This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Guest Blog Entry: Flying Frog Adventure Race

I enjoyed Tim's rendition of his first adventure race. He came home pretty late last night (Saturday) and went through a very cool dramatization of his adventure, with $Bill and Eric. I asked him this morning if he would write it up so that I could include in my blog, so here it is, a very special blog entry from Tim:


"The 2008 Flying Frog Adventure Race includes a 5-10 mile Mountain Bike course, 5-10 mile Trail Run and a 2-5 mile Paddling course. The course is gentle enough to be finished by the novice racer, while challenging enough for the experienced adventure racer. This race is scheduled to last 3-6 hours"

This is the official statement on the flyingfrogar web site. I have been interested in doing an Adventure Race, but wanted first to get my feet wet with a novice course. My friend Bill found this one, and we signed up under the All Male category. It took a little while, but we finally found our needed 3rd team member - Eric.

Given the description this sounded like the perfect starter. Personally I prepared with the mindset that since we had a range (Adventure races apparently wait until sign in on race day to reveal the course / distances) on each event and a 3-6 hr timeframe, we certainly would have to be in the middle of the listed distances. I was incorrect. At sign in we were given our instructions and maps - which gave the Total Course Distance:

Canoe / Kayak Section - 4.2 miles
Biking Section - 14.8 miles
Running Section - 8.7 miles

I'm not the scholar in the bunch, but didn't take me long to figure that I was going to be grossly unprepared. The distances were at least double what I had expected. In fact, this year I have run no farther than 3-4 miles at once. I have been immersed in my weight loss efforts with P90X (there's a plug Tony) - and the other disciplines suffered.

We didn't have a lot of time to think about it though and soon were geared up ready to start. First up was canoe. We had 3 unknown challenges along the way, and right away we had to untie ropes with knots in them before we could row - row - row your boat. I think we were dead last getting the stupid rope undone. It was a really small rope, and we have big fingers!. Once we hit the water though, the 2 times Bill and I rowed together really showed.. Actually, Bill had previous canoe experience and took the rear position. I took front, and Eric got to ride in the middle first. My job was simply to mindlessly row 5x's then switch hands, row 5, then switch again, etc.. Bill's job was to counter whatever the hell I was doing wrong, and keep us straight. Initially we were slowed by the inexperience of other teams - not ours. On many occasions throughout this leg, we either had to stop to keep from hitting others going sideways, or backwards or criss-crossing so much we were in danger of being boarded. We paddled down to first checkpoint (2.1 miles), then Eric and Bill switched positions. To my knowledge Eric is like me in the canoe - less experienced - yet it took him little time to figure out how to counter my heavy right handed paddling, and we passed even a few more teams. I can't remember the official time - something around 1:10 ish...but we really did well coming from behind with the stupid knot thing.

Next up the bike. I have participated in sprint tri's before. Was bike man on Half's (56 milers), and good deal of time riding thru Umstead and local greenways. So, not a stranger to what I thought was "Mountain Biking". Yet again - wrong !. Not long after we started I noticed that I was on a very narrow trail going over lots of roots, rocks, trees, very steep (to me) inclines with corresponding ups and tight turns between trees. And last but not least Bill and I had close to bald rear tires on our bikes and it had rained all week. Couple all of the above with mud and slick tires, lack of experience and a daunting distance - and you can see that we were in for it. Eric was the expert on this leg, and I learned this type of course was called a single track. I won't be able to remember all the falls, but Bill was our tree man. Literally slamming into trees while trying to navigate thru the slippery turns. I witnessed one of these while riding behind him and damn near lost control thru the tears from laughter. I tried to do what I saw Eric do by pulling back to raise my front wheel and 'climb' over a fallen tree. This didn't work and front wheel caught in said tree and I went head first over. Eric went off a bridge which sadly I missed, but sure it didn't feel good. Many, many times we had to dismount and walk the obstacles. Bill made a valiant effort to stop me from sliding back off an incline after I had successfully dismounted during the attempted climb, yet succumbed to the downward slide.

The 14.8 miles took us 3 HOURS... I haven't been on a seat for that length of time in a good while, and NEVER on a single track - which apparently takes actual SKILL. As we reviewed the map and went thru checkpoints, it seemed like we would never finish. We were going thru our liquids quick, and I forgot to mention it was extremely humid / hot. Things were looking bad. One of the funniest things to me was hearing Bill on a few occasions complaining out loud with colorful explicative's and how he hated his bike. I have rode with Bill off and on for many years, and usually always from a distance staring at his backside. Never have I heard him complain like this - much less swear about how it sucked. Thats usually me - so although I was dying as well, just funny.

Earlier on the bike I was having a great time. I was trying to watch what Eric did, and took point for a while and actually sped up to a faster pace. It was a thrill blasting thru the turns and trying to figure out how to balance, and slide using a touch of brake. I simply need better equipment and more training.

After forever, I followed Eric out into the clearing to get back to the TA (transition area). I didn't see Bill, but soon saw him walking his bike out and moaning. He looked to be in extreme pain, and I thought he had broke something the way he was walking. After a few minutes he could finally speak and told us he had caught part of his bike on his man-berries.. God that hurts, but since I knew he would be fine I laughed my ass off. Mostly that was a release of our now 4 hours of hell, and the fact that the bike was done. We all limped / rode to our spot at the TA while several onlookers gave us a nice round of applause and good-jobs.

