I had the privilege of attending the Red Bull Divide and Conquer team triathlon this past weekend in Vancouver, BC. It was an unreal event that brought together some of the best mountain runners, bikers, and kayakers in the world.
I was fortunate to join forces with Asheville mountain running animal Matt Morse and Australian Super-D pinner Josh Carlson for the event, and I truly enjoyed the feeling of sharing all of the ups and downs of the event as a team. Generally speaking, athletes in all of these sports are usually all alone on competition day. We handle our own training, nutrition, preparation, and effort when it’s time to perform. Most of the strategy and planning goes on silently in our minds, and when we do succeed, it is us alone who celebrate at the top.
The team dynamic was much different, and I can’t wait to do more events like it in the future! The three of us were coming from all different walks in life, but there was such a supportive environment pervading throughout the week leading up to the event and the day of. We helped each other out with airport pickups, food, rides, and course planning. We were each deeply invested in each other, and when it was our respective turn to compete for the team, there was a much deeper motivation there than usually exists when you are competing for yourself. We all wanted to take our own games to the next level to honor our teammates’ efforts.
And that is what happened!
The course was a primal representation of what the North Shore of Vancouver is made of. The mountain run was 12 km long, but had two brutal descents of Mount Fromme and Grouse Mountain for a total elevation gain of 4800 vertical feet! At the top of Grouse Mountain, the runner scans the transponder and passes it off to the biker, who ran a 33 km course of single track and fire roads that featured gnarly rock drops, infinite slippery root networks, brutal hike-a-bike climbs, and 40+ mph fire road sprints. The biker then tags the kayaker, who runs to their boat, runs it to the Red Bull ramp, and launches into the Capilano River. Although only class III, the river weaves through a spectacular 6 km gorge on its way to the Pacific Ocean, where the paddlers then have to loop around a buoy, paddle against the tidal current up the coast, and run their boats a quarter of a mile to the finish line.
To top this all off, it rained all night before the event, and continued for the entire day of… the course was doused, and the runners and mountain bikers were working with the worst conditions imaginable.
Matt started us off strong with a staunch lead in the run 1/3 of the way up the mountain. He did this against Arcteryx, North Face, and Red Bull professional runners! He was so far ahead that the big guns didn’t see him get lost on the course, but that is what happened. Matt got reoriented and caught back up to the leaders, but then got lost again, this time unable to get within sight of the front of the pack again. He still finished strong in 6th position, and Josh took off down the mountain bike leg trying to close the 12 minute gap behind the leaders. Josh slayed the track and showed why he is one of the best Super-D and Enduro riders in the world. He navigated the gnarliest North Shore roots and rocks in a blistering time, and tagged me in 3rd place looking like someone who had just been to war!
I hit the Capilano River charged with energy and had good lines through the gorge. I put the power down efficiently, and came across the finish line after 40 minutes of pulling hard. Our 3rd place position put us on the podium of this amazing inaugural competition!
Achieving that result together was different than previous paddling competitions where I have placed well. We all met up later to share stories, beers, and the cash prize that we won together. It was awesome teaming up with other people who devote their lives to their sport, and combining our efforts to achieve a team goal. While the race organizers predicted a seven hour total time for the event, all of the top three teams completed it right around four hours!
The word on the street is that Red Bull will be rolling this event out to other places in the world to make it a circuit. Here’s hoping for an Asheville event!