitewater, spelunking, and orienteering in the woods.
BaBAR’s 24-hour course was a bit more devious, including challenging navigation throughout the day and night and the physical toll of the course’s 100+ miles. At one point, a tough choice had to be made by each team: Swim 100 meters across a frigid narrow bay or walk five miles around to stay dry. Most teams chose to swim, but only two had the sense to strip down and swim naked with their clothes safe in dry bags.
A bonfire awaited not too far away at the start of the night paddling section, and for many teams it was hard to leave the heat. A seemingly straightforward paddle across a reservoir proved more difficult than intended when fog descended and some teams were unable to locate a portage to the Deschutes River. Overall, unseasonable cold and sleep deprivation made things tough for many teams, with one squad taking more than 10 hours to paddle the 15 miles on the course.
The final bike section proved epic. Over 100km long, it climbed sandy singletrack for miles to the rim of the Newberry Crater. There was a short stop for an exciting Tyrolean traverse across a chasm. One member of each team had to cross the void in inky darkness with the roar of the falls echoing through the night.
Only three teams made it to the chasm checkpoint with enough time to continue to the top of the bike section and begin the long descent through a maze of trails. And of all teams, only one made it down with enough time remaining to visit the final checkpoint, a subterranean flag that required a spelunking effort into the bowels of the Arnold Ice Cave.
By 4:00p.m. on race day, more than 31 hours after the field had started, “Team Suburban Rush Reloaded” crossed the finish line. They were the last team to cross the line, but they were also the only ones to complete the course in its entirety. The team arrived to cheers from family, volunteers, and fellow racers, and they were promptly announced as the 2011 BaBAR champions and soaked with spraying champagne.
—Jason Magness is a contributing editor at GearJunkie.com and a founding member of Team GearJunkie/YogaSlackers. He would like to thank BaBAR volunteers and gear prize sponsors prAna, HydroFlask, Power-to-Go, CocoHydro, Ergon, and Specialized bikes. Follow the team as they race around the planet this year on our newly-launched team micro-site.