2016 – Howl at the Moon

Maps and Stuff:

Map 1 / Map 2 / Map 3 / Map 4 / Map 5 / Passport

Foot 1

There is nothing worse than the walk of shame.  You know, that walk you have to make after you realize that you blew right past the first checkpoint in a race and have to slink back towards it.  I don’t know what it is about the first checkpoint in an adventure race, but I always struggle with it.  It’s like I’ve never held a map and compass before.  Who put this paper with all the squiggly lines in my hand and what am I supposed to do with this floating needle thingy!?  Maybe it’s nerves or excitement or just turning off the nav when every team is racing to the same CP.  I don’t know, but I hate it and I never feel settled until the first CP is punched.  Howl at the Moon started off no differently.  The good news is that Ron captured it all on camera…what a swell guy!

At CP1 there was an option to shorten the foot section by swimming across Kitching Creek.  After taking a look at the inky black swamp water, I was all for the longer route.  I’m chicken, I know, I’m okay with it.  This decision added about 2 miles to our trek, making it 11.5 miles total.  Other than this shortcut, I really didn’t see anywhere else to save time on this section, so we went around collecting CPs in order.  Somewhere along CP3, we ran into the Warriors, a couple from South Africa that are working in Florida.  They’ve done a few Expedition Africa adventure races and it was fun to talk with them.   We stayed together until CP6, where they decided to take a different route to CP7.  Pretty awesome that at a small adventure race in Florida we’d run across a team from ½ way around the world.

Bike 1

Last year we got to ride the Camp Murphey off road bike trails and were looking forward to riding them again this year.  They are managed by www.clubscrub.org and are fantastic.  This time, though, the CPs were not right on the trail.  Four controls were “can’t miss” on-trail, but the remaining six were placed off-trail.  Because we had ran the entire first foot section, we were able to do this technical bike section in daylight, which was a huge help.  We were doing well, trying to catch up with Good ‘Nuff, which is impossible for us on bike sections…or foot sections…or canoe sections, for that matter.  

Somewhere between CP20 and CP21, we ran across a dog on the trail.  No owners in sight, just wandering around.  Of course Ana had to stop, check the collar, and call the owner.  After 5-7 minutes trying to reunite the dog with its owner, they finally show up.  A happy ending and we were back on the trail.

By this time, I felt like we hadn’t really enjoyed bushwhacking through thickets and briars, so I sent us on a random bash through some really nasty stuff in the hunt for CP23.  This was actually an easy control to find, if you started looking in the right place…but what’s the fun in that.

We finished the single track and then made a mad dash back to the transition area, racing to cross the railroad tracks as a train was approaching.

Paddle 1

From the main TA, we transitioned to canoe and started our paddle west along the Loxahatchee River.  Night had descended, the little sliver of moon provided little illumination, and the beautiful Loxahatchee took on a spooky appearance as our headlamps swept across the water’s edge, illuminating cypress trees, mangrove roots and the yellow eyes of gators sheltered within them.  Our first 3 CPs on the paddle where CPs 1, 2, and 4 from the foot trek section.  We decided to land the canoe at CP1 and jog north to CP2 for fear that the shallow creek would make the paddle tougher.  I think this saved us some time, but we lost 5-10 minutes trying to relocate CP1, even though we had already been there previously on the foot section.  Bummer!

After collecting CP1 & 2, we crossed Kitching Creek by boat to get CP4.  This was another CP that should have been easy.  We had been there before, we were at the right bend of the river, but we just didn’t spot it.  Another 10 minutes wasted here, and I could feel my frustration level building.

We had 2 CPs remaining for the paddle section and both were further south, where the Loxahatchee River turns into meandering shallow creeks, swallowed up by the surrounding swamp.  All I can tell you is that it’s a mess and following this watery trail at night was frustrating.

Just prior to reaching CP27 along Cypress Creek, we ran into the Warriors, heading back from the bridge where the CP was located.  They had turned back in frustration, not being able to locate the checkpoint.  They had also lost their passport along the way.  We asked if they’d like to search for the CP with us, but at this point their frustration level was too high and they were ready to head back.

When we got to the bridge, I could tell why.  We couldn’t find the CP either.  The clue was, “Date on Pile N bank Cypress Creek.”  We looked at the north bridge pylon for a date and didn’t see it.  We looked at all of the bridge pylons for a date and didn’t see any.  We forded the creek and looked at all the pylons on the south side of the creek for a date…nothing.  We were frustrated and ready to turn back too until we checked the southbound I-95 pylon and saw a date scratched into the concrete.  We ran back to the pylon on the north bank of cypress creek and maybe a foot from the base was the date.  I guess our headlamps had made it difficult to see.  Had we known what we were looking for, this would have taken us seconds.  Instead it took us 15 minutes.

At CP28 we ran into the same problem.  This time it wasn’t the date, we knew where to find that.  Instead, the clue was, “DOT# Casting# Above N. Pile Cap.”  Once again, I had no clue what I was looking for, but we were told there would be an FLX sign with an arrow pointing to it so we would know we got the right number.  17 minutes wasted here and all I can say is…

Ron…you know I love you man!

Back on the canoes, we paddled back to the main TA to salvage any type of race we had left.     

Bike 2

The final section would be a bike to all of the controls we hit during the foot section.  However, this time, instead of punching the controls, we were to take pictures of ourselves at a few of them.  Once again CP1 would cause us problems.  We had already been here twice during this race, so I have no idea why we couldn’t find it easily.  I swear Ron was moving it a few yards further south each time we went out to look for it.

After CP1, we rode up to CP2, and here I made my genius move of the race.  You see, when we were here on foot, we decided to cross the creek and bushwhack to the next checkpoint.  In my head I was thinking, “Just do what you did on the foot section.”  So, I did.  We crossed the creek with our bikes and bike-whacked through to the trail.  Now, Ana has had to tolerate a lot of stupid things from me over the past 20 years of marriage.  But nothing…NOTHING…has been as stupid as making her haul her bike through this jungle of sawtooth palmettos, briars, and vines.  The double bonus was that ½ way through the mess, I realized that there was a much quicker, much easier way to get where we wanted to go and all of it along perfectly groomed bike trail.  But, being ½ way through, it made no sense to turn around now, so we pushed through.  The woods of Jonathan Dickinson State Park still echo with my screams and curses!  Another 25 minutes wasted.

The good news though is that somewhere along the trail we met up with Running in Circles.  This group of four firefighters were definitely running circles around us.  They had a late night and had to start the race an hour behind everyone else, and here they were at the front of the pack.  With an hour credit, there was no reason to race them to the finish line and there was no way we were going to catch Good ‘Nuff, so we just cruised it in, picking up the final CPs and enjoying the conversations along the way.  Sometimes you have to throttle it back and just enjoy the fun of it all.

After 15 hours and 18 minutes of solid racing, we finished in 3rd place overall, 2nd place co-ed, and had a blast doing it.

Conclusion

Once again, FLX Adventures put on a fun race.  Jonathan Dickinson is a great park and the single track is amazing.  Most of all, I’m very grateful that Ana didn’t kill me in the middle of the night during that horrendous bike whack.

A big thanks to our friends for helping us making it all possible!

 

Klymit Static V

Klymit

I never sleep well the night before a race.  Maybe it’s the thought of getting lost in the woods, or being chased by bears, or eaten by alligators.  Maybe it’s the thought that we’ll run out of dark chocolate peanut M&Ms…who knows.  All I know is that it’s not because of our air mattress.  About a year ago, we got two Klymit Static V Recon air mattresses on a recommendation from our friend, and we couldn’t be happier.

