2017 Sea to Sea

Bears, gators, green lasers, hobbit feet, mouth sores, epic single track, hypothermia, search and rescue, where’s that damn dam, crash and burn off an 8 foot berm, beautiful Florida wilderness, great times!

How do you describe a 72-hour, non-stop adventure race?  I don’t think you really can.  It’s almost impossible to describe, especially to those that have never done one.  When I try to tell people about it, I can’t seem to capture how exciting, rewarding, tough, exhausting and ultimately fun a race like this is. In addition, most people seem to have a 2 minute attention span and a 3-day race isn’t something that you can describe with an elevator pitch.  So, for those that enjoy the archaic hobby of reading things longer than a Facebook post, here’s my vain attempt… 

Follow along with full race maps here

Section 1: Trek (3 miles) Ponce Inlet

I guess the race started at Ponce Inlet.  I find it hilarious that when people ask me where the race started, I really can’t tell them.  “Somewhere on the east coast of Florida” is what I usually answer.  “But, I know we finished at the Plantation Inn & Golf Resort in Crystal River.”  You see, before the race begins and we’re given our 48 maps, we don’t know where the race will start.  We know where it ends because that’s where we parked our cars, and eventually you’ll want to find your car.

After a 3hr bus ride to the other side of Florida, we had enough time to drop the browns off at the Super Bowl, butter the biscuits, and do a last minute gear check before embarking on our epic race.  I’m usually super nervous until I find the first checkpoint (CP) and truly get my bearing.  For this race, the first CP was along a pier right in front of us, even Team Disoriented can nail that.The rest of the section was a simple trek around Ponce Inlet, hitting a couple of local spots, and taking photos along the way.

Section 2: Paddle (8.5 miles) Spruce Creek

There is nothing sweeter than the sound of oyster shells scraping along the bottom of your fiberglass canoe, trying to rip it open like the Titanic.  Of course, being the conscientious adventure racers that we are, we would never, ever subject our canoe to that type of abuse.  But then again, we weren’t using our canoe…

We followed a few teams through the labyrinth of shallow oyster beds, collecting 2 CPs and ending with a nice little portage.  How long was the portage you ask?  Oh, about ¼ mile passed pissed off.  The canoe drop was just before we got started on the really good curse words.

Section 3: Bike (48 miles) East Coast

Our first bike section of the race started with a time trial of the Spruce Creek Bike Trail Network.  Follow the trail they said.  You can’t get lost they said.  Hmm funny how we ran into 2 other teams that had gone around in a big loop after missing a critical turn.  We decided to throttle back our mad mountain biking skilz (yeah, that’s skilz with a z) to not mess up the navigation on this.  We definitely didn’t break any time trial records here, but we did get all the CPs.

After the time trial, we had 4 other CPs to collect along the way to the next section.  This was a mix of off-road/jeep trails and some city roads.  One of the cool CPs was at the Sopotnick’s Cabbage Patch Bar, a well-known bike bar…for dudes with tats, skull rings, chains, and leather jackets.  Not for dudes in spandex shorts on bicycles.  Actually, they were really cool and allowed us to get a drink, so long as we got the hell out of there.The last CP for this leg was at JC’s Bikes & Boards.  Adventure South Racing was stopped here getting their derailleur fixed.  How awesome is that?!  If you’re ever in the area and need to stop at a bike shop, hit them up.

Section 4: Trek (4 miles) Lake Beresford Park

Here’s the dealio.  I hate cutoffs, especially early cutoffs.  Yeah yeah, I know, strategery is a part of adventure racing blah blah blah.  My issue is that only 2 teams, Rev3 & Good ‘Nuff, cleared the course up to Section 4 and made the time cutoff (and hats off to both teams for making it).  We missed it by 20 minutes, clearing the course up to that point.  Unfortunately, the early cutoff set the race for us and many other teams and removed the possibility for any late race rallies.  By 4:30PM on the first day, both top teams knew that all they had to do was clear the course and they were assured a 1-2 place finish.  Mentally, this is a strong position to be in…much different than knowing a team can come from behind and take a spot from you.  Oh well.  Our mistake.  We totally own it and know we should have pushed harder in the beginning.

Section 5: Paddle (11 miles) Snake Creek

We paddled up the aptly named Snake Creek as it twisted its way northwest towards Hontoon Island State Park, where it eventually meets the St. Johns River.  At Hontoon Island, we disembarked to search for “CP14 – Indian Mound on Hontoon Island.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I had no idea that Indian Mounds looked like park benches.  I guess if I were an Indian building a mound, I might want a bench on top of the mound so that I could take a nice leisurely view of the surrounding forest, maybe eat a sandwich or opossum, or whatever Indians ate back then.  I don’t really know, but I do know that ambiguous clues are no fun.  Especially when there isn’t a control at the location.  Were we on the right trail?  Should there be a sign that says “Indian Mound”?  Are we supposed to ignore the “Trail Ends Here” sign and go look for an Indian mound?  We decided to reattack this CP from another trail and ended up in the same location.  So we snapped a photo of the bench and said &^@#! it after wasting 30-40 minutes.

Uh, is this an Indian Mound?

