By Athlete Ambassador, Brad Jennings of Explore the Backcountry
In May, my AR teammate Jess and I, headed down to Ottumwa Iowa to race the Happy Mutant Olmitz Miner, a ~500km, 72hrs non-stop expedition length adventure race. The name is seemingly appropriate, as you have to be some sort of mutant to attempt/endure a race like this.
The race got underway with a fast paced prologue section that saw racers scramble around the city of Ottumwa in an urban Score-O. As we were hunting down checkpoints, the weather took a turn for the worse and strong storms blew in.
After a brief lightning delay, we were on the water, and heading down the Des Moines River for a 70km paddle leg. The rain was ferocious and navigation was rendered incredibly difficult. Headlamps failed to pierce the darkness as they merely refracted off the wall of water back at us. By the time we arrived at the transition area we resembled a pair of drowned rats. A quick UTM map plot of our next section and refuelling was in order before we hit the 20km trek through Lacey-Keosauqua State Park. As morning dawned, the rains eventually gave way to hot, humid weather.
We then tackled an imposing 240km bike ride through the wilds of the Iowa country side. Progress was generally good and the leg was more of a grind save for a few B-roads which stymied all forward progress. The recent monsoon had left most of these B-roads in a deplorable state of mud and clay. The thick clay clung to the bike like wet cement and made riding an impossible task. Forced to carry our bikes, we embarked on several lengthy ‘hike-a-bike’ segments.
Riding through the day and into the heart of night two, we rolled into our next TA in the middle of the night. Everyone had opted to skip out on the next paddle leg and a few teams were tucked away in their bivy sacks, catching some sleep. Jess caught 45mins of sleep at the TA while I hammered out route options for the next segment, before we huffed it another 65km to a trek leg.
The day would dawn as the worst for us. It was the mid-way mark of the race the race and we faced a heap of issues. It all started with the mother of all B-roads and a 3km ‘hike-a-bike’ section. My bike quickly fell victim to the horrendous conditions as it succumbed to a double flat, broken spokes and a clay choked derailleur which ultimately gave me 2 gear options. Exhausted and beat, we limped into the next trekking section. Our run of issues continued as Jess left our CP passport back in the TA bin, a discovery that was made deep in the woods and far away from our bin. Frustrated, I led us on a bit of a wild goose chase through the woods and we burned up valuable time, going back and forth from the TA. Ultimately, we only managed to snag 2 CP`s in 5hrs.
The ‘fun’ continued as we cycled a further 65km into the night. By this point, the sleep monsters were hitting me hard and I found myself swerving all over the trails. Jess lost the function of her brakes and gears after her chain got caught in her cassette but somehow after 45mins of tinkering I managed to fix it for her. Looking back, I’m not sure what was wrong and how I fixed it. The whole process seemed like a dream. The repair job did manage to jostle me awake, either that, or the Caffe Latte Perpetuem was kicking in.
My first full sleep of the race occurred at 4am on night 3, for a lengthy hour…. That seemed to rejuvenate me and we did well on the next leg, knocking off a ~30km of trekking before grabbing the bikes and making our way 90km back to the finish line, in Ottumwa Iowa.
Things I learned
I can handle sleep deprivation really well – Including drive and pre/post-race preparations I was up 86hrs, with only 1hr of sleep.
Perpetuem is a fueling lifesaver – I can’t stress this enough. It was the first big race I’ve fuelled heavily with the stuff and it worked wonders. Jess is hooked too, and picked up a bunch for her upcoming Ironman.
Iowa IS NOT flat –This is a horrendous myth that only leads to frustration when staring down endless roll hills.