The Blue Hills Adventures Adventure Race series kicked off last week with the exciting and challenging Spillway Challenge adventure race in Manhattan, Kansas. As storms rolled in over Kansas City we somehow managed to luck out with a beautiful night of camping and a bright, sunny, Sunday morning for an adventure race. Thirty four teams lined up at the starting line for the second annual Spillway Challenge this year as Clay went over the rules and instructions for the race. We would start the race with one teammate on foot and the other on bike, otherwise known as a ride-and-tie. We would retrieve our maps and first set of checkpoints during the ride-and-tie and would then return to the transition area for the next leg of the race.
Despite my disdain for riding a bike or running leg while tethered at the wrist to another human being, I have to say that it is an event at which we can excel as long as I’m on the bike and Mike is running. Mike was able to jump out of the shoots at a startlingly quick pace while I peddled alongside him. The first quarter to half mile or so was all uphill and we wound our way up the hill passing numerous teams along the way.
After cresting the hill and descending a bit into a campsite we found Charlie and Tracy who handed us our maps and passports – I quickly read the maps as we started our ride-run back up and around the hill before descending at a quick pace toward the TA. We crossed into the TA, quickly changed into trail shoes, and set out on the second leg of the race – a trail run that would take us to the next four checkpoints. The run started off on the rocky shore of Tuttle Creek – it was hard to gain a good footing and even more difficult to maintain any sort of smooth rhythm on the rocks but we did the best that we could without risking a broken leg.
The run continued along the rocky shore of Tuttle Creek for roughly a mile or so before we found the next checkpoint. We scaled a hill to punch the CP, then back down onto the rocks before finally breaking out into open grass and leaving the treacherous rocks behind. Up a steep incline, a short bit on asphalt, then back into the grass before joining a dirt/mulch trail that led us past two more checkpoints before returning to the transition area.
The next leg was a paddle leg so we quickly grabbed our hydration packs, bike gloves, and Mike grabbed the paddles and PDFs while I grabbed a kayak and slid down the hill to the waterline. We hopped in and started paddling out toward the main channel, passing a couple of teams along the way. It looked to be roughly a mile or so up shore to the CP on the lake so we did our best to settle into a rhythm and keep the kayak moving in a straight line. Once we were into the open channel I think we were in about fourth place and that’s about where the teams stayed for the duration of the paddle. The paddle out went relatively well, but on the way back we ran into some sort of odd current/wind thing that was obviously affecting the lead teams as well. It seemed like every stroke on the left side of the kayak would move the nose slightly left while every stroke on the right side of the kayak would move the nose extremely left. Somehow we managed to keep it going straight and wound up picking up a little time on the lead teams, pulling into shore right behind the top few teams.
Thoroughly soaked, we changed back into our biking shoes, strapped our running shoes to our hydration packs, and set out on the bike leg. We had to bike back out of the park, up a long series of winding, hilly roads, before meeting the main road that crosses the dam. We turned east on the main road and tried to keep a decent pace into the wind. After a few miles we turned off onto dirt/gravel, thankfully dry given our recent weather, and quickly punched a CP hanging from a tree. We set out again, following a few teams ahead of us. I double checked the map to make sure that we d