These things are light, inexpensive, extremely comfortable and durable.  Pair it with a Klymit Cush Seat and you have a portable sleep system you can take anywhere.  Plus, the seat can be used for…well…a seat!  As in providing a little padding on the posterior for those 6 hour canoe sections.  On long races, we pack the Cush Seat and the Static V in our gear bins, since they pack down to nothing.  For the 72-Hour Florida Sea to Sea, they were priceless.  After 48+ hours of non-stop racing, you tell me how sweet this setup was #SleepAnywhere

Sometimes the race location is so remote that we end up primitive camping the night before.  Add the Static V, a couple of 30A Beach Blonde Ales, and it’s nighty night time until race start the next morning.

We opted for the non-insulated version, because we live in Florida.  However, for those unfortunate souls that live in colder areas, you can get an insulated one as well.  The best thing is you’re not blowing up your bank account to afford one either.  $55 bucks for a bomb-proof air mattress…

If you’re a savvy shopper you may even find it for less.  Klymit makes a lot of other radical stuff too, like their award-winning KSB 20 degree down sleeping bag.  We don’t have one yet (hint hint), but you don’t need me to review it, it was awarded the 2016 Outside Gear of the Year Award as best sleeping bag.  I’m pretty sure they know what they’re talking about.

Anyway, check out their whole line-up of products: backpackssleeping bags, freakishly awesome minimalist sleeping pads.  

These guys & gals are innovators and their whole team consists of outdoor enthusiasts, so they know their shiznit.  Seriously, it’s good stuff.  We only recommend items we use consistently and trust.

One final thought for those on the fence.  Sometimes we roll high class and even get a hotel the night before a race.  But 3 dudes + 1 bed does not equal fun times.  So, before you find yourself in an undesirable predicament…

you might want to think about a Static V air pad & sleeping bag in your gear bin.  This is my typical setup and it makes any hotel floor a dream.

Did I mention I needed a new sleeping bag?


SPECIFICATIONS

More Information
Price $54.95
Weight 18.1 oz / 514 g
Dimensions 72″ x 23″ x 2.5″ / 183 cm x 59 cm x 6.5 cm
R-Value 1.3
Inflation 10-15 Breaths
Pack Size 3″ x 8″ / 7.62 cm x 20.3 cm
Fabric 75D Polyester
Warranty Limited Lifetime

2016 USARA National Championship

5AM boys!  Time to get up and butter the biscuits!

You know there is nothing better than crawling out of a warm bed to go slap cold lube on your butt cheeks and stuff them into a pair of spandex cycling shorts.  But, when you’re getting ready to race 30 hours at the USARA National Championship, that’s how you get rad.  I wonder if this is how Team Adventure Medical Kits and Tecnu roll out of bed…I doubt it.

We staggered into the Savannah Rapids Convention Center where we were given a map the size of a bed sheet, a list of 36 UTM coordinates to plot, and an hour and a half to get our crap figured out before loading buses and heading off to the starting line.  Lucky for us we found a little corner of a fish cleaning station to do our map work.  We never got our crap figured out, but we were pretty good at faking it.

Prologue

After a short bus ride to Wildwood Park, we were given a final pre-race briefing and then it was game on.

The prologue consisted of grabbing 12 CPs around the International Disc Golf Center.  180+racers converging on the first CP led to some interesting last second route choices by many teams.  Stephen was leading the nav on this section and we ended up clearing it quickly and with no issues.

Boat 1

The prologue ended up spreading out…well…no one really.  Teams were all over the place, scrambling to launch canoes and get on the water as quickly as possible.

14715093_1135820296453713_4949419821775378042_o

Todd, always in full race mode, decided this was the perfect time for him to capture some epic videos of the race.  Or, as I like to call it,  bailing out on paddling…

But, who can blame him for capturing a video of this epic 4.5 hour paddling section.  Oh, did I say 1 video…oh no, I meant 2 videos.  Todd still not paddling…

Or was that three slacker sessions, Uh I mean totally rad video captures.  Anyone want to guess whose limp paddle that is?

Actually, Todd, AKA “Limp Paddle” did awesome navigating the canoe section and we cleared this section quickly.  And by quickly I mean 50 minutes slower than the fastest 3 teams.  If I could only think of a way to make a three man kayak go faster…hmmm…I’ll have to ponder that one.

Bike 1

On to the bikes, and a quick ride over to Mistletoe State Park.  We were racing neck and neck with our Florida compadres, Good ‘Nuff and Off the Grid Racing until I decided we should pick up CP14.  Totally awesome move, until Shane Hagerman (bad ass adventure racer on team Happy Mutant Main Nerve) reminded us that CP14 could only be gotten on foot and not on bike.  Oh yeah, we got them rules and stuff we should pay attention to.

We raced off along Rock Dam Trail to the transition area, and I was lucky enough to impale myself on the only piece of rebar along Gawd Damn Trail, I mean Rock Dam Trail.  Red Badge of Courage earned and, more importantly, photographed.  I was feeling manly and ready to rock (after a short break, a few snacks, and maybe a hug or two from Stephen that is).

Trek 1

Now on foot, we could get CP14.  We could also get CP13 and CP15 according to the rule sheet that we started reading.  Now, if we could only read a map.  That’s something that could come in handy.  We decided to poke around CP13 for awhile.  These CPs can be kinda skittish you know, and you don’t want to just go blasting towards them.  Instead, you kinda want to circle around them a few times, picking out just the proper way to approach them.  We’ve been to USARA Nationals, we know these things.

Bike back to Wildwood

After we cleared the foot section, we had to bike back to Wildwood Park.  You would think that biking back the same way that we came in would be easy.  You’d think that.  Yep, so would we.  For the sake of a short race report, let’s just imagine a quick bike ride back to Wildwood without me deciding to try a new path we hadn’t been on before.  And let’s just imagine that the new path led exactly where we thought it would, rather than meandering off into the never ending wilderness…yeah, that’s a nice thought, let’s go with it.

The good news is we found our way to Wildwood and we also found one of the greatest inventions ever made by man…

Trek 2

By now it was dark.  We were hopped up on Coke and ready to start our second O-course.  We were actually doing pretty well on this section until we ran into CP20.  We were doing a straight bearing shot from 21 to 20 and you can see how close we were to the control, but we just didn’t see it.  So, we headed northeast to the shoreline, dropped down to find the inlet and shot another bearing past 20.  We knew the CP had to be somewhere between those intersecting bearing and finally found it within 10 feet from where we originally were.  Bummer!

The cool thing though is that we ran into another set of Florida adventure racers, 3 Shades of Gray out of Pensacola, FL.  Awesome set of guys who we enjoyed running with for a little while.  I’ll say it again, the best part of adventure racing is meeting all of the really cool people out on the course.  We hope to see you guys at the FLX Adventures Earth Day AR in Tallahassee next year.

Bike to Final Paddle

You know what helps to keep your bike moving?  Pedals!  Yep, all the cool kids have them now…they’re kind of a big deal.  You know what’s not cool?  Riding Bartram’s Trail for 3 hours on this.

But, in Adventure Racing, things can always be worse.  Like having your rear hub explode on you and then having to race with your bike on your back.  Kudos to Kevin Tobin of Team ASR – Raging Burritos.  First rate dude, first rate!

Trek 3 – Clarks Hill Dam

We finally made it to Clarks Hill Dam for the final O-course.  This section would prove to be challenging for many teams.  While pros like WEDALI would clear this section in 1:50:20, us mere mortals would take 3:43:55.  Of course, I’m sure WEDALI didn’t have the pleasure of meeting the convenience store operator who told us that the land owner next door would shoot us if we ended up on his property.  Now that’s useful information.

