Monday, February 8, 2010

Race Report - SFA Lumberjack Sprint Adventure Race

Production Company: Stephen F. Austin State University, Outdoor Pursuits
Date: 1/30/10
Location: Nacogdoches, TX
Length: 4 Hours
Team Name: Pink Whiskey

The Outdoor Pursuits Center at SFA decided to put on a sprint-length adventure race at the University. Early on they asked me to come in and give them some feedback on the event they were envisioning and I was able to convince them that rather than run the event as a relay like they had intended, to do it like a true adventure race and make the teams stick together the whole time, you know, teamwork. I also suggested the team restrictions, which were that teams had to have 3 people, and be coed. While this probably drew more women into the event, it also might have hurt the attendance. Either way, the race went down on Saturday morning and there were 4 teams ready to go at 10am.

The theme was Jailbreak, and we started the race in a room at the Rec Center decorated to look like a large prison cell. The 3 members of each team had their wrists tied together with 18" of string, and our strings passed between the wrists of our teammates. When the race started, our first challenge was to escape from our "handcuffs." This was baffling and really really funny.

No one figured it out, but there were lots of giggles, people falling down, and turning around while another teammate passed their arms around you and spun and then stepped through, etc. After 15 minutes the race officials said, okay forget trying to get out of the "handcuffs", here's the next challenge: each team had a key that was suspended in block of ice. The ice was solid, and about the exact size of a dixie cup. We were to melt the ice to get the key, using only body heat. One team stuck the thing in an armpit, we sat on ours, and other teams were rubbing it with their hands. Very dumb challenge. After we finally cracked our key out (10 minutes behind the first team to blatantly disregard the "bodyheat" part), we were told to run to the football stadium about a 1/4 mile away. This was not as easy as it seemed as we were still tied together and there was a massive construction site fenced off directly in front of us. We made the right decision to get around the construction with the 4th team right behind us, following us.

At the stadium, out of breath, we were given the dullest pair of scissors ever to cut our handcuffs off. Then we were instructed to search the seats of the stadium for a small brown paper bag with our team name on it. Amy and Chrissy searched the closer seats, and i jetted over to the far ones to scour them. After about 10 minutes of running up and down the stadium rows (exhausting) i found our bag perched on a roof over a vender stand, just outside of the seats. Sneaky bastards. I yelled to Amy and Chrissy and we jetted back to where we entered the stadium. The bag contained an egg in a ziplock bag, a laminated map, and an envelope with monopoly money. I picked up the egg, which we were supposed to deliver to the race officials at the end of the race intact, and dropped it. It was an accident, and the crack was superficial, so I tucked it away in the chest pocket of my water vest and promptly forgot about it.

The map was of the paved trails that run through the Pineywoods Native Plant Center, which is just off campus. We jogged at a pretty brisk pace and followed the map to the approximate locations of the checkpoints. These were 12" long pieces of white PVC tubing, capped, with stickers inside that we put on the passport we were issued to prove that we'd found them. They were cleverly hidden in piles of leaves - visible from only one side, inside the base of hollow trees, and under fallen logs.

Unfortunately at every checkpoint we encountered at least one other team and they would see us find the checkpoints, so that took some of the fun out of it. We took off running from the last checkpoint, South on Lanana Creek trail into the Azalea Garden that borders University Ave. It was about a 1/2 mile and we passed the leading team to take the lead ourselves. We followed a new map to another checkpoint, and then to a special challenge in the center of the Azalea Garden. There was a race official dressed like a bum, playing an alcoholic. In order to pass the alcoholic, we had to deliver exactly 8 ounces of water to her, using one 16 oz cup, and one 18 oz cup. It took about 5 seconds to decide to fill the 18oz cup with water, pour water from that one into the 16oz cup, leaving 2oz in the original cup. We did this 4 times to arrive at 8oz, presented this to the "alcoholic," who measured it and informed us that she would not let us pass and to try again. Baffled, we decided to fill the 16oz cup halfway (eyeballing it), and this turned out to satisfy the "alcoholic." Another team had just reached the alcoholic and we hightailed it out of there. We followed the map and continued South to the intersection of University Ave and Starr Street, completely missing a checkpoint hidden at the edge of the Azalea Gardens. Apparently other teams spent a good deal of time looking for that checkpoint, so in retrospect, we lucked out.

