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.
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…
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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