Monday, January 18, 2010

The Endurance - An Adventure Race

Wanted for hazardous journey.
Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness.
Safe return doubtful.
Honor and recognition in event of success.

This was Ernest Shackleton's solicitation to travelers for a South Pole expedition in 1912. It generated over 5000 responses from people willing to embark on an Antarctic exploration. It was also the solicitation for Alaska Adventure Racing Club's inaugural winter adventure race on Saturday. At 9:30am four teams converged on the Prospect Heights parking area in Anchorage and were given 30 minutes to look at maps of the route and plot their course before a 10:00am start of the race. The course was set up like an orienteering "score-O" where there are multiple checkpoints on a given course and each checkpoint has a point value. There were some mandatory checkpoints and several optional checkpoints as well as some optional "bonus" events thrown in throughout the course. The checkpoints were all themed after part of Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated South Pole expedition where he and his crew spent 497 days stranded on the ice.

The basic course began with a ski leg from Prospect Heights up the Middlefork Trail and then an optional checkpoint located on the bridge at the fork in the Powerline and Hidden Lake trails. From there the racers would converge on the first Transition Area (TA) in the race at the Upper O'Malley parking area where they would drop their skis in favor of sleds and helmets and make the return trip to Prospect Heights on sleds. Before they left on their sleds there was an optional "bonus" event where they were able to take an avalanche beacon and perform a search and rescue mission by locating one of two hidden beacons in the snow. One beacon was actually hidden in view in a tree and all but one team located this one after a few minutes searching the ground for the other beacon.

At the Prospect Heights TA they would switch from the sleds to mountain bikes for a trek across the hillside to the North Bivouac trail where a five checkpoint 2.5 mile optional orienteering course was set up. After that the race took them to Campbell Creek park off Lake Otis and Tudor for a brief assessment of their first aid skills and a check of their mandatory equipment. Then on to The Peanut Farm for the finish of the race. The race had a hard finish time of 5:00pm with a time penalty of 10 points per minute that a team was late. With a total possible 500 points that could quickly erase a teams chance of a good finish.

Four teams made the journey and it was the first winter adventure race for all of them although some had adventure racing experience it was an even playing field. There were two teams of 2 and two teams of 3, one being an all female team, the "Trail Tramps" as they dubbed themselves. "The Trail Tramps" took the victory on the day by over 40 minutes over the second place team. They are a force to be reckoned with and have a great future in adventure racing. Perhaps we will see them again in this Spring's Women Rock! Adventure Challenge on April 24, or the Adventure Friday races every other Friday this summer in Anchorage beginning May 21.

Congratulations to everyone who came out. This was a perfect day for racing and a great group of contestants.

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