Monday, November 26, 2007

The Turkey Burn 12-Hr AR (2007)

Man I love adventure racing!!  I can't say that enough.  I FREAKING LOVE this sport!  There's just no question about it.  And yesterday's race reminded why I love it so much.

I have had a great year of racing.  And I have raced with some very cool, fun, and fast people - Ralph, Lori, Jim, Jason, Charlie, Scott, and Erica.  For this race I signed up with Jason, Brent and Nikki.  It was going to be Nikki's first AR, but as we all know, she is strong as a bull!  Anyway, here you go...

The Turkey Burn is a rogaine race.  What that means is that there is a set finish time.  All teams HAVE TO finish by this time or face stiff penalties.  Also, there are a number of mandatory points on the course along with many bonus points.  Each team has to at least get all mandatory points.  But bonus points are up to each team to get as many or few as they would like, depending on time.

The Paddle (1)

The race started at 4:00am on Saturday morning at the Wekiva Falls Report in Wekiva.  We started with a short 1/4 mile run to try and spread out the teams a little.  We finished the run in a couple minutes and were soon off on the first leg of the paddle which was a ~2 mile paddle north on the Wekiva River to our first checkpoint.  Jason and I paddle together, while Nikki and Brent were in the other canoe.  We reached the CP first, in just about 40 minutes.  Then we turned around and headed back to the start/finish/TA.  The paddle back was against the current so it was a little slower, but in just under two hours we were back and off on our bikes.

The Bike (1)

We are all pretty strong cyclists, so the biking sections are usually where we do best.  This section had three mandatory checkpoints and five (I think) bonus checkpoints.  We had decided early that we had to get all points, mandatories and bonus.  So we went after it hard.

We quickly picked up point after point as the roads were actually quite nice and very rideable.  Then we went after BB3 (bonus bike 3) which had about 3/4 mile of nasty soft sand leading to it.  As we reached the soft sand section we tried riding it, but quickly found it to be impossible.  So we just ditched our bikes and ran to the CP.  It took us a few minutes to find it as the race organizers had hidden it pretty well.  But find it we did.  And it was a big find because it was a 15 point bonus (most other bonus points were worth 5 points).  Then we went after BB2 (10 pointer) which we found quick, and had to do a bit of bike whacking after it to get back on the trail we wanted.

We continued doing well on the bike and ended up picking up all points before reaching TA1.  Jason's navigation, as always, was kick ass.  He was right on the money every time.  Now at the TA it was time to put our bikes down and head off on foot for a 3-4 mile trek.

The Trek (1)

The trek looked fairly simple.  Just a loop with two mandatory points and four bonus points along the way.  We started doing well and running, collection several of the easy points.  After we got MT1 (mandatory trek 1) it's where I saw Jason do something that was simply amazing.  I have done a lot of races with Jason over the years, and have seen him do some god navigation, but what he pulled off here was incredible.

The Find

After MT1 we had a choice, we could head west and follow some defined trails to the other points, or we could continue heading south on what looked like a very nasty, non-existent trail and try to find BT2.  The second choice seemed shorter, and so we went for it.  Now, it's going to be kinda hard for me to explain to you what this was like, as this is definitely one of those "you had to be there" kinda situations, but I'll do my best.

As soon as we left MT1, the trail pretty much ended.  Now we were trekking along a swamp, a very muddy and wet swamp.  Jason just kept us heading south, but it was not easy going.  We trekked along for about 20 minutes when Jason finally stopped, looked towards the west across this huge swamp, and pointed to the other side.  "There.  We have to get to those palm trees over there.  Across the swamp."

First of all, there were palm trees all up and down across the swamp, but most importantly, to get to the palm trees he was talking about, we had to cross a large swamp.  And by swamp I mean swamp in every sense of the word.

The first thing we had to do was jump into a chest deep trench of swamp water about 20 feet across.  Once on the other side, the swamp was a little drier, but it was still ankle to knee high muck and very high grass the entire way. Nikki was the first one to say it, "are there snakes in here?"  And before we could even answer, Jason found one.  A very nice water moccasin, sitting right in front of him, in the exact spot where he was about to step.  It was all coiled up, mouth open, and ready to strike.  So we backed up and went around it.  Of course, the rest of the way across the swamp we are all worried and looking down at every step.  There were two other guys who had followed us, and they couldn't believe what we were doing.

Now, I had expected to come out of the swamp on the other side, and have to spend sometime looking up and down the treeline for the CP.  But wouldn't you know it, as soon as we stepped out of the swamp, we looked up, and there it was, right in front of us!!  Even Jason couldn't believe it!  His route choice couldn't have been more accurate even if he had put the point out there himself.  As I said, you really had to be there.  But it was quite the adventure.

Anyway, we found the rest of the trek points pretty quickly, and headed back to the TA to pick up our bikes for the long ride back to the main TA.

The Paddle (2)

After riding back to the main TA, we got back in the boats and this time headed south on the Wekiva River for an 8 mile round trip paddle.  There were several bonus points on the paddle, but we were short on time.  We had just under four hours to paddle, bike, trek, and bike again.  So we decided to skip all bonus points and simply get the mandatories.  It took us about 2 hours to finish the paddle and get back to the TA, and for us, now the race was really on.

The Trek (2)

On the paddling section we had seen Team TCO.  They were about 30 minutes behind us.  We figured they were probably tied with us in the point standings, and I was sure they had gotten all mandatories and bonus points, as we had.  So we had to make sure we finished in time in order to win the race.

After we got off the boats we had to get on our bikes for a very short bike ride to the next TA.  We left on our bikes at exactly 2:45pm.  We reached the TA about 12 minutes later.  There we had to drop our bikes and go on foot to find the last two mandatory checkpoints.  We had to find them and get back to the bikes in less than 45 minutes if we wanted to have enough time to get back to the finish line.  And so we ran.

Once again J's navigation was on par, and he led us right to both points.  We ran as much as we could, but I was hurting badly at this point.  I could barely run.  But I did what I could.  Time kept creeping by and so the guys offered help.  Brent took my pack to lighten my load.  And Jason and Brent both helped towing me (yes, you can tow while running, trust me, it helps!).  So we kept moving.  As we were heading back to the bikes, with almost no time to spare, we ran into TCO heading in.

I kept looking at my watch. I knew we had to make it back to our bikes no later than 3:45 - 3:50.  I think we made it back around 3:44pm.

The Finish

Once on the bikes we took off immediately.  The road back was kinda sandy, but Brent took the lead and found the most perfect line the entire way.  The three of us just stayed right on his wheel, and before we knew it, we were heading to the finish line.

We reached the finish line at 3:56pm.  Four minutes to spare.  Now the question was, how far back would TCO be?  And were there any other teams with more points than us?  We were pretty sure TCO had the same number of points we did.  And I was pretty confident that both of our teams (TCO and Hoof Hearted) had more points than any other team.  But we'd have to wait and see.

TCO made it in at 4:21pm. They did have the same amount of points we did, but because of the time penalties for being late, they would be behind us.  And then we found out the official word from Greg as he told us personally before the awards ceremony started, "You guys won 1st place overall.  Congrats!"

Our 1st place win made us the very first Pangea Adventure Racing Series Champions (since this was the first year Pangea had a championship series).

That was a great feeling!  We had pushed hard all day, and it paid off!!

The Team

I can't say enough about what an awesome team we had.  Jason is of course the man.  I think most people already know that he is an adventure racing machine.  And one of the best navigators around.  And Brent and Nikki were amazing!  Nikki, on her first ever AR, raced like a seasoned pro!  She was amazing!  Never one complaint (except being a little worried about the snakes in the swamp :)).  She paddle, rode, and biked as strong as any of us.  So I want to thank them for making this another awesome experience!!

This has been a dream season for me, and to close out the year with a 1st place win like this, is like a dream.  So thanks to everyone that made this possible, and to all my incredible teammates!  You guys rock!!

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Howl at the Moon 18-Hr AR (2007)

Last year we had to pull out of race when Ralph's bike's crank arm split into two.

This year, same location, North Florida (Suwannee River State Park).

42 registered teams (about half from Georgia).

My team: Nature Calls (Jim & Lori Gabbert, Jason, me)

Started with a swim across Suwannee River, carrying our packs.  Completely submerged in river.  Wet, cold, but fun.

Got lost on the way to 1st CP.  Lost about 45 minutes looking.

Found other CP's fast.  At CP3 we were in 22nd place.

Ran fast and hard and between CP3 and CP7, we passed tons of teams.  Arrived at paddle TA in 4th place.

Paddle was nice.  At night in the Suwannee River.  Easy paddle, and easy to find CP's.  Finished paddle in about 4 hours.  Got passed by 4 teams in paddle.  So finished paddle in 7th place.

Then it was biking time.  Bike started out great.  Fast and easy.  Until CP10.  Got really lost looking for CP10 as there were tons of trails and roads that were not on the map.  Lost over an hour before we finally found it.  Rest of CP's were easy.

