Tri that in the dark!

Since I missed racing in the Raid the Rock adventure race last year, I’ve been itching to do some sort of multisport race.  Enter the Medi-O-Core triathlon, a trail run, mountain bike, and rock climbing triathlon. That’s pretty close to a sprint adventure race in my book, minus the navigation, so that should easily scratch that itch, or so I hoped.  This is the second year of the Medi-O-Core triathlon, which was being run by Ouachita Outdoor Outfitters at Cedar Glades Park just outside of Hot Springs, AR.

The author getting his instructions (not the zen dude)

The author getting his instructions (not the zen dude)

Cedar Glades Park is one of the hidden “gems” in the area with great trails and the location of many off road races such as the Spa City 6-hour marathon mountain bike race, the Du it in the Dirt duathlon, and the AMBCS Attila the Hun XC mountain bike race.  I was pretty familiar with the trails having raced the duathlon and mountain bike in years past, but utilizing the climbing wall would be new, and I looked forward to that.

The race consisted of a 5k trail run, a 10 mile mountain bike, and culminating with another nearly 5k trail run.  After each run/bike leg, the competitors had to climb up a side of the rock climbing wall.  That was definitely a nice change to the typical triathlons or duathlons I’ve seen.  And did I mention all of this was to be done in the dark?  Yeah, throwing this at night definitely gave it the feel of an adventure race. They had both solo and team relay divisions, and loving a challenge, I signed up for the solo division.

The weather forecast had temperatures in the 40s with a chance of rain which are my ideal conditions. Yeah, while most people dislike those sort of conditions, I LOVE racing in the cold and wet.  Glutton for punishment, anybody?  I arrived at the park with plenty of time to check in, set up a team tent, and get everything ready.  I would be racing alongside a few of my Spokes teammates – Alyssa who was also racing solo, and Chrissy & friends (of Team Ho Ho Ho).  The team tent would serve as our transition area as well.

Jeremy Mackey, one of the managers of Ouachita Outdoor Outfitters, was the race director.  A half-hour before the race start, he gathered all the competitors together and gave some last minute instructions.  He briefly described the course, and instructed us that each team would be responsible for climbing all 3 sides of the climbing wall (rated by hard, medium, and easier difficulties).  Once the final climb was made, the team would proceed to the check-in station and that would be the finish.

Jeremy Mackey, Race Director and all around cool guy.

Jeremy Mackey, Race Director and all around cool guy.

At 6pm sharp, all the competitors gathered at the start line and Jeremy shouted “GO!” and we were off.  There were 13 teams total, and 6 solo racers.  One of the teams was an all kids team (Starting ‘Em Young) who were amazingly awesome!  I fell in about mid-pack and ended up running the whole first leg with a small group of about 3 other runners.  It helped that I had ridden and raced my mountain bike on the trails in the past.  I at least had somewhat of an idea of what to expect.  I really don’t enjoy running all that much (that hasn’t changed) but if I had to, running at night on a trail would be my run of choice.

It was definitely neat and unique seeing people’s headlamps bouncing around all around us.  With the way the trail winds around, you could never be sure if the headlamps in the distance were in front or behind.  I had to keep reminding myself to run my own race, and that many of my competitors were on teams so they would be a lot stronger than I was.

Finishing the first run, no rain yet.

Finishing the first run, no rain yet.

I finished up the first run without any walking (woo!) and a quick trip through transition to grab my climbing harness and I was up to the climbing wall.  There were only a couple of others there at this point, and I took the opportunity to do the hardest side first.  When they said it was difficult, they weren’t kidding. It took a little work to get off the ground, and there were a few sections where I was straining to hold on.  I’m definitely glad I got that one over with first.  Back to transition and I quickly got my bike gear on and I was off on my mountain bike.

Okay, now it was time to hammer down – being familiar with these trails, experienced in riding at night, and being my specialty, I hoped to make up some time on the bike.  Unfortunately, my legs were still recuperating from the run, and my arms felt like jello after the difficult climb, so hammering down had to wait a bit.  I would say it took me about the first 1/3 of the bike before I settled in and was feeling good.

One racer coming in off the mountain bike leg, it was wet out there.

A racer coming in off the mountain bike leg, it was wet out there.

They had volunteers camped out in the woods at key junctions, directing us the correct way.  However, there were still a couple of questionable locations and it took some looking to find the flagging tape to figure out which trail to take.

