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Terra Firma Race Report

October 9th, 1999
Rocky Hill Ranch, Smithville, Texas
By Kip Fiebig

Our Adventure Racing team had decided we wouldnít compete in the Terra Firma Adventure Race, because Marcy was tapering for the her upcoming Ironman triathlon and John Beard was away on business. But, at the last minute another team lost one of its members, and they sent out an email looking for a replacement. Marcy and I were already planning on volunteering to help out at the race, and so I decided I might as well help out the needy team by racing with them. Marcy still volunteered, and it was neat to have her out on the course taking pictures and offering encouragement.

It was by far the longest Adventure Race Iíd ever done. We managed to complete all 3 of our previous "sprint" races in under 4 hours. This race took us 15 hours and 40 minutes to finish! But lest ye think we were just taking our time, we actually finished as the 3rd place male team! Some teams took 21 hours to make it to the finish, so they had to race all through the night. Of the 23 male teams that started, only 8 made it all the way to the finish line (with all four team members intact, that is. Some teams kept going after one of their members dropped out). Iím guessing that the mountain biking at night was what threw most of the teams out, as it certainly was the most difficult part for me. There wasnít even any moon that night, so we were going solely by the lights on our helmets.

This Adventure Race alternated between biking legs and running legs. There was a little orienteering thrown in, but it was much easier than "real" orienteering. One of the unique parts of the race was that we were given deflated rafts, paddles, and lifejackets, and then we had to carry them four miles to the river and inflate them. Fortunately, theyíd told us to expect this, so teams could be ready with packs to carry the stuff and pumps to inflate the boats. Also, we knew from experience that these races donít provide any seats for the rafts, so we bought some inflatable seats as well. It helped to be prepared!

After inflating the rafts and seats, we paddled upstream for a couple miles, turned around, and came back down. We were expecting to have to deflate the rafts and carry them back, but they surprised us by telling us to stack the rafts up, and jump back into the river and swim 3 miles downstream! We still had the lifejackets on, so we werenít in danger of drowning, or anything. The floating downstream was the best part of the race: Got to cool off in the middle of the hot day!

After the swim, it was a run back to the transition area, and then a quick change into dry socks. I still got a blister on my heal over the course of the day; thatís something weíre going to have to figure out how to minimize for Eco. Then we did some orienteering, and biking, and running, and biking, and running, you get the picture. One leg they had us go with two people on bikes, and two on foot, and I gladly volunteered to go on foot. All three of my teammates were better mountain bikers than I, and my brain was turning to mush with the constant concentration required to navigate the tight, technical courses on the bike. You canít just "zone out" on the bike like you can while youíre running!

When the sun went down and we had to bike at night, it became even more challenging. Some of the trails were covered in a fine sand that would be kicked up by the bike tires and form lingering sand clouds. During the day itís not a big deal, but at night your helmet light illuminates the cloud and it obscures your vision. It was slow going for me, to the point where I was slowing down the team. But I was the strongest runner, and so over the course of the day all of us took turns at being the bottleneck, at some point.

All in all, it was a very fun race, and finishing third was a huge bonus, as we had not planned on doing that well. But, Iím still very glad to be returning to my true, original team, Team Carpe Diem!

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