I Survived: Natchez Trace Adventure Race

My typing these words is proof that a) I survived the adventure race, b) I did not paralyze myself and still have complete control over my limbs and fingers (Thank goodness!), c) Caroline still has a mommy! (Super shout-out to my amazing parents for watching her this weekend while we raced at the Trace!)

This adventure race was hard.  Probably one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life.The Knight did this thing in 2009, and even he said that this year's race was way tougher. 
(the handsome devil who got me into this mess. (:  )

Miraculously, my fabulous team, Steeltoe Stilettos, finished.  Even more miraculously, we were not last! 

The race was actually pretty cool overall.  We started off at a lodge in the Natchez Trace State Park...at the beginning of the race, we were told to tie ourselves together and run to a point about 350 meters away.  We got there and were given a "Passport", a set of instructions, and a topographical map with holes punched out at the locations that we were supposed to check off on our Passport. 

Our instructions were broken up into three phases: 1) trek/run, 2) mountain bike, 3) canoe.  Each phase had multiple checkpoints that we were supposed to find using our compass, maps, and orienteering abilities.  I am so thankful for having such a great team.  We worked together really well.  The Knight's sister was our captain and instructions giver, Aqua Sha'naqua was the map reader and fearless trailblazer, and I was the compass coordinator and Passport checker offer (basically, when we found each checkpoint, I would run ahead and get the Passport "stamped" so that we could move to the next spot).  I was definitely the weakest link on the team, but my teammates were very gracious, encouraging, and didn't leave me (although at times, I really wished they would have...I would have happily curled up into the fetal position and waited for a helicopter to take me home.)

(photo credit here)

Our first phase was the trek/run portion...it was actually pretty fun, and a great way to see the state park.  We quickly got all of our checkpoints, and were staying with the other teams pretty well.  After finishing our first set, we headed back to the transition area to get ready to begin the biking portion of our race.  We were surprised with a "mystery event" which consisted of one person telling a blindfolded teammate how to arrange all the states on a U.S. map puzzle.  We finished our mystery event with blazing speed and got ready to begin biking.

This is where my misadventures began.  First, as we were grabbing our bikes to get on the trail, I panicked and decided I need to add a little more air in my back tire.  Unfortunately, in my panic, I also managed to pull out the valve stem of my bike, which completely deflated and ruined the tube inside my tire. 

But wait.  There was a bigger problem. 

The BIGGER problem was that I had no idea how to change the tire on my bike.  I had watched a youTube video, but let's be honest here, watching a video and actually doing something yourself are very, very different things.  So, of course, I did what any rational person in my position would do...I panicked some more, hopped around freaking out, and then ran and asked one of the officials for help.

(photo credit here)

First guardian angel of the day was a very cute official named Daniel....he quickly replaced the inner tube, made sure both of my tires had the proper amount of air, and was completely gracious about the entire thing.  As we pedalled away, he wished us "good luck!" and then I'm pretty sure I heard him chuckle and mutter under his breath "you are going to need it."

Daniel was dead on.  Oh, how I wish I would have just stayed with cutie pie Daniel.

About 10 minutes into the wood on our mountain bikes, and I realized I was WAY over my head.  Did I mention that I have never actually mountain biked before?  Because the only experience that I had mountain biking 10 minutes in, was the 10 minutes that I had just finished.  Riding a bike on the road is completely different.  I'm sure you are thinking "duh," but I did not actually think about what it mean to bike through a trail until I was literally in the thick of it.  The trail was rugged, loaded with tree roots, ditches, loose leaves, and lots and lots of trees.  Those trees, roots, hills and ditches nearly were the death of me. 

Within the first 30 minutes, I wrecked my bike not once, not twice, but THREE times.  The last wreck literally flung my entire body in a brier patch, with my bike on top of me.  Ow. 
(photo credit here)

I have to admit, by that time, my morale was so low, I really wanted to quit.  I was scared, the realization that we weren't even 1/2 through was setting in, and I kept thinking "I am a mother, I have a child, I cannot die."  Not to be overly dramatic or anything, but I could see how one bad wreck could really do some damage, and I was afraid I was really going to get hurt.  Plus, I was feeling guilty slowing my teammates down with all of my wrecking, and I was really wondering how much longer I could go on (and how many more wrecks my body and soul could endure).

