Mar 11, 2010

Patagonian Race 2010

Report by Valentin Chapa, team Eddie Bauer.

What a race! Those are my first thoughts when I look back at Team Eddie Bauer’s involvement. I had several highs and a few lows, but most importantly…I had a great time sharing my experience with my teammates, the organization, fellow competitors and with adventure racing fans everywhere. In my mind, this is the last and only wild expedition race available in the world.
Rob has written a lot pertaining to this race and our abilities. I second many of his thoughts when it comes to our racing and life experiences. I truly trust Rob and Druce with my life and when it comes to navigation, mountaineering and kayaking, I don’t really trust anyone as much as these two professionals.

Leg number one:
The kayak start, our kind of race start. It would not happen due to inclimate weather and the Chilean Navy’s desire to maintain safety at the start of the race. This was a huge blow to our race strategy. After crossing on the ferry, our strategy changed. We would march swiftly to the bike start instead of run the beach leg. We wanted to be fresh for the afternoon bike leg in the wind, plus we would still have over 500Km to travel! We passed the whale skeleton enroute to finishing the trek in 13th position. Not in front, but not last, and we were feeling good about the upcoming bike leg.

Leg number two:
While reviewing the mountain bike leg before the race, we knew we were facing a headwind. WOW. That’s really the best way to put my thought on how the wind blew our echelon left formation apart about 1/3 through the headwind section of the leg. I remember trying to keep inline with Druce’s back wheel and then just being blown sideways. I looked around and our entire team looked like we were each biking into different directions. Shortly thereafter, we spent a majority of the rest of the 2/3 headwind section of the bike leg walking our bikes and trying to keep them from being blown out of our hands.
Life was easier after we made our left hand turn and had the wind on our backs. I have to say the Eddie Bauer soft shell pants and primaloft jacket were the key to the entire team remaining warm during this leg…especially with the constant 30-40 mph winds and the 70-80mph gusts.

Leg number three:
Our first trek the beautiful landscape of Tierra Del Fuego was approximately 55km. The grasslands, subtle hills and the start of the slow elevation gains began here. We spent a fair amount of time here stepping out and enjoying the vast wonderful views of the grasslands. Wearing the EB base layer and the softshell pants were vital to our travel during this stage. Encountering the wind, occasional wet land, rain and nightfall kept us warm. The primaloft jacket was also great when the wind was too cool for just a shirt. I will say this about Rob’s navigation…spot on at every checkpoint.

Leg number four:
The long mountain bike leg in front of us was going to take us from checkpoint six to eight, about 180km of dirt roads. We packed up with about 24hrs of food, this later would become an issue as we learned that the bike leg was much longer than originally expected. We traveled along the “now very endless grasslands” that Rob mentions against the wind, hills and occasional woodlands. The navigation was pretty straightforward, so enjoying the beautiful landscape is what I found myself doing when not concentrating on our echelon biking. On our significant left hand turn in this section, a truck pulled up and started siphoning petrol from a 55gallon drum into it’s tank. It was funny to see because the drum was in the truckbed! Since I can speak Spanish I asked about a grocery store and I was told of a yellow house at an estancia. Ten kilometers up our path Paulette and I went up to the door to ask if we could purchase some food. After realizing that the lady was having difficulty speaking to me in Spanish I asked if she understood English. It was very funny to learn that she was from New Zealand! We spent an hour and a half eating, drinking coffee and making a new friend. We also learned of her encounters with the Brazilians and the Spanish teams the day before. There were some hilarious moments in her home.

Leg number five:
At the arrival of checkpoint eight, I was feeling very confident. Rob and Druce had done a magnificent job of navigating on the past treks and bike rides. Our times were not very fast, but we were managing our time. We had discussed being more efficient in the transition areas, and I felt that as a team we were very happy to be getting off our bikes and into the mountains. I remember hearing Druce talk about our confidence levels and inside I was so happy to be heading up, up into the mountains.
The trek leg started off nice. We went up a couple thousand feet along side a river making our own trail. Occasionally Rob would find a guacano trail and our path would become a little easier. A cameraman was following us for the first four kilometers approximately, it was funny to hear him tell us that no team had taken the same route up into the mountains and that had been his 7th trip up with a team. Talk about pristine wilderness in southern Chile. I will not forget this trip.
We arrived at checkpoint nine at about 0100 that evening. The staff were awakened with our arrival and were encouraged to let us pass through the rappel so that we could continue with the race. After about 1.5hrs of getting to the rappel and getting each of us off the rope we short prepared to continue on. The next 12 to 14hours became our most difficult to trek. As a team we ran into a few obstacles and just had difficulty finding a way to get ourselves moving fast enough to reach checkpoint ten by the cutoff. We eventually arrived and learned of end to this magnificent race. I was shocked. I didn’t know how or what to do. This was the first time I had not reached a cutoff. The next day the team traveled to checkpoint eight with two other teams, the Brazilians and one of the Chilean teams.

While having not completing the race is an unfulfilled space in my heart, I became a fan of those teams who pushed on and finished this magnificent race. My interaction with those of us teams left behind became a time of shared experiences and reflection of what “could have been”. New friendships were made and bonds were created amongst us that cross the line from spectators to athletes. Possible future endeavors have been discussed, but one thing shared with my friends from several teams is a common thought…we will be back next year.

Thank you to Wenger, Eddie Bauer, and Numa sunglasses. Without your help, I wouldn’t be able to compete in this year’s Patagonian Expedition Race. I hope our stories express the gratitude, and wearing your products show the world how great it is to be a part of your organizations.

Best regards,
Valentin Chapa
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