‘Control freaks’ hit the trails in adventure race
Like many Kentuckians, Tefany Bleuel, Jason McAllister and Jeremy Reynolds like to run, bike and canoe. The difference is, they do it for hours and hours at a time. Using maps to navigate trails and wooded areas. Competing against other teams. It’s called adventure racing, and the team that calls itself the “Control Freaks” is pretty good at it. Last month, the team finished fourth overall in a 12-hour competition at Red River Gorge and first in the co-ed division – which was full of sponsored teams and Bleuel called “super competitive.” Bleuel is the aquatics and fitness manager at the Falling Springs Arts and Recreation Center; McAllister the principal at Southside Elementary School; Reynolds, a former Woodford County teacher now working in Jessamine County.
As you may have guessed, adventure racing is not your typical endurance challenge. The night before the race, teams are given instructions and can decide the order in which they run, bike or canoe. “The object is to get as many check points as you can within the time limits,” Bleuel said. The series the “Control Freaks” took part in last year, and will again in 2016, is the Unbridled Adventure Race Series. It’s sponsored by 361 Adventures, and all of the races take part in state parks. “It’s a great opportunity to get to see the state parks, and see every corner of the parks on some occasions,” Bleuel said with a laugh. The other races were a bit easier, or at least less lengthy, lasting just six and eight hours. It’s the fourth year she’s taken part in the series, with McCallister and Reynolds joining in the fun this year. “These guys approached me and said, ‘We want to go to nationals,’” Bleuel said, adding that only co-ed teams can qualify for a chance at that contest, which will take place in Columbia, Ga., in October. Contestants’ workout routines vary, and the “Control Freaks’” busy schedules, with jobs and families, only allow them to work out together about once a month. They do plenty on their own. Bleuel said in a typical week, she bikes 30 to 40 miles on the road or in spin classes at Falling Springs, runs 20 to 25 miles, and rows a few times on the machines at Falling Springs. Bleuel, 38, admits to hearing the following question more than once: “Why?” Her answer is not dissimilar to that from the proverbial mountain-climber: because it’s there, and because it’s a challenge for the body and mind. “Triathalons are physically challenging. Running is physically challenging. But adventure racing brings a whole other level of difficulty, where you have the orienteering with the map, because you have to know how to read a map. You have to have a game plan, so you’ve got to be very strategic in your choices. You have to have time management skills. There’s just a lot of mental game that goes into adventure racing that you don’t get with other sports,” Bleuel said. Some of the runs take place on trails, others, because they’re quicker, down the side of a mountain. Contestants must bring everything they’ll need with them: food, water, clothes, maps – and a willingness to endure the elements. Bleuel said she’s not bothered by the weather this time of year. “Not really. As you can see in adventure racing … those are some of my favorite times to race, because you’re in knee-deep snow and you’re hunting for checkpoints, and they’re easier to find in winter, because there’s no leaves …” she said. Bleuel said next year, 361 Adventures will sponsor a beginner race somewhere in the Bluegrass region. “I hope people will try it, because there’s nothing more peaceful to me than being in the woods. I’d rather be in the woods than anywhere,” she said. “For women, it’s more difficult. Especially when you’re talking about being in the woods, and you’re unsure – but there’s nothing like it. “We are not special people. We’re everyday people. And anyone can do it, if you want to do it.”