Monday, May 22, 2006


Shane and I headed down to the 3rd in the series of the adventure races ready to vindicate ourselves for the missed opportunity in the last race. He stayed at our place the night before and getting to bed a little after midnight, we got just under 3 hours sleep before getting up at 3 to make the 4 hour drive to the race. Allison and I had JUST arrived back home that evening from El Paso from partying with a friend of mine after he graduated from Seargents Major Academy so we were already exhausted and a little dehydrated if you know what I mean.

The drive down to Camp Horizon was just under 4 hours from Kansas City, but several teams made the worthwhile trek. Camp Horizon is a Methodist owned and operated Church camp with some great trails and fantastic scenery. They were also very accommodating in allowing us to use their bathrooms and showers. This is a very clean and well kempt camp and next year, we’ll probably stay down there in the cabins the day before the race instead of driving down the morning of.

This time, we had several new faces among the racers so Clay pleaded with everyone to pay attention to the directions in the pre-race meeting. Some did, some didn’t. Due to past mistakes, Shane and I made sure that we listened for his guidance as to whether or not we needed to take our running shoes with us during the bike leg. No mention of it. WHEW!

Everyone started off running from the start. The beginning run was short but immediately difficult as it made use of the fairly dramatic terrain. There were sections of the trail that had us bouldering down rock ledge drop-offs that had ladders bolted to them for our use if necessary. Shane and I threw caution to the wind in our frenzy to stay on top that we went off the rock drop-offs and saved some time. The footing was very tricky sometimes, but being the avid trail runners that we are, our training ensured us sure footedness. Once down in a river canyon, we hit a double-wide gravel trail for about a half-mile leading us to some waiting race staff with kayaks.

The kayak leg should be considered more of a special test rather than a paddling event because the river was so low that paddling in it was impossible in most places. This had everyone portaging the boats, paddles, and PFDs UPriver to the next two checkpoints. The sandbars were full of the coarse, gritty sand that filled everyone’s shoes and socks and made for an uncomfortable run/walk/jog experience for many. After hitting the second checkpoint with the boats, we were able to get in the water to paddle back downstream somewhat for about 10 minutes until the low water forced everyone to finish portaging back to the start of the kayak section where we GLADLY turned in our rubber duckies and paddles.

Once done with that, we proceeded back up the canyon walls to the transition area (TA1). Going down was much easier than up for obvious reasons, but also because the trail markings were easier to follow when descending. Heading back up, it was difficult at times to see which way the trail led and a couple of teams went slightly astray here.

Once back in the TA, Shane and I were in about 7th or 8th place. NOT where we wanted to be, but we were still feeling good and knew that pacing ourselves and using our experience would eventually pay off. Upon entering the TA, we were told to read the instructions that Clay was handing out. A circuit drill type of course was set up and getting to each, we had to alternate doing the human wheelbarrow and then complete each task detailed at the stations. The first had us doing 25 pushups each. On to the next station, we completed 25 sit-ups. Then we had to alternate the wheelbarrow to the next station where we were to complete 25 squat-thrusts. And finally, we finished up with 30 jumping jacks before doing the wheelbarrow back to the start point.

Although each of these tasks was in itself not too hard, altogether, it was very tiring to do while adrenaline was already going and trying to stay competitive. Nothing like having an intense little workout DURING a race!

After completing our circuit drills, we were handed a card in which we were to write a minimum of a 30 word thank you to one of the race sponsors. Shane and I had the privilege of writing to World Multisport for their involvement in helping these races take place. Unfortunately, I don’t think my handwriting was very legible at the time, but hopefully, they’ll get the sincerity that Shane and I both felt while writing these thank you cards.

Once the cards were completed and verified by a wonderful volunteer race official (my wife), we headed out to complete the running course. The run had us in a maze of trails cris-crossing each other in ways that could’ve been frustrating if you didn’t follow the markers. During the run, our instructions were to find four poker chips of different colors. There were red, blue, green, and white ones and if the trail was followed as marked, you eventually came to each. If you tried to take a short cut, the resulting time loss and frustration ruined some pretty athletic teams’ chances of finishing higher than they did.

The maze of a run eventually led us back to the TA where we were given directions with maps and were on our bikes. Since there was again no mention of needing the running shoes during the bike section, I didn’t take them. Shane did, but I opted not to. Luckily, we DIDN’T need them so this time, we were on track. Almost… As soon as we got to the trailhead which was only about a half mile from the TA, Shane realized that he’d left our punch card at the TA and headed back to get it. At this point, we were still in about 5th or 6th place and the other teams had been in the trails ahead of us for several minutes. We knew we’d really have to hammer hard on the bike if we were to have a chance of making the top 3 or 4. The map we had just had the trail marked on it with no scale to help identify how long it would be. Shane and I hit it pretty hard and it was here that we’d hunt down the rest of the field. I love the rough stuff and my bike shows it. It usually takes most of the punishment, but I ride hard in training so I know what it can take. The trail was very technical in some parts and hilly. So much so that many teams (including us) had to walk some of them. The combination of hills and technical rock gardens on the trail made for slow going for some of the teams. Due to varying levels of technical ability in the teams, we were able to fairly quickly catch up to, and overtake most of the teams before the halfway mark. Some strong riders had some unfortunate mechanical difficulties which took them out of contention. The trails took a toll on everyone in one way or another. At one point the trails doubled back on itself 3 or 4 times for long sections between checkpoints and Clay made it very clear before the race that we had to get the punch cards punched IN ORDER for this part to ensure that nobody had an unfair advantage in case they knew the course. This worked in our favor because we did NOT know the course, but the hours of hard technical running and riding paid off for us in a big way. For this race, our dominant technical skills on the mountain bike is what enabled us to take control of the race. Once out of the treacherous rock gardens, the trail led us up a BIG lung busting hill on a gravel road then put us back into the trail maze we had previously run on. Once again, following the markers made it easier to navigate and after punching the last two checkpoints, it led us out and back to the TA for the finish.

During this race, I think several lessons were learned by many teams. I saw one team lose their punch card in the river during the kayak leg. I yelled it out to them and they recovered it, but had everyone else kept silent, their race would have been over too soon. Several other teams learned the importance of following the course AS MARKED and hopefully, will listen carefully to the helpful pre-race meeting instructions. WE learned from now (purely by accident) to always keep the person with the punch card in the front. That way, if he or she drops it, the following teammate has a chance to see it and recover it. Hope this tip helps someone out in the future.


angie's pink fuzzy said...

oh, man, I got an adrenaline rush just reading the report!

this adventure racing stuff sounds fun. I especially like the "silly" parts - like doing drills or writing thank you notes! do they all have stuff like that?

Ben aka "Good Ben" said...

It is SO much fun! As a matter of fact, they DO have stuff like that at all the races. Those are the "special tests" and are a trademark of Adventure Races. Otherwise, it would be just another off-road triathlon. Try one!

Ben, aka BadBen said...

Fantastic job for kicking some serious A.R. butt! I posted some of your photos on both group sites:


Bend in the Road said...

WoW! Congrats Ben! Watching Winston and while you and the honey were having fun makes it all worth it! I wish I could have been there to see it! It's amazing that you could finish the race after the tumble you took training, much less come in first. But you are the AMAZING BEN!