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Discussion: Xtrail Altay Expedition Race, China

in: Adventure Racing; General

May 26, 2017 2:03 PM # 
Bash:
Some of the top teams in the world will be meeting in China soon. This should be fun to watch!
http://www.sleepmonsters.com/v2_news.php?article_i...
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May 27, 2017 4:38 PM # 
StrongMachine:
Oh man, this does look good. Am I correct that this is more of an expedition race than last year's race? The ARWS page says the winning team is expected to finish in 72 hours, but I think it said that last year as well, and the winner finished in 36 hours...
May 29, 2017 3:00 PM # 
Bash:
From ARWS Facebook: XTRAIL CHINA Preview by Marco Amselem.

"Our Team Columbia Vidaraid is going to Xtrail in China in full mode. We are expecting a close battle among at least 4 or 5 teams. We are a hoping for good navigation challenges where the attention with the maps can be a key factor like it was on the previous edition.
I think this event will be as competitive as a World championship and it will be a great test for the teams. We have a new team mate for this race but we are confident that she will be a great addition to our team. Julia Crytzer has been racing for years and besides experience she is a also a tough girl. I have raced with her before and think she will enjoy to race with our boys. Most of the teams have eyes on the Worlds Champs entry fee and the money prize and I can't deny that we are one of them. We have high hopes for this race but above all we want to have a great time and enjoy the stunning places we will go through. Altay seems to be gorgeous and we are really looking forward to explore this region. "
May 29, 2017 3:05 PM # 
Bash:
Here is the website. I haven't seen anything about dot watching but they had it last year.
http://www.xtrail.cn/en/index/index.html

"Teams will experience the unique grasslands, lakes, mountains in this spectacular part in the world. Altay prefecture located in northern Xinjiang, its northwest connect to Kazakhstan and Russia, its northeast border with Mongolia. The Kazak culture surround across iconic destinations that teams will explore during their one week journey.

"AXE is open to mixed teams of four, team are estimated to complete the non stop, unsupported course of trekking, mountain biking, kayaking, rafting, rope skill and navigation in 3-6 days. The total distance for the race will be 600+KM, which are more diverse and complicated than last year demonstration. The closing time for the full course close is 6 days. Moreover, the course will pass through desert, lakes and more other landforms. "
May 29, 2017 3:06 PM # 
Bash:
I think Slice (Liza Pye) may be the only Canadian; she's racing with Team Bones.
May 29, 2017 3:08 PM # 
Bash:
Here is the Facebook page.
https://www.facebook.com/XTRAILCN/

It says: "In the Expedition you need the skills and capacity of:
Steering the boat with paddle,
Walking the wires at vertical cliff
Riding MTB on rugged terrain as fast as can do
Dash down along steep and technical descent like a gust of gale
Figuring out the best route with contour map and compass.
And Getting along well with your teammates."

"Warning: Do keep eyes peeled on the 144 hours cut-off time, in case of straying too much in the stunning natural beauty and various cultures of hospitable local minorities!"
May 29, 2017 5:48 PM # 
silkychrome:
adventure racing is the same no matter what language you describe it in! love that translation.
May 29, 2017 11:48 PM # 
pyeinthesky:
Me too. Especially the "gust of a gale" bit.
May 30, 2017 2:00 PM # 
Bash:
Here are some pre-race course details, including cancellation of the ropes discipline and the Prologue.
https://www.facebook.com/XTRAILCN/posts/3203031484...

"Behold:
Like the arrow on a bow with a fully tightened string,
There is no choice left but releasing it fiercely.
Truly:
The arena will be cherry and the contestants desperate,
Racing with the time which is like a white horse jump over a creek, day and night, non-stopped,
Trekking with your heavy rucksack on your shoulders as fast as can do,
Riding your unreliable MTB along long and bumped single tracks, carrying it to cut through technical trails to shave distance if necessary, and fixing it as fast as can do if it breaks down,
Steering your small boat in a vast and peaceful lake,
Focusing on your map and compass for navigation,
Maintaining the best judgement by battling with sleep deprivation,
Your efforts will be honored as long as you exert yourself to the maximum.
Are you ready for the ultimate Chinese dish of adventuring race and exploring the #XTRAILS?!"
May 30, 2017 6:52 PM # 
silkychrome:
behold! indeed!
May 30, 2017 7:00 PM # 
Bash:
I've found my new mantra as a race organizer:
"May the arena be cherry and the contestants desperate!"
May 30, 2017 10:27 PM # 
silkychrome:
per @arlivecoverage on FB, AMK didn't travel to the race and won't be competing. Rob will be joining Haglofs tho.
May 30, 2017 11:11 PM # 
Carbon's Offset:
Someone HAS TO name their next team "Gust of Gale" or "Arrow on a bow with a fully tightened string". :)
Maybe "East Wind" comes close...
May 30, 2017 11:51 PM # 
Bash:
On a possibly related note, Slice's Mom says, "Her complimentary hotel room in Guangzhou is 4 star and comes equipped with a gas mask."
May 30, 2017 11:55 PM # 
Bash:
Canadian adventure racer Nicky Cameron is on her way to China to help with race reporting. I hope she can keep the prose as entertaining as it has been so far!
May 31, 2017 12:04 AM # 
abiperk:
Someone else to keep an eye on -- Jim Driscoll (Drisc here) is racing with Bones.
May 31, 2017 1:30 AM # 
arhub:
dang, I knew my 6 months of Chinese classes might come in handy one day. I'll have to keep an eye out for this next year.
May 31, 2017 1:31 AM # 
Bash:
Team Bones has friends traveling with them so they hope to provide some live coverage on Facebook.
https://www.facebook.com/teambones/

