Pour yourself a cup of coffee, get comfortable, and let me ruminate for a little bit on our first DNF. It was the 30-hour Atomic race, our first attempt at a race lasting more than 8 hours. It was night and we were trying to locate a control in a reentrant. Not being very good at navigation, and not wanting to lose our reference point, I had Ana stand at the top of a knoll with a flashlight while I searched the 30 or so tiny reentrants that surrounded us. Knowing that I could just look back at any time and see Ana’s light, I wasn’t paying any attention to my compass. But, then it started to downpour and visibility became nil. I could no longer see Ana’s light and I had no idea which direction to go to get back to her. In two seconds I went from knowing where I was to being lost and not being able to find my team. I yelled for Ana, but she couldn’t hear me over the rain.
Don’t believe me? Go try it sometime. The next time it rains, go in the forest and yell for all your worth. I like to do this anytime Ana tells me she wants to repaint the house. It’s crazy how therapeutic it is. It’s also amazing how no one can hear you. Your voice just doesn’t travel well in the woods, especially during a downpour.
It wasn’t until after the rain stopped that I could finally hear Ana yelling for me. Thank god she hadn’t moved from her spot or we would have really been in trouble. I finally spotted her flashlight and made my way to the top of the knoll, where she asked me if I had been crying. I told her of course not, it was just rain washing the mud off my face. It was a scary feeling indeed, and while I can share many more stories of us getting lost, no one has enough time to read them all.
So, why am I telling you this? It’s because I want you to think about one piece of lowly gear that a lot of people overlook, your whistle. It’s mandatory gear in every race I’ve ever been in. In the past I would have just gone to Walmart and picked up any old whistle in order to comply with the rules, or relied on the one that came with my backpack. But, those are crap and mandatory gear shouldn’t be crap.
Imagine your team is bombing a downhill at night and the last rider goes over a ledge. You may not even realize it at first. It’s happened with us on a training ride and it was three or four minutes before we even knew we lost a teammate. We’re not inconsiderate jerks, it’s just that it’s hard to look behind you when you’re going downhill, even as slow as we are. We know of other teams where someone has fallen off of a railroad truss and needed assistance.
There is no quicker way to bring help then by alerting your team, or other racers, with a super loud whistle. And the best whistle out there is made by ACME Whistles.
Now look, don’t get upset thinking that you just got sucked into reading a commercial for ACME Whistles. I’m only sharing this with you because I love our blog readers and I want you to be safe out there. Stuff happens when you’re in the wild, and it can get serious very quickly. Don’t peg your hopes on crap gear. Spend five bucks and get yourself and your team members a quality whistle.
We have the ACME Tornado 636 for our PFDs and the ACME T2000 for our backpacks. How loud are these thing? How about 117dB for the 636! What’s a dB? I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that 117dB is louder than if you were standing 3 feet from your car horn and someone honked it at you…in other words LOUD! And that’s what you want. Loud, dependable, and Day-Glo green (because that’s the best color ever). Actually, they make lots of different colors, so get your favorite.
As a thank you for making it through another rambling post of mine, like the post on Facebook by midnight on 5/10/17 and we’ll choose four people to send a free whistle to. We’ll even cover the postage. How cool is that?
After doing a couple of these adventure races, you would think we’d know what the hell we were doing. But, that wasn’t the case during the 2017 Earth Day 18 Hour Adventure Race by Florida Xtreme. Sure, we ended up 3rd overall, but that’s due to a mispunch by two kickass teams that beat us to the finish by over an hour and a half. They were so fast that they were eating breakfast at Waffle House while we were still out on the course dreaming of Waffle House.
We’ve never claimed to be fast, or good, but man that’s disheartening. Anyway, let’s dig into this cheeseball…
If you’re looking for an adventure race that is going to take you to some wild and beautiful locations, with some fun twists and turns thrown in, then look no further than one directed by Craig Sheriff. Craig does a great job of hunting out cool locations and integrating them into a challenging course.
For us, the misadventures began instantly. The race started off with a short foot sprint and then a dash to find two CPs along the East Cadillac Trail. We were 3rd, just behind ARGeorgia and Off the Grid Racing. We hit the twisting single track, nailing the first CP and then completely blew by CP2. It seems that when I transcribed the location of CP2, I put it too far east. We saw a control, but thought it was a sport race CP and didn’t even stop to check it. Oops. We then had to backtrack to the control as 6-8 teams flew by.
Our next big mess up was at CP7. I guess while I was busy shoving Snickers in my pie-hole, I must have missed where Fern trail branched off from the dirt road and jumped back into the woods. Had I seen the fork, we would have quickly found the small wooden bridge we were looking for and been on our merry way.
Instead, we got to spend 15 minutes scooting across a gas pipeline to cross a creek and look for a CP that was not there. The cool thing is that we were so sure we were in the right place we did it twice, until Bill Dean and his brother rode by and told us we were idiots for looking in the wrong location. Looking at my map now, it’s easy to see that we overshot the location. At the time, not so much. Having screwed up two controls in less than two hours, we were not off to a good start and were probably 12th or 13th place by now.
One of the not so cool things is we had to climb 22 stories to reach the CP at the top.
Actually it was really cool and I don’t know how Craig ever got it approved by the state government. But I’m glad he did.
Calves ablaze, we descended the stairs and biked off toward the Tallahassee Museum. Along the way, we biked past the FSU stadium and then had to find a CP in the Munson Slough. Bill and his brother were kind enough to give us a hand getting our bikes down, and we returned the favor to them.
At the Tallahassee Museum, we got to experience our first zip line ever. The sun was setting as we climbed obstacles and soared through the trees. It was an incredible experience that I know all of the racers enjoyed. We can’t wait to come back with our kids and do it again.
The only bad part was when Ana decided to do some product testing for Lupine by tossing her headlamp from the top of one of the platforms, into the swamp below. Forty feet up and surrounded by swamp water, there was no way down and no way to recover the light. Lucky for us though, she dropped her headlamp into the water at a canoe checkpoint, CP14. Our only chance at recovering the light was to canoe to that control and search for it later that night.