After checking every reentrant in this area twice, we finally cleared the section and moved on to the final paddle section, tired and a little hungry #DennysGrandSlam.

Paddle 2 – Final Paddle

We hit the final paddle section just before day break and if there is anything that will put you to sleep quicker than reading this race report, it’s paddling on a dark, flat river after 21 hours of racing.  While most experts may think that canoes are meant for the water, adventure race directors know that canoes are best lugged around on foot…especially uphill.  The final Portage section…uh I mean Paddle section to the Savannah Rapids Visitor Center was beautiful.  At least they didn’t make us paddle upstream.  Todd nailed the nav on this section and I think he even paddled once or twice, between naps of course.

Final Bike:

Only 3 CPs were left in the race, and we were excited that we had cleared the course up to this point.  With Florida Xtreme right behind us, and Off the Grid out in front, the race was still on.  The race took us along the Augusta Canal Trail with a short detour along the Savannah Mountain Bike Trail and to a final CP at the end of the path.

Right after punching the final CP, we passed Off the Grid going to the final CP.  Somehow we had managed to get in front of them.  Now, the race was really on.  Those guys are strong bikers and I knew we’d have to pedal our tails off not to be passed just before the finish line.  So, we formed a pace line and cranked it out as hard as we could.  Stephen still had his broken pedal and how he managed to hang on to our rear wheel for the final sprint finish, I don’t know.  But he did and Todd and I couldn’t have been prouder.

A final sprint to the finish to claim 4th Place Open Division was an awesome way to end the race.

Conclusion

USARA Nationals is always a great race with amazing competitors.  The winning team, Adventure Medical Kits, cleared the course in 17:24:38 hours, compared to our time of…well now there’s really no need to compare finish times is there?  Actually, we cleared the course in 26:51:44 Putting us 19th overall.  The top racers in the coed and the master’s divisions are absolutely amazing athletes and we’re just thrilled that we get to participate in this race alongside of them.

USARA hosted an awesome after party where we got to kick back with our fellow competitors and the new friends we met while consuming large quantities of beer…I mean exercising Calorie Replacement Therapy.  Good times had all around and we can’t wait to be back next year.  A heartfelt thank you to those that have supported our meager efforts:

Todd and Stephen, Rock Stars as always.  Thanks for not abandoning me out in the woods.

And to those that actually read these verbose postings, thank you!  I hope you get some enjoyment out of them…you’re definitely not going to learn anything from them.  If you get a chance, please like our Facebook page or comment below.  We love to hear from other racers and it helps feed my ego.

Coosa River Challenge XIV

“1…2…3…Jump!” Ana yells.

Jump?  Yeah, you just hold on one stinkin’ second there little lady.

This is no “jump” this is a plummet into an abyss and I’m not sure I’m mentally prepared to plunge my body over the edge just yet.

“Oh my gosh, you didn’t jump?!” Ana says “1…2…3…Jump!  Do it!”

“But, I don’t wanna jump!” I whine before hurling myself over the edge.  I don’t like heights, I never have.  I probably never will.  But, adventure racing has a way of taking you outside of your comfort zone and making you do things you wouldn’t normally do for the sake of your team.

Eventually, I splash into the Coosa River below and after checking that my Man Card is still in my back pocket, we press on with the race.

Pre-race:

Way back in 2014, when we just started adventure racing, we did the Coosa River Challenge and had an absolute blast.  We weren’t able to make it back in 2015, but were extremely excited that we would make it in ’16.  The Coosa River Challenge is more than just a race, it’s an event.  It all starts with a pre-race party at Coosa River Adventures the night before.  Racers are treated to a delicious meal provided by the Wind Creek Casino & Hotel, an open keg of beer (Score!), and live entertainment by Sam Marsal.  But, don’t let the party atmosphere fool you.  While some come just for the challenge of completing the race, there are plenty of competitive athletes ready to rock the course in the morning.

Foot 1:

The race starts at the Swayback Bridge Trailhead, a 12-mile network of gnarly single track maintained by the Trail of Legends Association.  230+ competitors started off trail running a short section of switchbacks and hills, making their way to the top of Jordan dam and then returning to the start location to transition to bikes.  

Bike 1:

We quickly transitioned to bikes, shoving down a fig bar and a bottle of Skratch before riding off.  I didn’t want to bonk again like I did at the Cauldron, so we took a little time to get some fluids and food in us.  I don’t like heights, Ana doesn’t like single track.  It’s just the way things work for us.  But, today was the day Ana decided to fly.  Two years ago we struggled to make it up the climbs, but this time she was powering the ups and bombing the downhill sections.  Maybe she had the Eye of the Tiger, maybe I spiked her Skratch with cocaine…I’m not saying.  But I was impressed.

eye-of-the

Foot 2:

Back to the start, we transitioned to foot and made a quick dash to the base of Jordan Dam for an orienteering challenge.  For this section we had to answer a few questions on compass use and plot a couple of bearings.  In 2014 there wasn’t an orienteering section and I was happy to see that it was back for this year.  For us, orienteering is one of the reasons we love adventure racing.

Boat:

The rest of the race was down the Coosa River with stops along the way to do certain challenges.  The first challenge was to swim our kayak across the river.  If there is a good way to swim a kayak across a river, please post it in the comment section below.  Call me kooky, but I’m pretty sure man didn’t create a kayak so that he could hang on to the outside of it and swim it across a river.  I have never felt so inept in my life!  I tried the front crawl.  I tried the side stroke, I tried holding on to the back and just kicking.  The only thing that worked for me was letting Ana swim it across.  That made it a lot easier.

Once Ana, I mean we, swam the kayak across the river we had to execute the leap of death.  From atop a 40 foot rock, we had to jump into the Coosa River below.  Okay, maybe it wasn’t 40 feet, but it was high.  Higher than it was 2 years ago, and higher than in my nightmares of the week leading up to the race.  Needless to say, we did make the jump and I’m alive and I’m pretty thankful for that.

After the rock jump, we got to paddle our boats back to the launch location where we would do the 85 foot rappel.  This was my favorite part, mainly because I didn’t have to do it.  Look, it’s my job to kill all the spiders and roaches.  Ana’s job is to do the high, scary stuff and not tell my buddies that I’m too chicken to do it.  Ana flew down the rope like a Cirque du Soleil acrobat.  It was beautiful to watch, especially with both feet on solid earth.

Back on the boats, we were now in full paddle mode, except that the paddles were more like dumbbells with blades on the end.  Seriously, I think they were made out of driveshafts they weighed so much.  We cruised down to Dead Beaver Island, a perfect place to camp out, drink a few cases of beer, and make 200+ people crawl through a pipe that’s been 90% submerged in muddy water. Lucky for us, they left just enough room at the top of the pipe to breathe…that is if you’re a freakin’ dolphin with a hole in the top of your head.  For us normal humans, not so easy.

After Dead Beaver Island, we made the run down to Moccasin Gap, a Class III rapid and the largest rapid on the Coosa.  We didn’t have any issues with this one and were starting to feel pretty proud of ourselves.  That is until we hit Big House Rapids.
moccasin-gap

Let’s go left around this rock…

No, no let’s go right!

Ah $hit! Let’s see if we can go over it!

So, there we sat pinned atop some rock in the middle of the river as our good friend Kaitlin comes cruising past.  Why is it that people always arrive just when you’re screwing up?

You need help?

Nah, we got this.  Just wanted to stop for a bite to eat.

We worked ourselves free and headed off to Corn Creek Park for a short orienteering course where we quickly grabbed 3 checkpoints and then headed back onto the water.  We had another 1.5 miles of paddling before the final takeout at Coosa River Adventures.  And, after three and a half hours of solid racing what I really, really wanted to do was a few air squats and burpees.  How about a punch in the gut? Can I get one of those too, please?

