What does a dirty girl do on a day off? Well, in truth, a wide variety of things, some not so exciting BUT sometimes it IS exciting! This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to compete in the “O” Challenge with my partner and decidedly dirty girl, Shelley. We have done several Adventure Races together in the past. We were pretty excited to undertake a new challenge sponsored by Lake Adventures at beautiful Milford Lake Kansas. What is the “O” Challenge? It is an orienteering event, using a topographical satellite map marked with UTM points, racers use a compass (no GPS allowed) to locate checkpoints. In adventure racing you do the same thing but your mode of travel includes trekking, biking and paddling. Basically, you get a map with places marked on it and you need to get to all of them in any order within a set amount of time. Lake Milford is beautiful and has some lovely trails…
The trails were virtually irrelevant for this particular adventure though! We went off road and did a LOT of brush whacking to find our points! Totally fun!
A very cool thing about this “extreme sport” is the comradery among the competitors. We are all competing but, generally, we are also sort of all in it together. Shelley and I aren’t fast and in this race she caught her toe and pulled a muscle so we were slower than usual. However, these types of races don’t have to be about speed. The truth is good navigation skills and perseverance make a difference. Shelley always asks questions like, “what strategy can we use to find this point?” Sometimes the strategy is get close and wander around!
We sometimes join up with another team of similar speed and work together. It is fun to get to know people from different places with the same interests even for a few passing moments in the brush! We spent some time with a team of guys looking for a couple of points, Lee and Mike. They were nice and funny (their team name was Nutz in the Water) it was their second race ever. We couldn’t find point #14 and we went our separate ways. Later, they doubled back and found it then told us how close we had been on the first pass. UGH! Oh, well!
It is a challenge to articulate the level of challenge in this type of race when the world is flooded with races that are full of created challenges like mud pits and electric shocks. I think that some of those races would be fun and all of them would be hard but I really love that this is a “real” challenge. This challenge is natural and is overcome by strength, endurance and intellect also maybe some luck! We traveled a theoretical distance of about 13 miles. We wandered around a bit, not always taking the shortest path so it seems possible that we traveled farther than that.
This is what a check point looks like. Can you see it? It is that orange thing hanging in the middle of the fall colored orangy forest! Sometimes people steal or remove points like this. Irritating! Check point #4 was stolen on this event. We searched and as we were discussing giving up Charmion (race director) arrived to check it out. She confirmed that it was missing and left a note for future racers. Pretty annoying since the checkpoints have a note on them explaining what they are and asking you not to remove them. Some people are just weenies!
We tramped through poison ivy, brambles, green briar and up and down hills. I almost peed my pants when I nearly stepped on a snake! I screamed and the guys laughed since I had just told them about the Dirty Girls. (Remember, Dirty Girls can scream at things like snakes and fish jumping into the kayak!) Shelley was a total trooper since she kept going with the major muscle pull. We found 19 of 22 points in 6 hours and 21 minutes taking 2nd place in the women’s division. Pretty exciting! I love a race that you can win or place with a time in hours instead of minutes! The Golden Girls beat us because they found that darn #14! They are pretty awesome navigators! We had a great time and can’t wait to race again! It sometimes strikes me as we wander through some tough cedar trees that many people would think we were insane to choose to do this. Then I smile and laugh and give thanks for the opportunity to be outside using my body and my brain and to meet like minded people of all ages, races, backgrounds and experiences coming together to do the same awesome thing!
This was the last check point that we found. It was a good day! What do you do on your day off? I hope it is something that you love!!
Denise ~ The Original Dirty Girl