Night was rapidly approaching and the first order of business was to go straight to CP14 (Near Zip Line) and try to recover our headlamp. After a quick search, we found it in about 2 feet of water and it still worked perfectly. I love Lupine. What I don’t love is canoeing in a swamp at night without a light!
I wish we had taken more photos during the race to better show you what it was like at night, but we were playing catch up the whole time and photos were the last things on our minds. Just imagine that you are surrounded by cypress trees that are all identical and you can’t make out the shoreline because it is so dark. No matter which way you looked, everything looked the same. It was like a bad text-based video game from the 80’s.
You are in a cypress swamp at night surrounded by identical trees…
You are in a cypress swamp at night surrounded by identical trees…
You are in a cypress swamp at night surrounded by identical trees…
You are in a cypress swamp at night surrounded by identical trees…
You are in a cypress swamp at night surrounded by identical trees…
It was eerily beautiful. Our headlamps created a perfect reflection of the cypress trees on the black water as we paddled around the labyrinth of trees. As we were looking for CP20 (Distinct Cypress) we heard this voice in the darkness…Hello?
Lionel? Adele? Nope, it was Mac Kelly from Chub Solo. His headlamp had gone out and he was drifting in the darkness. How he didn’t freak out, I don’t know. We loaned him one of our lights and said he could either give it back to us at the end of the race or tag along with us. He decided to tag along…silly guy. We got to enjoy his company and he got to enjoy getting lost in the woods with us.
When we couldn’t locate CP20 (Distinct Cypress) we ended up backtracking to the previous control to try to follow the bearing again. It seemed like it was going to take at least two attempts to find every control, and I was beginning to feel as if we would never get out of that swamp.
For CP21, we had to follow pink streamers down a small creek to locate a pond. But the creek ended up turning into nothing but a mucky “trail”, through which we portaged our canoes. And thank goodness we took our canoes because once we finally got to the pond, there was no way we were wading across a chest-deep pond in the middle of the night. Some teams did, but then some teams are just flippin’crazy!
Another interesting feature that the race director led us to was a sunken car in the middle of the swamp. Most likely a relic of the prohibition era, this was really cool to come across at night.
Finishing the paddle took us forever, and it was well into the night when we started our first foot section. Craig had warned us that the foot section was going to be hard. He also suggested we attempt it in reverse order. We didn’t listen…we were stupid.
The first two controls were along trails and easy enough to find, but then it all went downhill. By the time we got to CP26 (West Side of Bradford Brook) we had somehow caught up with ARGeorgia, Off the Grid Racing, and Florida Xtreme. It seems the paddle and foot section were giving lots of teams problems.
Somewhere prior to CP27, we met up with Ron Eaglin, “The Human Compass” and his team, Florida Xtreme. Since we were all walking at this point, we ended up finding CPs 27 & 28 together. I don’t really like following other teams to controls, because I don’t feel like I learn anything that way, so we broke away from Florida Xtreme going towards CP29. Not the wisest of choices. Ron is a really good navigator and staying with them would have ensured we found the remaining controls quickly.
Instead we went on a 40 minute swamp stomp. On the map, CP29 looks straight forward. From CP28, shoot southwest until you hit the stream and follow it south until it forks…easy peasy. Except that the creek turned into a swamp and we never could locate the fork. We worked our way south down the creek and eventually gave up and bailed east to the powerlines.
To reattack, we headed northwest towards the powerline/creek intersection, pace counted southeast until we hit the powerline/trail intersection and headed straight west and found the control without any problems. Sounds easy now. Forty minutes wasted and we never saw Florida Xtreme, ARGeorgia, or Off the Grid Racing again.
The rest of the foot controls were straight forward, with many of them being in sinks.
Boat1 – Return
When we finished up Foot1, we had to return to the boat and then paddle back to the Boat TA, where we had originally launched. Todd was working the boat nav and doing a great job, Ana was in the front being the motor, and I was in the back smashing palm-sized spiders before they crawled up Todd’s leg. Todd loves spiders…and ticks. He really loves ticks.
Once again, I was leading the nav and doing a freakingly stellar job of it. We were jogging along an old road to CP39, because the clue was, “Along an Old Road.” However, when the road ended and we didn’t find the control, I wasn’t surprised given the way the night was going. The old road intersected with a new road. So, we turned around and pace counted to where the control should be. But, there was no control. We looked in the woods where we thought the control should be, but nope, no control. So, back up to the intersection to see if there was another old road that ran parallel to the one we were on. I didn’t see one, so back down the old road we went. When we got to the same spot again, I said screw it, I’m heading east until we hit the lake. And that’s when I found another road running parallel to the one we were on. And you know what was along that parallel road. Yep, the control. Good times.
We had a couple of more controls on this section, and one of them had us pick up a Natural Ice can left behind by someone who thought it would be cool to drink Natural Ice and litter. Neither of which is cool. I felt good cleaning up a little piece of the forest, I felt bad sucking at navigation all night. Perhaps a Natty Light or two would have helped. It definitely wouldn’t have hurt by this point.
Finally done with the foot sections, it was time to climb back on the bikes, except that Ana’s tire was completely flat. It seems her bike maintainer was a little too lazy to add more anti-leak goop to her tires before the race. She probably would have fired the bum by now if he wasn’t so damn sexy in bike shorts. A couple of blasts of compressed air and a prayer that it would hold together for 3 hours, and we were off.
CP43 had us bushwhack 35 meters into a tree line from a wooden fence along the St. Marks Historic Railroad Trail which put us nearly into someone’s backyard. Pitch black, headlamps on, dogs barking their heads off and some dude yelling, “What the hell is going on out here!” I’m just praying, “Oh dear Lord, please don’t let that man release his dogs because I am stuck in these briers and my legs are too cramped to run.” Todd kept calling out, “Sir, we are NOT trying to get to your house. We are in a race and looking for a flag. We are NOT coming onto your property”. Ever try to explain adventure racing to someone? Try explaining it to someone who thinks you’re trying to sneak onto their property at night, while their dogs are going nuts. Oh, the fun we have!
Not finding the flag, and not wanting to get shot, we got the bright idea to see if there was another wooden fence just up the trail…which, of course, there was. And wouldn’t you know, there was a flag 35 meters in the tree line, just like the clue said.