Ana could now smell the end of the race…or was that me.  Whatever.  She knew it was close by and after scraping her amazingly handsome husband off the ground, she was ready for the final sprint to the finish.  

“Come on!  This is it!  This is it!”, she yelled.

We burst out of the recently cut trail near Coosa River Adventures and saw our old teammate, Stu, waiting to run the final leg of the race with us.  What a fantastic surprise!  A mad dash through Gold Star Park and we finished, 1st place Co-ed.

finish

We celebrated with peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and the most awesome cookies ever.  Seriously, who made those cookies?!  They were delicious and in a convenient Ziploc bag of 20.  We were supposed to take a bag each, right?

Conclusion

Once again the Coosa River Challenge was awesome.  The race director, Therese Carter, always does an amazing job of putting together a top-notch event.  I don’t know how she does it every year, or where she finds her amazing volunteers.  Maybe she pays them in cookies.  Regardless, I’m not asking questions, I just know we’ll be back as often as we can!  Thanks everyone it really was amazingly fun.

team

Oh, and one last comment.  Post-race, some buddies and I hit one of the race sponsors, Los Mayas Mexican Restaurant.  The food was excellent and we ended up ordering so much of it that they had to move us to another table because ours was too small to hold all the plates.  Stinky, sweaty, middle-aged men in spandex pants sucking down burritos.  Now that’s a mental image nobody wants.

 

From First Place to First Loser

Who wouldn’t want to race 36 hours straight in Florida, in September.  What’s not to love about asphalt melting sun pushing temperatures well into the 90’s while you and your team run around in spandex suits sucking hot water out of a plastic straw connected to your backpack.  That, my friends is the definition of fun.  And if you can add in getting lost, dehydration, and the overwhelming desire to puke, well you’ve hit the jackpot and pushed yourself into euphoria.

Off the Grid Racing race directors Erik, Jeanette, and Craig put together a completely new course for us around beautiful Marianna, Florida.  And when I say beautiful, I mean crystal clear springs, limestone outcroppings, numerous caverns, natural sinks and a ton of history and old Florida charm.  For the adventurer, or eco-tourist, Marianna needs to be on your list…just maybe in October or November when the weather is cooler.

Race Maps and Clue Sheet

Google Share Drive with all Maps

Prologue

The race started at midnight with a foot section from Merritt’s Mill Pond.  Starting a race has always been a problem for us, mainly because there are so many teams heading off in different directions and the pace is always excessively fast.  Not knowing the area, we headed off in one direction along with Ron and his team, FLX Adventures.  But, after hopping a fence and running into thick brush, we decided to take a different route.  We floundered for a few minutes but recovered and started to tick off CPs.  It seemed that many CPs centered on a pump house and by using this as our anchor point, we made short work of this section.

FLX Adventures

One of the CPs was inside of a cave, and when they say “inside a cave” they meant really inside the cave.  We first gave it a cursory look, didn’t see the flag and moved on.  Only to discover minutes later that the flag was in there, just tucked way in the back.

By the time we cleared this section and transitioned to bike, Pangea, FLX Adventures, Canyoneros, and Wet Feet AR had already left on bike.

Bike 1

Let me introduce you to Quadzilla, I mean Erik Wise the race director.

Erik Wise

He likes to run around in his underwear, maybe it has something to do with his days in the Navy.  I don’t know.  But I do know that he likes biking, a lot.  And any race he puts together will have plenty of it.  For this section, we were to bike to the Hinson Conservation Area, collect a few checkpoints on foot and then bike back to Merritt’s Mill Pond.  As we started the bike section, we passed Wet Feet AR and soon caught up with FLX Adventures who were looking for BP2 – NW corner of Chester Rd. & Old Spanish Trail.

After playing Brer Rabbit for 20 minutes, we finally found the checkpoint on the SW corner.  North corner…South corner…whatever.  Who uses their stinkin’ clue sheet anyway.

Sometime during that long, dark bike ride, we met up with the Canyoneros and started a pace line with them.  They ended up falling back for some reason, and when we looked back to see where they were, we heard this snarling, barking and crashing through the woods.  I assumed that it was just a couple of frenzied dogs running out to the end of their fence line.  But once I heard claws hit asphalt, I wet my pants a little and hit turbo.  There is nothing worse than pedaling your ass off and hearing crazed dogs gaining on you.  About the time I got to the fifth line of the Lord’s Prayer, I could hear them backing off.  We were worried for the Canyoneros since they were behind us, but they said by the time they ran into the dogs they were on the side of the road panting their lungs out.

Bwahahaha! I think we made one of them pee their pants!

We finally rolled into the Hinson Conservation Area with FLX Adventures and after transposing the checkpoint locations from a master map to our map, we headed off on the trek.  While Ron’s group decided to attack the trek going south, we took the northern route.

It was dark and we had a hard time locating the karst window (TP5).  What’s a karst window you ask?  Yeah, we wondered the same thing until we saw this huge hole in the ground with an orange flag at the bottom of it.

Canyoneros - Karst Window
Canyoneros – Karst Window

This section seemed to take a really long time and I felt that we were floundering.  There didn’t seem to be anything we could do to speed things up and I could feel our 3rd place standing floating away.

We finally emerged from the woods, having cleared the section and as soon as we reached the transition area to hand in our punch card, FLX Adventures emerged from the opposite woods.  It was crazy to think we went in at the same time, took totally opposite directions, never saw or passed each other, and yet finished the section at exactly the same time.  Crazy I know!

We now had 4 CPs left to collect on our way back to Merritt’s Mill Pond to start Boat 1, and it was only 7 hours into the race.

Boat 1

Merritt’s Mill Pond is absolutely stunning.

Did I mention it was stunning.  Not kinda cool, but absolutely stunning.  We arrived about the same time as FLX Adventures and ended up circling the mill pond with them.  I wish that we had some awesome videos or pictures, but we were slackers on this section and didn’t take any.  Just imagine pure awesomeness in a canoe and you get the idea.  Yeah, just like in the photo below!

Canoe Badassery

Bike 2

Back on the bikes, we tried in vain to chase down Pangea, who we hadn’t seen since the beginning of the race.  This leg was a slog, with long dirt roads and sweltering heat.

We struggled with BP14 (Oak in swamp south side), but after searching both the south and north sides of the swamp, Todd stopped a passing truck and the local told us that the landowner had removed the flag.  Time wasted.

We continued our chase of Pangea, rattling our brains out on the washboard dirt roads.  At one point Todd had a slow-motion crash and laid in the dirt like a flipped turtle with his bike on top of him.  Sorry for laughing dude, it was funny.

washboard-roads

One of the last checkpoints was in an abandoned church.  If you want to freak yourself out, head out to Parramore, Florida: A Real Florida Ghost Town, and crawl around an abandoned church.  Dead flowers and religious artifacts in a decaying building, there was no way I was heading in there alone.  “Hey Todd, why don’t you be a good pal and go in and grab that checkpoint while I stay out here and look at the maps?”  Yeah, he wasn’t buying it either.

Cavern’s Trek

We made it to the Marianna Cavern’s State Park at 6:30PM, an hour before the time cutoff.  18 hours into the race and so far we were clearing the course.  Unfortunately, the cavern’s trek was the start of the breakdown.

caverns-state-park

As the sun was fading, we started off on the Fence Line Trail, a 3 mile loop with a few CPs on it.  After clearing this section, we headed off to the Sink Hole trail where CP25 led us to a bonus CP, 600 meters into the woods on a direct bearing.  After finding the bonus CP, it pointed us to a second bonus CP another 600 meters into the woods on a direct bearing.  I was physically fading fast and all we could think about was the other teams skipping these far out CPs in exchange for collecting more points on the paddle and the Bellamy Foot Section at the end of the paddle.  We decided to skip the second bonus CP and head to the Cavern Trail where there was a greater concentration of points to be collected.

