Sunday, December 3, 2006

The Turkey Burn 12-Hr AR (2006)

I had no doubt this was going to be a great race.  Four years ago it was the first AR I did, and I have not missed it since.  I love this race.

When the race was announced I thought it would be a cool idea to see if I could get some of my cycling and triathlon buddies to do this race with me.  So I threw the idea out there and before I knew it, I had 11 people wanting to do the race.  5 or 6 of them brand new to AR.  So I went ahead and signed us all up, as four different teams.

We knew from the beginning that we were going to race as one unit.  Keeping the teams together.  All we wanted to do was have a good time out there.  Jason and I knew that keeping so many people together for a 12-hour race would be difficult, but we still wanted to give it a go.

So Team Hoof-Hearted-Ice-Melted-Speedy-Playas-Slow-Bastards was born.  I like to call us Ocean's Eleven.  :)

The race started at 4:00AM with a bike leg, and we quickly found ourselves leading the pack.  But finding the first check point quickly got us lost.  A lot of teams got confused as to the location of the CP.  But after about 10 minutes of searching, we got it and moved on.

The rest of the bike section was fun, but fairly tough.  A good mix of easy, hard-packed roads and very tough, muddy nasty trails.  The entire group did a great job keeping together and riding through some of the bad sections.  We were having fun and a lot of good laughs.

We found all but one of the CP's.  We went after BB3, and after trekking a while down the Florida Foot Trail we finally gave up thinking we had passed it or missed it.  Came to find out later that we hadn't gone far enough.  Oh well.

We got slightly of course a couple times, but nothing too serious.  Although it did cost some some time.  So when we dropped off the bikes to start the first trekking section, we had to move fast.

On the first trekking section we did a lot of running.  Trying to get as many points as we could, while also trying to make up some time.  we made a big loop and picked up several bonus points along with the one mandatory point.  We made it back to the bikes with just under two hours left to make the cut off time.

The cut off time was at 11:00am.  We had to get back on the bikes, ride to the boats, get in the boats, and paddle about 5 miles down the St. John's River.  All before 11:00am.  All in just under two hours.

When we finally made it to the boats, we had to portage them (carry them) about 1 mile down to the river.  This was probably the worst part of the race.  Nothing worse than having to pick up and carry a canoe.  And for 1 mile!

When we finally reached the water we knew we would never make the cut off time.  But we had a pretty nice paddle and made it to the cutoff point about 20 minutes late.  So we were moved to a slightly shorter course.  Then we continued down the river picking up several more points along the way.  It was during this stretch that we hooked up with Dr. Ron and Jaime of Team Travel Country, with the girls of Team We're Going In, and with John and his teammate of Team Dirty Fish.

We all continued paddling together until we reached the boat drop, where Dr. Ron and Jaime came to within 1 foot of stepping on a water moccasin.  The girls of Team We're Going In actually dragged their canoe right over it without even noticing it. Yikes!

After dropping off the boats we got back on foot for a trekking section.  we now had about 3 hours to make the 4:00PM time cut off at the finish line, so we knew we had to move fast.  But by this time a lot of team Ocean's Eleven was tired so we moved a bit slower than we wanted to.  But we still managed to get several of the bonus points as we made our way to the mandatory one.  Then we made our way back to the bikes.

We started the last bike portion with less than 45 minutes to get to the finish line.  It should have been plenty of time, but it turned out to be a bit harder then we expected.

Along the way there was one bonus point we wanted to get.  We got it.  But unfortunately as we went in to get it Jason got a flat tire.  We tried twice just pumping it full of CO2 to try and make it to the finish line, but it was not working.  So with about 3 miles (and less than 20 minutes to go) we stopped to change the tube.

We got going again with just about 15 minutes left.  And about 30 seconds later, Jason's crank arm fell right off.  What the hell is it with us and faulty crank arms anyway?!  :) So we quickly brought out the tow rope.  I attached it to my backpack and we took off, with me towing Jason and Eric, Greg, and Ralph pushing him.  We had just under three miles to go, in about 15 minutes.

The road we were on was pretty hard packed so riding was not too hard, but the last 1/2 mile was on a trail which made it hard to tow.  So Jason got on Eric's bike, and Eric whose legs felt fresh just ran while pushing the bike.

We crossed the finish line with just under 1 minute to spare, after 11 hours and 59 minutes of racing.  30 seconds later our friends of Team Nature Calls finished with just seconds to spare.

We ended up with 3rd place in the male category.  But most importantly, for us the race was a complete success.  we did what we set out to accomplish.  We had a great time, kept the teams together, and introduced a handful of new people to AR.  Hopefully they had enough of a good time to come back and do it again.

