Enjoying the Simple Pleasures and Learning Lessons at our First Race

Rob Hoehn / 30.01.2021
Out in the snow and the woods
Out in the snow and the woods / © RIB Mountain Adventure Challenge

When the opportunity comes to race in the winter, or heck at all during this past year, I'm excited to get in. So I easily convinced a couple of friends, Chad Esker and Jake Daul to come along on our first Adventure Race, and film the whole thing with me too. Being our first adventure race as a group, and a complete first for Jake and I, with Chad having done just one in the past, this was going to be a work in progress. We were all ready for the adventure though, eager for the challenges that faced us.

The race has a 3 hour cut-off time. There are 3 hiking sections with Check Points (cp's) to hit and 2 bike sections to connect the hikes. Originally there was to be a snowshoe section, but central Wisconsin hasn't had much snow at all this year yet. The course had 19 cps with 2 bonus ones that added some distance on the bike. Not knowing what we were in for, I made the decision early to skip the bonus ones.

A Downhill Blast

Before we could get started on the bike and hike though, there was a special surprise. The team needed to complete 4 trips down the sledding hill! I haven't been on a sled in ages, and was honestly a little thrown off by this addition. What was the point in running up hill to slide down, there was no challenge there. However, I quickly realized, this was a brilliant addition.

There is nothing like the joy of throwing yourself down a hill on tube or in our case, a tiny plastic disc. It really takes you right back to being a kid again. A reminder of a time without a care, and the world was there for you to explore. Days filled with biking to friends houses and playing in the woods, the perfect appetizer to the next couple of hours.

We jumped on the fat tire bikes and flew down the trail towards the northern hiking section. Fat tire bikes were completely unnecessary, again because of our lack of snowfall. All of the bike routes ended up being on paved roads and trails. It was a bit cold on this first bike ride, air temp was around 10 degrees with a little wind, but it was just an encouragement to pedal harder.

Once at the north transition, we choose to set off down the road on foot first, as there was a clear-cut right to a couple of cp's. On to the next, everything going smoothly. Until the fourth, we got a little separated out trying to find a game trail, following maps, and not realizing a different road didn't go all the way through a brush section. Long story short, we learned our first lesson of the day, stick closer together. As Jake and I waited at the cp for Chad who was following my very bad instructions before realizing I was wrong and doubling back to us.

We blew through to the last check point and were back on the bikes, knocking out the first hike section much quicker than I thought we would. This next bike section was longer, about twice as far, but much warmer now that we'd just been running hard through fields, woods and snow. The southern part of the ride took us through the new Trillium trail, put in just this summer. My first time on it, and it's quite a nice winding path through the woods, even has some sweet wooden bridges.

Direct Ups and Downs

Setting off into the south trek, we ran into Chris Pollack, who was doing the race solo. Great to see him out there, and we stuck together for the whole section, kept up a great pace the whole way through. The first section was an easy trail out under some power lines, all on the bottom of a slope, worked our way vertical for the rest of this section.

The land out here was absolutely beautiful. Heading uphill we followed a creek bed for a while, getting a couple of cp's along the way. Then into some decent climbs. When we had just a single cp left, which was at the highest point, our little group decided to go off trail. Figuring it was quicker to just keep heading directly vertically, instead of trying to follow the trail in a roundabout way of getting there. As there weren't any footprints heading this way, I figured we'd either made a brilliant move or a terrible one, and while I'm not certain if we saved any time, the views getting to that last cp were completely worth it!

Descending down the slope on snow covered leaves was a lot of fun. I managed to get a stick caught between my legs though, barely saved a bad fall, and just kept on sliding. There were a few others just behind us who didn't fare as well and take a little tumble. Everyone came out unscathed and at the time it was all quite a good laugh. The only thing that would have made it even more fun was having that little saucer back from the sledding at the start of the race!

Back on the bikes after a quick clothing change. Chad was having a little trouble with his Camelbak water supply as the hose froze up, so he was trying to get that underneath some more clothing, and it's nice to have another layer on the back. We zipped off back to the north, back to the starting location for one last hike. This southern section went by way faster than I thought it would have as well, turns out we had more than enough time to get those bonus cp's.

Where is The Chip?

Right before pulling into the starting park, we realized the tracking chip was no longer with us. It had been on Chad's wrist all race, until now! He searched his sleeves and gloves, to no avail, so back we headed to the southern hike transition area. Putting even more into the bikes this time, our oversized tires sounded like a truck heading down the road. We rolled up to where Chad was fixing his camelback and sure enough, laying right on the snow, the tracking chip!

Lesson number two complete, always ensure you have the tracking chip before departing.

Now we're on track, once more back to the Doepke Park and on to the last hike. A quick check of the clock, and we still had plenty of time, even with our extra bike mileage. Actually, it was a good thing, those bikes are lot of fun to ride. Plus, it gave us an opportunity to pick on Chad a little too!

Into the park, the fat tire bikes did allow for a little shortcut over the snowbanks, extra bonus there. We made a quick transition and were off towards the next cp. The first couple were easy, then we followed a creek to a marsh and over a bridge. When I saw that the creek was open, I thought it'd make for a great part of the video, so I jumped over, or tried to. Apparently my legs were feeling it at this point, I hit the far shore, but then fell back into the knee deep freezing water!

Lesson three, don't jump in the water when the wind chill is below 10 degrees

Now that my legs were soaked and my shoes were full of cold water we ran on through the marsh and to the bridge, around the back side of the park and bushwhacked through, to the final cp's. Thankfully the last three were relatively close and we made it out of the woods about 10 minutes after my wading experiment.

Out of the woods, it was a sprint to the finish.

What a day, and what a race!

We learned some lessons on what not to do during an Adventure Race, but, most importantly, we learned how to capture the spirit of youth again. There is just something magical about running through the woods and flying down the road on bikes with your friends. That childlike wonderment about the world comes back. It doesn't matter that it's cold out, or that you're hungry or getting tired. Those things don't even register. You are right back into a time of life where each day was full of possibility and your only limitation was when mom called you in at the end of the day for dinner.

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