Blue Hills Adventures Spillway Challenge
Blue Hills Adventures put on another challenging and entertaining adventure sprint this weekend, the Spillway Challenge. Appropriately named, the Challenge took us in and out of the spillway area that, according to information provided by race director Tracy Anderson during the pre-race briefing, was carved out of the earth when the Army Corps of Engineers released 60,000 cubic feet of water per second from the Tuttle Creek Reservoir. The release of water from the dam was done in an effort to stem the increasingly disastrous effects of the floods in 1993 and the substantial impact to surrounding terrain remains today. What remains is an area ripe with geological significance and a treat for new visitors to the area such as ourselves.
During the pre-race briefing co-directors Tracy and Clay informed us that we would be running and biking on every man-made and natural surface known to man. We were in for a challenge, and we were told to keep our eyes open and our brains turned on. No maps or instructions were to be provided for us to carry during the race so it was up to us to keep an eye out for route markers and read the instructions at each checkpoint thoroughly. Oh, and we were warned in advanced that we “might get wet.” Tracy, none too apologetic, warned that there may be some animosity toward the route selection team but unless we preferred a potentially serious exposure to poison ivy, we would surely prefer the potentially wet and muddy route to the alternative. We were told that the race would start with a run; “follow the yellow markers” to the next TA/set of instructions was the only instruction given.
With that we were given the usual five-minute break before returning to the start. We hit the TA for last-minute gear checks (or lack thereof – more on that later) and to collect water and – there were a few familiar teams around that had done well in these races before: Wild Hares, High Octane, Three Toed Sloths, and a host of other familiar and new faces – it was a great turnout.
When the race started the pack set out a moderate pace – as usual with an AR sprint nobody really knew how long we’d be racing today and with the hot sun beating down there wasn’t much sprinting going on. A few teams led the pack and set a pretty good pace that we tried to match. Our route from the TA took us eastward on asphalt, then onto gravel, and eventually wound around one end of the lake before cutting through some brush toward the shoreline. This is where our “coasteering” leg of sorts began – our run took us along the shore of the lake through brush, sand, mud, and yes, water. On a number of occasions we were required to run/slog through 1-2 foot water to make our way around trees or brush. Other than slowing down your forward progress a bit, it was pretty refreshing to splash in the water considering the rapidly increasing temperature.
Our shoreline course continued to a point where the yellow route markers led away from the lake into the woods. About 50 meters from the water we found the first TA (actually, TA 2 if you count the start as TA1). At the TA was a set of instruction and piles of kayaks, paddles, and PDFs. I punched our passport and read the instructions which instructed us to portage the kayaks back along the yellow route markers to a put-in point opposite an island in the middle of the lake. Chad had our PDFs and paddles ready to roll so we grabbed the kayak, tossed the gear into it, and set out along our previous route. The put-in point was probably a couple hundred yards back along the shore line – a few teams were already on the water, roughly half-way to the island. We donned our PDFs and hit the water, quickly getting into a paddling rhythm.
Our first paddling leg looked to be only 200 meters or so to the island opposite the put-in point. We were in roughly 7th or 8th place at this point. Over time (and over a few frustrating ci