Earth Day Adventure Race

How do you prepare for 6 hours of canoeing followed by a 4 hour bike ride.  Pretty easy actually.  Just drop your shorts, sit your bare ass on your driveway, and have your teammate grab you by the ankles and drag you for 30 feet or so.  I stand here writing this, not wanting to sit on anything for the next week.

Butt, enough with the training, let’s get down to the fun stuff. (See what I did there?  Yep, only the best from yours truly)

Maps, instructions and all the other goodies needed to follow along:

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

Santa Fe O-Course / Passport

Ft. White O-Course / Passport

Foot 1

Ana’s knee has been bothering her since Sea to Sea, so I teamed up with Broccoli Covered Powder Babies for this race.  I registered as a solo, but we would really be running this as a 3-person team.  I didn’t want to be responsible for DQ’ing Broccoli, if I had to fall out for some reason.  Anyway, the Earth Day Adventure Race started at 6PM from the River Rise Preserve State Park and leading from the very start was Good Nuf.  They tore out of the TA like Road Runner from those old Looney Tunes cartoons, you know the ones where the road runner is going so fast that the road flies up in the air behind him.  Yeah, it was pretty much like that.  I think I even heard a faint “Beep Beep” in the distance.

Since we couldn’t go off trail for this section, due to park rules, this was pretty much follow-the-leader and we hit all the CPs without issue.

Boat 1:

Ah, the beginning of the boat section…I remember it fondly.  There I was, staring at the beautiful Santa Fe river and my fiberglass canoe seat, anticipating how intimately connected we would become over the next 3.5 hours.

Stephen provided the motor in the front, Todd navigated from the middle, and I flung buckets of water on top of their heads for hours from the rear.  Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

It was nighttime when we paddled down to CP10 at Blue Springs Park.  As we struggled against the spring’s current, our headlamps illuminated an aqua-colored pool of the clearest waters I’ve seen.  It was absolutely stunning.

Our next checkpoint, CP11, was a gauging station just east of Ginnie Springs.  We actually nailed the navigation to it and saw a tall piece of wood sticking out of the water.  But, we didn’t see any numbers on it and thought that perhaps the gauging station was little further downstream.  We paddled a little further until we ran into some drunk locals hanging out at Ginnie Springs.

Todd yells across the river, “Have you seen a gauging station around here?”

Y’all lookin’ for a PlayStation?

No, a gauging station!

Todd, they wouldn’t know a gauging station if their 6-pack was hanging from it.

Up river we paddled, back to our original location, where two other teams were marking the level of the Santa Fe river.  Come to find out the numbers were on the back of the board.  Oh well.

Cruising past Ginnie Springs was interesting, part campground, part Rave, part spring break…there was a dude wearing a light suit and people dancing around with glow sticks.  If you’re looking for rednecks, drunk women, beer guzzling and loud music, then Ginnie Springs is your place…Todd was in Nirvana and once Stephen and I wrestled him to the floor of the canoe and tied him to his seat, we commenced paddling down the Santa Fe.  It was straight out of Greek mythology were they tied Odysseus to the mast so that he could withstand the Sirens’ call.

Foot 2:

We arrived at the Santa Fe TA after 3.5 hrs of paddling and began our first orienteering section.

I think we were in 4th place by this time with DeChunkers right in front of us.  The Foot section map shows a beautifully outlined trail following the river.  Some people say there was a trail, some people say there wasn’t.  We fell into the “wasn’t” category.

Foot2

You can see our track above.  We started with CP1 then a straight south bushwhack to CP6.  From their, straight east to CP2.  We tried to pick up CP5 on the way, which was silly since we were going due east and about 150m too far north to see it.  From CP2, it was straight bearing shots to CP3, then CP4.  Then back up to CP2 to attack CP5.  All this time we kept running into DeChunkers.  They’re like freakin’ Space Ghost.  Here we are in the dark searching for a CP thinking there is no one around and all of a sudden, there they are, at the control ahead of us, as if they could materialize out of thin air.  “Hey DeChunkers you want to work together on the next…hey wait…where’d they go!”  Spppaaaacccceeeee GGGGhhhhhoooossstttt!

We struggled on CP7, having no clear attack point, and no clear trail.  Eventually, by wandering around,  working from the river bend and triangulating off of headlamps, we found it and beat feet to the TA where DeChunkers were once again just ahead of us.

