Saturday, December 20, 2008

Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge

The Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge (ADAC) has come and gone in true whirlwind fashion. This was a stellar event like no other I have competed in, for many reasons...

The race production itself was enormous and must have had a multi million dollar budget. The military convoys moving gear, catering, hookas, arabian knights pouring nightly coffees and portable showers are just a few of the finer details that were addressed by the race. Locations like remote desert islands, grassy oasis' with waterfalls and camping at the foot of the biggest sand dunes in the world were highlights. One of my favorite side amenities of the race were the persian tents with pillows that we relaxed in nightly after our meals . Smoking a race provided hooka would have been nice if smoking tobacco was in line with my race regiment, its not (yet). We got to hang with and get to know many other teams this way and also relax after a long day of racing hard.

Although we did not see the entire country, I believe we had a chance to see all that it offered geographically. Busting metropolis', remote desert Islands, Mountains of sand and beautiful country sides were the fields in which we played. Out of all of these I would say the Desert Islands most surprised me and the sand dunes amazed me with their size and beauty.

I think my teams strengths lie within being able to persevere in truely nasty conditions and get going when the going is tough. We usually start OK and do better as the longer races we compete in get tougher and tougher. The ADAC was not in a format we were used to or that suited either of these strengths, so we had to dig deep and do our best to hit top speeds right out of the gate.

Out of the gates on day one the race started on Mountain bikes in an urban setting and a peleton riding through roundabouts next to palaces and through downtown Abu Dhabi. From here we paddled around an Island just off the coast. We decided to take a chance and do a small portage to skip a 200 yard jeti on the far corner of the island. We were paddling in the top 10 (the field was all very close) and it took us less than 5 minutes to get to the other side to see Team Desert Island approaching from our left in first place...and then we saw the tank trap cement structures that lined the beach we were going to get into. Scrap that plan and turn around, all of a sudden our brilliant idea turned into not such a good idea and we were back in the water about 8-9 minutes after starting our portage. The rest of the padle and the run were straight forward and we finished in about 2:45 in 15th place. Lesson learned, don't take stupid chances this early in a stage race.

Stage 2 took place on a desert island that was also a wild life refugee and as you can imagine very beautiful. The day began with a ~50K bike ride and then was followed with a paddle to another remote desert island where we would camp self sufficiently and continue on day three with an 88k paddle. The wheels came off a bit at check point one in the bike ride as 150 racers were trying to check into 2 stations...I popped out first but got caught up in a mess of competitors coming into the CP and was not sure who passed me. I saw Matt and then Glenn but no Mari. Matt was conviced that he had let Mari get in front of him and Glenn thought he held the checkpoint plug for Mari, could I have missed her? Glenn was nearly the last out of the CP with only 3 people behind him, we thought she must have been in front with the peleton which was quickly speeding away.

Plan B was to ride to the CP and wait, but we passed Mike B photographing on the way. I thought this would be a good opportunity to get some info from him. "Hey Mike did Mari pass?", I asked...he mentioned that he was pretty sure she had passed, now we were in full chase mode. The real story was that Mari was behind us trying to catch up. Her chain came off at the CP and she had spent a bit of time getting it back on...we were chasing her she was chasing us...rookie mistake. We should have stopped and waited, plain and simple. A bit of riding and a time penalty for being more than a minute apart and we crossed the line together. After changing out off the clock we started the paddle and ended up on a beautiful remote desert Island in the Persian Gulf...radical. Last time I did this, never!

The next two days were big and a bit more up our alley with a 9 hour paddle (Winners did it in just over 8 hours) and a 110km trek through the desert that took us 23.5 hours with 6 hours of mandatory rest baked in there. The Persian Gulf was astonishing and the clarity in the water was great. I'll let the pics speak for themselves here.

The last day of competition was a hill climb, followed by a mountain run, a monster rappell and a semi technical run out of the mountains. Fairly benign, however we did move from 11th place to 13th by seconds and the time penalty really kicked us in the pants in the end. Ouch...oh well, live and learn.

This was a great race and I will recomend it to any adventure racer that I know. Not only for the experience and competition but also as a great way to see the other side of the world and see what the United Arab Emirates has to offer an adventure seeker.
Big Props to Photographer Mike Bitton for taking all the excellent photo's seen here, reporting for CPZero and for being a friend in a far away place. Thanks Mikey!
Last update are the limited photos that I took during the race. Usually I will take many more, but the speed of this race made taking pics less feasible.

Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge


Michmas said...

Nice work team. It looked like an amazing event and am really proud that you were there to represent the PNW!!


Mike Bitton said...

What an adventure we had in Abu Dhabi! Friendly faces are truly appreciated when you're 12 time zones away from home!