Ana’s knee was absolutely killing her by now, and she was reduced to pedaling with one leg. I didn’t know if she was going to be able to manage the hills of Tallahassee, much less the final single track section. None of us had a towline, so we slowly worked our way towards the finish, picking up CP’s along the way and waiting for teams to pass us before we could finish. I think it would have absolutely crushed her to have another team pass us on the bike. But, if they had, it would have been due to my bad navigation throughout the night, not her bad knee.
We grinded it back to the Cadillac Trail and pushed through the final single track section. I could hear Ana wince on every pedal stroke, but we knew if we could just get onto the canoe we’d have a good chance of retaining our position.
The final paddle was a 2 hour push through lily pad covered waterways. I was unsure when the official race time was over, so we paddled as hard as we could to try to finish by 10AM. Todd was doing a great job of navigating us through the mess. I don’t think we made a single navigational error.
We did end up blowing by CP55 (on an old dock) and having to turn around to find it. I’d like to think it was because our blazing paddles had us going so fast. Truth is, it was because all of us were looking towards the shoreline…you know the place where most old docks are. We’re all looking off to the right side of the boat as we slowly cruise past the flag on our left.
“See anything over there?”
“Nope.” Eyeballs straining to see across to the shoreline where old docks are supposed to be.
“Keep looking, it should be right here.”
“Nope, don’t see anything yet.”
As our boat slowly drifts by the damn flag that is within arm’s reach on the left side of the canoe.
Arms and back exhausted, we finally finished circumnavigating the Lafayette Heritage Paddle trail, collecting all of the CPs, and crawling to the finish just before 10AM.
This was an all-around tough race that had us in race salvage mode the entire time. My navigation was probably the worst it has ever been. However, I couldn’t be more proud of the way the team held together and kept racing. We weren’t the fastest by a long shot. But, I feel like we kept pushing and stayed in race mode even when things got sucky. Our race results ended up being much better than we expected. Many teams fought hard and were amazingly fast the entire time. Ron and Florida Xtreme ended up in 1st, which is no surprise for anyone that has raced against Ron. Congratulations to his team on the win!
A big thanks to Ana and Todd for keeping me in the race and pushing the entire time. We’re definitely not the fastest, but there’s no one I’d rather race with.
As always, this was another great Florida Xtreme race and we can’t thank Craig, John, and all the volunteers for the work they put into making this a success. The course was top-notch and the zip lining was amazing. A big thanks to the Tallahassee Museum for putting up with 50 stinky racers tromping around their property.
As always, we greatly appreciate those that have chosen to support our team. Please take a second and check out their gear. If we’re using it, it’s because we like it.
Like many people, our family has been affected by cancer and we want to get involved in stopping this disease. We are trying to help raise funds for the American Cancer Society through the Relay for Life. If you would like to help by donating, please visit our Relay for Life Team Page and make a single donation.
Or, if you want to have fun with this, give us a challenge and base your pledge on it. Here are some examples we’ve thought of:
Donation per lap for Lucas our 9 year old son
Donation per lap for Nolan our 11 year old son
Donation per lap for David (He’s getting a little old and his knees are a little shaky)
Donations per lap for Ana (She’s a diesel that may just chug through the whole night)
Donations per lap for Team Disoriented – all 4 members (Hope you brought your checkbook for this one 😉
Pick the challenge depending on how brave, or how much money you are willing to part with…or come up with your own. How about how many lunges Ana can do around the track? Or, a dollar for every minute she rubs my aching feet? We’re game for anything legal. The event last 12 hours and each lap is 1/4 mile.
If you want to make a challenge pledge, just leave a comment either here or on our Facebook page, or shoot us an email with your pledge and we’ll let you know how we did following the event. Maybe we’ll have some challenges that we can post in real time over Facebook…that would be pretty cool.
Anyway, we hope you help out.
We’ll be going live on Facebook throughout the night to give you a feel for the event.
Bears, gators, green lasers, hobbit feet, mouth sores, epic single track, hypothermia, search and rescue, where’s that damn dam, crash and burn off an 8 foot berm, beautiful Florida wilderness, great times!
How do you describe a 72-hour, non-stop adventure race? I don’t think you really can. It’s almost impossible to describe, especially to those that have never done one. When I try to tell people about it, I can’t seem to capture how exciting, rewarding, tough, exhausting and ultimately fun a race like this is. In addition, most people seem to have a 2 minute attention span and a 3-day race isn’t something that you can describe with an elevator pitch. So, for those that enjoy the archaic hobby of reading things longer than a Facebook post, here’s my vain attempt…
I guess the race started at Ponce Inlet. I find it hilarious that when people ask me where the race started, I really can’t tell them. “Somewhere on the east coast of Florida” is what I usually answer. “But, I know we finished at the Plantation Inn & Golf Resort in Crystal River.” You see, before the race begins and we’re given our 48 maps, we don’t know where the race will start. We know where it ends because that’s where we parked our cars, and eventually you’ll want to find your car.
After a 3hr bus ride to the other side of Florida, we had enough time to drop the browns off at the Super Bowl, butter the biscuits, and do a last minute gear check before embarking on our epic race. I’m usually super nervous until I find the first checkpoint (CP) and truly get my bearing. For this race, the first CP was along a pier right in front of us, even Team Disoriented can nail that.The rest of the section was a simple trek around Ponce Inlet, hitting a couple of local spots, and taking photos along the way.
Section 2: Paddle (8.5 miles) Spruce Creek
There is nothing sweeter than the sound of oyster shells scraping along the bottom of your fiberglass canoe, trying to rip it open like the Titanic. Of course, being the conscientious adventure racers that we are, we would never, ever subject our canoe to that type of abuse. But then again, we weren’t using our canoe…
We followed a few teams through the labyrinth of shallow oyster beds, collecting 2 CPs and ending with a nice little portage. How long was the portage you ask? Oh, about ¼ mile passed pissed off. The canoe drop was just before we got started on the really good curse words.