Then we rode to finish.  Finished in about 14-hours.  Won 2nd-place in the elite 4-person coed division.  Not sure about overall.  I think 8th or so.  We won awards and prizes, but were too tired to wait around for awards ceremony, so we left to come back home.  =)

Great race with great and awesome teammates!!!  As I've said before, Jim, Lori and Jason are amazing to race with.  We are good and very competitive, but we also have a blast.  I bet we probably have more fun and laughs than any other team out there.  Love you guys!

Next up, The Turkey Burn 12-Hour AR with Jason, Brent, and Nikki.  Should be a blast!!!

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Croom Crumbler 3-Hr AR (2007)

This past weekend I raced the Croom Crumbler AR with Alli.

The Crumbler is a 2-3 hour AR race that takes place alongside the the slightly longer 6-8 hour Crusher AR.  Since it was going to be Alli's first ever AR, we signed up for the Crumbler which is geared more towards first timers.

Alli's first time on a MTB was last weekend at Snow Hill.  She had never before ridden a real MTB and never ridden single track.  She did pretty well out there so I knew she'd do great at the race.

On to the race.........

The race started at 9:45am.  There were 47 teams that started the race.  They lined us up in team number order, and since we were team number 44, we were way back at the end of the line.  It was going to be a bike start, riding down Croom Rd (hard packed wide road) for about 2-miles, then we'd get off the road and jump into the blue single track.

I knew that once we all hit the single track, there would be a huge back up as riders of all different skill levels would be on a single track and unable to pass.  So I told Alli that we were going to ride as fast as we possibly could in order to try and hit the single track ahead of most teams.  And given that we were starting at the end of the pack, this was going to be hard.  So I took out my tow rope and told Alli how to use it.  We had not practice towing, so this might be a little dangerous.  But what the heck.

The race started and sure enough, it was a mess.  Riders all over the wide road.  Once Alli and I finally got going, it was on.  We pushed hard, giving it all we had.  I was towing her but she still had to keep moving and pedaling fast.  We passed team after team after team,  And when we finally reached the single track entrance, we had moved up to about 7th position.

In the single track I couldn't tow her, so I let her get in front of me and set our pace.  She did great on the single track given it was her 2nd time.  A little slow, but she kept moving.  The good thing was that almost all the teams were behind us, and they couldn't pass.  =)  After about 30 minutes, we reached the bike drop off.  From here we had a 2-mile trek down the trail to the TA at the Silver Lake Camping area.  Alli did great on the trek.  Kept moving the entire time.

At Silver Lake we had four special tests to complete.  They were fairly simple, just time consuming.  After about 25 minutes we had completed all our tests and moved on to the paddling section of the race.  At this point I wasn't sure how we were doing because there were racers all over the place.  not only were the Crumblers there, but the Crushers (the other race) were there as well.  So we had no idea.

Since this was a short race, the paddle was fairly short.  We had just two CP's to get.  They were easy to get and close to each other.  So it only took us about 30ish minutes to get them, and we were back at the TA.

From here it was a 2-mile trek back to our bikes.  Then get on our bikes and ride to the finish line.  Again, Alli did awesome on the trek back to our bikes.  This time actually running faster than she had on the way out.  As we were headed to our bikes we found out we were the 5th team so far.  Up to this point I was happy just finishing the race.  I mean, I wanted to do good of course.  But just finishing was our goal.  But now that I knew how well we were doing, my competitive edge kicked in.

The bike back was basically the same as the way out.  We had a single track section followed by a hard packed road section.  The hills and soft sand were tough on Alli, but she kept moving like a trooper.  At one point, she got something caught on her rear derrailer and we had to stop to remove it.  As we were doing this two teams passed us.  One was a 2-person coed, one was a 2-person male.  Luckily there was only about 3/4 mile left of single track before we reached the hard packed road.  And once we did, I broke out the tow rope again and booked it.

It didn't take us long to catch and pass the 2-person coed team (our competition).  The 2-person male team was slightly further ahead.  And they sped up when they saw us coming, but for them, it was a losing battle.  Within seconds we had caught them, passed them, and left them way behind.  =)

We reached the finish line at 12:17pm.  Just over 2.5 hours.  We finished in 5th place overall (out of 47teams), but best of all, we were 2nd place in the 2-person coed division (out of about 15 teams).  We got a cool little award for it.

For her first race Alli did awesome!!  Never complained (except for complaining about soft sand, which we all still do) for one second.  She jumped in the water, mud, and swampy areas without hesitating for a second.  And in her first race and she goes home with hardware!!  Took me a while before I brought any awards home.  :)

Next up, The Howl at the Moon 18-Hour race with Jason and the Gabberts.  Then the Turkey Burn AR with Jason, BB2, and his way better half, Nikki.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Leadville Trail 100 MTB Race (2007)

I won't be going into every detail of the race, but I will cover the most significant parts.

Anyway, on to the race....

With a shotgun blast, the race started promptly at 6:30am.  Racers were asked to seed themselves according to their estimated time.  So all of us, knowing what we did from F'ing Ralph (See above) started in the 10-11 hour section.  The mass start was incredible.  The riders followed a police car out of town going about 20mph.  And it was cold!  My fingers and toes immediately froze.  The first 2 miles or so were on a paved road, and somewhat scary with so many riders.  But then the police car took off just as we turned into the first dirt road.  This became a huge cluster fuck, and within a mile we were on the first climb of the day.

The climbs....

One of the first things F'ing Ralph failed to mention was how steep the climbs were.  From the first one on, they were steep.  As if that wasn't enough, they were dirt roads.  And as if those two things weren't enough, almost everyone was covered with rocks.  Rocks all over the road.  And they were long climbs.  I don't think there was a hill that was under a mile long.  So climbing was a combination of grinding on the lowest gear, while trying to pick a good line (avoiding all the rocks and ruts) and trying to keep from spinning your rear tire on the loose dirt.  Some of the hills were so steep that if for any reason you had to stop and put a foot down, you were done.  There was no getting back on the bike.  You had to push it until you found a flatish section were you could start riding again.  And remember that we are doing all this on a full suspension mountain bike that weights close to 30 pounds.

The downhills....

Another thing F'ing Ralph failed to mention was how technical some of the descents were.  There were some descents that if you were not a good mountain biker, you were walking.  They required total concentration which was mentally exhausting.  And your hand got numb from holding on to the bars and brakes so much.  One in particular was  a beast.

Powerline Road....

This hill turned out to be the bitch of the day.  On the way out of town we descended it, and it was ugly.  The road followed along power lines, hence the name.  It was steep as hell, probably the steepest of the longest hills of the course.  It was much, much steeper than Sugarloaf.  And about 3 miles long.  It basically went straight down for 3 miles, with several blind turns.  It was covered in rocks.  But worst of all, there were huge ruts all over created by rain and snow melt.  These ruts are what made it so tough.  In some places these things were about 1 foot deep.  If you didn't jump or bunny hop them, you'd be going over your bars.  All the way down powerline, there was really only one line you could take.  And it was fast!  Since it was so steep, if you weren't walking it, you were flying!!  You could not go slow.  It was basically just go fast, and hope to God you hit everything correctly.

It was on this section that Landis went down hard.  And it was on this section that F'ing Ralph also went down in what BB2 described as "the worst crash I have ever seen in my life!"  BB2 and Bob were right behind Ralph, and they both said they thought Ralph was dead.  And since it was so steep and fast, when they saw him crash they couldn't stop.  They had to keep riding past him.  But aside from a badly cracked helmet, F'ing Ralph was ok.  Got up, dusted off, and got back on the bike.  He's not human.

There were many other crashes on this section, many.  It was the most ass-phuckering, scariest section of the race.  If you did not have your technicals skills on par, you were going down.

Colombine Mine...

After the descent on Powerline, we rode a few more hills here and there before reaching the 40 mile SAG at the Twin Lakes Reservoir.  This was the point of no return.  This was the place to fuel up before heading into hell.  Twin lakes was the last stop before starting the nearly 8 mile climb up to the top of the mountain, at Colombine Mine.  it was going to be a gain of 3500 in about 8 miles.

Scott and I started this section together.  As we left Twin Lakes we were greeted with the return of the leaders of the race.  Local and popular race Dave, with Floyd right on his wheel.  These guys are truly inhuman, but more on that later.

After leaving Twin lakes we had about 2 miles before the start of the main climb.  These two miles were a warm up.  It started with a 1 mile climb which descended into an open valley, which then lead to the bottom of the climb.

As soon as the climb started, you knew.  The road was about 8 foot wide.  And as all the previous climbs, rocky.  Really, really rocky.  But what surprised me was the steepness.  I expected it to be long but gradual.  It wasn't.  Right from the get-go, it was Sugarloaf steep, and stayed that steep the entire way.

By the time Scott and I reached it, the front riders were coming back down, so it was scary.  On the one hand, you are trying to climb, avoid the rocks and ruts, avoid the walkers, and keep your pace.  But also, you had to avoid the guys coming down, who were flying.  I which I had video of how fast these guys were coming down the mountain, on an 8 foot road with steep drop offs on the side.

