Well the race is over and oh, what a race it was! No Sleep Adventures truly never disappoints. Every year they put together a challenging and fun course. Overall there were a total of 35 checkpoints and 5 transition areas. They had an extremely competitive field of racers this year with eleven teams clearing the course, reaching every checkpoint. Here is a picture of the map. Could you navigate your way through the course?!
The start was a quick half-mile run to get the “passports”, which is what you clip at checkpoints. Next was a short biking section, only 5.25 miles on road to two checkpoints and our first transition area. This section split up the teams well so there weren’t 100+ racers clustered together. Next, a foot race for a 7.8-mile trek down paved roads, muddy, gravel back roads, trails, and some “bushwacking”, where you pave your trail through the wilderness. With several sections, including this one, teams can find the checkpoints in any order. This makes navigating the map and making decisions on the fly very important. Teams were able to receive their maps the night before the race so we had an idea of our route plan already. However, “game time decisions” can save you time and energy when you are on the course. Bushwacking up a steep slope to the top of a hill may not be the best route even if it is the most direct one. During this section, I almost stepped on a fawn that was hunkered down in some tall grass (I regretfully admit I might have jumped more than the deer did.) There was also a neat checkpoint on a root system that had been exposed by erosion.
I apologize for the blurry picture; I’m not a photographer!
Next up, a paddle down the flooded Wabash River. I have to ask, have you heard of the Asian Carp destroying ecosystems across the U.S.? Well the Wabash is infested and let me tell you, it is slightly frightening to be in a canoe and a 2-foot fish jump 4 feet in the air without warning. They also tend to be in schools, so it is even more thrilling when a large group starts jumping together. Several teams were hit by the fish and even landed a few in their boats. But let’s get back to the race! After the “friendly” race directors made us paddle up stream to our first checkpoint, we hightailed down the river with the current at our backs propelling us at a good speed to catch a few teams ahead of us. There was a first for my team as we arrived at the third and final checkpoint on the paddle. The clue was “sandbar” and we were assured that even though it doesn’t look like it on the map, there is a sandbar. We round a corner up the creek and there sits a canopy with a sign that says “The No Sleep Sandbar”. This is when we needed our mysterious mandated gear of a bottle opener because they had a beer for us (my team loves beer!) This was a fun little experience in the middle of the race.
Now, we’re back on foot for a 5.7-mile trek through the woods, where there was a decision to be made: hike approximately a mile around a creek or cross it. What would you do? We chose to cross the creek, hoping to keep the water waist deep if possible. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option; we had to swim! The muddy, slightly smelly creek water was not ideal, but it saved us some time. Later there was a unique ropes section where you had to pull yourself across a creek dangling from a rope and harness. The last little bit was uphill and was a huge upper body workout!
So, now we’re back to TA 4 and on mountain bikes again. Fairy uneventful section: grab one checkpoint on our way back to the start/finish section. We then plot a couple trekking points and grab those as quickly as possible before hopping back on the bikes for the final leg of the race! The rain was forecasted for much of the day so you really can’t complain when it only hits you for the last 3 hours of the race. However, this was an extremely hard rain, which makes it difficult to see when you’re barreling down a hill at 20 miles per hour. For the most part, we crushed this 18-mile section even with the rain. We had ONE checkpoint left to clear the course and only 40 minutes to get it. From our calculations, it was a 2.5-mile round trip down a trail. More than enough time…if we weren’t 11 and half hours into a race, mentally and physically exhausted, and not to mention, the rain had destroyed the trail. We found the checkpoint but unfortunately for us, it put us arriving back at the finish line 11 minutes late and costing us three checkpoints in our final tally. To make matters worse, there was a quicker and easier route to the checkpoint that several teams took but we avoided because the road was marked “authorized personnel only”.
When all was said and done, the time penalty didn’t effect our overall placing in the race. We finished 6th in a very competitive division (3 teams cleared the course with hours left in the race) and 14th overall. We traversed a total of 50 miles and cleared a course for the first time ever! These races have been an amazing challenge and competitive adventure every year for my friends and me. I highly recommend you find a beginner friendly race and try it for yourself; you won’t regret it! I hope you’ve enjoyed this series as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing the experience with you. If you have any questions or I can help get you started in any way, feel free to reach out to me. My phone number is available at our website: