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11 Years of AR…One “Veteran’s” Experiences

11 Years of AR…One “Veteran’s” Experiences

by David Riddell
Racer – Gulf Coast Adventure Series

1999 – So there I was enjoying a post game beer at Coconut Beach Volleyball Complex in New Orleans when my nephew shows me this flyer for an Adventure Race.

“Ok, what is an Adventure Race?” I ask.  Not having a full grasp himself he says its running, biking and canoeing in the woods.  The promotion is tied to the Louisiana Games and I was already familiar with them since I had participated in their volleyball tournament.  I gave it some more investigation and became intrigued.  Having tried any number of sports already at the age of 38 why not add one more?  “Sure”, I say, let’s find another idiot for the 3 person team.  My co-worker Kelly was playing that night and was the first to express some interest so there was our team.  Thus was born team “True Grit”, one old guy and two 20 somethings.

I was familiar with bikes, at least road bikes.  I was a duck hunter so I have paddled pirouges for many years and have at least participated in a few 5K and 10K running races.  How hard could this be?  I was about to find out.  The race would be in a few months at Chicot State Park near Ville Platte, LA.

Six and one half hours of racing brought on muscle cramps… in my quads, hamstrings, calves and places I didn’t know had any muscle.  One canoe dunking, a few arguments about the directions, lots of whining, mud everywhere, scratches and chafing where I had never chaffed before, in other words it was a blast.  When the dust settled, we placed somewhere in the middle of the pack.  I swore I would never do this again!  A week later I was looking for another race.

Fast forward to 2010 and here I am at 49, in great shape and still racing (thankfully there is a Masters division).  I don’t know how many adventure races I have done but it has been a bunch.  Since that race in 1999, I have done marathons, duathlons, 24 hour mountain bike relays, MS 150 bike tours and just for kicks I kayaked across Lake Pontchartrain…at night.  Things just seem a lot easier now.  My wife thinks I am nuts, my son thinks my racing is cool (the only thing he thinks is cool about me) and my daughter thinks I am a dork.  Adventure Racing has given me a handy goal to stay as fit as I can.

My race career has brought me to 5 Gulf States.  I have seen nooks and crannies that few people knew were there.  Who knew there was a “Goat Island “, other than the goats, or Bird Island Chute other than the birds?  How often have you driven the I-10 and passed right by all of the scenic parks throughout the Gulf Coast.  Did you know that Baton Rouge has some awesome mountain bike trails or that Louisiana is littered with beautiful cypress tree and wild iris lined bayous?  Did you realize there is a beaver pond in Mandeville?  Just west of my home in Kenner there is a tiny logging canal that runs right under the I-310 into an ancient cypress swamp.  You can lose all traces of civilization except for the planes flying to and from the airport less than a mile away.  Without AR, I would not have had the incentive to even look for these off the beaten path places other than from a car window.  I guess the old saying is right…you can’t see the forest because of the trees.

Adventure racing has also taught me a new language.  I can now speak AR.  Wing blades, UTM grid, J-strokes, carabineer, kevlar laces, contour lines, bottom bracket, bonking, power gel, skewer, electrolyte replacement, carbon fiber, coasteering, check points, transition areas, Tyrolean traverse, paddle float…on and on, etc. etc.  Of all these I can say “teamwork” is the first one I learned.  It sure is great being able to speak two languages and completely confound non-racers.  You either get the glazed over eye look or they need to find out what you are talking about.

Not everything in adventure racing is pleasant, however, there is nothing like a little adversity to make things interesting and give you some stories.  Some of my dislikes, in no particular order… being the first on a trail in the morning and getting all of the spider webs in my face, ticks… I hate ticks, cold water (makes me  prefer teammates with good canoe balance), shoe stealing  mud, cleaning my hydration pack, thorns, expensive bike stuff (ok I actually like expensive bike stuff), having my wife tell me I can’t bring my training toys on vacation and a cluttered garage.  I do hate mosquitoes but on the other hand they actually make you a faster racer.  They will not let you stop.

I have really enjoyed the last 11 years, the sights, experiences, motivation and people I have met have made this a lifestyle for me.  This is one of the few sports where teams actually will help each other along the way.  Variety is around every turn.  No two races are the same.  Sure, I love the competition with the other teams but the real competition, like golf, is the course itself or even yourself.  More than just a race it is an ADVENTURE.  GO LIVE IT!

David Riddell

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