Author: Adam Bratton
Read Time: 4 mins
Anyone who has participated in an Adventure Race knows that adjusting on the fly throughout the event is common practice. Same thing for anyone who has been an RD (Race Director) for that matter. As fate would have it, adjusting on the fly is exactly what everyone had to do at Human Powered Movement’s South Fork Sampler Adventure Race this past weekend, and it was amazing!
I’ve worked in the event production and management industry for over 15 years. In that time, I’ve learned over and over to keep one eye focused on what can be controlled and one eye scanning for the inevitable changes that are barreling down. As unpredictable (or predictable) as it was, we got hammered with massive flash flooding just hours before we kicked off our 2nd annual adventure race on April 28 & 29.
A week out from the event, the weather was calling for consistent rain on Wed, Thurs, Fri, and Sat … not ideal, but also kinda fun. This was an adventure race after all! I geared up (and mentally prepared) to set 24 checkpoints on land and water all day on Thursday in preparation for the Corporate Challenge event scheduled for Friday afternoon.
On Thursday morning, the forecast had changed slightly but was still calling for all day rain. With a car full of cones, unique hole punches, duct tape, piles of towels, a bike, and a kayak I was able to set the entire course over 7 hours of constant pouring rain. On a lighter note, I learned that river otters live in the South Fork River which I was able to capture on video HERE.
By Thursday late afternoon, the event preparation was complete, and the stage was set for participants to explore the South Fork River by land and water, raise money for the Catawba Riverkeeper, and deliver on Human Powered Movement’s brand promise of getting people up, out and moving!
Then, like clockwork, flash flood notifications started rolling in. From 8:00pm on Thursday night to 8:00am on Friday morning, the USGS sensors along our racecourse showed that the river current jumped from 900 cfs (cubic feet per second … basically how fast the water is flowing) to over 9000 cfs … you don’t need a calculator to understand this tenfold increase in a matter of hours. For perspective, paddling this river over 1200 cfs is not advised per the Catawba Riverkeeper. In that same time frame the water height increased from 3ft to almost 11ft, well above flood stage and the highest these riverbanks have seen over the last few years. Perfect timing for an event!
Let the Friday morning scramble begin! We were in contact with the Town of Cramerton, Catawba Riverkeeper and Event Staff while firing off a slew of phone calls, text messages, and in-person scouting throughout the course to figure out what we were going to do or better stated, what we could do to salvage the event. Things would obviously not go as planned. It was abundantly clear that we would not be paddling during Friday’s Corporate Challenge.
This is where the potential doom and gloom of the event turns to a literal and figurative bright spot on all sides. As we continued to assess the situation and audited what checkpoints were still accessible vs escorted downstream by the flood waters, the clouds began to part. As Corporate teams started to show up for check-in, the warmth and beauty of the sun began to shine. We huddled as an event team and crossed off checkpoints that were no longer in play on the course maps, set a strategy for how we would manage the new variables and agreed on the updated rules just in time for the pre-event meeting.
The resilience of everyone involved was a beautiful thing to watch unfold and there are a massive number of people to thank for their adaptability. The Corporate Challenge went off without a hitch as participants crisscrossed through town collecting checkpoints on trails, greenways, parks, and public art and even battled through an intense Jenga Tournament for more bonus points. At the end of Friday’s event, we celebrated with all participants, gave out awards, and networked while enjoying the sunny skies above.
We held out hope for Saturday’s General Public 4Hr and 8Hr courses, but officially made the call to suspend all water-based checkpoints first thing Saturday morning based on the USGS data and the Riverkeeper’s recommendation. We huddled as a team and made the appropriate adjustments for Saturday’s events in a very similar pre-event scramble as the day before finalizing everything just in time for the 7:45am pre-event meeting.
To nobody’s surprise each of the 8Hr and 4Hr participants showed the same amazing resilience and adaptability as the corporate groups the day prior. With no paddling in play, each of the participants ended up covering more mileage on foot and had to strategize their plan based on new rules and race format and they, without a doubt, rose to the challenge!
Not only did the participants explore this beautiful corner of the world, we also raised over $1300 for our event beneficiary (Catawba Riverkeeper), collected 111 pairs of shoes that we've donated to GotSneakers, diverted 27 lbs of shirts from the landfill that we recycled and repurposed through Recover’s Closed Loop Program, and salvaged 48 Sierra Nevada Pale Ale bottles that have already been cleaned, de-labeled and are ready to be filled with homebrew for our Rocky River Shiver Mtn Bike Event!
There are countless incredible stories that came out of the South Fork Sampler weekend to recap here (you know who you are!). I'm still grinning from ear to ear and won’t be able to shake the proud feeling for a long, long time. It never ceases to amaze me how people respond to a little adversity and how those experiences can help us grow in personal, professional, and emotional lives.
From day #1 the Human Powered Movement platform has been more than just a transactional relationship with our community. There is substance that is affecting people and our planet in a positive way. The South Fork Sampler Adventure Race is a perfect example of that concept. We are instilling and reinforcing intentional decisions in our daily routine. We are developing physical and mental strength through our events. We are driving confidence, adaptability and resilience in people's lives. We are building a movement. Get on board, and go with the flow.
Journal - Adventure Race Resilience
Human Powered Journal
Writings and musings of an active lifestyle
Adam Bratton is the Founder and Head Enabler at Human Powered Movement.
Guest Contributors are more compelling in written word and life in general.