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Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Adventure Racing Russian Style

Greg Barbour reports: Usually a 12 hour adventure race would not scare me but I was a bit curious going to my first race in Moscow what exactly I was in for.

Getting an entry was the start....did they reply to emails or calls...no eventually rang English speaking friend who did the deed. But still wasn't sure even what to bring..so I brought the lot...climbing gear bikes tents wetsuits etc. Driving in Moscow is like an adventure race anyhow so I was prepared... its a bit like driving with no rules...you need traffic lights on the pavement. There has been three deaths on the road outside our house in the last year...another story.

Got to race with plenty of time I thought. But then the fun started...200 competitors could any speak English?... event I discovered was rogaine style with three types of controls, some only on foot, some only on bike and some special(climbing swimming etc) Started at 7 PM finish 7AM. Individuals or teams. First problem...clues in Russian, I can speak but not words like under a rock at the edge of thicket halfway up a tree. Eventually found help but was so late I missed the start.(only 5 mins!)

I decided to start running figuring it was raining and it is always easier to run before biking...good choice.Amazing controls, the map was an old photocopy in two pieces on normal paper...one half the green color was blue...impossible to read and then I found out it was 30 years old. I have never been on such a poor 1;50000 map even the power lines where missing or in the wrong place, tracks where all overgrown if you could find them and the overgrown was nettles!! Yow wee!! Give me NZ native any day.

Amazing found all the controls half by luck and half safe route choice. The controls were placed "near the feature" so on a tree some up as high as 5 m..try climbing that in the rain...I failed and waited for a group to come along and let them punch for me! ( I did try...honest) After 4 hours I had all the foot controls and a girl following me as I found some controls for her!(she did ask if I minded if she came with me) I had also waded a 1km unmarked swamp and ran for an hour or so in nettles.

Now on to the bike for nighttime. Got one control then decided to go for a special control which I discovered was swimming in an unlit lake now past midnight. No lights no safety boat just told to swim about that direction until you hit an unseen island and get unlit control....weed everywhere in pitch black I started to realize we have a built in safety culture.This was reinforced at next control a MTB control where you had to cross a field in long grass that was obscured by a row of trees..... unmarked. Eventually sorted out only to spot control 4m up a tree in head high nettles...abandoned the bike (hoped I could refind it!!)and climbed tree. Things then got worse...took a route choice via a building and down a road found myself on the wrong side of an 8 ft fence(honest I did not climb any fence to get there!!)...and a guard coming up behind me with wild barking dog!! Managed to climb the fence and reach over and retrieve bike just before guard arrived..sprinted away down the road.(maybe the guard was just coming to pen the gate for me?) Missing track and impenetrable unmarked creek blocked next control, gave in and went right round.

Decided on long road leg to make controls easier but light went out. Then things got rough and slow with a little petzl...amazing still found controls in the nettles on my own and then the sun rose...just in time for my next swim in a dam this time had to dive under to 2 m to punch each control which where underwater!! Weed everywhere.

Finally got to the climbing, too late but they had another novelty in an old deserted chemical factory they sent us to find controls following arrows in the dark...building completely derelict sharp metal, corroded metal ladders, crumbling wet concrete, descending in wells and through manholes.... eventually emerges on roof of three story building with no obvious exit route only to realize they wished us to climb unprotected off the side on an old metal ladder (very old very corroded) and then jump on an old balcony with no floor only railing following which a 3 m jump to the ground!!

Nearly finished but time is running out..take easy track back to finish only 2 km on the bike...problem is track is missing and just head high nettles and liana...I hour later and 45 mins overtime the finish at last ...spirit finally broken.

I knew Russians were tough and uncomplaining but this lack of safety and bike controls with no obvious track was something new for me...did not bother to check results...just went home and tried to heel my stinging legs for two days ...skin actually cracked from the nettle stings.

Yep I am m probably stupid enough to do it again ...but will check more carefully the map and area.

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