My Adventure Race Story by Ciara Wing (age 15)
Running along the paved trail with my backpack snuggly wrapped around my shoulders, I gazed at the Golden Gate Bridge and realized that Izzy and I have come far since our first Kids Adventure Games. This year is the first that we age out, yet Izzy and I are still going strong, having completed yet another adult race.
The first year the Kids’ Adventure Games came to Squaw Valley I was thrilled! I have always loved a variety of sports and never had my heart set on one particular activity. A mix of all sorts of activities and obstacles combined with racing against other kids was exactly my kind of thing. Some teams sign up for the fun of the amazing obstacles and challenges—I love those too!—but I am definitely in it for the competition too. I looked forward the Games for months, but, in a horrible twist of fate only a week before the race, I broke my arm mountain biking. I was devastated when the first doctor I visited said I would definitely not be able to race. We visited another doctor in Reno who understood the excitement of outdoor sports and had three boys who frequently break their bones in various activities. He said my arm would heal fine, and I could race if I put my arm in a cast. Luckily Helene from KAG agreed that I could compete!
My teammate and I received the race map about an hour before our start. When the countdown ended and everyone present shouted "GO!", my partner and the team next to us charged out of the start at top speed. The first obstacle was a slick-board that made me feel like I had superpowers as I ran up and over it. Lots of running and obstacles later my teammate started feeling sick. Her sister generously stepped in as my partner for the rest of the race even though she had already finished the race with her partner in an earlier group.
I was proud of myself for racing in a cast and was happy I was still able to do all of the obstacles. The slingshot has always been difficult for lots of teams because you have to judge where your water balloon will land while panting and sweating after hiking up a hill. Rappelling across the river was definitely my favorite part because really felt like I was on an adventure. The Darwin Dash was awesome too—who doesn't dream of walking on water? I was having such a good time, I forgot about the cast on my arm and didn’t hold it up in the air during the last obstacle, the slip 'n’ slide. Oh, no, it got soaked! Luckily I only had to deal with a stinky wet arm for a couple more days until I got my cast off and switched back to a brace. After sprinting through the finish line I was already anxious to sign up for next year's Kids’ Adventure Games.
I was thrilled to learn soon after the Squaw race finished that another Kids’ Adventure Games was happening at Mammoth later that year, we registered right away, and I looked forward to it all summer. It was especially exciting because my best friend, Izzy, was available to race with me! We had a great race, won a trophy, and Izzy got hooked on adventure racing too!
In the 2016 Mammoth race Izzy (blue helmet) and I (black helmet) pulled far ahead of the other teams with our amazing mountain biking skills. With our early start, soon there was only one boys’ team ahead of us. Izzy and I pushed hard on the single-track and arrived panting at the fire road to discover we were just on their tails! We raced to the blow darts and hurriedly blew dart after dart at the tiny tin targets that seemed to be shrinking be the minute. We finally hit the last target and rushed to collect all of our used darts from the ground. As the boys pedaled away we searched and searched, franticly looking for the last two darts. We finally gave up and sat for the 5-minute time penalty while sadly contemplating the loss of the darts. We hopped on our bikes and pedaled hard, but as hard as we pushed for the last bit of the race we could not catch the boys again. We still came in first place for girls, but we are determined to beat those boys next time!
Ever since those first two races in 2014, I have looked forward to summer not only for the school break, but also to race in the Kids Adventure Games. These courses at Squaw and Mammoth are the most fun events I race all summer! Last year Izzy and I realized we only had a couple more races left before we got too old to participate, so my mom looked into short adult adventure races. Izzy and I loved these adventure races so much, we wanted to try a longer race and find out how an adult race compared to the Kids Adventure Games.
My mom found a five-hour race in the Outer Banks of North Carolina that sounded fun and challenging but didn’t require much orienteering, something we had no real experience with. We contacted the race organizer to confirm that 13 year olds could participate, and then we asked Izzy’s parents if she could go with us in October. Izzy loved the Kids Adventure Games so much she was willing to fly on her own from San Francisco to Raleigh and then drive 4 hours to the NC coast. Team Tahoe Mountain Dragons was ready to take on the Blackbeard Adventure Race!
The Blackbeard Adventure Race is named after the infamous pirate whose ship was found sunk off the NC coast. My grandparents and other relatives live in western North Carolina, so we got to visit with them before the race. Two days before the race, my parents and I drove down to Raleigh with my grandparents to collect Izzy. The day before the race, we rented bikes and rode them back to our rental house to make sure they were in good working order. We also got to visit some of the historic sites while we were in the area such as the Wright Brothers National Memorial, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.
The night before the race we sat at the kitchen table in our rental house with the race map spread out before us. Unlike the Kids Adventure Games, we had to plan our own route and got the map a day in advance so we could do so. We used the map and our computer to figure out the best routes to and from the various checkpoints. We would be biking without any blocked off roads or trails, so we looked for bike paths whenever we could, as well as landmarks to note on our map so we would not get lost. Our biggest mistake in mapping our route was we did not map a way to the extra checkpoints because we didn’t think we would have enough time. Not all of the streets appeared on our map, so we had a terrible time late in the race the next day trying to find the nature reserve so we could run through the woods to locate the bonus checkpoints. Throughout the race all of the other adult racers were very friendly and supportive, and some were dressed up as pirates! My neon orange shirt was not quite in theme. The first part of the race, a long run in the sand, was really tough, and we weren’t very fast. We passed many of the teams while biking, but, to the great amusement of the adults, most of them passed us back during the kayaking. I am sure that Izzy and I kayaked three times the distance on that stretch of that river! I swear, every tree there was magnetized and pulled our kayak from side to side, making it impossible for us to head straight up the river! It also didn’t help that a tree branch pulled Izzy's hat off into the water, and we had to go back for it. My parents and grandparents drove around and found us at many checkpoints so my dad could take action shots, and everyone could cheer us on. The adult race was different from what we had been doing in the Kids Adventure Games because we needed a compass to find our way, we had to pack and eat lots of snacks because it was much longer, and there were no obstacles like we encountered in the Kids’ Adventure Games.
Without the Kids’ Adventure games I would never have been brave enough to dive into an adult adventure race. I think this last Kids’ Adventure Games at Squaw will be awesome! I desperately hope that the fabulous people behind the Kids’ Adventure Games will create a race for teens that is longer and more competitive. Meanwhile I am on the lookout for more short adult races and cool camps to become an orienteering expert and, hopefully, improve my kayaking skills.
We got an exception to race as adults at the Angel island Adventure Race, and it was a blast! This time we had to rely on our team as we split up to cover obstacles faster. Some needed one team member, such as the smell maze, and others needed both of us, like the toxic waste. We already knew from KAG and other races that getting to the obstacles without a line and planning where to put in the most effort is key. Even though I ended up running all the way over the hill when most took the easier route around, we ended up 13thout of 27 adults! We are sad to miss this year’s KAG at Squaw, but without our previous years racing with the fabulous KAG team we would not have been inspired and introduced to this amazing sport. Now, every year, we look forward to our next racing adventure.
Hometown: Truckee, CA
First Kids Adventure Games: Squaw Valley 2014
Number of Adventure Races Completed: 10
Favorite Adventure Race Memory: Mammoth KAG 2014, 1st Place, with best friend, lots of mountain biking, actual adventure when we got lost!
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