Baise Adventure Race, China 2016
“Your ticket is void”
Not the words you want to hear when trying to check in for an international flight… I looked to my left to see my team mate Sam Manson was having similar issues… Not good. Marcel and Simone had checked in with no issues at all and had even commented that it was almost to easy… As traveling with a boxed bike is often a bit of a drama.
Sam and I were in trouble… “Computer says no”. We got on the phone and called our travel agent… It took some time to get through, but once we did she was great. No one really seemed to know what the problem with our tickets was, but finally after waiting nervously for quite some time we were given our boarding passes. We only had about 30 min left before boarding by this stage, so it was a quick transition through customs and into the boarding lounge. When boarding the plane, to add insult to injury, Sam and I had our boarding passes for our domestic connection in China removed… We have no idea why, but we were told we would need to check in again in Shanghai, but our baggage would continue to Nanning, our final destination. Upon arrival in Shanghai we quickly emailed our travel agent to see if the ticketing problem was resolved. She was nearly sorted, but we had to wait another hour before checking in. No drama. Hopefully… Check in went smoothly this time, but I was a bit concerned about our checked luggage… However, we had baggage receipts showing that it should be seeing us in Nanning so thought nothing more of it. We were just super grateful to be boarding our last flight and that we were actually going to make it to the race! Something we have come to take for granted.
Upon arrival in Nanning, Sam and I were not particularly surprised to find ourselves without checked baggage… The saga continues…
The rest of the team met up with the race staff who were waiting for us, while Sam and I saw the baggage help team. Some acting, some basic English and a whole lot of confusion later, we had “confirmed” our bags would arrive over night. The plan was made for the rest of the team to go on to Baise without us. Sam and I would wait for our bags. We were lucky that two race staff would be joining us. We went to the nearest airport hotel. A chilled night, good food and fruit, followed by a 10hr sleep ensued. Not all bad (although plenty of power cuts). The next morning arrived and it was time to see if our bags had to!
Success! Bags arrived with a generous 40 yuan compensation (about $9 NZD). We then had some time to kill at the airport before we were to leave for Baise, so it was off for a quick run for Sam and I. It was muggy at the airport and the sweating was real, great acclimatisation and it felt good to move after the travel. The run was followed by a sponge (aka hand towel) bath in the toilets then some more waiting before heading to Baise with a few more athletes. There were some issues with people missing flight connections, so we had a big bus for the 5 of us.
Arriving at the race hotel with our gear after a bumpy horn blasting 7hr bus ride was a relief to say the least. We spent the next 2 days prepping for the race, recovering from the travel and getting gear organised.
Day 1 came around before we knew it. The stage began with a 5km run through Leye township. We finished this stage in 2nd, looking good. It was a quick transition into the bike and the team worked hard to keep up the pace and intensity. We lost a few positions on the ride, not quite firing like we usually do.
The last stage of the day was a bit of an epic… It was a run stage that also contained some cool caves and finished with a massive 150m abseil for one of the team – which I was lucky enough to to get to do!
We finished the day in 3rd, not far behind Thule, but about 20min behind first placed Raw Adventure.
Day 2 was a relatively short day. It began with a 13k paddle. We set the pace in the boats leading the stage and were able to put a few minutes on second place by the time we transitioned onto the mountain bike. The bike stage was an interesting one, being only 15k long and containing 5km of bike carrying. We elected to use flat pedals for this stage so we were a bit slower on the riding sections. We were passed by Raw Adventure, but managed to get back ahead through the bike carry section. We were neck and neck by the time we were approaching the TA… Crazy tight racing! We were quicker to transition and set off on the last 3km run leg with a slight advantage. Raw Adventure started to gain on us and our teams became mixed together, with our team still maintaining the lead… Just. As the finish approached the sprint began! 3 of us finished before Raw, but one got caught up in the tangle and only just managed to cross the line before the last team member of Raw! We won the stage by half a second. Awesome fun and intense racing.
