Saturday, May 15, 2010

YogaSlackers Wins the Desert Winds 24 hr Race.

Chelsey here -

Last weekend I competed in my first 24 hour adventure race. It may sound crazy to those who know my past- but it is true.   I'd  jumped in head first to expedition style adventure races right from the start of my racing career.  Luckily, Robert and Druce Finlay of Desert Winds AR put on an awesome expedition style 24 hour race- complete with a 3 mile night swim through the canyon, exciting knife edge mountain ridges and beautiful long paddling sections on Lake Mead.  Jason, Daniel and myself were all smiles for the entire race. We raced a great race, we were fast, our navigation was spot on and the scenery was amazing.  The backdrop of the endless mountain ridges with it's many shades of reds and browns looked stunning up against the blue, green of Lake Mead.  

The race started at 9 am with a 30 k paddle.  With little wind, we cruised.  3 hours later, we were on the beach headed up a slot canyon to the knife edge ridge Robert had warned us about in the pre-race meeting. "It's exciting, it's fifth class climbing, lots of talus... be careful and use good judgement." At that point, I knew it was going to be an exciting and challenging race.  The ridges and washes kept us on our toes (literally) and alert- there was no time to get tired!  We were wired with excitement when we finished the first trek to find Druce and his buddy out in the middle of the desert cooking burgers in the hot sun!  Out of all of our races put together, we had never seen that- and it wasn't a mirage.  After scarfing our burgers down (they'd even thoughtfully brought some veggie burgers for those of us that were not beef eaters!), we headed out for the optional trek, Druce yelled up to us -" see you in three hours!"  5 hours later - just after dark, we came running back into the check point. Druce offered us some more burgers, but we declined- we wanted to get done with the swim as soon as possible.

After weaving our way through a wash and down the canyon walls, we came to the water.  Daniel and Jason blew up the packrafts and prepared for our paddle out.  There was no way we were swimming in the cold water at that time of night!  We came prepared! or so we thought...  "This was brilliant" Jason said excitedly "We are going to be there in no time- hop in Chelsey!" The plan was for me to wrap my legs around Jason as he paddled us both to the next CP.  It was great for me, I just pretended like I was in some kundalini class holding a crazy yoga pose for a long period of time.  Jason and Daniel didn't fare out so well. Daniel had all the packs, so he had a bathtub full of water and Jason couldn't move his legs the entire time, so they were completely numb for 10 minutes once we finally made it to the end of the "adventure swim".  Despite their numb legs and my incredible open heart (I was in a back arch the whole time), we were stoked "where else can you do this?  we are paddling our packrafts in the middle of the night deep in this beautiful canyon!" Jason yelled- I couldn't have agreed more.

Our next task was to hop in our kayak, paddle deeper up the canyon to a slotish canyon.  Once there, we'd run up the canyon wash to find one more checkpoint,  then bolt back down to our boats, hop in and paddle like mad back to the finish line.  Easy right?  Yes and no, the navigation was no longer a challenge and we could see the end in sight, but it is at this point, where there are no more real mental challenges, that the sleep monsters start to attack...  After our final run to the checkpoint, we hopped in our boat and started sleepily paddling towards the finish.  Our conversation grew slim, our shoulders were expressing fatigue and our eyelids were growing heavy.  "We better sprint or I'm going to fall asleep on you guys" Jason yelled up.   So we did.  With Daniel navigating up front and setting the cadence- we started doing intervals.  After 2 hours into the wind and waves, my arms felt like they could've fallen off.  "40 more minutes, we are going to that point." Daniel shouted back.  The sun was coming up. The light glistened off of the waves and the mountains where we had been running around in where silhouetted behind us. I put my head down and started up a breathing pattern for my strokes.  "5 minutes"....."1 minute"... and then just like that we were getting out of our boat and running up the road.  We were the first team in at 6:08 am. Our final time was 21:08.   We gave a pat on the back and some high fives, pealed our wet, dirty clothes off and passed out in the tent.  It was a good, hard race.  Many, many thanks to Robert and Druce of Desert Winds for putting on an exciting, challenging and beautiful race.   After helping to put on a race of our own the weekend before, I know how much hard work goes into putting on a race that will have people talking about it for a long time afterwards!


  1. I really enjoyed creating this course for you. ...and I thoroughly enjoyed having you guys out there. see ya racing!

  2. Sounds like you guys had a great time!! you rock!!
    Jeff Hobbs