Boat 2

One hour of boating from Santa Fe TA to Tudeen TA with no CPs along the way in the middle of the night.  About as exciting as it sounds.  I’m kidding of course.  It was a really nice paddle and the blisters were forming beautifully on my posterior.

Foot 3

We  arrived at Foot 3 slightly in front of DeChunkers.  I think we were now in 1st place by a good 15 seconds or so.  I don’t know what happened to Todd and Stephen on this section, but once we hit it, they turned into a pair of bloodhounds.

My navigation wasn’t all that great, but man you put those two within 50 yards of a CP and they would sniff it out.  As we were heading to a CP, I’d say something like, “Should be right about here.” and then I’d here “Got it!” and off we’d trot to the next CP.  There’s not much more to say on this section, they were bad ass and I was along for the ride.

Boat 3

Transitioning to the boat, we knew we were in 1st, but had no idea what kind of lead we had on any team.  The race had been really close from the beginning and there were some fast teams out there.  So, we got on the water as quickly as we could for a final 2 hour paddle with one CP along the way.

Some people like 3 in a boat…I say they’re wacko.  I hate it.  I feel like I’m on the verge of capsizing with every paddle stroke and my butt is trying to attach itself to the seat like a sucker fish so that we don’t fling ourselves into the water.  We found the sole CP without issue and made it to the final transition area.

Yep, love this pic!  Middle of the night, headlamps on, rockin the USARA jacket.

Bike 1

Can you believe it, there’s actually a bike section in this race.  We hit the final TA knowing that we had some of the fastest bike teams right on our tail and a 4+ hr ride ahead.  Talk about feeling the pressure.

We knew our navigation had to be spot on if we were going to win this thing, so we decided to screw up the first CP.  When the clue says, “Boat Ramp” and you see a sign on the road that says Boat Ramp –>, you gotta take that turn, even if its 1500 meters too soon.  It’s a really good way to waste 15 minutes and get the adrenal glands pumping.

Once we fixed that issue, we formed a pace line and hit the rest of the CPs without much issue until the second to last CP.

We’re racing down sandy horse trails less than 30 minutes away from winning this 18Hr race, knowing that we have speed freak teams behind us and I can’t find the stupid westbound trail that CP24 is on.  Thank god Stephen and Todd were there to sort it all out.  I got turned around on an unmarked westbound trail and couldn’t make sense of where I was.  After studying the map, they got us pointed on the right trail and we raced off to the finish.

Final

And with that, we took our first win of the season.  Although I tried to keep the trophy, Stephen said he had a special place for it and wouldn’t let it go.

As always Craig and FLXAdventures put on another excellent race.  I always look forward to Craig’s races as he takes the time to find really interesting areas with great history.  Glad to see all of our adventure racing friends out there again.  A big thanks to Broccoli Covered Powder Babies for letting me race with you guys.  Y’all are awesome and I always have a blast racing with you guys.  I only wish that Ana could have been there racing as well, she always adds to the fun plus she let’s me drink her beer.

This was primarily a night race with heavy paddling and I relied heavily on my Epic paddle, Lupine lights, and KanPas compasses.  I’ll be writing a review of my Lupine light in the next week or so, but let me say they are AWESOME!

 

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Lighter Knot 8Hr AR

The Lighter Knot AR, henceforth to be known as the, “I can’t find my own bunghole with two hands and a map” Adventure Race.

Lighter Knot

Once again FLX‘s Dynamic Duo of Craig and John Sheriff put together an amazing 8Hr Elite Adventure Race at the Bulow Plantation Ruins State Park.  This was the 3rd in a series of ‘Sea to Sea’ highlights race series where a different section of the Sea to Sea is covered. The overall winners of the three-part series would receive a free entry into the 2016 Sea to Sea.  Having raced the Reunion with Rice Creek, and being the only team to have raced in 2 of the 3 races in the series, we figured as long as we showed up and finished the race, we should win the free entry into the 2016 Sea to Sea.  For this race, I’d be teaming up with Todd Binkley who I’d raced with at the Blue Ridge Adventure Race.