AR Live Coverage should have news too.
https://www.facebook.com/arlivecoverage

It sounds like Nicky will be posting at ARWS Facebook as well as the race website.
https://www.facebook.com/arworldseries
May 31, 2017 11:32 PM # 
Bash:
SM article about the young teams whose entry fees and flights were covered. This includes Terra Aventura - Finalin, winners of Huairasinchi 2017.
http://www.sleepmonsters.com/v2_races.php?article_...
Jun 4, 2017 11:52 AM # 
Bash:
The live site is up.
http://live.arworldseries.com/xtrail17/

And Nicky's first article. The maps sound interesting...
http://arworldseries.com/the-lay-of-the-land-altay...
Jun 5, 2017 2:56 AM # 
Bash:
The race is about to start! It is 11 a.m. Monday at the race site, 12 hours later than Toronto / New York.
Jun 5, 2017 3:12 AM # 
Bash:
Or as they put it on the official race Facebook page:
"Everything is:
duly arranged and well arrayed.
The big day of good omen is finally coming at a place with:
Azure sky and green water,
Variety of flowers and various woods
Our warriors are:
Preparing themselves for encountering the unknown
Studying the route leading to honor and triumph."
Jun 5, 2017 3:31 AM # 
Bash:
Sleepmonsters preview article:
http://www.sleepmonsters.com/v2_races.php?article_...

"Seagate is sure to be hard to beat. Their team this time out is Stuart Lynch and Chris Forne, with Jo Williams (who won their last world title with them) and Bob McLachlan (usually of Team Torpedo 7). The latter two raced in China last year."
Jun 5, 2017 3:51 AM # 
Bash:
"The course this year is 488.5km long, with 12 legs over 5 days of racing and the winners are expected in 65-75 hours. It will once again start at Kanas Lake resort, and will be a linear course finishing in the city of Altay as it did last year. Both the prologue and ropes stages have been dropped, but there is a short white water rafting stage, an orienteering stage and a ‘mystery challenge’. (Last year it was cooking noodles with a local family.)"

I have a PDF of the course notes explaining all the stages. Not sure of the best way to share them here but if you're interested, shoot me an email and I'll forward them.
Jun 5, 2017 4:20 AM # 
Bash:
Race start delayed - a lot. Bedtime!
Jun 5, 2017 5:55 AM # 
StrongMachine:
What's going on with the race? Seems like teams are tracking. But the course outline isn't apparent on the map...
Jun 5, 2017 11:29 AM # 
pyeinthesky:
At this stage, the lead teams are on their way to CP9 and TA4. We have Seagate in front, followed by Haglofs, who are roughly 3kms back. Then there is a gap of another 4kms, where we find Best4sports from S. Africa. Approx. 2kms behind them is another pack, which includes Estonia, Bivouac, Bones and Vidaraid. The chasing teams are roughly 5kms back from these 7 teams.
Jun 5, 2017 11:51 AM # 
pyeinthesky:
AR Live Coverage Facebook page reports that maps for the first trek are very similar to last year, so returning teams have the advantage.
Jun 5, 2017 2:21 PM # 
pyeinthesky:
Estonia, Bivouac and Best4 have made some nav errors. Bones has moved into 3rd position by a narrow margin. Come on Bones!
Jun 5, 2017 4:01 PM # 
Bash:
Seagate arrived at TA4 in the lead. This is the end of a 49K trek and the start of a 201K (!!) mountain bike leg that is estimated to take 18-24 hrs.

Haglofs Silva in 2nd, Estonians in 3rd and Bones in 4th with a chase pack of 5th-7th place Columbia Vidaraid, Best 4 Sports S. Africa and Bivouac Inov8. There is a break between 3rd and 4th, and there is a bigger break after the 7th place team.
Jun 5, 2017 4:13 PM # 
Bash:
Some good photos on Xtrail Facebook of the start:
https://www.facebook.com/XTRAILCN/posts/3228287248...

