By Bill Pullman
Question: what do orienteering, paint-balls, free-throw shooting and kayaking have in common? Before you reach for Encarta, or even skip this article, the answer is Adventure Racing Indiana style. Back in August, the newly formed Indiana Club of Adventure Racers (IndianaCAR or iCAR), which is closely affiliated with Indiana Crossroads Orienteering Club, put on a superb sprint event and introductory course. Greg Arnold was the devious mastermind behind the course setting and was ably assisted by Jeff Coates, Chris Wiggins and Michael Sapper with Orienteering support from Carle Blackwell, Pete Murphy and Bill Pullman. What better setting than in the heart of Eagle Creek Park, which is the largest park within an urban area in the US and its reservoir is frequently used for competitive water-sports.
Now "sprint" is a euphemistic way of saying that competitors will undergo a minimum of 5 hours and up to 8 hours of physical and mental torture in 85 degree heat. Well the heat certainly took its toll with many competitors experiencing cramp, but torture is not the right word. For those of you not accustomed to Adventure racing, this is multi-sport competition especially for co-ed teams and relies heavily on providing navigational and physical challenge to negotiate courses which range from a few hours to many days ( eg Eco-challenge). To complete a course is a reward and success in itself and one which enables you to push your own personal boundaries.
So, on what started out as a pleasantly warm summer day, 30 teams and a couple of solo entrants, representing in all 70+ eager athletes from a variety of backgrounds, received the pre-race briefing, collected their passport control books (these work like control cards to prove that all team members have passed through a checkpoint) and faced the starters horn. Well, as races go the first leg was a deceptively simple "follow the streamers" 2 mile trail run. Was this so hard? Maybe not! Quickly back to the transition area at the Eagle Creek marina, teams then swapped running shoes for mountain bikes and headed off on a 26 mile loop visiting specified control points. For the unwary navigator there were enough challenges to throw you off course and loose precious time. As if that weren't enough, at the half way mark of the bike leg, devious Arnold threw in some special tests, with the paint-ball target shooting equivalent of biathlon and just to remind many of us why we aren't NBA stars, a free-throw shooting test. Hard enough to do at the best of times these tests certainly demanded a mind over matter approach to offset the cramps that were setting in from the heat and fluid loss.
Now Adventure racing is about navigation, right? Right! So what better than to test competitors with the equivalent of a green level O course (10 controls, 5km) on a draft version of the new eagle creek map. Even for those folk familiar with the park, this provided a satisfactory level of challenge (!). But being adventure racing, its not over till it's over and we were only 2/3 towards the finish. Back once more to the transition area to refuel and re-hydrate (food tip, we don't recommend skittles do we Bill?), it was time for the canoe/kayak leg. "Just wait a minute and leave your boat there" was the request from the official that left us all perplexed. We had to jump in fully clothed and swim 50m back to shore. Despite initial reactions, you couldn't have done anything better on a hot day.
Five miles of paddling, much of it into a fairly stiff breeze and light swell, took us up and down the length of the reservoir to visit additional checkpoints. One such point necessitated beaching the water-craft and navigating a 3 mile course on the little used west side of the park to locate 3 more controls, before heading back to retrieve the boat and sprint for home. And it was here, back at the marina and running/crawling under the welcoming finish banner that every team and individual experienced the sense of satisfaction that comes with overcoming a challenge. Win or loose, finish or not, everyone succeeded and had stories to tell.
So, if this sounds like fun to you, check out our iCAR web-site or ask one of us for more information at a forthcoming ICO "O" event. See y'all out there. Finally and not least, a very special thank you must go to all of the people who provided their help and support on the day, as unfortunately they are too many to mention in this space, and to corporate sponsors including Gearheads bike shop and Midwest Running Magazine.
The Story of Two Girls and Some Guy
Our Day at the August 26th Eagle Creek Adventure Race
by Julie Valvano
The bright orange flyer arrived in Julie & Al's mailbox and was read with great interest. "An adventure race? Here? In Indy!" they exclaimed! Several questions came immediately to mind: "Are we trained?" "Who should be our 3rd team mate?" "What are these so-called special tests all about?" The answers came quickly.
Julie scouted about at work and found Kim (a.k.a. bunny) interested and willing to under go Julie's stringent training program. They became the Two Girls and Al became Some Guy. We commenced training immediately and just prayed that the special tests were events we could complete. Race day finally came. We were pumped, buff, and looked great in our team uniform (which Some Guy refused to wear because Two Girls chose black for his cute little outfit).
We arrived at the race site and unloaded our enormous blue tub of gear out of the SUV. We found our "psychic spot" on the racers grassy knoll and got organized. We checked in and received several maps with lots and lots of curvy lines on them. Minor panic set in with Two Girls but Some Guy calmed the situation and marked out the map with a yellow hi-lighter. The pre-race meeting soon began and we discovered this was truly going to be an adventure. We were prepared, we were rested, and hydrated. Our egos were huge.
Finally, the race horn sounded, well more like squeaked. And we were off! The first two miles flew by for Two Girls and Some Guy although we came in 2nd to last (even running sub sevens!) The transition went smoothly and we passed team after team on the bike leg. We snickered "road kill" to each other after we passed each team, our egos inflating exponentially.
Tragically, the ego inflation soon came to a screeching halt as we missed the old rail road track. Eventually we found it and were back in the saddle again. Egos intact.
Next came the special test portion. We parked our bikes by gently throwing them on the ground eager to test our skills. "Gimme our tests - Gimme Gimme! We're ready, we screamed!" Unfortunately, we discovered that we were the "special" part of these tests. After completing them, poorly, our egos mostly intact, we rode back to the marina.
Sheer TERROR set in as one of the Two Girls was told there was to be a swim. A horrible childhood incident involving leaches had occurred some years earlier.... But the brave Some Guy and other Girl took the plunge. Almost immediately they were overtaken and passed by the scarred Girl who swam like a terrified fish to shore. Because the girl was still in shock over the lake swim she promptly turned over the canoe as soon as the others were in. Shoes soaked and egos waning the paddling began.
The shore for the next leg slid under our canoe none too soon and we were ready for our last run. Well, what we though was going to be a short orienteering run became a surreal scene from Lord of the Flies meets the Vietnam War. But we found our markers! We were crazed with determination!! Wearily and triumphantly we canoed the final leg of the race. As we crossed the finish line our only thoughts were "When is the next race?"