2017 Earth Day – 18Hr

After doing a couple of these adventure races, you would think we’d know what the hell we were doing.  But, that wasn’t the case during the 2017 Earth Day 18 Hour Adventure Race by Florida Xtreme.  Sure, we ended up 3rd overall, but that’s due to a mispunch by two kickass teams that beat us to the finish by over an hour and a half.  They were so fast that they were eating breakfast at Waffle House while we were still out on the course dreaming of Waffle House.

We’ve never claimed to be fast, or good, but man that’s disheartening.  Anyway, let’s dig into this cheeseball…

Maps & Stuff

If you’re looking for an adventure race that is going to take you to some wild and beautiful locations, with some fun twists and turns thrown in, then look no further than one directed by Craig Sheriff.  Craig does a great job of hunting out cool locations and integrating them into a challenging course.  

Bike 1

For us, the misadventures began instantly.  The race started off with a short foot sprint and then a dash to find two CPs along the East Cadillac Trail.  We were 3rd, just behind ARGeorgia and Off the Grid Racing.  We hit the twisting single track, nailing the first CP and then completely blew by CP2.  It seems that when I transcribed the location of CP2, I put it too far east.  We saw a control, but thought it was a sport race CP and didn’t even stop to check it.  Oops.  We then had to backtrack to the control as 6-8 teams flew by.

Our next big mess up was at CP7.  I guess while I was busy shoving Snickers in my pie-hole, I must have missed where Fern trail branched off from the dirt road and jumped back into the woods.  Had I seen the fork, we would have quickly found the small wooden bridge we were looking for and been on our merry way.

Instead, we got to spend 15 minutes scooting across a gas pipeline to cross a creek and look for a CP that was not there.  The cool thing is that we were so sure we were in the right place we did it twice, until Bill Dean and his brother rode by and told us we were idiots for looking in the wrong location.  Looking at my map now, it’s easy to see that we overshot the location.  At the time, not so much.  Having screwed up two controls in less than two hours, we were not off to a good start and were probably 12th or 13th place by now.

One of the really cool places on the bike section was a visit to the Florida State Capitol building.

One of the not so cool things is we had to climb 22 stories to reach the CP at the top.

Actually it was really cool and I don’t know how Craig ever got it approved by the state government.  But I’m glad he did.

Calves ablaze, we descended the stairs and biked off toward the Tallahassee Museum.  Along the way, we biked past the FSU stadium and then had to find a CP in the Munson Slough.  Bill and his brother were kind enough to give us a hand getting our bikes down, and we returned the favor to them.

At the Tallahassee Museum, we got to experience our first zip line ever.  The sun was setting as we climbed obstacles and soared through the trees.  It was an incredible experience that I know all of the racers enjoyed.  We can’t wait to come back with our kids and do it again.

The only bad part was when Ana decided to do some product testing for Lupine by tossing her headlamp from the top of one of the platforms, into the swamp below.  Forty feet up and surrounded by swamp water, there was no way down and no way to recover the light.  Lucky for us though, she dropped her headlamp into the water at a canoe checkpoint, CP14.  Our only chance at recovering the light was to canoe to that control and search for it later that night.

Boat 1

Night was rapidly approaching and the first order of business was to go straight to CP14 (Near Zip Line) and try to recover our headlamp.  After a quick search, we found it in about 2 feet of water and it still worked perfectly.  I love Lupine.  What I don’t love is canoeing in a swamp at night without a light!

I wish we had taken more photos during the race to better show you what it was like at night, but we were playing catch up the whole time and photos were the last things on our minds.  Just imagine that you are surrounded by cypress trees that are all identical and you can’t make out the shoreline because it is so dark.  No matter which way you looked, everything looked the same.   It was like a bad text-based video game from the 80’s.

You are in a cypress swamp at night surrounded by identical trees…

>Go North

You are in a cypress swamp at night surrounded by identical trees…

>Go North

You are in a cypress swamp at night surrounded by identical trees…

>Go East

You are in a cypress swamp at night surrounded by identical trees…

>Go North

You are in a cypress swamp at night surrounded by identical trees…

AAaarrrgghhhh!

It was eerily beautiful.  Our headlamps created a perfect reflection of the cypress trees on the black water as we paddled around the labyrinth of trees.  As we were looking for CP20 (Distinct Cypress) we heard this voice in the darkness…Hello?