And photos from Sleepmonsters showing the tracking map, race map and course notes during the Leg 4 Trek.
https://www.facebook.com/SleepMonsters/posts/15809...
Jun 5, 2017 4:14 PM # 
Bash:
Great dot watching insights on AR Live Coverage Facebook page. He has the race maps too. This will save us lots of time! :)
https://www.facebook.com/arlivecoverage/
Jun 5, 2017 4:43 PM # 
Bash:
Info from a Facebook comments about Best 4 Sports South Africa:

Robyn Owen is no stranger... a few ARWC under her belt with Merrell Adventure Addicts and 4th last year with Team Painted Wolf. Also she was 2nd at NZ Coast2Coast last year. Michael her husband is an adventure junkie and adventure guide with plenty outdoor experience. Andrew is a top paddler and MTBer and Julian is an ace trail runner, also having run a sub-5 hour at the Otter African Trail Run.
Jun 5, 2017 4:55 PM # 
Bash:
Btw the race start wasn't delayed even though it looked that way. The tracking software was just screwed up.
Jun 5, 2017 5:33 PM # 
Bash:
The aptly named Sneaky Weasel Gang just started tracking again at TA4 after 10 hrs of silence. That puts them in 4th ahead of Bones, who are just arriving at TA4 now at 1:30 a.m. local time.
Jun 6, 2017 2:47 AM # 
Bash:
On Tuesday at 10:40 a.m. local time, Seagate and Haglofs Silva appear to be riding together, still on the 201 km mountain bike leg. The Estonians are 15-20 km behind in 3rd place, and Bones are 15-20 behind them in 4th with Columbia Vidaraid within 2 km behind them in 5th.
Jun 6, 2017 3:35 AM # 
Bash:
Nicky's article on Day 1
http://arworldseries.com/rough-water-tough-people/
Jun 6, 2017 1:04 PM # 
Bash:
Press release from Seagate talking about their team this year and their current lead at Xtrail.
http://www.sleepmonsters.com/v2_races.php?article_...
Jun 6, 2017 1:23 PM # 
Bash:
Bones and Columbia Vidaraid were close together on their bikes until about 6 pm yesterday, then Bones went off the marked route, losing almost 2 hrs. Bones is now taking a longer route through a town (maybe looking for food?) and risks being passed by Bivouac Inov8, which would drop them to 6th. Columbia Vidaraid is getting close to the 3rd place Estonians.

Seagate and Haglofs Silva remain 1-2. Haglofs Silva is kayaking (Leg 6 - 15K) after the long bike ride and Seagate has finished paddling and started the next trek (Leg 7 - 40K).
Jun 6, 2017 1:27 PM # 
Bash:
Final race legs are:
leg 8 55km kayaking
leg 9 106km mountain biking
leg 10 1km run
Jun 6, 2017 2:19 PM # 
Bash:
Bones figured out their error in the village and has maintained 5th ahead of Bivouac, who missed the same turn. Estonians are paddling now, well behind Haglofs Silva. Columbia Vidaraid is approaching the bike/paddle transition.
Jun 6, 2017 2:42 PM # 
broots:
Philosophical AR/history question from a parallel discussion I'm involved in with teammates and friends of Drisc:

As is generally typical with Columbia: they have grown stronger as the race unfolds and have moved up as a result. Won't be surprised if they manage to sneak ahead of Estonia as well. I noted that Seagate used to race this way more in the past, and I feel like the best in the sport (teams led by John Howard, Ian Adamson, Jane Hall, etc.) historically have also wisely used this tactic of letting the rabbits run for a day or so before asserting themselves.

I can't think of a team that has consistently won by blazing off the start line and dominating from start to finish (I know it happens in random races, but in big international races, I don't know of a team that has done it regularly). Until Seagate, who now seem to often lead wire to wire. I'm curious as to why their strategy seems to have shifted. Or s it that they are just so much stronger physically now too, in addition to their wealth of experience and obvious nav skills? Not so much an intentional shift but just an evolution to an even higher level?
Jun 6, 2017 3:26 PM # 
broots:
Another more general thought:
I noticed before the race started a quote in one of the preview articles suggesting the RDs were disappointed in numbers.

That said, there are four major races happening all within a week of each other: Raid, China, Corsica, Red Fox/ARES. Somewhere between 125 and 130 or so teams registered for those four races. And this doesn't count Africa and Spain which both happened less than a month ago.

I know some of the big races (PQ, Patagonia, ARES races, Corsica) are not part of ARWS so would not be part of any targeted coordination, but this has to be something that is better managed and addressed. Lack of coordination really seems to be a barrier to fuller fields and opportunity. I hope ARWS makes more of an effort to proactively coordinate its members next year to help with this issue.
Jun 6, 2017 4:19 PM # 
mayer22:
Maybe Seagate realized that there is enough of a gap to the 2nd best team that it is smarter to race out front away from everyone instead of keeping them close by. There starting pace may not be blazing for them. They are still able to get sleep and stay in front of other teams.

