Q & A with Team GearJunkie.com

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

I sat down with Team GearJunkie.com this morning to get their final thoughts on this year’s race. They were a strong team this year, acting on the things they learned from the 2010 race. I wanted to know how they felt it went as well as how they might have done things differently if they could. The following is part of our conversation. —T.C. Worley

T.C.: First of all, how did Team Adidas beat you guys this year?

Team GJ: We took some risks out there. Some worked, some didn’t. We were faster on foot, and slept more than them. We were anticipating a lot more racing ahead of us. They’re a world class team with a lot of depth, and confidence, no doubt. For a race of this magnitude and length, a 5 to 6 hour gap is pretty small. We’re happy to have come so close and given them a run for their money.

Jason Magness runs with a broken bike to the finish for a 2nd place standing in the 2011 WPER

T.C.: What were some of your best strategies and moves during the race?

Team GJ: Well, we had no health issues like last year, so we were faster right away. Really, overall, we’re just stronger this year. Also, stopping the “follow the red line” (recommended route line) mentality and looking at the course as a naked map with a point “a” and point “b” mentality was our plan. We feel like we really did an awesome job of navigation this year.

T.C.: So, what were your worst moves?

Team GJ: We took our dry suits on the second trek and made an ambitious swim that left us cold and tired. It was brilliant and bold, but with the weight of our suits and the coldness, it ended up being a negative move for us. That cold really zapped our energy. In total, we swam one hour and 40 minutes in one day in glacial lakes, rivers and fjords.

T.C.: What are your thoughts for next year, assuming you are back?

Team GJ: Fitness was never an issue. We were strong this year. But we all had ups and downs. Individual team members being able to admit a weakness and ask for assistance was key at the down times. Being a team means moving fastest as a group and helping whoever is bonking or struggling. Knowing the kinds of terrain here, we will be even more prepared mentally and with gear too. Most of all, knowing it’s possible — that we can win, is what will make us dangerous next year. We scared the top team this year.

Chelsey Gribbon leads the GJ team to the finish line

T.C.: Any standout gear items? What worked, and what didn’t?

Team GJ: Let’s start with what we liked. Our sleep situation was dialed this year! Our Go-Lite Shangri La tent was killer — super light, fast and dry. It’s a teepee type tent with one trekking pole for support and no floor. Cascade Designs’ NeoAir pads were awesome, too. We slept on them and used them in the waters as floats or pseudo-rafts. The Mountain Hardware Ultra Lamina 32 sleeping bags are fantastic ultralight synthetic bags! Even if wet they are warm and they pack tiny.

Again this year, the Rab Xenon jacket was a great performer, and coupled with a super durable Rab eVent shell, we were warm and dry the whole race — except when we swam. Ibex wool base layers were great. We swear by Inov-8 shoes, the best ultralight fell running shoes. We all wore either 212 X-Talon or the 285 Roclites. Paired with DryMax socks, we had no foot issues and never really even wore gaiters. Our SeaLine map case was unbelievably durable and dry. It was also just really easy to deal with.

The bad. First, most of the equipment that did not work was because it was a poor choice for this race — not because it was bad gear. We brought the wrong Leki trekking poles for sure. We chose a lightweight carbon model and ended up snapping two poles and having trouble using the others. Our fault this time. The Mountain Hardware gloves just broke down. They delaminated and were too heavy when they got wet. We brought the wrong Mountain Hardware gaiters too — they are more alpine oriented. Our ultralight Sea to Summit drybags were non-submersible and a poor choice for this race — another wrong call by us. Overall most of our gear was bomber. In these conditions, it’s hard for everything to be awesome all the time.

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.