This should have been a quick five minute punch, “CP14 – Park bench at end of trail (this is an Indian Mound)” would have been unambiguous and let teams know of the historical artifact we were on.

Section 6: Trek (19 miles) St. Francis

I love night treks.  No, really, I do.  There is something indescribably exciting and enchanting about night trekking.  It’s quiet and spooky and fun all at the same time.  Owls hoot, critters and creatures run about in the woods around you.  You feel like there isn’t another soul around for miles.  It’s just mesmerizing.We fast trekked this section, nailing the navigation and making pretty good time while enjoying each other’s company and trying not to migrate onto private property.  Walking onto private property at 3AM in the middle of the woods is no bueno.

Section 7: Bike (22 miles) Ocala Paisley Woods

Section 7 was a 22 mile bike loop for 2 CPs that some teams opted not to do.  That’s a pretty good decision when you know that after the 22 mile loop, you had another 30 miles on the bike before the next transition area (TA).  That’s a total of 7-8 hours of butt-blistering biking.  Our plan was to do the short loop for 1 point and to skip the long loop.  We were looking for “CP19 – Bike Loop Trail Cutoff Sign” which translated into American means “CP19 – Alexander Springs Sign”.  Maybe other teams weren’t confused, but I’m a pretty simple guy.  If someone says, take a photo of the blue sign, I’m looking for a blue sign.  And if the clue says, “Bike Loop Trail Cutoff Sign”  then I’m looking for a sign that says, “Bike Loop Trail Cutoff” or “Bike Cutoff” or “Trail Cutoff” or “Cutoff” or at least 1 of the 4 words used in the clue.  I’m not looking for a sign that says’ “Peanuts this way” or “Unicorns are Awesome” but maybe that’s just me.

A sign! By Lupine!

After doing ½ of the first loop, Todd was super excited about going on to do the long loop as well.  Especially since doing so might make us miss the O-course cutoff at Sunnyhill for 9 points.  I can fondly remember the words of encouragement and the hug he gave me once we got to the top of the loop…

Fun?! I’ll show you FUN!

Section 8: Bike (30 miles) Ocala National Forest

Once we finished the double bike loop, we still had 30 miles of trail biking to do through the Ocala National Forest.  The clue sheet offered this sage advice, “Select checkpoints in this ride wisely, many of the roads and trails along this segment can be sandy or muddy.”  I’m not sure how you select roads and trails wisely when you don’t know the area, I mean you might as well say, “Shake your Magic 8-Ball and rattle some chicken bones for good juju because if you don’t you’ll be stuck in 8 inches of the softest damn sand you’ve ever tried to ride through.”

Riding in sugar sand is like…well, it’s like CRAP!  That’s the best I have.  It’s crap, piled on top of crap.

Section 9: O-Course (? miles) Sunnyhill

We rode into Sunnyhill to start the O-Course and were greeted with gator-filled canals that created a labyrinth of water.  Picking the wrong path took you to a dead-end where the only options were to turn back or go through the canal.  After seeing a few toothsome gators hiding in the duckweed, we decided there would be no swimming or canal crossings on this section.

After plotting 9 UTM points, we headed out.  There was a 9PM cutoff to finish this section, but we had plenty of time.  Once out on the course, we realized how far apart the controls were and that the nav wasn’t going to be as straight forward as we originally thought.  Our first route choice took us to a dead-end where we had to turn back.  The distances seemed to be much further than indicated on the map, but looking at Google Maps post-race, the scale was right on.  I think it was more of an optical illusion because the land was flat and treeless and you could see a long distance.We struggled a bit on this section.  I ended up dropping my watch on the way to CP33 – River Cabin and had to backtrack to find it.  Green watch dropped in green grass…yeah that was about as fun as you can imagine.  This was my 2nd watch, the first I lost at USARA Nationals last year and I wasn’t about to leave this one behind.  Luckily Ana was running strong and could race ahead to look for it while Todd and I limped along.

CP34 – Big Cedar gave us the most trouble as we tried twice to attack it from the west.  After two failed attempts, we were going to bail on it, but since we had to go past it to finish the course, we decided to attack it once more from the east.  As we got close to the attack point, we had a large black bear walk out of the woods onto the trail in front of us.  We were contemplating what to do next until the second, larger bear stepped out onto the trail.  That pretty much solidified our decision to get the hell out of there.  Now, maybe others would have kept moving towards the bears, but I’ve never heard anyone advising that you should walk towards a bear with a backpack full of food when it stands between you and were you want to go.  I’m sure some have tried it.  There’s a special award for those people, a Darwin Award.

Our next CP was CP30 – Small Clearing for Bears.  Just fantastic.  Dusk is settling in, we’ve already seen two bears, and now we’re heading into a small clearing for bears.  For five minutes we hunted around a clearing full of bear poop with backpacks full of nuts, berries, chocolate…you know all those things that bears eat.  I felt like we were walking snack packs for the bears.  Hey BooBoo!  Why don’t we go eat one of those walking picnic baskets?

Practicing getting big to scare away the bears.

