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!!