April 08, 2003
G4 Challenge update: Olson weathers final two days of Eastern USA Stage
By NANCY OLSON
Wednesday, April 2, White Mountains, New Hampshire
Today we hit the ground running, literally. The first of the four Hunters, or staged challenges, we did today was composed strictly of running. After two days of a lot of running, I’m itching for more exotic events (read rappelling, off-roading, etc…).
Because of the weather, Land Rover G4 Challenge officials had to change a lot of the events they had planned, so it has thus far turned into a lot of just running for us. I’m better at running than anything else but it’s just not very exciting, frankly.
My Eastern USA Stage one teammate Sergey Polyansky and I had originally planned our first Hunter of the day to include biking, but when we looked at the actual terrain we decided that going on exclusively foot was the way to go. It was a lot of bushwhacking through the woods and just running through deep loads of snow. Consequently, we mastered land navigation to our checkpoints and ran through the forest.
Gunning up and down hills and crossing really cold rivers by foot made something as monotonous as running exciting. In addition, I was able to utilize my backlog of land navigation skills working together with Sergey to navigated using a map and compass instead of relying on the GPS. In the adventure races I normally enter, competitors aren’t even allowed to use GPS. It’s a great tool, but I prefer terrain analysis and navigating based on my own skills and knowledge over do-it-for you technology.
Russia/USA was the first team to attempt the bushwhacking Hunter and, instead of running on the trail, we went around it, so people wouldn’t be able to follow our footsteps. We were playing little mind games on the other teams coming after us.
Next we hit Equinox, a 4x4 driving course at the Land Rover Driving School near Rutland, Vermont, which was worth additional value today based on some necessary elminating of Hunters during previous days. G4 Challenge officials had pickets set up for this course, and we had to go through as many gates as possible in the time allotted. We had 15 minutes, and at 7.5 minutes we had to switch drivers. I drove first and Sergey guided me, then we switched and he drove and I navigated him through.
Equinox was significant because Sergey and I were experiencing what Land Rover does best, as we spent time commandeering these vehicles through terrain that is rugged and challenging and remote. The Freelanders we were driving managed well.
At the third Hunter, we ran from the start point along snow-covered railroad tracks onto a railroad bridge. We rappelled off the bridge down to the second checkpoint, and ran along the tracks there, around and back up the hill to the vehicles. This particular challenge included all the elements of what you envision as an adventure challenge sport. You’re out wearing the helmets, and the climbing gear and it is something you can wrap your emotions around and really enjoy. I felt like Spiderman, sort of.
From there we jumped back into the cars. It was a short distance to our last Hunter. As opposed to the previous Hunter, where we barreled through the starting line in hopes of not wasting time (despite our Strategy Pit plan that would have had us wait for another team to go through before us), this time had to wait for Belgium and Canada to come through.
We had guessed we would be at the Hunter seventh, and planned it so we had enough time to wait for another team to go through if we were early. It worked out well for them, too, because they had predicted they’d be there fifth, and were still able to get 10 points by being sixth, or one position off from their prediction. We came in seventh, so we rang in right on time, netting 20 points for following our Strategy Plan to the letter.
This final Hunter was an adventure activity for sure. We went to a climbers dreamland of sorts, a place called the Cathedral, which is characterized by sheer rock face that simply tempts onlookers to try climing. It was undercut, so we had to use “jumars” to get up. Jumars are tools that you hook onto the rope and use to climb straight up. You can get up anything if you have a vertical rope and jumars. While there, I saw this huge icefall come off the mountain and fall down the cliff. The ice fell on the left and the right of where we were ascending, so it was really spectacular. We used an auto-locking seatbelt-like device to come back down face after our ascent.
We hit perfectly on one of our Strategy Pit predictions for how we were going to attack the Hunters on Wednesday. To explain, in early-morning Strategy Pit sessions, we predict when we are going to complete each Hunter in relation to the order of the other 14 competitors finishing the same Hunter. This has proved to be both difficult to predict and execute and essential to winning the overall strategy game. In addition to hitting one prediction head on for 20 points, two of our other predictions were just one off, scoring us 10 points each. Overall, Wednesday was a good day, how I envisioned this challenge being. Although it wasn’t as physically taxing as expected, it was taxing nonetheless if only for the sheer magnitude of the competition.
