Saturday, August 19, 2006

Nissan Xterra Thompson Lake Off-road Challenge

Adventure Report - This adventure report comes from Backcountry.com Horde member Rusty Milholland

I am not a multi-sport athlete. I can not swim 50 yards in a crawl without having to stop and switch to backstroke. Last weekend, however, I decided to get a team of buddies together to make a relay team for the local off-road triathlon called the Nissan Xterra Thompson Lake Off-road Challenge.

Even though I’ve competed in many different running and mountain bike races, nothing could have prepared me or any member of my team for this race. In fact, I’m not sure race is even the right word, Challenge was a more appropriate word.

The race started with an 800 meter swim in the rain on Thompson Lake in Poland Maine, and our swimmer was 4th out of the water. As the swimmers came out of the water, they had to run up a hill to the transition zone where their bike, or biker in our case, was waiting. Not only was it raining during the race, but the last few days had been filled with intermittent thunderstorms which made the ground nothing but slop.

The race description had said that the bike course was filled with 1/3 singletrack, 1/3 double-track jeep trail and 1/3 on paved and dirt roads. Under normal conditions, that may have been true, however, on race day, it was more like 1/3 river, 1/3 slop, and 1/3 something that resembled a road. Our biker left quickly with clean bike and a full head of steam into the pristine wooded singletrack, at the front at the pack. Just about an hour later we saw him cranking his way up into the transition area with what looked like about 5 pounds of mud caked all over his body and bicycle. He gave me a muddy high-five, and I was off on what I thought was a 5k trail run.

"A 5k run, how hard could it be?" I thought to myself as I sprinted my way out of the transition zone. First of all, it was really 4 miles, although I didn’t find that out until I was finishing and looked at my watch which read 26:15. Also, our biker had gotten passed by a few competitors, one of which was a team. I had to put on two and a half minutes on what looked like a good runner over what I thought was 5k.

The course was not that hilly but boy was it covered in mud. For the first mile, we tramped through a winding singletrack until to my relief we hit the little dirt road. We followed this road for too short of a period of time and then darted back into the woods to tackle a brand new section of trail. This trail more resembled a river that we had to clamber through for the majority of the rest of the race. After a minute or two I gave up trying to stay dry and ran through every puddle on the trail. My shoes must have gained 3 pounds a piece in water, muck, sticks and rocks by the time I crossed the finish line. I never did make up that gap to the leading team, but I did cut about a minute off their lead.

After the race our team huddled up to converse about the race, and all agreed that it was one of the most crazy things we’d ever done. We also made a plan right then and there to do this exact same race the following year, but this time we’ll know what we’re in for.

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