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

Advertisements

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

USARA Nationals Team Tracking

USARA will be tracking teams live via Pinnacle Tracking.  If you’d like to see how far behind we are from the rest of the teams, you can track us at: Pinnacle Tracking

Tracking

If none of the links above work once the race starts, here are the links to USARA Nationals Race HQ pages:

RACE HQ

UPDATES

TRACKING

This is probably our last post prior to nationals.  Stay tuned for the race report.

 

Howl at the Moon – 18Hr Adventure Race

Who would think that after 17 hours and 45 minutes of constant racing that the finish would come down to 2 teams racing neck and neck to the finish line…

After running into Broccoli Covered Powdered Babies (BCPB) throughout the race, it was them and us racing to be the first team back.  Of course, neither team knew how many CPs the other had collected, but we knew that we were close.  Going into the last paddle section, we knew that we had only missed one CP so far and that BCPB had missed 2.  However, they got on the paddle section before us and there were a total of 3 CPs out there–the race was up for grabs.

Note: For those that don’t know, adventure races are won first by points and second by time.  In other words, if team X gets 20 points and all the other teams get less than 20 points, then team X wins.  However, if team X gets 20 points and team Y gets 20 points then it goes to whomever gets to the finish line first.

Howl-at-the-Moon

Link to Race Maps

From the very beginning we knew that Howl at the Moon was going to be an interesting race.  The weather forecast had already informed us that Hobe Sound had experienced a week of heavy downpours with Thursday evening having almost 2 inches of rainfall.  Two inches of rainfall anywhere in Florida morphs an otherwise marshy landscape into a lake, hiking trails into creeks and creeks into running rivers.  It also displaces every nasty crawling, slithering creature you can imagine.  They would be everywhere searching for new homes as we tromped through their habitat.

David, Ana, Ben, Jake

Pre-race:

Check-in at 12, race start at 2, plenty of time to  looking over maps, strategize and prepare our gear for the 18Hr adventure we were bound to have.  Jake Brewer and I poured over the maps, mentally running through the flow of the course, highlighting routes and measuring distances.  Ana and Ben Brewer were getting the gear ready and figuring out how to cram gear, water and 8 hours of food into small packs.  Ron had promised us in the prerace meeting that this race would be a true adventure race, not some watered down version…and we were taking him seriously.

The pre-race meeting wrapped up at 1:30 and Ron announced, “The race will begin in 10 minutes.  Now we’re rushing around trying to finish all the little things we thought we had 30 minutes to do.  But that’s adventure racing, react to the unexpected.  At 1:40 Ron yells “Go!” and teams start racing out.  We’re still thrashing around our gear bins and we race off frazzled and not completely prepared.

Foot 1:

I’m sure these were trails once, but now they’re little more than ankle-deep creeks that either try to suck the shoe off your foot or fill it with muddy water.  The thought of jogging any of this is non-existent, it’s a slog.  While the whole foot course isn’t underwater, a good portion of it is, and we walk as quickly as possible.

We punch CP1 and head towards CP2, deciding that we’ll do a creek crossing rather than following the trail 1.5km around the creek.  This looked like an okay plan when we were looking at the map, but when we’re looking at the inky black creek that we have to cross, it doesn’t look so appealing.  With the rains, the creek that may have once been waist-high is now at least neck high…I wasn’t about to see exactly how deep it was.  Jake leads the charge, because he’s the man, and I go last to keep Ana from becoming gator bait.  Afterwards Ana tries to tell me that she must be a good swimmer because she was across the creek in no time.  I tell her that throwing her into an alligator infested creek that is as dark as oil is like throwing a cat into a bathtub full of ice cold water.  I wouldn’t exactly call the cat a good swimmer, it just managed to get itself out in a flash.  I’m not sure Ana even got wet.

CP3 and 4 were straight forward and after another swim across a murky black, fast-flowing creek we headed off to CP5.  We got a little off on CP5, heading north on a trail on the wrong side of the lake.  This was quickly resolved and we met up with BCPB while searching for this one.  From CP5, we hopped onto the highway for a quick march up to CP6.  I’m sure the commuters were wondering what 6 mud-covered spandex-clad people were doing out on the highway, but then again this is Florida, so maybe not.

BCPB hit the highway and sprinted off while we picked briers out of our shoes and took a more leisurely pace.  We followed the Florida Trail under the highway to CP7, but had difficulty locating the CP.  The clue was “ditch” and we knew we were in the right area, but couldn’t seem to locate it.  Jake amazingly sniffed it out and we cleared the section before heading off to the canoes.

