Adventure racing in the southeast is a tough business. With races seemingly every other weekend and many strong teams that keep getting faster year after year, it’s not an easy task trying to be competitive in this endurance arena. Rock/Creek (www.rockcreek.com) came to the rescue of the Chattanooga-based team of experienced adventure athletes, providing much needed support for a long year of racing. Jim Farmer and Dan Miller, both Chattanoogans, were lucky enough to recruit the efforts of two of the strongest females in the region, Patricia Williams Smith of Maryville, Tennessee, and Shannon Greenhill of Atlanta, to make their newfound sponsor proud.
Despite second place finishes in two big events earlier in the year, the North Georgia and Goldrush adventure races, the top spot had eluded Team Rock/Creek. The Ocmulgee and Challenge 4 adventure races offered the team a chance to redeem themselves and also take home some fat cash prizes. The Ocmulgee Adventure Race in Macon, Georgia, offered up $1,000 in cold hard cash to the winners and the Challenge 4, despite being a relatively short race at five hours in length, doled out $400 to the victors. With gas prices on the rise and gear not getting any cheaper, this kind of prize money brought out the best teams around.
Dan, Jim and Patricia had won the Ocmulgee race the previous year under the Team Explorer moniker, but this year Shannon Greenhill would take Patricia’s place under the Team Rock/Creek banner. With the top teams in the region at the race and a midnight start, defending the title would be no walk in the park. Despite an early deficit, the team hooked up with Team Enduraventure to chase down the leaders, Team Mighty Dog, who were fresh off their impressive showing at the Primal Quest Expedition Race. Difficult night navigation, especially on the ensuing foot and bike sections, had the lead shuffling back and forth between Rock/Creek, Enduraventure and Mighty Dog. As the sun rose though, Team Rock/Creek had put enough of a gap on the other contenders to cruise home on the final canoe leg to their first victory of the year, despite a broken paddle and three exhausted adventure racers.
Dan would be out of town for the Challenge 4 race in Woodstock, Georgia, but Snickers Marathon team captain, Bill Fletcher, jumped at the chance to join Jim and Shannon for this sprint race in early August. Once again, Team Rock/Creek would be pitted against Team Enduraventure, who had kept them off the top of the podium in the two races earlier in the year. With a loose race format where teams could complete disciplines in any order they desired (run first, paddle second, bike last or bike first, run second, etc.) there was no way of knowing who was in the lead and by how much. With three mechanical problems on a very short bike leg, along with difficulties on the two mystery events thrown into the mix, the team didn’t have high hopes midway through the race. However, adventure races are always full of surprises and the “never give up” mantra is key. Life was breathed back into the team after learning that Enduraventure failed to retrieve a slightly misplaced and definitely hidden orienteering point. Finding this elusive checkpoint along with all of the others and returning to the finish with just fifteen minutes to spare before the time cutoff, meant that Team Rock/Creek had pulled off two in a row. Not too shabby considering the stiff competition and sadistic race directors found in the southeastern adventure racing circuit. Team Rock/Creek will try for the hat trick at the Fall Creek Falls Adventure Race later on this month.
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Rock/Creek is a specialty outdoor retailer with over two decades of experience in the Southeast. Along with its online shops, www.RockCreek.com and www.ClimbingGear.com, Rock/Creek provides quality outdoor clothing and gear for a host of activities including kayaking, rock climbing, camping, hiking, trail running, and adventure racing. Rock/Creek is committed to making a positive impact on the environment. For this reason, it uses outdoor retail as a platform to encourage outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship and to improve access to the backcountry.