I really want to thank Jason and Greg who did an absolutely amazing job with the navigation.  Thanks guys, you did awesome!!!

And also thank you to the whole gang, you guys especially the new guys, were troopers for the entire race!  I hope you guys come back to racing with us again.

And finally, thank you to Dave and Jim for putting on a great event!  The course was fantastic!  And the post race food was some of the best we've ever had after an adventure race!  And of course, thank you to all the volunteers!

See you all at the Swamp Stomp in February!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Leach 6-Hr AR (2006)

The Leach Adventure Race, down in Jonathan Dickson State Park down in Jupiter, FL, was one of the most fun and best adventure races I've ever done.

The race started at 9:30AM with a run.  Jason and I got up on the front and within a couple minutes were at the front running along side Team Flight.  About 0.5 miles into the run, we came up on an obstacle wall which we had to climb and get over.  We were the first ones over, which was good because teams would no doubt start piling up.  Shortly thereafter we arrived at CP1 with Team Flight and one more team.  The rest of the teams were closely behind.

As we were looking at our maps before the race started, we had decided that we would take a gamble heading from CP1 to CP2.  CP1 was at the edge of the river.  We could run from CP1 to the boats and paddle down to CP2, which was across the river from CP1.  But then we'd have to paddle back up the opposite way to CP3.  So instead of doing that we decided to just swim, literally swim, across the river to CP2.  So when we got to CP1, we jumped right in.

The river was about 200 yards across.  And there was a current, so considering we are wearing trekking shoes and backpacks, it was not easy.  At the other side we walked upstream on the shore until we found and 'opening' to CP2.  The way to CP2 was about 2 feet deep, but really mucky.  You'd take a step and sink down to your butt.  It was impossible to walk.  So we got down into the water and pulled ourselves along by dragging our hands across the bottom.  It was actually quite a sight.  We looked like gators moving along the river.  But we found CP2, made our way back, and crossed the river again back towards CP1.

After this we ran to the boat transition and quickly jumped in our canoes.  Most teams had headed downstream to go pick up CP2, but since we'd already got it, we headed upstream towards CP3.  The paddle was great.  We found CP3 and CP4 rather easily and made out way back to the boat transition.  We got out of the boats in first place and headed off on a long trekking section, with an orienteering section in the middle.

At this point we were leading the race, so we were pushing as hard as we could.  The trek was great.  We did some good bushwhacking, which I love.  Jason did a great job in navigation and got us to each CP and OP (orienteering point) perfectly.  On the way back Team Flight came up on us.  They were moving fast!

We finished the trek right behind Team Flight and transitioned to our bikes pretty quickly.  Then we started the bike by having to climb the obstacle wall again, which at this point in the race was painful.  CP8 was slightly misplotted, so finding it took us a few minutes.  Unfortunately this allowed a handful of teams to catch up to us, but all was good.

From CP8 to CP9 we did some pretty heavy bushwhacking, with our bikes.  Picking them up, putting them down, picking them up, etc, etc.  It was exhausting.  Then came the soft sand.  The dreaded and hated soft sand.  Soft sand sucks, plain and simple.  :)

We then got on a couple single track trails were we had to find 3 CP's.  We ran into Team TCO in this section, and rode with them for a little while.  The trails were a combination of soft sand :x and a lot of tree stumps.  It was good riding, but pretty hard in some parts.

After the single track we found ourselves back in 2nd place.  We rode to CP11, where we had to drop off the bikes and head off on foot to find 3 more CP's.

Finding CP12 and CP13 was fairly easy, but making our way to CP14 was pure hell.  The trail we had to take was an old and unused double track which was riddled with trees, branches, cactus, and all sorts of nasty dry stuff.  It was some pretty nasty trekking.  Our legs have many, many scars to prove it.  :)

After CP14 we went back to our bikes, and rode to the finish line.

We finished in 2-place overall.  About 30 minutes behind Team Flight.  Unfortunately we were told we had been given a 1-hour penalty because we swam to CP1 instead of paddling.  Jason and I were resourceful and used a good strategy which is what adventure racing is all about, but were penalized.  But neither of us cared.  We loved the fact that swam to CP2.  And we loved how we had to crawl along the nasty muck in order to move.  And we wouldn't trade it for anything.  It was a blast.

So in the overall placements we are not sure how we finished, we think in 3rd place overall after the penalty was accessed.  But we did win the 2-person male division even with the penalty.  So that's pretty cool.

