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ADVENTURE RACING 101: Fun Until You Finish.......First!

Jim Phillips

What is Adventure Racing? First thing I tell people when they ask is that its like the Eco-Challenge they see on tv but not nearly as long and without many extreme skills. If you haven’t seen it though it is a little like this, well kinda. You have three major disciplines; mountain biking 8-18 miles, trail running 4-10 miles and kayak/canoeing 1-4 miles. Then you throw in the mystery events, log carries, wall climbs, cargo net climbs ETC and various mental/physical tests. You will usually encounter at least 5 and up to 10 of these in any given race. These add the X factor to the race and allow lesser athletes a chance against those blessed with great genetics.

My training partners and I have wanted to do a race for several years now, but couldn’t get it together mainly because of time and family commitments, and personal/racing goals. Then we met Janna Walkup, a grad student and a FSU womens soccer player. She kept on us a year until we decided on some dates, and they said men have commitment issues. The first race was going to be in Augusta, Ga. May 27.

After picking our first race we sat down as a team and thought about what we wanted out of this race. Since it was Jannas first, Steve Barraco’s second and my fourth they were looking to me for some guidance. The pressure was on because both of these athletes are very good and used to a high level of success. We came up with a few points of guidance for the race, the first was we were there to have FUN, second that we would listen to each other and if we made a mistake it was ours not any one persons, third that we make our family, friends and sponsor, Fitness Master of Tallahassee, proud of us, and last no matter what happened we would stay together.

At the race packet pick up, the pre race meeting and the pre race ride there was a lot of posturing people talking, watching and in general sizing up and psyching out the competition. We were psyched......out. We looked around at all the hard bodies, nice bikes and skilled discussion and thought what are we doing here? I said to a lady after riding a very hard mountain bike course, where you had to dismount your bike at least 4-5 times, that is a though course. She replied "nothin to it, only had to get off twice." I’m thinking were goin down!!!! I said to my team mates, we’ve got to stick to our game plan, have fun, help each other and stay together and lets see how we do.

Well, we started out running, then had to cross a small body of water carrying a team mate without getting them wet. Ran some more until we got to a 20' cargo net climbed it and went out on the bikes, we kept saying we’re having fun....right??? After the 10 + miles of hot, humid, hard mountain biking they sent us out on the water, well at least we were cool. We had our biggest test on the water, one kayak was going in a strait line, the other well lets say that they were getting a continuous 360 view of the lake. We made some personnel changes and got back into the race, we were having fun again. Shortly after getting out off the water we were running again, but we were still having fun. We were supporting each other the way we had expected and then some. As we were running we kept gaining on the team in front of us. The first gap time check was 2 minutes, the second was 1 minute 40 seconds we were gaining on them. We ended up going into the woods just in time to be handed paint ball gun and told we had to hit the target to continue, well we were all bad shots and ended up getting a 5 minute penalty, we had to sit there for 5 minutes.

This was the end, well not yet, the team we were trying to catch was there also and they were going to go out a minute ahead of us. We still had a chance. We eventually caught and passed them just in time to hear them yelling at each other and suffering from dehydration. We kept going and came in towards the finish line, but we knew we had another mystery event, this one was agonizing because we were expecting the team to come around the corner at any time, but we stayed focused, we finished the mystery event and made the final turn for the finish line. We held hands and headed for the banner just in time to hear " and the first place finishers from Tallahassee are...."!