I woke up yesterday morning with very sore and aching muscles from head to toe and various blisters inbetween. I’m finding it really hard to breath, the deeper part of my lungs is hard to reach and am only managing lots of short breaths. I looked over at team mate Hamish and said “Well, I’d forgotten what it feels like to race in China” referring to the current discomfort we were experiencing. Hamish agreed that indeed Suqian was a great awaking and reminded that we still had two or three more races to do. Sunday however was a solid day out.
The full name for this race is a mouth full: 2015 China Suqian Luoma Lake Santai Mountain international Eco-Quadrathlon Classic. I’m sure it sounds more impressive in Chinese. The Race start was at 6am Sunday (10am Sunday NZ time). Our New Zealand team is Marcel Hagener, Simone Maier, Hamish Fleming and myself. Named ‘Torpedo 7’.
First Stage was a 2.5km swim in the lake. Our team snuck in a quick warm up swim just 10mins from the start and pretty soon the gun went off. We swam reasonably well together and exited the murky, weedy water in 4th place behind Thule(Swedish/NZ:Martin, Helena, Sam Clark, Dougal Allan), Raw Adventure(French/Aussie:Jacky, Mimi, Klayten Smith, Alex Hunt), and Peak Adventure (Aussie).
A sweet slick transition and we exited onto stage two in 2nd place behind Thule. This Stage was a 20km kayak. We caught up to Thule, who were in 1st place, within a couple of kms and by the turn around point had gained over 200m ahead. It wasn’t even 8am yet and we were now leading the race. On the way back the wind really picked up, waves were lapping over the bow of my boat. not wearing spraydecks was a bad choice. I tried to explain to the team members that it was quite bad but they told me to keep paddling until they realised I was nearly completely sunk. Using Hamishs drink bladder as a bail we still slowly made our way to the end, maintaining the lead because the other teams had similar trouble too.
Stage Three: 20km inline skate. Simone took the lead, Marcel drafted behind her, I was tied to Marcel by bungy rope and Hamish drafted behind to make sure I didn’t fall. I was easily the least experienced in skating. Still we managed to vary between 25-30kmph, far faster than I mangaed in practice and we had a fairly trouble free stage.
Stage Four: 59km Mountain bike. This was mostly off road and I really enjoyed it. It took me half an hour to get the legs and lungs to work together but once they did I felt great and pushed hard. The course is very flat and we all had aerobars on our Mountain bikes which is usually an odd combination. The trails were often undercover of poplar trees, running along stock banks around local crops. Just the smell of the poplar trees reminded me of the farm at home and was a nice feel of nostalgia. With 3km to go we over shot a turn off by 500m and had to retrack. Otherwise a faultless ride. We arrived at the transition area and told we had a 15min lead.
Stage Five: 2km run, run up 28 story Hotel, Abseil off, 2km run back to transition. Only two members had to do the abseil so Marcel and I ran up the stairs. On the way up I had a wee spew on the steps, (after the race, competitor Dougal from Team Thule said he noticed this on the way up and saw it as a good sign we were suffering) Simone and Hamish waited patiently below. Just 1meter from touching the ground, Marcels rope was a tangled mess and it took us a few minutes to get him down.
Stage six: 35km Kayak. Back on the lake it was a matter of pushing hard in the mindless lake of smog for over 3.5 hours. The air temp was now up around 27 degrees. 17km into a light wind meant 17km back at the turn around point with a tailwind but no cool breeze in the face, so very hot. Another chance to see how far back our competitors were and good motivation to keep the pace up.
Out of the boats with very soggy hands and stiff legs, we limped up to the transition area focused on the next stage.
Stage seven: 45km Mountain bike: I hoped like the first bike ride that my legs would warm up eventually, they did, but not very well. This stage was mostly on tar seal with a few sections of very slippery and sticky mud. It was the first time of the day I felt really shit and possibly because of dehyrdration from the long kayak (even though I drank 3litres of electrolyte and 2litres of water).
Stage Eight: 30-40km road run. This is where everything changed. The only other stages that required navigation was the kayaks. We used Hamish’s GPS for those coordinates. The run stage was a secret until it began so I input the coordinates into my GPS while we ran. But it was all wrong, my GPS was horribly inaccurate and the map was shit. Really really bad. Check the picture below out. Just a statelite image from very high altitude and bad quality. The other teams had very good GPS’s and we couldn’t compare even though we ran fast. Some nav was possible with map but not easy. My GPS was way off, sometimes by 400m, sometimes by 2km, but never accurate. So therefore came the frustations of the mistakes. We over shot every control. Ran around in circles, lapped the edges of entire lakes back to where we’d already being and watch headlights in the distance of other teams pass by. We ran far and fast, we were fatigued and stopped often to try and clear our heads and focus on getting our orientation right. Sometimes we managed to even think the North needle was actually south.
We covered 39km in the run, nearly 40mins behind 1st place and they covered only 27km in the run.
Devastating after being in the lead soo long and being so confident we could follow through with the win. I wanted to win so bad but that day wasn’t ours unfortunately.
Final Results (top 7):
1st: Raw adventure (Jacky, Mimi, Klayten Smith, Alex Hunt)
2nd: Thule Adventure (Martin, Helena, Sam Clark, Dougal)
3rd: Torpedo 7 (Marcel Hagener, Simone Maier, Hamish Fleming and myself)
4th:New World St. Martin’s (Daniel Jones, Flavio Vianna , Corrinne Smit, Seamus Meikle)
5th: Peak Adventure (Jared Kohlar, Chrissie, Paul, Guy Andrews)
6th: Chimpanzee Bar (Romans Evarts, Andrea Peebles, Andris Ansabergs,??)
7th: Next Generation (Emily Wilson, Tim Farrant, Deklan Hodsell, Theo Wordsworth)
Onto the next race in China now. This one is new and a spontaneous decision just three days ago. We were invited by the race organisation to attend with free travel, entry, food and accommodation. On the train now to it but I’m not even sure where we are going. I think it is near Beijing and some stages will be on the Great Wall of China, an opportunity not to be missed. We will not race hard here, just enjoy it and save our strength for Wulong in 9 days time. Edit: the town/city we are in now is Shanhaiguan, next to the ocean and the Great Wall.