For all of you who do any type of mutli-sports, you know the TA is still clocked in for total race time - so the goal is to get your gear ready for the next event, hydrate - maybe eat or gels, change if needed, then get the hell out. Not for us. You would have thought we were getting our campsite ready for the night. We took off our shoes, waded in the water, I ate cookies and drank a coke, Eric and Bill did much the same. In the back of our minds I know each of us was thinking there was no way in hell we were going to finish the 8.7 mile MOUNTAIN trail, or even start it. I was thinking that we had done a pretty good job for first time AR's, and we should just pack it in. A quick check on individual status, and it was decided we would at least try, thinking we could turn around at anytime.

After the 15 minute TA !, we set out. Obviously this was going to be more of a hike - with short bursts of shuffling - footed - jogging. We had our 2nd challenge of the day right after the start. This was a small navigational exercise using the compass to find 5 or 6 orange triangles using the bearings and pace counts we were given. We had a little issue - o.k., I had a little issue with this since I was not use to the pace count of the 6' 5'' person who laid out the course, but we finished this fairly quickly - and it turned out to be a nice physical break from the race. A little excitement here when one of the course volunteers asked what he should do with the copper head snake he just found..... uh, don't touch it?

Back on the course again we were progressing, but hurting pretty bad. Guzzling thru our limited water supply (an amateur mistake I know, but it was god awful hot), Bill informs us that if we can't find water soon we would have to turn back as he was starting to cramp (think dehydration). We shuffled thru some short runs, and I at one point started to feel better - thanks to my coke and cookies kicking in. Eric led most of the way, and kept a brisk walking pace - which although tiring would get us there quicker. We made it to the half way point, and some nice firefighters who were there all day with us had a cooler full of ice-water ! I can't tell you what that means at this point. We all loaded up and almost immediately felt better. I had initially thought the run course was going to be the same route as bike, and after we learned it wasn't - we had even more to feel good about - since it was shorter / flatter. We actually ran a good deal of the next part, and think we all knew that we could now make it. I instructed a wrong turn shortly thereafter and was scolded harshly for the extra 50 yards ! Made it to next checkpoint where I volunteered to put a big rubber band thing around my ankles and walk 400 yards. Not pleasant, but no biggie and gave us a walk break. Eric kept the lead and we jogged flats and downhill's, but walked up. Came out of the woods to the Greenway trail and Bill pulled the famous, "lets run to x", then when we get to x its, "lets run to y - its just a little further".. tricky, but effective.

Came upon the last checkpoint and the friendly firefighters with more water - and we - or at least me, was so happy, since we only had 2.8 miles back to finish. Eric volunteered for the last challenge, which was to shoot a bow and arrow. He was about 50 yards or so away, and finished in 3 shots. Don't know if he was Daniel Boone in a previous life of not, but each shot got progressively closer, and the 3rd was a bulls eye.

Back on trail, we tried to do same thing. Run flats and downhill's and walk ups... But, we were slowing down a lot, and really close to shot. Water ran low again, and Eric was verbalizing symptoms of dehydration. Hard to imagine that given how much we were drinking - but with that humidity it was getting to us all. I couldn't hold my water bottles, kept slipping out, and I also had trouble concentrating when running the trails behind Bill. He later mentioned how tough this was mentally - which I hadn't thought about - but for those that don't know, running and biking on this type of trail requires constant concentration.

A lot of bitching and moaning peppered with words of encouragement and we finally saw the clearing at the end of trail. It would be very difficult to describe how happy we were. I wanted us all to cross together (no I don't know why, just thought it was the team thing to do), and we had to adjust our individual paces to make that happen. I think Eric and I were going a little faster just in that blind fury to be done, while Bill was casually jogging along trying to enjoy the moment. Coming out of the clearing we heard some clapping, and one of the participants yelled something at us, that I heard, but simply couldn't comprehend. I would soon find out. We crossed the finish line, I damn near collapsed and then the race director came over to congratulate us. Told us to go towel off, get some fluids and then come back to pose...

Pose? What the hell? For what - longest team time ever? Ugliest bunch? Smelliest? Worst hair?

Nope. Seems we were 3rd place for the All Male Division. I don't even know if we got it for a few, but it was true. The team that took just under 7 hours (I think was 6:50 - something), almost quit after bike, had taken 3rd. We later saw on the leader board that around 5 teams were DNF's (did not finish), but so what - makes it even better that we didn't. A win is a win. We were pretty pleased with ourselves. And don't think I'm knocking those DNF's.. - It's happened to me on races, and this was the toughest thing I've participated in. Some, I know were due to injuries - and others may have just been like us, not prepared for the distance or technical riding.

We posed for our picture with our plaque, and packed up to head home. It had been quite a day. Many times on the running portion I proclaimed how impressed I was that we were even trying, and yet we all made it. Pretty damn cool. It was a well organized race with great sportsmanship and friendly volunteers.

I'm already scouting out the next one - and this time I'll be ready :)

1 comment:

  1. Unbelievable story. The heat, the dehydration, the team work. I loved it. And you kept going. And you were willing to let go as well. It wasn't all about finishing. But you did, and that is that. And you have wonderful memories. And cheers to that one and to many more!