June 23, 2001
Ed Villalobos and I carpool down to participate in the Wild Rivers 2M Challenge and 5K in Irvine. Wild Rivers is a waterpark next to a former wild animal park, which is right across the freeway from when I worked for Western Digital back in 1999. Both of us are intrigued with this event (and at least for the first year, you can do two events for the same registration fee).
The first event is a “triathlon.” I put that in quotes because technically a triathlon is a Swim-Bike-Run, or sometimes a Run-Bike-Swim, but there is no biking in this event. The “middle” event is Water Sliding. (Middle, in quotes because there is no beginning, middle or end of a specific activity at this event.)
This event is SERIOUS. How serious can you take a Water Sliding race? Very seriously, if the winner gets $500! In fact, there are a few nationally ranked Triathletes here, including Julie Swail (who later competed at the Olympic Trials (maybe the Olympics, too) in the Triathlon).
The event begins at the deep end of the wave pool. People start in 15-second increments. Anything other than a “wave” start would be disastrous, because 200 people shouldn’t be jumping into 8′ deep water all on top of each other (and 3 at a time is bad enough). The trick, by the way, if you want a chance at the money, is to be near the front. Our problem is that people have begun lining up very early; I probably didn’t cross the starting line until the race was underway for 10 minutes. Don’t get me wrong; they did time people based on their start times, but certain sections of the race get crowded.
So once you struggled out of the wave pool (not so bad for me, because I was able to get my feet earlier than everyone else), then you followed a prescribed route up some stairs and down a waterslide. This is where the bottlenecks come in. If you started in the early groups, then you were one of the first people to the slide. If you started later, a line forms because they have to maintain safety standards on the slide.
There are a few more loops around the poolside to different slides, with different heights of stairs, and all of it is slippery. Finally, the piece de resistance, the Lazy River. This is probably a 1/2 mile long and about 3 feet deep. If you are just enjoying yourself at the waterpark, you are sitting in an innertube and lazily gliding slowly around the circuit. If you are in a race for $500, you are trying to figure out how you can move rapidly around this river.
For me, the water comes up to just below my waist, so technically I can “run” through it. If you have ever tried to run through 3′ deep water, you know that it is exhausting and not particularly efficient. My best bet turns out to be doing a modified crab walk, a sort of combination walk/swim through the water. With most of my body submerged, I can move more efficiently than just walking or just swimming.
I finish in about 19 minutes and change and Ed does a few minutes slower, but in his case, it is enough for him to win an age group award (a towel). The winner of the challenge turns out to be one of the professional triathletes. Who knew that they would be good watersliders too?
About 40 minutes after the start of the Challenge, there is also the 5K, through the old Wild Animal Kingdom (which closed before I moved to SoCal). The course is a combination of trail and street. It is also unusual for me particularly because I am so wet, having done the Challenge in my shoes, shirt and shorts.
I run a non-impressive 23:12, and Ed does about 29 minutes. I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, because in this particular back-to-back, it is almost like having done a triathlon, and then doing a running race. Having done a few triathlons, I know how tired I am after I swim, so to manage sub-8:00 miles is not too bad. Ed wins another towel.
The fun aftermath of this race was first some problem with the trunk on Ed’s car. It wouldn’t open. My dry clothes (and keys) were in there. We did eventually get it open, but it was a little frustrating. Also, we did not plan to stay and enjoy the park, and the race did include a free ticket – we may have received 2 free tickets each since we did two races. The pass was only good for that day, so I ran around the parking lot trying to find someone to give the ticket to. I found a nice family that was very happy to receive 4 free tickets!