Get Your Feet Dirty

I must admit, 4:30 in the morning is not a good time for me. Even approaching the longest day of the year, it’s still dark outside. You don’t even have the chance to get properly hungry for breakfast. Even most of nature has the good sense to be quiet and resting.

So it came as a great surprise that when my alarm went off at that ungodly hour last Saturday, I welcomed the sound. I was even excited to get out of bed.

Racers take to the water as they head for five check points on Lake Lansing.

It was time for Dirty Feat.

Dirty Feat is Lansing’s one-and-only adventure race, for the third year running. Teams of two are given a map with check points marked, a corresponding list of clues, and a time limit to reach them all on bicycle, foot and even canoe. Last year’s race was spoiled by an untimely accident resulting in driving my partner to Lansing Urgent Care. This year would be different.

In fact, it would be different for everybody. In last year’s event, a six-hour time limit was set, though many teams finished under four while still reaching all of the check points. This year, the race’s organizers weren’t having any of that. They extended the time limit to eight hours and sent participants on a day-long adventure covering more than 40 miles of biking, several miles of running, and nearly an hour’s worth of canoeing.

Nobody would finish with all the check points this year.

Tim Schmitt, the event organizer, gives out awards at the end of the race. Everyone who participated now hates him just a little bit. (Not really)

The race began at 6:00 a.m. in Patriarch Park, just about a mile north of campus. From there, teams started on foot by covering a mile or two of neighborhood streets in search of the first check points. Once found, the nearly 150 racers mounted their bikes for a long day.

I won’t go through all the gory details, but I will say that I was exhausted afterwards. And though it was a very long race, the time flew by. The best part about the race, though, was getting to discover areas of the greater Lansing region that I never knew existed.

For example, I had never been to Granger Meadows Park or knew that there was a sledding hill up there. I had often heard of the inter-urban bike path stretching from Haslett to East Lansing, but had never ridden on it. The Meridian Historical Village and Frances Park were also places I had never been before, but could certainly see myself going back to. There were even some sections of the Lansing River Trail that I had never been on before.

And if you look at a map, yes, all of those things are pretty far apart. Trust me, I know. I rode to all of them in one day. I even basically canoed the entire way around Lake Lansing.

My partner and I at the end of the race, exhausted, but no broken bones this year!

Towards the end, my partner and I were right up there with the eventual winners. But our time and strategy fell apart when we hit the orienteering section amongst the woods of Lake Lansing North. Apparently we don’t do well with maps and a compass.

We came in a little over the time limit, but I still felt like a winner, having hit more check points that most of the competition. The after party was a blast, with racers, friends and family enjoying some grilled hot dogs, Detroit Brewing Company beer, and lots of fruit and water. I even had the chance to sit and talk with the kind team that stopped to help me fix a flat tire, before going on to win the co-ed division despite the delay.

Everyone was friendly. Everyone had fun.

We truly did end up with some dirty feet.

If this sounds like a blast to you, be sure to sign up for next year’s event. I certainly will. But also keep in mind that you don’t need an adventure race or set course to get out there and explore the city you live in. I highly encourage everyone to hop on a bike and just see what’s out there.

And if you need suggestions on where to go, I now have plenty.

*Thanks to Ariniko Artistry for some outstanding photos of this year’s event!