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!

Lampentest-1-von-1-780x520

 

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!

P1020712

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?

P1020704

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.

P1020719

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.

P1020719_v2

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.

P1020454

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.

P1020447

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.

P1020438

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.

P1020460

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…

P1020361

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.
cd70843614999d58b64784ce2d611079

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

 

2016 Sea to Sea Race Report – Day 1

I can always tell how amazing an adventure race is by how long it takes me to break out of my funk once I get back.  Upon returning from a race, life seems a little more mundane and monotonous and my mind relentlessly replays the highs and lows of the event with a longing to be back out there.  Work duties are met with sighs of resignation and just getting to the office is almost a monumental task itself.  Usually, after a day or two passes, and the excitement from the race wears down, the nose is reapplied to the grindstone and life assumes it’s normal pattern.  But, here it is a week later and all I can think about is Sea to Sea in 2017.

How do you even begin to write a race report on a 72Hr non-stop event?  There is so much to take in that it seems a monumental task.  Many people have asked us about the race now that we have returned, and every time we try to describe it, I can tell that we’re just not capturing it.  The descriptions seem pale and empty even to us and what was lived in Technicolor is relayed in muted grays.  There is no way that I can relate, either in words or in script, how absolutely amazing an adventure like this is.  It’s the actualization of a goal, something that you’ve trained for and committed to. Something that you have pledge valuable time and money to.  And here you are, in the midst of it all, racing for everything you’re worth–sometimes joyous, sometimes angry, sometimes beaten, sometimes elated, but most importantly always in the moment.

Race Passport

Race Maps

Team Tracking

Race Photos

Pre-Race:

40 freaking maps!  Seriously, my map case is on the verge of popping, along with the aneurism in my head.  I have no idea how to take in and parse this much information.  Do we detail plan?  Do we wing it during the race?  So many time cutoffs and decision points.  What CPs do we skip?  Do we try to clear it?  Ana tries to keep me focused and moving through the maps to get an overall sense, but I’m lost.  I’ll be up all night if I try to detail plan and that plan will probably change as the race progresses anyway.  Forget it! I decide to plan for the first day and try to get some sleep.  Ha! Sleep.  Who sleeps before a race like this?

 Start – Honeymoon Island Trek (8 miles, trail)

Super Frogs

We wake up early and are bussed to the other side of Florida, where the race will begin with an 8-mile trek for 4 checkpoint.  The race starts and ain’t nobody trekking.  When the lead teams start off running, we all go running.  Stupid, maybe…but fun none the less.  Our highlight for this section is when Ana gets within a stride of stepping on this beauty…

Now thars a snake!

I guess we didn’t notice the signs coming into Honeymoon Island.  Well, we’re awake and ready to race now.

Nice sign to see on the way out.

Segment 1: Urban Trails Bike (45 miles)

On a good day, we can maintain 15-18mph on a mountain bike, so this leg would be about 3 hours for us, and quite possibly the longest non-stop ride we’ve done.  We’re not cyclists and my butt scabs can attest to that.  There were 4 CPs here and if I would have remembered to take our photo at the Flatwoods Trailhead sign, we wouldn’t have had to turn around and add a few more miles to this leg.  But, we were enjoying the ride so much…

CP8 – Broccoli Covered Powder Babies

Segment 3 – Lower Hillsborough Trek (18 miles)

The race directors had made a change, cancelling out the Lettuce Lake Park and Hillsborough River Paddle, so we were to collect CP9 on the way to Morris Bridge Park.

CP9 – Florida Xtreme

At Morris Bridge, we had to decide whether to complete the next section by foot or canoe.  If you chose to do the next section on foot, then you had to make a water crossing to get to the next transition area.  Otherwise, you could take a canoe, miss a few checkpoints, but paddle to the next TA.  Our plan was to take the canoe, but then Super Frogs were heading out on foot and so was Broccoli Covered Powder Babies…what to do, what to do!  We waffled on our approach and decided in the end to do this section on foot.  It took us 3 tries to leave the TA as 1) I left the passport at the water station and 2) we had to backtrack and let the race directors know that we changed our mind and were going out on foot.  The catch was, we had to be at the next TA by 10PM or we would start losing points.  Ana was nervous about the late night water crossing, but it looked like we would be able to clear this section in time.

