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Hi-Tec Adventure Racing
HI-TEC Adventure Racing


Eco-Challenge '98
Raid Gauloise '98

Cactus on the Track
Phoenix, AZ - Lake Pleasant Regional Park
May 23, 1999

Hi-Tec Adventure Series
Dodging rattlesnakes and Gila monsters, 140 teams ran, biked, swam and kayaked through Hi-Tec's first adventure race of the season. Adding insult to injury, in 90° desert-dry heat in Lake Pleasant, Arizona, barely a competitor escaped the painful wraith of the jumping cholla cactus. But, the stinging needles couldn't wipe away the ecstatic smiles of those who pulled themselves over the last brutal challenge wall and took that victory run down the winner's chute.

"With a gaggle of churning bodies, Team Christine's Jeff Hogan took a kick to the head that left him with double vision...."

When the dust cleared, Team Balance Bar, consisting of Californians Bob Schulz, Corky Ewing and Lynn Albrow, crossed the finish in 3 hours, 34 minutes and 53 seconds, nearly five minutes ahead of second-place finishers, Team Red Bull - Jim Garfield, Andy Petranek and Jenny Wood, also of California. Third place was grabbed 10 minutes later by a local crew, Team Camelback - Robert LaRoche, Lena Martin and Louis Paciello.

"At the Hi-Tec race last year we came in number 30 so we are really surprised at being third," Martin said. "Out paddling the kayak, we passed two of the leading teams and I began to realize we could do this!"

One of the techniques Camelback useded, roping members together, was also used by a number of the groups to help pull comrades up hills or on the run. LaRoche explained that the extra pull keeps slower members from exhausting too quickly and "spreads the suffering equally."

Hi-Tec's first race of the season was a 7.5 mile, pounding trail run over cactus-laden, shifting rock, hillsides and through narrow, ankle-spraining arroyos. Then came the 12.1 mile mountain bike leg which, although not singletrack, blasted brutally over washboard-rough roads with features like Deadman's Curve and Wheeze 'N Whine Hill.

Hi-Tec Adventure Racing
A 1.5 mile kayak in wind-tossed yellow Duckies brought teams near to the end. Interspersed throughout are Hi-Tec's signature "special tests." These diabolical surprises test the mettle and mental powers of participants.

The first very special surprise was to hand each team at the 7:15am, coed start line an envelope. Inside was the revelation that the run would be kicked off with a swim in the brisk, canyon waters of Lake Powell. With a gaggle of churning bodies, Team Christine's Jeff Hogan took a kick to the head that left him with double vision.

Leading the early part of the run were last year's Hi-Tec series national champs, Team Nature's Garden - Pennsylvanians David Hinkel, Butch Ulrich and David Hinkel. Emerging from about five miles in on the most treacherous part of the trail run, Tucson's Team Dunn Deal (Ray Dunn, Jon and Bridget Black) led Team Troubleware Specialized - Sarah Ballantyne, Colorado; Jack Dunn, Scottsdale, Arizona; and Nick Moore, Palm Springs, California. Much was expected of this team which featured Ballantyne, a gold medal mountain biking champion and on the first team to finish the 1998 Eco Challenge in Morocco. As the race neared the next special test, Team Balance Bar made their move to third.

"One-day adventure races offer average folks a chance to compete alongside world class athletes. And, on some days, to triumph..."

Running out of the wilderness, the three-person teams hit the next test, carrying four, 50-pound sandbags through knee-deep water and back. Picking up their bikes, racers immediately faced a set of three walls that both humans and machines had to scale. As bikes and bikers hurdled themselves over the tri-obstacle, word came that a Team Spanky member was down on the transition blacktop having cactus needles dug out from between his toes. The team with the outrageous bare-butted imp logo lost a lot of time, but struggled back to the lead pack for a sixth place finish.

Leading the all-male teams into the cycling were the 16-year-olds of Team Defending Champs - Roscoe Carney, Derek Pisel and Danny Cuellar, all of Phoenix. Entering their first adventure race ever, the team lost considerable ground in the kayaking, as two members combined experience consisted of paddling a Duckie around a swimming pool. In the end, youth and enthusiasm lost the top male finisher's position to the age and experience of the Rural Metro of Tucson firefighters Team Catch 'A Fire/Emaxx - Scott Laird, Chuck Williams and Dale Jansen.

Hi-Tec Adventure Racing
The kidney jarring mountain biking ride shook the leader's pack into a new order with Team Hi-Tec - Paul Romero, Karen Lundgren and Roger Williams - of Big Bear, California, busting its move the first six miles into the rocky ride. Team Balance Bar moved into second with Team Red Bull - Californians Jim Garfield, Andy Petranek and Jenny Wood - in hot pursuit. Tucson's Team Dunn Deal was hanging in with the pack at fourth. A wrong turn knocked former leader Nature's Garden out of the top-15 finishers.

Then it was back into the refreshing lake via bucking yellow Duckies where the race was won and lost for many. Team Fog Dog - Pennsylvanians Doug Crytzer, Toby Angove and Susan Falvey, with kayaking one of their strengths, was penetrating the lead pack when disaster struck. As they reached the peninsula on the other side of the bay, a sharp branch from a submerged stumped popped one of their two kayaks and sank their dreams of victory. Falvey pointed out though that it's all about fun and, despite towing a sinking craft, the team finished in the top 10 with promises to kick it at the Florida competition.

It was in the yellow crafts that Team Hi-Tec violated what many say is the cardinal sin of adventure teams - they split up. Team Balance Bar cruised by the lagging Hi-Tec team member who was also smoked by Teams Red Bull and Camelback.

Out of the water, the next test was an orienteering problem which sent the teams back out into the cactus-strewn countryside and Lynn Albrow, of Team Balance Bar, racing back to the bike transition to pick up her shoes. Hi-Tec ran into trouble in this section, sending Teams Balance Bar, then Red Bull and Camelback, ahead to the final special test, an excruciatingly high wall with rope netting down the back.

Here, the true spirit of adventure racing prevailed as participants helped exhausted members of other teams scale what had become horrific heights.

Whether it was the first-place smiles of Team Balance Bar or the smiles of those teams that finished hours later, the sense of accomplishment and fun was apparent. The continual cheering at the winner's exit made it clear that spectators, friends and family were enjoying this sport, as well.

Although many in the field come from more traditional race backgrounds such as triathlons, marathons and mountain biking, the adventure race crowd is a unique community. Former triathlete and Team Real Slow member Tim Maimone says the tri crowd is "glitzy and serious" while the adventure racers "have more tattoos, body piercing and fun."

Michael Epstein, president of MESP, creator of the series, said, "everyone is so happy with this first event in Phoenix. Our June 6 race in Miami will be totally different. From cactus and canyons in Phoenix to sun, sand and surf."

No matter where the venue, one-day adventure races offer average folks a chance to compete alongside world class athletes. And, on some days, to triumph.

J.K. Westlake, MountainZone.com Correspondent

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