Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Turkey Burn 12-Hr AR (2008)

The 6th Annual Turkey Burn Adventure Race started at 4:00am on a very, very cold Saturday morning.  Me and the rest of our team got there around 1:00am. We got our gear ready, set up our small transition area, and picked up our maps at 2:30am.

That entire time, we were freezing.  It was nasty cold out.  As we were working on our maps, I could barely feel like fingers.  And my toes were going numb.  Once we finished the maps, around 3:15am, we all went and sat down by the fire they had going to thaw out a bit.

Anyway, at exactly 4:02am, we were off!  And here is how the next 12-hours went.....

The Run (part 1)

The race started with a nice quick run set to split up the teams a little bit.  It was a 1 mile run down the trail to CP1, and then back to the TA.  We ran and easy pace, but still managed to be one of the first teams back at TA.

The Bike (part 1)

After returning to the TA, we picked up our bikes and set off on what would be a very cold, and very fun bike ride.  This section really put a hurt on some teams, and set the pace for the rest of the race.

We started by heading down the same trail to collect CP2.  Very easy to find.  From CP2 we took a trail heading south down to CP3.  Again, fairly easy to find.  So far, great race.  We were moving at a pretty decent pace.  The cold was getting to us though.  The wind was brutal as we rode.  But at least the trails were in good condition.  From CP3 we took another trail, this time heading NW following a fence line up to CP4.  near CP4 the trail got pretty bad, so we had to do some bushwhacking to find the flag.  But again, not to hard.  So far we had managed to stay fairly dry.  but that would all change rather quickly.  After leaving CP4 we headed back SW on the trail and tok another few trails heading in a northerly directions, which would lead us to CP5.  This is where the race started getting hard.

The trails leading to CP5  were in awful conditions.  Most were uunder water, and very, very muddy.  Making a good portion of them completely unrideable.  We got wet as we pushed our bikes through waist deep water.  And even when there was no water, there was plenty of nasty, sticky, shoe eating mud.  Our bikes were completely caked up in it.  But we did great and quite easily found CP5, which we heard later gave a lot of teams a hard time.  From CP5 it was an easy stroll back up to the TA to start our next run/paddle section.

The Trek (part 2)

We left the TA and headed off on foot (carrying our kayak paddles) headed towards the river.  Trek was pretty interesting.  Basically we followed a small creek that ran straight east.  It was basically a bushwhack the entire way.  There was also one CP on the way.  Along the trail, as you will see on the map below, there were two water crossings.  Here, the race organizers had a couple canoes with ropes.  We had to pull the rope to get the canoes to our side of the water, get in them, and paddle to the other side.  Interesting.  But this is also where we got a great laugh!

On the first crossing, as we got to the other side, Ralph and Greg flipped their boat over!  The water was freezing cold and they were in to their chest!  I wish I had a picture of their faces as they were going in.  Classic!!  Anyway, it was a longer trek than I expected, but after a little while, we finally made it to our boats where we would start the one and only paddle section of the race.

The Paddle (part 1)

The paddle turned out to be the toughest part of the race.  Much harder than even the race organizers expected.  And most importantly, the navigation on the river was tough.  There were lots of turns and lots of little creeks and canals everywhere!  One single wrong turn, one lapse in navigation, and you'd be screwed.

We started by paddling to CP7.  Easy enough.  From there we had a choice to paddle back to the main river, or bushwack (with our canoes) through to the river and CP8.  We decided to bushwack.  It was tough, but it paid off and saved us significant time.  We came out right in front of CP8.  From CP8, it was basically follow the river and veer off into Black Creek.  Then follow Black Creek all the way to CP9 and finally the end of the paddle.

The water level on the river had dropped 3-4 in. since they had scouted the course.  So once we hit Black Creek our paddling came to a halt.  For the next 3 hours, paddling consisted of paddling inside the boats for about 30 seconds, running into a log in the middle of the water, get out of the boat and onto the log, pull the canoes over the log while trying to keep your balance, get back in the boat, and start paddling again, only to do the same thing 30 seconds later.  At first it was ok.  But after one hour of the same shit, it started to get real old.  Very, very exhausting.  Pulling those boats over the logs became a back breaker.  But in the end, after more than 5 hours of paddling, we found CP9 and shortly thereafter the end of the paddle at TA2.  Finishing that paddle was the best part of the race for me.  I was beat!!

