Sunday, June 22, 2008

Weekend Festivities

As most of you know, Dave and I have gotten involved over the last few years in "multi-sport" competitions. In most people's minds, the term multi-sport refers to triathlons, but there are also duathlons (two sports, usually cycling and running); adventure races which involve any number of activities like running, paddling, orienteering, and cycling; and other kinds of races that involve more than one discipline. Dave's been doing this for years, and finally got me to run my first duathlon in 2006 and first triathlon last year.

Over the last year, I've relayed a couple more races and done one more sprint triathlon on my own. Yesterday, though, was my new favorite race - Muddy Buddy. Muddy Buddy is a pretty short race - 6-7 miles, depending on the course - run by teams of two who leap-frog each other biking and trail-running, trading the bike at various obstacle points throughout the race, ending with a team crawl through a giant mud pit.

I entered with a co-worker, and as the race approached, we got more and more excited. Thanks to Dave, who unfortunately couldn't race this time around, Danielle and I had a name - the Pale Riders - and even an awesome logo.

Danielle’s husband and oldest daughter also came along for the fun.

The race began at 7:30am, and we arrived (in the rain) at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers at 7 with our bike. The only thing we had left to do for preparation was pump up the tires. Simple enough, right? Hah! If you think so, you clearly have never raced with Dave and me - two of the three original members of Team Lightning Rod. That name derives from our propensity to have "issues" during race weekends. Previous examples include arriving to a race without a bike, leaving for another race without running shoes, and arriving at yet another without bike shoes.

As I mentioned, yesterday, we arrived with flat tires, but did at least think enough ahead to bring the pump. One of my tires has had for some time now, a slightly bent valve stem. It's always been annoying, but never a real problem. Well, yesterday, it was a real problem. No worries, Dave has a spare tube in the bike box. Dave changes the tube, pumps it up, and away we go. POW! and a puff of powder comes from the tire. Hmmm. It seems the new tube was a bit old. The race has now begun, but luckily, Danielle and I are in a later wave. We send Danielle and her family on to get a place in the line at start, while Dave changes the tube back to the old one, and manages to successfully pump up the original tube. We really are on our way, now.

Welcome, Danielle, to Team Lightning Rod.

Danielle read the race course description ahead of time, and found that the second leg is the most technical from a biking perspective, so we agreed that she would start on the bike, and I would run first. Riders start first, and then runners follow, so at 8:40, the riders were off. Shortly after, we runners began. With the early morning rain, the course was pretty nasty. (I won’t complain about the rain, though, because it cooled things down significantly.) We were all pretty nasty even as the race began. The course, though, was beautiful as we wound in and out of the woods, up and down hills, through wide fire roads, and across narrow, rocky single-track. I arrived at the first obstacle about 17-18 minutes in, which was a group of two-by-fours about three feet off the ground that we had to cross like a balance beam. After finishing that, it was on to find the bike, which we’d marked by tying colorful bandannas around the handlebars and seat post. Others were much more creative with all kinds of markings, but the bandannas did the trick, and now we know some other things we can do next year. As for my first bike leg, I had to walk the bike up a red-mud, steep embankment early on, but stayed on the bike the rest of the way – including some rocky up-hills and fun, speedy down-hills around other bikers and runners.

Danielle was waiting for me at the second obstacle which was a pyramid of two-by-fours with instructions to over/under the first and second boards without touching the ground. Then climb over the top. Danielle had already done the obstacle, and just needed the bike. We traded, she was on her way, and I completed the obstacle and started my second run.

At this point, I was thrilled to discover that mountain biking and trail running use completely different leg muscles. Each changeover was a welcome relief.

The biking and running parts all started to blend together, but the obstacles were all very different. Each time I had the bike, Danielle was waiting for me at the end of that leg. I think that says something about my biking speed, for sure. The third obstacle was a rock wall about eight feet high. We had to climb over the wall, and come down the other side on a cargo net. Rock walls are fun, but there is certainly added difficulty when your legs are already fatigued and shoe treads are filled with red clay.

The fourth obstacle – we were getting close! – was a giant inflatable wall (15 feet?) covered in a cargo net for climbing the front, and a slide on the other side.

I had to do a little walking on the last leg, but as I realized I was getting closer to the end, I pushed a bit, and started running – slowly – towards the last checkpoint where Danielle and I would meet up. Racers have to go through the mud pit together. Our shirts were bright pink, and Danielle was easy to spot as I rounded the corner. We approached the pit that starts with yet another cargo net. But this time, you have to crawl under it to get to the edge of the pit. The pit is surrounded by 10x2 boards, keeping the mud in, and over that first board, we climbed. The mud was a bit deeper than I think either of us thought it would be, and as we put our hands in the mud, it came up to our elbows. We both just looked at each other, eyes wide, with nervous grins on our faces. Here we go. I couldn’t tell you how long the pit was, but it seemed to take forever. Every few feet, there was a cord to crawl under. I was too tired to keep holding myself up, so at the first cord, onto my belly I went. Danielle had enough strength left, though, to keep herself up. About halfway through the mud, I started feeling every single rock and pebble at the bottom of that pit. By the last few feet, I was pulling myself through the mud by my arms, because my knees and ankles were so scratched and bruised. I was moving so slowly! Soon enough, we were out, holding hands, and running across the finish line.

We stopped to get a post-race photo,

and then Danielle was off with her little girl to run the “Mini Muddy Buddy” – a few more obstacles and another mud pit!

The end of the race includes free beer for all the racers, but we hadn’t brought our IDs with us. We know now for next year, though. What I would have given for a post-race PBR at 10am!

The final “stage” of this race is the clean-up. We all made our way to the stations of hoses to rinse off. We rinsed off and all headed back to our cars, still pretty wet and gross, but loving every minute of it.

It turned out that in spite of this race’s short distance, I was completely exhausted afterward. Dave and I stopped to grab some bbq for lunch, and then went home. I showered, for real this time, and went straight to bed for a lovely two-hour nap. Then I spent the rest of the day on the couch.

We’re already excited for next year’s race and want to get a big group together. Let us know if you’re interested in joining the Pale Riders/Team Lighting Rod for next year’s Muddy Buddy!

1 comment:

AeroSarge said...

Fantastic write up Whit, and a great big welcome for Danielle to the Rods!
And yes, I'll be dragging your husband thru that mud next year; bet on it.