Paddle 1:

There were only 3 CPs to pick up on the paddle back to the Start/Finish/Main TA where we would transition to bikes.  However, getting these CPs would prove a challenge for us and many other teams.  The recent rains had swollen the normally placid and narrow southwest end of the Loxahatchee River into a wide river flowing at over 4 miles per hour.  The river had risen almost 2 feet, completely covering spillway 1, and putting us 2 feet closer to low hanging branches.  The current rushed us through hairpin turns and maintaining control was near impossible.  Since the river had spread through the swamps, what once was land now became part of the river and knowing where the true river went became very difficult.  All we knew was to hold on as the current raced us downstream and to duck, dodge, or climb over as many branches and brambles as possible, trying not to get swept out of the boats.  The sun was rapidly fading and all I could think was, thank god we’re not trying to do this at night.

When we started the canoe section, we were surprised to find we were the 3rd team out.  Pangea Adventure Racing and Broccoli Covered Powder Babies  were 1st and 2nd, respectively.  It seems many other teams had struggled on Foot 1.

CP9 and 10 went well and Jake faultlessly guided us to the correct river branch leading to CP11.  By now it was completely dark and we were paddling against the strong current that before wanted to crash us into every overhanging branch or cypress knee.  It was almost impossible to make forward progress and our paddles madly churned the water as we pressed towards CP11.  The checkpoint was past a small footbridge and rather than try to portage around or over the bridge, we attacked by foot and found the CP.  I did my best Elastic Man impersonation to keep from having to swim in the water to punch the control.

17mtxg317o3thjpg

Clearing Paddle 1, we raced off to the Main TA.  Of course, with a 20% forecast of rain, it had to dump on us before the night was through.  The black sky erupted with brilliant flashes of lightning on the horizon and the skies opened up with a drenching downpour.  Having been soaking wet since the first 15 minutes of the race, a little more water didn’t matter much.

Bike 1

We raced off to Hobe Mountain and climbed the observation tower for the first bike CP.  But instead of a flag, there was a sign saying the actual checkpoint was 350 meters away on a bearing.  We bushwhacked and found it inside a small building.  We then rode to the Camp Murphy bike trailhead where we could either do the O-course or the single track.  We opted for the single track first and had a blast riding 8.6 miles of pretty sweet single track at night.  Club Scrub maintains the track and you can tell they have put their hearts into it.  It’s not easy building good single track in the sugar sands of Florida, but they are doing amazing work down there. [The following video is not mine and is +45min long.  I post it so those interested in seeing what the full single track looks like can watch.]

O-Course

Pangea Adventure Racing and Broccoli Covered Powder Babies were already out on the O-Course as we dumped our bikes and headed out on foot for what was promised to be a challenging section.  We hit the O-Course start, where we found the clue sheet for the remaining checkpoints, and attacked the course in order.  Working together on the navigation and the pace counting, we found most of the points without much issue.

I was really proud of CP8 because there wasn’t a clear attack point.  We measured the distance pre-race, counted out our paces, and headed directly west into the woods and ran right up to the control.  CP9 was the same, solid distance measuring, good pace counting, and holding to the bearing by leap frogging each other.  The team really worked well on this section and our navigation was spot on.  We returned to the bike drop for the O-course and found that we had jumped from 3rd place to 1st.  What?!

Bike 1 Continued

We were pumped.  We didn’t know what had happened out there on the O-Course but we knew that we were in first and had a real chance of winning this thing.  Unfortunately, we were now heading into our weakest event…biking.  Our plan was to attack Bike 1 CP3, 5, 4, then 6 (see map for numbering if interested).   CP3 took us well away from the course and was a 3 mile slog through jeep trails that were half underwater.  The water at some points was so high that we were slapping our pedals through water on the downstroke.  Many times we plunged into puddles so deep that we were knocked off our bikes into knee deep water.  My favorite moment was when Jake, leading us through one of these enormous puddles, yelled, “Gator on the left, stay to the right!”  Ana’s bike, sensing imminent danger, decides to buck Ana off into the puddle in an effort to save itself.  Thank goodness it was only a baby.

gator

This section was a slog and I got completely winded.  I could feel it sucking the strength out of me and many times I had to walk, even on the dry ground, just from exhaustion.  Ana, Jake and Ben were pedaling strong and I was frustrated being the one holding us back.

