With cowboy toughness Denise and Greg McHale have earned a spot at the adventure race world championships.
The Carcross couple qualified for worlds with a second place finish at the fourth annual Cowboy Tough Expedition race in Wyoming last week.
“We’re happy overall. Obviously we would have preferred to win, but our goals going in were to get a free entry to the world championships, which we did, and to get more experience racing together as a team,” said Denise. “This was only our second race since we’ve been back racing and we had a good race as a team.
“We were leading the first half and we ended up with some stomach issues and had to slow our pace down a little bit to recover and we weren’t able to recover enough to catch the lead again. But that happens in racing.”
The McHales and their team, California’s Team Tecnu, placed second in the four-person team event. They were joined by Montreal’s Alex Provost and substitute racer Stuart Lynch, a four-time world champion from New Zealand.
“We thought it was a great opportunity to race with a four-time world champion and learn from his experience and what we could from his knowledge of racing at such a high level for many years,” said Denise. “That was a pretty awesome opportunity we had with Stu.”
Team Tecnu completed the almost 650-kilometre course in about 66 hours — 12 hours under the cutoff. They came in three and half hours behind Adventure Medical Kits from California and over seven hours ahead of third place’s Swedish Armed Forces Adventure Team.
“It ended up being shorter than we thought,” said Denise. “The second night we took a sleep and we knew Adventure Medical Kits were ahead of us and weren’t sleeping.… We thought we’d catch them on the third night, but that strategy didn’t work so well because there wasn’t a third night.”
“There’s some interesting history there,” she added. “Adventure Medical Kits used to be Team Tecnu and they ended up forming their own team.… That’s how we ended up connecting with the team manager from Tecnu and ending up as the new Tecnu team.”
Like most adventure races there was paddling, mountain biking, trekking, orienteering and mountaineering stages. There were also some atypical tasks, like carrying buckets of water up a hill, and locating a local tavern to down a shot of whiskey … or ice tea, if one preferred.
“We’re not tough enough to do the whiskey,” said Denise.
“On the last day we had a 140- or 150-kilometre bike ride and it was so hot it was kind of like you were baking in a sauna,” she added. “And there were crazy winds. At some points we were going like five kilometers an hour.”
The McHales will next compete at another Adventure Race World Series event in China this September. Then comes the world championship in Australia in November. It’ll be their first world championships together since the 2004 worlds in Newfoundland where they were on a seventh-place team.
Their previous adventure race before this season was in Australia in 2010. With their Tecnu teammates they made a triumphant return to the sport with first place at the 500-kilometre Happy Mutant race at the end of May in Iowa.
“Iowa was fun and a more low-key local kind of race, but this was a more high caliber competition and more intense, which is a little more stressful but it felt more like you’re racing,” said Denise.
Tecnu Adventure Racing is the three-time defending U.S. champions, but the McHales will be sitting out the U.S. championship in October since the rules stipulate that two Americans are on board.
The McHales and Provost will be back on the roster for the worlds so, as required by the rules, the team has three members from the same country.
“We’ll represent Canada, but we race for an American team,” said Denise. “It’s a little bit unusual, but it can be a bit challenging sometimes to find three people from the same country.”
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