My favorite quote from Worlds last year, taken from your post, broots. The last sentence is the key to this thought but there are so many apects that I love about it.
SCENE: boat launch, Seagate unloading their kit and moving their boats up off the water.
Seagate: How far ahead are we?
Marshall: Oh, an hour and fifteen minutes or so.
Seagate: Grand, let's get our bikes ready and then get an hour of sleep.
Bystander: But AMK will catch you in TA and then who knows what will happen? Do you really want to give up your lead?
Seagate: No worries. It's still a long way to the finish and we're going to need to sleep. If we sleep now, we can finish the race without sleeping again. And if AMK sees us they will be pressured to continue without sleep, which is going to be rough. And we're Seagate...

Seagate has pretty much dominated the last few Worlds so this thought is well supported.
Jun 6, 2017 4:21 PM # 
mayer22:
Re: overlapping races in the ARWS. Having an early World Championship doesn't help this issue.
Jun 6, 2017 4:27 PM # 
mayer22:
Sneaky Weasel Gang is listed as non-competitive
Jun 6, 2017 4:34 PM # 
broots:
Agreed Mayer22 (on your latter note; and thank you for quoting me!).

There is also the obvious reality that planning an XPD takes loads of time, and it seems that the best ones often run every other year or every 18 months or so. Even those running every year have other factors dictating dates: weather, permits, etc.

Still, I think ARWS could do better by planning more than a year out. Some have wondered whether running ARWC every 18 months would allow some summer events for those RDs who cannot consider ARWC in November. If planned two years ahead of time, I would think coordination would be more possible to avoid the glut that happened this year with the first summer ARWC. Clearly they didn't plan for this.

I say all of this with no actual belief that this will ever happen. I think it's too challenging to connect all these dots, and at the end of the day, too much autonomy across oceans and continents to really force RDs to coordinate more closely. It's an issue between RDs regionally within a single country, so no allusions that this is a realistic goal.

Still, one can hope...
Jun 6, 2017 8:14 PM # 
StrongMachine:
Regarding Seagate leading from the gate - it reminds me of the Tour de France, when the strongest teams want to be at the front of the peloton, which gives them some measure of control over the race. To some extent, they can control pace, don't have anyone ahead of them clogging up the road, and also know where every other team is relative to them (specifically, behind them). Not sure if this is what Seagate is thinking, or if they are just so darn good that it's hard for them not to be in the lead all the time.

Regarding coordination of races, I think this needs to be looked at for both the ARWS and the USARA. Regional race directors often do a courtesy call/email so there aren't conflicting race dates. It shouldn't be that hard for the governing bodies, which are after all getting paid for being such, to assert some level of coordination on the sport. Right?
Jun 6, 2017 10:23 PM # 
StrongMachine:
Anyone know anything about Team Wobujide? I'm curious who these guys are. I like their team name - sounds a little like "What Would You Do?"
Jun 7, 2017 2:48 AM # 
Bash:
The 55 km paddle has been cancelled (or shortened for top teams who already started) due to high winds and replaced with a trek near the lakeshore. Seagate is now on the final bike ride. It will be over soon. They've been racing almost 48 hours at this point so it will be another short race this year.
Jun 7, 2017 3:35 AM # 
Bash:
The track of Bivouac Inov8 (5th) on the Leg 7 trek looks like a team in need of sleep. They've been backtracking and have returned to almost the same place they were 2 hours ago.
Jun 7, 2017 1:50 PM # 
Bash:
Seagate won in 55:55. Haglofs Silva just finished the final bike ride in 2nd place 2.5 hrs back. They will win the free entry to ARWC since Seagate already has one. The Estonians are riding in 3rd and look to be about 2 hrs away. Bones is farther back in 4th with a good distance between them and 5th place Columbia Vidaraid, whom they passed earlier today.

Apparently, Columbia has had problems with team dynamics. Julia Crytzer helped them out at the last minute when they had no female teammate, and the new team hasn't clicked. From Nicky Cameron at ARWS Facebook:

"We spotted 4th place Columbia Vida Raid picking their way through the rocky hills of the trekking section. We could see from the tracker that Team Bones was gaining on them and we were curious to see why they were moving slowly. The rolling desert desert is beautiful but exposed and dry. We squinted and could see Julie Chrysler bend over from the waist repeatedly. We all groaned. Vomiting from dehydration. As we approached, we could see that wasn’t the case – she was just bending over. She leaned on Urtzi Iglesias’s backpack and told us she wasn’t sick – she just couldn’t stand up very well. “My back-“ she said. “Your back hurts?” “No – it just doesn’t work.” She folded over again like a limp plant someone was trying to stake upright.

Marco Anselem knew Julia through the Mayan Mountain Challenge held in Belize – she and her husband Doug ran an ARWS race there. She had done a 24-hour race with Marco, and that was enough for him to invite her to do this race, as Vida RAid had lost their usual woman Barbara Bomfim to a case of pregnancy and then another Spanish woman due to nerves that she wasn’t adequately fit for the race. Julia was a last minute gamble and it didn’t look as if it was paying off for either Julia or the team.