The Trek (part 3)

After getting done with that paddle, it was a welcomed thing to get on our feet for another trekking section.  But now we had some choices to make...

The Turkey Burn is a rogaine style race.  In other words, there are mandatory checkpoints and a mandatory finish time.  We finished the paddle around 12:15pm.  So we had only 3:45 before we had to finish the race.  We still had a long trekking section, a long biking section, and one final trekking section, before the end of the race.  Luckily, there were only two mandatory checkpoints left to get.  One was on this trek section, and one was on the next bike section.  So we all took a few minutes to come up with a plan.  We decided to get the mandatory point on the trek and then head back towards the TA, skipping all but one of the rest of the trekking points.  We wanted to get back to TA by 2:00pm so that we could have two hours left for the biking section.

So we left TA2 and headed off towards the mandatory point, CP11.  We kept a nice easy jog.  Just enough to keep us moving and a decent pace.  We were all tired, but everyone was in a good mood.  From CP11 we went to get CP21, thereby skipping CP 12-20.  And then we headed back to the TA to start the last biking section.  We timed it perfectly, getting to the TA around 1:50pm.

The Bike (part 2)

We left the TA around 2:05pm.  We had exactly 1:55 to go out and collect as many points as we could, and make it back to the finish before 4:0pm.  We had already decided we would not be doing the last trekking section.  it was only two points, and nobody would be able to go get them anyway.  So we were going to spend every minute before 4:00pm getting bike points.  We went at it hard!

This bike section was pretty good.  One section of soft sand, but other than that, pretty good trails.  We were told in lieu of going to mandatory CP29, we should go to CP11 again instead.  We rode pretty fast and found all the checkpoints without problems.  We saw lots of teams out there.  Especially all the short race (the 4-hour Turkey Burn race) teams.  They all looked so fresh!  :)  Anyway, we did really good.  And planned it almost perfectly.  When we picked up CP25, we turned around and headed to the finish line the same exact way.  At first I thought we would be leaving sometime on the table and get back to the finish line too early, but with about 2 miles to go, our decision paid off.

With just two miles to go, Ralph's chain snapped right off!  So we broke out the tow rope, and I towed Ralph while Greg and Lori were both behind him pushing him.  Even doing this we passed a few teams on the way to the finish line.  :)

The Finish

We finished the race in 2nd place overall.  First place went to a team called Shake a Leg from Miami.  They were a 2-person coed team.  In other words, and much to our excitement, we won the 4-person Elite division and defended our title from last year!

We were very happy with our race.  We kept a great pace all day.  We made some good navigational decisions which in the end paid off.  And the entire team, all four of us, had a great day!  As is always the case with our team, we had some good laughs (especially thanks to Ralph and Greg) and most importantly, we had a lot of fun!  And in the end that is all we care about.  It's great to win, I won't lie, but I would hate to race with other people, for whom winning is everything.  We do it all just for fun.

So thanks to my team; Lori, Greg and Ralph.  Awesome time guys!!  You all rock!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Leadville Trail 100 MTB Race (2008)

Tough day out there yesterday...

In the end it ended like this:

- BB2: 11:20
- Jason: 11:54
- JG: 12:40
- Manny: 13:04

I tried my hardest.  I did.  I really wanted that buckle, but again, it just wasn't my day.  From the beginning my fire calf was killing me.  I kept popping advil all day, but it did little to alleviate the pain.  I pushed through it but kept having to slow down or stop to alleviate the pain some.  The incredibly hard bike pushing up Columbine and Powerline did not help the cause.  Then on the way back from Twin Lakes a bad storm hit in Leadville, the way we were headed.  So for most of the way back (the last 40 miles) we were fighting cold rain, but worst, 20+ mph winds right on our face.  You think wind is tough on the road, wait till you have to deal with is off-road with a 25lbs bike.  Those of you who know me know my struggles with the wind.  If not for that wind, I would have definitely made it in under 13.  But 12 hours was already out of my reach.  Anyway, enough for the excuses.  In the end I just didn't have it.  And knowing what I know now, I don't know if I could ever have it.  I trained as well as I think I can train for this race, and still failed.  Yeah, there was not much I could do about the fire calf, but even without that problem this would have been a very tough race for me.