Section 3: Bike (48 miles) East Coast
Our first bike section of the race started with a time trial of the Spruce Creek Bike Trail Network. Follow the trail they said. You can’t get lost they said. Hmm funny how we ran into 2 other teams that had gone around in a big loop after missing a critical turn. We decided to throttle back our mad mountain biking skilz (yeah, that’s skilz with a z) to not mess up the navigation on this. We definitely didn’t break any time trial records here, but we did get all the CPs.
After the time trial, we had 4 other CPs to collect along the way to the next section. This was a mix of off-road/jeep trails and some city roads. One of the cool CPs was at the Sopotnick’s Cabbage Patch Bar, a well-known bike bar…for dudes with tats, skull rings, chains, and leather jackets. Not for dudes in spandex shorts on bicycles. Actually, they were really cool and allowed us to get a drink, so long as we got the hell out of there.The last CP for this leg was at JC’s Bikes & Boards. Adventure South Racing was stopped here getting their derailleur fixed. How awesome is that?! If you’re ever in the area and need to stop at a bike shop, hit them up.
Section 4: Trek (4 miles) Lake Beresford Park
Here’s the dealio. I hate cutoffs, especially early cutoffs. Yeah yeah, I know, strategery is a part of adventure racing blah blah blah. My issue is that only 2 teams, Rev3 & Good ‘Nuff, cleared the course up to Section 4 and made the time cutoff (and hats off to both teams for making it). We missed it by 20 minutes, clearing the course up to that point. Unfortunately, the early cutoff set the race for us and many other teams and removed the possibility for any late race rallies. By 4:30PM on the first day, both top teams knew that all they had to do was clear the course and they were assured a 1-2 place finish. Mentally, this is a strong position to be in…much different than knowing a team can come from behind and take a spot from you. Oh well. Our mistake. We totally own it and know we should have pushed harder in the beginning.
Section 5: Paddle (11 miles) Snake Creek
We paddled up the aptly named Snake Creek as it twisted its way northwest towards Hontoon Island State Park, where it eventually meets the St. Johns River. At Hontoon Island, we disembarked to search for “CP14 – Indian Mound on Hontoon Island.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I had no idea that Indian Mounds looked like park benches. I guess if I were an Indian building a mound, I might want a bench on top of the mound so that I could take a nice leisurely view of the surrounding forest, maybe eat a sandwich or opossum, or whatever Indians ate back then. I don’t really know, but I do know that ambiguous clues are no fun. Especially when there isn’t a control at the location. Were we on the right trail? Should there be a sign that says “Indian Mound”? Are we supposed to ignore the “Trail Ends Here” sign and go look for an Indian mound? We decided to reattack this CP from another trail and ended up in the same location. So we snapped a photo of the bench and said &^@#! it after wasting 30-40 minutes.
This should have been a quick five minute punch, “CP14 – Park bench at end of trail (this is an Indian Mound)” would have been unambiguous and let teams know of the historical artifact we were on.
Section 6: Trek (19 miles) St. Francis
I love night treks. No, really, I do. There is something indescribably exciting and enchanting about night trekking. It’s quiet and spooky and fun all at the same time. Owls hoot, critters and creatures run about in the woods around you. You feel like there isn’t another soul around for miles. It’s just mesmerizing.We fast trekked this section, nailing the navigation and making pretty good time while enjoying each other’s company and trying not to migrate onto private property. Walking onto private property at 3AM in the middle of the woods is no bueno.
Section 7: Bike (22 miles) Ocala Paisley Woods
Section 7 was a 22 mile bike loop for 2 CPs that some teams opted not to do. That’s a pretty good decision when you know that after the 22 mile loop, you had another 30 miles on the bike before the next transition area (TA). That’s a total of 7-8 hours of butt-blistering biking. Our plan was to do the short loop for 1 point and to skip the long loop. We were looking for “CP19 – Bike Loop Trail Cutoff Sign” which translated into American means “CP19 – Alexander Springs Sign”. Maybe other teams weren’t confused, but I’m a pretty simple guy. If someone says, take a photo of the blue sign, I’m looking for a blue sign. And if the clue says, “Bike Loop Trail Cutoff Sign” then I’m looking for a sign that says, “Bike Loop Trail Cutoff” or “Bike Cutoff” or “Trail Cutoff” or “Cutoff” or at least 1 of the 4 words used in the clue. I’m not looking for a sign that says’ “Peanuts this way” or “Unicorns are Awesome” but maybe that’s just me.
After doing ½ of the first loop, Todd was super excited about going on to do the long loop as well. Especially since doing so might make us miss the O-course cutoff at Sunnyhill for 9 points. I can fondly remember the words of encouragement and the hug he gave me once we got to the top of the loop…
Section 8: Bike (30 miles) Ocala National Forest
Once we finished the double bike loop, we still had 30 miles of trail biking to do through the Ocala National Forest. The clue sheet offered this sage advice, “Select checkpoints in this ride wisely, many of the roads and trails along this segment can be sandy or muddy.” I’m not sure how you select roads and trails wisely when you don’t know the area, I mean you might as well say, “Shake your Magic 8-Ball and rattle some chicken bones for good juju because if you don’t you’ll be stuck in 8 inches of the softest damn sand you’ve ever tried to ride through.”
Riding in sugar sand is like…well, it’s like CRAP! That’s the best I have. It’s crap, piled on top of crap.
Section 9: O-Course (? miles) Sunnyhill
We rode into Sunnyhill to start the O-Course and were greeted with gator-filled canals that created a labyrinth of water. Picking the wrong path took you to a dead-end where the only options were to turn back or go through the canal. After seeing a few toothsome gators hiding in the duckweed, we decided there would be no swimming or canal crossings on this section.
After plotting 9 UTM points, we headed out. There was a 9PM cutoff to finish this section, but we had plenty of time. Once out on the course, we realized how far apart the controls were and that the nav wasn’t going to be as straight forward as we originally thought. Our first route choice took us to a dead-end where we had to turn back. The distances seemed to be much further than indicated on the map, but looking at Google Maps post-race, the scale was right on. I think it was more of an optical illusion because the land was flat and treeless and you could see a long distance.We struggled a bit on this section. I ended up dropping my watch on the way to CP33 – River Cabin and had to backtrack to find it. Green watch dropped in green grass…yeah that was about as fun as you can imagine. This was my 2nd watch, the first I lost at USARA Nationals last year and I wasn’t about to leave this one behind. Luckily Ana was running strong and could race ahead to look for it while Todd and I limped along.