Vida Raid is famous for pushing continuously throughout the race. In a 4.5 day race they would typically sleep about 2 hrs – and they had already had their 2 hours earlier in this race. While even Seagate took a 90 minute nap prior to the trek, Vida Raid tries to make up time through not sleeping – a strategy that has worked in the past due to tight team dynamics and incredible fitness.

A sense of a missing team dynamic was apparent from the start – English speaking Julia didn’t know the other Spanish boys. Marco described how a mismatch in expectations and experience also became clear early in the race – Julia refused to use her trekking poles to save her energy on the first trek, seeming to think that they would push through and then rest. “She is not used to recovering on the go” noted Marco. (Whatever that is when you’re moving as fast as Vida Raid.)

We watched Vida Raid disappear in the wrong direction, propping up Julia between two boys, then re-emerge in the right direction, re-focussed on the CP, with Julia on tow behind Urtzi. She is a very tall and slender women, her fatigued body so malleable that the tow pulled her hips forward in a caricature of a fashion model slouch. It looks as if the team might benefit at the moment from a more strategic, perhaps female, perspective on the situation, because their modus operandi seems to be just keep plowing ahead with Julia gamely hanging on."
Jun 7, 2017 2:21 PM # 
abiperk:
Didn't realize that was written by Nicky - I enjoyed the line "a case of pregnancy."
Jun 7, 2017 2:48 PM # 
mayer22:
Hope Julia's back is ok.
Jun 7, 2017 4:03 PM # 
Bash:
Nicky is writing most (maybe all) of the news on ARWS Facebook and the ARWS website. But even if I didn't know that, her writing style is amusing and recognizable! :)
Jun 7, 2017 4:56 PM # 
britty327:
Having raced against Julia for years, I know she's one of the toughest women in this sport. She could be spotted last year towing her 200+ lb male teammate across WY at Cowboy, and she's definitely not lacking in the experience department. Injuries happen. So do navigation bobbles and communication issues. It's too bad they're pinning missing the podium on one teammate.
Jun 7, 2017 5:10 PM # 
abiperk:
Thanks for voicing that, Britt - I've been thinking the same thing.
Jun 7, 2017 6:48 PM # 
Bash:
This isn't the first time we've read this kind of story about a team that desperately needs a teammate and signs up someone they don't know very well at the last minute - someone who is doing them a BIG FAVOUR. And then they get angry when that person doesn't do things exactly the same way they do it on their team, and instead of working well together so the team can succeed, they complain - even to spectators/journalists. It's upsetting and I hope Julia writes a race report so people hear the other point of view. And I hope someone is there to give her a big hug at the finish line.
Jun 7, 2017 10:56 PM # 
Bash:
As the sun rises, the 4th and 5th place teams (Bones and Columbia) have started riding again after extended naps. The top 3 teams came in last night:

Seagate: 18:55 (55:55 hrs)
Haglofs Silva: 21:40 (58:40 hrs)
Estonian Ace Adventure Team: 00:35 (61:35)

I'm guessing Bones will arrive between 10-11 a.m. local time (a few hours from now) if they're feeling good after their rest. Columbia is pretty far back but they have Bivouac Inov8 less than 90 minutes behind them so if they're not feeling well today, they could be passed.

This is a major comeback for Bivouac Inov8, who spent 15.5 painful-looking hrs on the 49 km trek yesterday. Seagate took 8 hrs and Columbia took less than 10. Bivouac got a very thorough tour of that mountain range.

These are the only full course teams remaining.
Jun 7, 2017 11:06 PM # 
Bash:
??? Columbia's rest stop must have thrown off my dot counting but for some reason, Columbia is backtracking and Bivouac is continuing forward, and they could meet head-on any minute.
Jun 7, 2017 11:28 PM # 
Bash:
It's official. Columbia appeared to start riding at 6 a.m. after resting for hours. As of 7:15 a.m., they have returned to the place where they rested, and Bivouac Inov8 has moved into 5th. Not sure if they saw one another. It looked like Bivouac took a different route through the village.
Jun 7, 2017 11:31 PM # 
broots:
Nice post about Columbia and Julia, Bash. I agree with you and feel so bad for Julia. Having raced against her man, many times, she is a great racer, athlete, competitor and person. There is no question in my mind that she is just having a fluky bad event, and I'm not getting the impression her teammates are helping her out as well as others might. I can only imagine how she is feeling, physically and mentally:(

And it's official, Columbia has fallen to 6th. I'm wondering if they are going to pull the plug. Saw they had suggested it earlier after the trek (sounds like Julia is the one who kept them in the race at that point despite her back), and I wonder if the eroding team dynamics prove to outweigh the desire to finish. Columbia has never struck me as "that" team: the team to drop out of a race because they can't podium or reach their pre-race goals. I'm interested to see what happens here.

