The Day of the Adventure Race
March 2007

So when one gets bored with conventional races (i.e. 10k’s, half marathon’s, blah, blah, blah), what does one venture to next? Or should I type ‘adventure’ to next? Ever heard of adventure racing? I know some of you have (Austen, Lew, Taryn). And the rest of you? Think running, mountain biking, orienteering, puzzle solving, rock climbing all on a fat ol’ dose of steroids. Piqued your interest, haven’t I…

So Taryn and I had been talking for some time about trying an adventure race. There are many different types depending on how many hours or days (yes, days) you want to spend racing. No shit, some of these races are 3 days long. We opted for the “stick your toe in the water to test the temp” race, also known as 30 miles/4-6 hours long. Plus, we didn’t have 6 hours a day, 7 days a week to train for anything longer. That whole “we have a life” thing can REALLY get in the way of monster training. Went to REI to grab an orienteering book as neither of us knew how to read a topo map. What is orienteering? Essentially, it’s reading a topography map to get to various designated points on the map. You use a compass for direction and your sneakered feet to run your ass to and from each point. In this particular race, we used our sneakered/roller blading/mountain biking feet. More on that later… You must be able to locate certain markers (mountain tops, rock formations) to make the trek to your destination easier. If you’re really good, you can make it in record time. If you’re like Taryn and I, you do your best not to get lost…at 2000 feet…in the thorny-ass, slate slidin’ hills of Scottsdale, Arizona. Scottsdale?!? Arizona?!? Couldn’t you find something in California, ladies? Yes and no. The California races are held in the summer in (No thanks there, heat stroke!) and we didn’t want to wait. Hey, we’re always up for a road trip! No flying? Nope. Too hard to carry on the motorcycles. Plus the road time gave us time to try and understand how to read the FUCKING TOPOGRAPHY MAPS!!! Where’s the GPS when you need it?!? Sorry, kids, can’t use GPS during the race. Sigh. Shit. So we stopped our sniveling, boned up, and made it to Arizona in 13 hours. We spent our Friday on the motorcycles (see Part 1), then prepared for our Saturday race. Our 5AM check-in at REI made it an early Friday night for us.

We found ourselves wandering in the early morning dark of the Scottsdale REI along with approximately 20 other teams. Taryn and I tried our best not to look like rookies. We checked in and began setting up our transition area. Bikes? Check. Food and water? Check. Roller blades and scooter? Check. Wait, did you just type roller blades and scooter? Yup. They are optional if one team member doesn’t want to run during the first part and very, VERY necessary during the final leg of the race. All teams gathered about 10 minutes before the start to get instructions, tips and all general info. Hold the phone…there are at least 3 teams that are SPONSORED by Monster drink and various other big name companies. What the fuck did we sign up for? Sponsored teams?!? We had absofucking no idea what we were truly in for. Idiots. Come 4:58AM, Taryn was prepped to sprint while I was prepped to scooter. I’m not stupid. I know this girl can run FAST and, well, I can’t. The horn went off, we were handed our first topo map and away we flew. Literally. We had to find six points within a 3 mile radius and stamp our cards at each point. We made sure to keep our eyes on the sponsored teams (they were GONE in a flash, but still within view). I’m sorry, but did I forget to mention that we were doing this race in urban Scottsdale? Streets, cars, malls, you name it, we had to contend with it. Sorry, sidebar. So we were off and running/rolling. We’re crossing streets and fields and parking lots, keeping in constant communication and yelling to each other when we had spotted the orienteering markers. Back we made it to the transition area and up the rock climbing wall we went. Piece of cake. We were in 6th place. Fuck ya!!! On our bikes we flew, picked up the next series of maps and headed down the streets of Scottsdale to the mountains of Scottsdale. At the entrance to the mountains, we had to write down the word that was on the back of the entrance sign. I told you this race was tricky. Into the Arizona mountains we rode, narrow trails, miles upon miles of loose dirt, shale and cactus. We had three points to find, each very, very far away from the other. We tried our best to keep up with a 2-person guy team, but they headed off just a wee bit faster. Fuckers. Now we started gettin’ some altitude. Up, up, up we rode, unsure if we were on the right path (there were several to choose from). Then back down the trail came one of the sponsored teams. They had already found the first point. Are you fucking kidding me? Guess that’s why they’re sponsored. On we went along paths that were maybe 2 feet wide, lined with cactus, with mountain on one side and sheer drops on the other. How the hell were we going to survive this one? One slip of the front tire and we were sliding down the side. Ouch! Cactus needles hurt!!! There were many points that we had to carry our bikes up and down dry washes and riverbeds. There were boulders that we just couldn’t ride around. After about 45 minutes we found the first marker. It was a rock bench on the very point of a mountain. We had to write down the name of the person in which the bench was dedicated. Who the hell puts a bench way the fuck out here?!? Weirdos. Off to point number two. Back through the trails we went, stopping once to pee and grab a few bites of a Cliff bar. I just couldn’t pedal anymore – my legs were running on fumes and in desperate need for refueling and a 5 minute break.