Maps to follow the play-by-play:

ELITE FOOT CLUES R FOOT Q FOOT B FOOT ELITE CP CLUES ELITE LARGE MAP

Boat

Well, if you’re going to have a bad race, it might as well start off crappy…and that’s exactly how this one started.  Due to Hurricane Joaquin, the super moon, or the gravitational pull of my ego coming off of some really good race finishes, the water level at Bulow Creek was higher than it had been since, well, some dude named Noah decided to build a boat.  I couldn’t match what I was seeing to what the map was telling me, but I knew that I had to follow the shoreline south.  We were all on a small peninsula and there was a crowd of people trying to get their boats in the water.  Not wanting to wait in line, we launched at the end of the peninsula, not more than 5 feet away, and that ended up being a huge mistake

You see, in central Florida they have these marshy areas with low-lying grasses and canals cut through them to create labyrinths to befuddle the minds of adventure racers.  While I’m used to seeing waterways marked in blue, the map showed these channels in red.

mapaerial

I wrongly assumed that once launched, we could make our way west to the shoreline.  But oh no, we were stuck in some channel taking us southeast, rather than south.  Not understanding where we were, I knew we had to boat-whack across the marshland and find a path west.  You can see our meandering site-seeing tour highlighted in red.  The smart teams traveled the yellow path.  The launch point is marked with a green star.

path2

In hindsight, we could have continued south and still made our way to the checkpoint, but at that point I didn’t know where I was.

After collecting CP1 and CP2, I was still making mistakes trying to match the waterway to the map, but once we got on the main creek we were doing okay.  That is, until we decided to portage the boat rather than try to canoe under a low bridge.  I swear it looked like the boat wouldn’t fit, so I decided to portage around.  We grabbed the canoe and when I went to pull it over a guardrail, I slammed my knee into the rail.  It was an explosion of pain and I dropped to the ground.  It took me at least 10 minutes to collect myself and be able to move on.  Todd was trying his best to help, but there really was nothing he could do.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to run any of the race and I was wondering if I’d even be able to bike.

Foot 1

At the furthest Boat checkpoint, we were surprised by a foot section.  We were given a new map with 7 foot controls.  The first two (B6 and B1) we found without difficulty, but we couldn’t find B2 after shooting a bearing from B1 and pace counting.  So, we did a back-bearing and returned to B1 and reattacked B2.  Todd spotted the control but we were off by at least 30-40 feet.

Foot1

From B2 we measured a bearing of 30 degrees and shot off for B3.  But we couldn’t find it and after traveling way too far, we retreated all the way back to B2.  Consulting the map, we realized the bearing was 20 degrees, not 30, and we quickly found it.  The rest of the controls went okay and we returned to the boats for a quick paddle back to the Start/Finish to begin Bike 1.

Bike 1

The cluster of trails at the beginning gave us a little difficulty and we had to backtrack a couple of times, but nothing major.  For some reason, we didn’t measure any distances to CP14 from the trail intersection so we weren’t sure where to attack the control.  And then, we didn’t realize that the control was almost 100m into the woods.  Thinking it was right off trail, it took us a little time to find this one, but it was well worth it.  (Video blatantly stolen from Ron Eaglin)

CP15, large cat-faced pine, was another frustration for us.  Once again, not measuring the distance from a known intersection to the attack point had us missing this control as well.  Another backtrack and then off to CP16 where we were welcomed with another foot section.

Foot 2

I completely sucked on Foot 2 and I have nothing more to say about it…

Foot 2

…other than I was 1 foot away from having a really bad day.

Pygmy Rattlesnake

Bike 2

Feeling pretty defeated after Foot 2, we headed off on the last bike section.  Taking the local highways north to Bulow ruins, we were encouraged by two of Flagler Beach’s finest as they heartily cheered, “Get the F@*$ off the road!” as we pedaled against strong headwinds.  At CP24 we had another orienteering section but we were quickly running out of time.

So, we collected 4 checkpoints and raced back to the finish.  We were supposed to collect a piece of Lighter Knot and bring it back to the finish for an extra bonus point, and we didn’t even manage to do that.  Some races are just crap piled on a plate of poop.

Finish

Well, it was finally over.  Sometimes all you can do is just finish and have an ice cold beverage with your racing buddy.  Thanks Todd, for putting up with me and helping me through.

The 6 hour ride home was spent analyzing the race, icing my knee and picking off ticks.  I realized that I had tried something different this race.  I just got a watch mount for my Moscow Compass and was wearing it on the same hand that I was holding my base compass.  I use my watch compass to keep track of heading while on the bike and canoe but I use the base compass for foot orienteering and more precise navigation.  Well, it seems that having them in the same hand is NOT a good idea.

I didn’t move the base compass in the photos above, only putting the watch compass next to it.  That’s 40 degrees of error!  So many lessons learned on this one.  At least with Adventure Racing, even a bad race can be a lot of fun.