Day 3 was an epic day. The course would have to be one of the most inspiring that I have raced through. We began with a Mtb which had some really fun technical sections and descents. That was followed by a run stage. This contained some neat single track and the most impressive natural limestone cave that I’ve seen. It it was a good climb up to the cave, to a point where you then dropped down into the abyss to then climb up the and out the other side. It was a tunnel of epic proportions and the sort of thing you could nearly fly a Boeing 747 through. From the cave it wasn’t far to the next transition. Here things were changed slightly from what we were expecting as we entered a neutral time zone – meaning that the race time stops until you exit the transition area. We made the most of this and ate some food and prepped for the next leg, about a 5min breather before continuing on. The next leg was great. Two athletes did an abseil that dropped into a lake, while the other two swam across the lake, getting a solid head start of the abseilers who also had to do the same swim – with harness and kit. As the weakest swimmer in the team I was grateful to avoid the abseil and get a head-start on the swim. This was a rare moment in China racing. I was able to breast stroke, backstroke, float, relax and freestyle my way across the lake, with no race pressure, as we could only start the next leg once the abseiling duo arrived. The pressure was on them. Nice!
Onto the kayak stage the team settled into a strong relaxed pace and focused on the process. We felt we were moving steadily, but there was a lack of race intensity. We were on our own in a solid second place, with a big gap to first.
The paddle was beautifully scenic and I found myself reflecting on how lucky we were to be able to travel and race overseas in such an amazing environment. Living the dream.
Exiting the boat we had a short and painful uphill run to the finish, roughly 2km. We pushed hard and crossed the line feeling satisfied with our second place – or so we thought!
Due to the neutral time zone it actually worked out that we were third for the day, by 1 min!! I was gutted and it felt average. We had been a bit complacent and forgot that teams could be close on time even if not in sight on the paddle due to the stop clock in the neutral time zone. A good lesson. We had raced the paddle hard, but I’m sure that if the following team had caught up to us physically, rather than in time we would have found the energy to hold them off. Lesson learnt. The nature of the corse that day meant the 2nd placed team had spent 35min in the neutral zone… Sometimes being ahead isn’t an advantage. Oh well, one day to go and we were still 2nd overall.
Day four was fairly solid. The stage began with a mtn bike mass start. Again we had some issues on the bike… Poor Sammy just couldn’t find his legs and it was a bit gutting to drop off the leaders so early. We worked hard as a team to keep with Thule. We were sitting in second in the overall standings, Thule were third. We had 4 mins lead, so the goal was to just keep Thule in sight and finish with them. That would be enough to keep us ahead overall. We worked hard on the bike to keep with them. This stage was great. I was loving the techy downhills and tough climbing, feeling good.
Onto the last leg of the race. A 33km mountain run. Talk about a good way to finish us off!! This was a tough leg. We were working as hard as we could to catch Thule but they had pulled away and we no longer could see them. Ahh!! We settled in and focused on what we could control, pacing ourselves smartly and hoping that Thule had gone out to hard. The final part of the run was a 3k GPS orienteering leg. I was a bit sluggish mentally entering this one (understandable right?) and plugged a wrong number into the GPS which we corrected eventually, but wasted a small amount of time that we really couldn’t afford. Another lesson learnt. Slow it down get it right and then start charging. The o section was fun once we got the hang of things with Sam and I leap frogging to plug GPS way points in. It was pretty dodgy running through the busy Chinese city with my head down trying to plug GPS coordinated into my watch while running… Thankfully Marcel acted as spotter, calling out turns and hazards. There was a fun rope traverse across a river at one of the cps. After finishing the orienteering we “sprinted” (a relative term at this stage of the race) the last stretch and down the finish chute. Huge relief and satisfaction always follows when you complete a challenging race, but this was mixed with a feeling of disappointment when we heard Thule had put 6 minutes on us, meaning they had claimed 2 place over all and we were 3rd (2min behind after 4 days of racing. So close!).
The slight bonus for us was that Raw Adventure had made a mistake and not collected the orienteering cps in order as per the rules. This meant they received a 30min (fairly harsh) penalty. This put them off the podium for the day and bumped us up to 3rd for the day. A small consolation bonus for us. I was glad the the penalty had no impact on the overall results, as Raw Adventure had raced really well, dominating the race and most certainly deserved the overall win. I’m looking forward to future battles with these guys!
Team O2B NZ will be heading back to China in mid June for the Pengzhou Adventure Challenge.
I can’t wait.
Great video from CCTV (China Central Television) Reporting on the race – click below