By the time we made it to the Tunnel Cave, I could feel myself really struggling.  We hit the bathroom and I splashed water on my face to recover.  It didn’t work and we decided to crash for 15 minutes on some benches.  Todd and Ana were snoring in seconds, but I couldn’t get any rest.  We soon pressed on.

Ana had to carry my pack and hers as we struggled to clear this section.  I was pretty useless by this point and Todd and Ana had to do all the work.  We made another tactical decision to drop a far out CP to a hidden cave with the hope of making the paddle and the other foot section.  We were sure other teams had moved on long ago.

I stripped down to spandex shorts and running shoes, trying to cool off and stay in the race.  Let me tell you, ain’t nothing pretty about a shirtless man in spandex shorts.

We made it back to the Caverns TA and found Junos from FLX Adventures recuperating from dehydration…it seems the heat had affected a number of racers.  I tried to eat and drink, but couldn’t stomach anything.  I told the team I needed to rest for 45 minutes and then we could figure out our next move.

Cavern Boat

At the Caverns TA, we learned that all of the other teams were still out on the trek portion, and no teams had gone out on the paddle yet.  That was a frustrating blow, since we gave up 2 controls thinking the other teams had pressed ahead.  But that’s part of Adventure Racing, making those tactical decisions in an attempt to maximize points.

Pangea came through the TA, and decided to head out on the paddle to pick up a few points.  I was still passed out on the ground trying to recover.  When 12 Chunky Layers passed through the TA and started heading out on the paddle, I got up and we strategized about our next move.  We could either do a short paddle and hope to collect 3-4 points, do the last bike section of 45-60 miles to collect 6 points, or just bike to the finish and go with what we had.

With the hope of an easy paddle, we set out on the Cavern Boat section…we were idiots.

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We soon found out that the water level was down 3-5 feet and the river was filled with downed trees.  We picked up one checkpoint and struggled with multiple portages before abandoning all hope of collecting any more.  We did find the second bonus CP from the Cavern’s Trek section, but that wouldn’t help us any.

We decided to turn back and ran into Pangea along the way back to the boat take out.  We weren’t sure how many CPs they had collected but we knew that they would kill us on the final bike section, so we didn’t try to chase them down.

Finish

From the Cavern’s TA, we decided to just bike it in.  The bike points were too far away and my butt couldn’t handle another 45 mile bike ride.  I already felt like someone had been spanking my ass all night, and not in the fun 50 Shades of Gray kinda way.

We pulled into the Finish after 34 hours and 28 minutes of racing.  40 minutes later Pangea rolled in, having collected 1 bike CP along the way.  At the closing ceremonies, we were surprisingly announced as the winner, but a couple of days later the count was re-tallied and we discovered that we had actually come in 2nd place…from 1st place to 1st loser.

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I was totally frustrated with myself knowing that I had let the team down and lost the race for us.  A few days after the race, I texted those sentiments to Todd and his reply was, “I race to be a better me, meet great people, and push the possible, not just to win.  I accomplished all that in this race.  Could have been one of the most challenging I’ve done.”

Well said my friend, I couldn’t have phrased it any better!  Thanks for racing with us and being a great teammate.  To be able to race with someone for 36Hrs and laugh throughout the whole damn thing is awesome.  You’re rock solid and we look forward to more races with you and Broccoli #2.

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As far as losing.  There’s no better team to lose to than Greg, May-Li, Jake and Allen from Pangea.  They are an amazing group of tough, seasoned racers and some of the friendliest competitors out there.  Good luck at Nationals!

Pangea coming off the canoe section

A big thanks to Erik, Jeanette, and Craig for putting on an amazing race.  Cheers to all those who we competed against, it was a great time and we’ll see you out there soon!  And special thanks to our outstanding sponsors whose products pull us through:

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Lupine Piko

Capture

We were at the 2015 USARA National Championship when I had finally had it with my headlamps.  Rather than resting at the cabin in preparation for the next day’s race, I was at the bike staging area wrapping my bike helmet with a Walmart bag.  My cheaply made headlamp and batteries were not waterproof, not even water resistant, and they wouldn’t survive the evening’s downpour without protection.  At that moment I decided this was BS and if I was going to take this racing thing seriously, then I needed to be willing to invest in better gear.  First on my list was a great set of lights.

When you think about it, few things will improve your overall course speed better than good lights.  For night sections, you use lights during every event: trail running, biking and canoeing.  Very few pieces of gear cross all 3 of the main domains of adventure racing.  So, in my book, it’s definitely worth the cost.  Cheap lights are simply a frustration to be avoided.  I wanted lights that I could throw in my pack and if I have to swim across a river, or hike for hours in a downpour, I don’t have to worry about them.  I like gear that I can trust.  There is nothing worse than bombing down a muddy mountain bike trail at night, in the rain, and have your headlamp fail on you.  And if you adventure race, you know that you WILL be bombing down a trail, at night, in the rain…every race director has a direct line to the rain gods to make that happen.

So, I asked some racing buddies of mine what lights they recommended and did a few inquiries online and chose the Lupine Piko.

Piko-Farbe

I’m not a professional gear reviewer, I just like sharing what works for me.  If you want to hear the good remarks from the pros then check out the reviews.  But here’s the skinny:

All that in 55 grams.  55 GRAMS!  Oh sorry…1.94 ounces.  Yeah, that doesn’t help either does it.  How about this, it’s freakin’ light, like 2 slices of toast light.  Yeah, I know, that doesn’t include the battery weight.  But, who knows what battery size you’re going to use.   You can choose either the 2.2Ah, 3.3Ah, 6.6Ah, 13.2Ah or the mack daddy 20Ah Bottle Battery.  For me, when I want to attach it to my bike helmet, I use the 3.3Ah

helmet

When I’m doing night orienteering and need a lot of light for a long time, I’ll throw the 6.6Ah into my pack and run an extension cable up to my headband.  This means that all the weight is in my pack and I’m kicking out 1500 lumens with only a 55 gram light on my head.  So what does 1500 lumens look like?

BAMM! About like that!  Oh, and did you notice the red lights on the back of the battery pack?  These serve as a visual indication of the battery’s charge level so you know, before you go.  They can also be set to stay on as a taillight.  Not something you’re going to find in those cheap lights and battery packs.

I will say that the biggest negative for the Piko is switching between bike helmet and headband.  I don’t think the designers were thinking about multi-sport applications, like adventure racing, when they designed the mount.  However, there is a simple fix, and that is to get the GoPro Adapter.  Once you have the GoPro Adapter, your mounting options are endless.  Check out what Team Odyssey did for their Lupine Piko using the GoPro Adapter

Psyched?!  Ready to go Lupine!  Then contact the awesome folks at Lupine North America.  Tell them Team Disoriented highly recommended them.  If you have any questions on the Piko or other Lupine lights, contact Bill and he will help you out.

Lupine North America

If you have any questions for us on the Lupine Piko, or any comments in general, drop us a line below.  Oh and BTW, this isn’t a picture of us, I just thought it was bad ass!

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Earth Day Adventure Race

How do you prepare for 6 hours of canoeing followed by a 4 hour bike ride.  Pretty easy actually.  Just drop your shorts, sit your bare ass on your driveway, and have your teammate grab you by the ankles and drag you for 30 feet or so.  I stand here writing this, not wanting to sit on anything for the next week.

