Arkansas: uphill both ways Mountain BIATHLON
Basic Stats: The course is approximately 6 to 7 miles long, and features 7 shooting stages. Many of the physical aspects of WTF that everyone has come to know and love are present and accounted for, so there's a high likelihood of a Wall, steep hills and cliffs, and other physically demanding elements.
2023 AAR from Nick Quick:
Waco Tactical Fitness RnG – Arkansas style
The WTF RnG was back in Arkansas after a couple years absence. The last event held in 2020 was a success, but for whatever reason, the event couldn’t get enough participation for the next couple years. That changed this year as there was strong participation. The event is held near Paris, Arkansas, which is not far from Ft. Smith.
Dan Kaufman and Kevin Greb are the main fellows behind the event. They are responsible for the WTF Waco, a wildly popular event held in central Texas twice a year. This event is considerably different than the Texas events. The terrain, for one, makes for an extremely tough trail with some of the steepest climbs in all of RnG; actually going vertical in a couple places. The heavy timber makes for difficult target finding as well.
If there was a theme for this year’s event it was “Hide and Seek”. The heavy timber and undergrowth, coupled with many unpainted targets, made target detection very tough. I suspect most DNF’s on stages were caused by an inability to locate the targets.
The nearly 7 mile trail was as difficult as I’ve encountered at a RnG. In addition to the near vertical climbs and descents, there was heavy leaf ground cover which hid many obstacles, mainly rocks, but a few hidden barb wire strands caught up several folks as well. Couple that with a some descents with rope assist rappelling (more like fast rope with a ½” diameter rope!), and it was as tough as trail as I’ve seen at a RnG. Put 7 very tough and challenging stages along that 6+ miles and you get a grueling test of fitness and shooting skills.
The trail started off with the steepest vertical ascent I’ve encountered, maybe not the longest, but certainly the steepest. Just when you reach the summit, you were faced with a pistol stage that required significant movement with small targets. Many of the pistol targets had a small plate for the “body” and an even smaller plate for the “head” portion. This required 2 shots to the body and one to the head of each such target from various barricades.
Then you were off on a welcome descent to the second stage, a combination stage with some longer rifle targets. A lateral trek across the ridge brought you to the 3rd stage. This was an interesting stage as you were simple told there were 5 rifle targets and 4 pistol targets. Rifle targets were designated by having a yellow streamer tied to them. This proved a tough stage for many as the targets were well hidden and by the time I went through the stage, no one had found all of them.
Next you headed back up the ridge and along the top for at least a couple miles; trudging through the heavy timber. The trail markings were tough to find and you had to not only fight through heavy undergrowth, but pay attention to the trail markers. I had to backtrack a few times as the trail markers weren’t always readily visible. This trek brought you to the first of 2 vertical descents. Located at the bottom of the first descent was another stage. The shooting point was a narrow ledge with not much room for any maneuvering. This rifle stage required shooting from standing, kneeling/sitting and prone and from strong and weak sides. The targets were well hidden and without any room to adjust your position, it made for a very challenging stage.
After another vertical descent with rope assist, you made your way back down the ridge to the rest of the stages. Stage 5 had more small pistol targets and more hidden rifle targets shot from a deer stand. Stage 6 had you holding a giant stuff animal (in this case a bunny) and shooting strong hand and weak hand with the pistol at some more small pistol targets.
After you left stage 6 you encountered a vertical wall to climb over. This led you to the final part of the trail and it was flat; a welcome departure from the rest of the trail. Stage 7 was right near the start finish line. Probably the hardest rifle stage of the event. The targets were 8” plates placed at around 225 and 325 yards. It wouldn’t be quite so bad, but for the wobbly unstable shooting barricade and some dense undergrowth between the shooting point and the targets. I suspect a very high DNF rate on this stage.
A couple days before the event it had rained over 2” and there was water everywhere. Every little drainage had flowing water and the trail crossed several soggy and muddy spots. Despite this, I had managed to stay relatively clean and unsoiled; until I departed the final stage. The trail took you through a couple gates that required crossing some knee deep combination of water, mud and cow shit. So the last few yards to the finish line you ended up with nasty boots and pants. Oh well.
All the adversities encountered added up to make the WTF Ark one of the toughest RnG you’ll encounter. The trail, vertical climbs/descents, hidden targets, small target size and the 6+ mile distance will challenge the best of us. Coming off the tough 5 miles at WesTex just last week made this event even more of challenge for me. I probably should take a week or so to recover, but that’s probably not going to happen. My gym Bro’s would miss me, so I’ll probably take today as a rest day (I usually rest on the Sabbath anyway) and get back to the gym tomorrow.
Hats off to Dan and Kevin for putting on an excellent event. A big thanks to all the RO’s and the landowners. I saw many of my RnG buddies at this event and I know the talent level was high. Even had a couple Russian gangsters show up. Hopefully this becomes an annual event and we can all gather again in Western Arkansas. Get this one on your calendar!