Sunday, July 15, 2012

Port to Fort Adventure Race

The Port to Fort Adventure race was Saturday, and I had toyed with the idea of participating. "Toyed", because it involved a short swim, and I am a sinker. A 100 yard swim--a football field. Problem is, I doubted I could even make a first down.
After the swim, there was a 5 mile trail run on NEW TRAILZ, and then a 5 mile canoe trip. The second two disciplines, I was sure I could make up for the slowness of my slithering out of the water. The race was open to solo runners, and three man teams. Since Russell and Rob were coming with me to the full mOOn 50K in Arkansas, and this was right on the way, our three man super-team was born: Team Ruh Roh.
We were pre-registered, and our friend Stormy was in charge of packet pickup, and had our stuff set out for us when we strolled in. There were 61 teams, and 35 solo competitors, along with 283 who opted to just do a 5K trail run.
I wondered if this was the mascot, or maybe an award for winning?
The green arch was the finish line. The start was down a hill and on a concrete dock of sorts. We had to jump into the water--a 6-8' drop to the 12' deep water. I stayed way to the back, and had several waves of fear. There was an option to just wade through a shallow section of the water, and some people did this, but I wanted to be tough. How tough? Not tough enough to not wear a life jacket. I think I was the only one who did, although PFDs were allowed. There were a few who used little chest boards, and buoyant tubes. I hit the water and sunk deep, before popping back up. Without the life jacket, I would not have surfaced. Doing the breast stroke was not working. I flipped over and did the back stroke, and paddled for what seemed like 30 minutes. In reality, it was about 8 minutes. In reality, it was only about 50 yards.
I was the last one out of the water, and since I did not have my glasses on, I could not find Rob and Russell, and my drop bag with my shoes. But when I found them, I quickly got my shoes and socks on, and we were off and running. To our credit, we were not the last ones out of transition.
We were off for the run. I was IN MY ELEMENT, and we passed a lot of people. I felt light on my feet, and other than fiddling with my camera for a minute or two, and taking a pee stop, we really made up some time.
This is a fairly new trail. The first 2-3 miles are around a year old, and the last part was a lot newer than that. Much of it was carved out of a dense thicket, and wound and twisted it's way along the wooded banks of the Arkansas River Channel.
Everyone's least favorite part of the trail--a short exposed section that was loose sand. There was no fast running through here.
But most of the way, we were treated to single track, or a wider path, with a few rocks, a few roots, and a few stumps to trip you up.
About 2 miles into the race, we had a challenge. We had a slingshot and five chances to hit a target. Five misses, and you had to jump rope 50 times. I am not to coordinated, so this could have been a disaster, but Rob smacked the target in the first shot.
There were several tree-falls, but rather than remove them, they became part of the adventure. Evidently, Stormy thought this one might decapitate someone.
No danger of tripping on these.
Step in a hole--bad. Stepping in a pink hole--really bad.
The last two miles were awesome. We went down one ravine and up another. There was a log-jam here, as ropes were needed to scramble up.
The wait to rappel here was a good ten minutes. The delay spaced out the train of runners, making it harder to catch the teams ahead.
A short jaunt through a park-like area, and then we hit a water crossing.
Knee deep water, and shin deep mud. Great fun.
More squeezing through fallen trees. After this, we reached the transition area, but first we had to run up a hill to the fort--hence the name Port to Fort.
These are some of the oldest buildings in the state of Oklahoma.
The fort-keeper greeted us with a trivia question about the history of river travel--"Which river is referred to as the Grandfather of Rivers?"> I guesses Mississippi, and it was right. had it been wrong, we would have been imprisoned and put in locks and shackles for a few minutes. I do not know how many were penalized like this--would have made some good pictures.
We ran back to the river bank, and boarded our canoe. There aluminum canoes seemed to teeter back and forth. I do not remember having the feeling that the canoe trips on the Illinois were so unstable. While we were technically going downstream, we were bucking a headwind, and thew water was deep and still. If we stopped paddling even for a second, we were dead in the water.
So we paddled non-stop for about an hour. Most canoes ahead of us were going left and right and left and right. We did our best to keep the canoe going straight, and doing that allowed us to pass several team canoes and single kayaks. We were moving up in the standings, and by the end of the race, we had passed everyone we possibly could have caught. If we could have bypassed the snags with the ropes on the trail portion, we might have finished a bit higher.
Entering the harbor, we landed, and carried our canoe up and across the finish line, finishing in 2:32. This was good enough for 10th out of 13 men's teams, and 28th out of 61 overall teams. Super fun--and a much better finish than I thought we could do. But still, we could improve on that next year.
A lot of races give you a medal for finishing. This race gave all finishers an AWESOME hat. I love mine. Plus, there was burgers, hot dogs, chips and sodas for all the participants. I loved this race, and will definitely be back next year, as well as back a time or two to run this trail. Joel deserves major props for pulling off an exceptional race. And Stormy did packet pickup, the pre-race briefing, the race start, and the awards ceremony. He is race director material!

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