Having actually finished the entire 100 miles this time, I have to reiterate that this is the hardest race I have ever done. Several times during the race people commented on my M-Dot tatoo.  It was probably 15 different people.  And probably 10 of them asked me the same thing, which race did I think was harder, Leadville or Ironman.  Each time I answered them the same, Leadville is 10 times harder.  I told one guy I would rather do am ultra-Ironman (double the distances) than do Leadville.

The climbing on this race is just simply hard.  There's 12,000 feet of climbing, about 2000 of them on paved roads, but the other 10,000 on trails.  On some very tough trails.  The climbing up Columbine is so tough.  Not only is it a steep climb, but then you are going from about 9500 feet to 13000 feet, so with each pedal stroke it gets harder to breath.  Then as I have previously said, there is the two miles at the top of Columbine of bike pushing.  Then there's the [s]climbing[/s] bike pushing up the 3-miles of Powerline, which are just soul sucking (around the 80 mile mark).  I almost think I would rather do Columbine twice, than have to push my bike up Powerline at that point.

One thing I do have to admit, the descents on the ride almost make the pain and misery worth it.  You mountain bikers in the crowd will understand.  The descent as just plain fun!  It starts with the long technical descent down Powerline.  I was a lot more confident this year than last, and I was hammering it.  It was so cool!  It helps when you have a bike than can handle the terrain well.  Then there's the descent from Columbine.  Man is that shit fun!  45 minutes of pure downhill ecstasy.  Truly a blast.  Again this year I was a lot more confident than last, so I was zooming and passing lots of people on the downhill.  On the way back into town you hit another two long and technical descents.  One on the backside of Powerline, which funny enough is called Sugarloaf.  Go figure.  And another on the way into town.  Both of them are very rocky.  Lots of loose rocks on the trail.  So it's fun hammering down and having to keep your eye 20 feet in front of you picking the best line to avoid a serious crash.  Like I said, the descents alone would be enough to get me to do this race again.

So anyway, I was just past the 90 mile mark when the 12-hour time limit hit.  I was disappointed, but at least I wanted to finish the whole thing.  But those last 10 miles are no picnic.  There is some rocky climbing near the beginning, then the last long descent into town.  Then once in town, there is another 6 miles of trail riding with one long climb of about 3 miles.  Not steep at all, more like a false flat.  Just a nice steady climb, which after 95 miles is enough to make you want to kill someone, or yourself.  Once you get off that trail there is just 0.5 miles left on a paved road, all uphill of course.  I hit the 13-hour mark just before hitting that paved road.  :(

Will I be back?  I don't know.  I really want that buckle, but I just don't know if I have it in me.  I feel better that I completed the entire thing this year.  That might be enough to satisfy me for now.

Congrats to BB2 who completed the race despite having serious technical issues with his bike the entire day!  Congrats to Jason for just leaving it all on the line and making it just under that coveted 12-hour mark.  Awesome job J!  And congrats to JG (Jim Gabbert) who on his first attempt at the race did great and finished it in 12:40.

Thanks also to Taylor and Martha (Dudley) and Wendy Chioji for coming out to watch and also support us.  It was nice seeing you guys!

And of course, a huge thanks to our wonderful and lovely support crew which was just fantastic!  Alli, Erica, Lori, Nikki, Ashley, and Matt.  Truly the best there is.  Not only did they take great care of us, the girls were massaging my fire calf at each stop to help with the pain.  They were awesome encouraging us and supporting us the entire day!  You guys rock!

P.S. - We have some good pics of the race, and some great pics of Lance.  I will post them later on.