Lionel?  Adele?  Nope, it was Mac Kelly from Chub Solo.  His headlamp had gone out and he was drifting in the darkness.  How he didn’t freak out, I don’t know.  We loaned him one of our lights and said he could either give it back to us at the end of the race or tag along with us.  He decided to tag along…silly guy.  We got to enjoy his company and he got to enjoy getting lost in the woods with us.

When we couldn’t locate CP20 (Distinct Cypress) we ended up backtracking to the previous control to try to follow the bearing again.  It seemed like it was going to take at least two attempts to find every control, and I was beginning to feel as if we would never get out of that swamp.

For CP21, we had to follow pink streamers down a small creek to locate a pond.  But the creek ended up turning into nothing but a mucky “trail”, through which we portaged our canoes.  And thank goodness we took our canoes because once we finally got to the pond, there was no way we were wading across a chest-deep pond in the middle of the night.  Some teams did, but then some teams are just flippin’crazy!

Another interesting feature that the race director led us to was a sunken car in the middle of the swamp.  Most likely a relic of the prohibition era, this was really cool to come across at night.

Foot 1

Finishing the paddle took us forever, and it was well into the night when we started our first foot section.  Craig had warned us that the foot section was going to be hard.  He also suggested we attempt it in reverse order.  We didn’t listen…we were stupid.

The first two controls were along trails and easy enough to find, but then it all went downhill.  By the time we got to CP26 (West Side of Bradford Brook) we had somehow caught up with ARGeorgia, Off the Grid Racing, and Florida Xtreme.  It seems the paddle and foot section were giving lots of teams problems.

Somewhere prior to CP27, we met up with Ron Eaglin, “The Human Compass” and his team, Florida Xtreme.  Since we were all walking at this point, we ended up finding CPs 27 & 28 together.  I don’t really like following other teams to controls, because I don’t feel like I learn anything that way, so we broke away from Florida Xtreme going towards CP29.  Not the wisest of choices.  Ron is a really good navigator and staying with them would have ensured we found the remaining controls quickly.

Instead we went on a 40 minute swamp stomp.  On the map, CP29 looks straight forward.  From CP28, shoot southwest until you hit the stream and follow it south until it forks…easy peasy.  Except that the creek turned into a swamp and we never could locate the fork.  We worked our way south down the creek and eventually gave up and bailed east to the powerlines.

To reattack, we headed northwest towards the powerline/creek intersection, pace counted southeast until we hit the powerline/trail intersection and headed straight west and found the control without any problems.  Sounds easy now.  Forty minutes wasted and we never saw Florida Xtreme, ARGeorgia, or Off the Grid Racing again.

The rest of the foot controls were straight forward, with many of them being in sinks.

Boat1 – Return

When we finished up Foot1, we had to return to the boat and then paddle back to the Boat TA, where we had originally launched.  Todd was working the boat nav and doing a great job, Ana was in the front being the motor, and I was in the back smashing palm-sized spiders before they crawled up Todd’s leg.  Todd loves spiders…and ticks.  He really loves ticks.

Foot 2

Once again, I was leading the nav and doing a freakingly stellar job of it.  We were jogging along an old road to CP39, because the clue was, “Along an Old Road.”  However, when the road ended and we didn’t find the control, I wasn’t surprised given the way the night was going.  The old road intersected with a new road.  So, we turned around and pace counted to where the control should be.  But, there was no control.  We looked in the woods where we thought the control should be, but nope, no control.  So, back up to the intersection to see if there was another old road that ran parallel to the one we were on.  I didn’t see one, so back down the old road we went.  When we got to the same spot again, I said screw it, I’m heading east until we hit the lake.  And that’s when I found another road running parallel to the one we were on.  And you know what was along that parallel road.  Yep, the control.  Good times.  

We had a couple of more controls on this section, and one of them had us pick up a Natural Ice can left behind by someone who thought it would be cool to drink Natural Ice and litter.  Neither of which is cool.  I felt good cleaning up a little piece of the forest, I felt bad sucking at navigation all night.  Perhaps a Natty Light or two would have helped.  It definitely wouldn’t have hurt by this point.

Bike 3

Finally done with the foot sections, it was time to climb back on the bikes, except that Ana’s tire was completely flat.  It seems her bike maintainer was a little too lazy to add more anti-leak goop to her tires before the race.  She probably would have fired the bum by now if he wasn’t so damn sexy in bike shorts.  A couple of blasts of compressed air and a prayer that it would hold together for 3 hours, and we were off.

