Six teammates swim down an unknown Patagonian whitewater river toward a glacial lake. In the middle of the lake—halfway through the two kilometer swim—hypothermia creeps in, along with doubts of survival. Crawling out of the lake, then huddling together with a tent fly wrapped around their shivering bodies, the team vows to drop out of the adventure race that has them quivering on the other side of the globe. By the time they stumble into the manned checkpoint, their bodies have warmed, their spirits risen, and they’re armed with the knowledge they are in second place. The team marches on!
Such is the life of an adventure racer.
“I’m into adventure racing because it makes me a better person,” explains Chelsey Magness, co-founder of Bend Racing (BR). “It’s a way to get in touch with the deeper layers of yourself; communication, mental tenacity, meditation, and growing as a person.”
Adventure racing—like a backcountry triathlon—pits teams of up to six members against each other as they navigate their way through a series of disciplines including—but not limited to—mountain biking, paddling, and trekking. Perhaps most importantly, the teams use navigational skills to carve a path through varied terrain. The course times range from four hours in sprint races to ten days in world championship races.
“We’ve also seen horseback riding, inline skating, riverboarding, spelunking, dune buggy travel, glacier mountaineering, and a survivor challenge, featuring fire starting and raft building,” says Jason Magness, Chelsea’s husband and co-founder of BR. “Every race is unique!”
Closer to home, seventeen teams recently competed in BR’s annual Spring Sting race at Smith Rock State Park. As a bonus to this year’s event, the long winter added several feet to the water level, thus creating an additional obstacle for racers.
“I’m into adventure racing because it makes me a better person.” – Chelsey Magness
Jason, who teaches acrobatics and slacklining in addition to racing and running BR, started adventure racing 15 years ago and has participated in over 200 races. A background in climbing and triathlons served him well as he was immediately drawn to the sport. Chelsey, a raft guide who also enjoyed mountain biking and running, fell in love with racing after winning her first race; crossing the finish line dirty, bruised, and hooked on a new sport.
Keeping it all in the family, Jason and Chelsea had their atypical first date in the throws of a four-hour race. Three years later, Jason proposed to Chelsey at the finish line of the 2011 Patagonian Expedition Race. Luckily for him, she was too exhausted to say anything but yes!
Team Bend Racing
The locally-based Team Bend Racing has experienced a respectable level of success since forming in 2011. They have multiple first place finishes under their belt, including the 2014 North American Championships in Belize, as well as four podium finishes at the Patagonian Expedition Race, regarded as “the last wild race” and one of the toughest on the planet, with an approximate 15% finish rate. In addition to Jason and Chelsey, the team consists of Tula Movement Arts co-owner Stephen Thompson, lawyer Melissa Combs, and computer engineers Daniel Staudigel and Alex Provost. Each teammate has a specialty, ranging from navigational skills to logistics to strength.
As is probably expected, fundraising for races taking place around the world is one of the biggest obstacles. To that end, the team enjoys sponsorships from several companies. Locally, Rebound Physical Therapy and Recharge Sport help keep their bodies in top shape, while REI-Bend does the same for their bikes. Much of their gear is supplied by Ellsworth Bikes, Ibex wool, Nighteyes, Leki Poles, Inov8, and 2XU bike shorts.
In addition to the normal scrapes, bruises, and general exhaustion, a strange, but typical, infliction for multi-sport racers is hallucinations.
“I’ve seen dragons, fixed a VCR with Einstein, and been 100% certain that my teammates had been taken over by aliens and were leading me (and Chelsey) to a location where they were going to eat us,” says Jason Magness. “Even when you realize that you are fighting ‘sleep monsters,’ it doesn’t make them go away.”
Bend Racing, the Club
As an offshoot of Team Bend Racing, Jason and Chelsey started Bend Racing in 2011 as a way to share their love of the sport. They currently organize races, offer trainings, and generally look for ways to grow adventure racing. When not tackling permit issues, they are trying to focus more on creating local partnerships and making the sport more accessible and popular in Central Oregon.
Upcoming 2017 Races:
Bend-AR September 16-17
LaPine Loop Race October 28