By now, I was mentally drained and couldn’t nav anymore.  I handed the map over to Todd and he finished up the O-Course, guiding us to the remaining checkpoints and the transition area.  During this section there was also a full-on search and rescue going on.  We didn’t know if someone was attacked by a bear, eaten by an alligator, or lost on the Oklawaha paddle.  With a helicopter flying overhead, and sirens going off, we were really worried for whoever had called for help.  But, that’s a story you’ll have to read about on the Canyoneros blog post.

Section 10: Paddle (18 miles) Oklawaha

Forever to be known as “The Paddle”, the Oklawaha paddle was just about the hardest section of any race we’ve done so far.  Our first plan was to sleep for 20-30 minutes at the TA before heading out on the paddle.  So, we ate a Cup’O’Noodles and putzed around the TA wasting a lot of time before deciding that we should go out, paddle up to the dam and sleep there for 20-30 minutes before finishing the paddle.  That would break up the 5 hour paddle and allow us some sleep.  I knew it was forecasted to get cold and the sooner we got the paddle done, the better off we would be.

Exhausted, we launched our canoe and paddled, collecting 2 CPs along the way.  By the time we reached the dam, Ana was soaked and freezing and we were all on the verge of collapse.  We portaged our canoe around the dam and tried to catch 20 minutes of sleep in the women’s bathroom.  You know you’re pretty stinking tired if you’re willing to curl up on a public bathroom floor to get some rest.  After 20 minutes of shivering and shaking without sleeping, we decided to hit the water again.  By now, Ana was wrapped in her Survive Outdoors Longer Emergency Blanket, cold weather gear, rain gear and puffy jacket.

Little did we know how miserable a 3 hour paddle would be after racing for 36 solid hours and having the temperature drop to 38 degrees.  Along the paddle I saw green lasers being shot across the river, Ana saw castles, Todd saw little men.  We all heard voices and felt that at times we were either paddling uphill or downhill.  With the change in temperature, there was such a mist on the river that Ana couldn’t see anything in front of her.  It was like driving in fog with high beams on.  Imagine someone threw a white sheet over your head and then told you to paddle while they constantly threw cups of cold water at your face.  Good times, right?

We played word games and told stories to stay awake as we bounced off lily pads on either side of the river and avoided downed trees just seconds before crashing into them.  We were in total wilderness and a capsized canoe, in our state, would not have been good.

However, it wasn’t until we finally landed and had to hike 1.5 miles to the transition area that we realized just how cold we were.  We were completely soaked and with uncontrollable shaking and chattering teeth, we carried all of our paddling gear to the TA where the most awesome volunteers had a small fire and hot chocolate available.  Chris and Sonia, you were literally life savers.  Thank you!

Section 11: Trek (9 miles) Marshall Swamp

Before heading out on the trek, we decided to grab an hour sleep at the TA.  This was our first sleep of the race and we went unconscious as soon as we stopped moving.  This trek was along the Florida National Scenic Trail to the Historic Santos Recreation Area.  There weren’t any real navigation decisions to be made here and we simply followed the trail to the TA.

Section 12: Bike (50 miles) Santos

For cross country trail riding in Florida, it doesn’t get any better than Santos.  Maintained by the Ocala Mountain Bike Association this trail has it all: epic drops, steep climbs, technical stuff, and fast flowing single track.

With Todd picking the lines, we “flew” through this section.  At least in my mind I was flying, and looking pretty awesome doing it.  You’ll just have to take my word for it.  

After getting through the climbs and switchbacks on Nayls and Ern N Burn, Ana was ready for a stiff drink.  I was ready to get off the bike for awhile, but we still had miles to go.

The last single track section, Tricycle, seemed to last FOR…E…VER!  After the previous, more technical sections that made you stay focused, this part was a little more mundane and having only 1 hour of sleep so far, it was getting hard to keep our head in the game.  We weren’t sure where the last CP was, just that it was along the trail somewhere.  It’s always a little unnerving not knowing where the controls are, but the race directors did a great job placing them so you couldn’t miss them.  Had the race directors placed the CPs on the map, teams could easily bypass the more technical and fun parts of the trail in exchange for getting to the controls faster.

Dude, if I had some loud hubs, this baby would fly!

Once we got out of Santos, we still had a few miles of street riding to do before reaching the next TA.  Once we hit the road, we met up with Nativos Colombia and a few other teams.  Nativos Colombia are crazy fast on the bike and flew past us.  I knew we weren’t the fastest cyclists out there but man what an eye opener.  It must be our bikes…yeah, definitely our bikes.  And a loud hub, I need a loud hub.  I heard they make you go crazy fast.

The last bike section was along the Withlacoochee State Trail, a beautiful 46 mile paved rails to trails section.

Section 13: O-Course (? miles) Citrus

The O-course section was a dark zone where all teams were stopped until 5AM Sunday morning.  While here, they had the option of completing up to four O-courses of varying difficulty.  The way it worked is that you picked one of the four courses and returned to the TA after completing each one and before heading out on the next one.  Once your team decided it was finished, you were off the race clock until the dark zone was lifted.

I’m not sure what time we arrived, but it was after dark and we knew we were in for a long night if we wanted to collect all four available points.  After sucking down about 3 hamburgers, we headed off on our first O-course.