CP43 had us bushwhack 35 meters into a tree line from a wooden fence along the St. Marks Historic Railroad Trail which put us nearly into someone’s backyard.  Pitch black, headlamps on, dogs barking their heads off and some dude yelling, “What the hell is going on out here!”  I’m just praying, “Oh dear Lord, please don’t let that man release his dogs because I am stuck in these briers and my legs are too cramped to run.”  Todd kept calling out, “Sir, we are NOT trying to get to your house.  We are in a race and looking for a flag.  We are NOT coming onto your property”.  Ever try to explain adventure racing to someone?  Try explaining it to someone who thinks you’re trying to sneak onto their property at night, while their dogs are going nuts.  Oh, the fun we have!

Not finding the flag, and not wanting to get shot, we got the bright idea to see if there was another wooden fence just up the trail…which, of course, there was.  And wouldn’t you know, there was a flag 35 meters in the tree line, just like the clue said.

Ana’s knee was absolutely killing her by now, and she was reduced to pedaling with one leg.  I didn’t know if she was going to be able to manage the hills of Tallahassee, much less the final single track section.  None of us had a towline, so we slowly worked our way towards the finish, picking up CP’s along the way and waiting for teams to pass us before we could finish.  I think it would have absolutely crushed her to have another team pass us on the bike.  But, if they had, it would have been due to my bad navigation throughout the night, not her bad knee.

We grinded it back to the Cadillac Trail and pushed through the final single track section.  I could hear Ana wince on every pedal stroke, but we knew if we could just get onto the canoe we’d have a good chance of retaining our position.

Boat 2

The final paddle was a 2 hour push through lily pad covered waterways.  I was unsure when the official race time was over, so we paddled as hard as we could to try to finish by 10AM.  Todd was doing a great job of navigating us through the mess.  I don’t think we made a single navigational error.

We did end up blowing by CP55 (on an old dock) and having to turn around to find it.  I’d like to think it was because our blazing paddles had us going so fast.  Truth is, it was because all of us were looking towards the shoreline…you know the place where most old docks are.  We’re all looking off to the right side of the boat as we slowly cruise past the flag on our left.

“See anything over there?”

“Nope.” Eyeballs straining to see across to the shoreline where old docks are supposed to be.

“Keep looking, it should be right here.”

“Nope, don’t see anything yet.”

As our boat slowly drifts by the damn flag that is within arm’s reach on the left side of the canoe.

Arms and back exhausted, we finally finished circumnavigating the Lafayette Heritage Paddle trail, collecting all of the CPs, and crawling to the finish just before 10AM. 

Conclusion

This was an all-around tough race that had us in race salvage mode the entire time.  My navigation was probably the worst it has ever been.  However, I couldn’t be more proud of the way the team held together and kept racing.  We weren’t the fastest by a long shot.  But, I feel like we kept pushing and stayed in race mode even when things got sucky.  Our race results ended up being much better than we expected.  Many teams fought hard and were amazingly fast the entire time.  Ron and Florida Xtreme ended up in 1st, which is no surprise for anyone that has raced against Ron.  Congratulations to his team on the win!

A big thanks to Ana and Todd for keeping me in the race and pushing the entire time.  We’re definitely not the fastest, but there’s no one I’d rather race with.

As always, this was another great Florida Xtreme race and we can’t thank Craig, John, and all the volunteers for the work they put into making this a success.  The course was top-notch and the zip lining was amazing.  A big thanks to the Tallahassee Museum for putting up with 50 stinky racers tromping around their property.

As always, we greatly appreciate those that have chosen to support our team.  Please take a second and check out their gear.  If we’re using it, it’s because we like it.

2016 – Howl at the Moon

Maps and Stuff:

Map 1 / Map 2 / Map 3 / Map 4 / Map 5 / Passport

Foot 1

There is nothing worse than the walk of shame.  You know, that walk you have to make after you realize that you blew right past the first checkpoint in a race and have to slink back towards it.  I don’t know what it is about the first checkpoint in an adventure race, but I always struggle with it.  It’s like I’ve never held a map and compass before.  Who put this paper with all the squiggly lines in my hand and what am I supposed to do with this floating needle thingy!?  Maybe it’s nerves or excitement or just turning off the nav when every team is racing to the same CP.  I don’t know, but I hate it and I never feel settled until the first CP is punched.  Howl at the Moon started off no differently.  The good news is that Ron captured it all on camera…what a swell guy!

