The race, now in its third year, began in the Chief Ladiga Trail Campground and ended in the heart of Piedmont at the Eubanks Welcome Center. It folded together a 10-kilometer run, a 1.5-mile paddle on Terrapin Creek and a 33-mile bike ride that packed a punch even for experienced athletes.
“You have to be prepared to hurt for three or three and a half hours,” said Ricky Austin, a 46-year-old three-time adventure-race competitor.
Austin was one of about half-a-dozen runners who run regularly and compete in marathons or triathlons but still found the course a challenge. Organizers noted that the participation declined this year and guessed that it could be because of the difficulty of the course.
This year 75 participants competed in the adventure race. That’s down from last year when 90 competitors signed up for the event, but it’s up from the first year when 60 people took part.
Competitors could enter the race individually or in three-person teams. Each team member who participated took on one leg of the race. Individual competitors pressed through all portions of the race alone.
In the first leg of the run, competitors pushed up and down a towering hill on the Pinhoti Trail. Participants sweated and stumbled through the first portion of the race but said it wore of a physical challenge than a mental challenge.
“My body was telling me to quit and I didn’t want to,” said Scotty Duke, 43, an Anniston firefighter. Duke took on the adventure race with two team members. He completed the running portion of the race.
After the run, team members tapped out, giving the next leg of the race – kayaking – to teammates. Individual participants rushed to their kayaks and ran almost without stopping into Terrapin Creek.
The boats were laying in a row on the creek bank. From there, participants paddled or pulled their boats through 1.5 rocky miles of the creek.
As the water level is low in that portion of the creek during late April and early May, some said that portion of the race was the most difficult.
Austin simply tied a rope around his waist and ran down the edge of the bank and through the water on the rocky creek bed with the boat bouncing behind him. So did others.
“I ran more than I paddled,” said Michael Wiedeman, 22, who is also an Anniston firefighter and was Duke’s teammate.
After the kayaking leg of the race comes the longest portion of the race, the cycling.
It was that portion of the race that put Austin behind. Near the end Vestavia Hills resident Adam Ricks, 35, passed him on the trail.
“He passed me with about a mile and a half to go like a bullet,” Austin said.
And like that the Spring Garden resident lost his first-place position.
Ricks finished the race in 3 hours, 22 minutes and 15 seconds. Austin finished in 3 hours 23 minutes and 14 seconds.
“I was just as surprised as anybody,” Ricks said.
After the race they took seats in folding chairs beneath the shade of the tree and chatted.
The first person to cross the finish line was Scotty Duke’s brother, Chris, the cyclist for their three-man team. It took them 3 hours, 12 minutes and 22 seconds to complete the race.
Staff Writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.