Clearing the first course was pretty easy, but then we couldn’t find the Transition Area again.  I can’t explain how frustrating it is to be able to locate a 12in x 12in orange and white flag out in the middle of a forest and then not be able to locate a clearing with two U-Haul trucks, 100+ bicycles, and racers milling about.  We stumbled around for a little while, ending up in the regular campers section of the park before finally finding the Transition Area again.

Due to Todd’s bloodhound-like ability to sniff out controls, we didn’t have much trouble finding any of the CPs except for CP2 on map 4 (shown below) if anyone is following along on the maps.

When we bushwhacked straight from CP1 to CP2, we thought we were looking for a CP on a hill, but we should have been looking for a CP in a sink.  They’re kinda like opposites, ya know.  So, we scoured the hill to the south of CP2 for about 45 minutes until we decided to reorient ourselves by going to the trail junction north of us and pace counting to the correct “hill”.  When our pace counting put us smack dab in the middle of the sink, I realized my map reading error.  Once in the correct location, we found the CP easily.  Oh, the fun we had!

By now, we were sleepwalking zombies.  It was probably close to 2AM and we hadn’t slept more than an hour in the last 65 hours.  Once again I was brain dead and handed the maps over to Todd, who finished up the O-Course and led us to the Transition Area.  Along the way we entered this massive sink that was also a prescribed burn.  We came across a downed pine tree smoldering with glowing red embers inside of it.  At the bottom of the sink was a huge tree with a CP hanging from it.  I really wish we would have taken a picture of the area as it was surreal.  But, the only thing on our mind was finishing this section and grabbing an hour of sleep before the dark zone lifted.

Section 14: Bike (28 miles) West Coast

We got back to the Transition Area at 3AM, just enough time to sleep for an hour before waking at 4AM in preparation for the 5AM race restart.  Dragging yourself out of a warm sleeping bag after 1 hour of sleep, when it’s 45 degrees outside…AWESOME!  

The race restart had us blasting down clay roads with washed out sections ready to grab your front tire and launch you head first into the darkness.  Being the super bikers that we are, we got to watch taillights disappear into the night ahead of us.  We had a couple of CPs to pick up along the way to the final boat section.This was a 28 mile final sprint and our team formed a pace line, more to look cool than to move any faster.  Ana, always the unstoppable one, took the lead and pulled Todd and me along the streets of Crystal River.

The last CP on this section was supposed to be collected on foot, but since the lead teams were allowed to go on bike, we were all given the option.  This rooty, narrow berm of a trail was not meant for bike riding, at least not for us to be bike riding.  On the way back from punching the control, Ana got close and personal with the mucky waters on either side of the berm.

I looked back just in time to see her fly over her handlebars and crash face first into the muck 6 feet below.  Thank goodness she saved her bike from any damage by having it land on top of her.  I would have taken a picture if I wasn’t so worried that she was okay…and worried that she’d slap the crap out of me if I tried.

Later on I was able to snap this photo of her post-crash bad assery 🙂

Section 15: Paddle (8 miles) Fort Island Beach

Here were our choices, paddle 8 miles into a blustery headwind or go hit Denny’s for the Grand Slam special…

There is nothing better than rolling into a Denny’s after 72 hours of racing and smelling like swamp funk.  After 3 days of solid racing, your body takes on a completely new level of stink.  There is regular body odor, and sweaty man body odor, and then there is something I like to call Landfill funk…you know that special scent that makes you cough up a little vomit in the back of your throat on the first sniff.  We were just about touching that level.

Conclusion:

Florida Xtreme nailed it!  This was the race we were looking for.  Difficult, wild, adventure.  The maps were great, the logistics were great, the volunteers were great.  Superbly ran and organized from beginning to end.  We can’t thank Junos, Ron, Dave, Manny, and the entire Florida Xtreme crew enough for putting on a superb race.  To the volunteers, a heartfelt thank you for making this race amazing.  I know how hard you all worked out there and it is appreciated by every single racer.  And of course, thank you to the two best teammates I could ever hope for.

To the race directors, two small suggestions:

  1. All CPs need to be unambiguous or have a marker on them.  72 hours of racing is hard enough, don’t make us guess whether we have a photo of the right thing or not…or counted the right number of benches.  It’s just down right frustrating to lose a point when you know you were in the right area.
  2. Not being able to speak for most racers, but for me and my ego, what I really want more than prizes or t-shirts are photos.  I’d rather the race directors pay someone, or get a volunteer, to take a boat load of photos of all the teams throughout the race and make them available for free.  Because in the end, we’re all doing this for the memories.
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2016 Sea to Sea Race Report – Day 3

Segment 9 – Spring to Spring Bike (45 miles)

We finally made it to TA8 where we were to switch from canoes to bike.  Broccoli hit the TA and were gone in a flash.  I needed a cup of noodles, a full body massage and a hot cappuccino to sooth my tired soul…I settled for the cup of noodles.  While I fumbled through the maps plotting our route, almost every other team came and went from the TA.  We definitely need to get faster at transitions, and biking, and running, and just about every damn thing you can imagine.