At CP1 there was an option to shorten the foot section by swimming across Kitching Creek.  After taking a look at the inky black swamp water, I was all for the longer route.  I’m chicken, I know, I’m okay with it.  This decision added about 2 miles to our trek, making it 11.5 miles total.  Other than this shortcut, I really didn’t see anywhere else to save time on this section, so we went around collecting CPs in order.  Somewhere along CP3, we ran into the Warriors, a couple from South Africa that are working in Florida.  They’ve done a few Expedition Africa adventure races and it was fun to talk with them.   We stayed together until CP6, where they decided to take a different route to CP7.  Pretty awesome that at a small adventure race in Florida we’d run across a team from ½ way around the world.

Bike 1

Last year we got to ride the Camp Murphey off road bike trails and were looking forward to riding them again this year.  They are managed by www.clubscrub.org and are fantastic.  This time, though, the CPs were not right on the trail.  Four controls were “can’t miss” on-trail, but the remaining six were placed off-trail.  Because we had ran the entire first foot section, we were able to do this technical bike section in daylight, which was a huge help.  We were doing well, trying to catch up with Good ‘Nuff, which is impossible for us on bike sections…or foot sections…or canoe sections, for that matter.  

Somewhere between CP20 and CP21, we ran across a dog on the trail.  No owners in sight, just wandering around.  Of course Ana had to stop, check the collar, and call the owner.  After 5-7 minutes trying to reunite the dog with its owner, they finally show up.  A happy ending and we were back on the trail.

By this time, I felt like we hadn’t really enjoyed bushwhacking through thickets and briars, so I sent us on a random bash through some really nasty stuff in the hunt for CP23.  This was actually an easy control to find, if you started looking in the right place…but what’s the fun in that.

We finished the single track and then made a mad dash back to the transition area, racing to cross the railroad tracks as a train was approaching.

Paddle 1

From the main TA, we transitioned to canoe and started our paddle west along the Loxahatchee River.  Night had descended, the little sliver of moon provided little illumination, and the beautiful Loxahatchee took on a spooky appearance as our headlamps swept across the water’s edge, illuminating cypress trees, mangrove roots and the yellow eyes of gators sheltered within them.  Our first 3 CPs on the paddle where CPs 1, 2, and 4 from the foot trek section.  We decided to land the canoe at CP1 and jog north to CP2 for fear that the shallow creek would make the paddle tougher.  I think this saved us some time, but we lost 5-10 minutes trying to relocate CP1, even though we had already been there previously on the foot section.  Bummer!

After collecting CP1 & 2, we crossed Kitching Creek by boat to get CP4.  This was another CP that should have been easy.  We had been there before, we were at the right bend of the river, but we just didn’t spot it.  Another 10 minutes wasted here, and I could feel my frustration level building.

We had 2 CPs remaining for the paddle section and both were further south, where the Loxahatchee River turns into meandering shallow creeks, swallowed up by the surrounding swamp.  All I can tell you is that it’s a mess and following this watery trail at night was frustrating.

Just prior to reaching CP27 along Cypress Creek, we ran into the Warriors, heading back from the bridge where the CP was located.  They had turned back in frustration, not being able to locate the checkpoint.  They had also lost their passport along the way.  We asked if they’d like to search for the CP with us, but at this point their frustration level was too high and they were ready to head back.

When we got to the bridge, I could tell why.  We couldn’t find the CP either.  The clue was, “Date on Pile N bank Cypress Creek.”  We looked at the north bridge pylon for a date and didn’t see it.  We looked at all of the bridge pylons for a date and didn’t see any.  We forded the creek and looked at all the pylons on the south side of the creek for a date…nothing.  We were frustrated and ready to turn back too until we checked the southbound I-95 pylon and saw a date scratched into the concrete.  We ran back to the pylon on the north bank of cypress creek and maybe a foot from the base was the date.  I guess our headlamps had made it difficult to see.  Had we known what we were looking for, this would have taken us seconds.  Instead it took us 15 minutes.

At CP28 we ran into the same problem.  This time it wasn’t the date, we knew where to find that.  Instead, the clue was, “DOT# Casting# Above N. Pile Cap.”  Once again, I had no clue what I was looking for, but we were told there would be an FLX sign with an arrow pointing to it so we would know we got the right number.  17 minutes wasted here and all I can say is…

Ron…you know I love you man!

