Adventure Race Croatia was insane on so many levels!
We spent a few days chilling at these awesome seaside camp lodges before the race. It was the first time our team met in person, but we were already acclimated from all the pre-race convos we had.
Race day started early! We hopped on a bus at 4am and rode for three hours from the coast to the mountains. The starting point was this magical town surrounded by waterfalls that were gushing like crazy from the rainstorms of the past week. The weather was sunny, the music was pumping, and all the teams took off on the first trek uphill. Most teams were jogging, but we decided to power walk it. Surprisingly, our navigation skills helped us pass some teams who made mistakes, like the tortoise and the hare. Plus, being towards the back of the pack was more fun because everyone was more laid-back, chatting and laughing as we passed each other throughout the course.
Then it was time for the bike leg. Right after we left that transition area, Nicky got a stick stuck in her derailleur and it completely broke it. We didn’t have a spare with us so I hooked her up to my tow rope and pulled her back to the TA. By that time, the entire race crew was gone and we honestly thought our race was coming to an end. We’d have to take a massive penalty and open our sealed cell phone for assistance, not to mention the time loss trying to find a part, fix it and get back on course. But there was one old Italian man there, sweeping his sidewalk. We chatted with him about our situation in a mix of languages and he mentioned that the owner of the building for the TA, named Branimir, has a bunch of bikes in the back. He gave him a call and put me on the phone with him. He was the nicest man! We spoke in clear English and he said that we can borrow any bike or parts that we need! There was hope! I immediately found the bikes and started removing one of the derailleurs. I didn’t know that a 7 speed mech would work with an 11 speed cassette but we tried it anyways. By the magic of the universe, it WORKED! We couldn’t believe that our race was saved and we could continue on. Hindsight, that was the only place in the entire course that we would have been able to find that part for the bike. No other towns we went through had anything close to a bike shop. Wild!
We continued on. I was a bit worried about Ash since she's new to mountain biking, and it proved true- we had to slow down the pace quite a bit so she could keep up. Night fell, and the rain started pouring like crazy. It was nonstop rain for 48 hours, making everything slippery, soaked, and freezing cold. We didn't even bother changing into dry clothes at the transitions because it was pointless. Some legs, like the river paddle, got canceled because there was just too much water. I'm telling you, every road and trail turned into a river.
Ash was really struggling and in a dark place. Towards the end of the second leg, I ended up carrying her backpack, while Jade pushed her bike up the hills. Finally, we reached the next transition area, and Ash decided to drop out of the race. We talked to the race crew, and they allowed us to continue as a team of three, even though we wouldn't be ranked. We didn't care about winning anyway, so it was cool with us.
The three of us supported each other and picked up the pace again. I handled the navigation with Nicky, and we were pretty damn good at it throughout the race. Some checkpoints were flooded, and the reroutes were a bit crazy since they weren't planned, but we made it work.
Then the sun started to show up, and the views were breathtaking. We were surrounded by beautiful birch forests with fresh green leaves, rocky cliffs, and stunning canyons with waterfalls. It kept us going and boosted our spirits.
Since the paddle section got cut, we ended up doing more biking and trekking. And because we started slow, we missed a cutoff at TA6 and had to take a shortcut. We had to combine two bike sections of about 200km, but luckily we managed to get some sleep in between. My ass was seriously sore after all that biking that the desitin cream was seeping through my chamois and my pants onto the bike seat, haha.
We caught up with a few teams along the way, which was a huge morale boost. And since it stopped raining, we could take quick naps while moving, which made us faster.
We kept bouncing around with the team we know from Santa Cruz, which was great because we all get along really well and generally have a similar pace. We caught them at one TA and their team member Adam’s bike was broken. He thought his race was over and they were looking for a spare bike to use but no luck. I asked what the problem was and his rear brake pistons wouldn’t work and his front brake pads were completed toast. Basically he couldn’t stop at all. I’ve fixed pistons before so I took a look. After some serious finagling we got them lubed and moving again. I gave him my spare pads for his front brakes too and he was back up and rolling. He was so excited that he gave me the biggest teary-eyed hug. It another beautiful gem in magical journey across Croatia.
In the end, we finished in 100 hours with only about 10 hours of sleep. We all had our zombie moments, but thankfully not at the same time, so we could support each other. We spent most of the race laughing and singing. Nicky and I sang so many songs that we joked about making an album. Jade was our captain and timekeeper, which suited his organized personality perfectly. He really pushed us to move fast and transition quickly. I'm so grateful for my teammates. We made a name for ourselves as the friendly, goofy crew with the race volunteers.
And let me tell you, the volunteers were absolutely amazing! They made sure that every team, whether they were the fastest or the slowest, had a fantastic experience. We even had a chance to chat with the winning team after the race, and they confirmed how well-coordinated everything was.
Overall, this race was epic. We went through it all—beautiful terrain, wild weather, lost teammates, magical recoveries, silly songs, and we pushed ourselves to the limit.
I'm proud of team Scooby Snacks. We may not have made it to the podium, but that doesn't matter. We made memories, had an adventure, and formed an unbreakable bond as a team. And who knows, maybe our hilarious songs during the race will make us famous one day, haha!
Here's to more unforgettable adventures in the future!