Conclusion

Craig and John Sheriff, another superb race.  You guys made it a challenge with some really interesting surprises.  A special thanks to John for the wonderful trophies, mine is sitting on my desk as I type this.  The teams out there all did an excellent job, with Ron’s team taking home the win of course.  Hats off to the volunteers, you guys were great.  And Jeff Wood, you are one funny dude.  Hope to see you out there racing soon.  Most of all, thanks to Todd, you did a great job.  We’ll see everyone again at the upcoming Turkey Burn where I’m sure we will be disoriented once more.

Howl at the Moon – 18Hr Adventure Race

Who would think that after 17 hours and 45 minutes of constant racing that the finish would come down to 2 teams racing neck and neck to the finish line…

After running into Broccoli Covered Powdered Babies (BCPB) throughout the race, it was them and us racing to be the first team back.  Of course, neither team knew how many CPs the other had collected, but we knew that we were close.  Going into the last paddle section, we knew that we had only missed one CP so far and that BCPB had missed 2.  However, they got on the paddle section before us and there were a total of 3 CPs out there–the race was up for grabs.

Note: For those that don’t know, adventure races are won first by points and second by time.  In other words, if team X gets 20 points and all the other teams get less than 20 points, then team X wins.  However, if team X gets 20 points and team Y gets 20 points then it goes to whomever gets to the finish line first.

Howl-at-the-Moon

Link to Race Maps

From the very beginning we knew that Howl at the Moon was going to be an interesting race.  The weather forecast had already informed us that Hobe Sound had experienced a week of heavy downpours with Thursday evening having almost 2 inches of rainfall.  Two inches of rainfall anywhere in Florida morphs an otherwise marshy landscape into a lake, hiking trails into creeks and creeks into running rivers.  It also displaces every nasty crawling, slithering creature you can imagine.  They would be everywhere searching for new homes as we tromped through their habitat.

David, Ana, Ben, Jake

Pre-race:

Check-in at 12, race start at 2, plenty of time to  looking over maps, strategize and prepare our gear for the 18Hr adventure we were bound to have.  Jake Brewer and I poured over the maps, mentally running through the flow of the course, highlighting routes and measuring distances.  Ana and Ben Brewer were getting the gear ready and figuring out how to cram gear, water and 8 hours of food into small packs.  Ron had promised us in the prerace meeting that this race would be a true adventure race, not some watered down version…and we were taking him seriously.

The pre-race meeting wrapped up at 1:30 and Ron announced, “The race will begin in 10 minutes.  Now we’re rushing around trying to finish all the little things we thought we had 30 minutes to do.  But that’s adventure racing, react to the unexpected.  At 1:40 Ron yells “Go!” and teams start racing out.  We’re still thrashing around our gear bins and we race off frazzled and not completely prepared.

Foot 1:

I’m sure these were trails once, but now they’re little more than ankle-deep creeks that either try to suck the shoe off your foot or fill it with muddy water.  The thought of jogging any of this is non-existent, it’s a slog.  While the whole foot course isn’t underwater, a good portion of it is, and we walk as quickly as possible.

We punch CP1 and head towards CP2, deciding that we’ll do a creek crossing rather than following the trail 1.5km around the creek.  This looked like an okay plan when we were looking at the map, but when we’re looking at the inky black creek that we have to cross, it doesn’t look so appealing.  With the rains, the creek that may have once been waist-high is now at least neck high…I wasn’t about to see exactly how deep it was.  Jake leads the charge, because he’s the man, and I go last to keep Ana from becoming gator bait.  Afterwards Ana tries to tell me that she must be a good swimmer because she was across the creek in no time.  I tell her that throwing her into an alligator infested creek that is as dark as oil is like throwing a cat into a bathtub full of ice cold water.  I wouldn’t exactly call the cat a good swimmer, it just managed to get itself out in a flash.  I’m not sure Ana even got wet.

CP3 and 4 were straight forward and after another swim across a murky black, fast-flowing creek we headed off to CP5.  We got a little off on CP5, heading north on a trail on the wrong side of the lake.  This was quickly resolved and we met up with BCPB while searching for this one.  From CP5, we hopped onto the highway for a quick march up to CP6.  I’m sure the commuters were wondering what 6 mud-covered spandex-clad people were doing out on the highway, but then again this is Florida, so maybe not.

