A few weeks ago Stanley approached us asking if we might like to be a part of their fall “Trailgating” campaign. We love Stanley (#Stanleyness) products, trails, and portmanteaus (we don’t love football, but that’s ok) so we jumped at the opportunity. They sent us a sweet set of insulated stainless steel cups, a classic Stanley Growler, and their Stanley Crock to try out.
Our life is basically 24/7 Trailgating, so I knew that we were going to need to get a little creative with this feature to step outside our normal routine. One evening I was brainstorming the most epic way to showcase the Stanley products. It wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense for us to pack a picnic in the crock, since we could easily just heat our stew on our kitchen stove. I could fill the growler with some beer from a local brewery, but that wasn’t very exciting. Mostly, my list was short because I kept getting interrupted with questions along the lines of:
“Do you think I’ll be ok in bike shorts, or should I get a pair of triathlon shorts?”
“Will 600 lumens on my head and 1200 on my handlebars is enough light?”
“What food should we be packing in addition to these 30 packets of GU?”
While I was working on this list, Will was busy preparing for his upcoming race, the Adventure XStream – aka, AXS. The AXS is a 24 hour trail running, mountain biking, and kayaking race that takes place here in Moab, Utah. In addition to being incredibly long and grueling, the race doesn’t have a set course: the AXS team gives the racers UTM coordinates for checkpoints they need to hit, but don’t give them any info on how to get from Point A to Point B. On top of that, each checkpoint location is kept secret until you reach the checkpoint before it, meaning that there was next to no course information for Will and his partner Sam to study before the race.
As I was interrupted for what seemed like the 15th time, it hit me – the Stanley stuff was going to be the cherry on top of our ultimate crewing setup. Jenna, Sam’s wife, and I were planning on being the guys’ support crew, meeting them at transition areas to help with gear exchange and anything else they might need. Sam has done more than a few of these long races, so Jenna was showing me the ropes.
In a typical ultra-marathon, triathlon, or even long canoe races (like the notorious 260 mile Texas Water Safari, which Sam has won before) the course is available months ahead of time. Racers can study and project when they’ll be arriving at each milestone, so that the crew can make sure to be there right on time.
In the AXS, Jenna and I not only had no idea when the guys would be arriving, but also where they were or how long each leg of the race was. With no information, we had to be ready to jump out of our seats and help them at a moment’s notice.
One neat thing about the race was the “hub and spoke” nature of the course. Though the guys would have 5 different legs, they would return to Gold Bar campground (which also served as the start and finish line) several times throughout the day. After seeing the guys off on their first leg, we got to work setting up an oasis in the desert.
We parked the bus right near the blow up arch, so that the guys wouldn’t need to go out of their way to get to us. Then we set up our REI Alcove, an awesome shade structure that has fabric walls so you still get shade inside even when the sun isn’t directly overhead. The guys had organized all of their gear ahead of time, so once everything was set up we just kicked back and relaxed.
The first transition was easy – from a short run to a long run, all the guys needed to do was pick up their pre-loaded packs. Not surprisingly, they came in with the front of the pack and were out on their next leg before we knew it.
The final step of the second leg of the race involved a 200′ rappel, which we conveniently spotted from our seats outside the bus. We watched the ropes all morning, waiting for the first signs of racers. Finally there was some movement on the ropes. I pulled out the binoculars and was surprised (and stoked!) to see that the first one on the rappel was Will – his neon green backpack and shorter-than-should-be-legal shorts were unmistakable! Loving the little heads up, we got ready to help them on to the next stage.
The second transition was a bit more complicated: going from trekking to mountain biking meant changing shoes, adding gear to packs, and refilling water. Will was frantic that he get new socks, shouting something about going swimming. When he peeled his wet socks off his feet looked like dead fish, and I quickly tossed him a new pair of dry socks. As the guys plotted their course, Jenna and I pulled their rappel equipment out of their packs, added bike tools, and refilled their bladders with water and ice. Just as quickly as they came in, they were off again!
The guys biked out Potash Road and up Long’s Canyon, then all over the trail systems on top of the mesa. Eventually, they rolled into the Moab Boat Ramp, where they would drop their bikes and hop on an inflatable kayak for 10 miles. Since we didn’t know how long the biking section was, we had been waiting for about an hour and a half before they showed up. To our surprise, they were the second team in – the 45 minute lead they’d had had disappeared on the mountain bikes. After realizing that they were in second, rather than first as they had thought, Sam and Will turned all business. They were packing, unpacking, chugging Ensure and Coke, and affixing glow sticks to everything. It’s amazing to me how well they worked together – I would surely fold under the pressure. Though they were the second team into the transition, they were the first team on the water.
At this point the sun had just gone down and we weren’t sure what the rest of the evening would hold. The guys had about 10 miles of kayaking ahead of them, which we estimated would take about two hours. We grabbed a quick takeout dinner and headed back to the bus to make sure we had everything they might need. We started by brewing a bunch of coffee, and stashing it in the Stanley Growler. The Growler is awesome because it can hold enough coffee for us (trying to stay awake until they come home!) and them, who need the warmth and caffeine to keep moving forward. On top of that, it’ll keep hot things hot for 24+ hours – we tested it to be sure! We also heated up some Chef Boyardee ravioli and meatballs, which had been specifically requested by Sam. It’s probably not the most gourmet food the crock has held, but the racers get what the racers want.
Side note – it’s amazing how closely the food these guys eat resembles a toddler’s food: gummies, fruit, granola bars, Ensure, Chef Boyardee.
The guys came in to the final transition a bit faster than we’d expected so we weren’t outside waiting for them. I noticed the glow sticks floating outside just as I heard Will roar “BUS CREW!!” and knew that we needed to get out there asap. I ran over and quickly realized that the guys were freezing (paddling at night will do that to you) and shoeless. Giving Will my shoes, I hobbled back to the bus and grabbed their new shoes and socks and coffee. The coffee was hot and really hit the spot, apparently.
The guys took a second to warm up from their kayaking section and plan the rest of the race. We knew that they had only one more running section, but had expected that it would be a long one. Surprisingly, they discovered that they only had one more checkpoint to visit – about a 3 mile round trip. Neck and neck with another team, we made sure they had the required gear in their packs and sent them on their way.
Not wanting to miss the finish, we bundled up (the desert gets chilly after the sun goes down!) and headed out to the finish line. They rolled in in first place a few minutes later, and celebrated their win Jenna, Hilde, Pretzel, and me.
The next morning was lazy, watching the final racers roll in from our comfortable outdoor living room. Will and Sam immediately started jokingly planning their next race, which I imagine will be here before we know it. I’m not sure if we’ll still have the bus then, but I know that the Stanley setup will be in our race kit for years to come!