In the end, I was extremely happy with the race.  Jason and I pushed hard all day and it paid off.  We used good teamwork and great strategy, even if one of our strategies costs us a 1-hour penatly.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Coast to Coast 72-Hr AR (2006)

Wow.  Simply wow.  What a race.  This was without a doubt the toughest, most physically and mentally challenging race of my AR days.  Hell, it was the toughest thing I have ever attemped ever.  I may complain about certain aspects of the race here and there, but the fact remains that I love this race, now more than ever.

So here is the story of Jen, Ralph, Greg, and me - Team Hoof Hearted...

I am going to skip all the details about registration, check-in, boat rescue, race preparations, etc, and go right to the heart of it, the race itself.  The report is going to be long enough as it is.  =)

The Start
At 1:00am on Friday morning, the race started with a paddling section at Fort Island in Crystal River.  The route had us going South for roughly 15 miles, finishing at the Homosassa Riverside Resort in the Homosassa River.  The paddle wasn't bad.  Jen and I  jumped in on the great CLC tandem I borrowed from Brian, while Ralph and Greg jumped in on the bathtub Ralph had borrowed from his friend.  It was slow going for us, but we knew it would be.  We hooked up with a couple other teams and got just slightly lost a couple times trying to navigate the winding canals.  But we picked up 1-CP1 and in just around 4 hours or so, we reached the first transition area, TA1.

The Maze
After quickly eating and changing our clothes, we jumped on our bikes and headed East into the rural roads of Homosassa.  There we had to find a few checkpoints in what the RD's affectionally called "The Bike Maze."  We actually did pretty well on the maze.  We went right at most CP's.  Only had a problem actually locating the flag at MP1, which we walked right past (within 5 feet) about a dozen times.  It was cleverly hidden and if you didn't look right at it, you'd miss it.  Anyway, MP2, MP3, and MP4 were a snap to get, and in just two hours after starting the bike leg, we reached the bike drop-off area.

After dropping of our bikes at the next manned check point, we took off on foot for our first trek of the race.  It seemed fairly straight forward.  Follow the Florida Foot Trail (FFT) South to 1-CP3.  From there it seemed like a simple trek to 1-CP4 and then finally to TA2.

During the first portion of our FFT trek we were having a good old time.  Singing, telling jokes, and making obscene bodily noises.  Unfortunately the FFT was not plotted on our maps, and I made a huge rookie navigating mistake.  Instead of keeping track of our direction on the FFT, I just assumed that it was headed South.  The only way I knew to pin-point our location was to count the number of jeep trails we crossed over, which were on the map.  So we did.  Until I realized that we had been traveling East for quite a while.  This threw me off track.  Now I had no idea what was going on.  So, I made a decision to backtrack and follow one of the jeep trails to 1-CP3.  Eventually, about 3 hours after we started, we reached the intersection where 1-CP3 was located.

We knew it was located about 100 yards east of there, so we started looking.  For almost an hour we searched the nearby woods looking for the dreaded flag.  Finally we just gave up and decided to skip it.  It was by mere luck that I happen to be walking on the right place when I saw it.  The flag was hidden in a hole in the ground.  It was a cave, about 20 feet deep, that just opened up in the ground.  The flag was hidden inside.

So we got 1-CP3 and headed off to 1-CP4.  On the way there we were hot as hell and thirsty as can be.  Just as we crossed HWY480 we saw Team Dominican Republic (awesome guys by the way) drinking water from a parked vehicle.  It happened to be some park ranger or something that had a cooler of cold water with him.  It was a life saver!  The guy was really nice.  We loaded up with much needed cold water and ice and headed off to 1-CP4.  We found it pretty easily and then trekked the last hot 3 miles to TA2.

We arrived at around 3:00pm and were told we had two hours (until 5:00pm) to make the cut off at Tucker Hill in Croom, which was about a two hour bike ride away.  So we would have had to leave immediately.  We knew this would not happen, so we didn't even attempt it.

The Support Crew
At TA2 this was going to be the first real opportunity for us to see our cupport crew in action.  And man did they come through.  When we arrived they had a small paradise waiting.  A screened in tent with comfy chairs ready for us.  Cold fruits, drinks, towels, snacks, and even a propane stove in which they could cook us a hot meal.  They were truly amazing!  They took great care of us, our packs, our bikes, our clothing, and our equipment.  Simply the best support crew ever!

The Gathering
At around 4:10pm we left TA2 for what we already knew would be a 125+mile biking section.  What we didn't know was just how hard most of it would be.

After arriving at Croom and missing the 5:00pm cut-off, we were told to simply skip the next three CP's, which were in the trails of Croom.  So we rode straight out of Croom and on to the Rails-to-Trails paved trail which would take us South-East and into the small town of Trilby.

