Last weekend my brother Isaac and I took part in the Mind Over Mountain Adventure Race (MOMAR) in Cumberland, B.C. While many shared stories of successfully completing the race, the two of us did not fare so well.
What do you do when the odds are not in your favour and everything bad thing that can happen, does? When the seeds of doubt and compounding obstacles present the real prospect of not finishing the race. Do you quit or keep pushing on? Well we got a taste of that, and this is the MOMAR as seen through our eyes. Call it, 'an introduction to adventure racing'…
Saturday Morning: Race Day
5:00 a.m. Alarm goes off. Not much sleep. Anticipation. Here we go.
We slowly gather ourselves, quietly going over our packs. Do I have everything I need? Is this too much weight? Why am I doing this? We eat a quick meal and pack up the truck. Panic! My brother cannot find the checkpoint stamp card needed for the race. This is a bad sign of things to come... Isaac hurries back into the house, then back to the truck and begins frantically unpacking his bag. He finds the stamp card on the passenger seat only moments before we have to leave.
We make the short drive from our friend’s house in Courtenay to Cumberland, where the race is being held. We are both fairly quiet as we approach the bike drop off. “Wow there are a lot of nice bikes here, except ours.” Both unsure of what we are really in for we drop the bikes, race bibs affixed. From there, we drop off the kayaks. At Comox Lake we deposit the kayaks among all the (better) double kayaks. Another bad sign as ours are singles and rudderless. We then drop the truck off at the designated parking area and climb on the prison-like school bus that shuttles racers back to the start line. “Remember, we chose to do this” I say to Isaac. “No. You chose to do this and you signed me up so that you didn’t have to do it alone" he retorts. Fair comment.
My brother's feelings are warranted. He has concerns about an ailing knee injury and that he has not been able to run much over the last couple weeks. Combined with our less-than-optimum bicycles and kayaks, we're left with a sinking feeling that we are in for some trouble. Welcome to adventure racing.
Too late to walk away and save ourselves a day of agony, we disembark from the bus and make our way to the sign-in tent. We receive our course map (only handed out on race day) and study the route. Cue a group photo and then we're heading to the shoreline. We get in our “weekend warrior” kayaks and head to the start line. It's go time.
On Your Marks...Set...Go!
The horn goes and we’re off! Well...sort of. The main group of kayakers take off quickly on the 10 kilometre Comox Lake circuit. We steadily fall behind. “I knew we should have rented proper kayaks!” Isaac calls out. (We had borrowed some recreational ones from a friend; this was an error.) There is nothing we can do to make up 'ground' and catch the pack, so we set a steady pace and grind it out.
After paddling for an hour and a half we finally reach the shore. Good God. My arms are burning, but we have survived the first leg. We transition to the next stage: orienteering through the bush. Just as we put our shoes on and begin making our way to CP 1 (checkpoint) my brother’s fears about his knee are realized. It is no better than it was when he injured it. Damn. “Chris, I guess we’re just speed walking from here.” ”I guess so Isaac.” There's nothing we can do but press on to CP 2, then 3. We are slow, but we are moving in a forward direction.
As we are finishing the orienteering stage we race our way down the main road in Cumberland. The bike transition area approaches. Whack. I hit the pavement; I've tripped over an uneven section of sidewalk. As I went down I managed to brace my head with my forearm. This is not good. I know my energy is low...I mean I’m falling on sidewalks. With some tears in my sleeve I get up and keep going. “That’s going to require beer later!” We arrive at the CP 5 transition area and hop on the bikes. We're happy not to be on foot for the next leg, but not so happy that we chose “less than adequate” bikes for this this race.
Racing Against the Clock
We grind our way into the forest and up the mountainside, through the many bike trails Cumberland has. Awesome. But I am not a mountain biker. Why are we doing this? We push up the trail, then down, then up again. CP 6. CP 7. Time has escaped us this day. At this point we know we are not likely to finish the race before the cut-off time. We press for CP 8. We are confronted by a ridiculous hike-a-bike section. It's a grind up the mountain along a trail far too steep to even ride. Reaching CP 9 we realize that we only have 15 minutes to get to CP 11 before the time sweep disqualifies us. Any hope of crossing the finish line is all but lost. Isaac looks at me and says, “I got nothing left Chris.” “Me either, I’m gassed.” We stamp our checkpoint stamp card at CP 9 and officially D.Q. ourselves from the race. Though it wasn't for a lack of trying.
I have never left a race before; this felt entirely foreign to me. Looking back at it, better equipment choices would have made a huge difference, not to mention some more training. As for injuries, well they are what they are. You simply don’t get to decide when they are going to happen. The day was not our day - by a long shot. Most things that could have gone wrong for us did.
To me, it became a day about knowing we were both out of our depth and doing it anyway. It was about taking what comes at you and rolling with the punches (or trips to the pavement.) 9 out of 24 checkpoints after the kind of day we had? I’ll take it. As for MOMAR, we have licked our wounds, at least for the time being. You can bet we'll be back, and better prepared.
Bottom line? MOMAR is a challenging race, but definitely one worth doing!
Have you ever faced crushing disappointment?
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