We had a difficult time finding CP3, but we stuck it out and finally found it.  At CP5 is where we met our demise.  So far we had cleared the course and still had time enough to clear the entire thing.  But CP5 had other plans.  First, we ran into a gate that we were sure was for private property, but we knew we had to go west and on the map there was a trail going west, right where the gate was.  Running north and south of the gate was a canal and as we approached the gate, at the edge of the canal, a gator launched itself into the water scaring the shiznit out of me.  We contemplated the map trying to figure out where to go and decided to hop the gate, which actually isn’t that unusual in adventure racing.  Many times you come across forest service gates that are locked and you have to jump them.  But once we started walking on the nicely packed gravel drive and saw cows beside us, we realized we were on someone’s property.  3AM in the morning, out in the middle of nowhere, is not when you want to stumble onto someone’s private property.  The barking of dogs prompted us to make a hasty retreat across the fence to reconsider our options.

Jake suggested swimming the canal and I replied with, “You gotta be a lot more convincing if you think you’re going to get me in that water.”  We realized there might be a crossing further south if we just followed the canal, so that’s what we did.  We finally made our way to the CP5 attack point–a T in the trail–and bushwhacked in.  The clue was edge of swamp and we went in until we were at least knee deep in water but never found the control.

Post race we discovered that with the amount of rain, the edge of the swamp was now in chest deep water.  4AM + Florida swamp + chest deep water = Big pile of NOPE!

Having given up on this control, my morale was pretty low.  We had spent so much time on these 2 bike CPs that had given us so much grief, that we knew we had blown any lead we had.  Not only that, now we weren’t sure if we’d even be able to clear the canoe section.  We hadn’t seen another team for hours and had no idea what the rankings were.  We picked up the remaining 2 bike checkpoints without much issue and headed off for the final leg.

Canoe 2

We got to the canoe section and discovered there was only 1 team out on the canoe section, Broccoli Covered Powder Babies.  They had all but 2 points so far, we had all but 1 point so far (having missed CP5).  There were 3 points out on the canoe section.  If we got all 3 and came in under the 18Hrs, we could win, anything else was a crap-shoot.  The fastest sports team cleared this section in 1:40 and we had a little less than 1:20 remaining.  We were off and paddling hard!  We went north up a little creek for the closest CP but it took us 25 minutes to get there fighting the current.  Jake looked at the map and he decided that we had to race back to the finish now because if any other team had cleared the previous sections, they could beat us on time.  There was no time remaining to pick up anymore CPs.  We raced down the creek and right where the creek meets the Loxahatchee river, we saw BCPB pulling in behind us from the south.  I told Ana that they probably got all 3 checkpoints and would end up winning this thing and she just kept saying, “You never know, maybe they only got 2.”  If I tried to say anything else, she would say, “Just paddle!”  I never looked back.  I didn’t want to see them overtake us.  We just paddled for all we had.  Coming to the boat ramp I yelled, “Grab your crap and let’s run!”  Ben was leading the charge sprinting to the finish but Jake was trailing in the back…”Come on Jake!  Come on!”  It was a freaking foot race to the finish.  BCPB landing seconds after we did and you could see them sprinting up the hill to pass us.  After 53 miles and 17:45 of racing it all came down to 1 second.

Amazing! Broccoli Covered Powdered Babies were beasts out there and we enjoyed every second racing with these guys (Go to their Facebook page and follow them, they’re hilarious).

Conclusion:

The course bested us all and no one cleared it, but it was a hell of a lot of fun.  Many thanks to Florida Xtreme Adventures for another amazing adventure race, it truly was epic.  And thanks to Jonathan Dickinson State Park and their vigilant rangers that kept watch over all the racers the entire night.  A special thanks to JJ, Ron, and Jim (the nicest guy you’ll ever meet).  You guys did a fantastic job with the course layout, the maps and instructions.  Everything was professionally ran.  The volunteers were amazing, of course, and these races couldn’t be done without them.  A very special thanks to our new racing partners, the Brewer Boys, Jake and Ben.  Thanks for racing with us guys, we’d love to partner up with you again anytime.  This was Ben’s 2nd adventure race and he did fantastic, leading the charge through numerous swamps in the dark!

Suggestions:

If I could suggest one eenie weenie tiny thing it would be that you guys would reinstate taking team photos before each race.  Some teams may not care, but for us the AR community is a big family and some of the coolest people I have met, I met through AR.  Many times we meet people pre-race or on the course and strike up instant friendships but after the race most of us have to rush back to our families and lives.  Pre-race photos with racer names helps us reestablish those friendships either online or at the next event, so for me their really important.

