Hillsdale Challenge 2006
A wet and muddy good time was had by all (or most) at last weekend’s inaugural Hillsdale Challenge adventure race. Blue Hills Adventures managed to put on a challenging and fun race despite Mother Nature’s valiant attempts to wash away any remnants of a race course. Thirty-three teams descended on Hillsdale Lake under threatening skies, including many first-timers and newcomers to the Blue Hills series, and listened intently as Clay thanked the racers, volunteers, and sponsors while running through list of rules and instructions for the race.
The race would start with both teammates on foot; we would run to a specified location and complete some sort of puzzle before returning to the transition area to start the first official leg of the race – a kayak leg. To keep things interesting, each team would also be required to carry one kayak paddle for the duration of the race. Whether paddling, running, or biking – the paddle would be required gear for the entire race. This should be interesting.
Moments later Clay hollered on his radio and we heard a horn somewhere off to the right of the starting line – a shelter roughly 100 meters away. We quickly ran to the shelter to retrieve our “puzzle”. The puzzle turned out to be a Sodoku puzzle. If you’re not familiar with Sodoku, it’s a quasi-crossword-puzzle-looking thing, but with numbers. The goal is to fill in the squares such that each row and column in a 3 x 3 grid, and each 3 x 3 sub-grid itself (there are nine of these…) contain the numbers one through nine with no duplicates in any row or column. Piece of cake, right?
Now I know that Sodoku has taken the world by storm and I may be one of the few remaining people on the planet to never have so much as looked at a Sodoku puzzle, so it was quickly evident that this was going to put a dent in our ability to get out of the gates of this race quickly.
Chad, on the other hand, lit up as he made it clear that he has taken a shot at many a Sodoku puzzle in his day. Must be all those hours spent reading the paper on Sunday mornings while the rest of us were out training for hours on end. Kidding Chad.
So Sodoku we did, but unfortunately not very well. I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this like I have in a number of races, but my mind and body quite frequently approach the fork in the road between mental and physical endurance mutually exclusive choices, not of cooperative inclusivity. That is to say, if I’m out on the trails for a physical adventure race, the right side of my brain isn’t always firing on all cylinders. On the other hand, put a puzzle in front of me on a quiet day at home and I’d probably knock it out in moments.
All those “useful” semesters of calculus, differential equations, and logic, long since forgotten, were of no help with this numerical puzzle on this day so I did what I could to provide any assistance possible while Chad filled in squares left and right. Just when we thought we had it, we’d find a row with duplicate numbers and we’d have to start scanning for errors. Apparently Chad, despite his Sodoku prowess, was suffering from a similar infliction as was I. The same thing happened in last year’s Smithville Challenge when Mike and I, halfway-intelligent people, were stumped (at least temporarily) on a puzzle that would have most eight-grade algebra students laughing ….”Mary leaves station Y heading eastbound at 7:00 at 15 mph and Jim leaves Station Z heading westbound at 7:15 at 20 mpg – when do their paths cross?” You get the point.
Our challenge with the Sodoku puzzle wasn’t he