Monumental race crosses finish line

After limited sleep and five days of trekking, biking and paddling, the end of the trail in Trail was a welcome site for adventure racers.

After limited sleep and five days of trekking, biking and paddling, the end of the trail in Trail was a welcome site for adventure racers.

Atmosphere’s Raid the North Extreme endurance race crossed the finish line at Gyro Park in Trail with Team Wilderness Traverse leading the way and popping the champagne cork at almost 4:30 a.m. Friday morning.

The team, comprised of Canadians Bob Miller and Jakob Van Dorp and New Zealanders Sarah Fairmaid and Gordon Blythen, completed the grueling 500-kilometre course eight hours ahead of runner up Wild Rose, with Dart-Nunn Sports Multi finishing third: the only three teams out of 30 to complete the course on time.

Local team Kootenay Kaos finished the race but was considered a DNF for coming in just over the time limit at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Based on earlier information, team Kaos believed the cut-off time was noon but found out at the finish it was two hours earlier, said Kootenay captain Nelson Rocha.

“We finished on Kootenay time but we didn’t finish on their time.”

Still, it was an amazing feat for the first-time adventure racing and newly formed team. While it was Rocha’s first adventure race, Kaos teammates, Dustin Eagleston, Sacha Kalabis and Vince Hempsall have varied experience with adventure racing; but the team came together in what veteran racers considered the most difficult course on the RTNX’s circuit so far.

“I think that was probably the main reason we were able to finish it because we had good teamwork and we never really once had any blow ups, we all got along really well,” said Rocha. “Teamwork and cooperation definitely worked out in our favour.”

Team Kaos started well and had one of the best times over the most difficult sections of the course, from Slocan City over the Valhallas to Ice Creek Lodge. They passed through the checkpoint in seventh place but ran into difficulties when course officials did not have their bikes ready for a 20-kilometre run from Gwillim Lakes down to Little Slocan Lake.

“We had to walk it which is brutal, because there is no navigation involved you’re just walking along a logging road but logistically they couldn’t get the bikes up there, so we all had to walk out and that just killed us.”

Officials and volunteers were stretched precariously thin along the course in what would turn out to be a logistics nightmare. At many checkpoints gear was not delivered such as the Gwillim Lake check point where bikes were only delivered for the first two teams, all others had to walk.

While teams received time credits, it did not account for the physical and mental toll it took on the team, said Rocha.

Racers also had to battle weather extremes from freezing rain at night in the mountains, to scorching heat in the day. In addition to mosquitoes and the aptly named devil’s club thistle, some racers, unused to either, soon found they were allergic and came down with fever, swelling and/or festering sores.

Sleep deprivation was another challenge as Team Kaos slept less than three hours per night while the top finishers barely had an hour’s shuteye.

In the end, Wilderness Traverse won a free entry worth $8,000 into the World Championships in Tasmania and, as the only local team, Kootenay Kaos were awarded a free entry into a Vancouver Island adventure race later this month.

“We were just planning this race as a one-off, but I had a really good time doing it and I know other teammates did too,” said Rocha.

Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs congratulated the winners, participants and volunteers at the award ceremony at the Riverbelle Saturday.

“Personally, it was  a real experience to meet these people . . . it was a great event and it’d be nice to see it return to the area periodically,” said Bogs.