CP17 – Team Disoriented

We were doing fine on this section until we got to CP14, probably one of the easiest CPs in the race.  I thought it was further up the trail then it was and we wasted 20 minutes going too far.  By now, we knew we were in trouble and made a dash for the water crossing, skipping CP11 entirely.  But, the trails gods were not playing kindly and  we entered a maddening labyrinth of mountain bike trails.  Night had come and the dreaded water crossing was getting nearer, Ana was getting more anxious and I just wanted out of the maze.  As soon as we turned the corner to start the crossing, Florida Xtreme and Epoch Adventure Racing showed up and we made the crossing in numbers.  Ana was almost giddy, and I was too.

CP13 Water Crossing…Ana’s favorite!

The powerlines that we followed led us to the back of a neighborhood and we couldn’t find our way out.  As our headlamps looked for an exit, we must have pissed off someone because the next thing we hear is a shotgun being fired.  Good time to run!  We pushed as hard as we could, but missed the cutoff by 8 minutes and lost a point…bummer.

Segment 4 – Green Swamp Bike Crossing (75 miles)

75 bum-busting miles on a mountain bike.  Oh the joy!  This would be by far the longest bike ride we’ve ever done.  For next year, maybe I’ll look into getting one of these to prepare better.

Buns ‘O Steel

I might even rock the beard too because nothing says kickass adventure racer like a full grown squirrel wrapped around your chin.

Out of the stack of 40+ maps, Map 4A was the only one that I had problem with.  I just couldn’t make out the street markings from TA3 to CP18, luckily it was easy navigating, and the rest of the maps were excellent.  We were tripped up trying to find the entrance to the Blackwater Creek Nature Preserve for CP19 and when a lady busted out of her mobile home and started yelling at us, we decided to bail on this control before the shotguns were brought out.

We were now feeling like we were trying to play catch-up with the rest of the racers, so we decided to skip any of the bonus controls.  We didn’t even try for BCP20 or BCP21, plus I couldn’t figure out from the map how to get to BCP20.  What’s that you say?  “Supplemental Map 4B?”  Hmm, yeah that probably would have helped…it looks so easy now.

MCP24 – Wet Feet

Off to the Green Swamp Main Entrance where we met up with some other teams and began to bang out CPs.  For CP26, we were to record the last 2 digits of the site ID on a gauging station on the other side of a marsh.  We attempted to bushwhack in from the west, but then Chunk had a great idea that there must be an access road somewhere close.  Sure enough there was and we punched the CP and pressed.  Daybreak was coming, temperatures were dropping, and we were pretty sick of being on our bikes.  A few more miles and we could trade our bike saddles for canoe seats…the bliss! (That’s called sarcasm for those that didn’t catch it)

PCP29 – Team Disoriented

Segment 5 – Palatlakaha River Paddle (6.5 miles)

We didn’t make the 8AM cutoff to do the orienteering course so we went straight to paddling across the Atlantic, I mean Lake Minnehaha.  Now, my friends, if you suffer from insomnia, do I have a cure for you.  Simply race for 20 solid hours and then try paddling across a featureless lake for 2 hours.  We had a fierce headwind with waves crashing into us, wanting to capsize the little canoe.  But the warmth of the sun and the rhythmic beat of the paddles was an irresistible lullaby.  I slightly recall thinking, I’m going to fall asleep and drown right here, and I’m kinda okay with that.

TA5 – Team Disoriented

We paddled and paddled and paddled some more.  Ana and I played mind games like, Go from A to Z naming a rock band…Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, The Cure, Depeche Mode…you get the idea.  This was fun for about 30 minutes, not 2 hours.  The problem with racing with your spouse is that you already know how all their stories end.  So, we decided next race we’ll retell our same stories to each other but make up new endings.  I’m going to be an astronaut!

TA5 – Clermont Boat Ramp

We finally made it to TA5 where we waited anxiously for our bikes to begin another 35 mile bike ride.  Day 1 of a 3-day race was complete, and we couldn’t wait to begin day 2, if only my posterior didn’t look like…

End of Day 1

Day 2 Report

Day 3 Report

2016 Sea to Sea 72Hr Adventure Race

Starting on 3/3/16, you can track Team Disoriented and all the other teams participating in the 2016 Florida Sea to Sea 72Hr Adventure Race here:

http://trackleaders.com/s2s16

A big thank you to Klymit, Skratch Labs, Lupine Lights North America, Geigerrig, and KanPas for helping us get ready for this adventure!

