On Saturday my husband and I participated in the first ever Grand Rapids Urban Adventure Race. I found the website for this race while I was searching for a half marathon to do in July. I had to read up on what exactly adventure racing actually was. It sounded both physically and mentally challenging. I signed right up.
What is Adventure Racing? It is a multi-sport team event in which racers navigate their way through an open course to check points (CP) using a map, compass and route strategy within a set time length (if you exceed that time limit you get points deducted or are disqualified). Once at that CP you punch a passport with the punch that is attached to the CP flag. It is usually a wilderness event but it can also be an urban race.
- Mountain biking
- Orienteering (using a map and compass to get from one point to another)
- Trekking/Trail running
- Swimming (possible)
Being that this was an urban race the disciplines consisted of biking, running and orienteering with a little bit of Amazing Race type challenges thrown in here and there.
They capped the race initially at 250 teams of two but due to the overwhelming response they increased the capacity to 380 teams.
There was a 30 minute race briefing where we received our instructions sheet and maps. We then had about 20 minutes to plan our strategy before the race started. You could choose to do either the foot portion or the bike portion first, but once you decided to move on to the second section, you couldn't go back to the first. All check points were optional and you could obtain them in any order. The challenges that were dispersed throughout the course were also optional, you just got an extra point for completing it.
We decided to do the On-Foot Section first. We planned the order in which we wanted to obtain the CP's that would eliminate back tracking. There were a total of 16 CP's for this section.
- CP1 and Challenge A: we opted to not do this one right from the beginning because it was considered advanced being that it was pretty far away from the other CP's. The challenge part was a rock climbing challenge.
- CP2: opted out of this one as well as it was close to CP1 (i.e. far away)
So then we went in the order that made sense to us.
- CP8 and Challenge C: Climb the stairs in a 10 story parking garage using a particular set of stairs. CP at the top. Once at the top look over the city for a sign with an arrow that matches the one shown at the CP. Go to where the arrow is to receive the challenge CP.
- Challenge E: Buy a GR Press with mandatory quarters that we were required to bring. Find the ad with the race logo and solve the clue to reveal the location of Challenge E. Go there to punch the passport.
|Maps and passport attached to hydration pack!|
- CP3, CP5, CP7, CP4, CP9 and CP10 were just locations we had to navigate to according to the map
- CP6 and Challenge B: Go to the GR Public Museum and find the first CP at the entrance. Go inside to solve a clue and get a CP for Challenge B. (A bird totally attacked my head as I was entering the museum and it hurt!)
- CP11 and Challenge D: Find the CP inside the city bus terminal. Buy four bus tickets and drop them off at a mystery location located on a map next to the ticket counter to get your challenge point. (The tickets that were purchased went to a local homeless shelter.)
|So happy to be buying bus tickets|
|Dropping bus tickets off at homeless shelter|
We finished the on-foot portion in 1:07 which meant we had just under 3 hours to transition into the bike portion and find those CP's and get back to the finish area.
There were a total of 17 CPs for the bike portion and we got them all. Again we went in the order that minimized back tracking.
- CP12: under an expressway overpass. We went right by this one then had to back track just a bit to find it.
- CP26: Founders Brewery (anyone who is ever in GR I will take you here)
- CP13 and Challenge F: find Lincoln Park to get your CP. Solve a cryptogram for the challenge CP.
|This ate up 20 minutes! Ugh.|
- CPs 14-18: Wilderness orienteering at a park after riding up this crazy hill to the entrance with dead legs. Got these pretty quick as all you kinda had to do was follow the crowd.
- CP 21, CP 23, CP 22. CP 20, CP 19, CP 25: these were all along a several bike paths that were pretty far out from the city. We almost went the wrong way until I decided to question hubby one last time if we were going in the right direction. We weren't.
- CP24 and Challenge G: Kensington Park Angry Birds: Punch your passport at the CP. Head to a launching station to launch projectiles (eggs) at a target. Hit the target (a huge pig banner W-A-Y out there) and get the challenge CP.
|This was so fun!! Hit it on the second try.|
|Angry Birds Launching Station|
After the launch we had all of our CPs. It was time to head back to the finish area. We were probably a good 4 miles out from town and by this time it was close to 12:30pm and it was 89 degrees. We booked it back and our official finish time was 3:37. We ended up finishing 182 out of 380 teams. They score you based on how many CPs you got and then time.
This race was so well organized and the racers and volunteers were all awesome. I heard lots of positive feedback from everyone after the race. Post race food included burgers, chips, fruit, and drinks. They gave away some sweet prizes to the top 7 in each divison: Co-ed, Male-Male and Female-Female. They also had a raffle for a bike frame, gift cards, and t-shirts. We didn't win anything though.
|I was so freaking hungry|
I went into this race with one expectation: to have fun. I totally had a blast through the entire race. I wish I could hold back my competitiveness sometimes though. We knew we weren't going to win this thing, but we didn't want to get disqualified for being over the time limit either. Thus we opted not to do those first 2 on-foot CPs because hubby is fit by nature but we thought it was a little too far away for him to run in order to complete all of the other CPs. Looking back I wish we would have just done those CPs anyway to live up to our "fun" requirement.
Now I am hooked on this adventure racing thing. I want to do a 6 hour wilderness race in the area that is coming up in August but my husband will be out of town. Ugh!! This one involves orienteering, mountain biking, swimming, canoeing and trekking. Please don't make me wait until next year........
If you ever get an opportunity to do an adventure race....DO IT! I guarantee you will have the time of your life.
Oh, and my Garmin told me we went a total of 20.76 miles.