And if you’ve read this far…I am truly impressed and grateful.  Thank you.

The Hogback AR

Hey guys, I really need to stop for a sec.

What’s going on, Bill asks.

It seems I have a little chaffing issue I need to take care of, I answer.

Is it bad?

Let’s just say that the tip of the spear has been buffed to a high gloss.

…silence…

No worries, I continue, if it comes down to it I have a bagel in my pack that I can shove down my pants for the rest of the race.

And so began our final big bike section for the 24Hr Hogback Adventure Race in Ocoee, Tennessee.I have been looking forward to racing the Hogback with Ana since I first learned that Adventure Capitalists were putting it on. Not only would the race be in a beautiful section of the Smoky Mountains, it would also include guided whitewater rafting as part of the prologue–awesome sauce!

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to work it out where Ana and I could go, and I was extremely bummed. Then, at the last minute, I was asked by Craig Sheriff if I’d like to race with him and Bill Dean. Why yes I would, thank you. And luckily for me, Ana was gracious enough to let me race it without her…what an angel!

PRERACE

Bill, Craig and I met at Quest Expeditions, race HQ, the afternoon before the race. I, having returned from Boston the night before, had a car full of unpacked gear and food and a bike that needed fixing.  All of which I had thrown into the car at the last minute.

At 4PM, we were given the map, a massive 1:24k scale squiggly lined monster that had more contour curves on it than this Florida boy had seen before. We were also given a sheet with UTM coordinates for every checkpoint, except those of the orienteering course, which would be plotted during the race.

We quickly scrambled to our hotel room at the Whitewater Inn to begin plotting CPs and trying to make route choices. Actually, Bill and Craig did this, I was still sorting out my crap.  We had to be back at Quest by 6pm for the prerace briefing, a team-building exercise and dinner. The prerace brief was quick and efficient and the team building exercise would determine the order of raft that the teams would be in for the start of the race. Josh Braun, the race director, had a great idea. One person from each team raced to pick up a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle in a ziploc bag and bring it to the rest of the team where they worked together to solve the puzzle with no image to work from. We quickly put together an image of a large rubber duck and ended up being the 2nd team finished. This put us in raft #2 the next day.

RACE DAY

“I will not try to stand up in the Ocoee” our guide had us chant together prior to launching into the cold river leading to Class IV rapids that were once part of the ’96 Olympics. I had no intent of falling in the river at all, so I wedged my feet even harder into a crease of the inflatable raft.

Down the river we cruised, plunging through rapids with names like Smiley’s, Slam Dunk, Humongous and Godzilla before spilling out and hitting Edge of the World. Water sprayed everywhere as we crashed into wall after wall of whitewater. Most times I hate getting wet prior to an adventure race, but this was well worth it. We yelped, and hollered, and paddled and laughed a lot. This was by far, the best start to an AR that I have done! Our guide, Clay, from Quest Expeditions was very professional, well-trained, humorous and fun. I look forward to taking my whole family there and recreating the experience. Especially because I’m too dumb to figure out how to operate a GoPro and ended up recording the flattest part of the river trip rather that the most exciting. Bummer!

(More info on the rapids found here)

BIKE 1&2

Like drowned rats, we scrambled off our raft at TA1 to find our bikes and start Bike 1.  We flew south on I-64 and hit the Brush Creek Trails just south of the highway.

Craig led the navigation, and we nailed this section with Bill’s eagle eyes picking off the CPs visible from the trail.  We quickly made our way to TA2 where we transitioned to Bike 2 along the Tanasi Trail System, an IMBA Epic.

Tanasi Trail System

Many times I lit up my brakes crashing down the rocky, rooty trail but mostly it was an uphill slog that the race director aptly named Granny Gear.

tanasi_16

For some reason CP14 gave us, and a few other teams, a lot of difficulty.  Josh had said that he expected mid-pack teams to be able to clear the course if their navigation was clean, so we weren’t eager to give up on this checkpoint.  We first stopped at a reentrant we thought was the correct one.  However, there were other teams there and they said that they didn’t find the CP, so we tried a different reentrant a little further down the road.  When we weren’t able to locate the CP, we went to a known intersection and backtracked to re-attack the CP.  It was getting frustrating.  We decided to attack one more time, using a straight section of the road as a marker, and this time we went right to the CP (off the reentrant we stopped at first).  Happy that we had found it and were still clearing the course, we headed off to TA3 and the beginning of the orienteering section.