Back on the canoes, we paddled back to the main TA to salvage any type of race we had left.     

Bike 2

The final section would be a bike to all of the controls we hit during the foot section.  However, this time, instead of punching the controls, we were to take pictures of ourselves at a few of them.  Once again CP1 would cause us problems.  We had already been here twice during this race, so I have no idea why we couldn’t find it easily.  I swear Ron was moving it a few yards further south each time we went out to look for it.

After CP1, we rode up to CP2, and here I made my genius move of the race.  You see, when we were here on foot, we decided to cross the creek and bushwhack to the next checkpoint.  In my head I was thinking, “Just do what you did on the foot section.”  So, I did.  We crossed the creek with our bikes and bike-whacked through to the trail.  Now, Ana has had to tolerate a lot of stupid things from me over the past 20 years of marriage.  But nothing…NOTHING…has been as stupid as making her haul her bike through this jungle of sawtooth palmettos, briars, and vines.  The double bonus was that ½ way through the mess, I realized that there was a much quicker, much easier way to get where we wanted to go and all of it along perfectly groomed bike trail.  But, being ½ way through, it made no sense to turn around now, so we pushed through.  The woods of Jonathan Dickinson State Park still echo with my screams and curses!  Another 25 minutes wasted.

The good news though is that somewhere along the trail we met up with Running in Circles.  This group of four firefighters were definitely running circles around us.  They had a late night and had to start the race an hour behind everyone else, and here they were at the front of the pack.  With an hour credit, there was no reason to race them to the finish line and there was no way we were going to catch Good ‘Nuff, so we just cruised it in, picking up the final CPs and enjoying the conversations along the way.  Sometimes you have to throttle it back and just enjoy the fun of it all.

After 15 hours and 18 minutes of solid racing, we finished in 3rd place overall, 2nd place co-ed, and had a blast doing it.

Conclusion

Once again, FLX Adventures put on a fun race.  Jonathan Dickinson is a great park and the single track is amazing.  Most of all, I’m very grateful that Ana didn’t kill me in the middle of the night during that horrendous bike whack.

A big thanks to our friends for helping us making it all possible!

 

From First Place to First Loser

Who wouldn’t want to race 36 hours straight in Florida, in September.  What’s not to love about asphalt melting sun pushing temperatures well into the 90’s while you and your team run around in spandex suits sucking hot water out of a plastic straw connected to your backpack.  That, my friends is the definition of fun.  And if you can add in getting lost, dehydration, and the overwhelming desire to puke, well you’ve hit the jackpot and pushed yourself into euphoria.

Off the Grid Racing race directors Erik, Jeanette, and Craig put together a completely new course for us around beautiful Marianna, Florida.  And when I say beautiful, I mean crystal clear springs, limestone outcroppings, numerous caverns, natural sinks and a ton of history and old Florida charm.  For the adventurer, or eco-tourist, Marianna needs to be on your list…just maybe in October or November when the weather is cooler.

Race Maps and Clue Sheet

Google Share Drive with all Maps

Prologue

The race started at midnight with a foot section from Merritt’s Mill Pond.  Starting a race has always been a problem for us, mainly because there are so many teams heading off in different directions and the pace is always excessively fast.  Not knowing the area, we headed off in one direction along with Ron and his team, FLX Adventures.  But, after hopping a fence and running into thick brush, we decided to take a different route.  We floundered for a few minutes but recovered and started to tick off CPs.  It seemed that many CPs centered on a pump house and by using this as our anchor point, we made short work of this section.

FLX Adventures

One of the CPs was inside of a cave, and when they say “inside a cave” they meant really inside the cave.  We first gave it a cursory look, didn’t see the flag and moved on.  Only to discover minutes later that the flag was in there, just tucked way in the back.

By the time we cleared this section and transitioned to bike, Pangea, FLX Adventures, Canyoneros, and Wet Feet AR had already left on bike.

Bike 1

Let me introduce you to Quadzilla, I mean Erik Wise the race director.

Erik Wise

He likes to run around in his underwear, maybe it has something to do with his days in the Navy.  I don’t know.  But I do know that he likes biking, a lot.  And any race he puts together will have plenty of it.  For this section, we were to bike to the Hinson Conservation Area, collect a few checkpoints on foot and then bike back to Merritt’s Mill Pond.  As we started the bike section, we passed Wet Feet AR and soon caught up with FLX Adventures who were looking for BP2 – NW corner of Chester Rd. & Old Spanish Trail.

