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In search of the ultimate Indianapolis Adventure
By Robert Annis (For Custom Publications)
September 24, 2004

When I told people I was going to do an adventure race, I heard one of two responses: 1. What's an adventure race? or 2. Are you crazy?
Navigational skill were one of the many test Rob's team was put through in the Indianapolis Adventure Race.
An adventure race is like a triathlon on steroids. You're biking, running, canoeing and more. Unlike a triathlon, you're part of a team, generally using a map and compass to find where you're heading, and race organizers like to throw in surprise activities. In this race, our surprise event was coasteering  I'd never heard of it either. It's a nice way of saying you're going to wade through chest-high water, nearly break your ankle on submerged logs and absent-mindedly fry your cell phone you stashed in your Camelbak.

Adventure-racing teams are usually co-ed. My team was made up of my boss, Leigh Hedger, who's as good an athlete as she is an editor, and our co-worker Braden Nicholson. I hate Braden. It's not fair one person should be that good looking, funny and athletic. Whereas someone like me is happy to be barely competent at one thing, he excels at everything he does.

Leigh and I were a bit worried when Braden only made it to one practice before the race, but it turns out, he didn't need it. He's our Edgerrin James  he doesn't like to play in the preseason, but can go out and turn it on at will. He carried the team.

We participated in last weekend's fourth annual Indianapolis Adventure Race, put on by Shackleton Adventure Racing and presented by The Extreme Outfitters in Carmel. Proceeds for the event went to Morning Dove Therapeutic Riding, a local charity that uses horseback riding to help people with mental, emotional and physical disabilities. This year, 66 teams  a total of 198 people  participated.

The race started shortly after 8 a.m. The first event was the triad, one team member inline skated, another biked and another ran. The goal of this activity, as with almost all of the others, is finding hidden controls. (A control is basically a lampshade with a hole punch hanging from it.) You're given a passbook to record the punches, a map with the locations on it and a pat on the back as you head out.

Next was canoeing. After putting in our boat and jumping in, we realized we were backward. After carefully switching places in the boat, we proceeded to paddle in a circle for a few moments. This would be a common theme throughout the day.

Then biking. I was excited about this because I'm actually fairly good at it. Alas, fate turned against me. First off, I spent my excess energy within the first 20 minutes. After an hour, I started to bonk  an outdoor sports term for running out of fuel. While Leigh and Braden munched on energy bars and gels, I abstained because I wasn't feeling hungry yet. That was very stupid.

Also, whoever complains about Indiana being flat needs to go to Eagle Creek and Zionsville. Each pedal stroke was a testament to sheer will and a determination not to let my teammates down. As we made it back to our site, I devoured any fruit and energy bars within an arm's radius.

After a quick break came the coasteering, then orienteering. Five minutes into the orienteering course, my legs started cramping, a possible bonking side effect. I continually lagged behind Leigh and Braden, trying to keep up with those two human gazelles.

This is where many adventure races are won and lost. One missed control in a massive patch of forest can cost you precious moments of time. Luckily, Leigh was good with the map, and Braden had good eyes and quick legs. I tried not to get in the way.

Finally came the rappelling. While I'm not particularly afraid of heights, zipping down the side of a four-story structure was a little nerve-wracking. Of course, the rappelling instructors were bragging about their safety record: "We only had two people fall today ... so far."

Before we started, the Shackleton guys told us the winning team would probably come in at four hours and the average team at six hours. We completed the course in eight. We didn't come in last, which is a victory in itself. Of course, the true victory was finishing at all.

If you're thinking about doing an adventure race, here's some free advice: Train really hard and build up a tolerance for suffering and exhaustion. If you want to build up a tolerance for pain, I'd suggest running until you feel like throwing up, and then running some more or hopping on a bike for a two-hour ride. And to do an adventure race next year, start training now.

Was it worth it? I was eaten alive by mosquitoes, have yet another sunburn and, three hours after the race, can barely walk. But whenever we'd pass other teams, many of them would have huge smiles on their dirty faces. It may be grueling, difficult and painful, but it's also a blast. We'll be back next year, I'm sure.