In Trilby we stopped at a small convenience store to load up with food and  liquids before entering The Green Swamp for the rest of the night.  When we got there there was one team already there.  And over the next 30 minutes about 8 more arrived.  We took over the store's parking lot.  Everyone started sharing their stories and of course talking about 1-CP3.  That was a lot of fun.  Then it was time to get going again.

The Green Swamp
I had heard about The Green Swamp from Jason and Greg.  Greg had just recently raced through there during the Swamp Stomp back in February.  So he took over navigation for this section.  We were supposed to find a handful of CP's, then exit near the North-East corner and jump on the Van Fleet Trail.  The roads (trails) in the swamp changed back and forth from rideable, to rideable but hard, to totally unrideable nasty ass sugar sand.  And there was a hell of a lot of the latter.

Just prior to entering the swamp, we came to River Crossing.  River crossing is exactly what the name suggest, a place were we had to cross a river.  The river was only about 50 yards wide, and the water level was between ankle to knee deep.  When we got there, sometime around 11:00pm (I think) we immediately shined our lights in the water.  There were probably around 30 gators in the water.  Dozens and dozens or red-eyes staring back at us.  None of us knew what to do.  And there was no other way we could take.

A few minutes later another team came up, TeamRacePhotos.  The eight of us looked at the situation and finally a guy from TRP decided to take action.  Using a couple methods, we cleared a path in the water.  And then, one by one, we started across with our bikes.  All the time keeping an eye in the water.  It was a bit scary, but all 8 of us got across safe and sound.  Adventure racing at is best!

The rest of the night in the swamp was a combination of frustration while trying to find hidden flags like 2-CP8, and misery with all the damn sugar sand that covered most of the trails we had to ride.  We did find a nice slab of cement off one of the trails which we immediately used to catch our first sleep of the race.  We napped for about 30 minutes, and it was wonderful.  Then finally, sometime around 6:30am, as the sun was just poking it's hot head out of the eastern horizon, we escaped The Green Swamp and reached the Van Fleet Trail.  Finally, paved road heaven!

We rode the VFT for about 9 miles and got off to head east on Deen Still Rd.  While on Deen Still we were all tired, now very hot, and thirsty.  But shortly, a miracle in the form of a convenience store with a Subway inside appeared to us at the intersection of Deen Still and 27.

I ordered a foot long veggie sub, an egg & cheese crossiant sandwich, a bag of doritos, and a large coke.  And I ate every last bit of it all.  As we were at the store a bunch of other teams showed up, and again, it was really cool.  Everyone talking about the race and discussing things like how nobody could find 2-CP8, or how much fun it was to cross River Crossing.  =)

From the store we had another few CP's to pick up and about 30 miles left to ride.  It was mostly on paved roads, but we were all pretty tired so it seemed to take forever.  But finally, about 22 hours and 120 miles after we started our bike ride, we reached TA3 at Lake Hatchinecha just South of Kissimmee.

Four minus One
At TA3 we decided to get some much needed rest.  Jen and Ralph slept inside one of the cars, Greg slept in a tent, and I got a one hour power nap on one of the chairs.  Then I got up to start plotting the new maps we had just received.  From the looks of it, we were looking at a 30 or so mile paddle, followed by a long ass trek, then a bike, then finally a paddle towards the finish line.

Unfortunately, the bike section we had just finished was really tough on all of us, especially on Jen.  She had raced amazingly well, but given that this was her first race ever, I think mentally it was taking a toll on her.  So after a few hours of rest, she decided she could couldn't go on.  I totally understood.  Luckily for us, her and the support crew agreed that they would love to still support us if we wanted to go on.  So Greg, Ralph, and I made the decision to keep racing, unofficially of course.

Since now there was only three of us, we decided to skip the next paddle section and go directly to the trek.  So after packing up camp, we drove two hours to TA4, where the paddle ended and the trek began.  After a few minutes of prep, we took off on foot.  It was approximately 11:15pm, Saturday night.

The Death March
This brutal trek was going to take us through the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area onto the Bull Creek Wildlife Area.  It was a very long, and incredibly hot trek.  What's worse, the trail we were following was not plotted on our maps, so we had no idea how far we had gone or how far we had to go.  So rationing our water supply became critical.  I was actually a bit scared through this section that I would run out of water.  My feet were blistering up something crazy, and my pace slowed way down.  but inch by inch we kept trekking along the FFT hoping that the end was near.

Finally, at around 4:30pm, nearly 17 hours after we started our trek, we reached TA5.  We were totally worn out.  Hungry, tired, and extremely thirsty.

