The annual Trillium Trek isn't your ordinary hike in the woods.
Nine teams and seven solo racers hiked, biked and orienteered their way around the Elachee Nature Science Center's trails during the eco-adventure race Saturday morning in Gainesville.
Ten-year-old Michael Loutzenheiser of Lagrange was prepared for the mountain biking portion of the race.
"My favorite part was the mountain biking," he said. "I bike at West Point at Lagrange, about seven miles."
What Loutzenheiser wasn't prepared for was having to toss newspapers into a trash can while on his bike.
That was the hardest, he said.
Teams and solo racers had challenges like these, along with trivia questions, to complete as they biked and hiked their way to the finish. As a result, the Trillium Trek was as mentally intensive as it was physically.
The race gets its name from the three-pointed trillium flower common along the trails this time of year, Elachee President Andrea Timpone said. One of the trivia questions involved a particular species of trillium.
"I didn't know that one," Michael's father, Mat Loutzenheiser, 47, said, "we lost points on that."
Teams' and individuals' successes in the trivia and challenges were just as important as their racing time.
It took more than 3« hours for the first team, Still Kickin,' to cross the chalk-drawn trillium finish line on the stone patio. Michael and Matt Loutzenheiser, along with husband and wife Greg and Connie Bowers, were part of this team.
The Bowers were particularly pleased at their success; they finished before their son Stephen, who was part of Team 597.
"Our son is out there, and we just beat him!" Greg Bowers, 55, said.
As Gainesville residents and regular visitors to Elachee, Bowers and his wife know their way around the park.
"We cut down a creek instead of following the trails," Bowers said, "It's a home team advantage."
Still Kickin' had another advantage: It had one more team member than Team 597. And that extra person turned out to be a big deal when it came to completing the water challenge.
Teams had to fill PVC pipe with enough water to float the ping pong balls at the bottom to the top.
The challenging part was to plug up the many holes in the pipe using their fingers, hands and knees, etc., to keep the water from leaking out in the process.
It was a difficult task for four people, but for Team 597 with only three, it was near impossible.
After the race, participants enjoyed hot dogs and hamburgers, live music and a raffle as they waited for scores to be tallied. Teams and solo racers received points for speed, completion of challenges and correct answers to trivia questions.
Still Kickin' won the team race, with Team 597 right behind. Third place went to Team Hurst.
In the solo category, Johnny Garner finished first.
Angela Berger finished second and Travis McClung third.
The winners received a prize package worth more than $500. Everyone who placed received an alabaster trillium (necklace), hand-carved by volunteer Catherine VanDyck.
But for Connie Bowers the reward was in the race.
She's celebrating her 57th birthday today.
"When you're in your 50s and you get older, you just want to get out, have fun, push yourself," she said.
For next year's Trillium Trek, Timpone said she'd like to add a race course for families with small children, and maybe one for senior citizens, too.
"It's just a great way for families and individuals to get out this time of the year," she said.