About halfway through the bike leg, it started to rain..  That actually made it quite enjoyable – the lights on my bike illuminated the raindrops making it seem like I was riding through a starfield.  “My god, it’s full of stars!” The middle third of the bike leg was awesome – I was feeling good and rode smoothly.  However, that wouldn’t last and the last third of the bike leg, my calves kept threatening to cramp.  At one point, my right calf cramped up and and I fought it off by fully extending my leg and stretching it out.  But it was not a good sign since I still had the 2nd run to do.  I wondered if I would be able to make it.

A couple of climbers racing for the top in the rain.

A couple of climbers racing for the top in the rain.

Thankfully, by riding a bit easier, I made it back to the transition without any cramping.  I downed a banana and a Red Bull, did the medium difficulty climb, and boom, off to the 2nd run.  I was pretty much on my own by this point.  I had only encountered 3 other racers on the bike leg, and I hadn’t seen any one on the run.  I ran as much as I could but I did take short walk breaks.  At one point, I got passed by a runner like I was standing still.  He came out of nowhere and disappeared just as quickly.  That was a bit disheartening but I reminded myself that he was probably on a team and was way fresher than I was.

A runner completing the final run before a final climb.

A runner completing the final run before a final climb.

I made my way back to the parking lot and ran all the way to the finish.  The last climb was pretty easy and I was done.  My legs were hurting, my arms were dead, but I was done.  I figured I had finished somewhere in the middle of the pack, which I was completely okay with.  I gave it my all and I had a blast.  I got into some warmer clothes and huddled around the large bonfires to stay warm as the rain sprinkled off and on.  The cold, wet conditions definitely made the race tougher so kudos to everyone who came out to race.

Volunteers, fans and team members took advantage of one of two bonfires to keep warm.

Volunteers, fans and team members took advantage of one of two bonfires to keep warm.

Eventually, everyone made it in and it was time for the awards.  Ouachita Outdoor Outfitters, Parkside Cycle, and the other sponsors had very generously donated over $3000 worth of merchandise and every competitor walked away with a swag bag filled with some amazing prizes.  They also had an additional raffle style giveaway so a few lucky individuals left with some bonus prizes.  Words can’t even describe how awesome they are for making sure no one went home empty handed.

AJ Johnson took first in the solo division with an amazing time of 1:53:10 while the team of Devlin/Wagner/Soroka took first in the team division.  To my surprise, I managed to come in 2nd(!!) in the solo division so I received a nice engraved climbing piton for a trophy.  I’m all about the unique trophies so this one will be a treasured piece for my collection.

The Spoils...

The Spoils…

Huge thanks go out to race organizers and the amazing volunteers who braved the dark, cold, and wet to make this race possible.  And even more gratitude to the sponsors who provided the best swag in any race I’ve competed in!  Personal thanks go out to my fellow teammates for their support and a special thanks to my friend Lisa “Frenetic Fitness” Mullis who helped me during my 2nd transition when I could barely stand and who gave me my own personal cheer (Gimme a “C”, gimme a “L”….) at the start.  Y’all totally rawk!!

It was a fantastic race that I’m glad I did it – I’m putting it on my calendar as one of my “must-do” races every year.  Here’s to hoping they bring it back for a 3rd year!

Check out the video…

We’d be remiss if we didn’t name all the great sponsors for this event. so here goes:

Parkside Cycle, The North Face, Patagonia Footwear, Oboz Footwear, Vibram Five Fingers, Teva, Chaco, Merrell, Cliff Bar, Deuter, Gregory, Osprey, Injini Socks, Smartwool, Mountain Khaki, Cascade Designs, Nativ Apparel, Mountain Hardwear, Montrail, Petzl, Prana, Patagonia, Polar Bottle, Camel Bak, Katadyn, Marmot.

Photos from ArkansasOutside.com can be found on our Facebook Page.

Results!

Team Results (in order)

Devlin/Wagner/Soroka
Return of the Ninja Spidermonkeys
What the …?!
Pinky & the Brains
Tres Hombres
Team HO3
Flying Turtles
Ram Rod
Startin’ Em Young
WTF: Witness the Fitness
Team Stoopid
White Wolves
Sweat Blood Dirt.com

Solo Results (in order)

AJ Johnson
Cliff Li
David Dedman
Steve Barger
Alyssa Journey
Jacob Southard

Comments

  1. Chad Cragle (!) says:

    This sounds fun. I like that it all happened at night. Kinda sad I missed it…I’ll have to pay attention and do it next year if they have it again.

  2. Good job and good write-up! Unlike Chad, I’m glad I missed it!

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