TA8 – Florida Xtreme

Off we raced to try to catch the pack.  This section took us along the Spring to Spring bike trail with a first stop at Gemini Springs.  It was closed, but there wasn’t a fence so we snuck in to take a quick snapshot.  Up next was Green Springs and it was definitely closed, with a locked gate and everything.  So, I attempted to squeeze through the gate and once Ana dislodged my head from between the two poles I was off and running for the CP.  I guess I should have taken my bike helmet off.

Ain’t nothing better than a little Breaking and Entering for a CP

The remaining checkpoint on this section, other then CP59, were bonus points and the cutoff time to collect them was well past, so we planned to bike straight to TA10.  However, at CP59 we found out that the deadline had been extended.  I guess teams were also allowed to collect CPs 60 & 61 by bike rather than foot.  Who knew?  It seems I wasn’t doing a very good job of making sure that I got all of the race changes at the previous transition areas.

Somewhere along the way to TA10 we met up with the Canyoneros.  We were right behind but making sure not to get on their back wheel because drafting without asking permission is bad cycling mojo…and nobody needs that.  So, I pedaled up to Hien and asked if he wanted to form a pace line.  “If you nav, I’ll pull”, I said.  He was on board so we formed up and away we went.  When I got tired, one of their teammates took over, what was his name…not Nate or Hien, oh yeah Captain America.  So, Captain America is pulling on the front and we’re flying to collect CP62 and make it to TA10 in time for it to count.  Ana, Hien and Nate also took turns pulling and for a brief time we felt like part of a well-oiled machine…thanks guys, that was fun!  We rushed into the TA with 1 bonus checkpoint and 5 minutes to spare.

Segment 11 – Final Trek to Fox Lake (16 miles)

BURGERS!  I could have eaten the tires off the U-Haul but instead we were greeted with burgers.  I may have even cried a little while eating them, they were so good.  A big hearty thank you to all of the volunteers that made this race amazing!

I will put you in my belly!

We met back up with Broccoli at the TA and decided to tackle this next section together.  It was promising to be an epic trek that would take us through the night.  We started the trek at 11:30PM and by the time we collected our first CP we knew we wouldn’t make the next transition, TA11, until 9AM or so.  From TA11 we still had a 35 mile bike ride, a 7 mile canoe and a 2 mile run to do before the race finished at 11AM.  There was no way to do it all.  In hindsight, we should have never tried for any CPs on this section and marched straight to TA11.  In hindsight we should have done a lot of things differently.

Jeff Leininger made the call to the race directors explaining our situation and soon we were in the back of a U-Haul getting a lift to TA11 along with 15 other racers, 30 bikes, 12 paddle bags, and 27 ticks.  Although we’re all smiles in the photo below, I think everyone was pretty disappointed to have to call for rescue.

Oh the gentle lull of carbon monoxide poisoning

But, we weren’t sad to miss the 4AM, 42 degree water crossings…suckers!

You take me to TA, okay?

Segment 11 – Canaveral Bike (35 miles)

At TA11, we were held until 6AM when the teams would be released for the final push to the finish line.  I stayed up to do the map work for the bike and canoe section while Ana took an hour nap.  With 5 hours to complete the race once released, there wasn’t any room for errors.  I also got to break out the JetBoil and make coffee, lots and lots of coffee.  At 6AM I woke Ana, handed her a hot cup of coffee, and subsequently earned the best husband of the year award

TA11 Dark Zone – Little nap before the final push.

After spending a good portion of the race trying to chase down Broccoli, or doing sections with them, we were really happy to finish out the race alongside them.  They made us snort with laughter and we, well, I don’t really know what we brought to the mix.  Charm?  Good looks?  A certain je ne sais quoi.  Who knows.  Anyway, three more sections and we’d be done.

Our first bike CP was a photo of the space shuttle.  You may wonder how someone could miss a 56 meter high space shuttle, but I did.  I vaguely recall Ana yelling, “Hey guys there it is, we don’t have to go all the way around.” But, I was in a total daze.  Look at this stupid picture I took, thinking this was the shuttle they were referring to…

P1020361

It wasn’t until we rode all the way to the security gate and were turned back that I noticed the extremely large, extremely obvious orange thing…IDIOT!

CP77 – Oh, you mean THIS space shuttle.

The rest of the bike section was cleared and we made our way to the final paddle.

TA12 – Ana sets the pace line

Segment 13 – Final Paddle (7 miles)

I think we were the first team to make it to the final paddle, and that was probably a good thing because had we seen other teams being tossed about in those waves and winds, we probably would have just ridden our bikes to the finish.  I can’t describe it, it was madness.  Ana and I have become much better paddlers than when we first started racing and this was the ultimate test of our abilities.  We nearly capsized many times but eventually we made it into the shelter of the mangroves.

Out of the wind and waves and into the mangroves

Broccoli was navigating and they could have it.  We had our hands full just trying to stay afloat and keep up with them.  After collecting the first two CPs, we had a small portage by the high school.

Hey Broccoli!  You guys mind carrying my boat too?  Guys?!  Hello?

I think Ana got a little nervous with my canoe reentry, but I know what a good swimmer she is so I wasn’t nervous at all.

