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Wednesday, May 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Expedition Idaho survivors headed for finish at Silver Mountain

Expedition Idaho adventure racing competitor. (Expedition Idaho)
Expedition Idaho adventure racing competitor. (Expedition Idaho)

ADVENTURE RACING -- The end is in sight, at least figuratively for competitors in Expedition Idaho, the 6-day adventure race -- 528 miles, 137,000 vertical feet – night and day through North Idaho.

"After an unbelievable week, where at times, we never thought we could pull everyone back together, the race has come together perfectly," said organizer David Adlard of Athol. "And it looks like our grand scheme for the Blues and Brews finish (which many told me wouldn’t work/you’re crazy) is going to work perfectly, despite the forest fire near the Silver Mountain Resort which almost got to the gondola!"

Read on for Adlards just posted in-the-field report.

Last night (Thursday),  we were manning FIVE separate TAs, as racers worked like mad to get to the finish. Team Thule had a 5 hour lead heading onto the Mineral Ridge trek, and had extended that to about 8 hours by the end of the 8 hour trek as Seagate stopped and banked a little sleep. The Kiwis were just leaving the TA to start the trek as Thule rolled in still looking strong. Thule had a very quick turn around for the beautiful 35 k lake kayak on Lake Coeur d’ Alene, which they finished at just around 2:00 am. They were in transition less than 20 minutes before they were back on their bikes for the final  “regular” segment – the ride to Honeysuckle campground, which is our designated race “Dark Zone.” They passed through the gates at 5:15 am, stopping their race clock with just one final 49 mile segment – “he Mad Dash”- to the finish tomorrow. With their clock stopped, and after destroying the course15 hours ahead of projected pace, we were able to ferry them up the road to the Resort where they can hang out, shower and rest a bit before we drive them back out to be with their fellow racers tonight.

Seagate is expected at the DZ any moment, and Team Bones, solidly in 3rd, is part way into the trek, with the paddle and ride to the DZ still to go. They are expected in near midnight, well ahead of the 0300 cutoff.

Light in Motion and Team Gear Junkie/Yogaslackers pushed hard through the night in hopes of being able to “clear” the massive course before the cutoff, and we are awaiting word on their time into TA 6 to see if they made the cutoff for attempting the Mineral Ridge trek. If not, they will proceed directly to the paddle.

News on the other full course, “Premier” teams…

Team SOG had a rough paddle, as a sudden summer squall came up, hitting them with 2.5 foot waves, forcing them to shore to wait it out. They completed the paddle, though they missed the CP 35 cutoff for the “Nasty Nav” rappel. At TA 4, they rested a few minutes and set into the woods for “Claustrophobia,” the challenging trek/whack around and over Lakeview and Green Mountain. They checked back in at TA 4 after the trek at 2:17 am, had their alarms set for 6:15, and were on the “Ridgeline Ramble” bike leg at 7:00, headed for Farragut State Park at “Survival Quest.” They are expected in literally any minute.

Team Gramicci rolled into TA 3 around 9:00 pm, and were in the canoes by 11:00. They had missed the time cutoff to attempt the optional O courses, so elected to paddle directly to TA 5, site of “SQ,” where they arrived at 8:00 am this morning, having rested along the coast for two hours enroute. They are midway through “SQ,” and are approaching the “Castaway” station, where they have to construct a raft and sail it around the island in Buttonhook Bay. They will finish SQ by 3:00 pm, and head toward the DZ, picking up 5 additional CPs on their way.

Gramicci, NYARA and SOG join the 5 elite teams as the only ones able to complete the brutal third segment, nicknamed “Big,” but which some racers now call “Big %&*#@%!” This is an amazing feat – it took Thule, one of the fastest teams in the world over 23 hours to complete it, with only two 45 minute rests. Well done to them!

At TA 3, NYARA, faced with a fairly stiff breeze, and a nearly 30 mile canoe decided to jump to the “Sport Course” in order to get a chance to see some of the other cool segments like SQ within the race, and took advantage of the shuttle and started SQ with Gramicci at 9:00 am. They aced the “O” course and were headed to “Michael Phelps,”: the swim challenge, and then on to the Tyrolean and rappel.

Meanwhile, back at the party…

The 5 remaining teams who had previously been short-coursed all ended up rolling in to TA 5 within an hour of each other Thursday night. As they rolled up to the fire, tiki torches, hot mac and cheese and mashed potatoes they were commenting on how the last TA “was the party TA,” then another group said how TA 3 was the party TA, and then… well, as you might expect, TA 5 became the new party HQ, beginning the “party before the party before the party!”

The teams all went out and competed several of the SQ challenges before settling in at the new party central. 5 teams, tons of volunteers and staff popping in and out in between runs to shuttle gear etc, made for a festive atmosphere normally associated with the final banquet on Saturday, not Thursday night! The racers compared notes on their plans and hopes for the remaining full day, including getting first hand suggestions and “helpful hints” from the race director on routes to the DZ by the largest number of Cps etc. Teams began to settle in around 12:00 near the fire. I thought I even heard the faint strains of “Kumbaya” amongst the cries of the coyotes and wolves in the nearby mountains.

First light, and the action was stirring – our FANTASTIC, AMAZING TA crews had the hot water boiling for oatmeal, hot chocolate, coffee etc, as the teams packed up gear boxes and got ready for their last full day.

One racer commented on how we had provided so much hot, fresh food to them all week that they had most of the food they had brought for the race left over, and they didn’t want to ship it home… the discussion ensued, and a new foundation was created – we are going to collect all of the food the racers did not need and donate it to one or more of the local food banks and charities in the name of the racers of Expedition Idaho! An outstanding gesture from the teams! Thanks!!

One of the other conversation threads led to an amazing and very real possibility of a new kind of race experience to accompany ExpId 2012 (if I ever get my sanity back after this one!) for many more racers to get the expedition “feel” without having to die along the way… interested? More later as we hash the details around, but suffice it to say it could be an entire new form of “Adventure/Expedition tourism/racing.”

One of the funny things we noted is that though it was pretty festive, it will pale beside the fun to be had tonight at the DZ when ALL the teams have arrived, and only have the “Mad Dash” victory lap to go on Saturday before the “rock concert” finish! The best news is that all 13 teams are going to be able to cross the line within a couple of hours of each other, and enjoy the fitting reward to their ultimate racing experience, with over 2000 screaming fans and several live bands on hand to cheer them on as they enter the “stadium” for the final sprint to the line. It promises to be like no finish ever seen before for an AR!

Alright – back out onto the course as we help the teams get to the DZ tonight!

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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