The campsite that night was very enjoyable too, mostly because we were there early as opposed to our late finish Tuesday that cost us the entire day’s worth of points. Since we camped early, we had the time and energy to hang out around the campfire and socialize with the others.
April 3, Springfield, Massachusetts
Thursday morning brought along the second Maximizer of the G4 Challenge and the final leg of the Eastern USA stage, which began Sunday with an “urban Maximizer” in Manhattan. This second Maximizer, staged before larger crowds and contained between tighter coordinates than the competition of the last three days, wasn’t, to say the least, Manhattan.
Instead of breaking the day huddled in Strategy Pit, we met eight support Freelanders parked at the bottom of a ski hill in western Massachusetts. G4 Challenge officials handed one teammate a map of the slopes, with a checkpoint indicated on the map, and handed the other teammate handheld radio and a snowboard or set of skis.
I opted for the snowboard, ran for the ski jump and jumped on while Sergey hopped in the Freelander with one radio. I went first, ran to the ski lift and jumped on. When I got to the top, Sergey navigated me via radio down the mountain to our checkpoint. At the checkpoint was an enlarged photocopy of our ticket to South Africa…clever indeed. I had to look around for at least a minute and a half or two minutes to find the ticket with my name. It seems like I looked at every ticket at least twice. Finally I found it, and snowboarded down the mountain. I was either first or second down the mountain, entering the spectator area after my descent to an enthused crowd.
Sergey then grabbed his board, went up the mountain and I navigated him to his checkpoint. He got his ticket and came down the mountain. Then we had to run together through a gate, and back to the lift, and back down the mountain to our final checkpoint, where we picked up our own national flags.
We finished by boarding down the mountain, myself with the Stars and Stripes trailing behind me, and Sergey with the Russian flag. That felt great for me, being proud to carry the U.S. flag, and it was equally great to see the Stars and Stripes and the Russian flag coming down the mountain as a team. We jabbed our flags into the snow, and we finished in second place in that adventure. Netherlands/Turkey were the only team ahead of us.
That to me the final leg of the Eastern USA stage illustrates what the Land Rover G4 Challenge is all about, with the nations coming together with a common goal and sharing in the spirit of adventure. To top it all off, the third place team was Ireland and UK, and Irishman Paul McCarthy had never been on a snowboard before in his life. For them to come down in third place, when McCarthy had never even seen snow really, was amazing.
At the end of the first leg, I knew I’d be in the bottom eight, and I was, due to losing our points on Tuesday. That means that instead of picking who my teammate will be (as I did choosing Sergey in Manhattan) someone else is going to do the picking this time, and I get to be picked. There’s not anybody who I don’t want to be paired up with, so whatever team I end up as will be a good match, I’m sure. (It would be great to get Chester Foster, because he knows South Africa, but really that’s the only advantage.)
I’m definitely looking forward to South Africa, and I’m looking forward to some sleep on the plane ride over. This hasn’t been really physically demanding so far, but it’s exhausting. I’m used to getting a lot of sleep, and I haven’t been getting much sleep. I’m getting used to the game and learning how to adjust and plot strategy in pairs. However, the best strategy right now might just be a nap.
After romping through the woods on foot, flinging myself off mountainsides with support ropes and putting a Freelander through its paces, I can say this G4 Challenge is phenomenally well done. This whole stage has been on public roads. We’re stopping at gas stations and going to rest stops and people see us and come up and want to know what it’s all about.
Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to being in a remote environment. I think there’s probably going to be a lot more middle-of-nowhere variety and remoteness in South Africa, which constitutes home base for Stage 2. This time we will be using Defenders, and they will be doing exactly what the Defender is designed to do – taking us where no one else has been.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....