After playing Brer Rabbit for 20 minutes, we finally found the checkpoint on the SW corner.  North corner…South corner…whatever.  Who uses their stinkin’ clue sheet anyway.

Sometime during that long, dark bike ride, we met up with the Canyoneros and started a pace line with them.  They ended up falling back for some reason, and when we looked back to see where they were, we heard this snarling, barking and crashing through the woods.  I assumed that it was just a couple of frenzied dogs running out to the end of their fence line.  But once I heard claws hit asphalt, I wet my pants a little and hit turbo.  There is nothing worse than pedaling your ass off and hearing crazed dogs gaining on you.  About the time I got to the fifth line of the Lord’s Prayer, I could hear them backing off.  We were worried for the Canyoneros since they were behind us, but they said by the time they ran into the dogs they were on the side of the road panting their lungs out.

Bwahahaha! I think we made one of them pee their pants!

We finally rolled into the Hinson Conservation Area with FLX Adventures and after transposing the checkpoint locations from a master map to our map, we headed off on the trek.  While Ron’s group decided to attack the trek going south, we took the northern route.

It was dark and we had a hard time locating the karst window (TP5).  What’s a karst window you ask?  Yeah, we wondered the same thing until we saw this huge hole in the ground with an orange flag at the bottom of it.

Canyoneros - Karst Window
Canyoneros – Karst Window

This section seemed to take a really long time and I felt that we were floundering.  There didn’t seem to be anything we could do to speed things up and I could feel our 3rd place standing floating away.

We finally emerged from the woods, having cleared the section and as soon as we reached the transition area to hand in our punch card, FLX Adventures emerged from the opposite woods.  It was crazy to think we went in at the same time, took totally opposite directions, never saw or passed each other, and yet finished the section at exactly the same time.  Crazy I know!

We now had 4 CPs left to collect on our way back to Merritt’s Mill Pond to start Boat 1, and it was only 7 hours into the race.

Boat 1

Merritt’s Mill Pond is absolutely stunning.

Did I mention it was stunning.  Not kinda cool, but absolutely stunning.  We arrived about the same time as FLX Adventures and ended up circling the mill pond with them.  I wish that we had some awesome videos or pictures, but we were slackers on this section and didn’t take any.  Just imagine pure awesomeness in a canoe and you get the idea.  Yeah, just like in the photo below!

Canoe Badassery

Bike 2

Back on the bikes, we tried in vain to chase down Pangea, who we hadn’t seen since the beginning of the race.  This leg was a slog, with long dirt roads and sweltering heat.

We struggled with BP14 (Oak in swamp south side), but after searching both the south and north sides of the swamp, Todd stopped a passing truck and the local told us that the landowner had removed the flag.  Time wasted.

We continued our chase of Pangea, rattling our brains out on the washboard dirt roads.  At one point Todd had a slow-motion crash and laid in the dirt like a flipped turtle with his bike on top of him.  Sorry for laughing dude, it was funny.

washboard-roads

One of the last checkpoints was in an abandoned church.  If you want to freak yourself out, head out to Parramore, Florida: A Real Florida Ghost Town, and crawl around an abandoned church.  Dead flowers and religious artifacts in a decaying building, there was no way I was heading in there alone.  “Hey Todd, why don’t you be a good pal and go in and grab that checkpoint while I stay out here and look at the maps?”  Yeah, he wasn’t buying it either.

Cavern’s Trek

We made it to the Marianna Cavern’s State Park at 6:30PM, an hour before the time cutoff.  18 hours into the race and so far we were clearing the course.  Unfortunately, the cavern’s trek was the start of the breakdown.

caverns-state-park

As the sun was fading, we started off on the Fence Line Trail, a 3 mile loop with a few CPs on it.  After clearing this section, we headed off to the Sink Hole trail where CP25 led us to a bonus CP, 600 meters into the woods on a direct bearing.  After finding the bonus CP, it pointed us to a second bonus CP another 600 meters into the woods on a direct bearing.  I was physically fading fast and all we could think about was the other teams skipping these far out CPs in exchange for collecting more points on the paddle and the Bellamy Foot Section at the end of the paddle.  We decided to skip the second bonus CP and head to the Cavern Trail where there was a greater concentration of points to be collected.

