There was something special about the Trans-Cascadia (TC) race that simply called out to me. After watching the first 2 years of the event from behind my keyboard, I reached out to the organizers 11 months ago and said that if they were having a 3rd event, that I'd like to partake in any facet, aka I wanted to volunteer and be part of it all. Over the course of the next year, Nick Gibson (one of the 3 main heads behind the event) and I stayed in touch and I asked way too many questions but he was patient and I was stoked to be part of the event. In the lead up to the day that I'd depart from Abbotsford, BC and journey 8+ hours south to Belknap Springs, Oregon there were Volunteer emails (what to pack, where to be, what to expect) and sign up sheets for folks that needed rides or those that had room to offer rides. Everything felt very much in order and that continued to leave me re-assured that taking a week's worth of holidays to volunteer at a backcountry enduro race was the right thing to do, with my time. Below is a snapshot of how my days as a volunteer unfolded and hopefully helps you understand why I want to go back in 2018.
Tuesday - The 11.5-hour journey from Abbotsford BC to Belknap Springs, Oregon
The 5:30 wake-up call came early but I wanted to hit the road and to be honest, I wasn't sure how long it would take. Arriving at night was not my goal, so off to Bellingham for the first stop and to pick up Tree (she takes care of the TC website) and grab breakfast. Thanks to the rideshare doc, I would have a full truck on the way to the event - Danielle (handling all the media for TC), Tree (handles TC websites) and Lassi (athlete from Finland). Collectively the crew wanted to stay away from gas station food, so grocery stores were the go-to destination for meals for the trip south. Belknap Springs
, Oregon was the gathering point for all volunteers and we arrived with enough time to figure out the lay of the land and await the main crew as they were out doing final trail preps. All of the vollies came together for a group get to know each other and dinner, before hitting the hay in what I expected to be the last bed that I was going to see for the week.
Wednesday - Athlete sign-in and race package pick-up at Belknap Springs, Oregon
I got up at 6:30 in order to have a shower (I was worried that it might be my last one for the week) and then it was time for breakfast with the crew. We all rolled over to the main lodge and began the set-up for when the Athletes would begin to arrive, in a few hours. Oakley (one of the main sponsors) was on hand with their trailer and tents to make sure that tunes were playing and that we had cover from sun or rain - in the PNW you can expect to see both and more on any day.
Athletes had been given a window of time to come in for race package pick up and they were keen. I was happy to be on the front lines to meet them all and see their stoke for what lay ahead. From sign-in, they'd be leaving their vehicles at the lodge for the week and loading into shuttles that would be taking them 2 hours south to Oakridge, Oregon for the first base camp of the race. Initially, I thought that I'd be leaving my truck here as well, but once I had the option to take it along as a staff and athlete hauler, I was stoked to have it with me. Once the last person had signed in, it was a mad dash to gather up the vollies, gear and everything that would be needed for the next few days. I grabbed what I thought was going to be my last bit of WiFi for the week, loaded up the truck with the crew and rolled out for Oakridge, Oregon (home to Bike Oregon and some fantastic riding).
We arrived just prior to dinner and were greeted with a fully dialed and set up campsite. Additional vollies had been busy setting up 125 tents for everyone to settle into for the next few days. The camp was set just East of town and right on the river. The first dinner set the tone for a week of amazing food. The key was to feed us, then we'd be full and listen intently through each night's race meetings. The head of first aid was Ben and he gave a speech that everyone was silent for- while on course, we would not close to towns, we would be in the wilderness and getting hurt can happen, so ride in control and everyone will have a great week. I'd been tasked as a Rover for race day 1, so I had to be ready for anything. Time for bed.
Thursday - Race Day 1 out of Oakridge, Oregon
It's game on, so the alarm is set for 6:00 but I still hit snooze twice and then join the crew for breakfast. At breakfast, Nick Gibson (event organizer) explains to the athletes how the shuttles for the day will work and I am assigned to Tommy Magrath's (also an event organizer) camp crew (for now). As racers start to roll out in shuttles, I am asked if I'd like to take the last few athletes out as their driver for the day? Yep, sounds awesome, as I love driving forest service roads and being mixed in with the racers would offer a first-hand experience that I was hoping for. I drop Geoff Kabush, Dylan Wolsky, and Chris Johnson at the start of stage one and help with gear pick up - Generator, Antennae, and Radio Repeater. Then we get a call that a racer is down on stage one with a possible broken Scapula and medic Nick Hall is on the scene with the athlete. I am approx. 1km from the site and the ambulance has been dispatched from Oakridge, so it only made sense to get the truck into the bush to help to get the racer to the ambulance in the safest way. Accidents often involve blood, but racer safety was my priority (and I hoped that my seat covers were real neoprene).
Once Nick and I had met the ambulance for the racer transfer it was time to get to the tail end of the race and back on shuttle duty. Stages 2 and 3 met in the same area (where Transition had a party on the go) so I got to take Adam Craig up stage 3 for a GoPro lap, then it was time to help with getting stage 2 and 3 vollies off of the mountain for the day.
