Our gal Jimena who represented with such toughness.
Our adventure gal Jimena Florit reports in from the Hidlago Adventure Race.Oh boy.
I cannot think any other sentence to start my story.
Racing with “the Mikes” was a super experience that I feel honored to be part of that short list of people who have done so.
My first multi day race was the Extreme Adventure Hidalgo, in Mexico (state of Hidalgo) from February 23rd to 26th.
I prepared myself the best possible way given the short time to overcome weaknesses and being efficient on “new” sports for me.
But there are so many things I could not prepare myself other than give it time and experience. To start, Adventure racing is a team sport and in the most part, and so far, I train on my own.
I knew I was up to a hard task because the female teammate they used to race with, Danelle Ballengee is just an amazing athlete with a lot of experience.
Hard to fill those shoes, especially on my first race with the NIKE/Balance Bar Team, but I wanted to make sure to bring the best I could give, without thinking about what they were not getting from me that Danelle could give. Truth is, I am Jimena and I got this much to offer. I hope is enough to match your standards.
After a 5 hr bus drive to the secret start location, we started preparing all the gear, choosing routes on the maps and marking check points.
Once all that was ready to go, it felt like the race was already ON.
Wednesday 23rd 7 AM
Promptly after the hour, we started the race running from a mine, uphill with me on the tow line to what felt an endless downhill on a dirt road (and a few bush wacking shortcuts).
This was the beginning of the race, and the beginning of the end of my quads.Little did I know that particular downhill will impact our entire race until the finish 3 days later. We finally got to the bottom, to the first and crowded checkpoint. We then connected to this really cool canyon, jumping up and down big rocks, water and slippery surfaces were putting all our skills and focus to the test.
At one point, we spot on the map a possible route that could be quicker, getting up and out of the canyon, to a “road” that was up there. Really, UP there it was. Another team also saw that route and opted to follow the same trail.
We looked for the road and finally got to it not before almost getting back to the hotel (we could see it not too far ahead).
Got to the Transition Area (TA) to the kayaks, and started our floating (or pushing) journey.
“The water is low, you may have to push the boats a few times” race organizer Ernesto Rivas old us. A FEW times? Now, there should be a limit on how many TIMES you can squeeze on the word FEW. It was really hard to get a paddling rhythm going, because as soon we get going, there was more rocks were the boat would get caught. Get Off the boat! Mike tells me. Out of the boat, on the water, slippery rocks and pushing. Sometimes, it was more efficient if I run on the side of the river along the boats.
We passed several teams, until we came to the end of the Kayak leg, already in 3rd place, with 2nd in sight and very motivated.
We got on the bikes to start realizing the damage I had done during that first downhill run. “Rocky mistake” my coach Arnie Baker said.
I could barely use my legs, and no even stand on my bike. Oh boy, this is going to be a long race. But I made sure not to let myself down we were still moving forward and very much in contention, thanks to the dynamic duo: The super mikes and that wonderful tow line.
We crossed several towns were locals were waiting to see us riding by, all of them encouraging us and with flags of our countries. Sun turned OFF, and our small lights turned ON. Short descent and the finish. 2nd place behind Team Montrail.
Over 12 hours of racing, and very sore feet and legs.
Thursday 24th-Friday 25th
Although the race start was schedule for 1 PM, we didn’t get to sleep IN as we all needed. There was a 2.5 hr bus drive ahead of us to the start of the race at Laguna Atezca. But before that, we stopped at the local town to be welcomed by the kids that were getting a few minutes brake from school. Again, flags from all of the participating countries, no one was left out.
We started the 24 hr race with a swim, were some terribly wrong happened. One local racer, Eduardo Rosas from Mexico, didn’t come out of the water. No one knows at this time what happened to him, or how is that he went down with no apparent reason. He simply went down and never came up. Being in top shape and strong swimmer, there has been some speculation that a possible heart attack might have been the cause. His body was found early evening the next day and an investigation started. In the name of the entire NIKE/Balance Bar Team, our deepest condolences to his surviving family (wife and 2 daughters) and all his friends.
As I was coming out of the water, I heard over the microphone that there has been an accident, and calling to help and race organizers.
We didn’t find out about this lose until the next day, when we were near the end of the 24hr stage.
The race continued with a trek, very technical downhill for my already weak quads, we were passed by several teams, to pass them later on the uphill.The pace was not too fast, but given the grade of the climb, the effort felt hard. We then arrived to the next TA and got on the bikes. Passed more teams, and started to rain, when Michael got a flat. I continued ON the climb to keep myself from freezing when they caught back to me and we continued to the next TA to the Kayaks on a lake.
Oh great! Finally a place where we can PADDLE. Not too fast Jimena, towards the end of the paddle, the lake was so low, that again we needed to push the boats. Lucky me, they towed my boat during the paddle and I had somehow a rest, although I would also paddle but in a more conservative way to allow me to recover and feed.