On the way up there were about 7 switchbacks.  It reminded me a lot of Hogpen.  Sharp switchbacks which got even steeper.

The climb did suck.  It was not easy by any means, but at least you could keep moving.  That was until we got past the tree line near the top of the mountain about 5 miles into the climb.  Once we got up there, the sand road pretty much ended, and it turned into rocks.   Nothing but huge rocks covering the entire road.  Everyone had to walk this part, pushing their bike.  It was impossible to ride.  Not only that, but even pushing was tough.  it was hard to get a good grip on the ground so you kept slipping.  At the same time you have riders still coming down, trying to find anyway down the rocks.  This was the section that did me in.  It was these two miles of pushing my bike uphill at the top of the mountain that took me out of the race.  Again, I wish I had pictures, because it's hard to describe just how much this truly sucked.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the race organizers did something really mean.  As you cleared the tree line, you could look left and see the turnaround point, way, way in the distance above you.  So as you are walking your bike barely able to move, that turnaround point was mocking you.

And as if those two things weren't bad enough, we were climbing up to 13,000 feet, so with every step we took, we got higher and higher, which meant less and less oxygen.  It was so hard to breath that I couldn't drink out of my camelbak because taking a drink meant missing a breath.  If I wanted to drink.  I had to stop.

So, after 3 hours of leaving Twin Lakes (10 miles back) I reached the top.  One thing I will say, the view from the top of the mountain was amazing.  We were surrounded by the Rockies and it was simply beautiful.  I took several minutes to just sit and enjoy the view.  I figured if I made it up there, I might as well enjoy it.

But I didn't have much time to waste.  From here I had 5 hours to make the 12 hour cut off, which I knew would be impossible.  But, I gave it a go anyway.

Going down...

Going back down to Twin Lakes was kinda fun, in a scary kinda way.  It was 8 miles straight down, on the same rocky, steep 8 foot sandy road.  First you had to deal with the 2 miles of rocks that we had just pushed our bikes up on.  This was slow going.  The rocks would slip out from under you so it was technically challenging.  Then once we hit the tree line, the road became sandy again.  I took some chances on the 6 mile downhill, trusting my bike to handle everything I hit.  On the way down I'd hit huge rocks or ruts that I would see at the very last minute, and going about 30mph, on a mountain bike, on a sandy road, I had to bunny hop them.  I wasn't too worried of the road or the obstacles, I felt comfortable I could handle them.  But I was worried about the switchbacks.  They would sneak up on you, and if you were going too fast as you approached them, well, I would hate to think what would have happened.

The ride down to Twin Lakes only took me about 45 minutes.  Just over three hours on the way up, 45 minutes on the way down.

I reached the Twin Lakes SAG, 60 miles, after 7 hours and 45 minutes into the race.  So I had just over 4 hours to ride the last 40 miles.  Easy right?  Just keep an average of 10mph and I'd be able to do it.  Yeah, right!


I rode right through Twin lakes, didn't stop for anything, knowing I needed every minute possible.  But the next 15 miles were pretty tough, it was mostly up hill.  Some of the climbs were short, but too steep for riding.  It was more tough bike pushing.  This is were I started to bonk.  I got to the point were anytime the road went up, I could barely pedal.  Even the flats were tough.  I kept moving, but I had one one thought in my mind the entire way, Powerline Road.

I knew that on the way back to the finish, we would have to go up Powerline Road, which we had descended earlier.  And I was scared.  I knew that a) it was going to be unridable and so b) I would be pushing my bike for nearly three miles in an incredibly steep hill.  And it was this thought, the combination of how bad I felt, how I was bonking, and of pushing my bike up powerline road, that made up my mind to quit the race at the next SAG, at 80 miles.  I simply could not go on.

So I reached the 80 mile SAG at around 3:35pm.  Just over 9 hours into the race.  Scott had left that SAG about 10 minutes ahead of me, and Jason was about 25 minutes ahead of me.  Lucky for me, The Gabberts were there with their car, and so I stopped, and quit.

My race was over.  I wanted to cry.  Actually, I did.  Thankfully I was wearing my sunglasses.  I had worked hard for 80 miles, and I really wanted to see the finish line, but I just couldn't.  I couldn't go one more mile.  So I jumped in the car and we rode to the finish line to watch the guys coming in.

The Gang...

One by one the guys started coming in.  First it was F'ing Ralph (10:57).  He was in great spirits.  Then it was Brent (11:01).  Their stories about Powerline road made me feel better, because it really was as hard, or harder, than I expected.

A little while later, Pat Reilly came in (11:41).  And then it was Bob (11:51).

Jason was next (12:41). He missed the 12 hour cutoff, but he made the 13 hour finisher cut off.  This was new this year.  They wanted to give people an extra hour to finish the course.  The didn't get the buckle, but were considered 'unofficial finishers,' and still received the finisher's medal.  His stories about Powerline Road were also about how incredibly hard it was pushing the bike.

And Scott was next (13:05).  Scott surprised me the most out of everyone out there today.  He might not have made the 13-hour cutoff, but he finished 100 miles of the toughest bike ride in the U.S.  I was happy for him.  He never gave up.

The Stories....

After everyone finished we sat around sharing stories.  Talking about the climbs, the brutal bike pushing, and the hairy and technical descents.  Powerline Road became the topic of conversation as everyone discussed how incredibly brutal it was, both ways.  We talked about the crashes (like Ralph's), the weather, and the altitude.

We all agree that we totally underestimated the race.  We did not give it the respect it required.  Mostly because we really didn't know what to expect, and we all thought it would be easier.  None of us except for Ralph and Bob knew what the course was like, so every turn, every hill, every descent was new and unexpected.


First I want to say, that this is one of the most beautful areas in the United States.  As much as I was hurting, I still enjoyed every single mile of the course.  The views were fantastic.  Mountains, rivers, lakes, it was simply beautiful.

The SAG stops are like none I have ever seen.  Anytime you pulled into a SAG stop, a volunteer would come up to you and hold your bike for you.  Another volunteer would fill up your water bottles or camelbaks while other would rush to get you any food or anything else you needed.  They were awesome!

Floyd lost the race by 10 seconds to the local hero who has won the race 5 years in a row.  Reports are that Floyd sucked this guy's wheel for almost the entire last 40 miles, and still was unable to beat him to the finish line.  The guy that won it set a new course record, finishing in just under 7 hours.  7 hours.  I can't even begin to comprehend how fast and how good those guys are.  At 7 hours, most of us were still at the turnaround point (50 miles).  Amazing.

On one of the steep descents, there was a guy who had crashed and broken his femur.  OUCH!!!  I rode by him just as the helicopter was landing to airlift him out.  As I said, this is not a beginners race.  If you can't handle a mountain bike, it can get pretty nasty out there.

Thank yous...

I can't even begin to tell you how great our support crew was.  The Gabberts, Stacey, Nikki, and Erica were there at every SAG stop, and they helped us a lot.  Even if it was just cheering us on and encouraging us, it was great to see them all through the course.  They rock!!!

So that's it.  I am sure the rest of the boyz will chime in with their own stories soon.  For me, I was humbled by this race.  It got the best of me and then some.  But I will definitely be back.  I will not give up until I conquer this monster.

Peace out!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The ACC 30-Hr AR (2007)

Another tough, fun, and successful race is down in the books for Team Nature Calls.  This year's 30-hour Atlantic Coast Conquest adventure race was a very tough, challenging, and demanding race.  Dr. Ron did not disappoint.

Now, onto the race....

Throughout this report I am going to be mentioning 4 teams a lot:

Nature Calls (NC): Jason, Lori, Charlie, Manny (4-person coed)
Bill Jacksons (BJ): Micheal, Jason, Aaron, May-Li (4-person coed)
Atacteam (AT):  Gomez and company (sorry, don't know their names) (4-person coed)
Travel Country Outdoors (TCO): Don, Melissa (2-person coed)

The race started at 6:00am in Sanford, FL.  We started with a short out-and-back 2 mile run along Lake Monroe where we picked up CP1.  The run served it's purpose, to split up the teams.  After the short run, we immediately jumped in our canoes and headed south on the St. John's River on our way to Mullet Lake Park.  We had two checkpoints to find along the way.  One at Indian Mound Village and one at the SR46 bridge.

The Paddle (1)

As I expected, 4 teams started the paddle fairly close and ahead of everyone else.  Teams TCO, AT, BJ, and NC.  We all arrived at CP2 right behind each other.  But TCO and AT passed the CP while BJ and NC went right at it.  After picking up the CP, we headed towards CP3 together.  TCO and AT were still looking for the CP, but found it pretty quickly after we left.

As we got towards Mullet Lake Park, Jason and I witnessed one of the coolest and most amazing things I have seen in an adventure race.

The Beast!

