Adventure race not a walk in the park By Rick Breland

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 17, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Natchez&8217;s first ever adventure race was held at Giles Island, but to Saturday&8217;s contestants it felt more like Paris Island.

Ninety-six degree temperatures, a 15-mile course through waters, woods and swamp left the 45

teams feeling like they signed up for a bit more than they could handle.

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As the teams trickled in across the finish line, several contestants collapsed from exasperation, while at least one contestant was driven across the finish line after being overcome with exhaustion.

&8220;It was insanely hot,&8221; Lena Yarborough, a Natchez resident and contestant in Saturday&8217;s race said.

Yarborough&8217;s team, the Scorpio Speed Sisters finished third in the all-women division, but felt happy just to have finished the course.

&8220;In addition to the heat and humidity, we had to face these confusing roads and trails that weren&8217;t marked on the map,&8221; Yarborough said. &8220;We lost a lot of time just having to go back and forth over spots we had already been.&8221;

In addition to the two-and a half miles of canoeing, 10 miles of mountain biking, and four to five miles of running and hiking, race participants had to face some challenging obstacle courses.

According to Cliff Johnson of Gonzales, La., the &8220;balancing act&8221; obstacle course, where teams crossed a series of suspended two-by-four inch planks, was the most difficult part.

&8220;You get on there and your legs are quivering from the exhaustion of having just finished running,&8221; Johnson said. &8220;One wrong slip on those boards and you had to start over.

I&8217;ll tell you, it was rough for a lot of teams.&8221;

In light of the brutal conditions, safety was paramount among concerns for race directors.

&8220;We usually have EMS staff and paramedics on hand for all of the events,&8221; race director Dave Poleto said. &8220;With days like today it was all the more important that those folks were on hand in case some one needed to be administered an IV in the case of dehydration.&8221;

Fortunate for the city of Natchez and maybe unfortunately for contestants, plans are underway to bring the race back to Giles Island next year.

&8220;This year&8217;s race was a great success,&8221; Poletosaid. &8220;No one got hurt, we raised money for the Natchez Children&8217;s Home, and we&8217;re excited about bringing the race back here next year.&8221;