More information about the race can be found here: http://flxadventures.com/the-florida-sea-to-sea-2016/

Pictures will be posted in real time using the Gemspots app and can be viewed here: http://www.gemspots.com/spot/view/9114d

 

Resolution 8Hr

Three months without Adventure Racing is almost as bad as three months without sex.

 

Actually, no it’s not…not even close.  But, now that I’ve got you reading this, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and read on.

Although we’ve been training in preparation for the Sea to Sea, Ana hadn’t raced since October and we were feeling a little rusty.  So, we drove down to Bushnell, Florida, stayed the night at a skanky hotel, and prepared to compete against 23 other teams in the 8-hour elite race.

Manny Otero from Florida Xtreme Adventures had put in a lot of effort on this race and with the weather forecasted to be 73 and partly sunny, it was going to be a good day no matter how we did.

Pre-race kicked off at 6AM.  Check out this cool pic of pre-race planning.

Damn, where the hell did that double chin come from…stupid mid-life body changes.  Anyway, here are the maps and such if you’d like to follow along:

Resolution AR (2016) Elite

Race Passport (Elite)

The race kicked off with a short sprint to a couple of volunteers handing out the punch cards, and then we were off on bikes for CP1.  The first three stages: Prologue, Bike 1, and Trek 1 were very fast sections really set up to separate the teams somewhat before hitting Paddle 1.

The canoe section had us launch at Silver Lake and paddle north along the Withlacoochee River to collect CP5-CP9.  CP5 was a straightforward paddle to the end of the backwater but it probably would have been faster if we had landed the canoes and bushwhacked from the west to get it.

cd242c8107a01e1d1bf9bc995d67accf

After CP5, we met up with our good friends, the Canyoneros, and paddled together to CP6.  Lucky for us, Hien had a better feel for where the CP was, or else I would have overshot it.  From the map, I was expecting there to be a bridge crossing the river, or something, but the tracks had been removed long ago.  Onward to CP7 and our big blunder of the day.CP7

You see the picture above?  See that CP right in the middle of the picture?  Well guess what wasn’t there when we arrived? MmmHmm.  It seems some bear, or drunken fisherman, decided to decorate his den with an orange and white flag.  Now stare at that flag for 45 minutes and you’ll get the idea of how much time I wasted hunting for it.  Yep, pretty stupid.

Back in the canoe, we headed off and collected CP8 without issue.  But, when we got to where CP9 was supposed to be, that control was missing too.  I was starting to doubt my nav skills.  We pressed northward to Hog Island before calling it off and heading to Iron Bridge TA for the O-Course.

O-course

Unfortunately, my GPS was turned off or I would show you how well I botched this section.  We knew that CP11 was the same as CP7 (the one that wasn’t there on the canoe) so we weren’t even going to try for that one.  Since I knew where the powerlines were, the plan of attack was CP14, 15, 13, and 12.  Let me tell you how uncool it was to have every other team running this section in the opposite direction as us.  Not a good feeling.

81fd849dc8ff00a4f3025fbf02ac880e

We did okay finding the controls, but I missed the southwest trail leading to CP13.  I mean I saw it, but I guess I didn’t feel like taking it the first time.  Nope, what I really wanted to do was climb over that big hill to the north and then turn around, run over that big hill again, and then take the correct road.  That’s called gumption…or something.  After getting CP13 and CP12, we backtracked to the main north-south road and took off for the Iron Bridge TA.  It was at this point that Ana said something about CP10 and I looked at her like she was crazy.  I hadn’t realized that CP10 wasn’t plotted on the map and we almost skipped it entirely.

We transitioned back to the boats and paddled to the Main TA, where we had a quick foot section for 3 CPs (Trek 2).  It was here that we met up with Florida Xtreme and Epoch Adventure Racing.  It was also here that I lost my nice Gerber knife.  It seems that I really enjoy donating sweet gear to the woodland fairies.  We all cleared this section quickly and went to the W. Trail TA to transition to bikes.

While we fiddled around at the TA, Florida Xtreme and Epoch blasted off down the Croom mountain biking section.  We weren’t going to see them again until the finish.

Croom MTB Map

If you haven’t ridden Croom, you should go now.  Seriously, just turn off the computer and go now.  Still here?  I understand, with a race report this awesome it’s almost impossible to tear yourself away.

