Monday, May 22, 2006

2006 Northwest Rafters Association Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival

Photo by Mike Bitton
A paddle team makes its way through the rapids of Carter Falls on the Upper Clackamas River near Estacada, Ore., during the Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival on Sunday, May 21, 2006.

For the second year in a row, I photographed the Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival for Next Adventure, Portland's Alternative Sporting Goods Store. The event is at Carter Falls near the town of Estacada, Ore. I missed the first day of events because I was in Cle Elum, Wash., photographing the TRIOBA sprint adventure race. Last year, day two of this whitewater event produced the best photos anyway. Day two features boater-X, where paddlers in whitewater kayaks jockey for position as they make their way downriver. It also features paddle teams, which pack inflatable rafts with padders who try to make it through a series of gates as fast as they can. I always feel energized after spending a day on the banks of a river.

2006 TRIOBA Sprint Adventure Race, Cle Elum, Wash.

Photo by Mike Bitton
An athlete punches checkpoint 4 during the TRIOBA Sprint adventure race Saturday, May 20, 2006, near Cle Elum, Wash.

Rain raked athletes at the start of the TRIOBA sprint adventure race near Cle Elum, Wash. Just a few hours later, sun scorched participants as they crossed the finish line. Ahh, springtime in the Cascades!

Normally dominant team DART was third overall, and nearly 42 minutes behind the first finishers, the 2-man team of Montrail Northwest. Second went to the 4-man team, which was only a few minutes back from the winners.

Because DART was the first co-ed team of four to cross the finish line, they lead the 2006 TRIOBA adventure race series in the points standings (only co-ed teams of four are elegible to earn points). Being on top is not new for the Seattle-area team, which has won the title of Pacific Northwest Adventure Racing Champions (just the TRIOBA sereis, really) for the past three seasons straight.

Second place in the 4-person co-ed division went to, another Seattle team, and DART's most serious competition. Mergeo actually beat DART at the final TRIOBA of 2005, where just two minutes separated the teams at the finish line.

Rosters have shuffled a bit in the off-season. DART lured Aaron Rinn away from Mergeo. To shore up its ranks, Mergeo recruited the two-person co-ed team Rubber Chickens, which is far more serious than it sounds. The Chickens are Georgia Daniels and Mike Miller, known throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond as expert trail runners whose specialty is endurance. I think any team whose members can run all the trekking sections of a race puts DART dangerously close to defeat. In years past, DART could easly make up time lost to bad navigation choices. This year, Mergeo will be a constant threat.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mighty MO Expedition Wends Way Through Ozarks

Photo by Mike Bitton
A team shoots through Class III whitewater on the St. Francis River in Southeast Missouri during the Mighty MO Expedition adventure race.

I just got back from the Ozark Mountains of Southeast Missouri, where I covered the Mighty MO Expedition adventure race. It was fun to catch up with the teams I'd already met, and great to meet even more teams I never knew.

If you aren’t familiar with adventure races, they are multi-sport endurance events. In most adventure races, athletes will at the very least hike/trek/run, mountain bike and paddle either whitewater or flat water. Race directors add to or subtract from these core disciplines depending on the available terrain. One thing that is nearly universal in adventure racing is that the course is not marked. Athletes must find their way through the course, hitting every checkpoint in order, to avoid a time penalty.

In Missouri, I was on assignment for Checkpoint Zero. That’s a website that covers adventure racing ( If you visit the site and click on the “Features” link at the top of the page, you’ll be taken to a page showing the biggest adventure races in the world. If you click on the Mighty MO Expedition adventure race logo, you’ll be taken to the coverage I provided of the event. I wrote several journalism-style news stories during the race, as well as magazine-style features profiling three of the participating teams in the weeks leading up to the event.

My next assignment for Checkpoint Zero is the TRIOBA sprint adventure race in Ellensburg, Wash., coming up May 20. Other Checkpoint Zero assignments will follow, including the Wicked Urban adventure race in Portland, Ore., on June 4, and the TRIOBA 12-hour adventure race July 15.

In August, I will cover the Adventure Racing World Championships for Checkpoint Zero. Lucky for me, school is out for the summer at that time, so I am available! I’ve heard teams will cross into the Arctic Circle. I’ve never been to Europe, and I’ve never been to the Arctic Circle, so this will be the trip of a lifetime for me!