Race’s phantom finish disappears into the night

This is how the race ends, not with a bang but a whimper

It’s an appropriate eulogy for an event that for most went unseen, unheard and for all intent and purpose might just as well never have ran at all.

The Raid the North Extreme (RTNX) adventure race swept through the West Kootenay last week filled with hype and promise from its organizers as the biggest event of the year.

The City of Trail jumped on board offering up $5,000 for the privilege of hosting the much-anticipated finish.

Just think of the great exposure – large crowds, reporters, cameras, TV crews from news outlets, a promised documentary and Outdoor networks all clamoring at beautiful Gyro Park, highlighting the mighty Columbia and the best of Trail, B.C.

Except it didn’t quite happen that way.

The winning team came in under the cover of darkness, Friday at 4 a.m. Only two more teams would cross the finish line legitimately. Considered by race survivors to be the most difficult course on the RTNX circuit, only three of 30 teams completed the whole track in the required time.

I first viewed the course online, a 500-kilometre gauntlet ranging from extreme difficulty to the ridiculous variety. Having hiked a few of the areas, I was familiar with some of the brutal territory but I’ve had the luxury of exploring it over 10 years not five days.

No one can deny that the finishing teams’ accomplishment is tremendous, even those that completed a modified course.

But imagine what Nelson Rocha from Nelson’s Kootenay Kaos must have thought when upon completing the most difficult part of the course from Slocan City, up and over the Valhallas to Gwillim Lakes, the team was told their bikes weren’t delivered and rather than ride, as the course directed, they had to walk the next 20 kilometres.

That was just one of many logistical glitches along the way. Volunteers were stretched to the limit, and teams forced to withdraw stayed on to help.

And despite high tech GPS, race organizers were telling media and local dignitaries to be at Gyro Thursday at 7 p.m for the finish… then 11 p.m. and so on. Their  website’s online tracking showed the only way they’d be at Gyro by that time is if they hitched a chopper ride off Granite Mountain.

Unfortunately, nothing panned out.

In the end, there were no crowds, few cameras, and no documentary.

Photos taken by the RTNX photographers of the finishing team, had them popping a cork while standing under a big yellow archway that read, “Silver Star – My Mountain”,

So even if someone did go to the RTNX website and viewed the photos, they’d think it was on a ski hill, 400 km away in Vernon, coincidentally the hometown of RTNX race president Geoff Langford.

Which still doesn’t explain why photos of the mass start in the burgeoning town of Meadow Creek six days earlier had the same arch, except with the ‘Raid the North- Kootenay’ sign respectfully covering it.

Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs attended the race awards dinner at the Riverbelle and enjoyed the opportunity to meet the adventure racers.

When asked about its organizers, the finish debacle and whether it was worth it for Trail, he remained magnanimous.

“We would probably want certain changes but personally it was a real experience to meet these kinds of people.”

Other officials weren’t so generous, calling it one of the worst organized events they’d seen but for Trail’s first adventure race, taking the high road is probably the best way to go.

At least for the B.C. Seniors Games, Trail will be hosting the opening ceremonies.