At TA5 I didn't get a chance to rest.  After eating and rehydrating, I immediately had to start plotting the maps for the finishing legs of the race.  All we had left was a 10 or so hour bike ride and a 12 mile paddle.

Jason came in from Orlando to join us on the last two legs.  He wasn't able to register for this race, but decided to join us to get some good training for Primal Quest.  And also, Jen, after resting a bit over the last day, decided to come back and join us for the last two legs of the race.

At around 7:15pm or so, the 5 of us, along with our friends from Team Remedy, Jay and Carlos, headed off on what would eventually become the most interesting time on a bike (or actually off a bike) I would ever have.

It all started off really easy.  Went went straight to CP1, CP2, and CP3.  They were pretty easy to find.  The roads leading there were not so nice, but we had become used to that by now.  And then we went after CP4.

CP4 was located somewhere in Bull Creek.  The actual creek.  We started by following the trail on the map, which suddenly ended into a dense and dried up swamp.  Jason spotted the white dot markings on the trees that marked the trail.  So we started bike-whacking our way through the swamp enroute to CP4.  Our path was covered with roots, fallen trees, and loads of [s]pine stumps[/s] cypress knees.

For the first half-mile or so, following the trail was easy.  But then it got hard, really, really hard.  The white dots were nearly impossible to find and there was a lot of backtracking trying to get ourselves back on the trail.  It was a solid two-three hours of nasty bike whacking the likes which I have never experienced before.  But at the same time, it was kinda fun.  Sick isn't it?  =)

Eventually, Jason and Ralph found the main trail again.  Turns out we had made it further than we thought and had passed right past CP4.  But we were all so tired and beat up that we decided to just keep going.  In fact, we decided to skip CP5 as well and just get the hell out of Bull Creek and onto 441.  Of course, that was also a lot easier said than done.

As we biked the trail that we thought would lead us to the exit of this hell-hole (the same place we had entered before off 441 during the trek), we ran into team Relentless.  They had been unsucessfully trying to find their way out, but just couldn't seem to find the exit.  It was actually kinda funny because we kept seeing them.  It was like they were making loops around us.

After a quick 30 minute sleep on a sandy road, we finally made the decision to just bushwhack our way out.  So we headed South to a fence line which we then followed straight West.  After about 2 miles we ran into some unpassable bush.  On foot it might have been ok, but with bikes it was nearly impossible.  So we decided to do something we did not want to do.

We had passed a house about 1/4 mile behind us.  We trekked back to the house and quietly sneaked past the house and onto their driveway, which believe it or not, was a 3 mile long driveway heading straight West.  We came out on 441 just south of were CP6 was located.  Again, we said screw it and decided to just get moving towards the TA.

Now on paved roads, Jason took the lead and pulled us at a pretty good pace.  Unfortunately, the other 6 of us were exhausted.  I started hallucinating and could barely keep my eyes open.  Which is not a good thing when you are drafting someone and have another 5 riders behind you.  Apparently, I wasn't the only one feeling that way.  So just before we reached our turn onto Fellsmere Rd, we pulled off onto a gas station to rest.  I immediately fell asleep in the parking lot.

I woke up sometime later with jason throwin bits of warm cookies in my mouth.  =)  And I heard some pretty good news.  Apparently, the RD's had decided to move everyone off the bike course and onto the paddle.  So our support crew was on the way to pick us up and take us to TA6.

The End is Near!
AT TA6 we wasted no time.  Changed into our paddling gear and headed off.  It was about 9:00am when we hit the water.  Thankfully, the RD's had also decided to remove the last two CP's and have us all simple paddle directly to the finish line.  It was going to be only about 6 miles.  An easy 1.5 hours.

And that's all it took.  1.5 hours later, Team Hoof Hearted paddled up to the beach of the Key West Inn at Capt. Hiram's Resort in Sebastian and unofficially finished the 2006 Coast to Coast Race in about 82 hours.

It was a great feeling, especially for me.  I had attempted this race twice before.  The first time I dropped after 52 hours of racing.  And last year I was forced to abandon the race due to mechanical problems just a short 5 miles from the finish line.  But this year, I crossed the finish line.  And I felt good.  No, I felt great!

As usual, I learned a lot from this race, and I made some really cool new friends.  And most important, Greg, Ralph, Jen, and I got closer than ever before.  The experience we went through is somthing we will never forget.

So thanks again to everyone that made this possible.  RD's, volunteers, my support crew, Team Remedy, Jason, and of course Team Hoof Hearted!

Till next time!

Hoof Hearted