Just hang on baby…I know what I’m doing…kinda.

At the old pump CP, we took the time to snap a selfie and it turned out to be my favorite photo of the race.  Good times!

Great people…good times!

Finish – Lori Wilson Park (2 mile)

We could have walked the remaining 2 miles to the finish, but that just didn’t seem right.  I wouldn’t say that what we did was “run” it was more of a shuffle, but I was glad we were giving it everything we had until the end.  And after 75 hours and 19 minutes, we crossed the finish line, completing our very first Florida Sea to Sea Adventure Race and our first multi-day race.  I couldn’t be more proud of my #1 teammate and favorite racing partner, Ana.  She was amazing the entire race, never once complaining or wanting to quit.  I’ve raced with plenty of people and there is no one I’d rather be out on the course with.  Thanks baby, you are amazing!  Oh, and by the way there’s this really sweet bike I’ve been looking at…

U-Hauls…oh yeah, we like U-Hauls!

A big thanks to Todd and Stephen from Broccoli Covered Powder Babies, you guys really made this race fun.  I don’t think we’ve ever laughed so hard during a race!  We hope to race with you guys again someday.

As always, thank you to the race directors, Dave Brault, Junos Reed, Manny Otero and Ron Eaglin.  We could tell that you poured your hearts and souls into this race and we loved every minute of it.  We’ll definitely be back next year!

A huge thank you to the volunteers that make any race like this possible.  You always greeted us with a smile and tried to help out whenever and where ever you could.  Thank you!  We can’t say it often enough.

We’d also like to thank KanPas, Geigerrig, Skratch Labs, Klymit, and Lupine North America.  We only use brands we know and trust, and your products never fail us.  I’ll be doing gear reviews in the next few days to describe the equipment we used and how it performed.

And thanks to our readers.  Your comments make putting together race reports like this worthwhile.  I hope you enjoyed the write up and if you have any questions or comments, drop us a line below.

~END~

Day 1 Report

Day 2 Report

2016 Sea to Sea Race Report – Day 2

Segment 6 – Lake Apopka Bike (35+ miles)

The next section was a 35+ mile bike ride.  By now, we were definitely tired of sitting on our bums and opted for the shorter, southern route around Lake Apopka rather than the longer, northern route with more checkpoints.

CP38 – Dead Reckoning

We knew we’d be giving up checkpoints, but we were getting frustrated with trying to chase the time cutoffs and wanted to catch up with the race and not be so pressed by the clock.  For this leg we had a 6PM cutoff to reach the TA to receive credit for CP44, which was on our way.  CP44 was at race director Manny’s house and I really wanted to stop by…mainly hoping he had a cooler full of beer available.  Not that Manny drinks or anything. Bwahaha! Oops, I just fell out of my chair…

BCP44 – Team YERT

With thoughts lingering on a cold frosty one, we searched for Manny’s house in vain.  Unfortunately, the map I was using to navigate, Map 6C, shows Manny’s house at a totally different location than Map 6B.  I guess I should have Googled the address the night before.  Frustrated, and with the looming deadline, we rode off to collect CP43.

Now, if you want some butt-puckering bike riding, just hop off the West Orange Bike Trail and tempt your fate along the roads of Lake Apopka on a Friday night.  Good thing my screams and cursing were drowned out by the roar of speeding cars.  Frazzled, we got to TA6 and instantly invaded the McDonalds.  While we shoved cheese burgers down our throats, they wondered where all these stinky homeless people with super cool bikes were coming from, and more importantly, when we would leave.

TA6 – Broccoli Covered Powder Babies

Segment 7 – Epic Wekiva Trek (22 miles)

Off the bikes at last and onto our feet.  My butt was aglow like a lightning bug and I was thankful to not be sitting on something for awhile.  We had been running into Broccoli throughout the race and here we decided to tackle the foot section together.  The plan was to make it to the Horse Barn TA before daybreak and get a couple of hours of sleep.  Blessed sleep!

Horse Barn TA

We estimated that we would make it to the TA by 4AM, but with a promised water-crossing followed by a 6-7 mile hike, this was shaping up to be a cold evening.  At the water crossing, we met up with Off the Grid and a couple of other teams.  Not wanting to be wet and cold all night, we stripped down and forged across the stream.  Eric, from Off the Grid, crossed first wrapped only in a trash bag for a loin cloth and a buff for a turban.  Someone remarked, “You look like an Indian god” to which he replied, “I should wear this more often!”  I’m just glad there aren’t any pictures because no one wants to see my dangling bits.

CP47 – Off the Grid

After collecting CP47 at the Indian Twin Mounds, we trudged into the Horse Barn TA, pitched our tent, and crashed for a couple hours of sleep.

Ana kept trying to wake me saying, “Hey, there’s something going on outside.  We need to check it out!”  Whatever lady, just let me sleep!  Well, come to find out she was right…as usual.  It seems that the O-Course cutoff, which had been 10PM the night before, had been extended.  No one had told us before we crashed for the night and by the time we figured out what was going on there wasn’t enough time to collect any of the CPs…no bueno!

I was pretty ticked that we lost the chance to get 4 CPs, so we stomped off to finish the remaining 10 miles of the trek with Broccoli who had recently returned from the O-course.

