Only two races into the 2000 season of the Hi-Tec Adventure Racing Series, Team Balance Bar has already taken on the aura of the infamously pinstriped New York Yankees. "They're gonna win 'em all," opined series producer Mike Epstein. "Of course, something could happen illness, injury, a bike mechanical but right now it looks like we're going to have to dream up some special tests to slow them down."
Indeed, two weeks and 3000 miles away from the season opener in Castaic Lake, California, Team Balance Bar members Corky Ewing, Bob Schulz and Sylvia Corbett breezed through the insufferably hot and humid Florida conditions like it was an easy training day. Making its dominance even more surprising was the fact that Corbett had taken off the intervening week to do the first Florida Coast-to-Coast Eco Adventure a 180-mile jaunt in 100-degree temperatures with different teammates.
Showing no ill effects from the previous weekend, Corbett was constantly just ahead of her crew, forcing them to hang with her pace. "She's such a stud, always pushing us on the run," marveled Ewing.
Despite the former Canadian triathlete's boundless energy, the key to the easy win probably rests with Schulz, the Zen master of the special tests. Not only did Balance Bar fly through the orienteering segment like there was a path of breadcrumbs on the ground, but Schulz actually figured out the balance beam test before the race while it was still covered with a tarp.
In a way, the nine-minute victory margin of Balance Bar obscured a competitive race between the next five teams. The urban tropical wilderness of Oleta Park, with its singletrack trails a confusion of roots and coral rock in stark contrast to the pristine, idyllic beach where most of the special tests took place, became a battleground where no lead but Balance Bar's was safe.
back, Team Exide Batteries rallied into second after the orienteering, and then
got trampled on the mountain bike as Byrne literally passed out on the bike...."
Battling for a Place on the Podium
Despite Team Balance Bar's impressive win, it was Team Exide Batteries who led the race through the first run segment, but it ran into trouble when the seats on the team's Sevylor kayak weren't properly inflated. Hanging tough, Exide Batteries made it to the human ladder special test holding onto 2nd place, only to have Cassy Byrne hit the deck several times as team after team passed them. Fighting back, Team Exide Batteries rallied into 2nd after the orienteering, and then got trampled during the mountain bike section as Byrne literally passed out on the bike. The team gamely finished 6th, with a severely dehydrated Byrne heading for the hospital soon afterwards.
Team Exide Batteries' troubles helped Team Hi-Tec to overcome a poor run and rode the wheel of hot mountain biker Karen Lundgren to charge into the team's second straight 2nd place, nine minutes behind Team Balance Bar. Lundgren, a 35-year-old educational consultant from San Bernardino, California, was all smiles after the race. "The mountain biking here was so much fun," she said, expressing an opinion shared by almost no one else. "It was technical, twisting, winding. We just have to be quicker on the run. Maybe if we get a race that doesn't start with the run, we can get Balance Bar."
swallowed salt water on the swim and was blowing chunks all the way
Just two minutes back of Team Hi-Tec, in a repeat of Castaic Lake's battle for 4th and 5th, Team Fogdog and Team Red Bull slugged it out for 3rd and 4th. Fogdog once again made the final pass in sight of the finish line. "Last time it was on the wall, today it was the balance beam," muttered a not too disconsolate Red Bull team member, Andy Petranek.
"It's all about fortitude. We could have quit a dozen times today," added Fogdog's Doug Crytzer. "Toby (Angove) swallowed salt water on the swim and was blowing chunks all the way across. I broke my chain on the bike and was about to lose it, but Toby was the one who settled me down and got it fixed. You just have to keep going."
While Balance Bar's Corbett hails from Fort Lauderdale, the first all-Florida team to finish snuck onto the podium in 5th place. TeamWork, from the West Palm Beach area, passed a half-dozen teams on the mountain bike section to snare its place in the sun. Sonia Houseman, another veteran of the previous week's cross-Florida event, was amazed at the team's performance. "My teammates don't even train. They were incredible today." Perhaps Houseman's legendary 15-hour training sessions made up for the deficiencies of the rest of her Work-mates.
In the all-male division, Team Running Wild, of Dania and Hobe Sound, Florida, threatened to become the first all-male team to ever have the fastest time at a Hi-Tec event. Only four minutes off the Balance Bar pace heading into the final mountain bike stage, Team Running Wild suffered the ignominy of having several coed teams pass them and wound up 14 minutes behind the Balance Bar crew.
As the hashers say, it's now "on, on" to Atlanta for the third stop of the Hi-Tec Adventure Racing Series on June 18, with only one question looming can anyone stop Team Balance Bar?