Micheal Moule and Jason Willems from Bill Jacksons were paddling right in front of us.  We were just about 100 yards from the finish when all of the sudden, a huge manatee came out of the water in full force right under their boat.  The force and speed at which the manatee came out picked up their canoe on the back end and tossed it about 10 feet to the side.  Let me say that again, the manatee picked up and pushed the back part of their boat and moved it about 10 feet!  It was incredible!!  It made a loud splashing noise that scared everyone.  Jason and I had a great view as we were right behind them.  But Mike and Jason didn't know what it was.  Obviously gator is the first thing that comes to mind, but thank God it wasn't.

Anyway, after that little excitement, we pulled into the TA for our first 'special test.'

Special test 1

At TA1 we received our first special test.  We had to go find three SPs (special points).  One, SP3, was a short run down the road.  The other two were back in the river.  SP2 was just under 2 miles up the river (about 3 miles round trip).  The other one, SP1, was 4 miles back the way we had come from (8 miles round trip).   We had to collect all three points and be back at tha TA before 12:00pm.

We knew getting SP2 and SP3 would be no problem.  But paddling 4 miles to get SP1 and 4 miles back to the TA would put us very close to the time cutoff.  So we decided to wait and make our decision after getting the SP2 and SP3.

We got SP3, returned to our boats and headed off to SP2 with Team TCO.  As we headed up I noticed that there was a road running parallel to the river heading up to SP2.  So after conferring with Jason we decided to pull over onto the shore and run to the SP.  It was about 1 mile there and back.  TCO joined us and we found the CP pretty quickly.  On our way back to the boats we ran into several other teams doing the same thing.  I would like to think they saw our boats and then figured out what we did.  But then if I thought about it, I am sure they thought about it to.  =)

Anyway, we started paddling back and Jason and Don (from TCO) we discussing whether it was feasible to paddle all the way out to SP1 and back.  Could we make it?  Would there be enough time?  So we decided to give it a try.

Don and Melissa (TCO) were paddling pretty fast, so they started getting away from us very quickly.  But about 1 mile out I noticed that there might be a shortcut we could take to SP1.  Instead of paddling out the same way we had come, we could paddle up to Thornhill Lake and probably save some time.  We tried it, and it paid off huge!  As we exited Thornhill Lake we ended up right next to TCO.  So the shortcut allowed us to make up a lot of time.  Again TCO and NC got to the SP together.  On our way back we ran into BJ heading to it.  Anyway, taking the shortcut through Thornhill Lake we paddled our butts off and made it to the TA at 11:48am.  BJ pulled into the TA in the nick of time, at 11:58am.  As much as I wanted them miss the cut off (and get the time penalty :)), I have to give them credit because I know they must have paddled really hard.  Good job guys!

Back at the TA we found out that only three teams went to get SP1 (NC, TCO, BJ).  Everyone else decided to skip it.

Oh yeah, by the way, the heat during this portion of the race, was brutal!  It was hot and humid as all hell out there.  And as you will read soon, it screwed me up badly...

The Bike (1)

After a quick TA, we headed off on our bikes at around 12:00pm to get 4 checkpoints (CP4 - CP8).  And as soon as we started pedaling, I was hurting.  My stomach felt awful.  I felt nauseated and dizzy.  So I jumped on the back of our little paceline and tried to recover.  But after getting CP4, it was apparent that I was not recovering, so Jason pulled out he tow rope and started towing me on the bike.  It helped a lot!  But the biking was pretty tough at times and towing was not possible.  Anytime we stopped I just put my head down and tried to fend off puking.  But through it all I kept moving as I knew BJ was right on our tail.

Anyway, Jason, as always did an amazing job navigating.  He led us from CP to CP without a hitch.  Unfortunately, we had all failed to read a key instruction in our passports which said we had to be at CP8 by 2:00pm.  The navigation path we had selected had us going to CP8 last.  And by the time we read the time constraint for CP8, is was too late.  So we continued on our path and hoped we get a break.

The Rain

When we got to CP7, the rain hit.  As soon as the sun was blocked by the clouds and the first few rain drops hit me, I became a new man.  Just like that I came out of my funk and was ready to go again.  Amazing what the sun can do to you.

Anyway, this wasn't just rain, it was one of the worst storm I have ever had the pleasure of getting caught in.  The rain itself was hard and heavy.  And the lightning and thunder were right down scary.  It was all around us.  We rode towards CP8 (near Lake Harney) on a nasty downpour that literally hurt.  We made it CP8 right at 3:00pm.  As we rode in Team BJ was heading out towards CP7 and CP6.  We had a special test to complete at CP8.  It was an orienteering section (on foot) to find 3 CP's, and we had to be done by 3:30pm in order to avoid getting a time penalty.

As we are trekking the lightning was hitting all around us and it was still down pouring.  At one point, we're walking along and Jason says,  "do you smell static?"  I say, "hmmm, I actually do."  Next thing I know he is yelling at us all to drop to the ground!  So all four of us are on the dirty, curled up in the fetal position.  Apparently, the smell of static means lightning is about to strike, or just recently struck very, very nearby.  Funny stuff!  Jason was once again the man and led us to the CP's almost immediately.  We had a couple small set backs at first, but we got them.  We came out of the orienteering at around 3:40ish.  It cost us a 1-hour penalty, but at least we got all the checkpoints.

From CP8 it was a short 3 mile ride to the next TA at the fish camp on SR46.

The Bike (2)

At this TA we had another special test.  A 3 mile paddle up to get 1 checkpoint.  So a 6 mile paddle in total.  We had about 1.25 hours to do it.  We knew we'd be pushing it as we'd been pushing every cut off so far, so we figured we'd skip this one, and take the 2-hour penalty.  TCO was out in the water already.  And BJ came in about 10 minutes after we did.  They decided to go after the special CP, even though they knew they'd get back late and have to take a penalty.  In retrospect, Jason and I agree now that we shouldn't have skipped it.  We didn't fully take time to calculate how the time penalties versus staying on the full course would play out.  But, it was the decision we all made and agreed with at the time, so we got back on our bikes and headed off once again.

We started the bike ride around 4:45pm, and this ride was nasty.  Dr. Ron had told us it was going to be wet, but the rain that was still coming down made it even worse.  For a lot of the section we were riding through nasty mud which was like cement.  Pedaling through it was just awful.  In fact, it was right down impossible in some areas.  Lots of ankle deep sections, several waist deep puddles, and miles and miles of wet, nasty mud.

We ran into Team AT during this section, and got a little lost with them.  But we only lost about 30 minutes after we figured out where we had made a wrong turn.  Besides that very small mishap, Jason once again led us to every checkpoint without a hitch.  But it was slow going due to the poor trail conditions.

We finally finished and made it to the next TA at around 8:00ishpm, I think.  We were exhausted.  Team AC had gotten ahead of us and finished about 15 minutes in front of us.

The Trek

After a quick meal, change of clothes, and rest, we headed out on a long night trek section.  Team AT had left about 15 minutes before us, but about 2 miles into our trek, we saw them heading back towards us and back towards the TA.  We weren't sure what happened, but we heard later that they had to quit the race.  I'm not sure why.

This trek was long and of course wet.  My left foot started getting the nasty hot spot and after a while, blisters.  The navigation on this area was tough, and Jason (with help from Greg who had joined us for this section) did a great job at getting us around.  We got lost once and we ended up about 2 miles off course, but it was only about a 45 minute time loss.  Not a big deal and soon we were back on course.  Of course, as always with our team, we had some great laughs and fun times as we trekked along.  And some conversations that are too raunchy for innocent ears.  :)

We finished the trek section I think around 1:00am?  I really can't remember.  but we tried to waste little time in getting into our bike gear and heading off on our last bike section of the race.

The Bike (3)

This is where the sleepmonsters kicked into full gear.  Late into the race, tired, and riding down one of the most boring roads known to man, Kennedy Parkway (SR3), out in Cape Canaveral.  I could barely keep my eyes open and a few times I swear I was sleep-riding.  We stopped a few times along the way to rest for just a few minutes.  It was enough time just to keep us going.

After a while we finally made it out to US1.  Then took a few other roads like Beacon Light Rd, Volco Rd, and Opposum Camp Rd en route to a few CP's.  As we rode down Volco the sun started coming up, and as is always the case, this was like a shot of energy.  I no longer felt sleepy.  And at around 8:00am we made it to the next and last TA of the race at a park on the Intracoastal in Edgewater, FL.

The Last Paddle

We left the last TA around 8:20am in our boats.  We had 5 checkpoints to collect.  Our plan was to paddle to CP21 which was on the East side of the Intracoastal, then portage our boats along Saxon Rd while picking up CP22, CP23, and CP24 which were along the way.  But Dr. Ron threw a monkey wrench in our plans.  He said we weren't allowed to portage from CP21.  We could portage from CP22, but not CP21.  So again we made a team decision.  We paddle right to CP22 and skipped CP21 all together.  Then we portaged to CP23 and CP24.  And once again, it was hot as all crap out there!!

