Battle through stacked field for fat paycheck
There was no luck of the Irish involved in Team Salomon/Crested Butte’s third place finish at Ireland’s first major adventure race The Turas, just good old Gunnison Valley grit.
It took 81 hours and 19 minutes for the four-person team of Bryan Wickenhauser, Jari Kirkland, Jon Brown and Eric Sullivan to travel via 10 different disciplines for six days over 650 kilometers—that’s 403 miles—through Cork and Kerry Counties in the southwest region of Ireland.
It was the first major test for Team Salomon/Crested Butte of the 2008 adventure racing season, and the team continues to draw closer to that coveted first-place finish in a grueling, multi-day adventure race format.
Heading into The Turas, the team was confident of a strong showing and was prepared to battle some of the top adventure racing teams worldwide for a shot at the $60,000 first-place cash purse.
“We knew we could be in the top five, top three with a good race and there’s always a shot at winning,” says Sullivan. “It was going to be anybody’s ball game. Basically whoever made the least mistakes won.”
The race started with a prologue day on Monday, June 16. The prologue was essentially a four-hour sprint that can either benefit or harm teams later in the race, with a time advantage or a time penalty based on how teams do in the prologue.
Team Salomon/Crested Butte opened the event with a strong prologue, finishing in second place just 18 minutes out of first.
The teams were then transported on Tuesday to the start of the multi-day race, which opened with a 40-kilometer ocean paddle through rough seas.
Brown and Kirkland were each baptized in the Atlantic Ocean when one swell came out of nowhere to broadside their sea kayak and send them into the drink.
“It was huge swells and they got hit by a rogue wave,” says Sullivan. “They got in a little soak in the Atlantic.”
Teams headed out on their bikes for the next major section, a 100-kilometer bike ride. Not just any ordinary bike ride though, as teams were required to find a series of orienteering checkpoints in the woods while riding, forcing them into a number of bushwhacking scenarios.
Team Salomon/Crested Butte finished the ride at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday and were in fifth place overall.
After a brief one-hour nap, they were up and back at it, heading out on a 70-kilometer trek in a driving rainstorm, complete with high winds.
“We were just getting pelted in the face the whole time,” says Sullivan.
To add to the Irish adventure, the trekking course took teams through classic Irish marshes.
“We were walking in ankle-deep mud the whole time,” says Sullivan.
At one point, the world dropped out from under Sullivan as he soon found himself up to his waist and sinking further in a peat bog.
“I was grabbing at the grass around me,” says Sullivan. “I was wondering if someone was out here alone if they would completely sink. That was the longest single section of the race.”
Fourteen hours later, the team reached the shores of an inlet and had to swim two kilometers across to the other side in full body wetsuits and fins.
All teams were then required to stop for the night and get some sleep until daybreak Thursday. Team Salomon/Crested Butte got three and a half hours in before heading back into the water for 10 kilometers of coastal rowing with all four team members in one rowboat, complete with a coxswain provided by the race.