Bottom line: feel horrible for Julia and hope she is alright!
Jun 7, 2017 11:37 PM # 
Bash:
Altay Expedition Race Day 4: Finishing Fast
By Nicola Cameron

Just outside the luxurious Jindu hotel in the pleasant city of Altay, China (the city rather than the region of Altay), a high quality speaker is playing American music as part of the finish line. This is the first time I have heard an American song that wasn’t chopped up and remixed into a sort of undecipherable top 40 Chinese music salad. It’s clarity and familiarity provoke the usual end of race nostalgia – relief followed by a quick come-down from the real world breaking through the confines of the circumscribed race world.

Seagate crossed the finish line, once again first place, looking as if they had been shaken with seasoning salt and left in a dehydrator. Despite their appearance, they were much happier than when we saw them at the World’s Worst TA yesterday evening and noted that the bike ride to the finish was green and beautiful, a nice race ender after the harshness of the desert. Joanna Williams had the finish-line face I associate with the best adventure racers – so tired that she spoke with a time lag as if little weights held down her face and eyelids, but clearly still entirely functional and ready to keep on biking if that was required. And still smiling.

Waiting at the finish was a team of fans – the other youth New Zealand teams of Sneaky Weasels and Greenhorns, eager to see the leaders of Kiwi adventure racing win yet again. Sneaky Weasels, if you’ll recall, dropped out due to one team member’s dehydration, and Greenhorns had a mechanical issue on the bike. It turned out that the navigator on the Sneaky Weasels had panicked a bit during the thunderstorm high on the mountains during the first trek – “I guess I went into a bit of fight or flight” – and forgot to drink for enough time that he later began vomiting and couldn’t continue. The Greenhorns shamefacedly admitted that their team member – who works at a cycle shop! – didn’t change his old chain prior to leaving, and that the dust and the mud ground down an already old chain to unusable. “I thought I had one more race in it – I didn’t think it would be this technical down here. But yeah, I should have changed it.” Both mistakes generated some great stories and wonderful warm interactions between the Seagate old guard and the up and coming racers. The contrast between the freshly showered young’uns (the greenhorns are the youngest team here) and the wily and weathered Seagate was striking.

Silva arrived about two hours later. Chris Forne from Seagate finished the rocky trek with a smirk on his face – the sport’s best navigator was pretty sure he had nailed the difficult section and that nobody would be able to follow his lead. Despite Silva’s comment in transition that “Forne should be a banned substance in racing,” Silva managed to have almost equal success in the trek and held onto Seagate through the bike with two-hour gap. Although they didn’t have a contingent of young swedes waiting to cheer them in, they commented how much in favour they were of the incentive for youth teams. The best adventure racing team in Sweden has been the best team since 2002 – no new teams have come up to take its place. Bjorn Rydvall of Silva spoke dreamily of Latitude 63, another Swedish team in the race, that features young twin Swedish girls, hoping that they would get strong enough that they could add two new Swedish girls to the pool of team-mates. (Latitude 63 requested a pick-up so we’ll have to catch up with them later to find out how their race went).

Estonia Ace Adventure arrived in the rain and dark five hours later. “That was the hardest day I have completed adventure racing” said team captain Rain Eensaar. “The wind, in our face all the time, on the bike – this was very difficult.” After some prompting for details about their race, he continued “I have noticed such diversity on this race course, with the landscape and the weather. We have been in the mountains and the desert, we have frozen and burned and faced these insects and this wind. This will be a very nice challenge for the youth teams here. We saw one of them on the trek. I think they were quite lost.” After opening the champagne, he looked around at the crowd and said dryly, “now we will celebrate as Estonians do, by smiling a little bit.”

The top teams were all favourably impressed by the course, in particular, as Rain noted, the beauty of the trek and the dramatic change in landscape between the mountain trek and the desert one. Some mentioned that the course didn’t test them enough navigationally or make maximal use of the landscape. “Just one mountain range over and we’d have been on snow!” one racer commented. The desert trek was a highlight, which ARWS had fought to have included in order to make the course more challenging and different from the previous year.
There are very few strong navigators in China and the comfort in venturing off the tour bus track and into the wilderness is still in development, so, as the sport grows, we should see more interesting race course design. Louise, co-owner of the ARWS, noted that X-Trail’s desire to learn and capacity to effect change is astonishing. “They’re just so eager to learn,” she marvelled, “And when I ask them to change something they have this army of people to make it happen.”