Somewhere north of Wekiva Camp there is a magical “abandoned track” where the race directors hid a control marker.  It’s a mystical place that is not truly here nor there.  It exists to those that have the eyes to see.  We did not have the eyes to see and the woods still ring from my languished curses!  And that’s all I want to say about that.

Segment 8 – Blackwater Creek/St. Johns Paddle (12 miles)

Blackwater creek is a beautiful paddle through tannin stained waters that knot into hairpin turns and switchbacks.  Cedar and cypress trees encroach on the sides with outreached branches casting deep shadows across the creek.

TA7 – Team Super Frogs

With a swift flowing current, teams with strong paddlers and good steering are rewarded, while those lacking are tossed into overhanging branches and partially submerged obstacles.

Lil’ Chomper

We thoroughly enjoyed this section as the many turns and beautiful scenery kept us awake and in the moment.

Unfortunately, once we paddled onto the St Johns, the serenity of the creek was soon supplanted by rednecks in speed boats playing Let’s Capsize the Canoe.  I assure you that it’s an amazing spectator sport as canoeists attempt to surf down boat wakes without spilling over or being cast upon the embankment.
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Broccoli was setting a fierce pace on the canoe and we struggled to keep up.  We paddled north to the Swamp House Riverfront Grill to pick up a checkpoint and then backtracked south for another CP before reaching the TA and the next bike leg.

CP55 – Canyoneros

And to whoever gave me that Werther’s Caramel Coffee candy on the paddle…bless you! You are an angel.  It was worth almost capsizing my canoe for.

End of Day 2

Day 1 Report

Day 3 Report

 

2016 Sea to Sea Race Report – Day 1

I can always tell how amazing an adventure race is by how long it takes me to break out of my funk once I get back.  Upon returning from a race, life seems a little more mundane and monotonous and my mind relentlessly replays the highs and lows of the event with a longing to be back out there.  Work duties are met with sighs of resignation and just getting to the office is almost a monumental task itself.  Usually, after a day or two passes, and the excitement from the race wears down, the nose is reapplied to the grindstone and life assumes it’s normal pattern.  But, here it is a week later and all I can think about is Sea to Sea in 2017.

How do you even begin to write a race report on a 72Hr non-stop event?  There is so much to take in that it seems a monumental task.  Many people have asked us about the race now that we have returned, and every time we try to describe it, I can tell that we’re just not capturing it.  The descriptions seem pale and empty even to us and what was lived in Technicolor is relayed in muted grays.  There is no way that I can relate, either in words or in script, how absolutely amazing an adventure like this is.  It’s the actualization of a goal, something that you’ve trained for and committed to. Something that you have pledge valuable time and money to.  And here you are, in the midst of it all, racing for everything you’re worth–sometimes joyous, sometimes angry, sometimes beaten, sometimes elated, but most importantly always in the moment.

Race Passport

Race Maps

Team Tracking

Race Photos

Pre-Race:

40 freaking maps!  Seriously, my map case is on the verge of popping, along with the aneurism in my head.  I have no idea how to take in and parse this much information.  Do we detail plan?  Do we wing it during the race?  So many time cutoffs and decision points.  What CPs do we skip?  Do we try to clear it?  Ana tries to keep me focused and moving through the maps to get an overall sense, but I’m lost.  I’ll be up all night if I try to detail plan and that plan will probably change as the race progresses anyway.  Forget it! I decide to plan for the first day and try to get some sleep.  Ha! Sleep.  Who sleeps before a race like this?

 Start – Honeymoon Island Trek (8 miles, trail)

Super Frogs

We wake up early and are bussed to the other side of Florida, where the race will begin with an 8-mile trek for 4 checkpoint.  The race starts and ain’t nobody trekking.  When the lead teams start off running, we all go running.  Stupid, maybe…but fun none the less.  Our highlight for this section is when Ana gets within a stride of stepping on this beauty…

Now thars a snake!

I guess we didn’t notice the signs coming into Honeymoon Island.  Well, we’re awake and ready to race now.

Nice sign to see on the way out.

Segment 1: Urban Trails Bike (45 miles)

On a good day, we can maintain 15-18mph on a mountain bike, so this leg would be about 3 hours for us, and quite possibly the longest non-stop ride we’ve done.  We’re not cyclists and my butt scabs can attest to that.  There were 4 CPs here and if I would have remembered to take our photo at the Flatwoods Trailhead sign, we wouldn’t have had to turn around and add a few more miles to this leg.  But, we were enjoying the ride so much…

CP8 – Broccoli Covered Powder Babies

Segment 3 – Lower Hillsborough Trek (18 miles)

The race directors had made a change, cancelling out the Lettuce Lake Park and Hillsborough River Paddle, so we were to collect CP9 on the way to Morris Bridge Park.