I said a lot of prayers, probably even more curse words, and apologized a million times for my delaying us by pulling out the valve stem, the serial wrecking, and just generally being a complete cycling psycho. Thankfully, I managed to rally, and didn't wreck any more the rest of the day.  I would also like to mention that the mountain bike portion should have been termed "mountain bike pushing portion."  Everyone, including my team, spent an inordinate amount of time pushing the bikes up and down the major hills on the trail.  I don't understand why the coordinators picked such a hill intensive trail for the biking portion...it would have been difficult just walking it, but pushing the bikes up the hills really was exhausting.  Major kudos to Aqua Sha'naqua and the Knight's sister...they were fearless on the trails. 

(holding our passport and checkpoint marker no. 6 - this one we really worked for!)

Finally...gloriously...we finished the biking portion and got all of our checkpoints.  Unfortunately, it had already been 5.5 hours, and the race was ending in 6 hours.  We really didn't have enough time to get all the canoe checkpoints, but we figured "we're here, we rented the canoe, we might as well try to get one."

The canoing was challenging, but in a funny way.  First, we had a hard time figuring out how to row in a straight line, especially with three enthusiastic rowers.  Also, Aqua Sha'naqua was initially in the front of the canoe, with the Knight's sister in the back, acting as the rudder (i, in my pitiful state, sat in the middle).  After about, oh, 2 minutes, it became obvious that A.S. needed to be the rudder.  Soooo, what better place to switch places in the canoe than in the middle of the lake?  That's right, they literally switched places climbing over me in the canoe. Guardian Angel number two must have been there because we did not tip over.  I am sad that no one saw our Three Stooges-esque transition.  It was hysterical.  We were laughing so much, we really should have taken a plunge in that freezing water.

After making the switch and deciding that two rowers really works better than three, we got one checkpoint and headed back to shore.  After lugging our canoe up the hill and putting it back on the stand, we learn that, oh yes, more miles on the bike!


The official told us that it was a 4.5 mile uphill bike back to the finish line.  I'm thinking it was more like 6 or 7.  Each time a truck passed us, I wanted nothing more than to blow my whistle (required gear, thank you very much), and hop aboard.  I was physically and mentally spent, hungry, and out of water.  Steeltoe Stilettos was ready to be done.

Almost 7 hours after beginning, we finally rounded the corner and saw the end.  I nearly teared up.  Relief washed over me, and I was so so so glad to be done.  Also, I was a little amazed that I actually finished.  I never doubted that my teammates would do a great job, but at times I really wondered how I would complete the race.  And there I was - actually completing the race!

Seeing all of our friends and family waiting was pretty awesome, too.  A bunch of our Memphis friends raced as well (of course, they all finished way before us), and it was great knowing that we had all completed this race together.

Also, check out the 1st and 2nd place teams in the female 3 person, 4-6 hour division.  See anyone familiar? :)

(For the sake of full-disclosure, I have to state that there were only 2 teams in our division, but still...we got 2nd, and Three Chicks and a Compass got first! Plus we got prizes!)

Two days post-race, my arms and legs are bruised, scabbed over, and scratched.  My muscles are a tad bit sore, but my spirit is quite strong.  Sure, I might have been a complete disaster on the mountain bike.  Yes, I may have said enough swear words to cause my precious Pentecostal great-grandmother to plug her ears in her grave.  But you know what?  I had a baby 7.5 months ago, who still gets up nearly every night between 2 and 3:30 a.m. to eat.  I am working full-time as a lawyer.  I do not sleep much.  I barely did any physical activity leading up to this event.  Yet, I finished.  Smiling.  I didn't quit.  My heart did not burst.  My lungs did not explode.  I did not suffer any sort of concussion.  My bike is intact.

Will I ever do an adventure race again?  The craziness and pain of this one is still too close, too raw for me imagine electively going through it again.  But then, they say time heals all wounds.  Perhaps I will again feel the need to "get out of my comfort zone" but doing something that I did not train for, and is in no way, shape or form, comfortable.  Perhaps I will forget the fear I had as I launched myself into that danged brier patch. Perhaps I will "disremember" the pain in my lungs and shoulders as I pushed my bike up yet another hill.  Perhaps.

Not likely, but perhaps.

Currently preferring petals over pedals,
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MEK said...

Yay! Congratulations!!!

Amanda said...

Girl!!! I am so impressed!! Not just with the race ( although I would've prob cried!), but with your all time positive attitude!! I am tired and whine, & I'm not working full time!! Thanks for the inspiration...& I would love to do the next one with you, if it's on horseback :)

Kate said...

Reading this was a great way to start my morning... Great story!!! Congrats!!!!

Artsy Fartsy said...

Thanks everyone! Glad you liked the story. It was definitely an experience I won't forget!

Spartan300workout said...

Wow, that was a great race. Congratulations ! Looking forward for your next race.

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