Monday, September 10, 2007

5th Annual Coosa River Challenge 2007

Hope everyone had a good ride this weekend. Way to go Colin, great job! You look even faster on TV!

Well, I guess since I finished my first triathlon a couple of weeks ago, I needed some more pain to go along with it. I had always wanted to do the Coosa River Challenge but the running always held me back. Well, now that I was running, it was now or never.

I was a little worried this race would be a little hokey... tire changes, "challenges," etc., etc. And for almost $100, I wanted this race to push me to my limits, make me question my existence on this Earth. Well, let me tell you, this was the real deal. I don't know if I ever got to the point where "questioning my existence" came into play, but it was exhausting and pushed me to my limits.

We started with a 3.5 mile trail run. It went pretty well but I was toward the back of the pack by the end. If I can get my running game up to about 8 minute miles, I will be in good shape. After the run, I came into the transition area, hopped on my mountain bike, and hit the trail. This was the same route as the AOS race so I knew it well. The run took some out of the legs but I still kept a nice consistent pace and picked off several of the runners who had left me earlier in the morning during the run.

After the bike, I came back into the transition area, put my running gear back on, handed my transition bag and bike off to the guy to load it up and headed out for a 1 mile run down to Jordan Dam. This run had me a little worried before the race but it went really well. I had my Camel Bak on with my energy drink, and I was carrying a bottle with me to suck on during the run. During orientation, the director mentioned something new about traversing over some rocks to get to the rappel when you finished the run. I TOTALLY underestimated the "rocks" we would be traversing over. Once I got down to the dam, I was told to follow the red arrows when I went through the bushes. Well, this was the first time I had ever been on this part of the river bank so I was a little surprised to see what awaited... these are rocks?????

They weren't rocks, they were large pieces of the Earth made of rock. This went on for about 1/4 mile. Climbing up the side of large boulders, jumping over 3 foot gaps 10 feet up, climbing down, around, all over these huge rocks. Trying to follow the red duct tape to figure out which way to go. It was extremely difficult and tiring but I felt like I was actually part of a real adventure race. Hopefully they will keep that section in future races caused it really made you use your mind and all your body.

Once I made it through the rocks, I crossed through the boat pickup to climb the side of a 15 foot rock face with only a rope. By the time I got to the top of Coosa rock, I was at my maximum heart rate, or past. My heart was going crazy! I settled down while they buckled me into my rapeling gear. I told the guide this was my first time thinking I would get a 5 minute tutorial on how not to DIE when rappelling down an 80 foot, near vertical rock face.

His detailed explanation of rappelling consisted of... "pull the rope into your body and you will stop, let it out and you will go."

I remember thinking, "that tells me nothing, I am going to die. And not die in the Himalayas on some epic quest. No, I am going to die on a piece of rock on the side of the Coosa River in Wetumpka Alabama. My wife is going to be sooooo mad!"

So, I put my faith in a rope and a carabiner that looked just like the ones they sell at Wal-Mart and down I went. It really wasn't that bad, as long as you didn't look down! When I got down to the bottom, I remember trying to reach for the bottom with my feet just to touch something grounded and almost smacking my face against the rock face. I would have gotten some serious cool points for that one!

After they removed my death harness, I jumped into the river for about a 100 yard swim back to the boat launch. I picked up my paddle and boat and headed down the Coosa, slowly. With no rain, it was more like racing on Lake Martin. The rapids were non-existent and it was the hardest part of the whole race. A few miles down we hit Dead Beaver Island where we had our next challenge. Here we had to take out on a steep bank, climb up a dirt wall, run down some trails, swim through the mud pit (which felt like heaven!), run down some more trails, through a river, and back up to the top which lead us back down to our boast. At this point, everyone I saw was walking, there was no running.

After getting back in the kayak, it was another couple of miles before the next challenge at Corn Creek. Here I pulled out, ran around the guy that had fallen out of his boat and was puking in the river (thanks dude for getting puke in my shoes - Just kidding - he had several people around him taking care of him) and headed up the embankment to do the Poker Run Challenge. Here we ran a 1 mile course through the woods picking up a total of five cards where we would hand them off to a lady at the end before climbing back down to our boats. Whoever had the best hand at the end of the race won some money. I didn't stick around to find out if I was the lucky one.

Once I got back in my kayak, I was ready for this little shin dig to end. The thought of paddling one more stroke in the most inefficient vehicle ever designed called the Torrent made me want to scream. Next time I am bringing either my sea kayak or I am going to buy a canoe, I don't care how much they cost!!!

The next challenge was the archery and it was quick and easy. The final challenge was going under the Wetumpka Bridge and pulling up the the beach where one of the old concrete locks are. Once you beached your boat, you would swim out to the lock, climb up it, and jump off. These locks look tall from a distance, but not nearly as tall as when you are on top of it looking down. At this point, I didn't care and just wanted to be done. I through my paddle in the water (you had to carry your paddle through every challenge) and jumped. I hate that initial feeling when you jump off something really tall! But once I cam back up, I felt great and knew I just had to get to my boat, paddle across the river and the finish line was 100 yards up the boat ramp.

I ended up finishing in 4:51 and got 9th place out of 20 people in my class. I was happy seeing this was my first one.

Total milage: 21 miles (5.5 miles of running, 7.5 mt. biking, and 8 miles of kayaking)

Next year I will be looking for a top five finish. I have attached a few pictures I found on the internet. The ones of the rappel I included just to show what we did.