2012 Nashville Oyster Date:
“If you don’t love life you can’t enjoy an oyster; there is a shock of freshness to it and intimations of the ages of man, some piercing intuition of the sea and all its weeds and breezes. [They} shiver you for a split second.”
The wisdom of Eleanor transcends time, and I find the prophetic nature of her words haunting, but we’ll get to that later.
For the past three years Jonathan Schmidt, Greg Wright, and I get together on one glorious fall day to shuck the Oyster. It started in 2010, when I apprehensively agreed to join these two powerhouses for my first ever “adventure race”. Two years and countless races later, it’s safe to say that the Oyster whet my appetite for team races. So, the Oyster holds a special place in my heart.
The idea of the race (at least the full version, as there are relay Oysters, half-Oysters, individual Oysters, etc.) is to gallivant around the town on bike, or foot, or bus, or scooter, or canoe, or unicycle and solve puzzles and crack clues to gain the location of your next destination. Each destination has a unique task, such as pushing a cookie around a track with a pencil, finding a labeled duck (out of 500) in a pool, eating a cupcake off your partner (thereby galvanizing your love, right Jonathan?), or some other field-day/daresque task that makes you say, “Damn, it feels good to be shuckin’.” After about 6 or 7 legs of this, you come in to the sound of cowbells and sore quads.
For the past two years we have shucked, sucked, and chucked the Oyster, taking first overall both years. This provides some unnecessary pressure when you have the looming expectation of defending the throne, so needless to say we approached this year with nervous anticipation.
First and foremost, you gotta’ have fun, and it’s not hard to do that at the Oyster. Every clue and task takes you on a Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to the next location. Traffic laws? Nah! Scrub that bus and keep moving. Blow through the red light, because you’re on a bike, so now you’re a pedestrian. Stop signs are suggestions, and if Google maps crashes, we’re all doomed. The last is particularly poignant, but, again, I’ll get to that later.
So, we gather, we warm up to MMA hopping, and we take off! The first puzzle is something to do with patterns and numbers, so we mull through the both, stumble upon the right answers, and get a scavenger list that we have to complete. This involves photos around downtown Nashville that capture locations or objects. Imagine 5-person pyramid, country tattoo (which, in our case, was a phallic shaped guitar), teammate in fountain, etc. After slamming through these, we have our next clue. We hammer through a puzzle/crossword and find that we need to head over to the Cupcake Collection, Greg and I on foot and Jonathan crushing the pedals. This is where the cupcake lovin’ goes down, as Jonathan eats a delicious pumpkin cupcake off my stomach, all the while I’m pelvic thrusting. We then hop down to a nearby park, toss some toilet lids on spikes, slingshot some shoes into Greg’s six-pack abs, and head back to the transition area.
Now we’re on our way to Shelby Bottoms boat ramp, and we’re cruising on bikes, trying to put some distance between us and the rest of the field. We arrive first to the boat ramp, I throw a bag on my head (which I’m pretty comfortable with), and try not to tip the canoe while Jonathan and I paddle to Greg, who then takes my spot. Tag it, bag it, and now back to TA.
The next clue sends us back over the bridge to the new park on the Cumberland River. Greg makes a clutch decision to take the elevator, which saves us both time and serious energy. I blindfold up while the guys direct me through a mine field. Unscathed, we traverse a cargo net, and head back! At this point, we’re amped, ahead, and moving fast. Oh, and I leave my phone.
So we get back, get our next destination of Chipotle and the Centennial Pool, and get moving on bikes. This is where the traffic laws cease to exist. We ran more red lights, blew through more stop signs, and audibly informed drivers of our presence than can fit in a lifetime. We get to Centennial Pool in record time, but find something amiss. Nothing here indicates this as the location, and we’re second guessing ourselves. To further complicate the matter, there is a parade at Centinnial Park that is telling us to come and look around. We bike around a bit before we go back and I poke my head in to take a peek. The clue said something about a duck hunt, and there are ducks, hundreds of ducks, in the pool. Destination: found. I believe it’s at this point, as I’m stripping down to jump in, that I realize my phone is lost, and I’m now useless for navigation. Jonathan and Greg come in to me bobbing around the pool, two paper strips in my mouth, looking for a 4 or 5 digit number. Jonathan quickly jumps in and helps, then Greg. After we’ve scoured all the ducks, I finally luck upon one that matches, we tell the kind, and amused, volunteers, and head to Chipotle. En route is where the shock of freshness and shivering ensues, as our dunk has left us soaked to the bone, and the lack of sun, biting wind, and 50° temps make this ride memorable.
