If you can’t decide…

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…do it all.

I really enjoy cycling, but I also enjoy swimming (the “sport” of my youth) and hiking and orienteering and paddling and sometimes even running. I also enjoy competition so how do I choose what kind of event to focus on? Well, luckily, I don’t have to. Arkansas is a wonderful place to participate in multi-sport competitions.

Coming out of the water and heading for the bikes at the CATS Triathlon in Conway, AR.

The obvious multi-sport event is the triathlon. Varying lengths from short sprints to long sufferfests, triathlons incorporate swimming, cycling and running. I did my first one in the mid 1980’s and finished 50th in a field of 51. I didn’t do any more for a long time but found them again about 10 years ago. My tri’s tend to go like this, a strong swim finishing near the front of the pack, I hold my own on the bike being passed by only the super serious guys and then I totally fall apart on the run. I still do okay but never finish “in the money”.

The start of the Big Dam Bridge Duathlon.

Triathlons are not the only multi-sport races to participate in. A variation is the Xterra or off-road triathlon. A swimming leg, a mountain bike leg and a trail running leg. These tend to interest me more mainly because I tend to be more comfortable in the woods than on the road. We have a series of these in the state. Lisa has enjoyed duathlons on occasion. She is not big on the swimming part of a tri and this way she can concentrate on a run leg, a bike leg and another run leg. Duathlons are also offered for those with a love for the off-road competitions. Many of these off-road events are part of a bigger competitive weekend that usually includes mountain bike races and other running events. Something for everyone.

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My true love in multi-sport competitions is  the monster of them all, the adventure race. Most adventure races consist of working as a team (not a relay) through several disciplines such as trail running, mountain biking, climbing or rope work, paddling and sometimes other challenges. All this is wrapped around orienteering, map and compass work. I’ve lost count of the number of these races I’ve done. The one I’ve competed in the most is Raid the Rock Adventure Race. The team dynamics is the real challenge here. You’re only as fast as your slowest teammate. People get tired as each team member works through different weaker and stronger areas. It’s a heck of a test of leadership ability and getting along with others while working at the edge of your limits for hours on end. The best part, when I finished my first one years ago I felt like I could do anything. I love that feeling.

Once I did Raid the Rock as a solo competitor....once.

Often you can find races that are an off shoot  of adventure races or even more of a mash-up of triathlons and adventure races. Lisa and I competed in the Ruggedman race a couple of times in Glenwood, AR. This race consisted of a short road bike ride, a kayak trip on the Cadron and then a 4 mile run. We did a similar race in Russellville, AR one year called 40 Acres of Hill Triathlon. One race we hated to see go was the Fort Chaffee Challenge near Fort Smith, AR. It consisted of teams of two doing a run/orienteer leg followed by a mountain bike leg…repeated three times. In between each leg they had other challenges like one that involved one teammate hauling water while blindfolded,trying to fill a bucket at the opposite end of the field while the other teammate would yell directions at them, fun. Or doing the army crawl through mud to find a drill sergeant at the end of it to make teams do push ups and jump squats.  I hope that format makes a comeback soon. It was a blast.

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Lisa and our friend Chris at the start of the Ruggedman. BTW, it was COLD!
Picking up a checkpoint in the Fort Chaffee Challenge.

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