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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I completely sucked on Foot 2 and I have nothing more to say about it…
…other than I was 1 foot away from having a really bad day.
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.
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.
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.