Here, we have to distinguish what kind of plants we’re looking at, and then match them to a puzzle. This is HARD. I mean, who the hell knows what a baby cilantro plant looks like. Oh, that’s right, Greg does. We come out the gate with two-out-of-four right. Strike one. Then we try again, and again. Each time we’re wrong, and the volunteer is keeping track. Finally, we get it right, and are informed that we’ll have to eat something for each wrong answer. Perfect.
We hit the hammer and get back to the TA, where I’m handed a tomatilla, a garlic clove, and a jalapeño, which I slam back, and keep moving. Then we get the news we need to head to Hundred Oaks mall, or so we think, after solving a clue. This is a ways away, so we set to it after confirming that we do, in fact, need to make this trek.
All is going well, and we take a great path to get to our desired location, which is not, in fact, our desired location. So we look around. We bike around. We ask around. I try to slide down a concrete embankment, but am discouraged by two cops who respond to my saying, “Jonathan, I don’t think this is a good idea” with “Neither do I.” Somewhere in this, I lock up my breaks and skid down a hill, no big deal. Right?
Well, come to find out, the MMA has moved, and we’re in the previous location. Luckily it’s close, though going through a residential area with a dog chase reminiscent of the Dukes of Hazard make us second guess ourselves. Fortunately, we do find the joint, thanks to Greg and Jonathan, and set to our task. Somehow, we’re still in front, but the second place team could have taken this final set of two tasks in reverse order. The heat is on. I box. Jonathan jumps rope. Greg throws ~300 punches. We all do some more drills, punch the passport, hit the bikes. Commence grumbling.
The final location, and then we’re heading back. I’m dragging, and the cross wind is killing me. “Just keep peddling,” I tell myself, but Greg is crushing, and I’m having to get out of the saddle to keep pace. We finally get to 12th South Taproom, and the guys are worried about me, I can tell. We make a pact that they’ll block the wind on the final leg. Now, we’re all set to have a nice and relaxing round of beer pong and drinking games. The college glory days flood back to all of us, and we quickly dispatch the hybrid task of beer pong, flip cup, and quarters. Now we’re on the final stretch. The guys are blocking the wind, we’re riding in a pack, and life is good. After a short leg, we come into the finish wondering our placement.
Did the other guys, the three brothers that were right on our tail, the genetically supreme fitness family, did they pass us?
They were pushing us the whole time, causing us to constantly look over our shoulders, and did they make the move while we were pussy-footing around?
We come through the line, at around 3 hours and 8 minutes, and find that we are the first in! We retain the crown, and make it an epic three-peat!
The after party is great, as always, with plenty of story swapping, meeting new friends, and recounting with old. Good eats from Chipotle. Great drinks from Yazoo. Incredible swag from Merrell and the Oyster race. You really can’t ask for more. Meanwhile, Mary Ellen, Courtney (Greg’s wife), and Sloan end up coming in first for the female division! Incredible, and the girls bring home the win!
Oh, and the whole way back, come to find out I was losing air in my tire from my downhill skid (see picture). The next day, this tire was entirely flat. Incredibly, we made it back, but we were very lucky! Check your equipment and maintenance regularly!
As I said earlier, the Oyster holds a special place in my heart. The people who run it are incredible, thoughtful, creative, and personable. The businesses that are represented are local, which is awesome, and the volunteers are super stoked to be there. Win or lose, the Oyster rocks.
Sasquatch Trot Oct 13 (not racing but hosting!)
The Fig 12 hour adventure race (end of series, competing for 1st overall!)
Upchuck 50k (5600ft of climbing!)
Next year: The Celtic Traverse 1000k nonstop! Please send me words of encouragement and support!