As usual, no matter the season, a visit to Glenwood Springs, Colo. doesn’t disappoint. The town had the privilege of hosting the first Merrell Oyster Off Road Adventure Race – as part of the Oyster Racing Series – on May 22, 2010. The one-of-a-kind event challenged teams of two to four people in a combined mountain biking and trail running extravaganza (and a few surprises mixed in).
“There are close to 200 racers and we have 55 teams,” said Jason Ornstein, vice president of adventure for the Merrell Oyster Racing Series. “The race is about 20 to 30 miles, and that depends on which route they take. We don’t close off any streets. We just tell them to get from point A to point B. Somebody might know a short cut and if somebody doesn’t know the way, it might take a little longer. They know in advance if they’re going to be running or biking. We also reserve the right to get them wet. For this race, they will be doing some rafting, zip-lining and playing some beer pong. They work hard to get to a check point. Once they get to a check point, we like to have some fun activities waiting for them.”
At the beginning of the race, each team received a “passport” that gave them destination instructions and a few tips to get them started. Once they finished that leg of the race – or each passport challenge – they had to return to the Transition Area at Two Rivers Park. The Transition Area offered a spot for the teams to replenish resources (and strategize).
In all, there were six passports:
Passport 1: “Who Turned the Lights Out?” – To open the race, teams on mountain bikes made their way up to Glenwood Caverns via the Transfer Trail. Later, comments from several of the team members exclaimed that this was the more difficult task for the day.
Passport 2: “Read All About It!” – On foot, teams had to locate a copy of Glenwood’s newspaper, the Post Independent, to find their next clue on an Oyster Race Series advertisement.
Passport 3: “What’s Up Doc?” – Trail runners had to locate “Doc” at Doc Holliday’s gravesite at the Linwood Cemetery. As part of the challenge, team members had to take a photo with Doc before returning to the Transition Area.
Passport 4: “A Three Hour Tour…” – As another mountain bike challenge, racers had to travel to Glenwood Canyon Resort via the Glenwood Canyon Recreational Trail. Later, participants had to leave their mountain bikes at a check point and continue on foot to Grizzly Creek. They then had to jump into a raft and paddle back to Glenwood Canyon Resort where they received the next passport.
Passport 5: “Zip It! Into Shape! Shape It Up, Get It Straight!” – More fun for the teams! One team member had to take a zip-line across the Colorado River while the other team member solved a logic puzzle. Once completed, the team members reunited with their mountain bikes to go back to the Transition Area.
Passport 6: “Deschutes You Score! It’s Mirror Pong Time!” – To end the race, runners had to locate the Springs Bar for a game of Mirror Pong. After consuming some beer, the team had to return to the Transition Area with “hands raised high” crossing the finish line.
“The top three teams in every division receive either Merrell shoes or Merrell apparel, plus there are a lot of great sponsor giveaways,” explained Ornstein. “Honestly, nobody asks about the prizes. They’re doing it because it’s a fun race and it’s like nothing they’ve ever done before. Most of today’s participants are folks who have done triathlons and 10K races. They’re bored with that. This offers a great alternative for them.”
Spectators and event organizers cheered as the winning team made their way back to Two Rivers Park with bellies full of beer. The first team (known as the Noname Tribe) to cross the finish line included Brendon Langenhuizen, Brian Pearson, Ryan Zwelling and Sara Peuschold.
“These are all the sports we love to do,” said Langenhuizen. “We might as well come out here and participate in all of them in one day, enjoy each other’s company, and the local community. We were a team, so Brian and I did the bike ride up and the girls did most of the running – so we alternated. We each got to see a different part of the race.”
Zwelling added: “We are from around this area, so it helped a lot. It also helped with the clues and sponsorships. The best offbeat part of the race was the drinking. Deschutes Beer was great. It was a good way to end it.”
The remaining teams trickled in throughout the afternoon. The weather was perfect, with the exception of a few major wind gusts that leveled some of the event tents and sponsor banners. However, it didn’t come close to putting a damper on the race. The excitement surrounding this unique event had been brewing for a while.
“There are seven races nationally this year,” explained Ornstein. “This is the first off road version, with mountain biking and trail running. Traditionally, the Oyster Racing Series is in major metros: Denver, Austin, Seattle, Portland, Nashville and San Francisco. In 2011, the race will be in Atlanta, Phoenix and Pittsburgh. Next year, we’ll have another off road race in Bend, Oregon.”
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