On a scale of one to stupid, attempting to compete in an event called 40 Acres of Hell as a last minute bit of fun, is stupid-er.
Whatever else, my method of event participation in place of actually training for events, is consistent. But that kind of stupidity ranks right up there with things that follow “here, hold my beer.”
Each weekend of October offers a variety of events to attend or participate in. We often struggle with balancing which events we can go to and what we have to give up to be there. Saturday, I gave up a costumed Monster Run that I really wanted to do so I could go to Lake Dardanelle State Park in Russellville and do 40 Acres of Hell. I’d done this race a few years ago, when it was new and I was younger.
This is the 6th year of the event which has had several names: 40 Acres of Hill, 40 Acres of Hell, Lake Dardanelle C.P.R. for cycle, paddle and run, the three disciplines required during the race. But the fan favorite is 40 Acres of Hell, I think it’s the obvious choice.
There is a short course and a long course for the event. The short course is a 2 mile kayak, 10 mile bike and a 2.5 mile run plus the occasional physical challenge, such as push ups, along the route. The long course s a 2.5 mile run, 2.5 mile kayak, 1.5 mile run, 19 mile bike, 2.5 mile kayak.
I chose to do the long course. In a way it chose me. There are 30 slots for each course and by the time I decided to put my hat in the ring for certain, the short course had sold out. Plus, in my ridiculous manner of thinking, the extra time between the 7 am short course start and the 9 am for the long course would be better spent in my bed. Remember we’re still working in a scale of stupidity.
The layout for the long course is a flat fast 2.5 mile run, a 2.5 mile kayak across Lake Dardanelle, a 1.5 mile hilly run, bike 19 miles of hills, then kayak the 2.5 miles back to the start. Piece of cake right? Piece of cake if you’re a good runner, which I am not.
So within the first few minutes of the race, I find myself at the back with a lovely woman who’d been talked into doing the race on a whim as well. Ashley and I would spend much of the rest of the race together, enjoying the day and the challenges it would bring us.
Once in the kayak, I felt much more at ease but the storm that had passed in the early morning left behind winds that pushed me from my intended course and made me fight the water more than I wanted to. I watched as a few of the racers in front of me got even more off course than I did, and watched as they struggled to get to the boat ramp.
Once on shore the women were instructed to do 25 pushups and the guys would do 50. I don’ t have to modify, even to do 25 but I knew I needed every time advantage I could steal, so I took advantage of the “girls can do modified pushups” allowance and knocked em out quick. As soon as I realize that most of the women did regular pushups, I felt guilty. I’d never do modified pushups in a workout, why do them in a race? Fatigue and knowing I was at the back of the pack is not a good enough reason. I was still on the stupid end of the scale. The next challenge was a 1.5 mile run. Another piece of cake? How much cake can I have? None. This run went straight up from the boat launch into a scenic neighborhood via a big nasty hill. I do love when the reward for a big nasty hill is a long easy downhill.
Ashley and I got back to the bike transition about the same time and we took off for 19 miles of hills. There were rolling hills, there were a couple of steep climbs and it seemed the hills just kept coming. Just before the steepest climb of the route, Joe passed by me in the truck. I asked for a ride, he told me “no”. Later he said he wasn’t sure if I was joking or not. Honestly, neither was I. The realization of my own stupidity was soaking in and my legs were protesting the climbs.
The ride took us past farms and cattle and cute little barns. I had to slow as I passed by the East View Cemetery where one huge oak tree was shading a couple of family plots. It looked like such a peaceful place and I was in need of some peace. It would take another 5 miles or so to find the peace, I found it as I turned onto Hwy 64 and knew it was a downhill ride back to the launch where my kayak was waiting for me.
As I was tossing my bike helmet and shoes, Joe handed me a quarter of a PB&J and a volunteer got me a much needed bottle of cold water which I quickly downed. Two other volunteers had my kayak all set up for me and I ran down the launch bare foot and anxious to get moving again. I pushed out into the lake, the wind slightly less blustery than it had been earlier but still rolling the surface of the lake. I tried to concentrate on slicing my paddles through the water, keeping my boat pointed at my goal sight, and making up as much time as I could. Within minutes I could see groups of kayaks ahead of me, giving me reason to paddle hard. I had the beauty of Mt. Nebo in front of me, the blue-green water all around me, and Nuclear One to my right. If I stayed on course I wouldn’t have to look at the smoke stack. I started playing games with myself, counting strokes, 10 hard pulls, 10 easy pulls, 20 hard pulls, 20 easy pulls…I was going to get across those 2.5 miles as fast as I could.
I pulled up on the beach to cheers and applause. I stumbled a bit getting out of the boat, feeling the magic of noodle leg after sitting in the boat right after a tough ride. I only had a couple of minutes to watch before Ashley came into view and I got to cheer her in. We had completed the 40 Acres of Hell and lived to tell about it.
Thanks go out to the great volunteers who had a busy morning dealing with rain delays, lightening and a lot of questions. Sponsors provided plenty of cold water, Quizno’s sandwiches and a variety of chips to feed the racers. The top finishers received a trophy and 2nd and 3rd places got plaques and a little cash. Proceeds from the event each year go to the Shop with a Cop program for the Russelleville Police Department. This program sends uniformed officers to pick up underprivileged kids for Christmas shopping at local stores. This is definitely one of those races that give me hope that the money I spend to torture myself, is going to a good cause.
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Results will be available here in the next couple of days.