Wednesday, March 22, 2006

My First Adventure Race

My best investment for this race was a pair of $15 socks. And that’s all you really need to know.

Picture Album

But if you want more (sorry this is so long, I got kinda carried away):
Saturday morning I woke up at 6:20 which was about 20 minutes later than I planned. No biggie, I showered, got dressed, picked up Lauren (just going as a spectator, she was supposed to be our navigator but she had a hairline fracture in her foot), stopped to buy a tarp, grabbed some grits from McDonalds, arrived at Hooper Road Park about 7:45, and met up with my teammates, Erryca and Megan (who replaced Lauren on 2 days notice).

We had 3 main goals for the race: 1) finish, 2) try to avoid catastrophic injury, and 3) just on general principle beat Team Brokeback (motto: We keep our butts busy).

At 9 am the race started; for the first 150 meters or so we had to carry one person. This wasn’t too bad, Erryca got the free ride. First were 2 running checkpoints (CPs) which we found pretty easily (mainly because we could follow other teams and not get lost). The total run was close to 2 miles before we made it back to the TA where we grabbed our gear and bikes and hit the trails. We rode a few minutes till we hit a trail split; we stopped, pulled out the map, and tried to figure out which trail to take (this became a recurring theme of our race…ride a few minutes, stop, realize we are lost, then proceed to go the wrong way and get even more lost). Thankfully 20 seconds later two teams who looked like they knew which way to go (we quickly learned teams with fancy outfits and gear generally take the right trails) came riding by us and we just followed them. We hit CP3 and CP4 with no trouble, at this point the trail was still pretty fast, just a little mud and not too technical, not sure if we even had to get off the bikes up to this point. We soon crossed the canal and rode the connection trail to Comite trails. At this point we felt great, spirits were pretty high, and we were making good time. Megan was probably the best biker so she led the way. After 15 or 20 minutes we realized we missed CP5 which was the easiest checkpoint to find on the ENTIRE course, it was right along the trail but we apparently rode right by it. We did eventually hit CP5, and then spent probably 45 minutes looking for CP6. By this time we were extremely frustrated, some of the track was very technical (at least for us) so we had to get off the bikes a few times and the map didn’t seem to help. Finally after hitting the same cross-trail again we had the extremely amazing idea to use the compass. It’s absolutely incredible how helpful the magnetic poles of the earth can be when trying to navigate. With brief use of the compass we decided to ride north and found CP6 in two minutes. There was more biking and more disorientation before we finally hit CP7, CP8, and CP9. I think there was a good chance we rode close to twice the distance needed to actually hit all of these points. This time is a good point to make the following observation; all the teams we ran into on the trails were really cool and everyone would earnestly try to help each other along and give advice. Also a big shout out to “Luscious Las Chicas”, we ran into these ladies a few times, they were troopers.

We finally made it to TA2 and a mystery challenge; we had to navigate a short obstacle course. Seems easy right, they also gave us two balloons which we had to hold with just our heads. If either of the balloons fell or touched anyone’s shoulder we had to start over. Kinda cute actually, less cute when there is a 12 inch difference in height between the tallest and shortest team members. We made it about the 4th try I think. This is also good time to mention the winning team, Team Backpacker, was probably finishing the race this point.

On to the canoeing section; good news, there was no way possible we could get lost here. And that was pretty much all the good news. First we had to port the canoe I would guess almost ¼ mile before we could put it in water, and I use the term water charitably because in most places the river depth was only 1 to 2 feet. We took off our shoes, threw them in the canoe, and proceeded to start walking down the river. Most of the teams we saw just walked it while one person pulled the canoe thru the water. Megan and Erryca were able to canoe/float probably 2/3 of the distance downstream (a little more than a mile total). I walked alongside, pulling the canoe out when it got stuck. At some point I managed to step in hole on the river bottom and fall face first into the water. It didn’t but hurt but it was outrageously funny. Coming back the 1 ½ miles upstream Megan and I pulled the canoe. That was not very fun at all. The only good thing about the canoe-walk was being able to devour some energy bars and drink some water. One other positive for me, my $15 socks still felt great even after wearing them during the canoe-walk.

