The second installment of the Arkansas Enduro Race took place this past Saturday in my hometown of Fayetteville.
It was hot.
It was humid.
It was hazy.
Severe thunderstorms and torrential downpours were moving in from the west.
Did I mention that it was hot?
I guarantee you that everyone was wishing for a lake to jump into by the end of the race.
But everyone, I mean, everyone, was in good spirits, happy and out for a super good time.
And the day didn’t disappoint (and the storms held off till the next day, thank goodness).
Dave and I got there about 7:30 that morning and hiked into our spots, ready to photograph the participants. I had gone out the previous afternoon and hiked the entire course (a total of nine miles and over half of which was uphill) and Dave had ridden the trails on his bike previously, so we were pretty familiar with the course already, but of course, I pick the stage that I was least familiar with and wound up hiking up and down the trail trying to find the start, when all of a sudden the first riders begin appearing, so I hunkered down where I was and just started shooting. I never did find the start or the end of that stage, but it didn’t really matter because as I kept hiking upwards back to where I began, I came across a better spot that afforded a view of a great little rock garden section where the riders had to pick and choose how to ride over the rocks without falling over. That little spot quickly became my favorite, so I pulled up some dirt, got my water bottle settled in next to me, leaned back against a small sapling and got cozy, firing away with each passing rider.
Dave and I had agreed that we’d leap frog the stages, so after I finished up on Stage 2, I made my way over to Stage 5 and began working my way back down the mountain, stopping at pre-picked spots to capture the riders as they raced by me. It was fun having the race out at Mt. Kessler, the same place that I trail run and hike with the dog. The trails for the race, however, were pretty new to me, since I mainly stay on the older trails on the northern part of the park. I saw bluffs and views I had never seen before, but I also saw parts that were still familiar to me from six and seven years ago when I first started frequenting the hiking trails. These new trails were beautiful, the dirt packed down nice and smooth, great to ride on and great to run on, too, I bet.
And then all of a sudden, the race was over. These events are funny in a way: they start out chill and laid back, everyone still trying to wake up, then the race begins and the pace is fast and furious, spectators calling out “encouragement” (heckling, but all in good fun) and cowbells being rung; then it’s all over and the laid back atmosphere takes over again, but I think it’s more from sheer exhaustion and recovering from riding lickity-split over rocks and roots than the chill vibe from the early morning. At any rate, Fayetteville’s Mt. Kessler debut race was a vast success, with some good friends of ours making podium for the first time (for a list of winners and the race results, click here.).
Next up is Bella Vista on July 21. Hope to see you there!