CP24 was located at the N. Causeway bridge in New Smyrna.  Once there we had to get back on our boats and paddle north to the last CP and finish line at the Smyrna Dunes Park.  We had hooked up with team TCO along the way, who was ahead of us and had picked up CP21.  So the 6 of us basically paddled towards the last CP and  finish together.

We finished the race around 10:20am on Sunday morning.  And we were beat!

TCO had kicked major butt.  They had collected all the CP's!  We had missed two.  So now we just had to wait and find out how BJ's was doing.  We knew they were in the water somewhere, but we didn't know what CP's they were getting.  Well they also did great!  They picked up all the CPs and even though they made it to the finish line a few minutes pass the time cut off (around 12:10pm), they finished the full course and so the time penalties didn't make any difference as they would automatically place ahead of us.

In the end I believe the results were something like this:

1st place overall:  Team TCO (also 1st place 2-person)
2nd place overall: Team Bill Jacksons (also 1st place 4-person elite)
3rd place overall: Team Nature Calls (also 2nd place 4-person elite)

I was exhausted.  I could barely stay awake and I needed food.  So after we found out how BJ's did, we left.  I felt like an ass for leaving before the awards ceremony, but I had to go.  I needed rest and food asap.

So huge congrats to Team Travel Country and Team Bill Jacksons for a great race!  And humongous congrats and thanks to my teammates, Jason, Lori, and Charlie for another excellent and fun race!!  You guys are the best!


And of course lots of thanks to our support crew (Alli, Erica, Jim, Matt) which was simply awesome!  They took great care of us at the TA's and without them we wouldn't have had such a great race!

Monday, June 18, 2007

The SCAR 8-Hr AR (2007)

The SCAR (Seminole County Adventure Race) 8-hour adventure race took place yesterday in and around the Oviedo/Chuluota area.  A lot of my good friends from adventure racing were signed up so I knew it was going to be a great race.  And given that it's a Dr. Ron designed course, I knew it would be challenging yet fun.

I signed up for the race with Jason and Erica as Team Hoof Hearted.  Erica's parent and her brother (Jim, Lori, Matt) signed up as Team Nature Calls.  We also had Jason's cousins Ryan and Kevin racing as The Brothers.  And then there were tons of good friends like teams Figjam, Jim's Bicycles, Gecko, Zig! Zag! Zoom! (Trung and friends), RUOK, and a bnuch of other really cool and really nice people I've come to know over the years in adventure racing.

Prior to the race Dr. Ron warned us that the race was going to involve a lot of tough navigation.  And thankfully he also warned us that there was going to be a lot of bushwhacking.  Nasty, thick bushwhacking.  And he was not joking.  But luckily, we all came prepared wearing pants instead of just shorts.

Anyway, on to the race......

The race started at the Oviedo Riverside Park just off Lockwood.  At around 8:00am, we were off.

Our first leg was a trekking/running section.  We had to go collect two points (C1 and C2) and return to the start/finish area (S/F).  All teams headed off together running towards C1, which was about 1 mile down the river on a fairly nice trail.  Then we headed back up and passed the S/F on our way to C2.

C2 proved to be quite an experience.  There was no trail, so we had to 'handrail' the river up for about 1 mile towards the CP.  Since there was no trail it was slow going.  And there was a lot of bushwhacking.  Pretty thick at times.  We got to the point first and quickly turned around to head back to the S/F.  It was a really fun trek!

Back at the S/F we transitioned to our bike gear for a very short ride up to the bridge over the Econ on 419 where the TA was located.  The ride was all on paved roads (Lockwood and 419) and it was short, so we were there in no time.

Once at the river TA, we dropped off our bikes and headed off on our paddling leg of the race.  We had to pick up three paddling points (P1, P2, P3).  P3 was North on the river while P2 and P3 were South.  We decided to go to P3 first, as did a few other teams.

The paddling towards P3 was not too bad.  A lot of turns on the river and some debris, but nothing too bad.  Also, we were paddling with the current.  After we got P3 then things got tough.  Paddling back against the current was tough, very tough.  At times it seemed as tough we weren't even moving.  But we slowly made our way back to the TA and continued South to get P1, followed by P2.

On our way to get the paddling points we saw a handful of teams.  Figjam was leading the way (actually RUOK was, but we didn't know), with us close behind them.  Then there was Higher Ground followed by Jim's Bicycles and Geckos.  We ended up passing Figjam.  Actually, they got lost and paddled right by P2.  So when we made it back to the TA, we were the 2nd team out of the water (that got all 3 points).

Now it was time to bike again.  This next section was going to be a combination bike/trek with us biking and bushwhacking to the rest of the points on the course.

We started out by biking from 419 to Lockwood and up to 426.  Our first point (B2).  We stayed on 426 to B1.  Then we followed a few trails up towards B8.  We skipped B7 because we had decided to get it on the way back out.

We continued on to B3 and then to B4.  So far we hit all the points pretty quickly and were feeling good.  But then, right after we left B4, on our way from B4 to B5, something kinda bad happened.  We were riding on some sandy road covered with logs and debris when Jason got a thick piece of wood jammed in his back wheel.  Before he realized what had happened, he pedaled through it and his rear derailler snapped right off.  Shit.

So without wasting time we removed the chain, bungied the hanging derailler to his frame, and continued on, pushing the bike.  The trails we were riding on made it impossible to tow or push a rider, so we walked it.  Jason and I took turns.  He'd walk the bike for a little while while I rested pedaling mine.  Then we'd switch off.

We made it to B5 and found a handful of teams looking for it.  Didn't take us long to find it and pretty soon we were off walking the broken bike towards B6.  B6 gave us a hard time.  We knew we were in the right place but got a bit confused for a bit.  So it took us about 45 minutes to finally find it.

From B6 we walked our bike to the hard packed road SouthEast of our location.  Once there, we were able to tow the broken bike.  We put Erica on the bike while Jason and I took turn towing/pushing her.

We got back out to 426 but still had to head up to get B7 (which we had skipped earlier).  So we went up.  B7 Was at the end of a long and very cool boardwalk.  At the boardwalk we dropped off Erica (and yes, we told the race director we did this) while J and I rode to the end to get the point.  Got B7 and now we were home free.  Just a short 5 or so mile bike ride back to the S/F on paved roads.

Jason and I pushed it hard towing/pushing Erica.  it was hot as hell and we all felt like total shit, but we wanted to get done as quickly as possible.

We made it to the finish line after 7 hours and 23 minutes, not knowing how we'd done.  We figured we were probably top 3.  But it turned out that we were the only team to get all the check points!!  All other teams missed at least one checkpoint.  So we got first place overall!!  It was a good feeling, given the hell we went through with Jason's bike.

Anyway, it was another awesome, AWESOME race!!  Now only 6 weeks to wait before our next big adventure, The 30-hour ACC Adventure Race!!

And huge, HUGE, props to both my teammates, Jason and Erica.  Jason, as usual, was a machine!  And Erica completely kicked ass!  She never complained and pushed hard the entire race!  She was simply bad ass!! I had a great time racing with both of you!  Thanks guys!!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Coast to Coast 72-Hr AR (2007)

I will try to make this as short as possible, but a report on an 80 hour race is not easy to make short.  So relax, sit back an enjoy....

The Coast to Coast.  After 4 times of doing this race, it still amazes me what we are willing to put ourselves through for just fun.  This race was without a doubt the toughest thing I have ever, ever done.  Harder than any Ironman, and harder than any of the previous three C2C's.  But it was also the most fun, most exciting, and most rewarding race I have ever done.

We arrived in St. Augustine on Thursday afternoon, but I am not gonna bore you with all the details about registration, check-in, and pre-race meeting.  Let's get right to it.

The Start - 15 mile Trek (1)

Friday morning we started the race in a parking lot off A1A in St. Augustine.  The plan was for us to run down the beach, but due to turtle hatching season we were forced to run down the road.  So at 6:28am, we started the first leg, a 15 mile trek.  The first 4.5 miles of the trek were on A1A and the rest were in a beautiful and remote wildernesss area.  There we 2 CP's (checkpoints) we had to collect along the way, but they were fairly easy to find.  We ran a good portion of it just to get a good rythym going.  we arrived at TA1 (transition area) after a few hours.

The Bike (1) - 20 Miles

The second leg of the race was a quick and easy 20 mile ride on paved roads.  It was basically just a way for us to make it over to the St. John's River where we would start our first paddling section.  Luckily, we had a tail wind and so we hammered it.  We kept a good 20-21mph average most of the way.  We did almost get killed once when a dump truck came by us so close I thought it was going to take my elbow out.  The closest call I've ever had on a bike.

The Paddle (1) - 19 miles

We arrived at TA2, ate and changed pretty quickly before heading out on our first paddling section.  We started by paddling about 5 miles across the St. John's River.  The wind was very strong and the waves were HUGE!  So big in fact that we had to be careful in steering our boats in order to keep from capsizing.  A few of the waves hit us and splashed right over us filling the boat with water.  But once we finally made it across and into Black Creek, it was smooth sailing.  Once in Black Creek, the paddling was easy.  We had a tailwind and the water was calm.

