Sunny and 73 degrees was the forecast, but it turned out to be overcast and cool, when 32 two- and four-person teams gathered to stake their claims on the athletic field of a YMCA camp south of Hudson, Wis., last spring.
It was there that we would transition from one event to another -- grabbing at sustenance as we swapped out our gear for the next challenge. We were participating in a four-hour to six-hour Adventure Race "sprint."
An Adventure Race, where the team that completes its checkpoints in the fastest time wins, usually includes the following elements:
The trekking portion of the competition involves running (or my preferred mode -- swift walking with periodic spells of trotting) between various checkpoints found on a topographical map. A compass is often used, as the best route may require you to venture off-trail. A hint may be given at the checkpoint to guide you, or at times, to confound you further.
Paddling: Canoes Or Kayaks
This race, my teammate Dave and I, toted an inflatable 2-man, Sevylor Kayak down (and after, back up) the side of a bluff to paddle in the chilly St. Croix River for a couple miles looking for a checkpoint on a far peninsula.
The rope challenges involved climbing up walls, stone faces, and then down again -- by zip-line or rappelling. This race included a timed ascent of a climbing wall, and if you fall off, you "win" a 10-minute penalty.
Each race contains various checkpoint challenges that may be as simple as throwing a Frisbee through a hoop, or carrying your teammate over a narrow boardwalk. If it sounds like the TV show, "Survivor," it kind of is. (Though I haven't heard stories of having to eat bugs -- yet!)
Teams can be co-ed or same gender duos, and 4-person teams must have both genders represented.
The gear you take with you also is important. Each person is required to carry water and each team member must tote "mandatory gear" during the race. For this race, the gear included everything from a waterproof jacket, and fleece shirt and hat, to a knife, first-aid kit, a whistle, and water purification supplies. Penalties are given for missing items -- so finding compact and lightweight versions of gear to fit in the small pockets of your hydration pack, for example, is a part of the challenge.
This isn't a cheap sport. Registrations are upwards of $75 per person per race, (that's one pricey "free" T-shirt -- or could it be that much for the potential liability issues?) and the initial gear expenditure can add up in a hurry. Thus, I was thrilled to find a lot of gear at the lowest prices right here at The Sportsman's Guide!
High on my list of an ideal teammate was an easy-going, don't-freak-out-in-a-pinch attitude, with a thick, insulating underlayment of good humor.
Now, I used to be a casual runner, but I haven't run for years. I even gave up step aerobics for Body Pump classes lately -- so who should talk me into competing in this curious brand of torture, but a colleague in the theater (athletics and theater -- sure screws up the stereotype, eh?).
My fellow actor Dave is an avid marathoner who stands a foot taller than I do. Dave needed a teammate and I decided to give it a try.
We worked to fit training sessions in between shows, spouses, his acting gigs as a soldier at St. Paul, Minn.'s Historic Fort Snelling, and my catalog deadlines at The Sportsman's Guide. In a nutshell, training time for "Team OOPS" was hard to come by. Our team name comes from our shared acting gigs at OOPS Dinner Theatre in North St. Paul, Minn.
Sprint Gets You Acclimated
Our first race together was the before mentioned Adventure Race sprint. The sprint format is a good way to get acclimated to the sport. Usually less lengthy, the sprint will show you the essence of the events without blowing you completely out of the water so early in the season. After all, a little warm-up -- an appetizer -- is good for a first race. Some competitors find out the sprint contains all the dust they ever need to eat, thank-you very much.
Dave gave me as good a description of what to expect in this sprint as a guy can without scaring you right off the team. I expected tough, but I thought, "this is a sprint -- how bad can it be?"
Although I recall saying, "I HATE this...!" a time or two during our race, in retrospect, I enjoyed the wild and varied challenges the day held. The need for critical problem solving in the midst of such physical expenditure was frustrating at times -- invigorating at others -- and usually based on how well we succeeded!
In this race, 32 teams entered -- eight in our co-ed, duo division. We came in at 5 hours and 7 minutes, which was good for 4th place in our division and 14th place overall. I thought that was pretty darn good for a first race!
For more information on Twin Cities (Minnesota) Adventure Racing, see WildAdventureRace.com or MarSeries.com -- or just type Adventure Race into your web browser.
Give it a try, you won't regret it!
For a fine selection of backpacks, click here.