Paddle Like a Pro

Anyone who follows this blog knows that we have a few issues with paddling our canoe.  There aren’t many instructions that I have found online about how to get 3 people to paddle a canoe well.  But, I did run across a few videos that I wanted to share.  These are slow motion videos of some of the best kayak racers.  Since we typically use kayak paddles when racing, the technique should do well for us.

If you check around 3:13 you can see some tandem kayak action and around 3:40 there is some 4-person kayak action.  I’m definitely no expert in paddling technique so I can’t offer any “real” commentary on the video but I think that just by watching it, you can pick up a few key techniques.

You can definitely see how torso rotation plays a key part in developing power.  I also noticed how for most paddlers, the returning arm (the one that just finished the stroke) comes to a return point straight out in front, perpendicular to the body and then it crosses the body as the other arm finishes the stroke.  Yeah, you like my technical jargon there?  Basically, my advice is check out the videos, see how the pros do it then go try to mimic the same movements.  If you’re half as good as us, you’ll probably dump your canoe within 30 seconds.

Here’s one more video from a pro…

 

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Sad Little Counter Hits 1000!

The Team Disoriented blog has over 1000 hits!

What does this mean?  Nothing really.  The really cool blogs probably get 1000 hits per day.  But, we hope we’re providing some interesting Adventure Racing content to the 5 people that regularly checkout the blog.

As a thank you, here’s a link to a short vid that chronicles Tecnu Adventure Racing’s 3rd place finish at the 2013 Adventure Racing World Championships, held over 10 days in December of 2013 in Costa Rica.  These guys are amazing.  Grab a cold brew, sit back for 20 minutes and enjoy…

I want to do one of these!

ARWS Logo

Toughest Race on Earth

Here it is January 28th in the sunshine state, the weather is crap  and my motivation level is about as high as the temperature.  So, instead of hitting the treadmill I’m hitting YouTube and watching the Discovery Channel’s, “Toughest Race on Earth with James Cracknell.”

If you’ve never heard of James Cracknell, don’t worry neither had I before watching this show.  Seems the guy is a British rowing champion and a double Olympic gold medalist, and rather famous on the other side of the pond.  I discovered him when I was looking for adventure racing videos on YouTube and when I saw the title, “Toughest Race on Earth” you know I had to check it out.  This documentary focuses on the running of the Marathon Des Sables.  Don’t know what that is either?  Well, neither did I.  It seems that the Des Sables is a 6-day ultra which is equivalent to running 6 regular marathons in a row.  Six!  Not tough enough for you?  Well, did I fail to mention that the Des Sables is ran in southern Morocco in a place you may have heard of, the Sahara desert!  Check out some nice photos here or click the image below:

des_sables

Basically, the documentary is about a 6 foot 4, 216lb gold medal rower who decides to tackle probably the toughest running event on the planet.  I won’t spoil the ending for you, you just have to check it out!  But believe me, watching the video should provide you with plenty of motivation to keep pushing during your next adventure race

Once you’re done with the video, you might want to check out his latest book, “Touching Distance” an autobiography that describes his athletic achievements as well as his struggles to recover from a biking accident where he was struck in the head by the side mirror of a passing semi while attempting to cycle, row, run and swim from Los Angeles to New York within 18 days

Wouldn’t you know it, now I feel guilty about my laziness.  Off to the treadmill!

Pangea Resolution AR


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…

Ranking

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 Planning

Race Packet and Instructions

Elite Passport

Resolution 2014 Elite Map 1

Resolution 2014 Elite Map 2

Resolution 2014 Elite Map 3

FOOT 1:

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.

BIKE 1:

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.

BOAT:

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:

Bike 1

Lesson #5: Measuring distances on a map and then choosing the shorter and easier route can be a good thing.

FOOT 2:

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.

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.

Bike 3When 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.

O-COURSE:

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.

FINISH:

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.

Team Photo Finish

Eco-Challenge Motivation

If you’re like me, you just spent the last few days stuffing yourself with sugar plums, eggnog and figgy pudding and you might be in need of a little motivation to get off the couch.  Well, step right up folks, I have just the thing you need.  You see, back in the day when the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a historic high of 4000, Windows 95 debuted, and girls thought overall shorts were sexy (they’re not), Mark Burnett created one of the best reality shows ever, Eco-Challenge.  Back before Jersey Shore, or whatever the cool kids are watching today, there was a reality show worth watching where coed teams of 4 insane people raced across some of the most remote and intense terrains.  Competitors ran, biked, and canoed for hundreds of miles all the while land navigating with only a compass and altimeter.  Sleep was a premium with most teams resting no more than a handful of hours.  Feet exploded, team dynamics imploded and most competitors never saw the finish line.  The races were epic.  Unfortunately, it seems that these races are all but gone, and none of them are televised anymore.