CP9 – Florida Xtreme

At Morris Bridge, we had to decide whether to complete the next section by foot or canoe.  If you chose to do the next section on foot, then you had to make a water crossing to get to the next transition area.  Otherwise, you could take a canoe, miss a few checkpoints, but paddle to the next TA.  Our plan was to take the canoe, but then Super Frogs were heading out on foot and so was Broccoli Covered Powder Babies…what to do, what to do!  We waffled on our approach and decided in the end to do this section on foot.  It took us 3 tries to leave the TA as 1) I left the passport at the water station and 2) we had to backtrack and let the race directors know that we changed our mind and were going out on foot.  The catch was, we had to be at the next TA by 10PM or we would start losing points.  Ana was nervous about the late night water crossing, but it looked like we would be able to clear this section in time.

CP17 – Team Disoriented

We were doing fine on this section until we got to CP14, probably one of the easiest CPs in the race.  I thought it was further up the trail then it was and we wasted 20 minutes going too far.  By now, we knew we were in trouble and made a dash for the water crossing, skipping CP11 entirely.  But, the trails gods were not playing kindly and  we entered a maddening labyrinth of mountain bike trails.  Night had come and the dreaded water crossing was getting nearer, Ana was getting more anxious and I just wanted out of the maze.  As soon as we turned the corner to start the crossing, Florida Xtreme and Epoch Adventure Racing showed up and we made the crossing in numbers.  Ana was almost giddy, and I was too.

CP13 Water Crossing…Ana’s favorite!

The powerlines that we followed led us to the back of a neighborhood and we couldn’t find our way out.  As our headlamps looked for an exit, we must have pissed off someone because the next thing we hear is a shotgun being fired.  Good time to run!  We pushed as hard as we could, but missed the cutoff by 8 minutes and lost a point…bummer.

Segment 4 – Green Swamp Bike Crossing (75 miles)

75 bum-busting miles on a mountain bike.  Oh the joy!  This would be by far the longest bike ride we’ve ever done.  For next year, maybe I’ll look into getting one of these to prepare better.

Buns ‘O Steel

I might even rock the beard too because nothing says kickass adventure racer like a full grown squirrel wrapped around your chin.

Out of the stack of 40+ maps, Map 4A was the only one that I had problem with.  I just couldn’t make out the street markings from TA3 to CP18, luckily it was easy navigating, and the rest of the maps were excellent.  We were tripped up trying to find the entrance to the Blackwater Creek Nature Preserve for CP19 and when a lady busted out of her mobile home and started yelling at us, we decided to bail on this control before the shotguns were brought out.

We were now feeling like we were trying to play catch-up with the rest of the racers, so we decided to skip any of the bonus controls.  We didn’t even try for BCP20 or BCP21, plus I couldn’t figure out from the map how to get to BCP20.  What’s that you say?  “Supplemental Map 4B?”  Hmm, yeah that probably would have helped…it looks so easy now.

MCP24 – Wet Feet

Off to the Green Swamp Main Entrance where we met up with some other teams and began to bang out CPs.  For CP26, we were to record the last 2 digits of the site ID on a gauging station on the other side of a marsh.  We attempted to bushwhack in from the west, but then Chunk had a great idea that there must be an access road somewhere close.  Sure enough there was and we punched the CP and pressed.  Daybreak was coming, temperatures were dropping, and we were pretty sick of being on our bikes.  A few more miles and we could trade our bike saddles for canoe seats…the bliss! (That’s called sarcasm for those that didn’t catch it)

PCP29 – Team Disoriented

Segment 5 – Palatlakaha River Paddle (6.5 miles)

We didn’t make the 8AM cutoff to do the orienteering course so we went straight to paddling across the Atlantic, I mean Lake Minnehaha.  Now, my friends, if you suffer from insomnia, do I have a cure for you.  Simply race for 20 solid hours and then try paddling across a featureless lake for 2 hours.  We had a fierce headwind with waves crashing into us, wanting to capsize the little canoe.  But the warmth of the sun and the rhythmic beat of the paddles was an irresistible lullaby.  I slightly recall thinking, I’m going to fall asleep and drown right here, and I’m kinda okay with that.

TA5 – Team Disoriented

We paddled and paddled and paddled some more.  Ana and I played mind games like, Go from A to Z naming a rock band…Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, The Cure, Depeche Mode…you get the idea.  This was fun for about 30 minutes, not 2 hours.  The problem with racing with your spouse is that you already know how all their stories end.  So, we decided next race we’ll retell our same stories to each other but make up new endings.  I’m going to be an astronaut!

TA5 – Clermont Boat Ramp

We finally made it to TA5 where we waited anxiously for our bikes to begin another 35 mile bike ride.  Day 1 of a 3-day race was complete, and we couldn’t wait to begin day 2, if only my posterior didn’t look like…

End of Day 1

Day 2 Report

Day 3 Report

2016 Sea to Sea 72Hr Adventure Race

Starting on 3/3/16, you can track Team Disoriented and all the other teams participating in the 2016 Florida Sea to Sea 72Hr Adventure Race here:

http://trackleaders.com/s2s16

A big thank you to Klymit, Skratch Labs, Lupine Lights North America, Geigerrig, and KanPas for helping us get ready for this adventure!

More information about the race can be found here: http://flxadventures.com/the-florida-sea-to-sea-2016/

Pictures will be posted in real time using the Gemspots app and can be viewed here: http://www.gemspots.com/spot/view/9114d