P.P.S. - At least now I can say I have raced against Lance Armstrong. Not many people can say that. :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Coast to Coast 72-Hr AR (2008)

Another year and another excellent and tough C2C race is down in the books.  This was my 5th C2C in a row, and even tough what you are about to read will make most people wonder why anyone in their right mind would put themselves through this, I am pretty sure I will be doing many, many more.

This year I was back racing with my great friends Jason Amadori, Jim Gabbert, and Lori Gabbert.  I don't even know if calling them friends is fair, because in reality, they are like family.  As most of you know, we are Team Nature Calls.  And our awesome support crew was my girl Alli, Jason's wife (and the Gabbert's daughter) Erica, and Jim and Lori's other kid's, Ashley, Matt, and a friend of the family, Maggie.  Once again, they were amazing out there for us.

Pre Race

I won't bore you with all the pre-race details.  We got the maps on Thursday night and spent several hours plotting all the coordinates and figuring out what route we would take.  But I will bore you with one important detail.  Monday morning I woke up with a scratchy throat.  I was hoping it was nothing.  Tuesday it was a little worse, and by Tuesday night it totally hurt.  I called in sick to work on Wednesday because I wanted to stay home and try to take care of whatever it was that I may be coming down with.  it didn't help.  Thursday I felt no better.  And wouldn't you know it, that it was when we woke up Friday morning (race start) that I had a full blown cold on my hands.  I woke up feeling like total garbage, just in time to start a brutal 72-hour race.  Perfect.  But what could I do right?  As Jason has taught me, the race must go on.

The Race Start - Run / Paddle

The race started at 6:00am on Friday morning in Cocoa Beach.  We had a quick 5 mile run, south on the beach, to a boat ramp where we would pick up our kayaks.  The run was easy, but right away we realized how hot the race would be.  Even at 6:00am it was humid as all hell out there.  We were drenched in sweat within minutes.

I just about 1 hour we reached the boat ramp, quickly jumped in our kayaks, and headed north on the Banana River for a ~17 mile paddle.  We paddled north to a checkpoint at the bridge at 520.  Then continued north, under 528, and then headed east on a canal to the Intracoastal and back south to 520, where our second transition area, TA2, was located.  The paddle was fairly easy, but then again, it was the start of the race and we were all fresh and full of energy.

The Cold

So far my cold was mainly just giving me a really bad cough.  My throat hurt pretty bad, and I was coughing a lot.  But other than that I felt alright.  That wouldn't last long.

The Bike (1)

After we got the maps on Thursday night we knew there was going to be a lot of biking on this race.  And as cycling is our strongest point, we liked it.  In the end we ended up with about 190 miles of total mountain biking for the race.

At TA2 we transitioned from paddle to bike.  it was a fairly fast TA for us.  In and out in about 20 minutes.  We were the 4th team to make it to the TA, but the first one to leave.

This bike was going to be a good combination of on and off road riding.  We started by heading Northwest on SR 520 from Cocoa Beach.  We would ride 520 all the way until we reached the Tosohatche Reserve near Christmas, FL.  We got in a nice paceline and Jason and Jim rotated at the front, maintaining a nice comfortable 16-18 mph.  As per Jason's suggestion, I stayed off the front to save my energy because he knew the cold would eventually drain me and I had to save all I could.  On the way down 520 Lori got a flat tire.  We stopped right on the bridge over the St. Johns River to change it.  As we were changing it we were passed by two teams.  After we got going again it took us about 10 minutes to catch and pass both teams.

We made it to Tosohatche where we were now going off road to find several checkpoints out on the trails.  It was now the middle of the day, and the sun was scorching hot!  Riding in the trails there was very little shade, and absolutely no breeze.  So it got hot.  it was like an oven in there.  And that's where my cold and my weakened body first affected me.  I had a hard time breathing and I felt so hot.  Jim took my pack from me which helped cool me down.  And later on Jason towed me.  If not for everyone's help I don't know if I could have made it.  But after several hours of riding around the trails looking for CP's, we finally made it out and found a convenience store on Hwy 50 were we loaded up with cold drinks and lots of ice.  I think we went through two bags of ice at the store!