CP34 – Big Cedar gave us the most trouble as we tried twice to attack it from the west. After two failed attempts, we were going to bail on it, but since we had to go past it to finish the course, we decided to attack it once more from the east. As we got close to the attack point, we had a large black bear walk out of the woods onto the trail in front of us. We were contemplating what to do next until the second, larger bear stepped out onto the trail. That pretty much solidified our decision to get the hell out of there. Now, maybe others would have kept moving towards the bears, but I’ve never heard anyone advising that you should walk towards a bear with a backpack full of food when it stands between you and were you want to go. I’m sure some have tried it. There’s a special award for those people, a Darwin Award.
Our next CP was CP30 – Small Clearing for Bears. Just fantastic. Dusk is settling in, we’ve already seen two bears, and now we’re heading into a small clearing for bears. For five minutes we hunted around a clearing full of bear poop with backpacks full of nuts, berries, chocolate…you know all those things that bears eat. I felt like we were walking snack packs for the bears. Hey BooBoo! Why don’t we go eat one of those walking picnic baskets?
By now, I was mentally drained and couldn’t nav anymore. I handed the map over to Todd and he finished up the O-Course, guiding us to the remaining checkpoints and the transition area. During this section there was also a full-on search and rescue going on. We didn’t know if someone was attacked by a bear, eaten by an alligator, or lost on the Oklawaha paddle. With a helicopter flying overhead, and sirens going off, we were really worried for whoever had called for help. But, that’s a story you’ll have to read about on the Canyoneros blog post.
Section 10: Paddle (18 miles) Oklawaha
Forever to be known as “The Paddle”, the Oklawaha paddle was just about the hardest section of any race we’ve done so far. Our first plan was to sleep for 20-30 minutes at the TA before heading out on the paddle. So, we ate a Cup’O’Noodles and putzed around the TA wasting a lot of time before deciding that we should go out, paddle up to the dam and sleep there for 20-30 minutes before finishing the paddle. That would break up the 5 hour paddle and allow us some sleep. I knew it was forecasted to get cold and the sooner we got the paddle done, the better off we would be.
Exhausted, we launched our canoe and paddled, collecting 2 CPs along the way. By the time we reached the dam, Ana was soaked and freezing and we were all on the verge of collapse. We portaged our canoe around the dam and tried to catch 20 minutes of sleep in the women’s bathroom. You know you’re pretty stinking tired if you’re willing to curl up on a public bathroom floor to get some rest. After 20 minutes of shivering and shaking without sleeping, we decided to hit the water again. By now, Ana was wrapped in her Survive Outdoors Longer Emergency Blanket, cold weather gear, rain gear and puffy jacket.
Little did we know how miserable a 3 hour paddle would be after racing for 36 solid hours and having the temperature drop to 38 degrees. Along the paddle I saw green lasers being shot across the river, Ana saw castles, Todd saw little men. We all heard voices and felt that at times we were either paddling uphill or downhill. With the change in temperature, there was such a mist on the river that Ana couldn’t see anything in front of her. It was like driving in fog with high beams on. Imagine someone threw a white sheet over your head and then told you to paddle while they constantly threw cups of cold water at your face. Good times, right?
We played word games and told stories to stay awake as we bounced off lily pads on either side of the river and avoided downed trees just seconds before crashing into them. We were in total wilderness and a capsized canoe, in our state, would not have been good.
However, it wasn’t until we finally landed and had to hike 1.5 miles to the transition area that we realized just how cold we were. We were completely soaked and with uncontrollable shaking and chattering teeth, we carried all of our paddling gear to the TA where the most awesome volunteers had a small fire and hot chocolate available. Chris and Sonia, you were literally life savers. Thank you!
Section 11: Trek (9 miles) Marshall Swamp
Before heading out on the trek, we decided to grab an hour sleep at the TA. This was our first sleep of the race and we went unconscious as soon as we stopped moving. This trek was along the Florida National Scenic Trail to the Historic Santos Recreation Area. There weren’t any real navigation decisions to be made here and we simply followed the trail to the TA.
Section 12: Bike (50 miles) Santos
For cross country trail riding in Florida, it doesn’t get any better than Santos. Maintained by the Ocala Mountain Bike Association this trail has it all: epic drops, steep climbs, technical stuff, and fast flowing single track.
With Todd picking the lines, we “flew” through this section. At least in my mind I was flying, and looking pretty awesome doing it. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
After getting through the climbs and switchbacks on Nayls and Ern N Burn, Ana was ready for a stiff drink. I was ready to get off the bike for awhile, but we still had miles to go.
The last single track section, Tricycle, seemed to last FOR…E…VER! After the previous, more technical sections that made you stay focused, this part was a little more mundane and having only 1 hour of sleep so far, it was getting hard to keep our head in the game. We weren’t sure where the last CP was, just that it was along the trail somewhere. It’s always a little unnerving not knowing where the controls are, but the race directors did a great job placing them so you couldn’t miss them. Had the race directors placed the CPs on the map, teams could easily bypass the more technical and fun parts of the trail in exchange for getting to the controls faster.
Once we got out of Santos, we still had a few miles of street riding to do before reaching the next TA. Once we hit the road, we met up with Nativos Colombia and a few other teams. Nativos Colombia are crazy fast on the bike and flew past us. I knew we weren’t the fastest cyclists out there but man what an eye opener. It must be our bikes…yeah, definitely our bikes. And a loud hub, I need a loud hub. I heard they make you go crazy fast.
The O-course section was a dark zone where all teams were stopped until 5AM Sunday morning. While here, they had the option of completing up to four O-courses of varying difficulty. The way it worked is that you picked one of the four courses and returned to the TA after completing each one and before heading out on the next one. Once your team decided it was finished, you were off the race clock until the dark zone was lifted.
I’m not sure what time we arrived, but it was after dark and we knew we were in for a long night if we wanted to collect all four available points. After sucking down about 3 hamburgers, we headed off on our first O-course.