BCPB hit the highway and sprinted off while we picked briers out of our shoes and took a more leisurely pace.  We followed the Florida Trail under the highway to CP7, but had difficulty locating the CP.  The clue was “ditch” and we knew we were in the right area, but couldn’t seem to locate it.  Jake amazingly sniffed it out and we cleared the section before heading off to the canoes.

Paddle 1:

There were only 3 CPs to pick up on the paddle back to the Start/Finish/Main TA where we would transition to bikes.  However, getting these CPs would prove a challenge for us and many other teams.  The recent rains had swollen the normally placid and narrow southwest end of the Loxahatchee River into a wide river flowing at over 4 miles per hour.  The river had risen almost 2 feet, completely covering spillway 1, and putting us 2 feet closer to low hanging branches.  The current rushed us through hairpin turns and maintaining control was near impossible.  Since the river had spread through the swamps, what once was land now became part of the river and knowing where the true river went became very difficult.  All we knew was to hold on as the current raced us downstream and to duck, dodge, or climb over as many branches and brambles as possible, trying not to get swept out of the boats.  The sun was rapidly fading and all I could think was, thank god we’re not trying to do this at night.

When we started the canoe section, we were surprised to find we were the 3rd team out.  Pangea Adventure Racing and Broccoli Covered Powder Babies  were 1st and 2nd, respectively.  It seems many other teams had struggled on Foot 1.

CP9 and 10 went well and Jake faultlessly guided us to the correct river branch leading to CP11.  By now it was completely dark and we were paddling against the strong current that before wanted to crash us into every overhanging branch or cypress knee.  It was almost impossible to make forward progress and our paddles madly churned the water as we pressed towards CP11.  The checkpoint was past a small footbridge and rather than try to portage around or over the bridge, we attacked by foot and found the CP.  I did my best Elastic Man impersonation to keep from having to swim in the water to punch the control.

17mtxg317o3thjpg

Clearing Paddle 1, we raced off to the Main TA.  Of course, with a 20% forecast of rain, it had to dump on us before the night was through.  The black sky erupted with brilliant flashes of lightning on the horizon and the skies opened up with a drenching downpour.  Having been soaking wet since the first 15 minutes of the race, a little more water didn’t matter much.

Bike 1

We raced off to Hobe Mountain and climbed the observation tower for the first bike CP.  But instead of a flag, there was a sign saying the actual checkpoint was 350 meters away on a bearing.  We bushwhacked and found it inside a small building.  We then rode to the Camp Murphy bike trailhead where we could either do the O-course or the single track.  We opted for the single track first and had a blast riding 8.6 miles of pretty sweet single track at night.  Club Scrub maintains the track and you can tell they have put their hearts into it.  It’s not easy building good single track in the sugar sands of Florida, but they are doing amazing work down there. [The following video is not mine and is +45min long.  I post it so those interested in seeing what the full single track looks like can watch.]

O-Course

Pangea Adventure Racing and Broccoli Covered Powder Babies were already out on the O-Course as we dumped our bikes and headed out on foot for what was promised to be a challenging section.  We hit the O-Course start, where we found the clue sheet for the remaining checkpoints, and attacked the course in order.  Working together on the navigation and the pace counting, we found most of the points without much issue.

I was really proud of CP8 because there wasn’t a clear attack point.  We measured the distance pre-race, counted out our paces, and headed directly west into the woods and ran right up to the control.  CP9 was the same, solid distance measuring, good pace counting, and holding to the bearing by leap frogging each other.  The team really worked well on this section and our navigation was spot on.  We returned to the bike drop for the O-course and found that we had jumped from 3rd place to 1st.  What?!

Bike 1 Continued

We were pumped.  We didn’t know what had happened out there on the O-Course but we knew that we were in first and had a real chance of winning this thing.  Unfortunately, we were now heading into our weakest event…biking.  Our plan was to attack Bike 1 CP3, 5, 4, then 6 (see map for numbering if interested).   CP3 took us well away from the course and was a 3 mile slog through jeep trails that were half underwater.  The water at some points was so high that we were slapping our pedals through water on the downstroke.  Many times we plunged into puddles so deep that we were knocked off our bikes into knee deep water.  My favorite moment was when Jake, leading us through one of these enormous puddles, yelled, “Gator on the left, stay to the right!”  Ana’s bike, sensing imminent danger, decides to buck Ana off into the puddle in an effort to save itself.  Thank goodness it was only a baby.

gator

This section was a slog and I got completely winded.  I could feel it sucking the strength out of me and many times I had to walk, even on the dry ground, just from exhaustion.  Ana, Jake and Ben were pedaling strong and I was frustrated being the one holding us back.