Teams at extremes:
The Indianapolis Adventure Race puts a premium on energetic camaraderie.
[from The Indianapolis Star]
By George McLaren
September 08, 2002

There's fun mixed with pain, exhaustion mixed with exhilaration and a feeling of finding oneself while getting lost at the same time.  That's the sport of adventure racing, which combines trail-running, orienteering, biking, paddling and other sports into a marathon-length -- or longer -- competition.  Fifty-six teams will compete Saturday in the third annual Indianapolis Adventure Race at Eagle Creek Park.  Though teams have three members, it is not a relay race; all teammates must gut it out together during the race.

Half the teams will be competing in the obviously misnamed "short" course, which will be about 25 miles long and take an average of four hours to complete.  The long course will stretch up to 50 miles, and take competitors eight hours or longer to finish, according to race director Michael Sapper.  In addition to the standard events, long-coursers will be rock-climbing and rappelling and will have to carry about 15 pounds of gear with them during the entire race.

Among the long-course competitors will be Team Ragged Glory, with teammates competing together in their fourth adventure race.  Ragged Glory member Leslie Shafer said that despite the hardships, it's the feeling of living in the moment that makes the sport so rewarding. "And being with my teammates, of course. And having fun. Actually, I can think of a million reasons why," said Shafer, 25, marketing director for a local document-management company.  She said the team has experience in rock-climbing and rappelling, and has been training with 30-mile bike rides and lengthy canoe outings. They've also been working on their orienteering skills, which involves using map and compass to navigate through the woods.  "We're getting better at that. We've gotten to the point we're more on target where we're going rather than just guessing," she said.  "I think we're ready."  Team Ragged Glory finished seventh in last year's long-course event.

But Saturday's race will be significantly harder than last year's, according to Sapper, the event's organizer.

"This year is really going to emphasize navigation. I changed some things with the course design. People are going to have to figure their own way around rather than me giving them specific directions," said Sapper, an experienced adventure racer. He'll compete in the National adventure racing championships in North Carolina in November, although he's serving as race director, not a competitor, at Eagle Creek.

The new course will involve more opportunities for getting lost, specifically while orienteering around the hilly, wooded and undeveloped west side of Eagle Creek Park. Sapper won't say much more about the course, however. In the spirit of adventure racing, competitors will be kept in the dark until the race begins.  That usually means an hour before, when competitors get more information on where they'll be going and what order the events will be in. This year, competitors won't find out how the race begins until after the starting horn sounds.

"I've always said adventure racing is as much a test of the mind as it is the body," Sapper explained. "What I'm going to do at the start is really going to possibly panic people. It's going to mess with people right at the beginning. . . . Anything you can write that will make people even more anxious at the start is fine with me."

He added: "The rest of it will be a pretty clean, straightforward race."


Fun will point the way at local orienteering competition
Camp Belzer meet has beginners' clinic before compass-and-map outing starts.[from The Indianapolis Star]
By George McLaren
September 06, 2002
Orienteering is like a cross-country race with one big difference.  Actually, it's more like a lot of little differences.  Instead of just running the course to cross the finish line, orienteers use a map and compass to find control points out in the woods. Each time they find one, they get to punch a control card to show they made it.

"You have a mini reward several times along the course. That kind of entices you to keep going," said Peter Murphy, president of the Indiana Crossroads Orienteering club.  The group will offer a formal clinic on the sport at 9 a.m. Saturday at Camp Belzer, 6102 Boy Scout Road, on the Northeastside.   "We're going to spend an hour or two talking about techniques, then walk through a small practice course," Murphy said.

Following the clinic, three orienteering courses will be open for competition, starting at 11 a.m.  Typical courses range from 1.5 miles to 5 miles.  Clinic participation is not required to enter the orienteering meet, and anyone who shows up will be able to get brief, informal instruction on how to tackle one of the courses, Murphy said.

He
said the club expects a big turnout for the clinic, including Boy Scouts and competitors in an upcoming adventure race at Eagle Creek Park on Sept. 14. (For more details on that, see the Outdoor Recreation page in Indiana Living in The Star on Sunday).  The Camp Belzer course offers varied terrain.

"There are wide-open fields, wooded areas with some trails, some pretty steep ravines in the woods," Murphy said.  "They'll see a little bit of variety out there."   Some orienteers are top-flight athletes who dash through the course in a race against the clock.  Others simply like to meander through the woods, taking their time and enjoying the challenge of finding the control points.

"The fun of it is, it's a thinking sport, it's not strictly an athletic event," Murphy explained.  "It's kind of like playing chess, a little bit; not everyone is going to choose the same route. The fastest person isn't always the winner. It's the one who makes the best route choices."
     

 

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