 Foot 1

Well, this is where it all went to hell and it started with the very first checkpoint.  CP16 oh how I hate you!  Of course, we hit the o-course as it’s turning dark, which is never a good thing for me.  Those little orange and white markers are hard enough to find in the daytime, much less so at night.

We thought CP16 would be straight forward–hit the peak of the mound, keep going due west, cross an old trail and bam, there it is.  What we got was a big heap of NOPE!  I don’t think that I have ever ran into so many brier bushes in my life.  This was like trying to hug a porcupine and I had my RailRider Bushwacker Pants on (which are awesome but that’s a review for another day).  Anyway, we attacked the CP from the east, we even tried from the north, but in the end CP16 bested us with her prickly defenses and we wasted too much time on it…so much for clearing the course.

From CP16, things somewhat picked up, we were able to get CP17 without an issue.  However, finding the trail that led to CP18 was problematic.  We found a trail but then it seemed to disappear, or not go in the direction we wanted.  After awhile, and confirmation from another team that the trail did indeed exist, we found it.  This led us to CP18 and CP19 and by then we were done.  We realized we were sucking on the foot nav and headed off to the Bike 3 section where we hoped the nav would be easier.

Bike 3

Feeling somewhat defeated from the orienteering section, we hit Bike 3.  Craig again took the navigation and we cleaned this section without much difficulty except for the hills.  By now, my legs were about exhausted. The ups felt like forever and the downs were white knuckled descents of gravel, hairpin turns, and darkness.

Over and over again we blasted down gravel roads and I had to constantly remind myself to not brake in the middle of a turn.  This is also when I had my chaffing issue that we don’t need to discuss further other than to say a sock in the pants helps enhance one’s manliness and provide an extra barrier against chaffing.  What did you expect me to do, throw duct tape on it?

 Boat 1

You know, if there’s one thing I really like to do after spending almost 18 hours on a bike it’s sitting on a hard plastic canoe seat and paddling for 3-4 hours.  We launched our canoe shortly before sunrise right beside Team Ad House Adventure.

To be competitive in this race, we knew we would have to make some strategic decisions.  Craig suggested that we skip the closest 2 checkpoints and head towards the furthest CPs we thought we could get in the remaining time.  That way if we got pressed for time, we could make a last minute decision to skip CPs and race for the finish.

This section went really well.  Bill sat in the center and navigated us to the checkpoints without faltering, Craig kept falling asleep in the back and would almost fall into the water, and I paddled in the front barking at everyone to keep paddling. I like to think I was kindly cheering everyone on to victory, but you know, everyone’s got an opinion.  We wanted to be back on land by 9:45AM to give us ample time to get to the finish at 11AM and this meant that we scrapped the furthest checkpoint on Mitchell Hill.  In hindsight, I’m confident we could have cleared this section too.  We were paddling very strong, hitting 5MPH on the GPS.

 Finish

After the boat, we just had to pick up two checkpoints on the race to the Finish.  We picked these up and rolled into the Finish after 22 hours and 46 minutes of racing.  My GPS logged 85.5 miles traveled with 9200 feet of elevation gained.  After the results were tallied, we ended up 2nd in the Open Division (yes, there were more than 2 teams in our division although the picture below doesn’t make it seem that way).

As a trophy, we were given these awesome, custom made Hogback AR coffee mugs from Forman Pottery.  They look amazing and my coffee has never tasted better.

11838607_1607900506126448_5645157527964678093_o

 Conclusion

This was an amazing race.  Josh and his team put together one of the most professional, well-organized races that I have been in.  The scenery was beautiful, the course was well laid out, the whitewater rafting prologue was epic.  I can’t say enough good things about this race.  The transition areas were well stocked, our gear was available on time, mid-race someone gave me a beer…I mean, it doesn’t get any better.  Well, you could have taken out those damn briers on CP16.  But, probably the most important thing I learned is that Josh can sing the complete Happy Birthday song without ever changing his pitch.  Honestly, it was like listening to Stephen Hawking sing it…amazing.

A big thanks to Josh and all the volunteers that made this race so successful.  We will DEFINITELY be back in 2016 and I’m bringing my amazing wife with me this time!

Map

 24Hr Hogback AR GPS Track

(Yes, the GPS was approved, sealed in a bag and never visible during the race)