I've been able to enjoy the Tango adventure race as a spectator - using my camera as a crutch.
"Yeah, I would run 13.1 miles, bike 20 miles, swim 2.5 miles, cruise through the seven-mile orienteering course, take another 4.5-mile jog, and then canoe for nine miles, but I have to take photos for the paper. It sounds really fun and, if it were any other day, I'd do it. I just can't."
It was the perfect excuse.
Photo courtesy of Mitchell Wilston’s father
No more excuses
“Come on, Dad,” Mitchell Wilston is most certainly saying to his father — the photographer — during the 4.5-mile run of the 2012 Kinzua Country Tango held Saturday in Warren County. Hot as it was, Wilston teamed with his brother, Ben, and two others to complete the grueling 50-plus mile event in just over 10 hours.
This year, after several injuries had left my brother's relay team - Ike '09 - shorthanded, I volunteered for the action. When I say, "volunteered," I really mean, "made a deal." Ben owes me a golf driver; I torture my body for an afternoon. Fair trade.
When I agreed to be in the Tango, I chose the 4.5-mile run and the canoeing portion for a few reasons:
1. After some very unscientific calculations, I concluded that swimming 2.5 miles is the equivalent of running a marathon, so the 4.5-mile run is the shortest event;
Official results will be published later this week in the Times Observer.
2. You can sit down in a canoe, so I figured I would pack a picnic or something.
Unfortunately things never work out the way you plan (when you plan for the easiest possible solution), and I was switched out of the canoeing leg and put on the orienteering team.
I spent a few years in Boy Scouts, so I have a vague idea how to use a compass; it wasn't until the night before that my brother Ben (my orienteering partner) and I went to Wal-Mart and purchased a compass. That doesn't leave a lot of time to practice with it. Actually, it left mere minutes to practice with it.
My four-person team prepared for the Tango in the worst way possible. We didn't prepare.
Thankfully, our long-distance runner, Julia Bauer, kicked butt in the half-marathon with only a few days notice. Thanks, Julia!
Next, Ben biked for the team, took a break while Brett Matve cruised through the swimming leg - sans flippers and a wetsuit (bad idea) - and then joined me in my first event, the orienteering course.
This was no Easter egg hunt; the checkpoints were through brush, down sheer cliffs (slight exaggeration), and hidden out of sight.
You could be 50 yards away from a checkpoint and not see the people waiting for you, and the people manning the checkpoints don't help you out.
If you yell "Marco," they will not shout "Polo."
By luck, or as I'd like to think pure talent, my brother and I found the first three checkpoints in about 40 minutes. We were doing really well! And it takes lone individuals sometimes over four hours to complete the orienteering stage. You are running around for miles in rough terrain.
And then we got lost.
After fighting through brush for half an hour, we eventually found our way to the final checkpoints, - only to head back to the starting point the wrong way.
We came out of the woods at the edge of the reservoir and interrupted a pair of jet skiers' picnic.
They informed us that we were a mile away from the starting point (Editor's Note: Is that cheating?). We hiked our way back to transition area.
After approaching the transition area from the wrong direction, which I'm sure confused the spectators, the volunteer orchestrating check-ins informed us that we could now tag in the teammate doing the 4.5-mile run.
I was that teammate.
After running through the woods for two and a half hours - which I felt was pretty darn good, a 4.5-mile run was out of the question, so I walked half of it. Who am I kidding? I walked three quarters of it.
"It was hot, way too hot to be running."
If you haven't been to the Tango, at least go and watch. It is a great experience. There is live music, food, and plenty of live entertainment as you watch swimmers wobbling up the final hill on jelly legs, and orienteering teams stumbling out of the woods battered and bruised.
Sound like fun?
Watching it is fun, but you can't beat the thrill of being in it. Put together a team and do it just to say you did. If you're really crazy, do it all by yourself.
Have your head checked first.