Post by: Ryan Ingham, Swiftwick athlete.
TPK Endurance is a tough race to describe, and even words may not do this challenge justice. This past weekend, I participated in their inaugural event, which took place in the rugged hills outside Superior, Arizona.
So what is TPK Endurance?
It’s part ultra running, rucking, OCR, and multistage adventure race all in one and is scored off a points system for each stage. If you head to their website to learn more information, it will tell you it’s an 18+ hour event in Arizona, and that’s about all that is said.
The first challenge of the race begins before you even arrive. Racers receive a Rubik’s cube in the mail which must be solved in order to retrieve a code which includes the GPS coordinates for the race start location and time.
Racers met at the starting location where the mandatory gear required was inspected. What kind of gear is needed for the TDK Endurance race? Nothing that you would ever guess. The required gear included:
- Fire wood
- An additional unsolved Rubik’s cube
- Six 8” nails
- Home Depot bucket
- 56.699 grams of birdseed
- 200 piece jigsaw puzzle
- Live cactus (that you must keep alive)
- Several other crazy items
Additionally, all electronic devices (GPS, phone, etc.) were prohibited.
Let the (crazy) games begin.
I’ll be somewhat vague on what took place over the next 20+ hours and 30+ miles for the sake of their future events.
To start the race, participants were marched to the trailhead where the running time trial would start. Distance? “You’ll know when you reach the finish. Take hydration! By the way, you have to solve the green side of your Rubik’s cube before you can go.”
It took a minute to realize “Crap, they are serious about the cube!” One block short of solving it, I hit the time cap and was sent out last on the run.
With time to make up, I arrived at the next stage- the rock climb and rappel. But of course, I could only continue after I completed the white side of the Rubik’s cube. Here, we had a choice of a 5.6, 5.8 or 5.10 climb with more points given for the difficulty of the route. I decided to take the easier route, make up for lost time, and try to make up the points elsewhere.
The climb was followed with a 100-foot rappel to a beautiful ice cold creek- full of rubber duckies. Dive in and find the ducky with your number on it among all the similar looking ones.
Next up was the ruck portion. We retrieved our packs, were handed a map, and told “don’t get lost, and here’s the end point.” Luckily for me, my map reading skills were on point; unfortunately for others, not so much. At this point, I was told I was in 3rd place, and when I climbed out of the first canyon, I was in 1st. We rucked on until we reached the next stage: the WOD.
WOD (work out of the day) started with a buy-in of a half-mile round trip climb up a rugged hillside, followed with a run around a pond and cattle corral with various challenges along the way. The area was referred to as “Dead Cow Pond” and rightfully so due to the stench of the few decaying cattle that lined the WOD area. There was a minimum of four rounds to be completed and bonus points awarded for every round after that once you made the round trip climb up the hill again. Needing to make up the points, I ensured I stayed ahead of the competition and completed 20 rounds.
Up next was a mandatory break from 7:30-8:30, followed with a racers’ brief for the night navigation stage set at 9 pm. Racers were given a topo map that had areas labeled Red (Balance), Blue (Grit), Orange (Mental), and Yellow (Strength) with the corresponding side of the Rubik’s cube needing to be solved before you could start that stage. Racers were also given a package that they couldn’t open and told the package had to make it to the finish in one piece.
Beware the night.
Some of the night challenges we had to face included:
- Filling a five gallon bucket with water and carrying up a rugged half mile round trip hillside where it was weighed and totaled on a score card.
- Next stage included recovering your zip lock bag that held your 8” nails and a glow stick from the bottom of a pond, find it among everyone else’s.
- We were then shown an image of balancing nails that had to be replicated once you hiked to the top of the hill.
- Find and build a 200-piece Unicorn puzzle. Welcome to Mental.
- From there, it was off on another hike to a series of heavy carries, drags, and tire flips at the Strength stage.
Each stage had a bonus portion if you completed your challenge in enough time. Some of these were an out-and-back runs to retrieve a sticker for your cube or climb a rock. But one consisted of looking at a Lego design, climbing down, digging thru an ice chest to recover the Lego pieces, and then replicating the design.
I was able to collect all bonuses available for the night stage! And then it was the final ruck to the finish.
Once at the finish, racers gathered around the camp fire, discussed their various adventures and stories that where had throughout the night. Racers where then told to plant their cactus in a provided planter to be placed on the podium and open the package given at the night stage. The package was our award- a brick with an engraved plate for the event.
Before the winners were awarded, the race directors had one final secret stage that had to be completed. They exchanged vows and got married in front of family, friends and racers!
I bad decision on my part to take the easier route on the rock climbing portion would result with a 4th overall finish, just missing the podium. All and all though, this was an epic, unforgettable adventure with great people, many new friendships made and one that I look forward to take on again. The race staff and volunteers were the backbone of this event and really made it a memorable experience.
I stuck with my tried and true Swiftwick ASPIREs and never had single issue through all of the various conditions we experienced. Wet or dry, shoes full of mud and rocks, and not a blister or lost toe nail, which is a very common occurrence in these events.