By the time we made it to the Tunnel Cave, I could feel myself really struggling.  We hit the bathroom and I splashed water on my face to recover.  It didn’t work and we decided to crash for 15 minutes on some benches.  Todd and Ana were snoring in seconds, but I couldn’t get any rest.  We soon pressed on.

Ana had to carry my pack and hers as we struggled to clear this section.  I was pretty useless by this point and Todd and Ana had to do all the work.  We made another tactical decision to drop a far out CP to a hidden cave with the hope of making the paddle and the other foot section.  We were sure other teams had moved on long ago.

I stripped down to spandex shorts and running shoes, trying to cool off and stay in the race.  Let me tell you, ain’t nothing pretty about a shirtless man in spandex shorts.

We made it back to the Caverns TA and found Junos from FLX Adventures recuperating from dehydration…it seems the heat had affected a number of racers.  I tried to eat and drink, but couldn’t stomach anything.  I told the team I needed to rest for 45 minutes and then we could figure out our next move.

Cavern Boat

At the Caverns TA, we learned that all of the other teams were still out on the trek portion, and no teams had gone out on the paddle yet.  That was a frustrating blow, since we gave up 2 controls thinking the other teams had pressed ahead.  But that’s part of Adventure Racing, making those tactical decisions in an attempt to maximize points.

Pangea came through the TA, and decided to head out on the paddle to pick up a few points.  I was still passed out on the ground trying to recover.  When 12 Chunky Layers passed through the TA and started heading out on the paddle, I got up and we strategized about our next move.  We could either do a short paddle and hope to collect 3-4 points, do the last bike section of 45-60 miles to collect 6 points, or just bike to the finish and go with what we had.

With the hope of an easy paddle, we set out on the Cavern Boat section…we were idiots.

state-park2

We soon found out that the water level was down 3-5 feet and the river was filled with downed trees.  We picked up one checkpoint and struggled with multiple portages before abandoning all hope of collecting any more.  We did find the second bonus CP from the Cavern’s Trek section, but that wouldn’t help us any.

We decided to turn back and ran into Pangea along the way back to the boat take out.  We weren’t sure how many CPs they had collected but we knew that they would kill us on the final bike section, so we didn’t try to chase them down.

Finish

From the Cavern’s TA, we decided to just bike it in.  The bike points were too far away and my butt couldn’t handle another 45 mile bike ride.  I already felt like someone had been spanking my ass all night, and not in the fun 50 Shades of Gray kinda way.

We pulled into the Finish after 34 hours and 28 minutes of racing.  40 minutes later Pangea rolled in, having collected 1 bike CP along the way.  At the closing ceremonies, we were surprisingly announced as the winner, but a couple of days later the count was re-tallied and we discovered that we had actually come in 2nd place…from 1st place to 1st loser.

steve-harvey

I was totally frustrated with myself knowing that I had let the team down and lost the race for us.  A few days after the race, I texted those sentiments to Todd and his reply was, “I race to be a better me, meet great people, and push the possible, not just to win.  I accomplished all that in this race.  Could have been one of the most challenging I’ve done.”

Well said my friend, I couldn’t have phrased it any better!  Thanks for racing with us and being a great teammate.  To be able to race with someone for 36Hrs and laugh throughout the whole damn thing is awesome.  You’re rock solid and we look forward to more races with you and Broccoli #2.

img_2656

As far as losing.  There’s no better team to lose to than Greg, May-Li, Jake and Allen from Pangea.  They are an amazing group of tough, seasoned racers and some of the friendliest competitors out there.  Good luck at Nationals!

Pangea coming off the canoe section

A big thanks to Erik, Jeanette, and Craig for putting on an amazing race.  Cheers to all those who we competed against, it was a great time and we’ll see you out there soon!  And special thanks to our outstanding sponsors whose products pull us through:

14372341_768210959985905_7080937454533047301_o

 

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.

016

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!

DSCN5058

 

Gearing up for the Turkey Burn AR

The Turkey Burn Adventure Race is 3 weeks away and we have been busy gearing up for it.  Since this will be our first night race, there was a lot of stuff that we needed to get…mainly lights.  I looked at a couple of different adventure racing team blogs to see what they were using and then I looked at my checking account and decided to go a different route.  I finally decided to go with all Fenix lights because they seemed to be quality made products that were within our budget.  Yes Ana, we actually have a budget.  Of course, having a budget and following a budget are entirely different things.

lighting

In the pic above you can see our new lights.  Aren’t they awesome!  Makes me want to go for a night run right now.  Well, maybe if it wasn’t so cold outside and I wasn’t so lazy.  Anyway, one of the reasons that I went with Fenix and chose these particular lights is because they all run on standard AA batteries.  I didn’t want to worry about recharging the batteries or finding exotic batteries during a race.  In addition, by selecting lights that all use AA, we can swap batteries between lights if necessary.

