Monday, January 12, 2009

IGWA Race Report

The Isle Guadeloupe Adventure (IGWA) was an ecologically focused, stage adventure race held on the beautiful French outpost of Guadeloupe. Team YogaSlackers was invited to come along for the ride, and so we made the trek from Vancouver (Lina), and Santa Barbara (me) to the islands! A long road trip took Lina down the coast to meet me for the flight. After a worrisome delay in Puerto Rico, we made it to the race start hotel, the Pierre & Vacances resort outside Saint-Anne.

The race format was unique. Nights were spent either at the hotel or at a "bivy" site on Grande-Terre. Days were spent going through a variety of points-driven activities. Points were awarded for performance (or lack thereof) a few times a day, and also based on knowledge of the area. Guadeloupe is an area whose rich heritage we as racers got to explore over the course of 6 days. It is also a wonderful place to practice a wide variety of sports.
On Grande-Terre, during the first few days of the race, we got to surf, windsurf, coasteer, snorkel, golf, and sail. The reliable wind makes Guadeloupe a great place to practice windsurfing, which is what we got to do! I had been windsurfing once before (more than
10 years ago...), and Lina had never been.
Needless to say, that event wasn't really our strong point. Surfing, which is also excellent on the islands, was a strong point, and we rocked the house, racking in a full 20 points.

The last event of the first day was our first heritage discovery event, where we run around the city figuring out the answers to various questions (what is the name of the man depicted by the statue in the such-and-such square?). We knew we were allowed to talk to locals to get the answer, but it took a few of these events for us to get it down. Mark and John of team Scotland Adventure figured it out on the first try, however! They went for the nearest bar, ordered a round of drinks, and asked the locals each of the questions (they knew 9 out of 10 of them). After a few more drinks, they went into town to answer the last question,
and finished ahead of everyone else,
with every question correct, and a nice buzz to boot.

Once back at the start/finish of th
at leg, we found ourselves in the middle of a great cultural event, where they were serving handmade sorbet, in a variety of local flavors like coconut and guava.

That night we ate at a restaurant in St. François, and we ate some locally caught fish served in a way that would become all too familiar as the week progressed...

On the second day, we got down and dirty, and did a brutally hot coasteering leg. The heat really gets to you, and it makes real exertion (racing!) very difficult. Sweat is everywhere, and you can't possibly drink enough to stay near hydrated.
In this first coasteering leg we pulled in second, after Christophe and Bruno of team Salomon. Then some spectacular snorkling, an IGWA hunt, and a few beers and a drum circle in St. François.

IGWAs became something of a phenomenon during this whole race. They were small yellow cards with the IGWA logo printed on the front, and different things on the back. An IGWA Hunt was a short event running around a pre-set area looking for these things, with various purposes. Sometimes it was to put together a sentence out of words on the IGWAs, or put together a word from letters on them.

The two islands that we spent all of our time on are markedly different. Grande-Terre is a flattish island (mostly old coral), with not much total elevation, and more sunny weather.
Basse-Terre is the southwest island and is a huge volcano (La Grande Soufrière), with lots of rain, rainforest, and clouds. On the first day on Basse-Terre (day 4 of the event), we did a fun rappel off of a gigantic waterfall, 3 kayaking events (we won them all), and a fun snorkeling shindig on Pigeon Island. We wanted to try a underwater acro-yoga pose, but buoyancy and air management are harder than they seem! It was pretty great to see how happy all of the race staff was to see Lina doing so well with the paddling, coming in minutes ahead of the pack.

We climbed most of la Soufrière on the second day, which was a challenging climb, especially since so much of the event was focused on sprinting and french, neither of which Lina or I are exceptional at. On the bright side, we ended up in a hot tub at the end of it, which is something we are exceptional at!

The last day was sadly a bit anticlimactic, a few blazing-fast sprints, some more archery, a peaceful walk through a beautiful botanical garden, and a merry walk through Deshaies, during a live music and culture festival. Then it was a long drive back to the hotel, pack the bags, media debrief, and off with us! We actually stayed a few extra days to really learn how to use windsurfers, but after that, we left the beautiful islands for a less relaxed life back in the city.

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