Prior to this weekend, I’d only been to one adventure race, and it was just a solo sprint-type event (Ozark Extreme- Village Creek). Raid the Rock was a lot different- I raced with Mike and Darryl for Ozark Outdoors Supply, and the race itself was a lot longer.
When I arrived at check-in on Friday, I met up with Darryl and we discussed the plan of action for the race. He informed me that in the co-ed division that the races were often decided by who had the fastest woman on their team, and that I’d be a “ringer” for them. Sounds like a plan! Mike arrived soon after, and we went through gear check and the pre-race meeting, where we learned that the race would start at Burns Park at 5:30am. After that, it was off to dinner and sleep!
Wake up call: 3:15am!
Apparently, with a start at Burns Park, that means that the race could start out with any activity- paddling, trekking, cycling… etc. Mike and Darryl guessed correctly when they thought it would be paddling (based on the mandatory gear including glow sticks, which are hung on the front/back of the canoes if you’re paddling in the dark).
So, we got our maps, went back to our support van to plot coordinates, then headed out to the water. As everyone slipped into the Arkansas River in the dark, the combination of canoes/glow sticks/headlampsÃ‚ looked incredibly eerie.
Oh yeah- now would be a good time to mention that it’s been at least 15 years since I’ve been in a canoe. Luckily, Darryl and Mike were awesome canoe-drivers, so my job was to just sit in the middle and stay in-sync with Mike while Darryl steered from the back.
We punched the first few of our checkpoints (CPs) in the general vicinity of the launch. One required a little up-current paddling, but we generally zipped right through everything and were headed down the river to the first transition as the sun was rising from behind the Little Rock capitol building.
Side note- one CP was on a boat dock that had a large, sleeping wasp nest under it. I had to hold the canoe steady up against the dock while Mike punched the passport. I have a bad phobia of wasps and let the guys know that I’d be exiting the canoe if they came after me. Luckily, the wasps were still asleep.
After about an hour of paddling, we arrived at the transition 1 boat ramp several miles down the river. From there we hopped on our bikes to head back to Burns Park. After weaving through some neighborhoods, we got onto the River Trail MUT. This was my time to be useful- I sat on the front and pulled while Mike & Darryl drafted. It helped us catch up to other teams that had finished ahead the paddling section. However, I think we lost a little time on some of the singletrack with Mike struggling over some of the slippery, rocky terrain/climbs (at some point, it had started raining, and was on & off all day long). About halfway through, we arrived at a huge, steep hill that looked like a former quarry. It had ropes hung down from the top, and we had to climb up with our bikes. That was “interesting” to say the least :) After about 20 miles of riding, we arrived back at Burns Park for transition 2.
At the support van, we changed shoes and refilled out hydration packs. The race instructions were to pack climbing gear with us and keep our bike helmets as well. Unfortunately, we rushed out and forgot the helmets. When we arrived at a righteous zip line about half a mile later, we were forced to go back to the van and get the helmets before we could harness up and cross the river. Crap!
We soon arrived back at the zip line. It was on a cliff high above a small river and crossed down to the bank on the other side. This is probably a good time to mention, I’ve never been on a zip line before, and, based on what everyone said, this was one of the tallest/longest ones they’d experienced.
When the safety-guy told me to step off and cross my legs, I took one fast step and jumped- woohoo!!! Someone was taking photos on the other side. Hopefully I can find those soon…
Once we got moving again on the other side, we found CP22. Then we noticed some ruckus in the woods. All of the other teams who were ahead of us were milling around, and the race director was on his radio. Apparently, they’d been searching for a long time for CP23 and no one could find it. Darryl decided to give it a shot while the other teams decided to skip it. A few minutes later, the race director found us and told us to skip it and move on. We had caught up with everyone ahead of us, but they gained time back while we were searching.
The next few hours were spent running, hiking, and bushwhacking around the park. We went through everything- trails, open woods, walls of privet, briers, swamps, drainage ditches, tunnels… you name it. We found a lot of the CPs quickly, but others took 10-15 minutes of searching. Eventually, we worked our way back into the main part of the park. We went back into the woods for CP46, and, as we were jogging out, I felt a jab on my right thigh. I slowed, thinking I was caught on a thorny vine when I felt a second, harder jab on the back of my left thigh followed by an insane burning sensation…
F*%#!!! HORNETS!!! RUN!!!
I envisioned myself being engulfed by a swarm of evil, angry, flying hypodermic needles full of posion and ran for my life, bursting out of the woods and nearly into traffic on the main road through the park. Holy crap, that hurt- the pain was a burning & aching feeling that extended into the top layers of muscle. It kept hurting all day/night, too…
At that point in the race, there was a time cutoff- if you make it back by 1:15, you get to go out for another 7 CPs. Otherwise, your day is over. We made it in at 1:14, so we headed back out. There were 5 teams way ahead of us, and no one else made it in after us, so the pressure was basically off, and we finished up laughing, joking, and having a good time. We arrived back to the finish about an hour later, 6th out of 17 co-ed teams, and still friends. I’m pretty sure that qualifies as a successful adventure race!
After heading back to Darryl’s house and cleaning up (OMG it felt soooo good to be dry!), I relaxed a bit, ate a snack, and hit the road back to Memphis so that I could get home & rest up for the Clear Creek XC race on Sunday.