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!!