Black Creek was a great river.  Really beautiful.  We saw a lot of skiiers, wakeboarders and other types of water crafts.  Fun stuff.  Most of the way we could see Jason (who was racing solo) ahead of us.  We closed the gap on him, but never quite caught him.   We picked up a couple CP's along the way and made it to TA3 sometime in the mid Friday afternoon.

The Bike (2) - 70 Miles

At TA3 we again moved quickly and tried to waste as little time as possible.  Jason was there ahead of us and left the TA shortly after we arrived.  He looking good and so far enjoying the solo race.

This next leg of the race was going to be about 70 miles of mountain biking through several parks and wilderness areas, collecting several CP's along the way.  We wanted to try and get as many as possible before the sun went down, so we moved fast.  And ti wasn't going to be that easy, most of the riding on this leg were going to be off road, which means only one thing...sand.  Nasty, nasty soft sand.

The first few CP's we had to find in a state park were not easy to find.  They required good navigational skills.  On the way to what turned out to be the hardest of them all, CP5, we meet up with about 4 other teams.  We came to an intersection were all of them decided to go one way.  But I was not so sure they picked the right way.  So we let them go and had a quick team meeting to discuss what we should do.  Charlie, Jim and I studied the map and the location of CP5, and after a couple minutes decided to attack it from a different point.  So we continued on and our plan paid off huge.  We found CP5 in no time.  And it turned out that a lot of other teams, unfortunately including Jason, had a very hard time finding it.  This move moved us to the front of the race.  We found ourselves running just behind the leaders along side a couple other teams.

The rest of the bike was a good combination of soft sand and packed roads.  But one in particular, Sapp Rd, was completely miserable.  It was 6 miles of pure soft sand were you would pedal for 10 feet and have to get off your bike to walk.

So after picking up all the CP's and biking nearly 70 miles, we arrived at TA4 sometime around 4:30ish on Saturday morning.  We were the 5th team to arrive.

It was there that we found out that somewhere behind us Jason had huge bike problems.  His tire blew out and he tried changing the tube 5 times before realizing he needed a new tire.  So he walked his bike, all alone and through the middle off the night, until Erica come come by and drop him off a new tire.  He said it completely sucked!  I couldn't imagine walking by yourself in the middle of the night through some of the remote areas we were in.

The Trek (2) - The Death March

We stayed at TA4 the longest, and actually got about 45 minutes of sleep.  We ate, changed, and relaxed before heading out in the next leg which was going to be long and hot.  Just before we left, Jason came in.  He was looking pretty rough, but still in good spirits.  We left the TA around 6:30am.

This trekking leg proved to be one of the the toughest in the entire race.  It looking pretty simple on the map.  Find 3 CP's and go to the next TA.  But actually, instead of CP's they were called SP's, because they were 'Swamp Points.'  Checkpoints located in the middle of swamps.  And getting to them was not easy.

We took a trail that led us to the swamp were SP1 was located.  The swamp was huge, and somewhere int he middle of the thick of it, was a small flag we had to find.  Talk about a needle in a haystack.  So we gave it our best shot and trekked into the swamp.  Once inside, we ran into several other teams looking for the SP.  In fact, every team that had left before us was still looking for it.  We looked around for a while and more and more teams kept coming in.  That was when we ran into Jason making his way in looking for the SP.

Jason joined us in the search, but it was to no avail.  So we decided to get out of the swamp and start again.  This time Jason took his time.  Read the map, picked his bearing, and said, let's go.  For the next 30 minutes the 5 of us played a game of leapfrog.  One person would shoot a bearing to a particular spot while the 4 others would walk to it.  Once there, one of them would shoot a bearing, while the rest would move ahead, and so on.  The swamp was pretty thick so we had to do some serious bushwhack in order to move forward.  Jason had calculated that if we kept a direct bearing for 580 meters, we would hit the SP.  Well, 30 minutes later we got to 580 meter, and wouldn't you know it, the SP was there!!!!  Just mere feet away from where we expected it to be.  We could still hear tons of teams all around looking for it.  But we kept quiet and got of there as quickly as possible.

Finding SP1 turned out to be huge for our race.  In the end we found out that only 4 or 5 teams found it.  Including some of the best navigators in adventure racing.

For SP2 we employed the same strategy and found it fairly quickly.  A bunch of other teams simply followed us and found it as well.

But SP3 was a completely different story than the previous 2.  SP3 was alos in the middle of a swamp, except it was a HUGE, huge swamp.  Simply shooting a bearing and following it was not that simple because it was so much distance to cover, and the bushwhacking was very tough.

But we still gave it a go at it.  First we trekked around a bunch of trails trying to find a way in to the SP.  No luck.  Then we went back and Jason, Jim, and Charlie tried following a bearing to it.  It took them nearly 1.5 hours before making it back.  They were covered in shit from head to toe.  Scratched up and bleeding, and still no SP.  We spent nearly 4 hours looking for the SP before finally giving up and skipping it, like every other team had done.

Now we had about a 8 mile trek to TA5.  It was long and it was hot.  Oh so hot!!  It was the middle of the day and the sun was full on.  And we were all exhausted.  So those 8 miles were probably the hardest 8 miles we did in the entire race.  But when we finally made it to TA5 and found out that we were one of the only teams to find SP1 and SP2, it was all worth it.

The Bike (3)

We left on the 3rd bike leg at around 8:30 on Saturday night.  Jason was now racing with us, which was a lot of fun.  This was going to be a fairly easy, yet long bike leg.  After finding a few more CP's, it ended up taking us about 4 hours.

Although the riding was easy, this is about the time in a long race when the sleepmonsters start crawling in.  Each one of us starts getting to the point were keeping our eyes open is just hard.  Hallucinations begin and anything and everything is funny.  It's a very interesting state of mind to experience.  As Jason put it sometime in the middle of the night, "I've never done acid, but I expect it would feel a lot like we feel right now."  It's during this time that team dynamics become critical.  We have to keep each other talking and entertained.  Basically keep each other doing anything that will keep your mind off how tired we are.  So we talk.  About anything and everything.  we make jokes, some which makes absolutely no sense, but we laugh anyway.  We even start telling each other about our hallucinations and we each other is 'seeing'.  At one point, I could see my legs breathing.  Yeah, try to make sense of that one.

Anyway, after a long 4 hours, we finally made it to TA6.  And then the race really began for us.

Time Constraints

When we arrived at TA6 we were told that we had to be at the ropes section by 8:00am in order to stay on the long course.  The ropes section was about 3.5 miles into the next trekking leg.  So basically it came down to this.  We had to paddle about 30 miles down the Suwannee River in about 6 hours.  That would put us at TA8 by 7:00am.  Then we would have 1 hour to run, yes run, 3.5 miles to the ropes section, and we had to pick up 1 CP along the way.

So as tired as we were, we had no time to waste.  We changed into our paddling gear and in less than 40 minutes, at about 12:45am, we were in the river.

The Paddle (2)

Paddling at night is fun, but also scary.  It's hard to see and in a rive with a lot of turns and a lot of debris, you are constantly having to pay attention so as to not run over logs or rocks that can tear a fiberglass kayak in two.

For us it was slow going at first.  Again we were incredibly tired and we tried to keep each other talking and keep our minds away from thinking about sleep.  I wish I could remember some of the stuff we talked about, but then again probably none of it would make any sense right now.

From what little we could see, the river was beautiful.  Lots of rock formations on the shores and a nice tree canopy most of the way.  We sang, we talked about farts, sex, music, racing, food, etc.  And we got more and more tired with each passing minute.

But at around 5:00am we could start to see the night sky fading away.  We knew that if we just pushed a little farther, the sun would be out soon.  And sure enough, by around 5:30ish the sun started shining through and to us it was like crack.  Just like that we were completely awake again.  It amazing how sunshine affect you that way.  From 5:30 on we paddle our asses off.  We [b]HAD TO[/b] make it to make it to TA7 before 7:00am so we could change and run the 3.5 miles to the ropes before 8:00am.  We had to.

So we paddle hard and fast and we finally arrived at TA7 at 6:42am.

To make matters worse, our support crew did not expect us there so quickly, so they were not ready for us.  They were all sleeping and we could not find them.  We were running around like crazy trying to get all our trekking gear and food supply ready.  It was total chaos!  But we rushed and rushed and finally left TA7 on foot at 7:05am.  And now the fun began.

The Trek (3) - Run Forrest Run!!

And so we ran.  Now over 48 hours into the race and with just about 40 minutes of sleep, and we ran our asses off.  Running right along side the Suwannee River, never stopping.  There was one CP we had to find before getting to the ropes section, and it proved to be a bitch!

CP7 was on a tree overhanging the river and finding it was hard.  Jason and I decided to look for it while the others continued running.  It was here that Jason hurt himself.

