Last year I went to China, called in just a few weeks out to fill in for a team. Now reaping the rewards from the experience, The almighty Team’ Oso Negro’ headed back to China for all of April. We competed against the world’s best Multisporter’s in two events: The Wenzhou Outdoor Challenge and The Baise Leye Outdoor Quest. The pieces to puzzle of our super team is Ailsa Rollinson , Hamish Fleming (both based in Wanaka), Luke Osborne (Napier) and Myself. Reunited and ready for action… but open minded of course (China is reputable for many surprises and sudden changes to your day).
After Coast to Coast I had two weeks completely off training, bought a new mountain bike (Giant Anthem X1) to ride for China and had no running sessions at all apart from one 20km Road run and a set of 800m intervals in the week before China. No running due to trying to get the ankle I wrecked prior to C2C to heal. Very slow healing going on… still hurts today. In general though training lead up to China has been fairly relaxed and fun which was great considering the busy Summer just been.
Getting to China was easy, no oversized baggage fees, a window seat with no one next to me and, the change over in sleep is no problem with the clock being only four hours behind. We arrived at lunchtime 2 days early.
April 12th = kick off! It begins again. Today we arrived at the Wenzhou sports stadium to start day 1 and the 1st stage is Roller blading!! I’ve left my helmet in my hotel room… I sprinted down the street before start and stopped a guy on a scooter, handed him 20 Yuan cash and he (frightened I would kill him) handed me his helmet and I took off. $4NZD, And the team is saved from any penalty. Skating section was flat in the city with a few bridges and nasty speed bumps – 8km. Luke’s warehouse skates had small bit of gravel instead of ball bearings so he worked hard against the resistance to keep up.
Next we had a Kayak down the city canals. Navigation and a map were necessary to find the check points for the rest of the stages today and Hamish took the reins for that. He did a smooth job considering the outdated and poor quality maps provided. The plastic doubles (2person kayaks) were crap as usual and painful to spend more than an hour in. 2hours 45mins for a 26km at race pace gives a wee idea of the type of boats we’re in. Ailsa and I pair together for the kayak stages and together we are unstoppable! Except when it’s time to eat…
10km MTB next but all on road and all uphill. Hard and fast! Suddenly the sun came out, a rare occurrence as usual is thick smog above. Aaaand the sun was very very hot. I can still see the tan line on my thighs from that particular day. We got to the top of the hill and just left was a 16km run that looked to be all downhill but actually wasn’t. We overshot a turn off and lost about 20mins. Then at 9kms in an abseil with a waiting line. A quick chance to cool off in the shade and rehydrate.
I’d run out of fluid and still 7kms to go. The last 2km along the streets was pushing my energy limits. All of us were truly spent at the end of that day.
Day 2 – All teams started at one minute intervals straight across a river using a bridge made out of bamboo boats then up stairs for 2.5km and 400m climb.I pushed myself hard, we passed a few teams on the upward section making the hard effort worth it. Down the hill then 12km of flats – running in time with a Aussie team and a Finnish team.
Now a 35km kayak in a heavily polluted and large volume river. First 1hour was against the flow due to tide. It was filthy and keeping any ‘water’ from splashing into my mouth was not easy. Lots of spectators and fireworks from the locals along the way but they still weren’t particularly motivating . Onto the final stage – a 46km Mountain bike. 2 massive climbs and descents with unrideable sections.
Hamish and I both required a tire fix, slashing a rock on the downhill. This wasted about 15mins and lost us more placings. Ailsa had small crash, skidding out on loose rocks, tough as, she was back on the bike without a word within a second. The day rounded up with a 60m abseil from the top of a high building which of course we had to run to the top of.
Day Three – Today a mass start into a tightly built village for orienteering, map was simply a google maps satellite image, barely able to make out the roofs… but we made it. Faster than others too.
Straight after was a 12km run over hills to the beach where we found the kayak section that was to follow is cancelled. Too rough they say… well a rest during a race is always welcomed but skipping the kayak is disadvantage to our team due our kayaking ability. The sea was not rough…grrr..1.5hours later, including a bus ride, we started the last stage: a 57km Mountain bike with very seized up legs. Sun came out too, ahhh so much sweat… First 18km was ALL uphill and about 800m climb.
The rest was undulating with many nasty pinches. Then just 2km run to the finish where we are greeted with a 3m high wall to climb over. Not very easy but sure added to the fun.
We treated ourselves to Dicos (Chinese KFC) and then lost a bib during pack up so were penalised 5mins… another huge disadvantage.
