Kootenay Kaos is Dustin Eagleston

Kootenay Kaos is Dustin Eagleston

Looking back on a summer of adventure

Local adventure racers Kootenay Kaos have been getting their feet wet in world of extreme racing.

Adventure and wilderness junkies converged on the West Kootenay in July when Raid the North Extreme came to town, and even though the expedition brought racers from around the world there was one team with the home advantage.

Raid the North was the first adventure race for Kootenay Kaos (who are Vince Hempsall, Dustin Eagleston, Sacha Kalabis and Nelson Rocha), but since Raid the North the team made their way to Vancouver Island to participate in Momar (Mind Over Mountain Adventure Racing).

“I’ve been interested in adventure racing for probably 10 years or so. I’ve never done one though but always wanted to,” said Nelson Rocha. “I found out about the Raid the North coming to the West Kootenay and so I put a team together and signed up.”

Kootenay Kaos formed four months before Raid the North.

“I knew one of the guys, Vince. And then he knew Dusty, and then Dusty knew Sasha,” said Rocha. “It was just kind of word of mouth and friends of friends. I sent an email out to all the people that I thought might be interested and then they recommended other people. It just kind of came together that way.”

Training for an adventure race involved more than hitting the gym and watching your carbs. Kootenay Kaos spent a lot of time bushwacking their way through the woods around Nelson.

“We did a 24 hour training session where we went to New Denver and then did some biking and hiking around in the dark, bushwacking mostly,” said Rocha. “Then we did a training session where we went out to Whitewater and got dropped off and made our way back to Nelson through the bush just using map and compass. We tried to hit checkpoints that we’d set for ourselves.”

Despite some of the setbacks for other teams during Raid the North, which included gear not being transported to transition points on time, Rocha said the overall experience of the race was positive.

“For us everything just sort of worked out and where it didn’t work out we kind of anticipated that it wouldn’t,” he said. “We planned for that, so we were able to work through it and keep going where other teams sort of got stuck. We had a lot of fun and were always pretty much in good spirits.”

Even though the team had spent some of their training practicing bushwacking, Rocha said it was “really intense” during the race.

“It was on the first and second day where we had to go from Meadow Creek to Retallack and that was really brutal bushwacking,” he said. “I think a lot of people underestimated how gnarly the bush can be up around here. We did a 37-hour trek through the Valhallas and that was really gnarly. It was wet and cold through the night, steep and there was lots of alder.”

In the interest of making good time on the race, many teams limited their sleep. Kootenay Kaos averaged about three hours a night for the six or seven days they were out in the wilderness.

“On the paddle down the Lower Arrow Lake, we started hallucinating a little bit,” said Rocha. “It was dark and we were all literally falling asleep while we were paddling.

“We got to the point where it was just silly to keep going so we pulled over and slept for a little while on the shore. The trouble is it’s really hard to find a place to pull over on that lake because there isn’t very much shoreline. We fluked out and found a place. We heard a little stream and knew there would be a little delta and a little flat spot, and there was. We pulled in there and slept for a few hours and kept going in the morning.”

Each team member had a designated role during the Raid the North race.

“I was the navigator in charge of directing us, using map and compass,” said Rocha. “Sasha was first aid. Vince was the maintenance guy, and Dusty was team morale. It all worked out pretty well. We all had our own tasks because it’s too much for one person to take on.”

A lot of the other teams in Raid the North compete on the international adventure racing circuit, and even though Kootenay Kaos was involved in the race for the experience and enjoyment of the outdoors, Rocha said he was “inspired” by the other competitors.

“I really admire and respect the people who are really focused on adventure racing,” he said. “We couldn’t really watch them but we heard stories from other participants and volunteers. They’re just machines. They have a lot of will power and mental strength. It’s not just your physical strength, it’s your mental capacity to keep pushing. I was pretty impressed by them. The winning team beat us by two days and did a much longer variation of the course.”

Kootenay Kaos won free entry into the Momar race in Cumberland from Raid the North.

Momar took place on September 24.

“Momar was a lot of fun. But it was a totally different beast than Raid the North,” said Rocha. “Raid the North was like a six-day expedition style race where you’re not worried about losing a few minutes or an hour here or there. We actually ended up spending more time in one transition area, where we transition from biking to canoeing, than we did in the entire Momar race. The whole Momar race was eight hours and we ended up spending eight hours at that one check point.”

Instead of focusing on speed during Raid the North, Kootenay Kaos tried to maintain a pace they knew they could keep for six days.

“Momar is basically a sprint in the world of adventure racing. We went into it with no expectations of winning or even placing, we just wanted to have fun with it,” said Rocha. “It was a free entry we won from Raid the North. We just had a lot of fun and joked around all the time. We won the best team spirit award which got us another entry to next year’s race.”

Rocha said that he’d like to continue doing adventure races, but it won’t be his “full time thing.”

The racing experience also helped forge a special bond between the teammates.

“We’re all pretty close. When you spend six days with three other people and you go through that sort of experience, everyone is relying on everyone else to get them through,” said Rocha.

“We all have our highs and lows and they happen at different times so somebody could be feeling like shit and the other people have to come in and help that person and vice versa. We’re all close friends now.

“There’s something that happens where when we’re hanging out just a couple of us. It’s fun and we’re friends, but for some reason when it’s all four of us together it’s like some kind of chemistry that happens and we’re totally goofy.”

For more information about Kootenay Kaos visit their website at raid.inthekoots.com.