Surviving an epic 4 day adventure race takes great teamwork, tenacity and the right equipment, especially when the weather turns bad. As part of the race “swag” each competitor and volunteer was given a beautifully designed custom Barking Frog “Barkie”. In the end this helped many racers through a tough time.
Team B Frogs comprised of Mike Chastaine, team captain, Mark Lattanzi, team navigator, Jen Moos and Michael Miller, ran a very strong race, hovering around 5th to 7th place most of this international event. The race began at 8am with a 3 mile run followed by a 30 mile kayak interspersed with a 15 mile trek, all done through the heat of the day. At the end of the kayak leg, teams tied their kayaks to a buoy in the middle of the river and swam to shore with a 3 mile trek to the first TA1 (transition area).
At TA1, BFrogs were looking strong, quickly resupplied with food, built their bikes and started a 60 mile mountain bike with a tremendous amount of very steep climbing. With Mark and Jen leading the way the team rode all night, up and up and up. They stopped for a quick cat nap and to fix some mechanical issues due to all of the fine dust on the climbs.
The team arrived in TA2 around 7 am, ate, got some sleep in the TA and headed out on the monster trek around 10:23 am. This trek, which was the crux of the race, was 45 miles to the climbing site while carrying our climbing gear, then a huge ropes course, followed by another 30+ mile trek up and over a 8700 foot pass.
Feeling strong and in good spirits Team BFrogs started the trek dropping down to the river released by Beardley Lake via an old trolley line. They forged the river and then climbed out from the dam over 2800 vertical feet, past highway 108, then up some more to the summit of Pikes Peak (CP12) at 7200 feet. Team Bfrogs got to the summit just as the sun went down.
The team continued on, dropping a couple of 1000 feet to CP13 where they took a quick 30 min nap. From there they dropped into an interesting canyon with huge boulders to be down climbed leading right to CP14. From that point it was a very long slog to the climbing site which was back up at 7600 feet. All night long the team trekked on arriving at the base of the climb in the early morning hours. The plan was to complete the climb then get some sleep and finish up the trek. The ropes course was epic with a 300 foot free hang accent, then low angle repel to a 700 foot zip line across a big canyon, finishing with a 300 foot repel. One final scramble back to the CP to get some water, drop off our climbing gear and finally head on for the rest of the trek. The climbing accent was daunting and not for the faint of heart. A number of people were unable to complete the accent as it was technically and physically very challenging, especially after such a long trek and so little sleep.
Up to this point, the weather had been excellent. Warm during the day and cool at night, perfect race weather. However, at the top of the climb we were told that a storm was blowing in. The weather forecasts leading up to the race had indicated that there was little chance of rain and that the temperature would be mild. We were not prepared for what blew in. As we left on the last half of the trek we were joined by a camera man. We got to CP 17 – at over 8000 when the first rain hit. Then it turned to hail and sleet. The wind was blowing so hard the hail was blowing sideways. We desperately needed to sleep but with the rain we would need some substantial shelter. As the rain poured down we were soaked and working towards hypothermia. On the way to CP18 we arrived in Eagle Meadow at “cow camp”. As the hunting season had just started there were a number of hunters camping. We tried to find shelter but to no avail. A nice family allowed us to sit in there truck to warm up but it was clear that this was temporary. We either had to move on or they would drive us back to the town of Strawberry. The temperature continued to drop and the sleet was turning to snow. This was midafternoon and we still need to climb over an 8700 foot pass to get to CP 18. We had at least 20 miles to civilization with no assurance that we would be able to find any kind of shelter on the way. And most importantly, we so badly needed sleep that we were concerned that any navigational error could be fatal. Even with our Barkies, we didn’t have the right equipment for what Mother Nature threw at us. In the end the right decision was made and we accepted a ride to Strawberry. This is a hard decision for an adventure racer, but we were in a position where any other decision could have been disastrous.
As the storm raged on, we were dropped off at the Strawberry Lodge were we got something to eat then were picked up and taken to TA3. We got some sleep then came back to the TA to complete the last bike ride. The storm had blown through, and now the skies were sunny and clear. Hard to believe that just 18 hours before we were in a howling storm. Somewhat refreshed we obtained 4 of the CP’s and crossed the finish line around noon on Sunday.
While it is always disappointing to not complete the entire course, Team BFrogs did a great job and made the right decision when it mattered. Barking Frogs is very proud of its team’s efforts.
by Mike Chastaine, Barking Frogs Ambassador and Team BFrogs Captain