May 9th, 2011
Team SOLE at Eco Motion 2011
After taking a short hiatus from adventure racing to climb some mountains and set some records, Paul Romero and Karen Lundgren of Team SOLE hopped back on the adventure racing train, taking on Eco Motion in Brazil. Between several airports and countries, SOLE caught up with Paul and Karen to discuss their 4th place finish at one of the world's toughest adventure races.
You just completed a gruelling race consisting of 19 different legs and several disciplines, including trekking, mountain biking, paddling, horseback riding, and climbing/rappelling. What was the hardest leg of the race for you to complete?
The biggest challenge of the race was to push through a big trek, toward the end of the race. The top 3 teams were within 15 minutes of each other, including us. In the middle of this trek, [the race organizers] put in 2 extra checkpoints, and 15km. Normally we adapt fine to these situations, but it was the very peak of our feet having arrived at an all-time disaster point. The trench-foot had set in to us at an all time worse. I won't go into details on this one, but let's say new levels of pain and misery were discovered and managed. Trouble is that it slows ya down. A few tiny mistakes in managing feet earlier had developed into a serious character building experience. We dug deep – extremely deep – just to get through this section.
The first 4 hours of this particular section were an amazing coastal run along some of Brazil's most famous, white sand beaches. Remote and extremely gorgeous. Then we were led to the interior where nighttime driving rain and swampy trails became the scenery. We live and learn... always.
Do you have a favourite leg of the race?
We did a river section, on kayaks, toward the finish line. 55km on a river. We had secured our position of 4th; it was sunny and warm, the river was moving SWIFT, and we just hammered for 7 hours to the finish line, arriving at sunset. The team was able to relax, actually chat, OFF our feet, eating tons of mango, fresh juices and such, that our support crew gave us.
Cruising down river, in remote Bahia. Cruising by fisherman and people just living in the bush. It was simply gorgeous. The team was taking turns with 1 person taking [a] 15 minute nap, disrupting the misery that a 7 hour paddle can have at the end of a 100hr + nonstop race...
Tell me about the transition in Itamarascu Town Centre. What did you feel in that moment?
There are some things that are just tough to describe. I'll try- It was midway through the race, we had just opened up a lead, and did a fantastic bike section. We moved like a road team and everything just clicked. Upon arrival to the town (around 1AM, as I recall), it was as if they called 10 cities around to come and receive the race – or at least the leaders. The town is on a hill top, and with a 1km super steep hill of cobblestone climb to the centre. [That's where] it all began. Hundreds, or likely thousands, received us.
We're climbing the steepest thing of the whole race (I mean cars can hardly climb this hill), and the crowd is SCREAMING. We're dancing out of the saddle, as kids would come along and push from behind as we barely make our way through people choking the streets. It was a page out of a pro tour, mountain top finish. It was unbelievable. There were fireworks. GIGANTIC fireworks; media, TV cameras, the usual but seemed [multiplied] times 10. The passion Brazil has for this sport is second to none.
You started the off race in 1st and finished 4th. What happened?
ALL kinds of things happened. This race was a tortoise and hare event; and yes, sometimes the hare gets it done. We were equipped to do so... We built a tremendous lead (a few times); things going so well – a few usual hiccups in the navigation – but the one thing that really took the wind out of our sails and robbed us of hours was a catastrophic failure of my bike. Full carbon fiber blowout. We performed operations on the frame, and it continued to fail. We found ourselves in a farmhouse in pouring rain in the middle of the night using Stone Age methods to repair a severed frame. Extremely demoralizing and tough on the team. We kept tight, we kept confident; but the math kept working against us. I got onto another (borrowed ) bike later, then it had a catastrophic sidewall failure (also in the middle of nowhere), resulting in another handful of hours tossed into the wind. The boys, Rafa and Mateus, and Super K just kept cool. We just kept pushing hard when everything was against us.
We became known as the team with the dark cloud over us the whole race, and it was raining lightning bolts for 108 hours. [The] fact is by day 2, most media and race staff all predicted we would not start day 3, based on the condition of our feet. We proved them all wrong and kept pushing; in fact gaining the lead again amongst a serious contingent of great teams.
Paul, when your bike frame broke, what did you do? How did you respond?
It's hard to believe. I've never had this happen before. I'll never forget the moment it happened. We had just gained 6 hours on the top team. We were on a grassy hill side, [in] pouring rain. The bike failed, I sat there on my knees with broken bike in hand (100km from anything) just asking WHY? Why me!? Team SOLE continued its ways of pushing through gigantic barriers.
Indeed "adventure" racing is aptly named. There are never a shortage of adventures or challenges to overcome. It seems to me that the greatest battle isn't simply completing the disciplines - it is choosing not to let your will be broken when all seems against you. Team SOLE may have placed 4th overall, but they remained victorious over the most intense battle adventure racing has to offer – the will to fight and finish, even when it seems impossible.
— Brandi Weston | SOLE Athlete Sponsorships Manager
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