(20)-X3 (22)-X3 (24)-X3

Croom is a blast and we had lots of fun riding it.  Most of the controls were straightforward but we had a hard time locating CP25 (Lowest point inside Volcano Rim) because honestly I couldn’t tell you where Volcano Rim was and with all of the crevasses or cracks or whatever the hell you call the deep drop offs, I couldn’t tell you where the lowest point was either.  Lucky for us we met up with Erik from Chunk and Craig and crew from Wet Feet and they helped point us in the right direction.  CP26 gave us a little grief as well because I just couldn’t make out distances with the map.  Eventually we found it and life was all good.  We collected the remaining bike CPs without too much of an issue and transitioned once more to foot in order to collect the final controls.

22f16a4e89458a222aa7ac119fa3cfb3   b4850f0c9d3af574e5bc274811d8ea1e

We started the foot section off by going down the wrong trail, traveling southeast instead of west.  You may wonder how someone could mistake such opposing directions but let me tell you, to be on this team you’ve gotta earn the name Disoriented.  We quickly got on the right trail and dashed to collect CP29, 30 and 31 before getting back on the bikes and making the final push to the finish line.  We cleared the course in 7hrs and 41 minutes, coming in 6th out of 22 teams.  I was really proud of our effort, feeling like we kept the pace up the entire time.  Of course, the winning team cleared the course in 6hrs and 17 minutes, but they’re freaks and nobody likes them either.  I’m kidding, they’re awesome and we’re jealous…why do you think our jerseys are green😉

c931a08578eec3b3962573dfde2e60be

Awesome job again to Manny and crew.  What a great race.  You put a lot of effort into it and it showed.  We loved the mix of sections.  It was a fast-paced race that kept us moving from one event to the next.

Want to join in on the fun?  You’re next opportunity is at the Heart Breaker where Craig and Ron are sure to put on another awesome event.

Race video produced by Jared & Brianne:

 

 

Lighter Knot 8Hr AR

The Lighter Knot AR, henceforth to be known as the, “I can’t find my own bunghole with two hands and a map” Adventure Race.

Lighter Knot

Once again FLX‘s Dynamic Duo of Craig and John Sheriff put together an amazing 8Hr Elite Adventure Race at the Bulow Plantation Ruins State Park.  This was the 3rd in a series of ‘Sea to Sea’ highlights race series where a different section of the Sea to Sea is covered. The overall winners of the three-part series would receive a free entry into the 2016 Sea to Sea.  Having raced the Reunion with Rice Creek, and being the only team to have raced in 2 of the 3 races in the series, we figured as long as we showed up and finished the race, we should win the free entry into the 2016 Sea to Sea.  For this race, I’d be teaming up with Todd Binkley who I’d raced with at the Blue Ridge Adventure Race.

Maps to follow the play-by-play:

ELITE FOOT CLUES R FOOT Q FOOT B FOOT ELITE CP CLUES ELITE LARGE MAP

Boat

Well, if you’re going to have a bad race, it might as well start off crappy…and that’s exactly how this one started.  Due to Hurricane Joaquin, the super moon, or the gravitational pull of my ego coming off of some really good race finishes, the water level at Bulow Creek was higher than it had been since, well, some dude named Noah decided to build a boat.  I couldn’t match what I was seeing to what the map was telling me, but I knew that I had to follow the shoreline south.  We were all on a small peninsula and there was a crowd of people trying to get their boats in the water.  Not wanting to wait in line, we launched at the end of the peninsula, not more than 5 feet away, and that ended up being a huge mistake

You see, in central Florida they have these marshy areas with low-lying grasses and canals cut through them to create labyrinths to befuddle the minds of adventure racers.  While I’m used to seeing waterways marked in blue, the map showed these channels in red.

mapaerial

I wrongly assumed that once launched, we could make our way west to the shoreline.  But oh no, we were stuck in some channel taking us southeast, rather than south.  Not understanding where we were, I knew we had to boat-whack across the marshland and find a path west.  You can see our meandering site-seeing tour highlighted in red.  The smart teams traveled the yellow path.  The launch point is marked with a green star.

path2

In hindsight, we could have continued south and still made our way to the checkpoint, but at that point I didn’t know where I was.

