Several months ago Greg and I signed up for Raid the Rock, an adventure race. For those who read this little blog know that we're trying to complete a variety of racing events in all 50 states. So far, we've tackled everything from a 5k to a marathon, a sprint triathlon to a half ironman. The adventure race was greg's choice because this man embraces risk and adventure. So this weekend, we completed our first Adventure Race!
We were told to arrive at Lake Sylvia by 7:45am for a pre-race meeting prior to the 8am race start. During the pre-race meeting, we would be given important information like the order of the events. We had no problems finding Lake Sylvia, a gem of a place about 30 miles outside Little Rock, Arkansas. During our briefing, we were told that the mountain biking event would be first, followed by trekking, then canoeing and one mystery event. We were given our control cards, shown what to look for at each checkpoint, then told to line up in a few minutes at the "start". And we were off!
First Discipline: Mountain Biking
We had rented our mountain bikes at River Trail Rentals. We highly recommend Dave's place and can't say enough good things about him. First off, this was my FIRST time to go mountain biking. On the plus side, I was riding a red Specialized bike and Greg has a yellow/green Canondale, so we had a great set of wheels. We even nicknamed our bikes Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew because of the colors. On the down side, my ass hurt because I did not know how to lift up as I went over "obstacles", something I learned the hard way. The bike portion was 8-ish miles long and was so technical and had so much climbing that it took us nearly 1-1/2 hours to complete. I learned a lot while riding, which caused us to lose time since I was a newbie. First, gear shifting is key. For example, going into an easier gear for a hard climb in a road bike makes sense. On a mountain bike, the easiest gear makes it difficult to get traction when climbing, especially over gravel and dirt roads. And the rocks - damn, if that wasn't hard and technical. After the race, we hung around talking to several racers who all commented on how hard and technical the rocky, single track course was. And Greg was a saint. He listened to my grousing and took it in stride. I did not know how to ride over rocks and downed trees and he was patient during my learning curve. I spent the majority of the bike portion yelling "Ow Ow Ow" and "don't get too far ahead of me!" At one point, I heard hissing and naturally thought it was a snake. Then I realized it was air in my suspension. I felt stupid, but I still felt I could not lower my snake terrorism alert level below ORANGE! We got all our checkpoints and after I survived the mountain biking portion, I actually realized it was fun and pretty darn cool.
T1: dropped off our bikes, gulped down some warm gatorade, went to the table to check in, then headed out for the trekking portion. Five checkpoints completed and we weren't the last to check in. Oh, and Greg wrecked his bike. I think he got back up so quickly, in spite of being hurt, so he could ride far enough ahead of me so as not to hear my constant whining!
Second Discipline: Trekking
Trekking, not running. Simply not feasible to speed through this because trekking and trail running are not synonymous. We were spoiled by the mountain biking portion because the checkpoints were reasonably on the course and could easily be seen from the trails. This was not the case with the trekking portion. At check-in, we were not told which direction to head out, which was obviously why we had a compass. But seriously, a little pointing or head nodding...even eye rolling would be appreciated. We headed in the SW direction per Greg. Greg learned his navigation skills from You Tube. Robin had no NAV skills. THIS was going to be an adventure, for sure! We crossed over to an old Jeep trail, saw some campers who confirmed "others" had gone through in the same direction. Within 15 minutes we had our 6th checkpoint, then in another 15-20 minutes we had our 7th checkpoint. Our confidence was building. Can you guess what happened next? Yep, we could NOT find the 8th checkpoint, which meant we weren't going to be able to find the 9th checkpoint either. No matter how hard we tried, it was not going to happen. After nearly an hour of searching aimlessly, I freaked. No, really, I freaked out. I could not stand the crunching, the constant worry of how copperheads blend in and are everywhere, and the absolute loss of control when feeling lost. Everywhere we looked, it looked the same. Brown grass, brown leaves, brown trees and no trail or path to find or follow. Greg sensing my hopelessness (yes, crying will send that signal), agreed to abandon our search for 8 and 9. As we were heading to find checkpoint 10, we ran into this super nice older couple. We thought they might be able to shed some light on checkpoints 8 and 9, and maybe help us a bit with the topographical map. Well, you gotta love locals. The "mister" had just finished loading up his squirrels from today's squirrel hunting and he and his wife had spent part of the morning scouting out their deer hunting spot, since next week is the start of deer hunting season. The mister knew exactly where we were, but could only identify places on the map with phrases like "that's where I got my biggest wild turkey" and "that's where I saw the gray fox". I seriously could have stayed and had drinks with them. They offered us water and sunscreen, were so hospitable, and helped us laugh and relax after my meltdown. It was about a 2 mile walk to checkpoint 10, which we thankfully found. Because we had been out on the course for nearly 4 hours total at this point, and knowing that checkpoints 11 and 12 were DEEP in the woods, we decided to head to checkpoint 13, which was also the transition area.
Oh no, what could this entail?! A big sigh of relief when we learned that it was a spiderweb network of ropes. We had to each go through one web without causing the ropes to move and jingle the bells which were tied at the top of the rope network. Greg's P90x yoga training allowed him to go through the web jingle-free. I climbed through as well. So on our first attempt, we tackled our mystery event. Now onto canoeing!
Third Discipline: Canoeing
Fortunately, we had a kind volunteer who showed us how to get in and out of a canoe without tipping by holding the oar across the canoe to use as balance. The last time I went canoeing, I was 16 and it was a church youth group outing at Mohican...and we tipped the canoe. The volunteer's tip wss much appreciated since I was the one having to get in and out of the canoe to get the checkpoints. The 14th checkpoint required me to get out in thick, sinking mud. I got our checkpoint and as I was getting back in the canoe, I heard Greg Hsay, "oh gosh!" He then says, "Get back in the canoe and I'll tell you in a minute" when I asked him what was wrong. Of course, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that he saw a water moccasin and he didn't want me to go back into snake panic mode. Turned out that he saw the 8-12 hour adventure racing group zip lining over Lake Sylvia and he wanted to turn the canoe around so I could see it, too. Phew - big big big sigh of relief. We paddled over to checkpoint 15 and it was pretty awesome seeing the zip liners land in the water right by the checkpoint. This place really was a spectacular sight of beauty. Paddle paddle paddle to our last checkpoint - 16. I climbed out of the canoe, got our number, and off we went to end our canoe portion which, believe it or not, I really enjoyed.
We went back to check-in, showed our control card, and were told that we had to "decode" the special message. Each checkpoint had a number that we wrote down, which was then assigned a letter to reveal a phrase. I LOVE RAID THE ROCK. And yes,we did! They gave us our hats, which I'm wearing with pride in the picture above because it was one of the hardest things I've ever done! And I especially loved that we tackled this race as a team. So off we climbed back into our Ford F-150 king cab - oh yeah, when in Arkansas...and headed back for some much-needed showers. Check out Greg's legs below - you can see his sock line and how dirty we got!
Before we returned our bikes, we drove past the World Cheese Dip Championship. Oh yeah, baby! All the queso you could eat for $5 sponsored by Velveeta! And yes, we partook in all this cheesy goodness!
Post-Race Celebration: Flying Saucer
Loved this place and would definitely go back there if we ever visit Little Rock again. We had a blast! I had another Diamond Bear Pale Ale and Greg had a flight sample of Bartender's Choice. We parked our tired butts in front of the Arkansas Razorbacks game, ate some tater tots (gotta have our carbs), and enjoyed the remaining part of our weekend sans kids!