We were standing on the edge of the river on a rocky terrain.  J asked me to hold something for him and as he reached out for me he slipped on the rocks, fell on his chest and slipped about 4 feet down into the river.  He hit hard!  I thought for sure he had broke something.  He got back out of the river and he had a nasty, nasty cut on his right chin on his leg.  It was bleeding badly.  But this was not time to be concerned with such things.  He brushed it off like it was nothing and we continued on.  We finally found CP7 and continued running madly towards CP8 (the ropes).

I felt pretty good at this point so I took off running like a bat out of hell.  We quickly caught back up with our group and I continued on.  Running faster than I think I ever have before, even though I was carrying a backpack with about 25 pounds of gear on my back.

I got to CP8 barely able to breath.  I asked the volunteer in charge, "did we make it?'  And he said, "yeap, it's 7:59."  We were still on the full course.  Then I blacked out for a few minutes.  =)

At the ropes section we were able to rest for a little bit because there was a team in front of us, and only one person could get on the line at a time.

We had two ropes sections.  We had to traverse the Suwannee River, then trek up the river about 3 miles, then traverse it again.  It was kinda cool.  I have some pictures of it I will post later.

After the ropes we had another 8 - 10 mile trek where we had to find 3 more CP's.  Again, it was during the hottest part of the day so it was miserable.  We were all still so tired and now after working so hard to get to the ropes, we were really hurting.  But we had no time to waste.  We had other time cut off and we couldn't miss them.

Jason and I worked together in navigating and find the next 3 CP's.  And finally, at around 4ish Sunday afternoon we arrived at TA8.

Again, we had no time to sit around and rest.  We were told that we had to leave TA8 by 5:00pm.  Also we had to arrive at TA9, and be off on our bikes by 9:00pm.  So we had to rush.  We were so damn tire we almost considered just giving up and taking the short course option, but we knew better than that.  We had worked hard and with a little more hard work we could stay on course.  Plus that this point, there were only 5 teams on the full course and two of them were us.

So again we moved fast and got out of TA9 quick.

The Paddle (3)

We freaking HAMMERED the paddle!!  We finished it in 3.5 hours, about 40 minutes faster than the closest team.  The fastest time split for that section!!

We reached TA9 at 8somethingish and had just a few minutes to rest and change as we had to leave there by 9:00pm.

We left on our bikes at 8:52pm.

The Bike (4)

Now over two and half days into the race, with very little rest and just about 45 minutes of sleep, we started the last biking leg of the race.

We had just 4 CP's to find, but there were not going to be easy.  The first one, CP25, started out to be a bitch.  It was in the middle of nowhere and getting to it seemed impossible.  But after trying to find it for about an hour, Jason found another way to approach it.  And wouldn't you know it, we found a couple fire roads that led us right to it!  It was a huge find for us! And got us all pumped up.

Finding CP25 however proved to be hard.  So much so in fact that we made a tough decision and decided to skip it.  We were tired and still had to bike about 25 miles before reaching TA10, and then we had one more paddle before the finish.  So we decided to skip CP's 26, 27, and 28 and just head straight to the TA.  The way we figured it.  We had more CP's than most teams so we should still be in pretty good standing.  And Jason knew he had his race locked.  Out of the three Solo teams, one had dropped out and the other one was on the short course, so J had 1st place locked.  He just had to make it to the finish line.

The ride to TA10 was slow moving.  We actually stopped twice and slept for about 30 minutes because it was getting dangerous for us to ride without causing a crash.  Plus now that we had decided to skip those last 3 CP's we knew we had plenty of time.

Once again on Monday morning around 5am it started getting light out again, so it was like a boost of energy.  Now a full 72 hours into the race, we arrived at TA10 by around 7:15am, and by 7:45am, we were off on the last leg to the finish line!

The Paddle (4) - The Finish!!

The last paddle was about 12 miles down the Steinhatchee River.  Simple and easy paddle in a very calm river, but we were all so tired that it was really slow moving.  We helped each other once again and kept each other moving, knowing than in a couple short hours we'd be finally done.

At 10:40am on Monday morning we finally reached our destination.  The finish line!!  We had started in St. Augustine in what seemed like a lifetime ago, and had arrived in the West coast 76 hours later.

We ate and drank a well deserved cold beer as soon as we got out of the boats!

About 2 hours later the awards ceremony began.

Hoof Hearted (Jason) and Nature Calls (us) were in the top 5 teams.  We were two out of the only 5 teams that had made the full course.  As expected, Jason had taken 1st place in the solo category.  KICK ASS!!!  We ended up in 3rd place in the Coed Elite division!!!  The 2nd place team had just as many CP's and points as we did, but they had made it to the finish line about an hour before we did.

I was so damn excited!!  In the previous three C2C's I've done I have never finished the full course.  The first attempt we bailed after 52 hours of racing, and the next two attempts we finished on the short course.  But not this time.  This time not only did I finish the full course, but I felt better than I ever had before.

So all in all it was an amazing experience.  The course was excellent and the race was fun.  But the best part was my teammates.

The Support Crew

I can't say enough about our support crew.  Erica, Orion, Ashley, Maggie, and Matt.  These guys were simply incredible.  Imagine giving up your weekend to spend it out chasing us around and taking care of us.  It's not a job I wish on anyone.  Yet these guys were the best I've ever seen.  They never complained and took care off us better than I would have ever expected.  Anytime we arrived at a TA, they were there ready to do and help us out in any way possible.  It is a fact that without the incredible help we got from our support crew we would have never been able to finish the race.  The kept us motivated and going when we felt the worst.  And got us moving at times when we felt like quitting.   So thank you guys!  You rock!!


Finally I want to give thanks to my team.  Jim, Lori, and Charlie were amazing partners!  We worked great together and had excellent team dynamics.  I would race with them across the globe anyday!

And being able to join up and race side by side with Jason made the race that much more fun, entertaining, and better!  Jason still amazes me when it comes to racing.  He is truly the man!  Every time I race with Jason I learn more and more about how to be the best at this sport.  Thanks J!!

Monday, April 16, 2007

The BOAR 6-Hr AR (2007)

Yesterday I raced in The BOAR Adventure Race, a short ~4-hour race out in East Orlando.  It was my first attempt at a solo race since I couldn't get any of my regular peeps to race with me.  But I figured if I am ever gonna do a race solo, this is probably a good one to try first.

The race didn't start until 10:45AM.  After opening our instructions packet the first thing we had to do was to remove the front tire of our bikes and roll them (on the ground) around this dirt road which was about 1/8 mile.  It was mainly done to space out the teams.  After that we jumped on our bikes and took off hauling ass North on the Flagler Trail in Snow Hill.

Team Dirty Fish took off first, followed closely by Jason Willems (another solo), and behind him was Team Jim's Bicycles.  I took off 4th just behind JB.  I quickly caught up to Jim's and they were very nice to let me slip by them on the single track.  Ahead of me I could see Dirty Fish.

The bike sections of this race were unique.  We never used a map to navigate the bike, but rather had to reach specified points where we had to stop, shoot a bearing in some direction and ride to the next point where we had to do the same.  For example, for our first bike leg we had to travel at 0° for 1.7 miles.  From there we had to go .8 miles at 40°, and so on.

By the time we reached the first turn I was with Dirty Fish, and passed them.  Now I was riding on soft sand, and I could see the tire track made by the current leader, Jason Willems.  We continued shooting bearings and taking several trails until we finally reached the bike drop off area.  Jason was still ahead, I arrived in 2nd.

After quickly dropping off the bike I took off on foot towards the bridge at Snow Hill Rd where our boats were waiting.  It was about this time that it started pouring down really, really hard!

I reached the boats just in time to see Jason start his paddle.  I quickly grabbed my solo boat (which was a freaking bathtub).  As I was putting in the water Teams Dirty Fish and Jim's Bicycles got there.  So I quickly got in my boat and started paddling West (upstream) on the Econ River.

The paddle upstream was tough.  Not only was I paddling a bathtub, but the water level on the Econ was low, I was going against the current, and against the wind.  And it was windy!  Plus, I hate paddling.  So it was tough going.  The rain was still pouring down.  So hard in fact that I could barely see because the water kept running down my eyes.

About halfway up the river, Dirty Fish came flying by my like they were using a motor.  Those guys can freaking canoe!  The paddle was long and tough, but I finally reached the TA, just behind Dirty Fish and just ahead of Jim's Bicycles who were right on my butt.

After dropping off the boats, we took off on foot for a somewhat short trekking section with 5 check points.  And it was here that I made two huge navigational mistakes.  For some stupid reason, I skipped CP2 (which was the closest) and went straight to CP3.  I got CP3 and CP4 and then started trekking backs towards CP2.  That was mistake number 1.

Mistake number 2 was on my way to CP2.  I came out on the trail I wanted to be on.  And I knew, I FREAKING KNEW, I had to go West to get to CP2.  So I looked at my compass and started heading West.  Next thing I knew, I ran right into CP5.  CP5?!?  How the hell did I get to CP5??  I was so confused!