Butt, enough with the training, let’s get down to the fun stuff. (See what I did there?  Yep, only the best from yours truly)

Maps, instructions and all the other goodies needed to follow along:

Map 1 Map 2 / Map 3 / Map 4 / Passport

Santa Fe O-Course / Passport

Ft. White O-Course / Passport

Foot 1

Ana’s knee has been bothering her since Sea to Sea, so I teamed up with Broccoli Covered Powder Babies for this race.  I registered as a solo, but we would really be running this as a 3-person team.  I didn’t want to be responsible for DQ’ing Broccoli, if I had to fall out for some reason.  Anyway, the Earth Day Adventure Race started at 6PM from the River Rise Preserve State Park and leading from the very start was Good Nuf.  They tore out of the TA like Road Runner from those old Looney Tunes cartoons, you know the ones where the road runner is going so fast that the road flies up in the air behind him.  Yeah, it was pretty much like that.  I think I even heard a faint “Beep Beep” in the distance.

Since we couldn’t go off trail for this section, due to park rules, this was pretty much follow-the-leader and we hit all the CPs without issue.

Boat 1:

Ah, the beginning of the boat section…I remember it fondly.  There I was, staring at the beautiful Santa Fe river and my fiberglass canoe seat, anticipating how intimately connected we would become over the next 3.5 hours.

Stephen provided the motor in the front, Todd navigated from the middle, and I flung buckets of water on top of their heads for hours from the rear.  Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

It was nighttime when we paddled down to CP10 at Blue Springs Park.  As we struggled against the spring’s current, our headlamps illuminated an aqua-colored pool of the clearest waters I’ve seen.  It was absolutely stunning.

Our next checkpoint, CP11, was a gauging station just east of Ginnie Springs.  We actually nailed the navigation to it and saw a tall piece of wood sticking out of the water.  But, we didn’t see any numbers on it and thought that perhaps the gauging station was little further downstream.  We paddled a little further until we ran into some drunk locals hanging out at Ginnie Springs.

Todd yells across the river, “Have you seen a gauging station around here?”

Y’all lookin’ for a PlayStation?

No, a gauging station!

Todd, they wouldn’t know a gauging station if their 6-pack was hanging from it.

Up river we paddled, back to our original location, where two other teams were marking the level of the Santa Fe river.  Come to find out the numbers were on the back of the board.  Oh well.

Cruising past Ginnie Springs was interesting, part campground, part Rave, part spring break…there was a dude wearing a light suit and people dancing around with glow sticks.  If you’re looking for rednecks, drunk women, beer guzzling and loud music, then Ginnie Springs is your place…Todd was in Nirvana and once Stephen and I wrestled him to the floor of the canoe and tied him to his seat, we commenced paddling down the Santa Fe.  It was straight out of Greek mythology were they tied Odysseus to the mast so that he could withstand the Sirens’ call.

Foot 2:

We arrived at the Santa Fe TA after 3.5 hrs of paddling and began our first orienteering section.

I think we were in 4th place by this time with DeChunkers right in front of us.  The Foot section map shows a beautifully outlined trail following the river.  Some people say there was a trail, some people say there wasn’t.  We fell into the “wasn’t” category.

Foot2

You can see our track above.  We started with CP1 then a straight south bushwhack to CP6.  From their, straight east to CP2.  We tried to pick up CP5 on the way, which was silly since we were going due east and about 150m too far north to see it.  From CP2, it was straight bearing shots to CP3, then CP4.  Then back up to CP2 to attack CP5.  All this time we kept running into DeChunkers.  They’re like freakin’ Space Ghost.  Here we are in the dark searching for a CP thinking there is no one around and all of a sudden, there they are, at the control ahead of us, as if they could materialize out of thin air.  “Hey DeChunkers you want to work together on the next…hey wait…where’d they go!”  Spppaaaacccceeeee GGGGhhhhhoooossstttt!

We struggled on CP7, having no clear attack point, and no clear trail.  Eventually, by wandering around,  working from the river bend and triangulating off of headlamps, we found it and beat feet to the TA where DeChunkers were once again just ahead of us.

Boat 2

One hour of boating from Santa Fe TA to Tudeen TA with no CPs along the way in the middle of the night.  About as exciting as it sounds.  I’m kidding of course.  It was a really nice paddle and the blisters were forming beautifully on my posterior.

Foot 3

We  arrived at Foot 3 slightly in front of DeChunkers.  I think we were now in 1st place by a good 15 seconds or so.  I don’t know what happened to Todd and Stephen on this section, but once we hit it, they turned into a pair of bloodhounds.

My navigation wasn’t all that great, but man you put those two within 50 yards of a CP and they would sniff it out.  As we were heading to a CP, I’d say something like, “Should be right about here.” and then I’d here “Got it!” and off we’d trot to the next CP.  There’s not much more to say on this section, they were bad ass and I was along for the ride.

Boat 3

Transitioning to the boat, we knew we were in 1st, but had no idea what kind of lead we had on any team.  The race had been really close from the beginning and there were some fast teams out there.  So, we got on the water as quickly as we could for a final 2 hour paddle with one CP along the way.

Some people like 3 in a boat…I say they’re wacko.  I hate it.  I feel like I’m on the verge of capsizing with every paddle stroke and my butt is trying to attach itself to the seat like a sucker fish so that we don’t fling ourselves into the water.  We found the sole CP without issue and made it to the final transition area.

Yep, love this pic!  Middle of the night, headlamps on, rockin the USARA jacket.

Bike 1

Can you believe it, there’s actually a bike section in this race.  We hit the final TA knowing that we had some of the fastest bike teams right on our tail and a 4+ hr ride ahead.  Talk about feeling the pressure.

We knew our navigation had to be spot on if we were going to win this thing, so we decided to screw up the first CP.  When the clue says, “Boat Ramp” and you see a sign on the road that says Boat Ramp –>, you gotta take that turn, even if its 1500 meters too soon.  It’s a really good way to waste 15 minutes and get the adrenal glands pumping.

Once we fixed that issue, we formed a pace line and hit the rest of the CPs without much issue until the second to last CP.

We’re racing down sandy horse trails less than 30 minutes away from winning this 18Hr race, knowing that we have speed freak teams behind us and I can’t find the stupid westbound trail that CP24 is on.  Thank god Stephen and Todd were there to sort it all out.  I got turned around on an unmarked westbound trail and couldn’t make sense of where I was.  After studying the map, they got us pointed on the right trail and we raced off to the finish.

Final

And with that, we took our first win of the season.  Although I tried to keep the trophy, Stephen said he had a special place for it and wouldn’t let it go.

As always Craig and FLXAdventures put on another excellent race.  I always look forward to Craig’s races as he takes the time to find really interesting areas with great history.  Glad to see all of our adventure racing friends out there again.  A big thanks to Broccoli Covered Powder Babies for letting me race with you guys.  Y’all are awesome and I always have a blast racing with you guys.  I only wish that Ana could have been there racing as well, she always adds to the fun plus she let’s me drink her beer.

This was primarily a night race with heavy paddling and I relied heavily on my Epic paddle, Lupine lights, and KanPas compasses.  I’ll be writing a review of my Lupine light in the next week or so, but let me say they are AWESOME!

 

KanPas Compass Review

KanPas MTB-43-F

Sometimes you spend a lot of money on a piece of kit and it turns out to be a piece of junk.  Other times you spend a little bit of money and find some real treasures.  KanPas compass is one of those unknown treasures for orienteers and adventure racers!