We had a difficult time finding CP3, but we stuck it out and finally found it.  At CP5 is where we met our demise.  So far we had cleared the course and still had time enough to clear the entire thing.  But CP5 had other plans.  First, we ran into a gate that we were sure was for private property, but we knew we had to go west and on the map there was a trail going west, right where the gate was.  Running north and south of the gate was a canal and as we approached the gate, at the edge of the canal, a gator launched itself into the water scaring the shiznit out of me.  We contemplated the map trying to figure out where to go and decided to hop the gate, which actually isn’t that unusual in adventure racing.  Many times you come across forest service gates that are locked and you have to jump them.  But once we started walking on the nicely packed gravel drive and saw cows beside us, we realized we were on someone’s property.  3AM in the morning, out in the middle of nowhere, is not when you want to stumble onto someone’s private property.  The barking of dogs prompted us to make a hasty retreat across the fence to reconsider our options.

Jake suggested swimming the canal and I replied with, “You gotta be a lot more convincing if you think you’re going to get me in that water.”  We realized there might be a crossing further south if we just followed the canal, so that’s what we did.  We finally made our way to the CP5 attack point–a T in the trail–and bushwhacked in.  The clue was edge of swamp and we went in until we were at least knee deep in water but never found the control.

Post race we discovered that with the amount of rain, the edge of the swamp was now in chest deep water.  4AM + Florida swamp + chest deep water = Big pile of NOPE!

Having given up on this control, my morale was pretty low.  We had spent so much time on these 2 bike CPs that had given us so much grief, that we knew we had blown any lead we had.  Not only that, now we weren’t sure if we’d even be able to clear the canoe section.  We hadn’t seen another team for hours and had no idea what the rankings were.  We picked up the remaining 2 bike checkpoints without much issue and headed off for the final leg.

Canoe 2

We got to the canoe section and discovered there was only 1 team out on the canoe section, Broccoli Covered Powder Babies.  They had all but 2 points so far, we had all but 1 point so far (having missed CP5).  There were 3 points out on the canoe section.  If we got all 3 and came in under the 18Hrs, we could win, anything else was a crap-shoot.  The fastest sports team cleared this section in 1:40 and we had a little less than 1:20 remaining.  We were off and paddling hard!  We went north up a little creek for the closest CP but it took us 25 minutes to get there fighting the current.  Jake looked at the map and he decided that we had to race back to the finish now because if any other team had cleared the previous sections, they could beat us on time.  There was no time remaining to pick up anymore CPs.  We raced down the creek and right where the creek meets the Loxahatchee river, we saw BCPB pulling in behind us from the south.  I told Ana that they probably got all 3 checkpoints and would end up winning this thing and she just kept saying, “You never know, maybe they only got 2.”  If I tried to say anything else, she would say, “Just paddle!”  I never looked back.  I didn’t want to see them overtake us.  We just paddled for all we had.  Coming to the boat ramp I yelled, “Grab your crap and let’s run!”  Ben was leading the charge sprinting to the finish but Jake was trailing in the back…”Come on Jake!  Come on!”  It was a freaking foot race to the finish.  BCPB landing seconds after we did and you could see them sprinting up the hill to pass us.  After 53 miles and 17:45 of racing it all came down to 1 second.

Amazing! Broccoli Covered Powdered Babies were beasts out there and we enjoyed every second racing with these guys (Go to their Facebook page and follow them, they’re hilarious).

Conclusion:

The course bested us all and no one cleared it, but it was a hell of a lot of fun.  Many thanks to Florida Xtreme Adventures for another amazing adventure race, it truly was epic.  And thanks to Jonathan Dickinson State Park and their vigilant rangers that kept watch over all the racers the entire night.  A special thanks to JJ, Ron, and Jim (the nicest guy you’ll ever meet).  You guys did a fantastic job with the course layout, the maps and instructions.  Everything was professionally ran.  The volunteers were amazing, of course, and these races couldn’t be done without them.  A very special thanks to our new racing partners, the Brewer Boys, Jake and Ben.  Thanks for racing with us guys, we’d love to partner up with you again anytime.  This was Ben’s 2nd adventure race and he did fantastic, leading the charge through numerous swamps in the dark!