There were many teams wandering the second mountain side in search of the second marker. Found it! It was severely hidden around a boulder, up and over the mountain top. One more. We were now a couple thousand feet up. Finally time to ride the back brake down the hill in pursuit of marker three. And we found it (thanks to Taryn’s exceptional map reading capabilities and sheer luck) in record time. The downhill portion totally rocked! Having done a fair amount of dirt trail riding as of late, I was quite prepared for a fast downhill ride. I got it. I wore a flat spot in my tire from sliding the back end around and riding on the brake. Awesome. Once back to the paved bike path, we had to ride several miles back to REI and our transition stations, but not before we were asked by one team where the first marker was. Seems that this 2-person testosterone team didn’t bother to go in order when finding the three markers. Guess what, boys, finding the first marker is going to take you 3-times as long as it would’ve had you started from the beginning, like the rest of us. Sucks to be you.

Back at the transition we found our next challenge. Foam rubber jousting!! Yes, sports fans, we had to ride our mountain bikes (no touching the ground!) while holding a foam sword and “spear” a circle on one side, turn the bike around, then “spear” the circle on the other side. THAT was fun. After the jousting, we had the choice to 1. Put together a PVC puzzle OR 2. Go the mall across the street and count how many zebras are in the carousel and find what the price is for a Dairy Queen brownie sundae. Well hell ya we wanted to run through the mall in our race duds! Any chance to look like a fool is gladly accepted. Sporting our camelbacks and bike helmets, we found what we needed then raced back to get our next assignment. Up next was a 6-mile loop through subdivisions and parks to find three words on markers. Taryn was on the scooter and I took the roller blades. Only problem this time was that Scottsdale was now awake and cars had taken over the once empty streets. Stoplights were now our enemies. Shit. Keep it moving. Our second marker was an electrical box at the top end of a neighborhood street. We trudged uphill, wrote down the numbers and looked down a very long, VERY steep road to get out. I swear, I almost killed myself 3 times trying to make it down that hill on the roller blades. I tried to ski it, ride the one brake while in a fetal position, whatever it took to keep from becoming roadkill. I was successful. Thank god ’cause there weren’t enough band aids for whatever spill I was going to take. We saw several other teams going like hell, too, to get to the final race marker. This was the win it or lose it moment of the race. Taryn and I expelled every single last drop of adrenaline we had left – it was kinda like trying to get that last bit of ketchup out of the bottom of the bottle. We were rollin’ fast, fiercely determined to beat all the other teams around us. But this last marker was tricky. The instructions said to stop at a certain city park, walk a certain amount of paces in a direction, turn 90 degrees, walk another set of paces, turn 90 degrees and look for a word written on a tree. There were 20 trees. One wrong pace or degree and we were screwed. But we weren’t. We found it. And just in time as 3 other teams were on our tail. It was one mile back to the finish line and we were NOT going to be bested by these other fools. Man, did we haul ASS!! We cut through parking lots, almost got hit by cars and scooted & skated as fast as 10 year olds. And we did it! We weren’t first but we weren’t last. We beat guy teams and race veterans. WE DID IT! Now, where’s that free after-race food that was promised? We stuffed ourselves with pizza and soda and swapped stories with the sponsored teams. And our race time? 5 hours, 19 minutes. The sponsored teams? Uh, ya, about 2 hours less. Buy hey, we did it, we survived and we have the scars to prove it. I got bit by more than one cactus and actually had a needle lodged in my leg for a while. We both had scratches all over our legs and layers of sweaty dirt. We smelled, we were beat up, but we were proud. We had once again conquered the unknown with a desire to try again….and again and again.

Did anyone eat it on any of the trails? Yes. This poor chick ate it 3 TIMES on the mountain bike portion and again on her roller blades coming down that steep road. Taryn and I were SOOOOOO lucky we didn’t kill ourselves in those mountains! I’m serious when I say it was treacherous but at the same time such a huge rush. These races are serious work and very, very dangerous. But the rewards…

We left for home right after the race. Our systems were screwy from all the bouncing around (also known as serious flatulence for at LEAST two hours after the race) and our bodies were spent. Our minds raced and our faces smiled as Taryn and I replayed the events of the day in our heads. We stayed the night at a hotel right next to Magic Mountain. Even after all the events of the day, was I tempted to take a few spins on a roller coaster? Of course! But I just didn’t have the energy to drag my sorry ass even 50 feet. So we hit the hotel grill, hotel bar, hotel hot tub and finally the hotel bed. We were proud but pooped.

So onward, my adventure seeking friends. Find something that makes you question your own abilities and do it! Don’t ask why, ask why not. Experience. Learn. Push your envelope. Just do SOMETHING that makes you feel alive, that reminds you why you got out of bed this morning and makes you question your sanity. Hell, if nothing else, it’ll make for a great story. Trust me.