The Storm

From the store on HWY50 we had to ride east on 50 to Ft. Christmas Rd.  Then head North on Ft. Christmas and make our way to 419 and finally to Snow Hill Rd on our way to TA3 which was actually located at the Snow Hill trail head.

As we were headed up Ft. Christmas Rd, a bad storm started heading our way.  The wind picked up and the temps dropped.  Halfway down the road, the rain started.  It got worse and worse, and the wind was incredible.  One time the wind literally pushed Lori and I right off the road.  We rode through it for a few more minutes, but at one time it got so bad that, and I am not exaggerating about this, I was blinded by the rain coming down so hard.  And to make matters worse, the wind suddenly seemed to be coming at us from all directions at 30+mph.  That's when we immediately got off the road, threw our bikes down, and jumped in the bushes on the side of the road.  We thought for a second that maybe a tornado was nearby.  It was those kind of conditions.  After about 10 minutes of hunkering down in the bushes the wind and the rain slowed down, so we jumped back on our bikes and headed to Snow Hill.

The Trek (1)

At Snow Hill we found ourselves leading the race.  So we again quickly ate and changed into our trekking gear as we had a fairly long foot section ahead of us through the Little Big Econ State Forest.  We had several CP's to find.  But luckily for us it was still daylight so we didn't have any problems getting them.  I was still hurting and couldn't trek as fast as the other guys, so Lori, bad ass that she is, pulled out the tow rope and towed me almost the entire section.  She's a monster.

After exiting LBE, we had some urban trekking through Oviedo and finally a trek down the Cross Seminole trail to TA4 at the Adventure Cycles bike shop.

At the TA we ate and changed.  And this is when we saw Team Adventure World, Dr Ron Eaglin's team come in just behind us.  we learned that unfortunately they had lost two team mates due to heat exhaustion.  That really sucks.  Especially for some as nice as Dr. Ron.  You will never find a nicer guy in any sport, ever.  But this meant that our main competition in the race was now 'unranked'.  So it would take some pressure off us.

Just as we were ready to take off (on bikes), a huge storm blew in.  Lightning was hitting all around us.  Bad, bad lightning!  So we were forced to sit around for about 20 minutes until it blew over.

The Bike (2)

The second bike leg was going to be a very cool and very neat 'urban' ride.  We would ride through Oviedo and Altamonte Springs.  First making our way to the Travel Country Outdoors store where there was a manned checkpoint.  From there we would continue on bike through neighborhoods up to the Wekiva area where we would finally end up on Wekiva Springs Rd just on the southern tip of the Wekiva Springs State Park.  It was still raining a little so it was nice and cool.

We got to TA5 right at midnight.  Friday was now over, but Saturday would prove to be another very hard day.

The Swamp

From TA5 we had to head north through a swamp to find 3 out of our next 8 checkpoints in Wekiva.  There was one point right in the middle of the swamp, about 500 yards from the start.  There was no point of reference or anything we could use to navigate to it.  We had to use true navigating skills and keep a constant bearing in the direction of the point, hoping we would find it.  And wouldn't you know it, we found it!  From here it was going to be a 2 mile bushwhack through the swamp to get out on to some trails on the north side of it.

I know I have told you guys about bushwhacking before.  I have told you how tough it is.  But this bushwhack was unreal.  I am just going to copy and paste exactly what Dr Ron already posted in his blog because he describes it perfectly....
For anyone who has never bushwhacked their way through a thick swamp in the dark, you have no frame of reference and cannot possibly understand what thing is like. Issue #1 – spiders and bugs. Swamps are full of them and they want nothing more than to sting or bite you. Every step entailed knocking down a few webs. Issue #2 – the terrain. This involved endless climbing over fallen trees, bashing through palmettos, crawling over and under trees, and fighting sticker bushes. Issue #3 – Direction. Without constantly checking the compass it is easy to simply do circles. It really does all look alike and it is very easy to get confused.
This was truly a tough bushwhack.  The swamp was wet from the previous rain and so it was muddy and wet.  Every step was climbing over some log or tree, or going under one.  Whenever we hit a section where we could walk three straight steps without and obstacle, it was a luxury.  We did this for about three hours before finally making out to an old logging road which eventually led us to the jeep trail we were looking for, and out of the swamp.