Suggestions:

If I could suggest one eenie weenie tiny thing it would be that you guys would reinstate taking team photos before each race.  Some teams may not care, but for us the AR community is a big family and some of the coolest people I have met, I met through AR.  Many times we meet people pre-race or on the course and strike up instant friendships but after the race most of us have to rush back to our families and lives.  Pre-race photos with racer names helps us reestablish those friendships either online or at the next event, so for me their really important.

And if you’ve read this far…I am truly impressed and grateful.  Thank you.

The Hogback AR

Hey guys, I really need to stop for a sec.

What’s going on, Bill asks.

It seems I have a little chaffing issue I need to take care of, I answer.

Is it bad?

Let’s just say that the tip of the spear has been buffed to a high gloss.

…silence…

No worries, I continue, if it comes down to it I have a bagel in my pack that I can shove down my pants for the rest of the race.

And so began our final big bike section for the 24Hr Hogback Adventure Race in Ocoee, Tennessee.I have been looking forward to racing the Hogback with Ana since I first learned that Adventure Capitalists were putting it on. Not only would the race be in a beautiful section of the Smoky Mountains, it would also include guided whitewater rafting as part of the prologue–awesome sauce!

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to work it out where Ana and I could go, and I was extremely bummed. Then, at the last minute, I was asked by Craig Sheriff if I’d like to race with him and Bill Dean. Why yes I would, thank you. And luckily for me, Ana was gracious enough to let me race it without her…what an angel!

PRERACE

Bill, Craig and I met at Quest Expeditions, race HQ, the afternoon before the race. I, having returned from Boston the night before, had a car full of unpacked gear and food and a bike that needed fixing.  All of which I had thrown into the car at the last minute.

At 4PM, we were given the map, a massive 1:24k scale squiggly lined monster that had more contour curves on it than this Florida boy had seen before. We were also given a sheet with UTM coordinates for every checkpoint, except those of the orienteering course, which would be plotted during the race.

We quickly scrambled to our hotel room at the Whitewater Inn to begin plotting CPs and trying to make route choices. Actually, Bill and Craig did this, I was still sorting out my crap.  We had to be back at Quest by 6pm for the prerace briefing, a team-building exercise and dinner. The prerace brief was quick and efficient and the team building exercise would determine the order of raft that the teams would be in for the start of the race. Josh Braun, the race director, had a great idea. One person from each team raced to pick up a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle in a ziploc bag and bring it to the rest of the team where they worked together to solve the puzzle with no image to work from. We quickly put together an image of a large rubber duck and ended up being the 2nd team finished. This put us in raft #2 the next day.

RACE DAY

“I will not try to stand up in the Ocoee” our guide had us chant together prior to launching into the cold river leading to Class IV rapids that were once part of the ’96 Olympics. I had no intent of falling in the river at all, so I wedged my feet even harder into a crease of the inflatable raft.

Down the river we cruised, plunging through rapids with names like Smiley’s, Slam Dunk, Humongous and Godzilla before spilling out and hitting Edge of the World. Water sprayed everywhere as we crashed into wall after wall of whitewater. Most times I hate getting wet prior to an adventure race, but this was well worth it. We yelped, and hollered, and paddled and laughed a lot. This was by far, the best start to an AR that I have done! Our guide, Clay, from Quest Expeditions was very professional, well-trained, humorous and fun. I look forward to taking my whole family there and recreating the experience. Especially because I’m too dumb to figure out how to operate a GoPro and ended up recording the flattest part of the river trip rather that the most exciting. Bummer!

(More info on the rapids found here)

BIKE 1&2

Like drowned rats, we scrambled off our raft at TA1 to find our bikes and start Bike 1.  We flew south on I-64 and hit the Brush Creek Trails just south of the highway.

Craig led the navigation, and we nailed this section with Bill’s eagle eyes picking off the CPs visible from the trail.  We quickly made our way to TA2 where we transitioned to Bike 2 along the Tanasi Trail System, an IMBA Epic.

Tanasi Trail System

Many times I lit up my brakes crashing down the rocky, rooty trail but mostly it was an uphill slog that the race director aptly named Granny Gear.

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For some reason CP14 gave us, and a few other teams, a lot of difficulty.  Josh had said that he expected mid-pack teams to be able to clear the course if their navigation was clean, so we weren’t eager to give up on this checkpoint.  We first stopped at a reentrant we thought was the correct one.  However, there were other teams there and they said that they didn’t find the CP, so we tried a different reentrant a little further down the road.  When we weren’t able to locate the CP, we went to a known intersection and backtracked to re-attack the CP.  It was getting frustrating.  We decided to attack one more time, using a straight section of the road as a marker, and this time we went right to the CP (off the reentrant we stopped at first).  Happy that we had found it and were still clearing the course, we headed off to TA3 and the beginning of the orienteering section.