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I’ve been considering getting a compass for my bike map board for some time, but I’ve held back due to cost and the fact that I have about 8 compasses already.  Trying to justify an additional compass purchase gets harder each time.  But, when I came across the KanPas Map Board Clip Compass at 38 bucks, I had to give it a try.  In the past, I’ve used a wrist compass to aid in bike navigation, but keeping a firm grip on both handlebars is usually a wise move for me.  Plus, who doesn’t like new gear?

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After 75 hours of solid racing at the Sea to Sea, many of those hours spent intimately connected to a bike seat, I can tell you that the KanPas Map Board Clip Compass quickly became one of my favorite new gear items.  It is fast, stable and very easy to read.

The needle is very powerful and as I rode over a bridge that had small metal plates on the ground, I could watch the needle deflect every time.  Just amazing!

My search for a great MTBO compass is over!  I have no intentions of using anything else while bike orienteering.  The clip felt strong and attached firmly to the map board.  It never felt weak or likely to fall off.  I know some people like to put a baseplate compass in their map case, attached to their map board.  But, I like the freedom of being able to move the compass around when I needed to uncover portions of the map.

I do have one small suggestion on improvements for this compass and I’ll try to illustrate in the picture below.  As you can see, the top clip arm is blunt and can easily catch on the map board, especially if you have multiple maps on the board.

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I think if the top clip arm was extended and beveled (see the red outline) it would make for the perfect map board compass.  While trail riding, I don’t want to fight getting the compass onto the map board.  Also, because there is a slight gap between the base plate and the top clip arm, maps can get caught in between.

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These are relatively minor complaints on an otherwise excellent compass.

KanPas MA-43-FS

The same strong, fast and stable needle used for the bike compass is also used for the thumb compass.  I was able to try out the thumb compass while orienteering with my family at Oak Mountain State Park permanent orienteering course.

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If you’ve never been to Oak Mountain, and live in the area, it is well worth the visit.  The terrain is rugged and the permanent course is a lot of fun.  We’ve recently completed the permanent amateur course and advanced course.  All of the checkpoints are properly marked and still exist.

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During this visit, I wanted my sons to learn more about orienteering, and they both did a great job picking routes and using the compass.

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There are 3 different styles of thumb compass: rainbow, degree, and clear.  I chose the degree style.  As we raced over mountainous terrain, I found the needle to be extremely fast, stable and accurate.  I’ve been using the Moscompass thumb compass, but I like the KanPas thumb compass better because of its quick, high-visibility needle.  The KanPas thumb plate is very durable and fits well in my hand.  I really liked the well-defined markings on the plate, showing 100m increments on a 1:10k scale O-map.

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So far, I’ve been extremely happy with KanPas compasses and currently use the following:

They all use the same compass needle, so you can expect the same high-speed, stable performance.  The cost of the compasses are reasonable, but shipping directly from KanPas can be expensive.

Here’s a quick video showing you the speed and stability of the 43 needle:

KanPas is currently working on a new design, the MA-45-F, and I am very excited to try it out once it’s available.

If you have any questions about KanPas compasses, drop me a comment or email.  Or better yet, stop by any event we’re at and I’ll be more than happy to let you check them out!

2016 Sea to Sea Race Report – Day 3

Segment 9 – Spring to Spring Bike (45 miles)

We finally made it to TA8 where we were to switch from canoes to bike.  Broccoli hit the TA and were gone in a flash.  I needed a cup of noodles, a full body massage and a hot cappuccino to sooth my tired soul…I settled for the cup of noodles.  While I fumbled through the maps plotting our route, almost every other team came and went from the TA.  We definitely need to get faster at transitions, and biking, and running, and just about every damn thing you can imagine.

TA8 – Florida Xtreme

Off we raced to try to catch the pack.  This section took us along the Spring to Spring bike trail with a first stop at Gemini Springs.  It was closed, but there wasn’t a fence so we snuck in to take a quick snapshot.  Up next was Green Springs and it was definitely closed, with a locked gate and everything.  So, I attempted to squeeze through the gate and once Ana dislodged my head from between the two poles I was off and running for the CP.  I guess I should have taken my bike helmet off.

Ain’t nothing better than a little Breaking and Entering for a CP

The remaining checkpoint on this section, other then CP59, were bonus points and the cutoff time to collect them was well past, so we planned to bike straight to TA10.  However, at CP59 we found out that the deadline had been extended.  I guess teams were also allowed to collect CPs 60 & 61 by bike rather than foot.  Who knew?  It seems I wasn’t doing a very good job of making sure that I got all of the race changes at the previous transition areas.

Somewhere along the way to TA10 we met up with the Canyoneros.  We were right behind but making sure not to get on their back wheel because drafting without asking permission is bad cycling mojo…and nobody needs that.  So, I pedaled up to Hien and asked if he wanted to form a pace line.  “If you nav, I’ll pull”, I said.  He was on board so we formed up and away we went.  When I got tired, one of their teammates took over, what was his name…not Nate or Hien, oh yeah Captain America.  So, Captain America is pulling on the front and we’re flying to collect CP62 and make it to TA10 in time for it to count.  Ana, Hien and Nate also took turns pulling and for a brief time we felt like part of a well-oiled machine…thanks guys, that was fun!  We rushed into the TA with 1 bonus checkpoint and 5 minutes to spare.

Segment 11 – Final Trek to Fox Lake (16 miles)

BURGERS!  I could have eaten the tires off the U-Haul but instead we were greeted with burgers.  I may have even cried a little while eating them, they were so good.  A big hearty thank you to all of the volunteers that made this race amazing!

I will put you in my belly!

We met back up with Broccoli at the TA and decided to tackle this next section together.  It was promising to be an epic trek that would take us through the night.  We started the trek at 11:30PM and by the time we collected our first CP we knew we wouldn’t make the next transition, TA11, until 9AM or so.  From TA11 we still had a 35 mile bike ride, a 7 mile canoe and a 2 mile run to do before the race finished at 11AM.  There was no way to do it all.  In hindsight, we should have never tried for any CPs on this section and marched straight to TA11.  In hindsight we should have done a lot of things differently.

Jeff Leininger made the call to the race directors explaining our situation and soon we were in the back of a U-Haul getting a lift to TA11 along with 15 other racers, 30 bikes, 12 paddle bags, and 27 ticks.  Although we’re all smiles in the photo below, I think everyone was pretty disappointed to have to call for rescue.

Oh the gentle lull of carbon monoxide poisoning

But, we weren’t sad to miss the 4AM, 42 degree water crossings…suckers!

You take me to TA, okay?

Segment 11 – Canaveral Bike (35 miles)

At TA11, we were held until 6AM when the teams would be released for the final push to the finish line.  I stayed up to do the map work for the bike and canoe section while Ana took an hour nap.  With 5 hours to complete the race once released, there wasn’t any room for errors.  I also got to break out the JetBoil and make coffee, lots and lots of coffee.  At 6AM I woke Ana, handed her a hot cup of coffee, and subsequently earned the best husband of the year award

TA11 Dark Zone – Little nap before the final push.

After spending a good portion of the race trying to chase down Broccoli, or doing sections with them, we were really happy to finish out the race alongside them.  They made us snort with laughter and we, well, I don’t really know what we brought to the mix.  Charm?  Good looks?  A certain je ne sais quoi.  Who knows.  Anyway, three more sections and we’d be done.

Our first bike CP was a photo of the space shuttle.  You may wonder how someone could miss a 56 meter high space shuttle, but I did.  I vaguely recall Ana yelling, “Hey guys there it is, we don’t have to go all the way around.” But, I was in a total daze.  Look at this stupid picture I took, thinking this was the shuttle they were referring to…

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It wasn’t until we rode all the way to the security gate and were turned back that I noticed the extremely large, extremely obvious orange thing…IDIOT!

CP77 – Oh, you mean THIS space shuttle.