Clearing the first course was pretty easy, but then we couldn’t find the Transition Area again. I can’t explain how frustrating it is to be able to locate a 12in x 12in orange and white flag out in the middle of a forest and then not be able to locate a clearing with two U-Haul trucks, 100+ bicycles, and racers milling about. We stumbled around for a little while, ending up in the regular campers section of the park before finally finding the Transition Area again.
Due to Todd’s bloodhound-like ability to sniff out controls, we didn’t have much trouble finding any of the CPs except for CP2 on map 4 (shown below) if anyone is following along on the maps.
When we bushwhacked straight from CP1 to CP2, we thought we were looking for a CP on a hill, but we should have been looking for a CP in a sink. They’re kinda like opposites, ya know. So, we scoured the hill to the south of CP2 for about 45 minutes until we decided to reorient ourselves by going to the trail junction north of us and pace counting to the correct “hill”. When our pace counting put us smack dab in the middle of the sink, I realized my map reading error. Once in the correct location, we found the CP easily. Oh, the fun we had!
By now, we were sleepwalking zombies. It was probably close to 2AM and we hadn’t slept more than an hour in the last 65 hours. Once again I was brain dead and handed the maps over to Todd, who finished up the O-Course and led us to the Transition Area. Along the way we entered this massive sink that was also a prescribed burn. We came across a downed pine tree smoldering with glowing red embers inside of it. At the bottom of the sink was a huge tree with a CP hanging from it. I really wish we would have taken a picture of the area as it was surreal. But, the only thing on our mind was finishing this section and grabbing an hour of sleep before the dark zone lifted.
Section 14: Bike (28 miles) West Coast
We got back to the Transition Area at 3AM, just enough time to sleep for an hour before waking at 4AM in preparation for the 5AM race restart. Dragging yourself out of a warm sleeping bag after 1 hour of sleep, when it’s 45 degrees outside…AWESOME!
The race restart had us blasting down clay roads with washed out sections ready to grab your front tire and launch you head first into the darkness. Being the super bikers that we are, we got to watch taillights disappear into the night ahead of us. We had a couple of CPs to pick up along the way to the final boat section.This was a 28 mile final sprint and our team formed a pace line, more to look cool than to move any faster. Ana, always the unstoppable one, took the lead and pulled Todd and me along the streets of Crystal River.
The last CP on this section was supposed to be collected on foot, but since the lead teams were allowed to go on bike, we were all given the option. This rooty, narrow berm of a trail was not meant for bike riding, at least not for us to be bike riding. On the way back from punching the control, Ana got close and personal with the mucky waters on either side of the berm.
I looked back just in time to see her fly over her handlebars and crash face first into the muck 6 feet below. Thank goodness she saved her bike from any damage by having it land on top of her. I would have taken a picture if I wasn’t so worried that she was okay…and worried that she’d slap the crap out of me if I tried.
Later on I was able to snap this photo of her post-crash bad assery 🙂
Section 15: Paddle (8 miles) Fort Island Beach
Here were our choices, paddle 8 miles into a blustery headwind or go hit Denny’s for the Grand Slam special…
There is nothing better than rolling into a Denny’s after 72 hours of racing and smelling like swamp funk. After 3 days of solid racing, your body takes on a completely new level of stink. There is regular body odor, and sweaty man body odor, and then there is something I like to call Landfill funk…you know that special scent that makes you cough up a little vomit in the back of your throat on the first sniff. We were just about touching that level.
Florida Xtreme nailed it! This was the race we were looking for. Difficult, wild, adventure. The maps were great, the logistics were great, the volunteers were great. Superbly ran and organized from beginning to end. We can’t thank Junos, Ron, Dave, Manny, and the entire Florida Xtreme crew enough for putting on a superb race. To the volunteers, a heartfelt thank you for making this race amazing. I know how hard you all worked out there and it is appreciated by every single racer. And of course, thank you to the two best teammates I could ever hope for.
To the race directors, two small suggestions:
All CPs need to be unambiguous or have a marker on them. 72 hours of racing is hard enough, don’t make us guess whether we have a photo of the right thing or not…or counted the right number of benches. It’s just down right frustrating to lose a point when you know you were in the right area.
Not being able to speak for most racers, but for me and my ego, what I really want more than prizes or t-shirts are photos. I’d rather the race directors pay someone, or get a volunteer, to take a boat load of photos of all the teams throughout the race and make them available for free. Because in the end, we’re all doing this for the memories.
Okay, I try not to rant on this blog because honestly who wants to read someone’s ranting all the time. But, today is different. Today I want to talk about barriers to entry. I hear it all the time about how there are so many barriers to entry when it comes to adventure racing.
You have to use a compass…
You have to plot UTMs…
You can’t use your cell phone or GPS…
There is too much gear to buy…
The races are too expensive…
I have to travel too far to race…
The races are too long, too hard, too…whatever.
Yep! You’re right! And that’s what makes this the “Best Damn Sport Ever”. It’s hard. Sometimes it’s a pain in the ass. Sometimes you get lost, or you don’t finish a race. Maybe your gear sucks. That’s life. I’m not sorry. I’m not apologetic. You want to play the game, then get the gear and get your butt out there and learn how to do it.
You want convenient, go run a 5k. The course is marked. You’ll be done in 30 minutes and can go home with your t-shirt. You can impress your friends on Instagram with a couple of photos, hell you can probably tweet to them while running the course. There ya go, no barriers to entry. You probably already own a pair of shoes and you can probably swing the $30 entry fee.
As adventure racers, is that what we want?
Enough with the hand holding and wondering how do we get the next generation into this sport. Maybe they’re too busy playing video games. That’s cool.
The motto for Eco-Challenge, the race that started this for many of us, was:
For veteran adventure racers, Eco-Challenge is designed to punish, torment, and take no prisoners. For the wide-eyed rookies, it is designed to be all but impossible.
People try things, they fail. Or perhaps they don’t do as well as they’d like. It’s okay. We fail…all the time. It’s adventure racing. We’re not very good at it. There are some REAL teams out there crushing courses. We’ll never be half as good as them, but that’s okay.
