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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 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)

 

Team Disoriented YouTube Channel

The long anticipated Team Disoriented YouTube Channel is now online.  Check out https://www.youtube.com/user/TeamDisoriented for all of our latest race videos, gear reviews and most importantly, links to other adventure racing channels.  I have also created a playlist of professional adventure racing videos.

Capture

I like to watch these for inspiration when I’m trudging along on the treadmill.  If you know of any good adventure racing videos or YouTube channels you think I should link to, please leave a comment or send me an email.

I look forward to adding more content in the future.  Stay tuned.

Stolen goods!

This blog post blatantly stolen from The Adventure Blog.  Go checkout their site after you read this post

Gold Rush Expedition Adventure Race to Air on Universal Sports Network in October

Adventure racing fans listen up, you’re going to want to set your DVRs to record soon. The Universal Sports Network will begin airing a three-part documentary focused on the Gold Rush expedition-length adventure race in October, bringing the sport into the homes of millions of viewers across the U.S. Each of the three self-contained documentaries is 90 minutes in length, and captures some of the top adventure racing athletes from across the globe as they take part in one of best races in North America, and a qualifying event for the AR World Championship.

The first episode will air at 6PM ET on Thursday, October 16 and will feature the 2012 Gold Rush Expedition Race. The following week, at 6:30 PM ET on Friday October 24, the network will premiere the 2013 edition of the Gold Rush documentary. Meanwhile, the film for the 2014 edition of the race, which was greatly shortened in length due to wildfires in California, is currently in post-production, and will air in May of 2015. Additional airings will be announced at a later time.

If anyone has ever been a part of the team that produces adventure races, you probably already know how difficult it can be to capture all of the action out on the course. There are simply too many teams, spread out across too much territory. Throw in the fact that these events usually take place in remote and rugged locations, and it can become a logistical nightmare. But, the team behind these documentaries have taken a unique approach to how they are made, and that is a great story in and of itself.

For the past three years, the Gold Rush AR event has been filmed by a team of University of Cincinnati students, who are studying media production. For the 2014 edition of the race, 16 students, under the direction of professional television director and U.C. alum Brian Leitten, and E-media Professor Kevin Burke, traveled to California to shoot the documentary and witness the incredible sport of adventure racing first hand. As a result, their work is now going to be shown on Universal, and we’ll all get the opportunity to see the Gold Rush as well.

I’m trying to remember the last time adventure racing was on television here in the U.S. It has been many years since we actually saw a network air anything AR related. This will be great exposure for the sport, and hopefully introduce a new audience to what adventure racing is all about.

To get an idea of what to expect from the documentaries, check out the promo video below which was shot at the 2013 Gold Rush.

Coosa River Challenge

Just signed up for the Coosa River Challenge and we are super excited.  3-6 hours of mountain biking, trail running, river paddling with lots of special tests throughout.  The format is 2-person teams male/female/co-ed or individual and the course is friendly enough to be finished by the novice racer, while challenging enough for the veteran adventure racer.

Check out the video above to see some of the events that will be part of the race.  There will be Class II-III rapids, rope work such as rappelling, bouldering and some pretty sweet single track.  We already ran the rapids on the Coosa River a few weeks back and had a blast.

Cooler weather, beautiful scenery, multi-sport challenges and the opportunity to hang out with the most awesomest adventure racing team…what more could you ask for?

Go here for more info: Coosa River Challenge

A Great Teammate is Hard to Lose

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken

Ecclesiastes 4:12  [New International Version]

One of the reasons I love adventure racing so much is the team aspect.  There are plenty of individual sports that can push you just as hard mentally and physically, but very few touch on the team dynamics as much as adventure racing.  You truly come to rely on your teammates during a race, like in no other sport.  We’ve all heard the term synergy, the potential ability of individual organizations or groups to be more successful or productive as a result of a merger, but rarely have I seen it in action.  But in Adventure Racing, when you have a good team where the group dynamics work well, that potential synergy becomes realized and your team accomplishes things that, as an individual, would not have happened.  While our team may not be first place in terms of race results, I truly believe that our team dynamics are first rate and so it saddens me deeply that we’re losing our teammate, Stuart.

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It’s hard to imagine what racing is going to be like without Stu.  We have already started getting back into training without him and there is definitely a difference.  Stu brought that, “we’ll just show up and dominate” attitude and it has been great having a teammate with such confidence–and the physical strength to back it up.  Adventure Racing is one hell of an experience and having great teammates is  a must.  I have looked to Stu so many times to bolster my strength, confidence and motivation.  Having him around helped us to reach deep into ourselves to accomplish things that we wouldn’t have done on our own.  At the same time, his humor brightened those dark times that come when racing.  I remember many times when either racing or training when we would all have to stop paddling or running because we were laughing so hard.  I remember group hugs and high fives when we finished a particularly rough race.  Sharing that feeling of accomplishment with a good friend is what makes these races so much damn fun.  The post race rides back home with Ana sleeping in the back and Stu and I recalling the race were always a highlight of the event.

canoe

So, thanks buddy!  It has been an amazing ride.  From the half marathon, to Tough Mudder, to 5 Adventure Races it has been a wild and fun.  I can’t imagine having anyone else by my side.  You have become the brother I never had and the teammate I never wanted to lose.  I hope that you always retain that self-confidence and cheerfulness that you brought to our team and into our lives.  Congratulations on the birth of your first child.  Best wishes for you and your family on your move to Ohio.  Don’t forget about your family here in Niceville.  Love ya, man!

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FunkyPotato Comes Through Again

A big thanks to FunkyPotato for uploading the Eco-Challenge, Argentina on YouTube.  These videos are so old that you can’t find them anywhere except on his YouTube site or perhaps in VHS format on Ebay.  You still have a VCR to play a VHS tape on, right?  Ya, thought so.

Take some time and curl up in front of the iPad and watch one of the greatest adventure races ever held.