The rest of the bike section was cleared and we made our way to the final paddle.

TA12 – Ana sets the pace line

Segment 13 – Final Paddle (7 miles)

I think we were the first team to make it to the final paddle, and that was probably a good thing because had we seen other teams being tossed about in those waves and winds, we probably would have just ridden our bikes to the finish.  I can’t describe it, it was madness.  Ana and I have become much better paddlers than when we first started racing and this was the ultimate test of our abilities.  We nearly capsized many times but eventually we made it into the shelter of the mangroves.

Out of the wind and waves and into the mangroves

Broccoli was navigating and they could have it.  We had our hands full just trying to stay afloat and keep up with them.  After collecting the first two CPs, we had a small portage by the high school.

Hey Broccoli!  You guys mind carrying my boat too?  Guys?!  Hello?

I think Ana got a little nervous with my canoe reentry, but I know what a good swimmer she is so I wasn’t nervous at all.

Just hang on baby…I know what I’m doing…kinda.

At the old pump CP, we took the time to snap a selfie and it turned out to be my favorite photo of the race.  Good times!

Great people…good times!

Finish – Lori Wilson Park (2 mile)

We could have walked the remaining 2 miles to the finish, but that just didn’t seem right.  I wouldn’t say that what we did was “run” it was more of a shuffle, but I was glad we were giving it everything we had until the end.  And after 75 hours and 19 minutes, we crossed the finish line, completing our very first Florida Sea to Sea Adventure Race and our first multi-day race.  I couldn’t be more proud of my #1 teammate and favorite racing partner, Ana.  She was amazing the entire race, never once complaining or wanting to quit.  I’ve raced with plenty of people and there is no one I’d rather be out on the course with.  Thanks baby, you are amazing!  Oh, and by the way there’s this really sweet bike I’ve been looking at…

U-Hauls…oh yeah, we like U-Hauls!

A big thanks to Todd and Stephen from Broccoli Covered Powder Babies, you guys really made this race fun.  I don’t think we’ve ever laughed so hard during a race!  We hope to race with you guys again someday.

As always, thank you to the race directors, Dave Brault, Junos Reed, Manny Otero and Ron Eaglin.  We could tell that you poured your hearts and souls into this race and we loved every minute of it.  We’ll definitely be back next year!

A huge thank you to the volunteers that make any race like this possible.  You always greeted us with a smile and tried to help out whenever and where ever you could.  Thank you!  We can’t say it often enough.

We’d also like to thank KanPas, Geigerrig, Skratch Labs, Klymit, and Lupine North America.  We only use brands we know and trust, and your products never fail us.  I’ll be doing gear reviews in the next few days to describe the equipment we used and how it performed.

And thanks to our readers.  Your comments make putting together race reports like this worthwhile.  I hope you enjoyed the write up and if you have any questions or comments, drop us a line below.

~END~

Day 1 Report

Day 2 Report

2016 Sea to Sea Race Report – Day 2

Segment 6 – Lake Apopka Bike (35+ miles)

The next section was a 35+ mile bike ride.  By now, we were definitely tired of sitting on our bums and opted for the shorter, southern route around Lake Apopka rather than the longer, northern route with more checkpoints.

CP38 – Dead Reckoning

We knew we’d be giving up checkpoints, but we were getting frustrated with trying to chase the time cutoffs and wanted to catch up with the race and not be so pressed by the clock.  For this leg we had a 6PM cutoff to reach the TA to receive credit for CP44, which was on our way.  CP44 was at race director Manny’s house and I really wanted to stop by…mainly hoping he had a cooler full of beer available.  Not that Manny drinks or anything. Bwahaha! Oops, I just fell out of my chair…

BCP44 – Team YERT

With thoughts lingering on a cold frosty one, we searched for Manny’s house in vain.  Unfortunately, the map I was using to navigate, Map 6C, shows Manny’s house at a totally different location than Map 6B.  I guess I should have Googled the address the night before.  Frustrated, and with the looming deadline, we rode off to collect CP43.

Now, if you want some butt-puckering bike riding, just hop off the West Orange Bike Trail and tempt your fate along the roads of Lake Apopka on a Friday night.  Good thing my screams and cursing were drowned out by the roar of speeding cars.  Frazzled, we got to TA6 and instantly invaded the McDonalds.  While we shoved cheese burgers down our throats, they wondered where all these stinky homeless people with super cool bikes were coming from, and more importantly, when we would leave.

TA6 – Broccoli Covered Powder Babies

Segment 7 – Epic Wekiva Trek (22 miles)

Off the bikes at last and onto our feet.  My butt was aglow like a lightning bug and I was thankful to not be sitting on something for awhile.  We had been running into Broccoli throughout the race and here we decided to tackle the foot section together.  The plan was to make it to the Horse Barn TA before daybreak and get a couple of hours of sleep.  Blessed sleep!

Horse Barn TA

We estimated that we would make it to the TA by 4AM, but with a promised water-crossing followed by a 6-7 mile hike, this was shaping up to be a cold evening.  At the water crossing, we met up with Off the Grid and a couple of other teams.  Not wanting to be wet and cold all night, we stripped down and forged across the stream.  Eric, from Off the Grid, crossed first wrapped only in a trash bag for a loin cloth and a buff for a turban.  Someone remarked, “You look like an Indian god” to which he replied, “I should wear this more often!”  I’m just glad there aren’t any pictures because no one wants to see my dangling bits.

CP47 – Off the Grid

After collecting CP47 at the Indian Twin Mounds, we trudged into the Horse Barn TA, pitched our tent, and crashed for a couple hours of sleep.

Ana kept trying to wake me saying, “Hey, there’s something going on outside.  We need to check it out!”  Whatever lady, just let me sleep!  Well, come to find out she was right…as usual.  It seems that the O-Course cutoff, which had been 10PM the night before, had been extended.  No one had told us before we crashed for the night and by the time we figured out what was going on there wasn’t enough time to collect any of the CPs…no bueno!

I was pretty ticked that we lost the chance to get 4 CPs, so we stomped off to finish the remaining 10 miles of the trek with Broccoli who had recently returned from the O-course.

Somewhere north of Wekiva Camp there is a magical “abandoned track” where the race directors hid a control marker.  It’s a mystical place that is not truly here nor there.  It exists to those that have the eyes to see.  We did not have the eyes to see and the woods still ring from my languished curses!  And that’s all I want to say about that.

Segment 8 – Blackwater Creek/St. Johns Paddle (12 miles)

Blackwater creek is a beautiful paddle through tannin stained waters that knot into hairpin turns and switchbacks.  Cedar and cypress trees encroach on the sides with outreached branches casting deep shadows across the creek.

TA7 – Team Super Frogs

With a swift flowing current, teams with strong paddlers and good steering are rewarded, while those lacking are tossed into overhanging branches and partially submerged obstacles.

Lil’ Chomper

We thoroughly enjoyed this section as the many turns and beautiful scenery kept us awake and in the moment.

Unfortunately, once we paddled onto the St Johns, the serenity of the creek was soon supplanted by rednecks in speed boats playing Let’s Capsize the Canoe.  I assure you that it’s an amazing spectator sport as canoeists attempt to surf down boat wakes without spilling over or being cast upon the embankment.
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Broccoli was setting a fierce pace on the canoe and we struggled to keep up.  We paddled north to the Swamp House Riverfront Grill to pick up a checkpoint and then backtracked south for another CP before reaching the TA and the next bike leg.

CP55 – Canyoneros

And to whoever gave me that Werther’s Caramel Coffee candy on the paddle…bless you! You are an angel.  It was worth almost capsizing my canoe for.

End of Day 2

Day 1 Report

Day 3 Report