The allure of adventure racing isn’t how easy or fun it can be made. The allure is in the multi-faceted nature of it. You have to do the disciplines but you also have to manage your team, your gear, your nutrition, yourself. You have to be able to plot, to navigate, to read a map and compass. It’s a lot, and it’s hard, and it’s not for everyone. That’s okay too.
I don’t like basketball, but I couldn’t imagine someone lowering the barriers of entry for me. I’m sure no one is sitting around thinking…man, what if we make the hoop a little bigger, or the post a little shorter. Most people suck at dribbling, why don’t we just allow people to run with the ball instead of dribbling.
I wonder what other sports have people wondering, “How can I make this easier for someone.”
That’s right, none!
You gotta pay to play. Gear, training, skills, experience, teamwork, If you want it, go get it. It’s not fair, but it’s worth every damn penny.
Dude, I get it. Adventure Racing is not a mainstream sport. Most of your buddies have never heard of The Best Damn Sport Ever Created™ (Yeah, I made that up and trademarked it.) What I don’t get is why teams want to look like they just rolled out of bed, threw on the first t-shirt they picked up off the floor, and accidentally rolled into the starting line of a race.
Our local 4-year old soccer team has uniforms. The local bowling league has uniforms. Hell, half of the damn tourists at Walt Disney World have matching outfits.
Come on people! You are adventure racers, you are athletes, most importantly you are part of a team! You wanna be a team, look like a team!
Shirts. These days it can be really tough to find matching shirts with a Walmart on every corner and an Amazon on every computer. But, if you’re up for the challenge, I think you can do it. Better yet, step up your game and head over to our favorite place, Logo Sportswear. Custom apparel, fast turn around, no minimum orders. Inexpensive and good. What more do you need? Did I get you psyched and now you want custom hats, jackets, and polos? They got all that and a bag of chips! Maybe not the chips, sorry, I got a little excited there.
Accessorize. Yeah, you read that right…accessorize! Don’t judge me, bro. Matching water bottles, compression socks, headbands, whatever. There are 20 different colors of duct tape for goodness sake. Pick a team color, any color (except lime green of course) and then accessorize.
Getcha a sweet ass canopy from E-Z UP. They’re inexpensive, indestructible, and made in about any color you can imagine. And guess what, it rains and the sun is hot. Want a dry place to do your pre-race planning while everyone else gets soaked? Done! Want to chill in the shade with your team and a cold one post-race? They gotcha covered. Don’t want to go all fancy dancy with matching colors? That’s cool, they make them in basic black. Are you a super duper awesome race team or race company looking for custom printed graphics? They can handle that for sure!
Put it all together and you get, Boom!
More poseur than pro? Sure. But I’m cool with that. If for a few hours out of the month I can pretend to be half as good as Nathan Fa’avae, Kyle Peter, or Robyn Benincasa, count me in. Aren’t we all poseurs anyway? I see you strolling around town in your Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins jersey.
One, you picked a crappy team. Two, you’re in the wrong decade, maybe even the wrong century. Three, it’s okay. You want to be a part of something bigger than yourself, part of a team. That’s why you got into this. Adventure racing is a team sport. Get out there and look like a team!
Wekiwa Springs State Park was the location of the 2016 Florida State Championship AKA Turkey Burn 12Hr Adventure Race. Dave Brault and Jim Feudner teamed up to design another amazing race that pushed all the teams for everything they were worth. This was our first time at the Turkey Burn. Unfortunately, we were missing our #GetRad guy, Stephen, who was off doing stuff like getting married, adopting a dog, and working his ass off over in Europe…
Bike 1 (~8 miles)
For the 4AM race start, Dave led the teams to the bottom of a sugar sand covered jeep trail. At go, we put on our best hardcore faces and pedaled for everything we were worth, until we passed the volunteer snapping photos 20 feet ahead. Once safely past, my race face changed to Mr. Huff and Puff and I concentrated on staying upright and not hyperventilating as my back tire churned up sand. In front of us, Good ‘Nuff kicked up a cloud of sugar sand as they powered through, their taillights vanishing in the darkness. I have words for moments like that…special words.
This section had 4 CPs that we had to get in order, and as much as we wanted to pull away from the other teams, they were having none of it. Behind us was a steady stream of lights with mere seconds between teams. This was no time to screw up and we cleared the section quickly, racing back to the Main TA where we had our first special test, making S’mores at a campfire. Pretty sweet!
Foot 1 (~3.5 miles)
The start of Foot 1 presented us with our first strategic decision. We could either do the foot section while carrying our paddle gear, or clear the foot section and then go back to the Main TA to get our paddle gear before heading off to the canoe section. We decided to carry all of our paddle gear and raced out of the TA. Then we realized that they probably had PFDs at the canoes and it would be smarter to not carry ours. We ran back to the Main TA, dropped our PFDs, and raced out of there only to realize we forgot to grab extra water for the 4 hour canoe section. Crappy, crappy transition. Luckily, I helped us recover by totally screwing up the first checkpoint on the foot section. Why stay in second place when 5th is much more fun.
Y’all ready for a pro tip? Here it is. The scale on an O-Course map is probably different than the scale on a 1:24000 map. You see, CP5 was only about 200 meters from the bend in the road if you use the right scale. Use the wrong scale and it looks more like 350 meters. It’s pretty stinking hard to find a little orange and white flag when your 150 meters past it, at night, in the woods. What’s really cool is if you can watch the headlights of other teams pass you as you struggle in vain to find the CP. I have plenty of these pro tips, ya just gotta ask.
Boat (~12 miles)
The canoe along the Wekiva river was beautiful. The canoe along the backwater channels was hell. Of course, all of the CPs were along the backwater channels. According to many race directors, the word “canoe” is Native American for “hunk of fiberglass you push and pull over many downed trees.” Todd was nailing the nav on this section as we struggled to regain the time we lost on the previous foot section.
After 3.5 hours of paddling and getting soaked to our waist from jumping in and out of the water, we were freezing and just wanted to get off the canoe. Once we landed, we ran back to the Main TA on numb feet and chattering teeth. It took the entire 15 minute run back for us to warm up.
