Sunday, July 16, 2006

TRIOBA 12-Hour Adventure Race, Snoqalmie Pass, Washington

Photo by Mike Bitton
Members of team Double Trouble/Peak Physique descend from Checkpoint 9 during the TRIOBA 12-Hour adventure race at Snoqualmie Pass, Wash, on Saturday, July 15, 2005.

I spent Saturday, July 15, covering the TRIOBA 12-Hour adventure race at Snoqualmie Pass, Wash. It was very comforting to be in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, after having spent a couple of uncomfortable weeks in Moab, Utah, for the Primal Quest expedition adventure race. The high temperature during this TRIOBA 12 hour never even cracked 70 degrees! Home, sweet home!

Some real news came out of this 12-hour race when team defeated regional powerhouse team DART/nuun. It's a rare day DART finishes anywhere other than first place in the four-person, co-ed division. Here, they got second by 17 minutes.

In DART's defense, all four of the athletes that raced here -- Matt Hart, Aaron Rinn, Ryan Flemming and Jennifer VanGorder -- toed the starting line at Primal Quest in Utah back on June 23. Hart was with DART; Rinn was with SOLE Custom Footbeds; and Flemming and VanGorder were with Gerber Gear.

Mergeo's talent pool included orienteering guru Eric Bone, comic relief Aaron Vanderwall, triathlon diva Julie Heidt Schnepf, and Scottish workhorse Ruaraidh Stenson.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A Little Diddy, 'Bout Dan and Diane

Photo by Mike Bitton
Diane Bush and Dan Miller sit for a portrait in the garden of their Richmond, Utah, home.

On my way home from the Primal Quest expedition adventure race in Moab, Utah, I stopped for the night in Richmond, Utah, to visit with longtime journalism friends Dan Miller and Diane Bush. Dan was the photo editor of the daily newspaper in Logan, Utah, when I was in photojournalism school at Utah State University in the same town. Diane was a photo intern who came to work at the paper for a summer, and never returned home to Minnesota. As is the case with many small-market journos, Dan and Diane are no longer in the biz. Dan shoots occasional freelance assignments, and runs a non-profit dedicated to keeping OHV riders on legal trails. Diane bakes artisan breads in Logan, and runs a soapmaking business from home. The time I spent with them was peaceful, a welcome change from the non-stop action of Primal Quest. Thanks, D and D, for putting me up for the night!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ryan VanGorder Returns to Primal Quest Headquarters After Close Call With Heat Stroke

Photo by Mike Bitton
Ryan VanGorder and his wife, Jennifer VanGorder, pose for a portrait outside Primal Quest headquarters at Red Cliffs Lodge near Moab, Utah.

Ryan VanGorder, workhorse for Seattle-based adventure racing team DART-nuun, was taken off the Primal Quest expedition adventure race course via helicopter four days ago after suffering what doctors here have called a classic case of heat stroke. Whether Ryan would survive his close call with the sudden illness was in question for the first few hours.

Thankfully, Ryan's condition improved daily while in the hospital in Grand Junction, Colo., and today, Ryan returned to Primal Quest headquarters to thank the doctors who very likely saved his life.

"I thank you and my family thanks you," Ryan said to Primal Quest Medical Director Bill Webster.

All the well-wishers who spotted Ryan at headquarters expressed great relief to see him back on his feet.

I'd heard through the grapevine that one of the first things Ryan did when he woke up in the hospital was ask for enchiladas. When I saw him today, I gave him a big hug and apologized for not having any enchiladas to give him. Everybody laughed. We were far too close to not having that laugh with Ryan.

Welcome back, bro! I can't wait to see you back in the Pacific Northwest woods where we belong, instead of this blast-furnace desert.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Primal Quest Media Center Often Empty or Full

Photos by Mike Bitton
The Primal Quest media center is either overflowing with reporters and photographers, or just about empty.

I've been working out of the Primal Quest media center for nearly two weeks now. Popping in here in the middle of the day to try to get any work done can be nearly impossible, as every inch of table space and every Internet connection are clogged with those who slipped in before me.

It's been fascinating to work with journalists from all over the U.S. and the world. Here's a sampling of who showed up:

The Summit Daily News, Colorado, USA
The Gazette, Colorado, USA
Los Angeles Times, USA
Backpacker Magazine, USA
Inside Tri Magazine, USA
Checkpoint Zero Website, USA
Sleepmonsters Website, USA
Nelson Mail, New Zealand
Trail Runner Magazine, Sweden

Pretty cool to meet so many new people in the business!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

This is Yak, AKA Paul Angell of Checkpoint Zero

Photo by Mike Bitton
Paul "Yak" Angell, the brains and labor behind adventure racing website Checkpoint Zero, updates his blog in the Primal Quest media center at Red Cliffs Lodge near Moab, Utah.

In today's tech-saturated world, it's pretty common to know people via e-mail and telephone, and have no idea what they look like. Such was the case for me in regards to Paul "Yak" Angell, the guy behind the adventure racing news website Checkpoint Zero.

Yak walked through the door here in the media room and instantly recognized me, because he's put shots of me on his website before. I wasn't sure whether the guy in front of me was Yak or some other dark-haired fella with a goatee. It was Yak!

Within minutes it was clear to me why Chekcpoint Zero is the best AR site out there. Yak is well-spoken, fiercely intelligent and is all about the details. If this guy had a talk show, it would instantly go gangbusters in syndication, and he would be swimming in cash.

As if his professional character traits weren't enough, he's also a happily married family man with a baby boy back at home in South Carolina. In my book, he's in the running for the Decent Human of the Year award.