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!