 Foot 1

Well, this is where it all went to hell and it started with the very first checkpoint.  CP16 oh how I hate you!  Of course, we hit the o-course as it’s turning dark, which is never a good thing for me.  Those little orange and white markers are hard enough to find in the daytime, much less so at night.

We thought CP16 would be straight forward–hit the peak of the mound, keep going due west, cross an old trail and bam, there it is.  What we got was a big heap of NOPE!  I don’t think that I have ever ran into so many brier bushes in my life.  This was like trying to hug a porcupine and I had my RailRider Bushwacker Pants on (which are awesome but that’s a review for another day).  Anyway, we attacked the CP from the east, we even tried from the north, but in the end CP16 bested us with her prickly defenses and we wasted too much time on it…so much for clearing the course.

From CP16, things somewhat picked up, we were able to get CP17 without an issue.  However, finding the trail that led to CP18 was problematic.  We found a trail but then it seemed to disappear, or not go in the direction we wanted.  After awhile, and confirmation from another team that the trail did indeed exist, we found it.  This led us to CP18 and CP19 and by then we were done.  We realized we were sucking on the foot nav and headed off to the Bike 3 section where we hoped the nav would be easier.

Bike 3

Feeling somewhat defeated from the orienteering section, we hit Bike 3.  Craig again took the navigation and we cleaned this section without much difficulty except for the hills.  By now, my legs were about exhausted. The ups felt like forever and the downs were white knuckled descents of gravel, hairpin turns, and darkness.

Over and over again we blasted down gravel roads and I had to constantly remind myself to not brake in the middle of a turn.  This is also when I had my chaffing issue that we don’t need to discuss further other than to say a sock in the pants helps enhance one’s manliness and provide an extra barrier against chaffing.  What did you expect me to do, throw duct tape on it?

 Boat 1

You know, if there’s one thing I really like to do after spending almost 18 hours on a bike it’s sitting on a hard plastic canoe seat and paddling for 3-4 hours.  We launched our canoe shortly before sunrise right beside Team Ad House Adventure.

To be competitive in this race, we knew we would have to make some strategic decisions.  Craig suggested that we skip the closest 2 checkpoints and head towards the furthest CPs we thought we could get in the remaining time.  That way if we got pressed for time, we could make a last minute decision to skip CPs and race for the finish.

This section went really well.  Bill sat in the center and navigated us to the checkpoints without faltering, Craig kept falling asleep in the back and would almost fall into the water, and I paddled in the front barking at everyone to keep paddling. I like to think I was kindly cheering everyone on to victory, but you know, everyone’s got an opinion.  We wanted to be back on land by 9:45AM to give us ample time to get to the finish at 11AM and this meant that we scrapped the furthest checkpoint on Mitchell Hill.  In hindsight, I’m confident we could have cleared this section too.  We were paddling very strong, hitting 5MPH on the GPS.

 Finish

After the boat, we just had to pick up two checkpoints on the race to the Finish.  We picked these up and rolled into the Finish after 22 hours and 46 minutes of racing.  My GPS logged 85.5 miles traveled with 9200 feet of elevation gained.  After the results were tallied, we ended up 2nd in the Open Division (yes, there were more than 2 teams in our division although the picture below doesn’t make it seem that way).

As a trophy, we were given these awesome, custom made Hogback AR coffee mugs from Forman Pottery.  They look amazing and my coffee has never tasted better.

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 Conclusion

This was an amazing race.  Josh and his team put together one of the most professional, well-organized races that I have been in.  The scenery was beautiful, the course was well laid out, the whitewater rafting prologue was epic.  I can’t say enough good things about this race.  The transition areas were well stocked, our gear was available on time, mid-race someone gave me a beer…I mean, it doesn’t get any better.  Well, you could have taken out those damn briers on CP16.  But, probably the most important thing I learned is that Josh can sing the complete Happy Birthday song without ever changing his pitch.  Honestly, it was like listening to Stephen Hawking sing it…amazing.

A big thanks to Josh and all the volunteers that made this race so successful.  We will DEFINITELY be back in 2016 and I’m bringing my amazing wife with me this time!

Map

 24Hr Hogback AR GPS Track

(Yes, the GPS was approved, sealed in a bag and never visible during the race)