As the night wears on and we wait for Team Bones to arrive in 4th, the Greenhorns are demonstrating the youth eagerness to learn, asking race staff questions about everything under the sun and dot-watching like it’s their new sport. Wei Jun the race director is standing near the finish, looking coiffed and spiffy and ready to welcome teams with his set protocol of champagne, media questions, and handshakes. (He hasn’t progressed to race director hugs yet). And Louise, the wheels of the race satisfactorily turning, is passed out in a chair in the ritzy lobby, catching five minutes of sleep.
Jun 8, 2017 12:04 AM # 
abiperk:
Maybe a lost passport for Columbia?
Jun 8, 2017 12:07 AM # 
Bash:
I wondered that too but they've had no signal for 50 minutes since returning to their rest spot. That suggests they put their packs down with the tracker pointed away from the sky - unless their battery conveniently died at that moment.
Jun 8, 2017 1:56 AM # 
Bash:
Columbia has retired.
Jun 8, 2017 3:40 AM # 
broots:
Bummed to see it end this way for them. They seemed to be moving so well into that last trek. I assume Julia's back just reached an impossible point. I hope she is OK.

And while I don't wish pain or significant injury for her, I hope we don't hear another report suggesting it was team dynamics...hard not to wonder after that detailed ARWS report.

Either way, feel better Julia, and amazing effort to still come so close!!!
Jun 8, 2017 3:44 AM # 
Bash:
I hope she's OK.

On a happier note, Bones has just finished in 4th place!
Jun 8, 2017 3:55 AM # 
Bash:
From Nicky:

Columbia Vida Raid update:
By Nicola Cameron
Columbia Vida Raid has just arrived back at the finish line, disappointed but all
in one piece. Julia is very coherent and does not even seem terrifically tired. She described her back continuing to give out as Vida Raid continued, the weakness extending to her neck, making her ride her bike with her torso collapsed over her bike. She described not being able to lift her head enough to see well, causing multiple crashes. Eventually, Marco said, they had no choice to pull out.
Julia says that she has raced Expedition-length races before (as opposed to our previous intelligence that she was not experienced in multi-day races) and that nothing like this had ever happened to her. "I never even get injured!"
Everyone is disappointed at the result, but, as Marco noted, "these things happen. We all did what we could."
Jun 8, 2017 4:03 AM # 
Carbon's Offset:
4th place Bones!! Woohoooooo!! A great result, and it even gets them into the money!
Jun 8, 2017 4:03 AM # 
Bash:
$6,000 U.S.!
Jun 8, 2017 12:26 PM # 
Bash:
Seagate's take on the race from Sleepmonsters
http://www.sleepmonsters.com/v2_races.php?article_...
Jun 8, 2017 1:58 PM # 
arhub:
quick note on team Wobujide - they're a team of locals from out here in Seattle, with a few expedition races between them. How on earth they decided to pack up and go to the far end of China for a race against some of the world's best adventure racers, I have no idea, but clearly, love of the sport is a big thing for them. I know the Captain, Robin Smith, has done Expedition Alaska and I've raced against him at the races put on by Yogaslackers, Quest, and Krank events. We need more teams like Wobujide!
Jun 8, 2017 3:13 PM # 
Carbon's Offset:
Wow! Into BIG money for Bones! :-$
Jun 8, 2017 4:01 PM # 
legendaryrandy:
Wobujide also did Godzone Chapter 5. Not that most teams don't, but they certainly have fun racing.
Jun 8, 2017 6:37 PM # 
Bash:
Tales from the lobby of the Jindu hotel
by Nicola Cameron

As teams continue to pour in, conversations with teams help us piece together a more complete picture of the race.
Team Bones arrived in a gale of emotion – after an incredibly challenging, fast, tight race, they let themselves go after the finish line and some team members shed a few tears. Especially the final bike ride, with the wind so strong it felt dangerous just to bike on the side of a road due to the very real possibility of a gust hurling you onto the asphalt.

Reflecting on the experience of racing in China, Roy said “it was near the end I think… I looked up and said: hey, we’re in China! It's such beautiful nature - it could have been anywhere in the world.” Liza Pye reminisced about the final checkpoint – on a huge alpine plateau, with riders and horses decorating the landscape. “It’s so beautiful here.”

But the team REALLY got animated when they described their favourite moment in the race – finding a small well-kept barn to sleep in along with resident cows. “It was so warm and nice – it was the first time I really fell asleep.” One of the amazing elements of adventure racing is how it distills the world into basic human needs. You can cross the globe and race with nomads, but finding a cozy spot to sleep in will still be a peak experience.

Everyone’s favourite unprepared team, the Aussie Battlers, successfully battled their way to the finish line on the short course. Although their rental bikes appeared to be falling apart throughout the race (the brakes didn’t really work, and a rear wheel kept getting loose, and seats wouldn’t stay in position), the absolute worst moment of the race for them was getting up after a 4 hour sleep. “We were so lost at night – it was raining and we couldn’t see anything – so we opened our tent and it only fit three of us.”
Even though the tent was regulation size, they hadn’t tested it out with all the Battlers. Emily Rowbotham said “I was laughing a bit when we got in it at first – I was like “omg we’re so stupid.’” The 4th team member slept outside in a bivvy sac consisting of two garbage bags. “We woke up and we were all so wet – just soaking, and then I touched the ceiling and all this water poured in. And it was still raining and we still couldn’t see anything that matched the map.” They all roared recounting the story.

