Tuscazoar Adventure Race
5 mile run, 3.5 mile kayak, 1 mile trek, and 3.5 mile mountain bike.
Finish Time: Did Not Finish (DNF)
This was my first time competing in the Tuscazoar Adventure Race. which is billed as a 5 mile run, 3.5 mile kayak 1 mile trek, and 3 mile mountain bike. I found the run to be 5.3 miles and the kayak leg to be fairly close to 3.5 miles. I can’t confirm the distances on the trek and mountain bike but I was told the mountain bike was closer to 3.4 – 4 miles. My race recap below will explain why. Social distancing was in place and well observed. I was in the second heat to start the race.
The run leg started with a run up a gravel road hill and then a quick turn into the woods for more then a mile of single track trail running. This part of the trail was was technical. Proper foot placement was paramount as the trail made it’s way down the hills to the river. Once at the river level the trail was mostly primitive but flat. I picked up speed with every mile and eventually found myself the first from my heat to the kayak transition. A 400 yard portage was next up. I chose to use my Stellar 16 Multisport kayak for the race. It was slower then my Stellar SR but I chose it because I knew I could paddle the Stellar 16 and control the rudder with my running shoes where the SR I was not able to get my running shoes to fit in the pedals which would require a shoe change. The strategy worked well. I quickly caught up and passed everyone in the first heat but two very fast racers.
I was in podium potential (top 3-5 overall) after a strong run and kayak leg. Out of the kayak I was directed by race officials to head right down the trail for the 1 mile trek. After running 1.5 miles in that direction I realized I was off course. I turned around and went back and spotted another trail. Another racer and I headed down that trail and soon saw a course marker so we thought we were back on course. Soon we found ourselves miles into the woods and way too far in to turn around. 5 miles in with no one in site my race was over and I was lost. I could then hear the panicked screams of other lost racers. I linked up with 3 boys one already suffering from dehydration. Temperatures were reaching the high 90’s. We kept making our way now walking the trails to find our way out. None of the boys had water. I shared what Gatorade I had left with the boy that was having dehydration issues being light headed, dizzy and now not walking straight. We kept moving mile after mile realizing we were most likely following the ultra race bike course. We knew the course was 8.5 miles and if we followed the course we would get back or see a biker that could get help.
The parents of the boys reported them missing and fellow friend racer Will Hanson reported me missing. Search and rescue was deployed and the sheriff’s department was called in. At one point we heard a helicopter overhead but I cannot verify that was search and rescue. After 5 extra miles of running and another 4 miles or so of hiking up and down the hills we were found about 2 miles from Camp Tuscazoar. We were taken to rescue ATV’s with water, Gatorade and energy bars.
In total I know of 10-15 people that were sent in the wrong direction by race officials. 9 had to be rescued and we were the last group to be found. I am thankful to the search and rescue volunteers and professionals that put themselves in harms way to find us.
To make things worse I was very upset to see all of the scratches and gouges in my kayak as a result of carelessness when the race officials transported it back to the start. It’s clear that kayaks were stacked on top of mine when transported.
I spent most of the day and night dehydrated and processing the experience. The panicked screams for help from kids and other adults lost is something I won’t soon forget. I like to think that the outdoor skills I developed as a Boy Scout along with my overall health and fitness level helped me provide comfort and leadership to those panicked scared boys. I am thankful no one was seriously hurt.
The race officials did a lot of things right that should not be ignored. Pre race communication was very good. The swag participants received was excellent and included tech shirts, wood carved finisher medals, local syrup, hand made masks and a lot more. I think that there will be some changes for the better next year to improve the overall safety and quality of the experience of the race for everyone.