Well, the last race of the Blue Hills Adventure Race Series has come and gone, but not without leaving it's mark on many AR loving competitors. The field of 50 teams made this race the largest one yet this year with most of the regulars showing up for the finale. Teams Backwoods WildHares, Echelon, Lawrence Fire Dept, Hope to Survive, and many other regular faces came out to enjoy the second annual Eisenhower Challenge at Eisenhower State Park near Melvern, KS.
It was a beautiful day with temps starting in the 60's, but quickly climbing up into the 80s by race end. As teams began their setup in the transition area, race director Clay Meyers-Bowman walked around encouraging and thanking competitors for their participation. Many of the teams were last minute registrants much to the delight of race staff, but due to the larger than expected number of teams, the logistics of the race had to change slightly. During the pre-race meeting, teams were told what to expect during the race. When asked how many teams were first timers, approximately 20+ teams raised their hands. They were listening intently as Clay instructed them how to have the most successful race possible.
After the meeting, teams received their maps and some instructions for beginning the race. For this race, the field would all do the same course, but the legs would be in different order based on divisions. The Co-ed and Masters divisions started the race on the trail run whereas the rest started a short run to the kayaks. This did a good job of separating the larger than normal cluster of adrenaline junkies. The wind was whipping up pretty well during the paddle section and it was humorous watching the teams battle the elements (and the inflatable kayaks) while zig-zagging all over the place.
Some of the co-ed and masters teams returned from the 4(+) mile trail run to encounter their first special test. They were to solve a word/number puzzle before receiving their next set of instructions. Many racers who may have done triathlons in the past soon learned that there are MANY differences between a tri and an adventure race. Some teams found it difficult to stop (or control) the adrenaline long enough to focus on a mental task so a 5th grade level math puzzle took longer than it otherwise might have in a different environment. Once this was successfully completed, teams were given their next set of instructions.
During this race, teams also had to make their way through a challenging bike course which included single track, horse trails, bush whacking through 7 feet tall thick brush, and some roads. There were several team positions changed during this part of the race due to the varying levels of mountain biking experience. One all female team even had to finish on two flat front tires! Now THAT'S showing some true grit! Good job girls! Some other teams also had to tough their way through flats and other mechanical issues to finish the bike leg.
At the finish line, amongst the tired and dirty faces, there were lots of smiles, handshakes, and high-fives.
Although I didn't get to race today, it was still fun watching everyone else enjoying themselves while pushing beyond their normal comfort levels. Everyone I spoke with said that they loved the race and would like to do another one. Hopefully, they'll take advantage of the opportunity to do more of the Blue Hills races next year as well as checking out other Adventure Races. Then there will be fewer people calling ME crazy!