The first Raid the Rock Adventure Race back in 2001 started with a bike ride up a parking deck in downtown Little Rock and ended with a rappel out of the tower at the old YMCA on Broadway. In between there was a hike up and over Pinnacle Mountain, a long mountain biking section that took us on only a little bit of dirt in Allsopp Park and on the west end of Walton Heights. It was a fairly urban race. Over the years, as course designers tried different venues including out in the Ouachita Mountains near Lake Sylvia and routes that sometimes went almost to Conway, the race occasionally lost it’s urban feel.
This year they put the urban back into the race on a course that would cover all compass points in Little Rock with a start and finish in North Little Rock. In previous years, the event has hosted two races, a sprint and a longer 7-10 hour version. This year all racers signed up for the longer version and the sprint was cancelled. The races prepared for a 6 am start at the boathouse under the I-30 bridge in North Little Rock. After receiving some last minute instructions and their first look at the course coordinates and maps, race director Traci Berry started them off.
A quick hustle from the starting line and into the parking lot and everything suddenly stops. Adventure races consist of a lot of thinking and planning and plotting. All of the coordinates would have to be properly plotted on the maps and decisions would be made about the best direction to go. Various strategies include plotting just the first few points and going after them, plotting the rest on the go or, plotting all of them first for a better view of the overall objectives. Most teams plotted away, the darkness only broken by the headlamps.
Once they were ready to go, teams (there were mostly three person teams with a couple of two person teams and one solo racer) headed out on course, first they had to pick up a few checkpoints in the vicinity of the start followed by a 6 or 7 mile trek to Gillam Park in southeast Little Rock. Once there they checked in with course designer, Jed Davis who clocked their time and gave them one hour to get as many of the four checkpoints in the woods as possible before having to check back in. Then it was down to the waters edge at Fourche Creek to get their boats.
Fourche Creek is one of the hidden gems of Little Rock, a wetlands area that most of the creeks in Little Rock feed into. The area is getting a lot of love from the local canoe and kayak community with scheduled clean ups but it could use more help. It is a beautiful waterway filled with cypress trees, wildflowers and many bird and animal species. As the racers launched into the water the sun was just coming up providing one of the most beautiful scenes of the day. A wonderful thing about this race is that the participants get to enjoy parts of the city that most don’t know exist. They are lucky folks.
The canoe portion was relatively short, going up river past Interstate Park to get a checkpoint and then coming back to the park to transition to the bikes. Next up would be the long road ride west. Racers were treated with a short ride through a newly renovated trail section in Boyle Park, then it was back to the road for the trip to the next challenge.
(sorry, no photos beyond Boyle Park)
Racers then headed for the Little Rock Climbing Center on Colonel Glen in west Little Rock where each member had to climb on route before moving on. It’s an urban race so an indoor climbing center is appropriate. Back on the bikes, the teams made there way to Ozark Outdoor Supply in the Heights where one team member had to eat a cricket. It’s not as bad as you might think unless of course you get a leg stuck in your teeth. Again, on the bikes, they made their way down to War Memorial Stadium (I’m glad to see it can still be used for something, snark) and then through Hillcrest and another short mountain biking section in Allsopp Park. They picked up the Arkansas River Trail and headed to the Clinton Library Bridge where they crossed and found themselves at the finish line.
This is still a great race and one that, I hope, continues. We could use more adventure races in the state along with orienteering courses for practicing. If you ever have a chance to do one, I highly recommend it. Few things are more empowering than completing your first adventure race.
We will post the results as soon as they are posted. More photos will be available today on our Facebook Page. Follow the Raid the Rock Facebook Page to keep up with next year’s event and other fun along the way.