North, South, East, West…we don’t know which way is best!
Team Disoriented’s first adventure race of 2014 is in the books and I think we’re all very happy with our result. We placed 9th in the Pangea Resolution AR, not bad for our second AR ever, and let me tell you the competition was fierce. If you want to check out how real AR teams roll, check out the Canyoneros Race Report or Honey Stinger Race Report. If you want to see how the amateurs do it, keep on reading…
Good race performance starts with some top notch prep work, and we are masters of that. Since Lake Apopka was the venue for the Resolution AR, a 6-hour drive for us, we wanted to leave around 1pm on Friday–which is really hard to do when Stu leaves work at 2:30. No worries, Stu showed up at our place and I asked where his new hitch-mount bike rack is that we’re going to use, and he replies that he thought we were using my new trunk mount bike rack. You see, we were going to fit check “the bike rack “on his Ford Edge the night before, but we didn’t.
We arrived in Clermont, FL at 11PM, allowing for plenty of time to sleep before our 5AM wake-up call to make the 6-7AM registration. Lake Apopka is a 20 minute drive from our hotel but we weren’t too concerned about time since the pre-race meeting was at 7AM and the race didn’t start until 8. We arrived around 6:30 and I think my first words were, “Holy crap, people are already camped out here. They have tents and tables set up.” Actually I think my first words were, “Damn it’s cold, I thought this was south Florida.”
Lesson #1:There are some really serious competitors that race Pangea events
We stroll over to the registration table where we find out that teams are given maps at check-in…Oops. At our first race, teams weren’t given maps or instructions until the race started. We haven’t even put our bikes together or packed our gear and the other teams already have their transition areas set up and have been looking at the race packet for 30 minutes.
Lesson #2: Get to the race early, set up, and be prepared to receive your race packet as soon as registration opens.
Race Packet and Instructions
There didn’t seem to be much difference on how to attack Foot 1, so we just went to CP1 then CP2. When the race began, I was surprised to see the field split into two with more than half going to CP1 and the remainder going to CP2. What a weird feeling to have people run the opposite direction as you at the start of a race. In hindsight, perhaps the top-ranked teams wait to see which CP most teams are going to first and then they choose a CP that less teams are going to so that they don’t get bogged down waiting for their turn to punch their passport…maybe not.
After CP2, we went back to the Main TA and began Bike 1. We chose to stick to the yellow trail and pick up CP7, CP6, then CP5 on the way to the Boat TA, leaving CP 4 then CP3 for the return from the Boat TA. We slightly overshot CP7 but quickly recovered once we saw the east-bound trail. We backtracked and picked up CP7 and then moved on to CP6.
Lesson #3: Calibrate your bike odometer, it’s probably incorrect.
While heading south on the yellow trail towards CP6, it seemed like the hard-packed trail was deteriorating and becoming more overgrown. So, when we shot onto the east-bound white trail to pick up CP6, we made a decision to continue east straight toward CP5 rather than backtracking to the yellow trail and continuing around. Half-way between CP6 and CP5, I realized my error. The white trails were much more difficult for us to traverse and we decided that in the future we would stick to the yellow trails as much as we could. We finally made it to CP5 and made our way to the Boat TA.
You might find this hard to believe after watching the video, but we’ve actually been in a canoe before. I don’t know what the hell happened. I’m almost positive that we frightened a submerged alligator and in it’s hasty retreat it overturned our canoe…at least that’s my story.
In the end, we capsized our canoe right in front of the launch area. Ya know, if I’m going to look like an idiot I might as well do it in front of a crowd. The water was frigid and it was like falling into a toilet. Waist high in green swamp water and when I stepped, I would sink in the muck up to mid-calf. The thought of being the first team eaten alive at a Pangea event had us out of the water pretty damn quick. We had just been warned about a nesting alligator before the start of the race. We got back on shore, emptied the boat and headed back out, wet, stinky and embarrassed. Since we aren’t the best at canoeing, we planned to head towards CP10-CP13 and pick those up and then make a choice to get CP8 & CP9 on our return. I thought this was a good strategy for maximizing points if we needed to bail without completing the leg. A strong wind out of the north made paddling up to CP10 really difficult, especially since our confidence had been shattered with our capsize. We paddled slow and hard, trying to keep the boat very stable. Since we were soaked and the temperature was in the 50’s with a strong north wind, we were very cold. To try to keep the boat stable, and since Ana only had a canoe paddle rather than a kayak paddle, I asked her not to paddle. This made it very hard for her to warm up since she was just sitting there. Luckily, Team Honey Stinger came by and loaned her a jacket. We picked up CP10 and then planned to get CP13, CP11, then CP12. Unfortunately, during the planning phase I didn’t realize that CP11 and 12 were in a canal, separated from CP13. I realized this once we hit CP13 and we had to back track to get 11 & 12. After that, we knew we were going to skip CP8 and CP9 as we were all extremely cold.
Lesson #4: Always carry an emergency blanket.
Lesson #4b: Members of Team Honey Stinger are awesome.
BIKE 1 Cont:
We finished up Bike 1 by picking up CP4 then CP3 on the way back to the Main TA. It took us a few minutes to find which of the many “Large Oak Trees” the CP was on, but we did find a geocache, which was pretty cool. Post-race I evaluated our path and realized that we didn’t choose a very efficient route to CP3 from CP4. We should have taken the blue route, rather than our red route marked below:
Lesson #5: Measuring distances on a map and then choosing the shorter and easier route can be a good thing.
We returned to the Main TA and put on a new pair of socks since our feet were still frozen and numb from the water. While taking a few minutes to defrost, we met our TA neighbors and found out their support crew had grilled chicken for their team. GRILLED CHICKEN! Between slurps of Double Expresso Cliff Gel, I asked if their team was accepting new members as our support crew was failing miserably. We hit CP14-17 in order and made a quick return down Ranch Rd to start Bike 3.
We haven’t been able to do much orienteering practice and thought this would be our weakest event so our strategy was to pick up all of the bike CPs before heading to the O-Course, if we had time. Our attack plan was CP18, 19, 24, 23, 22, 21, and finally 20. We stuck to the yellow trails whenever we could, which means we hit CP18 from the east.
When we got to the north-bound trail to CP21, we saw that it was flooded. Not knowing how bad the trail would be and running short on time to hit the orienteering section, we passed on it. Afterwards we found out that only the first few meters were flooded and we probably could have picked it up and still made the cut-off.
Lesson #6: Don’t give up on a path too quickly.
We hit the O-Course last and with not much time to spare, but we thought we could pick up a few CPs. Our plan of attack was CP29, 28, 25, 26, 27, and then 30. But once we heard that some teams had taken hours to complete the course, we changed our plan to just getting CP30, 29, and possibly 28. No problems picking up CP3o or CP29. But from CP29 we chose to follow a path that took us somewhere between CP28 and CP27 and much too far south. It was very frustrating during the time and more so once I saw the GPS plot of where we were. But, we were getting short on time so we had to give up the CP and head back to the Main TA.
We should have done a better job estimating how much time it would take to get from the O-Course to the Main TA. We knew that we would stay at the O-course for as long as possible and then make a straight run to the finish. We ended up having almost 18 minutes to spare, arriving at 7:42:35. We were exhausted, but we had a blast. This was our toughest event to date and we can’t wait to do another one. Big thanks to Pangea and the many AR teams that we met for making this event a great time for us.
Lesson #7: Post-race beer is good, next time we should bring some.