Eco-Oklahoma’s Robber’s Cave Breakout – 18-hour Adventure Race
February 19th/20th, 2005
By David Shultz
What a great race! It was our first navigated race and our first race longer than eight hours and we really enjoyed Angie and Eddie’s Robber’s Cave Breakout 2005. As we came to find out, an 18-hour adventure race can be exciting, humbling, educational, frustrating, exhausting, occasionally frightening, and, well, just plain fun.
Side note: I apologize in advance for the length and level of detail – I truly meant this to be short and sweet but such was not to be. I promise to use a heavier editorial hand next time around…
We arrived at Robber’s Cave State Park on Friday afternoon and were welcomed by a growing number of threatening clouds. The transition area was situated at the equestrian campground in the middle of the park; it was a great location for the TA, complete with clean restrooms, showers, ample camping space, a large covered shelter, and easy access to nearby Wilburton, OK. Having initially felt that we had over-packed and brought along too much gear, I was surprised to see the sheer amount of gear and the level of organization and preparation by teams of much greater experience. Our tent, pop-up shelter, tarp, chairs, cooler, bikes, and single plastic tub of gear were no match for the RVs, bike and kayak trailers, four-sided shelters, portable heaters, stoves, and sport-specific gear organizers. One team even had their multi-sided shelter draped in Tibetan prayer flags, casting an odd international aura over this transition area in southeastern Oklahoma.
Many teams had family members or friends along as support crew and we were jealous of the food, hot soup/drinks, gear preparation, and words of encouragement that must have been awaiting these teams at each transition. As we came to find out, there were several teams in attendance with vastly more experience than ourselves (meaning any experience at all) including many teams with numerous 12, 18, and 24-hour races under their belts, as well as a couple of teams who have competed in Eco-Challenge and Subaru Primal Quest. We were definitely out of our league.
After a short, restless, rain-soaked night of sleep we were up, dressed, and sorting through our gear. Despite the heavy cloud cover the rain had stopped for the time being, the temperature was a crisp 40 degrees, and it looked like we might actually set out in dry conditions – good news. Rain gear, however, was mandatory gear for every leg of the race so we spent what time we had packing backpacks, filling water bottles, packing food, and sorting gear for the bike, kayak, and trekking legs. Also on the mandatory gear list were three D-cell batteries, which we were asked to turn in shortly before the pre-race meeting. The batteries were to be used to power a GPS transmitter that each team would wear during the race as a means of providing positioning data for each team for use after the race (and, presumably, during the race in case of an emergency). You can actually download the demo software and watch each team’s progress throughout the race by visiting http://www.northstarar.com/DemoDownload.html (yes, including all the circles that we may have potentially tracked).
After a power bar, a protein/carb shake, Gatorade, and water, we were ready for the race briefing. At around 8:00 a.m. the teams were rounded up for the pre-race meeting and the rules of the race were explained to us. Nothing out of the ordinary here – all teammates must reach each checkpoint together, checkpoints must be punched in order unless otherwise specified, etc. Each team would also be required to take a picture of the team at each checkpoint and as such two disposable cameras were part of the required gear list and were carried at all times during the race. Eddie laid out the day’s events – first there would be a scavenger hunt – basically a land navigation leg that included questions that had to be answere