A few words about my recent trip to Baise in China, where we had four days of staged team adventure racing.
I signed up late for the trip, after having spent only time in the kayak since February, resulting in an increase in weight and bulk. I would be racing with two strapping Latvian lads, and a Kiwi girl.
Forty hours of travelling wore me down, and when my gear box was not waiting for me in the oversized baggage area in Nanning airport, I think I was so frazzled that I didn’t actually have the energy to get angry about it. There was talk of it arriving at 1am, or possibly two days late, but I was skeptical.
The course location was a major surprise and bonus for me – it was relatively clean, the scenery was spectacular, and the smog was notable for its absence. The obligatory opening ceremony, involving thousands of locals, playing drums, blowing trumpets, dancing dragons, and elaborate costumes, was followed by speeches at extreme volume from the local dignitaries, great blokes, every one of them, and then we would be underway!
Our first day consisted of a short run, to ‘wheelbarrows’, in which one team member sat on the barrow, and the others pushed. This set us off toward a short, sharp mountain bike, into a 5km orienteering section. We ended up at a large climbing wall, faced with a 20m Jumar Ascent, and flying fox descent. I’m not sure about the safety of this section, teams bunched, a general lack of technical knowledge, and oxygen deprivation was not the best recipe, and it was with relief we headed off for the final 15km run.
It had everything… the traditional Chinese stairs, some very slippery and technical descents, and some absolutely amazing caves, complete with bamboo ladders, and red flashing lights leading us through. A nice day out for us, tough for me riding on a borrowed bike, with flat pedals, in soft soled shoes, but we pushed throughout.
Day two kicked off with some bad news for us, the final 10km Kayak had been cancelled. This shortened the day to a 10km run, followed by 44km on the Mountain bike. Another typical Chinese racing day, never ending stairs on the run led into a stunning flying fox across a huge hole/cave entrance.
Onto the Mountain bike, we were in great position, feeling good, but suffered puncture number one. Discovering that the puncture was caused by a broken spoke, a new tube was put in, and we had a buckled wheel to nurse. Passing teams again, we got puncture number two, on the spare 26 inch bike, one and only tube, gone. Back up to speed working well, passing teams again, puncture number three, and no spares, 2km home, time to run the bike. What else could possibly go wrong? A deraillier in the spokes? Check, two bikes to run home over the final 2kms, and losing lots of time! A rough day, but still we held our heads up!
Day three my favourite day, and one of the most spectacular and brutal days I’ve had in China. In a stunning lake and cave setting, we had a short downhill run, bamboo ladders through a cave, into a 1km swim complete with shoes, buoyancy aids and helmets. A short kayak, and onto a 16km MTB. This was an incredible ride, Chinas own Alpe D’Huez. Sealed switchbacks, stem chewing, leg burning awesomeness. How could they back up a ride like that? The most technical 20km of trail running you would find anywhere in the world with intricate rocky paths, slippery rock fields, and not a single section of easy running, taking us over three hours to complete.
Finally into the Kayaks for 18kms, I felt great to be in the boats, and we enjoyed the paddle, smooth teamwork, and made great time. Absolutely brutal finish of 2km uphill run, a tough but rewarding day.
Day four, what was left in the tank? I felt like I was actually coming into some fitness finally, a simple 26kms of MTB, and 30kms to run. Sent off at 10 second intervals, the climbing started almost straight away and we chose to try and maintain a consistent pace, and do our own thing. We built into the ride nicely, catching teams on a long ‘hike a bike’ section, and up the final single track climb. The final run, just to ensure we didn’t miss out, meant more stairs, followed by two long climbs. Again, smoothly making our way through the kms, we rolled into the final transition, 3kms of GPS navigation.
One final test for us, we got no signal for 7-8 mins and left us standing around before we could get headed in the right direction. We went flying through the streets, with the bewildered locals unsure what to make of us. Relief at the finish to hang onto a 9th overall. A very testing outing, but on reflection, an experience I’m glad to have had. As a team, we worked very well, we had plenty of laughs, everyone gave 110%, everything we did that was under our control, we did smoothly.
Unfortunately for us, everything out of our control seemed to conspire against us, but I though we dealt with all the setbacks nicely and in good humour!