This is the first of four reports from Stephen Regenold on his experience racing in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, a multidisciplinary competition at the 2009 Teva Mountain Games in Vail, Colo.
Stage No. 1 of the Ultimate Mountain Challenge was the Bud Light Lime Class II Down River Sprint, which involved a fast paddle down Gore Creek in Vail. I put on a V.I.O. helmet camera and climbed into my kayak — Dagger’s new Green Boat — at 9:20a.m. on Saturday. A race assistant pushed me off a grassy bank and into an eddy beside rushing whitewater. At the “Go!” I pushed the nose of the boat into the flow and let the river take me.
The water was high and rushing, making for a fast ride. Indeed, the winners raced the section — about three miles from east of Vail — into town in just over 17 minutes. I took 19 minutes, securing a middle of the pack finish time on a river ride that featured boulders, holes, swift wave trains, and sweepers along the banks.
My main strategy was to paddle hard and stay in the main flow. The current zipped along the banks on many bends, forcing kayakers to steer across the 50-foot-wide creek multiple times a minute. But fast water made the rapids and drops easy to navigate. The Dagger boat — which is almost 12 feet long and made for speed — had no issue with the big water on the quick ride from the start line to the finish in Vail.