We carried the canoe back to the drop spot, next were 4 running CPs (12-15). We actually didn’t do too badly here (relatively speaking). I would guess it was probably close to 3 miles to hit all the CPs, but we may have added close to an extra mile to this distance. On the plus side I don’t think we ever ran in the completely wrong direction. At one point Erryca hit a root and twisted her ankle, but she walked it off and kept going. My knee I dislocated a few years ago also started talking to me but I ignored it and kept going. We also kept running into this one team. They were generally looking for the same CPs as we were, we would take off running and 2 to 3 minutes later we would run back into them. It was really quite amusing at first although it got old rather quickly.

We finally got back on the bikes, only 3 CPs left. By this point my goals were to stay on the tracks, not run into my teammates, and to avoid hitting trees or going otb. We missed the correct trail again but only took a few minutes to right our way and hit the connection trail back to Hooper. Erryca took a pretty nasty spill here, but again she was a trooper and kept going. We hit CP16 and crossed the canal back over to the Hooper trails. On the way to CP17 and back to the TA we hit a little technical section of track but it wasn’t too bad and a few minutes later we were back at the TA.

There was one more CP to hit, this last one on foot. We jogged back up the trail and reached the canal. At that point there was a trail on the other side but no bridge. Another team in front of us waded across the canal which was probably close to 12ft across at that point. Thinking out loud I said, “Back in the day I coulda jumped that.” Megan and Erryca basically agreed there was no way. I figured what the hell if I miss I’ll just get wet again. It was about a 3ft drop-off before the canal so I could only take one long step before jumping (fyi, there was a bridge about 150 meters or so away, but who needs bridges). Well I nailed the freakin jump, landed in mud but still nailed it (I even had the triple jump leg kick working, my old coaches would have been proud). If one of the mystery challenges is creek jumping next time we’re set. At that point I thought, “cool, hit this trail, find CP18, 2 minutes back over the creek and we’re done.” 15 minutes later and still looking we find another trail (and another bridge) a little further down the canal. At this point I’m walking (brother needed a break) behind another co-ed team. I did hear the best line of the day; one team member asked their point person why she lost track of the guy from another team ahead of them. Her response, “It’s not my fault the little bastard started running.” Another 5 minutes and CP18 was conquered; crossed back over canal, jogged back to the TA and turned in our passport -- finishing time: 5 hours, 38 minutes, and a little change in seconds. I think we finished 38 or 39th out of 50 something teams; I think there were a few teams that didn’t finish and a few more that didn’t hit all the checkpoints. Other than our navigation issues I thought we did well for first timers. By my best guess we probably biked 17-20 miles (supposed to be 12) and trekked 6-7 miles (supposed to be 5), and canoe-walked 3 miles.

My only itty, bitty, tiny, complaint with the race; at the finish line they served pizza, salad, water, cold drinks. Well the pizza was cold. Don’t get me wrong I was very thankful but I just wished the pizza was warm. Now if someone reads this and thinks something akin to, “If you want hot food finish faster”; to you I say with love, kiss my #@#. However the race director redeemed himself for this slight oversight; during the race Lauren locked my keys in the car. Apparently race director Dave got a coat-hanger and broke into my car to get the keys out. Pretty impressive, I wonder if that was a mystery challenge during one of his adventure races. I also lost my sunglasses somewhere, but I didn’t bring my expensive ones so wasn’t upset.

Thanks to the following people: my teammates Erryca and Megan (especially thanks to Megan thanks for doing it on short notice, sorry if we bitched at each other some), Pat for letting me tear up his bike, Lauren for hanging out despite not being able to race, Joselyn for coming out to watch (even though she arrived AFTER we finished, she did have a good excuse…something about tax season and being a CPA), Kristi of Team Backpacker (who won the race with an insane time of 2 hours and 30 minutes) for all the great advice, Jay from Third Row for the invite to the crawfish boil, and Darrel Mitchell Jr. for making that monster shot against the Aggies to send LSU to the sweet sixteen. Also thanks to my friends who wished us luck and those who thought I was (and still am) crazy.

10 Things I learned from this race:
Maps are made for a reason, and they work well with a compass
Having one person handle the navigation could be a good idea
If given the chance it’s a good idea to ride and learn the trails before the race
It’s about time I invested in cycling shoes
Patience is a virtue
Braking doesn’t hurt, trees do hurt
Growing a beard may seem more rugged for guys in beer commercials, but it didn’t seem to help my adventuring racing skills
Boiled crawfish is great post race food
Buy good socks and it will be all good
I like adventure racing

Overall it was an awesome experience, the people were great and I’ll definitely do it again.

More race pictures -- Snapfish Album

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