Fenix HL21 Headlamp – One per team member.  Small headlamp on the bike helmet.  Very light weight.  This is the light that we’ll carry on our heads most of the time whether running or biking so it needed to be small, light, and waterproof.  Easily mounts on the bike helmets.

Fenix HP25 Headlamp – One per team.  Large headlamp with the battery pack.  This is the light that the lead runner/biker will wear when the conditions call for additional lighting.  The other team members will follow behind using their small lights.  Has individual controls for spot or flood.

Fenix BT10 Bike Light – One per team member.  Small lamp with battery pack.  Dual distance beam provides simultaneous illumination for near and far objects.  The bike light also comes with a mount to let it be used as a helmet light.

Fenix LD41 Flashlight – One per team.  Small flashlight.  521 lumens and waterproof, this is the torch we’ll be bringing out when we’re looking for those difficult to find checkpoints.  This is a really bright light that uses AA batteries.  Fenix has a new variant that is even brighter, at 680 lumens, but it has less run time–so I opted for this one.

So far, I am very pleased with these lights but I must admit that we haven’t used them much.  In the next few weeks we should give them a run for their money and, after the Turkey Burn AR, I’ll do a review to let you know what worked and what didn’t.  If Fenix would like to positively influence this future write-up, Team Disoriented is taking donations of cash or gear and I can provide the appropriate shipping address…I’m kidding of course.

(wink…wink…IM me).

Good Reads

Even though you have already found the best adventure racing blog ever, yeah I mean this one.  You may be craving a little more information on Adventure Racing.  Below are three books that I highly recommend you check out:

Ian Adamson is an Adventure Racing legend who has competed in just about every major adventure race held.  His book, “Runners’ World Guide to Adventure Racing” is a good introduction to the sport.  While it is not a “How-to” book and may be short on specifics that leave the reader wishing for more, Ian’s passion and excitement for the sport comes across.  I recommend reading this book first if your looking for inspiration or something to make you want to get off the couch and go train.  Amazon has this for the Kindle and I think it’s worth the 10 bucks.

Ok, let’s say you’re already pumped about doing an Adventure Race but you want specifics like what to wear, how to train, what to eat, gear to pack, etc.  Then Liz Caldwell and Barry Siff have the book for you.  “Adventure Racing, The Ultimate Guide” is more of a how-to style book giving good advice from two of the best racers out there.  Well, probably not out there anymore since the book was published in 2001.  Regardless, the information is still pertinent today.  The book is out of print but I picked up an autographed copy for $0.32 + shipping.  Yep, that baby is going to be a collectible one day…probably even double my money.

Now, you’re psyched for your first race, you got the how-to manual and know what to eat, what to wear, and how to train but then you realize, oh crap I can’t use a GPS or my super smart phone to get from point A to point B.  I must learn the ancient art of orienteering.  Well take a look at book #3 my friend, “Wilderness Navigation“.  This book tells you everything you need to know about wilderness navigation (it’s even in the title).  How to read a map, how to use a compass, and other useful tidbits are in here.  But let me tell you what I really liked, in the back there are maps with questions where you can test your newly acquired skill. It’s a great way to find out if you really understood what the book was telling you, or faking it like you did in high school.  I recommend getting it in paperback rather than Kindle format so you can make notes and write on the maps.

There you go, three good books to lead you on your way to dominating your first adventure race.  And if that isn’t enough, you can download and check out free editions of Adventure World Magazine, the official magazine of the United States Adventure Racing Association (USARA).  If you have any recommendations for Adventure Racing books, magazines, or blogs please post them in the comment section.

Pangea: Turkey Burn AR

Turkey Burn AR

It’s official, we have signed up for the 12-hour Pangea Turkey Burn Adventure Race. Unfortunately, Super Stu won’t make it this time, which is a real bummer. Ana and I will do our best to guilt him relentlessly for his abandonment. We’re really excited and a little bit nervous about the race. Our first one was a 5-hour sprint and we did okay. We’ll see how this one goes. The race starts at 3 AM and goes until 3 PM, how cool is that! Click on the image above if you want to see more race details.

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.