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Racing The Rootstock Lockdown - The Spanglers First Race As A Family

Jesse Spangler / 20.05.2020

The Spangler family out racing together
The Spangler family out racing together / © Jesse Spangler

5 years ago, I raced at my first orienteering meet with my wife, Kate. Although I have developed a severe case of adventure racing addiction, Kate has had zero interest in orienteering or adventure racing since that first O-meet where I repetitively got us lost in the woods.

We frequently enjoy running and biking together and have logged thousands of miles pushing our 3 and 5 years old daughters, Daisy and Lucy in the running strollers. We were camping in the mountains when the stay at home order was announced on the news, forcing us to end a 4 day family vacation full of hikes and taking turns on the mountain bikes. 

I pitched The Lockdown race to Kate not knowing how she would react (I usually get an eye roll when I sign up for "another" adventure race.) We considered doing the race separately, where we would each take turns watching the kids while the other "raced." This plan seemed like it would exacerbate an already isolating Covid-19 quarantine, so we decided to attempt the race as a team of 4, where we would complete all 21 hours together.

Planning 21 hours of activity for a family of 4 over 4 days was way more work than the usual 24-hour weekend adventure race. Weather can be erratic this time of year in Virginia, so I made contingency plans for bad weather and bad moods. I didn't want to risk a DNF because of a dropped teammate. The first weekend we planned to do this was too cold and rainy, so we delayed the start. Our second attempt was also delayed because of weather. This delay forced us to race on days I would be working, limiting some of our activities.  

Ultimately, we had an absolute blast completing all 21 hours of activity together as a family. The mandatory activities and what we completed are as follows:

The Spangler family on the trail
​​​​The Spangler Family on the trail on their
​​​​Lockdown race​​​​ 
  • 4 hours road riding: For two legs of this stage, we all rode our own bikes. My 3 year old mostly rode the balance bike, but spent some time on her pedal bike (she just learned to ride it and still struggles a bit). We also did a long ride through our city pulling the kids in an old bike trailer (that we found for free in an alley a few years ago).
  • 3 hour trail ride: We did three legs on some tame nearby trails. My 5-year old pedalled the entire time (over 15 miles). I set up a bike tow using my adventure race gear (made out of a repurposed dog leash) and she held onto that for some of the steep uphills. She crashed pretty hard learning how to get towed, but ultimately we got the hang of it and she was so proud. It was really fun to watch our 5-year old learn new skills on her bike and gain tons of confidence! My 3-year old took turns using the strider bike and chilling in the bike trailer.
  • 3 hours bike run stage: This was completed in three stages of mostly stroller running on the road and local fire roads. Our last double stroller run was an 11 miler at 7:45 mi/min avg pace, which my wife and I were quite proud of because that double stroller gets HEAVY!
  • 5 hour multi sport: We did this as a 5+ hour continuous run/bike. Kate and I took turns running and biking. One of us would run while the other pulled the kids in the bike trailer. The kids ran a little bit too, when they needed to stretch their legs. We gave them a bag of snacks and they were mostly content (and actually, the kids had fewer disagreements than my wife and I did - haha!).
  • 3 hour bushwhack: The kids were surprisingly quick moving through the woods and enjoyed getting distracted by the wild. They excelled at creek-whacking and stopping for snacks.
  • 1 hour strength: It was rainy and cold, so we did one hour of family yoga. One of the YouTube videos was "Frozen" themed Yoga, which was a big hit. Another video was partner yoga and the kids loved climbing on us in different positions!
  • 2 hours of non-bike/non-run: We wanted to do activities that were fun for the kids, since they were putting up with all of our crazy activities. We played soccer for an hour and then did some hide-and-seek and hop-scotch for the other hour. Kate had some beers during this stage.
  • Geocaching: This was our first time geocaching. Kate loved navigating for this and the kids had a blast hunting for these. I still prefer O-flags and topo maps, but this was a good, leisurely, family activity.

The kids held up surprisingly well as long as they were well fed and well-hydrated. The few times they started to drag were quickly remedied with snack breaks.  The race did have a night time requirement. We did some bushwhacking for an hour past bedtime, which was as far as I was willing to voluntarily disrupt the kids' sleep schedule. A paddle would have been great, but the water is still quite cold here, and we just couldn't coordinate a time with safe enough weather for the kids.

Kate and I loved doing this. She asked me if we could do this every year and said she would even try an adventure race now. The "race" component of this event forced us to push longer and do things outside of our usual comfort zone, and we were happy with the many new experiences this challenge pushed us towards.

[The Lockdown is organised by Rootstock Racing and entries are open until the end of the month with the event needing to be completed by the end of June. Click the links on the top left to their website and Facebook pages to find out more.]

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