Fend off angry ranch hand to take second place
The simple statistics are staggering. Team Salomon/Crested Butte covered 600 miles in six days and 10 hours with a total of 12 hours of sleep to take second place at the Primal Quest Badlands in South Dakota, August 14-24.
The team, consisting of Gunnison Valley residents Jon Brown, Jari Kirkland and Eric Sullivan and Boulderite Travis Macy, came into the competition with one goal in mind.
“We were definitely there to win,” says Sullivan.
It was the first Primal Quest race for the team since they took fifth place at Primal Quest Moab back in 2006. The Badlands race involved all the usual elements of an adventure race, with miles and miles of biking and running, sections of orienteering, caving and paddling.
What was not covered in the race information was the local ranch hand contingent.
Team Salomon/Crested Butte was almost immediately introduced to the South Dakota ranch hand community when they stumbled upon some private land in the opening 27-mile run.
Two hours into the race, Team Salomon/Crested Butte found themselves at a dead-end ranch road and a bit confused, only to have a ranch hand roll up in his pick-up truck, looking mad.
“He was probably six-foot-four and 220 to 230 pounds,” explains Brown. “I thought I was going to get my ass whupped. He was so angry he was shaking.”
According to Brown, the ranch hand proceeded to “stretch as if he was getting ready to fight” when all of a sudden he cramped up and fell to the ground and Team Salomon/Crested Butte took the opportunity to run.
“It was fuel for laughter the rest of the race,” says Brown.
The team found itself in second place, an hour off the leaders Team Orion, after the first day but a hiccup in the swim orienteering section on day two cost them a couple more hours. Despite the mishap, the team remained calm.
“We still had a pretty good gap on third and it was early in the race,” says Brown.
They rallied through the lake paddle section firing off the fastest split of the field and rode their bikes to the shores of the Cheyenne River and got in another three and a half hours of sleep before setting off on a 34-mile “prairie paddle.”
“It was more like a boat drag than a paddle,” says Brown.
Nevertheless, Team Salomon/Crested Butte threw down the fastest split on the “prairie paddle,” 13 hours, before heading off into the Badlands for 64 miles of orienteering.
The team was dealt a blow when Team Merrell passed them, pushing them back to third place but again, cooler heads prevailed.
“We weren’t really panicking, just racing our own race,” says Brown.
After taking three to four-hour sleep breaks the first four nights, they opted to go without rest for the final two sections.
Team Salomon/Crested Butte called on their reserves to push through the final 36 hours straight, cruising through the Badlands and then hopping on their bikes for the final 112 miles of the race.
“We banked some sleep so we could go straight through the final 36 hours,” says Sullivan.
“We were close enough to the finish so we decided not to sleep,” adds Brown.
After passing Team Merrell in the orienteering portion, Team Salomon/Crested Butte carried their momentum onto their bikes, setting a furious pace.
Nevertheless, their energy started to wane and they were out of water when they came across one more rancher on the course. It was then that they found out that a mishap by Team Orion had cut their 12-hour gap on Team Salomon/Crested Butte down to two and a half hours.
“Ten minutes before we got to the rancher we were talking about how tired we were and when we heard the news we just flipped the switch,” says Brown. “We were just pinning it. It was awesome.”
“All of a sudden it was like nothing hurt,” says Sullivan. “I was impressed with how hard we could ride.”
Fueled by a crowd-lined course and thoughts of a comeback win, Team Salomon/Crested Butte posted the fastest split of all teams on the final section to finish with the fastest overall time, beating Team Orion by 30 minutes.
Unfortunately, a course official claimed that at one point during an orienteering section, members of Team Salomon/Crested Butte were more than 100 yards from each other. As a result, they and were handed a two-hour time penalty, dropping them back to second place in the final standings.
“It’s a bummer but at the same time we had a really good race,” says Brown.
“I think we had an awesome race,” adds Sullivan. “Orion is the best team in the world in expedition racing and we know that we can do it. Mentally, next time we line up with them we know we can race with them.”
That next time may come in December as Team Salomon/Crested Butte heads off once again to Abu Dhabi to compete in the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge.