The 4th running of the Port to Fort Adventure Race went off with a few last minute changes, and was a spectacular race. I have done all 4 years, and the returning team of Zombie Hors D'oeuevres (Mitch Drummond, Channing Wendt, and I) was back to defend their title of DFL in the long race--a 5 mile-ish trail run with a 40yard swim in DEEP water, and another 5 miles in a canoe, and then a bike race of undetermined distance on a mix of surfaces. It was truly an adventure.
The starting gun sounded while I was in the porta-potty, and there was a minor misunderstanding as to whether we were supposed to start at 7:00 or 7:15--our fault. So, we started about 7-8 minutes late.
Since the Arkansas River Navigation Channel is so high due to crazy summer rains, the normal Three Rivers Trail could not be used, and the canoe trip had to be moved from the super wide deep exposed barge-way to the Grand (Neosho) River just below Ft Gibson Dam. Our run consisted of mostly paved road on the shoulder of scenic HWY 80. My pictures here did not turn out well, and I spent most of my time trying to keep a good pace up and did not fiddle with my camera much. Our team had to stay within 100 feet of each other, and Mitch and Channing were in a groove.
Our groove came to a halt when I hit the swim portion. I thought there was gonna by some sort of life vests, which IS allowed, but there were none. I am a very poor swimmer. I sink straight to the bottom, and the creek which flowed into a swollen Grand River was at least 30 feet deep. (I have fished here.) I got into the edge of the water which was instantly over my head, and sat on a submerged tree, just frozen. I was not panicking, but I just was not sure HOW I could get across. One COULD bypass the swim and finish the race, but would not be an official finisher.
Finally, the dude in the kayak loaned me his vest, and Mitch told me to stay afloat and hang on to his foot. He swam and dragged my dead-whale body across, and with this good planning and using the rope to pull us along, we made it. If I did not have shoes, socks, and s a shirt on--and if I had on scuba flippers, I could swim it. I was very humbled and thankful for Mitch's help. He complicated me on facing my fears, and reminded me that we a were a team.
There were a couple of newly created trail sections on the run portion, but most was road running.
We had an ice chest to take with us on the canoe. A good selection of beers, and Gatorade is a must for our team
The river was scenic and shaded for much of the way. In years past when canoeing on the navigation channel, the water seemed still, and we paddled into a headwind every year. Stop paddling to scratch your nose, and you're dead in the water. But this year in this raver, the current was swift. I think our canoe time was faster than our run time.
The new aluminum canoes were so much better than the old heavy fiberglass ones the race used to use. They sat high in the water, but at times it seemed like we might tip over. Mitch had his butt clinched tightly to his seat. I sat in the floor of the canoe to lower our center of gravity.
The river was full and there were several islands. We guessed which way to go at one point, and guessed wrong. It looked like we were hitting a dead end, but saw we could paddle through the woods.
When we popped out of the trees, the old iron bridge was in sight. We beached our canoe here, and headed out for the last leg of the race.
We are novice mountain bikers, but we HAVE practiced a few times on Turkey Mountain ande did a lot better on the bike because of this modest amount of preparation!!
After a technical section of trail, we popped out on the iron bridge seen from the river. Old bridges like this are an endangered species a pleasure to ride.
The Jean Pierre Chauteau Trail was a 12 mile trek last year, but this year, we rode about 2 1/2 miles on it before getting onto some gravel roads and rural paved roads.
Channing is just praying we do not have a half dozen flats like we had last year.
These single lane super narrow bridges are 30 years old, and at one time, this trail was supposed to go all the way from Ft Gibson to the Port of Catoosa. Unfortunately the trail does not get much use and gets pretty overgrown. I think we should schedule group runs here a couple times a year to keep things tromped down.
Um--guys? There might have been a weight limit on the bridge.
It got muddier the further we went. I knew it would be. I have worked in Ft Gibson a couple times the past week, and it has rained like CRAZY. The whole town of Ft Gibson has minor flooding all day Thursday. I was surprised there was ANY of the trailz that were ride-able I was ahead of Mitch, and hopped over this small channel of water/mud. Mitch was feeling his oats and tried to ride through it, and went head first over his handlebars and took a good roll in the mud. I heard him laughing and RAN back--not to help him, but to get a good picture.
Not to be outdone, Channing took an end-over as well. Somehow he pulled himself together though and we rode on like champs.
Near the end of the trail portion, we had a 100 yard water crossing. I think this was actually a gravel road that was under water. Mitch and Channing pushed their bikes across, and I decided to ride mine. I made it all the was across, and cleaned all of the caked up mud from my tires, gears, and chain in the process.
Next we had 2-2 1/2 miles of gravel roads that had a mud puddle here and there. We saw that we were catching up to another team and picked up the pace top reel them in. When we hit the pavement with 3 miles to go, we shifted into the higher gears and pedaled like crazy. It felt fast anyway.
We beat our time from last year (Ok, on a shorter course), we beat the heat, and we beat two other teams and a solo racer.
UPDATE: I have just been told we finished 4th out of 7 teams!!
I had a little to do with this all women's team entering this race. I gave the race glowing reviews,and told them they could do it. Their captain was sick and could not make it, but Jodee and Candy toughed it out, and took home the women's first place team. WTG!!
Thanks to Joel Everett and his army of volunteers for putting this race on, and for devising a course that worked well despite all the heavy rains. I always say after this race that I'll never miss it. Looking forward to next year for Port to Fort #5.