By JASON MAGNESS
Time is relative according to Albert Einstein, and as a college-educated physicist (my former life), I am loathe to argue with one of my field’s greatest minds. But this past week, as I and two other members of Team GearJunkie/YogaSlackers prepared to start the 150-hour, 500-mile Expedition Idaho race it certainly seemed like there hadn’t possibly been enough time since we’d finished the equally long Raid the North Extreme race in British Columbia just last month.
And it turned out that I was at least partially right — our female teammate, my wife Chelsey, had become quite ill a week after the finish of Raid the North. She was racked with intense abdominal pains and had been unable to eat solid food for a week. Despite the excitement brought on by our well-rested fourth teammate (my twin brother, Andy), Chelsey’s condition just worsened in the days and hours leading up to the start at Expedition Idaho.
For the Idaho race, one of four expedition-length events Team GearJunkie/YogaSlackers will do this year, the rules clearly stated that all teams must start with a four-person coed squad. So at the start of Expedition Idaho last weekend, Chelsey donned her jersey and toed the line. But within hours, it was clear that she needed medical attention. The team stopped at a checkpoint near the top of Silver Mountain and called in for help. Within minutes an ATV arrived to transport her downhill and out of the event for good. . . .
Fortunately, the race organizers let the three of us remaining — me, Andy, and Daniel Staudigel — carry on, though the rules said we’d be ranked behind any team that completed the same amount of the course, regardless of their time. Fine by us, as we just wanted to race the course and not be ushered off because we lost a team member (a common practice in other events).
Without Chelsey, we realized we’d been given a unique opportunity. The race for us — a week-long challenge — would now be essentially “the ultimate gear, strategy, and training test!” Within two days after our false start, we’d caught back up to the lead pack in the event, sleeping more than most teams, taking navigational risks, and trying out unfamiliar gear in a real, live race situation. Some gear worked, other pieces did not, but we’ll get into that in a future post.
In the end, after days of biking, trekking, bushwhacking, paddling, and a touted 130,000 feet of elevation gain, we crossed the finish line in Expedition Idaho and ended up in 4th place. We were one of the few teams to make it to every section of the brutal and beautiful course. And in case there are any of you out there who followed our last fiasco of a race and are wondering. . . the answer is “yes!” our gear bins made it to every transition area ahead of us and all the checkpoints were in the right place. Expedition Idaho was a solid and epic event. We look forward to racing again next year — Chelsey will be healthy and on board this time.
—Jason Magness is a contributing editor at GearJunkie.com and a founding member of Team GearJunkie/YogaSlackers. Follow the team as they race around the planet this year on our newly-launched team micro-site.