Hi-Tec Adventure Racing Series
City Island, Orchard Beach, The Bronx
New York, NY
Sunday October 21, 2001
(Photos by Diane O'Toole)
6.7 Mile Mountain Bike - 1.2 Mile Kayak - Balance Beam 1 - 6.7 Mile Mountain Bike - Orienteering Test - Balance Beam 2 - 5.0 Mile Trail Run - Traverse Wall - 12' Vertical Wall   Time: 4:40

The hardest part about doing an adventure race is actually putting the team together. By September, only my friend Diane had expressed an interest in doing the race with me, and a sprained ankle now meant that even she wouldn't be able to do it. After asking everyone I knew, and getting nowhere, I posted a message on the MORE listserv, an email list of mountain bike folks here in the DC area. I got some interest and one of those guys mentioned a friend, Catherine, who might also be interested in doing the race. Cath came to the next training ride and was incredibly enthusiastic about doing the race. Unfortunately Pete, who'd introduced me to her, couldn't do the race in New York so I was still short one team member. I called my friend Mike in New Jersey and after explaining to him how easy it would be (I lied), he agreed to join us. We had a team and I quickly registered for the race before anybody could back out.

Catherine and I drove up to NYC on the day prior to the race, meeting Mike on the NJ Turnpike, to sign in and get our kayak orientation. We saw the 12 foot wall which is a staple in the Hi-Tec races, but all of the other special tests were covered by camoflage tarps. One of the keys to an adventure race is being able to deal with surprises and they didn't want anyone to get a preview of what was to come. Everything went smoothly, we kayaked around a short course off of the beach, attended the mandatory competitor meeting and headed back to Mike's place for the night. We had some pasta for dinner compliments of Mike's girlfriend Laina, packed everything up and hit the sack early, tomorrow would be a long day.

The place was a zoo in the morning. Three-hundred-and-thirty teams of three were packed into the starting area, everyone in bike gear, awaiting the first mountain bike section. This was when the race organizers threw us the first curve; in the first mountain bike section each team would only be allowed to use two bikes. Since I was the weakest runner, we decided that Cath and Mike would share a bike, while I would ride on ahead. As you can imagine, I was grateful for this. This would save my strength for the later running section, as well as the kayak section where I would be in the solo kayak.

The kayaking immediately followed the first mountain bike section, and for a bunch of kayak newbies we did very well in the inflatables. I exited the water shortly after Mike and Catherine in the double and we marched back to the transition area to pick up our bikes for the second MTB leg.
Coming out of the transition with our bikes we ran into the first balance beam. In this special test we were required to walk the balance beam while carrying our bikes. The intricate part was that the first person on the beam had to be the last person off. Mike jumped on and paused at the turn in the beam while Cath and I passed him. No sweat and we were off.

Following the second MTB section we expected to jump right into the trail run and the home stretch, no such luck. Coming out of the transition we were handed a rubber ring approximately 8" in diameter, a map, and instructions. It was an orienteering test, we needed to find three locations in the woods and pick up a card at each location containing a letter. To make it interesting we all had to be holding onto the rubber ring at all times. After a bad start where I attempted to guide us overland using the new compass I had purchased, we decided to stick to the trails and finished the section rather quickly, only backtracking a few times. We turned in our letters and did the second balance beam section and proceeded to the trail run. We were almost there!

Coming in from the trail run, I think we actually felt pretty good. We had completed everything and only had two special tests to go, The Traverse, and The Wall. There was a huge backup of teams at The Traverse. The idea was that you would go hand over hand along this wall, holding onto, and standing on, the short pieces of 2x4 that had been nailed there. You couldn't hold onto the top, and you couldn't fall off. The exciting part was that, once again, the first person onto the wall had to be the last person off the wall. If any team member fell off, the whole team would have to restart. The race organizers began changing the rules as many teams just couldn't do it, and the backlog grew larger. First they said that only the team members that fell needed to restart, almost immediately thereafter they eliminated the 'first-on-last-off' rule. This allowed a number of teams (some of whom had been trying for 40 minutes) to move on.

Mike was able to get down the Traverse on his second try, but Catherine and I kept trying but just couldn't get all the way down without falling. Someone finally told us to move on and we headed for the next challenge, The Wall.
Catherine went up and over without much drama, lifted by Mike and I. Next, we jumped in to help another team's members up the wall, in exchange for help getting me up there. I was next. I stood on someone shoulders and grabbed the top of the wall. Catherine and another guy held my arms and I tried to pull myslef up but there wasn't anything there, my arms were shot from the Traverse. I was almost in tears as I fought to lift myself. Someone yelled that I should climb the wall with my feet, and I tried, but this left me holding onto the wall with my ass hanging out and no strength to pull myself forward. Finally I dropped down to the ground thinking I'd never be able to get to the top.

Mike was helped over the wall by some guys from another team. At this point one stout guy told me to stand on his leg, then his shoulder, and get over the wall. I did what I was told and got myself high enough to get both arms over the top to the armpits. Mike grabbed my shoulders and pulled while another guy grabbed my shorts, then my leg and lifted it up onto the top of the wall. I was there, finally. We climbed down the back of the wall and staggered the 10 yards to the finish line. When's the next one?
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All photographs and digital artwork on this site (c) 2001, Michael Wendell, unless otherwise credited.
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