Michael Mangrum enjoys life on and off the farm

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Town Crier News Staff

Michael Mangrum of Monette enjoys farming and looks forward to new adventures during the off season as he travels to different countries.

Mangrum comes from a family of farming but he had plans to go to optometry school after college. His plans changed and he now farms 1,200 acres of cotton. Most of the land he farms is family owned between Monette and Caraway.

Mangrum ran track during his high school years and enjoyed running. He has competed in tons of 5K races over the last 10 years.

Five years ago he added the triathlon to his choice of hobbies. The triathlon race consists of swimming, road biking and running. He usually competes in the sprint triathlon with a half mile swim, biking 18 miles and running three miles.

He and his team partner, Nicola Gregory, have added Adventure Races. The six to 12 hour races consist of mountain biking, running and canoeing.

"In the Adventure Races, they throw in anything to make it more exciting," he said. "It can have navigation, rock climbing, repelling, swimming, or even mud pits added to the race. Last year it took us 11-1/2 hours to finish one of the races in Lebanon, Mo. We ran 16 miles, mountain biked 31 miles and had three miles of canoeing."

Mangrum and Gregory will compete in four or five triathlons and eight to 10 Adventure Races from now to September. Arkansas has an Adventure Racing series with three races throughout the year.

"Nicola and I are the Arkansas champions for the last two years," Mangrum said.

The first race of the series was held in Fayetteville on March 15. Mangrum and Gregory won the race which consisted of eight miles of running, 11 miles of mountain biking and two miles of canoeing. It took them three hours and two minutes.

If his work on the farm does not prevent it, he usually races every other weekend. He has raced in Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and more.

"The farm work comes first and I have had to miss a few races," Mangrum said. "I love the competition and it keeps me sane. Farming is a stressful occupation and the races and travels keep me sane. Some of my friends have questioned my sanity as I work hard all day on the farm and train in the evenings. I try to do at least two hours twice a week of running and biking but most weeks I do more.

"We like to win but we do not take it as seriously as some people do. It is okay if we lose but we will finish. We have met people in their 70's participating in the Adventure Races. It takes a lot of mental and physical training."

He likes to travel and has visited over 25 different countries.

Five years ago while doing volunteer work in Costa Rica he met a lot of people his age back packing.

"I thought it looked like fun and decided to try it," Mangrum said. "The next year after farming season, I flew to Belize with no plans. All I knew was I had one month to make it to Costa Rica to meet up with friends. I traveled by local buses through Central America traveling through Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, on to Costa Rica."

Since then he has been all over South America and Central America.

"It is a cheap way to travel and the people are nice," he said. "I have met people from every where."

Mangrum has always been an outgoing, people person. Some of the people Mangrum has met while traveling have even come to the United States to visit. Friends from Denmark and India have traveled to Monette and stayed with Mangrum.

"I showed them around the farm and our cotton fields," he said.

A few of his travel choices have even made him wonder. He was watching television when he heard about the Death Road in Bolivia, a narrow 45 mile road down a mountain with a 2,000 foot drop straight down.

"I called Nicola and told her I had found a place for us to travel to," he said. "We have to go."

Last January they did go and it proved to be a little more adventuresome than he cared for.

"I was going fast with a sharp curve coming up and had brake problems," he said. "I had to bail to keep from going over the edge. I broke my collar bone and five ribs. The van following us picked me up and I had to ride for eight hours before getting medical treatment. Really, it didn't hurt. I had a plate and five screws put in my shoulder in Bolivia and within a couple of days, I was off to Peru. When I look back I wonder why I was not afraid, but I was not."

Another adventure Mangrum did this past winter was repelling down the middle of nine waterfalls on the side of a volcano, with two being over 200 feet long.

"That was something else," he said.

He and Gregory also have the pictures to show their trip to the Amazon jungle. They spent four days and three nights camping in the Amazon.

"It is just like one would expect, mosquitoes, insects, snakes, insects, and more," he said. "It was the best and worst experience I have ever had. I slept under a net but I still woke up often. The big spiders come out at night."

Mangrum said he gets his travel plans by talking with people he has met while traveling or by seeing something interesting on television.

"Depending on the crop and the price, I usually make my mind up while sitting on the cotton picker during harvest," he said.

Mangrum has quite a collection of photographs from his travels. He has traveled across Europe a couple of times and enjoyed a month in India.

He has several races in the plans for the next few months but has not decided yet where he will be traveling after the cotton crop is harvested this year.

"The races and the traveling give me something to do," he said. "When I retire I never want to look back and say I wish I had done this or went there. I want the memories."

Mangrum's hobbies may not be for everyone but he looks forward to each new adventure. He may not know where it will be but he is sure it will always consist of mountain biking, climbing volcanoes, scuba diving, trekking through the jungles and villages, and enjoying life to its fullest.

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