The swamp was just the start.  After getting out of there we still had 7 other points to find through Wekiva and Rock Springs.  We trekked all through the night and into the morning.  Most of the SP's were fairly easy to find, except SP7.  SP7 was very tough.  We searched for a while with no luck.  Finally we decided to go back to and try again, when we ran into Dr Ron who had just found it.  He helped us out and after nearly an hour of searching for it, we finally got it and moved on.  SP8 was a piece of cake.  So all that was left now was a hot trek down Wekiva River Rd, to SR46, and east to Wekiva Park Dr where we would finally get off our feet and jump back into the boats.

So after 11:30 hours of trekking throughout the night and morning, we finally made it to TA6 sometime on Saturday morning.

During the trek and the bushwhack, our feet were pretty much wet the entire time, and I got some pretty bad blisters.  The last half of the trek was pretty painful, but I pushed on as there was nothing I could do about it until I reached the TA.  But man did they hurt!  Luckily we would now be on the boats for a few hours were I would be off my feet and could let them rest.

The Standings

At TA6 we learned that only us, Dr Ron's team, and a solo racer did the brutal trek and we still on the full race course.  All other teams had skipped around the trek and got put on a shorter course.  But we also learned that only us and Dr Ron picked up all the SP's.  The solo racer (Colin, very cool guy) skipped around them and went straight to the TA.  So, since we knew Dr Ron's team was unranked, and Colin had just skipped 8 checkpoints, that this race was now ours to have.  All we had to do now was make it to the finish line before the 6:00am Monday morning cut off, and we would win it.  Even though there was still a lot of race left, it was still a pretty good feeling knowing that we had the race pretty much locked.

The Paddle (2)

This next paddle was a nice and beautiful paddle north on the Wekiva River, hooking up with the St. Johns, then finishing in Blue Springs State Park.  Besides a lot of stupid jet skiers with no regards for kayakers zooming by us, the paddle was very nice and we made it to TA7 at around 3pm on Saturday afternoon.

Blue Springs

At Blue Springs we got our first rest of the race.  We got a new set of maps that needed to be plotted, marked, and laminated.  We spent about 2 hours at BS.  Jason and Lori got the new maps ready.  Alli helped me clean and tape up my blistered feet.  We ate pizza, changed, and rested a bit before finally heading out on our bikes again around 5pm on Saturday afternoon.

The Bike (3)

This next bike section started with a road ride down SR42 heading west.  but we quickly got off the road and headed into some single track trails in an area whose name escapes me.  The trails were not technical, but it was very hilly and sandy.  And this is where we made our first navigational mistake.

The race directions said to take the "Yellow Diamond Trail" and we would come to an intersection were there was a manned station at which we would do a short orienteering course.  And so we followed the Yellow Diamond trail.  All the way until we came out on the other side of it on the powerlines, never finding this manned checkpoint.  Turns out the trail split into two Yellow Diamond trails and we happened to stay on the wrong one.  Not sure how we were supposed to know, but whatever.  We backtracked, losing about two hours worth of time, and finally found the manned point.  At this point we were told that the orienteering course had been canceled and that all teams were supposed to just head straight to the next TA, which was at Moss Bluff.

Heading to Moss Bluff is where we made our second mistake.  At the manned point they had told us to take the Yellow trail north to 445. Then take 445 west to 19.  19 South to 42.  And 42 west all the way to Moss Bluff.  But unfortunately they failed to mention that this was exactly the case.  That route would only put us in the right direction, but we still had to take some other roads to actually reach Moss Bluff.  Our mistake I guess.  We were tired and no thinking right.  So anyway, we kept riding and riding west on 42 forever.  When we finally reached The Villages we knew something was wrong.  We went to a convenience store and pulled out a road map, where we finally saw that we were supposed to have turned off 42 about 10 miles before.  Doh!  So we made our way back and finally reached the next TA at Moss Bluff.  But this whole section, costs us the most time.  What was supposed to take us just a few hours (about 7-8ish), ended up taking us about 14.  Oh well, that's how these races go.  Live and learn.