After collecting CP1 and CP2, I was still making mistakes trying to match the waterway to the map, but once we got on the main creek we were doing okay.  That is, until we decided to portage the boat rather than try to canoe under a low bridge.  I swear it looked like the boat wouldn’t fit, so I decided to portage around.  We grabbed the canoe and when I went to pull it over a guardrail, I slammed my knee into the rail.  It was an explosion of pain and I dropped to the ground.  It took me at least 10 minutes to collect myself and be able to move on.  Todd was trying his best to help, but there really was nothing he could do.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to run any of the race and I was wondering if I’d even be able to bike.

Foot 1

At the furthest Boat checkpoint, we were surprised by a foot section.  We were given a new map with 7 foot controls.  The first two (B6 and B1) we found without difficulty, but we couldn’t find B2 after shooting a bearing from B1 and pace counting.  So, we did a back-bearing and returned to B1 and reattacked B2.  Todd spotted the control but we were off by at least 30-40 feet.

Foot1

From B2 we measured a bearing of 30 degrees and shot off for B3.  But we couldn’t find it and after traveling way too far, we retreated all the way back to B2.  Consulting the map, we realized the bearing was 20 degrees, not 30, and we quickly found it.  The rest of the controls went okay and we returned to the boats for a quick paddle back to the Start/Finish to begin Bike 1.

Bike 1

The cluster of trails at the beginning gave us a little difficulty and we had to backtrack a couple of times, but nothing major.  For some reason, we didn’t measure any distances to CP14 from the trail intersection so we weren’t sure where to attack the control.  And then, we didn’t realize that the control was almost 100m into the woods.  Thinking it was right off trail, it took us a little time to find this one, but it was well worth it.  (Video blatantly stolen from Ron Eaglin)

CP15, large cat-faced pine, was another frustration for us.  Once again, not measuring the distance from a known intersection to the attack point had us missing this control as well.  Another backtrack and then off to CP16 where we were welcomed with another foot section.

Foot 2

I completely sucked on Foot 2 and I have nothing more to say about it…

Foot 2

…other than I was 1 foot away from having a really bad day.

Pygmy Rattlesnake

Bike 2

Feeling pretty defeated after Foot 2, we headed off on the last bike section.  Taking the local highways north to Bulow ruins, we were encouraged by two of Flagler Beach’s finest as they heartily cheered, “Get the F@*$ off the road!” as we pedaled against strong headwinds.  At CP24 we had another orienteering section but we were quickly running out of time.

So, we collected 4 checkpoints and raced back to the finish.  We were supposed to collect a piece of Lighter Knot and bring it back to the finish for an extra bonus point, and we didn’t even manage to do that.  Some races are just crap piled on a plate of poop.

Finish

Well, it was finally over.  Sometimes all you can do is just finish and have an ice cold beverage with your racing buddy.  Thanks Todd, for putting up with me and helping me through.

The 6 hour ride home was spent analyzing the race, icing my knee and picking off ticks.  I realized that I had tried something different this race.  I just got a watch mount for my Moscow Compass and was wearing it on the same hand that I was holding my base compass.  I use my watch compass to keep track of heading while on the bike and canoe but I use the base compass for foot orienteering and more precise navigation.  Well, it seems that having them in the same hand is NOT a good idea.

I didn’t move the base compass in the photos above, only putting the watch compass next to it.  That’s 40 degrees of error!  So many lessons learned on this one.  At least with Adventure Racing, even a bad race can be a lot of fun.

Conclusion

Craig and John Sheriff, another superb race.  You guys made it a challenge with some really interesting surprises.  A special thanks to John for the wonderful trophies, mine is sitting on my desk as I type this.  The teams out there all did an excellent job, with Ron’s team taking home the win of course.  Hats off to the volunteers, you guys were great.  And Jeff Wood, you are one funny dude.  Hope to see you out there racing soon.  Most of all, thanks to Todd, you did a great job.  We’ll see everyone again at the upcoming Turkey Burn where I’m sure we will be disoriented once more.

2015 USARA National Championship

28 hours, 11 minutes, 15 seconds

93 miles

12,289′ of elevation gain

11,660′ of elevation lost

One hell of a good time!

Two weeks after completing the 18Hr Howl at the Moon Adventure Race, we tackled the 2015 USARA National Championship with only one goal in mind, Don’t Quit.  With 58 teams from all over the US competing, this was going to be a huge race.  We knew that we were running with the big boys and girls on this one so we tried to stay out of the way, run our own race, and have a good time.  Once again, we partnered with Jake Brewer from Team Jax.  His navigation skills are beyond mine and I knew his personality was a good fit, plus he’s a horse and I wanted someone we’d have to work to keep up with.  Ha, I crack myself up.  We have to work to keep up with everyone.

