Adventure sprint race full of surprises |

Adventure sprint race full of surprises

Vail Daily/Preston UtleyA member from Team Croak swims towards a checkpoint in a pond near Beano's Cabin in Beaver Creek this Sunday at the Adventure Sprint Race. Team Croak took first place finishing in 3:13.16.

They don’t call it an adventure race for nothing.Sunday at the first Beaver Creek Adventure Sprint Race, teams of three criss-crossed Beaver Creek Mountain looking for different control points in four different legs, all while racing against the clock and each other. Some of the control points were harder to reach than others, such as a pond swim in Leg 4 in which two contestants had to swim out 150 feet and bring back a rubber ducky from a floating bucket, while the third teammate mounted a climbing wall. “I jumped in and I had to get out it was so cold,” Avon’s Rick Schmelzer of Team Timberland said. “Then, I had to psych myself up to go out and do the backstroke to get the duck. It was hard, but it was fine.”Co-ed Open division Team Croak had the fastest time of the day, finishing the sprint at 3 hours, 13 minutes and 16 seconds. Each leg of the race posed a different physical test. The first leg was a hiking/running leg up the western hillside of Beaver Creek Mountain. Leg two was a hybrid stage in which two team members had to mountain bike while the third teammate had to leg it out, while leg four was a straight mountain biking loop, with the pond swim/wall climb in the middle.The race was also a test of the mind. The third leg of the sprint, which was an orienteering loop on the eastern hillside of the mountain, was the most challenging mind puzzle for contestants. The adventure skills tests, which served as transitions in-between stages, also required quick thinking. The last skills test right before the finish line at the bottom of the Centennial Lift – featuring a diamond-tension box and a balance beam – actually served as the decisive factor for who finished second and who finished third in the men’s masters race.

Schmelzer’s team lost to the Beaver Creek Red Sox by one second – 3 hours, 36 minutes and 36 seconds to 3:36:37 – simply because the Red Sox finished the balance beam challenge faster. To complete the beam, one team member had to go across in shoes, another had to go across with snowshoes on and the third had to cross in just socks.Schmelzer wasn’t too concerned about coming in third after such an exciting finish. Race director Greg Johnson couldn’t get over the fact that a three-hour-plus race was decided by a tiny, little balance beam.”All six of us raced to the finish – the closest finish I’ve ever seen – and basically their first two guys crossed the finish line first, and then me and their third guy passed, and then our last two guys,” Schmelzer said. “It was all within 5 feet of each other, so that was neat. I don’t mind losing by a second.””It was all how they got off the balance beam that decided the race,” Johnson said. “It was really cool.” A whole lot of funSunday’s race, which was designed as a fun and exciting challenge to attract amateur competitors to the burgeoning sport of adventure racing, brought out a crowd that was as diverse as the obstacles on the mountain. Some teams like Team Aspen Club made up of Susan Hougie, Neil Harrison and Will Swales were competing in their first such race.

“We just saw it in the paper in Aspen and thought it looked like good fun,” Harrison said. “It was listed as a beginner’s race, so we thought we’d try it.” “We got my boss to pay the entry fee,” Hougie added.”We were just hoping to finish,” Harrison said.The team not only finished, but had an impressive second-place showing in the Co-ed Open division.Swales said the whole experience was fun and rewarding.”In each stage, they give you a map with the plotted points, and you have to go find them, either biking, hiking, running, whatever,” he said. “And then, after each stage, you have the adventure-skills tests which you have no idea what they are. That was pretty cool. I liked that because it’s always a surprise when you get in there. You’re usually pretty tired and then you have to go and run over these wooden diamonds or drag each other around in a sled. We we’re very surprised and very happy about finishing second.”Other teams were made up of team members who had done a handful of adventure races before. Local Kim Mott of the aptly named Two Jock Straps and a Thong team, was competing in her fourth adventure race, whereas her two male partners were first timers.”Of the other sprints that I’ve done, this one was tougher because there was a lot more altitude involved in it,” Mott said. “A lot of people aren’t used to singletrack mountain biking in the other races I’ve done. I did one in Pittsburgh and New York and they weren’t as much uphill and downhill. This one I like because there were a whole bunch of variations.”

The first family of adventure racingThe Beaver Creek Sprint was also the first adventure race in which Emily Kloser and her two children Heidi and Christian had ever competed. It wasn’t the first adventure race, however, that they had witnessed, since Emily’s husband is one Mike Kloser of Vail, a member of the world’s most successful adventure-racing team.”We’ve only been to how many adventure races” asked Emily of Christian after crossing the finish line Sunday.”Lots,” Christian replied.”We’ve been all over the world watching them,” added Emily.Mike and his Team Nike ACG/Balance Bar teammates of Danelle Bellangee and Michael Tobin won Saturday’s Balance Bar 24-Hour Adventure Race for the second year in a row, finishing in just more than 14 hours.

On Sunday, Team Wait Up Griff made up of the Kloser trio finished eighth out of the 14 teams in the Coed Open division with a time of 4:12:29.”Actually Mike was so focused on yesterday, he didn’t really think about us today,” Emily said jokingly. “He tried to give us a lot of pointers when we were out there but by then we didn’t really want them.”Christian and Mom were the two brave souls to face the icy pond swim together, but Christian said that wasn’t the toughest part of the race.”The toughest thing was getting Mom over the obstacle course,” he said.Added Emily, “I had to go up the same rope that everybody else had to go up, but everybody else had adults to push them over. I’ve got these two. You can forget it. I went over the kids’ one. Heidi went over the adult one and I went over the kids’ one.”A great example of quick thinking.Contact Nate Peterson at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at

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