Anyway, we made it to TA8 at 7:00am.

The Last Paddle

The next leg of the race was going to be our last paddling section north on the Ocklawaha River heading to Silver Springs in Ocala.    The paddle was beautiful again.  And if you have never been to Silver Springs, I suggest you do.  It is a really cool place.  The water down the river from the spring is crystal clear, cold and blue.  Very pretty.  And di you know that back in the 50's they filmed a Tarzan movie there from which a handful of monkey's escaped, and whose relatives are still running loose in the park?  Well, they are there.  Jason saw one.  Funny stuff.

We got to Silver Springs around 1:40pm.  No more paddling for us for the rest of the race!!  Jason and I jumped in the nice clear water at Silver Springs to cool of and get some of the 3-day stink off us.  Not sure if it worked.  :)

The Last Trek

The next leg was going to be our final trek of the race.  We would be leaving Silver Springs and heading on a Southeast, then Southwesterly direction along the Florida Foot Trail looking for several checkpoints along the way.  It was a fairly easy trek and the CP's were easy to find.  We did waste sometime looking for CP18, finally just giving up.  But we found out later that the flag had actually been stolen and wasn't there, so we still got credit for it.  We kept heading down the FFT until we finally reached the Santos MTB trailhead, TA10, at about 7:00pm Sunday evening.

And now, our race was almost over...

The Final Leg - The last Bike

It was just short of 8:00pm when we left on our bikes riding the Santos trails.  We had a couple of checkpoints in Santos.  Some of you might know them.  There are two old and rusted out car shells out in Santos.  Each one of them was a checkpoint.  From there we headed out to Landbridge and further west for more checkpoints.   Now, what we did after Landbridge is hard for me to explain, because frankly, I don't remember.

The Sleepmonsters

For anyone that wants to know what the hardest part of a race like this is, I have your answer... fighting off the sleepmonsters.  In the entire 3 days of racing, I got no more than 1 hour of sleep.  And it sucks.  Sunday night, shortly after leaving the Landbridge area, heading to the rest of the points, I completely lost all sense of what was happening.  I started hallucinating pretty badly.  It's hard for me to write down the kind of things I was seeing.  But for one stretch of riding, I could almost see myself riding my bike, as if I was out of my body.  We were riding down a double wide road, I was riding behind Jason.  And I was moving, going through the motions, pedaling, turning, braking, etc, but I was not doing it consciously.  I finally hit  bump which kinda brought me back.  I told the guys that we had to stop and rest for a bit because I was out of it.

So we got a short break which was just enough to get us moving again and on to our last manned checkpoint at Pruitt Trailhead.

The Finish

From Pruitt all we had was a short 24 mile road ride to the finish.  Take 484 West to 41 South to 488 west to 19 South to the finish line in Crystal River.

Although the ride was a short 24 miles, it was long when you are riding as slow as we were since we were all exhausted.  We reached the finish line at 3:20AM on Monday morning.  We only missed two checkpoints in the entire course.  And one wasn't really our fault.  Dennis (the course director) can attest to that.  :)

We had been racing since Friday at 6:00AM, nearly a full 72 hours.  We got less than 1 hour of actual sleep.  But in the end, we had pulled off the big one, winning the toughest adventure race in Florida.  And we were/are all really happy about that.

Final Thoughts

I can't say enough about our team.  I really believe that we have one of the best and most fun teams in the sport.  As I have already said, we are not just racers that came together to race, we are family.  Jason is one of my best friends, and Jim and Lori (Jason's in-laws) have become like family.  When we are not racing or training together, we are flying out to Colorado to go out skiing together, or we are partying and drinking together, or we are doing something fun somewhere.  My point is, our team dynamics are as good as they can be.  Yeah, we each have our little things, but the rest of us know how to deal with them and race as a strong and competitive team.  And in a race were I was pretty sick, the guys did a great job at helping me anyway they could to keep me moving and keep us racing strong.  Thank you!