Bike 2 (~12 miles)
This section had us going in a clockwise direction to collect the CPs in order. Somewhere close to CP24 we ran into Ron, Courtney and Erik from Lost Cause. It was the first time we had seen another team since the paddle section. We ventured to CP24 and CP25 together, and after punching CP25 away they all flew like the down of a thistle. What the hell does that mean?! Seriously! I’ve heard that line for 44 years and still have no clue what it means…down of a thistle…whatever.
In more tortoise-like fashion we raced back to the Main TA and almost got ran over by Good ‘Nuff as they were flying up to CP25. They are crazy fast!
Foot 2 (~7.5 miles)
Foot 2 is where the strategy started to come in. We were clearing the course up to this point. But, we knew that we wouldn’t be able to clear the entire course and doubted any other team would either. So, we had to make decisions to maximize our points. Todd and I debated two far away CPs. We estimated it would take us 30-40 minutes to grab them both and get back. I wanted to get them. Todd wanted to leave them and save our legs for the last foot section. In the end, I agreed with Todd and it ended up being a wise move. Mentally, it is hard to drop any points when you’re clearing a course, but who can resist Todd’s Cheesy McPleasy smile?
Bike 3 (~11 miles)
Not much to say on this section. I have little chicken legs and knew we wouldn’t be able to get many bike points, so we didn’t try. With the sugar sand trails that suck the life out of you, we knew we’d end up killing ourselves for just a few points when there were more to get on foot. Instead, we raced to get the first easy bike CP and then headed right back to the Main TA and transitioned to foot.
Foot 3 (~4.5 miles)
The final foot was the make or break section. We knew we had to clear it and get back as quickly as we could to have any chance of winning. There wasn’t any room for errors here and we tried to be as solid as we could with the navigation. With Ana pace counting and Todd spotting CPs with his super x-ray vision, we cleared this section efficiently. One final push to the Main TA and we finished after 11:31:00 of solid racing.
There is this feeling you get in your gut when you get to the finish and realize you left 30 minutes and a whole bunch of checkpoints out on the course. It is not a pleasant feeling. It’s more like that feeling you get the day after you eat bad sushi. You have no idea what the other teams got and your mind replays the whole race and every point you left out there. Should we have gotten those two far checkpoints? Could we have picked up one more on the bike? 30 minutes is an eternity to wait.
In the end it turned out great. We tied Lost Cause on points but won on time. Only thing left to do was eat some delicious spaghetti, check Todd over for ticks, pack up, and drive the 6 hours back home.
As always, a big thanks to Dave, Jim, and all of the volunteers that made this event awesome! There is nothing better than racing hard with great friends out in the beautiful woods of Florida. This is why we do it:
Let’s talk hydration packs. Yeah, yeah I know it’s not sexy like a new carbon fiber 29er. But, as everyone knows, hydration is the key to racing success. Like many, my first water bladder came with my pack. It had some funky screw on cap, was a mess to fill and an absolute pain to clean. When I bought my MS-1 pack from OutThere it didn’t come with a hydration bladder, so I had to go looking for one. I knew I wanted something bomb-proof. I’m all about reliable gear and am willing to pay a little more for something I can absolutely rely on. Nobody wants a leaky bladder.
I came across GEIGERRIG, now part of Aquamira, and was instantly intrigued by what I saw. Here was a hydration bladder that was pressurized. Sounds gimmicky you say? Maybe. But think about it for a second. When I’m huffing and puffing up some gradient that only sheep and billy goats should be climbing, it’s not easy sucking water out of a hydration bladder.
With a few quick pumps of the air bladder, I can now get a stream of water. No more sucking on the hose until my eyes pop out. And, with that stream of water I can do lots of things. My teammates can now get a drink without putting their dirty mouths all over my bite valve. Hey, I race with these guys, I know where their mouths have been. Got mud in your eye? A squirt of water and boom, done! Need to rinse off your sunglasses? Need to rinse a contact lens? Need to fill a water bottle with water to add your last packet of Skratch but don’t want to take your pack off? There are a lot of times when a little pressurized water is a great thing to have.
What’s also super cool is that the hydration bladder has quick disconnects for the hoses. This means that I can remove the bladder from my pack, refill it, and not have to reroute my hoses. It also means that I can instantly add or remove GEIGERRIG’s in-line crypto or virus filters. So now you won’t have to worry if Team Adventure Medical Kits is upstream from you relieving themselves. You’ve got filtration!
“But it’s added weight!” I can hear the whining in the background. I’m kidding, adventure racers don’t whine. Sure it is, everything we carry is added weight. You just have to decide if the benefits are worth it to you. But wait, no you don’t. You see, you don’t have to have the air tube and bulb. You want to go super light and fast? Disconnect the air tube and the GEIGERRIG hydration bladder functions just like any other hydration bladder. You suck, water comes out. But I think once you give it a try, you’ll realize how nice it is to have pressurized water. Why do you think pro cyclists have squeeze bottles? Pressure, my friend! You don’t see riders in the peloton sucking water from a straw. That would be silly.
For outback races and hiking, you really can’t beat this setup. With the inline filtration and the wide mouth opening, filling the hydration bladder is a breeze.
Simply disconnect the hoses from the bladder. You can then remove the bladder from your pack while leaving your hoses installed. Then simply fill that bad boy up.
Now that 2 liters of Florida swamp water is ready to go back in your pack. Plug in your hoses, pressurize that puppy, and get ready to enjoy filtered goodness.
In 20 seconds you’re back on the trail and best of all you’re not waiting 20 minutes for your iodine pills to flavor your water. You do like the taste of iodine, right?
Best of all, once you get back home, turn that bladder inside out and throw it in your dishwasher. It’s dishwasher safe my friend. Who wants to come home from a 3-day race and scrub out a hydration bladder? That’s right, no one.
There you have it. If you need a hydration bladder, check out the GEIGERRIG Hydration Engine Video. And, if you’re looking for a hydration backpack, they have those as well. Got questions? Drop us a comment below. We’re always happy to discuss our race gear. If you’d like to check out more reviews by the pros who know, check them out here:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!