IMG_2062

Anyway, the week prior to the race, we had been watching the weather hoping that it would improve.  Instead, the forecast got worse with predictions of constant rain and temperatures ranging between 58-48 degrees.  To some of you, that may sound perfect but for a couple of Floridians, wet and 50 is cold and misery.  With a week of rain heading into Nationals, the course was destined to be wet and muddy.

Prologue

The race started off with a bang as someone shot a miniature cannon to begin the race.  Soon, we were all heading into the woods to collect 6 points prior to heading off to the boats, where the real race would begin.

Due to race jitters and adrenaline, I always think that the first couple of checkpoints are the toughest and this proved to be true.  We struggled on the 2nd CP, attacking too high on a ridge and having to backtrack to a known location and re-attack.  Having collected it, we headed back to the start to grab our paddle gear and make a dash to the river below to start the race.  We were already almost last but there was a lot of racing ahead of us, and honestly we were here for the event and not even concerned about position.  Okay, maybe a little.

Boat 1 (TA1-TA2)

Boat 1 was a beautiful paddle down the Cumberland River.  The swollen river was flowing with Class I rapids that provided a little excitement.  We hadn’t had three in a canoe for a long time, so it was interesting getting our rhythm and balance back.  I was leading the navigation and we hit CP1 without any problems–it was on the tip of an island so it was impossible to miss.  CP2 though was another story. I knew we were close to the tributary for CP2, but I thought it was further downstream.  Luckily, we came across another team already on shore searching for the control.  I thought they had stopped too soon and we were about to head further downriver when their teammate came back and said that he found the control.  If it wasn’t for them, we would have blown by it and then had to struggle upstream to recover it.  I was disheartened by my nav error.

There were only 2 checkpoints on this section so off we went to find the takeout.  The canoe takeout was up a small creek on the south side of the river.  Well-hidden, we went past it at first.  Jake tucked us into a small alcove to avoid being swept downriver by the strong current while we consulted the map.  Realizing my error, we struggled back upstream to cross the river and enter the creek.  We followed the creek to the muddy takeout and struggled to drag our boats up the slippery, steep embankment to the drop off point.

canoe

King of the Mountain (TA3-TA4)

After dropping off the canoes, we “ran” to TA3 for the next challenge.  The next stage was aptly named, “King of the Mountain”, a 1250′ mountain bike climb up State Park Rd to Lee Gap.

While not the most impressive time, I was really proud of our performance on this section.  Florida is not known for its mountains and most overpasses and bridges don’t come close to 1250′ in elevation.  With shortness of breath and quads of fire, we made TA4b to start the first O-course.

O-Team Orienteering Leg (TA4b-TA4c)

The O-Team Orienteering Leg was a timed O-course with the fastest team earning bragging rights and possible a trophy or something.  We were just trying to clear it without getting too lost.  Jake took the reins as navigator and led us through without faltering.  Our time to clear was 1:55:55 while the fastest team, GOALS ARA, did it in 1:17:20.  Now, I’m not sure, but I think I captured one of the GOALS ARA team members pre-race before he had time to put on his running tights…something ain’t right about that boy.

GOALS ARA
GOALS ARA

Bike 2 (TA4c – TA5)

After finishing the O-Course, we got to fly down the mountain we just spent an hour biking up.  With brakes ablaze, we flew back to the Wilderness Trail Off-Road Park where we got to pedal and push our bikes through muddy muck in the search for 9? checkpoints.  The near-constant rain had devastated the once dry and flowing single track, turning the trails into rivulets of mud and rock.  By the time we got to the field of cows at CP13, we decided that it was best to leave CP14 and just grab CP15 on the way to the second canoe section.  We had already been on the bikes for 6+ hours and our legs were shot.  Well, mine were anyway.  Jake was churning away at the pedals like a madman.

Canoe 2 (TA5-TA5b)

We hit Cannon Creek Lake well into the night, and decided to add layers and scarf down some cheeseburgers before heading out onto the water.  Warm food and coffee was a welcomed luxury after 12+ hours of racing.  The lake was much warmer than expected, to the appreciation of Ana who is not very tolerant of the cold.  We hit the controls counter-clockwise, but had some difficulty locating CP17.  I was navigating and lost my bearing trying to follow the shoreline in the dark.  After backtracking to the reentrant between CP16 and CP17 to regroup, we made our way to CP17 without any problems.  This is also where we met up with Jake’s wife, Shelby, and their dog, Reese who had patiently waited for our arrival and cheered us on.  We even had time for this Glamour Shot in front of the decaying building.