So I picked up CP5 and looked at my compass again. Turns out that even though I knew I had to be heading West towards CP2, I was reading my compass and heading East.  Basically, I had a huge brain fart and was reading my compass backwards.  DOH!!!  I again I had to completely backtrack to CP2.  After all that lost time, I finally got it.

I ran as much as I could trying to make up some time.  Along the way I ran into Greg and his son Andrew, Team Super Heroes.  They were moving really well.  At CP6 I ran into Jason who was on his bike.  Turns out that he was a bit confused and wasn't supposed to be there.  But that comes into play later.

Anyway, I finally got back to the bikes with Jim' Bicycles and Super Heroes.  We took off on our bikes again shooting bearing and following the predefined track.  But I had forgotten that if we came to an intersection were the trail split up, we were to follow the 'ping markings' that Kyle had put up for us.  So I once again made a navigational mistake, got on the wrong trail, and by the time I figured it out and back tracked I had lost some some time.  But this was a bike section, my specialty, I can make up time right?!  Wrong!

Kyle had decided to put a really nice bike whacking section which was really tough to get through.  There was no biking.  Just pushing your bike through some real nasty crap.  But I have to admit, it was a lot of fun.

This was the first time I realized how comfortable I felt being out there.  I was out in the middle of some swamp, all by myself, carrying my bike through some thick bush, and I felt totally at home.  In fact, I felt more at home and more comfortable than if I was riding my road bike by myself through Bay Lakes.

Anyway, on the sections I could ride I tried to push hard.  The single track wasn't very technical, just a lot of turns and roots.  I ended up once again catching up to Super Heroes and go back to the boat area just ahead of them.  It was there that I found out that I was running in 3rd.  With Dirty Fish and Jim's Bicycles ahead of us.  This is where I wondered what happened to Jason Willems.

So now we got back on the boats and had to paddle back to where we picked them up earlier that morning.  But this paddle was much easier.  It was now downstream and most of the way with a really nice tailwind.

After dropping of the boat we got back on foot for another trekking section.  This time we had to go back to CP6 (where I had seen Jason) and find a few more check points before making our way back to our bikes.  At CP5 I once again ran into Greg and Team Super Heroes.  And shortly after that I saw Jason (another solo) coming up on us.  But it turns out that Jason had missed CP5 and had to go back to it.  Phew!

So I took the opportunity and ran as hard as my legs would let me all the way back to the bikes! I knew if I could only get on the bike ahead of Jason, I could probably hold him off.  And I did.

The last bike leg was basically an easy ~5mile ride to the finish line.  I pushed hard and tried to make up time on the guys ahead, while opening a gap on Jason.

So I reached the finish line in 3rd overall, 1st solo.  But I was not done yet.  I was given a GPS unit, two sets of coordinates, and was told I had to go find two geochaches that were located near those coordinates.  Found the first one pretty easily.  The second one was a bit harder.  Team Dirty Fish was still there looking for it.  So the three of us worked together.  After searching for a few minutes, I found it cleverly hidden behind a tree, underneath a boardwalk.  That has Dr. Ron written all over it!  =)

So Dirty Fish and I ran back to the finish together, finally finishing the race!

Jason was just behind us.  And I think Figjam was the 5th team in.

In my opinion, Kyle did an awesome job!  The course was excellent, well marked (unless you are an idiot like me), and lots of fun.  The bike whack and the trek were great!

And as always, it was fun getting to race with all the AR friends I've made over the years.  Jim's Bicycles, Figjam, Dirty Fish, Greg Owens, Jason, etc.

I really enjoyed the solo race.  I thought I might feel a bit lost out there all by myself, but I never did.  As I said before, I felt so comfortable, it was a great feeling!  Of course, I am sure it would be a totally different experience racing solo on a night race.  Someday I'll find out.

See you guys at the Coast to Coast!!!  :)

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Swamp Stomp 30-Hr AR (2007)

Before this weekend, I had competed in the Swamp Stomp AR two times.  The first time the temperatures were in the 30's and it was raining all day.  Our team wasn't properly prepared for that kinda weather, and we were forced to drop out.  The second time I started the race sick, and since the race was again on a very cold day, I had a very hard time.  And sometime during the night, with uncontrollable shivering, I had to drop out while my team continued unofficially.  So I was 0-2 on this race.  I wanted to change that.

This year I went into this race in what I feel is the best shape of my life.  I trained my ass of trying to stay in shape to at least finish this race.  And Friday afternoon I felt pretty good about our chances.

This is going to be a short report.  I could go into all sorts of detail about where we found some of the CP's and what we had to do to get there, but I am sure you just want to get a quick recap.  So here you go...

Race Morning

We all woke up around 5:30AM on Saturday morning.  The temperature in Bushnell was around 25°F that morning.  It was incredibly cold.  Ralph and I (Team Hoof Hearted) got ready and after picking up some Dunkin Donuts, headed to Waffle House to meet up with Jason, Brent, and Jim & Lori Gabbert (Team Nature Calls).  We had a nice breakfast and some good laughs, and then headed to the race start location at Nobleton Canoe Outpost.

After getting ready and listening to last minute instructions at the pre-race meeting, we got into our canoes, lined up in the water, and at 8:06AM, began the awesome 30 hour adventure that awaited us.

The Paddle

The paddle start was like a NASCAR race: "Rubbing's racing!"  We had boats banging into each other, which in turn makes other boats veer left or right, which hit other boats, etc.  It was chaos.  We fought our way through the craziness trying to get a clear path.  After about 1 mile things started settling down.  The pack started thinning out and Ralph and I found ourselves running about halfway, with our good friends from Nature Calls right next us.

I told Ralph that we didn't have much of a chance of hanging with Nature Calls, as they are excellent paddlers, but we worked hard trying to do so anyway. I figured it'd be fun to race with our friends.

The paddle was 22 miles long up to the transition area.  Along the way we had to pick up 5 mandatory checkpoints (CP) and we had the option of picking up 8 bonus points (BP).  We picked up all the CP's and 6 BP's.  At one of the BP's we had to split up the teams. Half of the team had to run a few miles up river, while the other half had to paddle there.  This meant that I had to paddle the boat solo for a few miles, against a brutal headwind.  That really sucked.  But I was paddling besides Jim and Lori who were towing an empty canoe, and they kept me motivated the whole way.

But we all did very well.  And sometime in the late afternoon, we finished the paddle, right next to Nature Calls.

The Ropes

After portaging the boats for about 1 mile to the transition area (TA), we changed out of our wet clothes and got ready for a long bike ride through the upcoming cold night.

The first CP was a ropes challenge which was one of the coolest we've ever done.  It was a huge wall we had to climb up one side, and rappel down the other side.  It was a freaking blast!!

The Bike (1)

Most of the first bike leg was through a place called Half Moon.  It was a combination of hard packed roads, soft sand roads, and one long ass old railroad grade which was sometimes ok to ride and other times so cluttered that you had to walk your bike.  Plus it was during this section that it started pouring down on us.  It was already cold as hell, and now we had a downpour to deal with.  But we all broke out our rain gear and kept on pushing.

We did pretty well on this bike leg.  We experienced a couple minor mechanical issues with a few of our bikes, but we worked together and fixed them quickly.  And so far we were still having a great time.  Laughing, joking, farting, you name it.

At Half Moon we had just 8 CP's to get, but had the option of getting 10 BP's.  We ended up with all CP's and 6 of the BP's.

The Trek

After a long bike leg for most of the night we arrived at Potts Preserve for the trekking section.  It was around 4:00AM when we set off on foot trying to locate 4 CP's, with the option of getting 8 BP's.

The trek was long and tough.  The navigation was not easy as most points were not right on a trail, but rather off in the woods somewhere.  So good navigation was critical.  We trekked for the last few remaining hours of night time, and when the sun came out it was like a burst of energy.  All of the sudden we all felt awake and ready to go.  We managed to get out with all the CP's and one BP.  At this point we were fighting the clock (had to be at the finish line no later than 2:00PM, so we couldn't afford to lose much time.  So we made it back to the TA, changed, headed off towards the finish line.

The Bike (2)

The last leg of the race was a long bike leg (2 CP's), with 75% of it on the Withlacoochee Rail Trail (paved).  As you would expect, we hammered this section.  We rode nonstop keeping an average of about 16mph and passing about 7-8 teams along the way.  Yeah, I know 16mph sounds slow for most of you, but try doing with with no sleep for 30 hours after racing all night long, and on a mountain bike.  we were all tired and hungry, but we pushed as fast.

The Finish

We hung around for a while after the finish to find out how we did.  Ralph and I thought we had done ok, maybe top 5 in our division, but we just wanted to find out.  But it was a huge surprise when we were announced as the 1st place 2-person male winners!

I was incredibly happy.  Not only had I gotten the Swamp Stomp monkey off my back, but we'd done it in style.   :D

But most important of all, I truly want to thank Ralph, Jason, Brent, Jim and Lori for making this race so awesome.  It wouldn't have been near as fun without those guys.  The 6 of us kept each other in great spirits helping each other out and just plain old having a good time.  Thank you guys sooooo much!!