But, there is a glimmer of hope.  With the magic of the internet, a few of those long-lost VHS recordings (look it up kids) can be brought into your living room.  Ana and I have just spent the last 5 nights watching all of Eco-Challenge British Columbia, Morocco, Sabah (Borneo), New Zealand, and Fiji.  I have posted links to the first video for each series.  There are multiple videos in each series but if you follow the links, you will be able to find the complete episode.

P.S. If you know where I can find the other episodes, please send me the link.  Or, if you have a copy on tape, please help out this band of poser adventure racers by posting the videos on YouTube.  I promise not to report you to the FCC.

1996 British Columbia

1998 Morocco

2000 Sabah (Borneo)

2001 New Zealand

2002 Fiji

Training Day

Perhaps the most boring YouTube video to date but I wanted to play around with Google Earth in preparation of documenting the Turkey Burn AR.  This is the GPS timestamp of our training brick on Google Earth.

While Super Stu was out doing his 4th Tough Mudder, the rest of Team Disoriented had our first training brick in over 3 weeks.  You see, the old man blew out his Achilles tendon and hasn’t been able to run since.  It was good to get back out and be active again.  We started at 4:40PM and since it gets dark really early now, we started off canoeing because honestly canoeing up a creek in the dark kinda freaks me out.  We went 1/2 mile up Rocky Creek against the current before turning around and heading across open water to Rocky Bayou bridge.  I like to mix creek paddling with open water paddling because going against current up a narrow creek  helps us work on control of the canoe.  The first time we went up Rocky Creek we ran into at least four overhanging trees.  And do you know what likes to live in overhanging trees, big ass spiders.  Each time we ran into a tree, 3 or 4 spiders would drop into the canoe as we worked on dislodging ourselves.  Ever try dancing in a canoe to get away from big ass spiders?  It’s not easy.  Needless to say, we quickly became much better at avoiding overhanging trees.  The trip to and from the bridge was uneventful as we’ve become much better at paddling a straight line.  The first few times out we zigged and zagged across the bayou.  Using our new kayak paddles instead of canoe paddles has really made a difference in control as well as speed.

Once we finished the canoe section, we grabbed our bikes and headed to Rocky Bayou State Park to ride the trails.  I wanted to ride them at night so that we could test out our new bike lights.  Night trail riding is a lot of fun and we only crashed once.  Once we finished the trails, we were hoping to do another 10 miles of street riding but it was really dark and we don’t have tail lights yet, so we wisely cut the ride short.  Back at the transition area, we dropped off the bikes and completed the night with a 5 mile run.  In the end, not having done much in the last 3 weeks, I would say it went okay.   But, I’m a little nervous about being in condition for the 12-hour Turkey Burn AR in 27 days.

Tough Mudder

It was tough, it was a little muddy, and in the end it was the best idea ever.  I must admit that I owe it all to Stu.  I never would have done a Tough Mudder if it hadn’t been for him.  The two things that I like most about the Tough Mudder are the emphasis on teamwork and that it is a challenge, not a race.  There is a real sense of camaraderie among Mudders and everyone takes the time to help everyone else make it through.  The obstacles are difficult but not impossible.

Of course, Stu and Ana dominated, bounding over obstacles as if they didn’t exist.  By the last two miles, my knees were in pretty rough shape and I wasn’t able to run through the last few obstacles like I had hoped.  Maybe doing the 1/2 marathon two weeks prior wasn’t such a great idea.

I don’t remember how long it took us to finish it, maybe 3 hours.  We were really basking in the event of it all and weren’t trying to push ourselves.  We all had a great time and I highly recommend doing at least one TM.

Maybe it was the Arctic Enema or perhaps the Electroshock therapy, I’m not sure but something happened during the TM that made me want to find something else that would provide that same kind of thrill and physical challenge.  I knew that I wanted a team-based event since I really enjoyed that aspect.  I wanted something that my wife and I could do together and that we both enjoyed.  I knew I didn’t want to get into distance running or triathlons because honestly they don’t look to be any fun.  I wanted it to be adventurous but not too adventurous–I don’t mind a little thrill but I want to keep my shorts clean.

After a little googling, I came across Adventure Racing and recalled watching the Eco-Challenge back in the 90’s (yes kids, it was even in color).  After doing some reading and talking to Ana, we decided to do one and see if we liked it.  Stu, always up for a challenge, went without a fight.