Brrr. We arrived in Clinton State Park, just west of Lawrence, Kansas, and found the TA near the boat ramp. The wind was blowing and the temperature was in the mid 30’s. We had just found out about this race last week – it was being directed by Blue Hills Adventures, a new player in Midwest multisport racing circles, and we were anxious to try one of their races.
We checked in, received our passport and t-shirts, and set out to organize our gear on the wind-blown asphalt. At 7:45am the race directors called for a pre-race meeting. Clay and Tracy, two of Blue Hill’s owners, introduced themselves and gave us a quick overview on their new company and the race schedule for the year. Nothing out of the ordinary in the team meeting: teams must stay together, must have passport at all times, must complete all adventure challenges (special tests), and must punch checkpoints in order.
After the team meeting we were given 10 minutes to prepare. Just after 8:00 the teams were called to the starting line. Tracy asked that one member of each team raise their hand. The team members not raising their hand were asked to step to the back of the crowd. He then explained that the start involved one member of each team running up the road, through the woods up a rocky incline, and through a camping area. At the campground that team member was to find “Charlie and his kids” and get instructions for the first leg of the race before returning to the TA to join their team mate.
As luck would have it, Mike found himself at the starting line while I was with the other half of the group to the back. Mike is certainly better prepared for an all-out sprint, and when the race started a minute later he jumped out in the front of the pack and was among the top three as they entered the woods. The three of them made their way to the top of the hill, then made a sprint to Charlie for the instruction sheet. Mike got to Charlie in second, turned around, and was about to pass the leader, but instead opted to follow him down the steep, rocky hill, following his line when it was good, adjusting a bit when things got a little dangerous.
While the other half of the teams were sprinting through the woods, Tracy called together the rest of us and explained that once our team mates returned, we would leave with them on a running leg – up the lake road and turn west into the woods on the Blue trail toward CP1.
Mike emerged from the woods with one other runner, but he managed to hit the TA in 1st place, with the 2nd and 3rd runners on his heels. We quickly took off at a decent pace up the lake road. After a quarter mile or so, a team passed us. We soon found the blue trail marker and headed west into the woods. The trail wound through the woods to the west toward CP – over rocks and through a few muddy spots but the overall condition of the trails was great. Mike was right in front of me, occasionally rolling an ankle on a loose rock, but we managed to avoid injury as we tried to keep pace with the leaders.
As we closed in on CP1 I heard another team closing in behind us. We found CP1 near the lake, punched our passort, and took off again. Our instructions said to take the “white trail” to the east and look for the clearing that Mike had climbed earlier – from there head back to the TA.
After about a quarter of a mile, the co-ed team that had been on our heels passed us in a clearing at an impressive pace. As we neared the lake road again, we realized that we were still on the blue trail – our instructions called for taking the while trail to the next CP. When we reached the road we realized that the two leading teams had done the same thing, so all three teams headed north together on the road to try to pick up the while trail. About a quarter mile up the road we came to CP2, right at the intersection of the road and the white trail. We punched our passports and took off to the east, noticing to the south of us that half a dozen teams had also misse