When describing the best moment of the whole experience, they glowed. “Well, you know, EVERYTHING!” Said Emily. “I mean it was just so fun! We saw crazy camels and people riding – we saw a camel with a yurt packed up on the back!” Max Messenger noted how helpful everyone was: “they all smiled at us, offered us things – one guy gave us snacks and cigarettes from his truck and offered us a lift.” (no word on whether they accepted the cigarettes.)
I jokingly asked them what their next race was and they didn’t miss a beat: “The wild side in Canberra. We just need to train a bit more. I could really see from this that adventure racing is for… adventure racers. Like, we have a lot of work to do.” Looking forward to seeing what the team will do once they have purchased bicycles of their very own.

Team Latitude 63 raised eyebrows for everyone watching their progress when they elected to separate after the cut off for the short course – while the twin Swedish girls I dubbed “the gymnasts” because of their extremely tiny size and youth had continued on, their male team-mates had returned to the hotel. I asked Tim Larsson, who is a member of the army reserve in Sweden, rescuing downed planes in remote locations, if this meant that they were tougher than him, and he replied positively yes. “You know these squirrels? These Disney squirrels that talk all the time? (Chip and Dale) They are like that – always talking to each other and happy. They share everything – their food, their packs, their shoes.” When I caught up with the girls, I asked them if they would be racing separately on different adventure racing teams and they looked distinctly annoyed at the idea. The Swedish adventure racing world will have to offer them some pretty good incentives to get them to join traditional teams.

With only five teams left to finish, the hallways of the Jindu hotel are starting to smell like wet gear, and tousled and sleepy adventure racers are prowling around looking for beer and ice cream and sharing race stories. All the signs of the completion of a successful expedition race are in place.
Jun 8, 2017 6:44 PM # 
FB:
I've had the 'dead-muscle' thing before but only in my neck (RTNE Queen Charlottes). It was very bizarre. I could not imagine how you could continue racing with that in your whole back. Not painful (for me) but no control whatsoever. ... the only pain was emotional - from the laughter of my teammates watching me bike like a bobble head... F%#^%#'rs :-)

Totally feel for Julia and huge Kudo's for pushing on!!
Jun 10, 2017 3:21 AM # 
Leanimal:
They needed a chiro on their team!
Jun 14, 2017 4:23 AM # 
Bash:
Nice summary video made by the XTrail folks
https://www.facebook.com/XTRAILCN/videos/326705347...
Jun 14, 2017 4:26 AM # 
Bash:
Further follow-up from the organizers' Facebook page. Once again, they start with "Behold"!
____________________________

Reason of Xtrail Altay Expedition, the only ARWS race in Asia.

Behold:
At the foot of mighty Mount. Heaven, or Mount Tianshan,
Blessed by the azure sky, and flourished by the snow-melted torrent,
Hospitable with kindness as can be,
The local clans and tribes live their peaceful and thrift lives like they have done for hundreds of years, if not tens of hundred of years.
In our race with intensive competition in such a red and hot arena, day and night, unstopped,
Did you slow your pace for a short while, in order to:
Socialize and make acquaintance with them, Have a quick glance at their lifestyle,
And seed the interests on their traditional philosophy about human and nature in your hearts and minds?
____________________________________________

Truly:
A journey farther than the far,
A challenge harder than the hard,
And a precious experience going beyond adventuring and race.
Jun 16, 2017 12:08 AM # 
silkychrome:
update on Julia from Vidaraid from her husband Doug:

After returning from China and because of severe dehydration I took her directly to an urgent care facility to get some IVs. (She still hasn't been home) After listening to her heart they sent us immediately to the hospital. Julia's suffered from Exertional Rhabdomyolysis which caused acute renal failure. They pumped 13 IVs through her and her kidneys still did not respond, so we started dyalisis yesterday. Most of you know what a tough gal she is and she continues to inspire me with her courage and grace. I don't even know how she made it back from China!! It's going to be a long slow recovery but we are up to the task. Thank you all for the positivity and love!
Jun 16, 2017 4:19 AM # 
Bash:
Wow, it's incredible (albeit unfortunate) that she was able to push on for as long as she did. In case anyone else is curious about this condition, I dug up an article I'd seen previously on rhabdo, kidneys and ultrarunners. They all recovered and returned to running.
http://www.lehigh.edu/~dmd1/kidney.html
Jun 22, 2017 3:59 AM # 
Bash:
An Australian youth team, Koala Bear Hunt, made this great 5-minute video while they were racing. Check it out if you want to feel like you were there. Favourite caption: "Majestic AF". ;)
https://www.facebook.com/Rexrides/videos/vb.665091...

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