Sometimes without preparation things can surprise you in a good way. I have never experienced such an unexpected participation in the adventure race like this time and I was not really sure whether this would be a really good idea. But in the end I decided to take this chance and it was definitely worth it.
The Czech Adventure Race is held every year in a different corner of the Czech Republic. This year it took us to the hilly region around Susice, some tracks reaching even to the Sumava National Park. As every year teams consisting of 4 members including at least one female are given a time limit of 75 hours in which they have to collect all the check points marked on the special race map. While the order of the check points and disciplines are set by organisers, it is up to each team which route they take between the checkpoints.
Although the race itself began on Wednesday at 10 AM, necessary preparations were keeping me and my companions from Salomon Suunto Czech AR team - Marek, Pavel and Honza - busy a couple days before. From checking all the necessary equipment, preparing the race supplies to planning and marking the routes onto the maps on Tuesday evening. The starting gun was a relief for me – now we could finally focus on movement.
The prologue mainly consisting of trekking (including small bouldering) and inline skating made us discover the not very flat surroundings of the race centre properly and a short packrafting in the river Otava around hot midday refreshed our muscles as well as our minds, which enabled my team to navigate without any mistakes during the next stages and we gain quite a large lead over the other teams.
Over the hilly landscape we are moving on bike from Susice to start the first foot-orienteering and then to Katovice (not Poland :)) We managed to reach the transition area just before sunset – perfect timing, as we are leaving our bikes here in order to return to Susice on foot.
Before starting this night trekking I could not resist a fried cheese snack, typical Czech fast food reminding me of my childhood. I like this transition area! The guys are navigating faultlessly and we are keeping quite a good pace. We finish the 35 km with the embedded second small bouldering around 1 AM. Our lead is getting larger, which increases our time spent in transition areas, as a result we start the kayaking at 2 AM.
This race confirmed that this is not my favourite discipline.
Some parts of the river Otava are offering us a good ride, but still there are lot of places with really low water levels and also some weirs, making us step into the cold water frequently. I then realise that my strategy (dressed lightly in order not to make lot of clothes wet for the next day) does not really make me feel comfortable. While at night the evaporating water does not enable us to see a lot with our headlamps, in the morning our pace is getting slower because of water moving less and less. Finally after 5 hours we reach Katovice. Now I like this campsite even more than in the evening, as after changing to dry clothes and having warm breakfast I stop shaking and am feeling ok again. God bless the willing woman from the kiosk making us French fries, fried cheese and hot tea at 7 AM :)
Next 130 km on bike are split up into smaller parts by three embedded activities, the timing of which is again perfect for us. The swimming around 10 AM is refreshing and prevents me from another micro-sleeps, which were creeping in. Around midday we go through the Bolskros – a special activity connecting running, rope park activities, a bit of climbing and swimming – located in an abandoned quarry lake. Perfect for this hot summer day. So hot that even I cannot resist drinking cold Czech beer during the next mtb transfer. Almost holiday feeling for a while.
The third enrichment of this cycling day is another foot-OL. After we get an A3 map of a 1:10 000 scale, it is clear that this could take some time. The checkpoints are scattered all over the map and there are no real optimal routes. On top of this some of us are having a kind of crisis, so we spend more than three hours in the terrain. These 14 km were really not “for free”. We had really good luck and managed to finish in day light, as darkness will definitely make it even more difficult for the other teams.
The last bike transfer of this day leads uphill to the beautiful Sumava National Park. In the village of Hartmanice we took the last chance to replenish our food stock at the local convenience store offering an unusual spectacle to local regular guests. One could not believe how happy can the liver sausage and brawn make the guys. After reaching the next check point it is time to take out our head lamps again, but it unfortunately does not really prevent us from falling asleep which is not really optimal while biking, luckily it does not take a long time and we are awake again. On the way to the next TA we are met by an enthusiastic fan in the village of Kasperske Hory. We are really surprised by his awareness of this race, he even knows that we are the leading team, which is encouraging. The Guys navigation is still going well, especially the trail shortcut form the last check point to the TA in Nicov. Not only time saving, but also invigorating as the last climbing part is really steep.
In the TA we again have no stress, enjoying other meal than sweet sticks, flapsjacks and co, this time from our own resources. It is midnight and we are preparing for another night trek - in the spirit of: nobody speaking, half of the team sleeping. At the beginning it might be funny, but after some time it makes me nervous - the pace is very poor and on some trails it is also quite dangerous, as I hear stumbling behind me. On the other hand this is the only part of race where I can follow the map and know exactly where we are. Nevertheless after losing time for more than two hours this way we finally decide to sleep for fifteen minutes - brilliant idea! After the sleep the pace is much better as well as the cooperation of the whole team. Still in the darkness we are reaching the check point with caving, but we are finished at daybreak. Yes, second night behind us! The daylight obviously lifts the team mood. We are talking rubbish and not moving very quickly, but it is a relaxed and funny start of the new day. I like this specific kind of humour :)
Again in the TA in Nicov we meet other teams after a long time. Now I realise again how different the particular stages must be for each team with the day time changing.
After 10 AM we start the last stage. Sitting on a bike again is getting quite painful, but reaching the peak of Churanov almost makes us forgot about it. I don’t usually have views like this on Friday morning, not even speaking about the following enjoyable descent to Rejstejn. This time not only with daylight, but also with the last special activity of this race – rope ascending and descending, which is a bit demanding for me, but obviously very funny for the others observing it. Without our smart team cooperative solution I would have spent unnecessary time hanging in the ropes in the midday heat. This is one of more situations making me appreciate that this is not an individual race and I can rely on my teammates.
The last 15 km of the race are unusually flat and fast, so hanging in the wind shadow I have a feeling we are flying. Finally at 12:50, after 50 hours and 50 minutes crossing the south bohemia landscape, we are the first team to cut the finish line leaving the others a couple of hours behind.
Now we have managed it. After 400 km and 8000 m elevation gain we can enjoy one of these last hot summers days chilling at the waterside, eating, drinking without any hurry and recalling the different race moments, the negative ones of which will be pushed into the background leaving our minds full of unforgettable experiences.
I would like to thank not only my teammates primarily for excellent route planning and navigation, carrying some of my stuff and keeping the team moral good, but also to the organisers of the Czech Adventure Race, as even if I would try hard, I could not find any imperfections on this enjoyable event. The race was passing through beautiful nature, was not too short, not too long corresponding with the time limit, also the distances from the race schedule were in accordance with the real km done and finally the disciplines were changing in a sensible way long stages being cut into smaller parts by funny embedded activities. Moreover the race was updated regularly on facebook enabling the supporters to follow the race by text and photos. And last but not least to all the organisers who we came in contact with during the time, they were a group of enthusiastic people who despite lack of sleep were enjoying it together with us. All these aspects make it an event I would definitely recommend to people hungry for a different sport adventure.
More information: www.adventurerace.cz
Photos: Petr Kukačka, Hana Marková-Martínková, Tomáš Vaněk