We waited for the crosswalk to change for us at the intersection, and ran North on University Ave to the apartment complex where we had left our bikes before the race. Water and orange quarters greeted us and we were given a new map, this one for the mountain biking trails across University Ave from campus. It looked like there were 3 or 4 checkpoints hidden along the trails on this leg. The trails up there were really confusing though, and drawn over a low resolution satellite image of the area. We guessed on which trail to take initially because the start of the trail network didn't show up on the imagery. Luckily we happened upon a bridge and were then able to dash off to the first checkpoint, and then tick off the others pretty quickly, once we knew where we were. The trails were a bit muddy, but this just made it more fun. We finished up the 1.5 mile MTB loop and realized that we were finishing that leg before any other teams had started it. GO PINK WHISKEY!

We were instructed to get across University Ave and complete another special challenge in front of the Colosseum. We were given an envelope with 7 or 8 laminated strips of paper. On each strip was printed boxes that were either blank, or red with arrows pointing up. The task was to stack the strips in just the right way so that all of the arrow boxes pointed up and lined up to make a 3 digit number. On the instructions there was a picture of the strips, all stacked vertically, and staggered horizontally with some ends overhanging each other. We took this to mean that the ends of the strips would not line up perfectly. This meant many more possibilities, which overwhelmed us. We tried for about 12 minutes and then resorted to just sitting in the bitter cold waiting for the 15 minute maximum time-limit for the puzzle to elapse. Turned out the edges WERE supposed to align perfectly. Oh well. Tough challenge. Next up we had to run UP a baby-oiled slip and slide placed on a very steep slope of the Colosseum. Amy blew up the thing, I followed, and made it on the second try. Poor Chrissy gave it about 17 tries before the race officials could stop laughing long enough to point out that we could help her up. I slid down halfway and snagged the climbing rope that led to the top. Amy slid down and grabbed my low hand and Chrissy was able to run up far enough to grab Amy's low hand and climb up our human ladder to the top. Next up was the ROTC obstacle course which was super-fun and where Chrissy made up for her slip-n-slide hilarity with ninja-yoga-balance skillz I was not aware that she possessed. Very impressive. Laughing and high-fiving we departed the obstacle course and completely missed another checkpoint. We ran back to the Rec Center and were presented with another special challenge - climb through the spider web of yarn without hitting any strings. The web was strung in a cube made of PVC pipes that was about 8 feet long, so it was definitely a challenge. Despite my capoeira skills and Amy and Chrissy's yoga skills, we bungled that thing many times before finally getting through it.

Next up was the swim. Yes, it was about 38 degrees outside. We were ordered by megaphone to strip down to our swimwear. The people running on the treadmills overlooking the water must have been shaking their heads. We were given life jackets, then had to bribe the "guards" with our monopoly money. We gave them our now completely forgotten and demolished omelette in a ziplock bag. Then we learned that we had to swim through an inflatable water wheel/tube, swim one lap against the current in the lazy river, and exit the pool through another water wheel. It was very tough. The life jackets didn't help. No walking, just swimming. I found the best way was to float on my back and do the breast stroke very quickly. Exhausted and freezing we ran for the dressing rooms to change and do the last leg of the race. Before we exited the building for the last leg, a sign instructed us to run along the winding course laid out in the grass with climbing ropes. The challenge was that if any teammate was "shot," we'd all have to start over. We decided Chrissy should go first and we cautiously entered the courtyard, watching the "guards" with their arms behind their back. We decided to stagger ourselves and Chrissy started out into the track. She made it around one, then two bends in the course, staring at the guards in the courtyard, then BAM! she got nailed in the head with a nerfball. We took a minute to realize the snipers were actually up on the balcony behind us - we never even though about that! Then it was a five-minute bizarro game of dodgeball and we all made it, turned in our passport, and were declared the winners.

We won T-shirts.

Very short, cheap, fun local race. I hope they put one on every season.


mulleina said...

Sounds like a good time. I may have to do one of these in the future. :)

Chrissy said...

Yay! You added photos! Nice job.