Unfortunately, this is also where I lost my brand-new beloved Fenix PD35 flashlight😦 Not cool.  So Fenixlighting.com, if you’re reading this (and honestly how could you not) I sure would appreciate if you’d send me a replacement.  What if I say, “Pretty Please with sugar on top!”

Bike 3 (TA5b – TA6)

Never in the history of mankind has a bike been pushed so far and for so long.  Did I mention that biking is not our strong category?  For 3 hours we pushed our bikes uphill to get from the canoe takeout to the Pine Mountain Resort Lodge where we would begin the final section.  Actually, there were some downhills.  After busting a lung and setting your hamstrings afire pushing 28lbs of metal up steep inclines, you were awarded with a handlebar clenching decent down Slippy Skippy, single track so muddy and slippery that brakes were of no use.  You can imagine a rutted out rocky trail of mud so slick, it was like trying to ride on warmed peanut butter.  The best part was the suicidal option of trying to descend the powerline trail…Nope, nope and more nope.

O-Course (TA6 – Finish)

After a quick check-in at the lodge, we hit the final O-course at 4:20AM.  The sun would be rising soon, helping us to find checkpoints, so we decided to go counter-clockwise and get the easiest but furthest controls first.  This section was a real highlight for us.  The hiking was amazing with some beautiful features such as an old railway tunnel, the stone arch, and Chained Rock.

There was even a rails to trails bridge crossing where Ana almost plummeted to her death, but I don’t have any pictures of that.  Who knew there would be a railroad bridge with trusses missing?  And who would walk on the trusses instead of the planks set aside for pedestrians…yep, that would be us.

I was really proud of the way our team was clicking together for the O-Course navigation, especially for CP23 and CP24.  Jake was leading the navigation and we took our bearing and distance measurement for CP23 then leapfrogged to it.  We had to army-crawl and bushwhack through tons of brush, but we ended up within 5-10 feet of the marker.  CP24 was about the same.  Another good bearing and distance measurement to the CP, and a long butt-slide down a reentrant until my altimeter hit 1400′ where Jake hopped the small ridge to our left and found the control.  Then it was off to our last control, CP25, where things got a little sideways.

We were pretty worn out by this time and wanted to avoid bushwhacking up and over another ridge, so we decided to first attack from the west.  All we had to do was find the mapped railroad tracks and follow them in behind the hill.  So, we ran across an open field but instead of tracks, we found a raised berm.  Not sure if we were on the now-removed tracks, and not knowing if we were on private property, we ran back across the field to the safety of the road.  I’m not really into getting shot at or having to defend myself from dogs, so I really don’t like being on someone’s property.  We then decided to attack from the east and find the tracks that way, but we came to a dead end at someone’s driveway.  Luckily, the owner stepped out at that time and allowed us to cross his property, thus avoiding a major blunder.  Once on the tracks, we found the control and made our hasty retreat.

Finish

A final death march back up to the lodge and across the finish line was all that was left.  We did the AR-shuffle as best we could on the downhills and crossed the finish after 28 hours, 11 minutes, 15 seconds putting us in 24th out of 58 teams overall.  Although it would have been great to clear the course, I couldn’t be any happier with our performance.

IMG_2065

The #1 team, Tecnu, cleared the course in 16:22:37, which is absolutely amazing.  Many thanks to my teammates, Ana and Jake, who pushed through the toughest race I’ve done to date.  Ana, you constantly amaze me!  I couldn’t wish for a better pair of people to spend 30hrs getting lost in the woods with.  Stephanie from Flying Squirrel Adventures did an amazing job as race director putting together a challenging, fun, and beautiful course.  Thank you especially for scheduling the constant rain and extra mud.  The volunteers were absolutely fantastic as always, as were our hosts at the Pine Mountain Resort Lodge (I apologize for the absolute mess we left you in our cabin).  We are grateful to Bell County  for allowing us to run through their woods and especially USARA for continuing to support and grow the “Best Damn Sport Ever.”

12079830_898933473475731_5377524775938765068_o