End of the kayak and TA to the bikes again. This bike ride was a very long one, at night and where I thought I would fall asleep on 2 wheels. I asked the Mikes, what can I do? I am feeling really bad at the moment:
“Just wait, be patience, you will feel better”
AH, I wanted to believe him, but at the moment I had my doubts to whether or not there was a turning point. Soon enough, TA to canyoneering , some coffee and food, I was a new person.
Ready to go! I learned: trust Mike. Down to the canyon, this time was trickier given the time (maybe 3 AM?)
My left leg started to getting stiffer and stiffer and the knee bigger and bigger, making very difficult to be smooth and quick on the canyon. Again, Mike and Michael were very supportive and I never felt I was alone dealing with that.They armed me with poles again which were a great help to maintain my balance over the rocks.
We got a few section were we needed to get into very cold water and luckily I had packed some thermal pants and top that allowed me to stay warm, even on wet conditions. The cold water also worked as anti-inflammatory, numbing my leg from time to time.
The sun started spying over the top of the canyon although we had a bright full moon giving us company (and one of those wonderful jet lites). We finally reached the end of the canyon after 4 hours of tremendous focus and close calls to my uncles.
The next day finally here and we were moving forward pretty well.
Thanks to great navigation skills, we were able to find this trail that a local lady was walking on. She was setting a high tempo, just what we needed to keep on moving fast.After several turns, ups and downs, we finally made it to the Mineral El Chico National Park, where we knew we had a hard navigation task to find the first ropes check point: the Rappel.
I had prepared myself to the ropes tests, but always indoors. This was my first outdoor rappel and I enjoyed it very much. I must admit I was a little nervous, but with Mike at the bottom, coaching me to get down on a smooth route, got to the bottom in no time, off the rope, off to the traverse. Again, tough navigating in the thick forest, we made it to the traverse.
There we hook ourselves to the cable to realize my sling was too short (Or their set up too long), being forced to use 2 biners to make that distance up if I wanted to have a safety back up. Oh yeah, make it a bit slower, get me on a back up.
Started the traverse to the clouds, not being able to see the other side given the thick fog, I got up to high speed, getting ready to see a huge rock that for sure would stop me (and some more).
They were waiting for me there, my set up got stuck and I came to a complete stop, 20 mts too short. Again, dealing with brand new situation, stayed calm, even tried to push myself using my arms but I was only able to move about 5 mts. There was Paco, ready to throw me a rope, grabbed it and pulled me to safety.
Down a short rappel and off to the finish! There was a camera man in a motorcycle who kept telling us: you are first team, you are first team! No way Jose, you need to pay attention, there are 2 teams together ahead of us, last time we heard, about 40 minutes lead.
We then descended to the El Chico town where people and dogs were waiting for us. We finished 3rd, 20 minutes back from 1st and 2nd (Montrail and Sole teams who finished together). After some good Mexican food, we went to sleep to a well deserved 8 hrs night sleep.
Last day, short day, not easier day.
We started the morning remembering Eduardo, with a minute of silence before the start, and ready to dedicate the race to him. We raced hard of the start, my legs quickly started to warm up and feel better and better. As long as we were moving uphill, I had no problem, but as soon as we went downhill, it was ouch ouch ouch ouch… My teammates were patience and felt sorry for me, but that was the last thing I wanted. Just ignore me Michael and Mike. Ignore my complaints; we got a race to win.
We were moving well with all the top teams together, we came to an intersection where again, Michael’s great navigation skills and instincts got us to a shorter route, being followed closely by a Swedish team that was not treat for the overall but yes for the stage.
We wanted to make sure there was NO chance they would take that away from us, and after a gutsy downhill, we finally got to the weirdest finish of them all, just a check point where was the official stop of the clock. From there, teams were going to be escorted to the main Pachuca plaza, the Capitol of Hidalgo.
We took the last stage and 2nd overall on the race.
Happy that the race was over, I was ready to take a shower and a NAP.
We packed up our stuff and ate some food before going to the awards ceremony.There we exchanged some race stories with other racers and received our trophies.
I want to personally thank to my husband John for his support and patience, Mike and Michael for helping me and put up with me, my friends Carlos and Natalia, to my personal and the NIKE/Balance Bar Team sponsors and the race organizer who made this race possible for me: NIKE, Balance Bar, KENDA Tires, Giant, Giro, Fox, Stan NOTUBES.com, Oakley, SixSIxOne, Epic, Sportslick, Leki, Jet Lites, Pedro’s, Crank Brother’s, Mavic, Fizik, Sram, www.Sportsquestdirect.com, www.ARgear.com, www.arniebakercycling.com, www.multisports.com.