Day 4! – A short day comparably. Our bus driver got lost along the way to start and asked locals for directions. 1st stage is a 15km Kayak on a lake, with a small twist. One team member is on a high swing bridge and other 3 members are in the lake below. I volunteered. It was an abseil to the water.
More than half decided to descend early and only a few of us waited for the gun, that was really frustrating… then in the water I cooled my burnt hand from the fast decent and the 100m swim to the stationary boats was not my strength. Just about last to exit the water. It gave us something to chase during the paddle though!
Next a 25km MTB with sections on road and technical trail which suited our team and we claimed back placings (3rd fastest time overall) . Finally a 8.5km trail run to finish. Hard and hot with china standard steps served right to the end.
We finshed 7th overall despite a few hic ups along the way. Now 5 days of resting in an even smoggier part of the city and passed time by stuffing our faces with food, food and more food . Not the best build up to the Baise Outdoor quest.
The Baise Outdoor Quest – 3 hours on plane and 6 hours on bus to get here but well worth it for the higher altitude, deep in the hills with much fresher air. Most top teams had gone back to their home countries after Wenzhou race. Only Team Thule was faster than us at Wenzhou so we somewhat expected to come 2nd at Baise and be on the podium every day.
Day 1- 1km run to the town square to another 3m wall to climb over! Chaos amongst the teams but we overcame its mighty height.
We are then happily greeted by another wall… this one is on a slight angle which would be possible to get up at speed BUT… they poured water on it… I got hold of the top and the team used me as a human rope/ladder. Now orienteering where we split up. Mine involved a very big uphill climb.. up stairs… I was last of the team members to the transition area, however 4th team to finish and ahead of Thule. The 35km mountain bike began and Thule past us about 30mins in as expected. Luke had a wee crash this time on a downhill corner landing hard on his hip.
A short and steep unrideable section included as well as a cave under a huge hill. To finish the day we had a 7km trail run which was TOUGH. Lots of steep up and down. At one point my vision seemed to be failing and I struggled to see where I was going. Still we had not caught the Chinese teams ahead. A cool caving section to wrap it up and we finished 5th.
The 2nd Day – A huge 2hour drive along a bumpy old road to the start, thoughts were all on our poor bikes knowing that the way they are all strapped together on a truck means copious amounts of grinding metal on metal (or composite if you’re that way inclined). Today is a mass start run in full kayaking kit (Life jackets, paddles, drink system) for 3km to our boats then a 20km paddle. We finished the paddle in 2nd placed, right where we belonged but not as large a gap as we would have liked with Team Mobi Garden and Team Red Bull (Chinese teams) only a few minutes back. The MTB was tough as always with huge uphill climbs, 32km to the end straight into an abseil off the bridge into a stream. Unfortunately we were held up by the officials who decided they were unhappy with the configuration of our harnesses… it took almost 5mins to sort the problem, enough time to allow Team Red bull to arrive. A quick abseil into the stream with a 2km run to finish.
Red bull passed us with 300m to go… so frustrating and upsetting. Today we made it to the podium in 3rd place.
3rd and final day – another run to the kayaks, only 600m this time though and a 13km paddle.
This time we managed a much better lead on the Chinese team, trailing only behind Team Thule. Next a gruelling 17km run but luckily the first 6km was flat. The Chinese teams are renown for their running ability and we were passed by Mobi Garden just 500m from the end, Red bull not far behind.
The next stage was cancelled. It was a mountain bike and apparently the clouds at the tops were too thick for visibility… expecting to make time on the teams during the bike we were disappointed at this disadvantage. Back into the buses to the next stage. A 4km run…Up stairs… Hoooorah. Luke now has the record for the most leg cramps during a 30min drive too. Everyone’s legs had seized up again, we joked about CRC… The stairs were tough and the Chinese loved them. Hamish and I completed an upside down flying fox across a huge valley but we saw nothing due to the low visibility.
Oso Negro finished in 4th place overall in the Baise Leye Outdoor Quest. Proud of the effort we had all put in, Hamish treated us all to some 2min noodles. Fair to say we all were rather worn out from 2 weeks of racing and glad it was over.
Oso Negro is the only team there that does not have sponsor. We have established ourselves as competitive yet chilled out, here for a good time not a long time type. The bonding nature of our team makes us appear as a bunch of old mates out and about for mischief and yarns and maybe a race or two, and well I guess we are. Thanks Ailsa, Luke and Hamish for more memories!
As for what’s next? I’m not sure… but I’m never sure.
Check out an awesome video of Wenzhou Race below: