Storm the Ten
Saturday September 18, 2010
“It was a cold and wet December day when we touched the ground at JFK…” Lyrics from the U2 song kept dangling away in my head as I pushed through the painful 3 kilometer trail run. The Concept was simple: You run, Kayak and Mountain bike for 10 straight hours. The race itself on the other hand; not so simple.
3 kilometers to a runner isn’t a very long distance to run… but by the third lap at this year’s Storm the Ten Adventure Race, it might as well have been 20 kilometers I had to run – I would have likely struggled just the same. My stomach was in knots, legs were clearly fatigued and I was facing some inner demons pretty early on in the race. All this and I still had a long way to go.
So how’d I get myself into this mess? Let’s rewind a bit.
On September 18, 2010 Sean Roper and his Storm series hosted its 4th annual Storm the Ten Adventure race at the beautiful Kelso Conservation. It’s not your typical adventure race however, this epic event has a somewhat manageable route that you must complete as many times as possible within the 10 hour time limit. When I first read about this race, I for some reason expected a clover leaf style of race course with a central transition area… alas; this was not the case (I later read that it wasn’t on the website). Instead, the course layout was like this:
Run 300m from the start/finish line to your Bike Transition (including running up 4 flights of stairs and crossing a long enclosed bridge), Mountain Bike 4 kilometers to the Boat transition, boat approximately 500m, bike again 3 kilometers to the Running Transition, run 3 kilometers through a trail system, bike 2 kilometers back to the bike transition, run 300m back to the start/finish area and repeat. Did I mention that there was a 5 kilometer non marked “collect the flag” mass starting run to which we had to complete before we were even able to start the race? It wasn’t until 3 days before the race that they actually released the details of the course, when I think back now as hard as the course was I enjoyed every minute of it.
I woke early that morning to prepare myself for the race as I really didn’t have much time to do so the night prior. Usually when this happens, I end up forgetting something important like a spare tube, spare socks or my bike… but I did a good job this time around and remembered everything (thankfully)! The forecast had been calling for rain the entire weekend so I was mentally preparing myself for a messy race all week, as it turned out the conditions of the day were fantastic with overcast skies and no rain. Kelso is the perfect place to hold an event as it truly is a close venue to travel to no matter where you live. Once onsite I breezed through registration very quickly, got my cool race souvenir (amazing Storm the Ten cycling multi-tool) and set up my gear in their proper transition areas (2 altogether – the bike transition and the Start/Finish Transition). Once done, I was set and ready to go.
With about 10 minutes before the race start, Sean Roper dropped the bomb on us that there would be an unmarked Rogaine style beginning before we were able to start on the actual course. It caught us all off guard, but it truthfully made me even more stoked to start the race. I quickly reviewed the small map they gave each team, determined the route I’d be taking and then situated myself at the start line awaiting the starting siren. 9:00am came and off we went.
I quickly ran around like a mad man gathering all three flags as fast as I could, and I found myself starting the actual course in good time despite the bunch of hills we were forced to climb. I quickly ran to the stairwell, up the stairs, across the bridge to the bike transition area. Once atop my bike, I set a blistering pace through the trail system to the start of the first climbs. For some reason, and I’m not sure why this is the case, I had it in my mind that the bike portion of this race would be a cake walk compared to most races I do. What I found was that the first section of the Mountain bike route contained some pretty taxing single-track climbs; they had my heart rate pounding immediately and my legs wondering what it was that just hit them! The first section of course blasted you while the latter section was pretty fast and flowing for the most part. Throughout the day this section of the bike took me anywhere from 18 to 20 minutes to complete. I was happy to arrive at the boat transition for the first time to give my legs a break and was greeted by the friendliest group of volunteers I have yet encountered in any race. Once there, I grabbed my water bottle, lifejacket, paddle and made my way over to a bright red kayak and hopped in (boats were supplied for this race). It was a quick paddle around the crystal clear lake before I was back atop my mountain bike facing one of the courses toughest climbs of the day, a long and gradual paved road. Once I made it up this bugger of a hill (a hill I titled “Big Meany” later in the race when I was a bit delusional), it was a fast and flowing 3k mix of single and double track to the Run transition. The run was fairly straight forward. It consisted mainly of single-track trails, with a mixture of stone hills, boulders and uneven terrain to make it interesting. When I started my run I quickly knew I was in for a nasty day just by how I had already felt at that point. Something wasn’t right – I’m not sure if I took the “collect the flag” start too quickly, or if the Mountain Bike course tuckered me out… I was feeling pretty spent – and this was only the first lap!!!
“New York like a Christmas tree, tonight this city belongs to me…” I eventually made it back to my bike where a long and steep descent waited for me. The view from the Run transition was absolutely amazing as we were soo high up on the Niagara Escarpment. As I was descending down the Mountain bike course towards the bike transition area, there was a sharp left hand turn that I clearly took too fast as I ended up tumbling into the forest. Mental note: Take that specific turn a bit more slowly next time. I got up, brushed myself off and started pedaling again. Once I made it to the bike transition area, I was once again throwing my shoes back on and racing across the bridge, down the multiple flights of stairs and then a short jaunt to the start/finish chute. Voila, I was done my first lap. 1:32:06… only 8½ more hours to go.
I clearly didn’t pace myself the greatest the first lap.
The next few laps I was able to maintain a solid Mountain Bike and boat split, but my run speed was drastically dwindling into a walk/run combo. By the 3rd lap I was ready to keel over and really considered dropping out of the race. My stomach was in a lot of pain, cramping and knots to sum it up. I soldiered on and sang to myself to get my mind off of what it was I was doing. “Blue lights on the avenue, God knows they got to you…”
As stupid as it sounds, the singing worked. I managed to complete 3 more laps from that point – 6 laps in total missing the opportunity to go for a 7th lap by only 14 seconds (they close the track down at the 9 hour point). When I limped over to the results computer I was very surprised that I made it in 3rd place, missing the 2nd place spot by a measly 10 seconds. That hurt. The winner only had me by about 23 minutes.
This was my last bike related race of the year and I was very happy to end it with a podium placing. It’s been a long year of injury and poor finishes, so it was nice to place well in back to back Adventure races (Also came 3rd at Logs Rocks and Steel the week prior).
I’m realizing slowly that my race interests are shifting slightly. I’m no longer as eager to compete in Duathlon and Triathlon, and I’m finding myself gravitating more and more towards these Adventure races. This in part has a lot to do with the event organization and atmosphere. Whether you are a fierce competitor or a newby to the Adventure Racing scene as I am – you are very welcomed by all, and everyone is extremely friendly to one another.
I certainly look forward to revisiting this race again next year, as well as Storm the Trent earlier in the Spring. I have to say if you are an athlete looking for a challenging day in a beautiful setting, check out any one of the Storm events. You won’t be disappointed.