Fit to Be Tied Athleticism meets absurdity in a bizarre series of team triathlons

October 15, 2000

The setting was Cedar Hill State Park in Dallas. The mercury was
approaching triple digits, and a chain of sweaty humans seemed
to be trying, with little success, to scale a 12-foot-high
incline coated with vegetable shortening. No, this wasn't a
scene from a Bill Murray movie, but rather the Slippery
Mountain, one of 10 "special tests" that the 320 three-person
teams competing in the Hi-Tec Adventure Race had to pass between
stages that required mountain biking 10 miles, trail running
five miles and kayaking two.

Begun in 1996 by former triathlete Michael Epstein, the Adventure
Racing Series emphasizes teamwork. Contestants win by working
together, which might mean linking up with bungee cords to keep
pace during the run. "It's different from triathlons, because
you're not suffering by yourself," says Bob Schulz, 38, of Team
Balance Bar, this season's top-ranked coed squad going into the
last race of the eight-race series, on Oct. 22 in New York City,
"and the last thing you want to do is let your buddies down."

Derived from Navy SEAL training, Army manuals and the twisted
wiring of Epstein's brain, the tests vary from race to race and
can include Blindfolded Trolley's (walking on railroad ties with
the eyes of two teammates covered), the Mud Pit (on your
stomach, please) or the Inner Tube Exchange (from the front to
rear tire of your bike). The tests can take a couple of minutes
or, as one team found during orienteering in last year's New
York City race, a couple of hours. Fortunately for that trio,
former Playmates known as the Playboy Xtreme Team, series
spokesman Adam Fell says, "People were always coming up to me
asking, 'Where are the bunnies?'" Eventually they hopped past
the finish line.

--Chris Ballard

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANNE LEDBETTER Don't look now The Blindfolded Trolley's test (here, in Atlanta) requires three racers, two with eyes covered, to hustle in unison. THREE COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANNE LEDBETTER Had enough? If having to get up and over a series of six-foot-high Marine hurdles (left)--before the kayaking leg--doesn't make contestants yearn for a nice long nap, perhaps climbing a wall afterward will. THREE COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANNE LEDBETTER Tube stop Riders in the 10-mile bike race must switch inner tubes from their front to back tires (and vice versa) and carry their wheels across a stream. In the five-mile trail run all they have to carry is a brick.

"It's different from triathlons, because you're not suffering by
yourself," says Schulz.

The tests are derived from Navy SEAL training, Army manuals and
the twisted wiring of Epstein's brain.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)