Part of the media crew was Danielle Baker (BCBR, Pinkbike and many more) and she was needing the truck in order to source out Wifi back in Oakridge, so I was able to get a shuttle up to stage 4 for a lap with the sweeps - oh my I'd missed trails like this on my last trip to Oakridge. Once back at camp, shuttle driver Tony was telling me about this awesome shuttle up Dead Mountain, about midway between camp and town, so we found a driver and hit it up, just squeaking into camp as dinner started and daylight ended. Straight to dinner, then the race meeting, a little social time and repack for the next day - day one was full on and I was pumped and tired.
Friday - Race Day 2 out of Oakridge, Oregon
Based on day one, I knew that I had to get up earlier and be ready for the day, so it was a 530 alarm, maybe a little too keen. Breakfast was eaten in the dark but today was going to be a huge day for everyone as racers would be out on course for several hours, while the volunteer crews would tear down camp and move it back to Belknap Springs for the rest of the event. Once the tear down was underway, myself and the media crew loaded up the truck and began the journey to Belknap, via a stop for snacks and groceries in Eugene, Oregon.
Once we were at the new base camp for the rest of the event it was time to help with the tent set up process - whoa, I took for granted showing up to a setup tent, on day one. About an hour before dinner I hopped on my bike and hit up 13k of the Mackenzie River Trail
as it runs right past the front of the Lodge.
Remember that part where I was thinking that I'd be tenting all week? Nope, Tommy stoked out the vollies with keys to rooms in the Belknap Springs Lodge (the springs part refers to the hot springs pool out back) and I would be dry each night - thanks for doing that! Speaking of rad things, dinner was insane! It was a Pho dish that my taste buds will always be grateful for having experienced. After dinner, the bonfire was fired up and then it was time for bed as Day 3 would mark my first on the timing crew - more stages meant more vollies on course.
Saturday - Race Day 3 out of Belknap Springs, Oregon
Ok, back to the 6:30 alarms (having a room next to the meal tent helps) and onto a project that I saw of interest. Over my years at Pinkbike, I enjoyed putting together stats at events to show the readership what racers were using and here at Trans-Cascadia I had never seen so many Giro Switchblade helmets in one place. This got me thinking about what other items that racers were running and I went about tracking down all the racers that I could (stats at the bottom). Once the last shuttle rolled into the woods, it was time for the mid-day timing crews to get out there too.
10 volunteers loaded up into 3 trucks to provide your timing in the second half of the day's stages. We'd all be riding into our positions on the course and then flowing through the course once the sweeps came through. The trucks would be shuttled to the end of the stage so that there was no need for backtracking to stage starts. It was a damp day in the woods, but the racer's stoke was infectious and just made me happy to be out in the wild, having a good time. The most common question that I was fielded with was "How far is this stage?" You see, Trans-Cascadia is blind racing so everyone wants to know what they are getting into at each stage, and it's also one of the biggest draws for everyone, the unknown.
Riding the stage out to the trucks gave me a sense of just how grand this endeavor of an event was to put on. Back at the trucks, all of the vollies gathered to celebrate a successful day and to gear up for the hour-long drive back to camp. Back at the Lodge, I got back to stats work and even managed to get everyone polled, except one elusive racer. While many reconvened at the bonfire, I chose to call it an early night as I now knew just how long of a day on track can be and I was once again headed out with the timing crew, in the morning.
Sunday - Race Day 4 out of Belknap Springs, Oregon
With a 6:30 alarm, 7:00 breakfast and a 7:45 rollout, the last day had to be dialed. The drive out to the trailhead was 1hr and 15mins, so again we were in the middle of nowhere, this was Oregon Wilderness and the racers were partaking in something pretty special.
Being in the middle of the last day meant that I'd see a variety of racer feelings. Everyone was at different levels of happiness, most not wanting it to be so close to being done. As a vollie, most of us were going through this too. Once you saw the sweeps for the last time, it meant that you had to ride back to the top of your stage and wait for everyone to get back and then it was the final drive back to camp.
Day four was a monster for the racers and everyone was stoked to return to Belknap Springs and hit the pool, grab a bevy and reminisce about the week that had just passed. So many friendships were started in Oregon by one little thing - a huge lack of internet access. It's amazing when humans are forced to interact, how those relationships kick off. I know that I am beyond guilty for my connection to the virtual world, but a break like this was just what the doctor ordered.
The final dinner and awards took place in the dining tent with champagne showers for all podium finishers. What a week! The final bonfire consisted of burning everything that was wood as people partied well into the early hours of Monday.
Monday - Back to Reality and the Journey Home
Knowing the distance between Belknap, Oregon and home (Abbotsford, BC), I wanted to hit the road for 7:30, but there was more visiting to be had. No one ever wants to leave when the times are this good. On the journey back I only had one passenger, Tree from the Trans-Cascadia team and she would be cruising all the way to Bellingham, Washington. The drive back was filled with talks about the week that had just passed and me trying to figure out how to come back in a year's time.
For those that like stats, here is what was collected at this year's event:
For full recaps from the racer's and organizer's points of view, check out their Pinkbike blogs here - www.pinkbike.com/u/TransCascadia/blog/www.trans-cascadia.com