Racing in China is (in my experience so far) hard, oh so hard. But also incredibly beautiful. With spectacular landscape, colors and mighty mountains. Looking nice, but still offers a lot of suffering.
Adventure Race World Series presented early summer that a brand new race was coming up in October in the north west corner of China, and this was gonna be something truly special, and hard to get a spot. Just days after this exciting news got revealed, I got a call from Mattias in Adventure Team Haglöfs Silva. They were looking for a girl to join their strong team for this race. So happy to join in for X-trail Altay Expedition.
Race started with a short demonstration prologue, nothing counting for the result but a nice warm-up and get to know the area. This also killed the nervousness in a efficient way. Felt ready to go harder next day.
Expected a super speedy start, like we were supposed to run a couple of k's not 300 k's. We got off in the very front of the bunch and felt right away that it wasn't a crazy rush, but don't be fooled the pace was high, and as the elevation started the pace kept high and the heart rate rose. Heat was on no mercy and a bunch of 5-6 teams stayed together, meaning pushing pace both up and down.
With all these teams gathered coming into the first transition to kayak there was no time to spill, you'll wanna go out with the train of boats to catch a wave and not get left behind. We were first out on the clear blue lake, and a little group of 3 teams formed. But due to a eating stop, some issues of who was gonna be in the front together with hard to steer kayaks and a quite strong downwind we all got separated. We lost a couple of minutes but had the teams insight. As the first night threw the darkness (and cold) upon us we entered the 2:d TA (transition area) and the 2 teams ahead of us were still there and the chase was still tight.
Out on yet another running session with elevation to gain. Started straight off uphill, and we kept spotting the teams just in fornt of us and by the first check point we were once again all together. It got clear to us pretty soon that they were gonna stay with us, to get some good navigation through the darkness and mountains. Aaron were solid in front of everybody and the rest of our team tried to stay close and next in line. At the end of this section we were following a narrow trail, all in one line, and it just goes on and on, this part of adventure racing is kind of special. It's a lot of hours spent without anything exciting or particular happening, nothing really changes and during this time it feels so endless but after I can't even remember what I was thinking about all this hours, the memory is so brief, feels like we only spent minutes.
Next up was a STOP (!) Oh yes "the noodle stop", as a part of the race and a connection to the local culture we were gonna stop for 2h to make noodles. "What? 2 HOURS ???!!!" you'll ask, thinking about the 1 minutes instant noodles you made in the afternoon after school as a kid. Well this was a little more, real starting with a dough. But Mattias and Rob took on the task, while me and Aaron hit the sleeping bags for a nap. Our plans were to swap if the noodling were gonna take some time. But pretty soon Mattias and Rob could serve us all some delicious noodles and then also get some sleep or at least resting with closed eyes. As it was humid and cold and a bunch of teams squeezed in together and others coming in the actual sleeping was kind of limited.
...to be continued...