And our support crew, Alli, Erica, Ashlee, Matt, Maggie, and LaLa, I couldn't imagine a better crew in the sport.  Not only do they take care of us, but they find a way to make it fun and to make us laugh throughout the entire race.  They simply rock!

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Talon 10-Hr AR (2008)

I went down to Alafia River State Park this past weekend to race the Talon 10-hour adventure race.  Alafia is still one of my favorite MTB park in Florida.  The trails are awesome!

Anyway, my team consisted of my friend Charlie, and a new comer to AR, Linda.  we were a 3-person co-ed team.  Jason and Erica were also racing in a 2-person co-ed team.  As were Erica's parents, and our great friends, Jim and Lori Gabbert.

Anyway, race started with a quick little 1 mile trail run to spread out the teams some.  Then we jumped on our bikes and headed off on the single track trails at Alafia.  We did, in this order, North Creek, River Run, Rock Garden, and Bridges.  There were three points along the way we had to pick up before returning back to TA.

So here's the kicker.  Just before finishing North Creek, about to start River Loop, I noticed something felt wrong with my left pedal.  So I went to clip out and clip back in, when my entire left crank arm came off.  The bolt had gotten lose and it was lost somewhere on the trail behind me.  There was nothing I could do.  So I picked up my crank arm (with the pedal attached) tossed it in my backpack, and proceeded to do the rest of the ride with one leg.  Single track riding, on a mountain bike, with one leg.  The hardest part was having to hold my left leg up the entire time as I had nowhere to rest it.  I did pretty good with one leg.  Even catching up and passing some of the slower people out there.  It was funny because they couldn't believe a guy with one pedal was going faster than them.  :)  Going up hill sucked.  And on most steeper hills I had to put my foot down.

Anyway, we made it back to TA.  My leg hurt, but not too bad.  At the TA we completed the two special tests they had.  One was a short paddle in a pond to pick up 4 check points.  It took us about 15 minutes.  The other was a puzzle.  After completing the two tests, we had to jump back on our bikes and head south on the powerlines to our next couple checkpoints.

With me still riding on one pedal, we took off on our bikes again.  The double-track by the powerlines was grassy so it was easy riding.  We found the next two checkpoints (which required some cool orienteering) and then rode down to the Alafia River where we would go on the first of our two paddling sections.

The first paddling section was the longest and toughest of the two.  We headed north on the River looking for just one checkpoint which was somewhere along the way.  The river, for those of you who have never been there, is tough to paddle on because there are so many logs and trees that are across the river.  You constantly have to duck under trees or completely get out of the boat and portage it around obstacles etc.  It's a pain in the ass.  We were constantly in and out of the water, sometimes in chest deep water having to push our pull our canoe one way or another.  But eventually we found the checkpoint and made our way back through the obstacle course back to the boat TA.

At the boat TA, we switched gears and left on foot on our first trekking section to find three CP's.  The section was fairly short, and the CP's were fun to find.  The race director definitely placed the checkpoints in interesting places.  one of them was at the edge of a lake.  Surrounding it was about 10 feet of mud.  I didn't think anything of it, stepped right in the mud, and proceeded to sink down to my chest in nasty cement like mud which was impossible to get out of.  I had to roll myself out of it and basically crawl to the check point and back.  Fun stuff!

After getting the three points and going back, we got back in the boats and headed south on the river for a quick paddle to our next CP.  This paddle was completely different than the first.  The river was wide and clutter free.  It was actually a very nice paddle.  Took us about 40 minutes before we were back at the boat TA, jumped back on our bikes, and made our way back up the powerlines to the main TA, picking up one more CP along the way.

Back at TA we started second trek section.  This one was much longer.  But also more fun.  We had to orienteer by shooting bearings from point to point.  I love that stuff.  It was all fun and games until we got to the area that had the last four checkpoints.  It was a very small area.  The entire area was maybe 1/2 mile x 1/3 mile.  But it was NASTY!!  It was thick, thick woods and pretty swampy.  But the worst part were the humongous steep hills.  Each of the four points was located at the top of these steep hills which were each at about a 65-70 degree angle.  I am not exaggerating.  They were steep and long!  Going up and down them was actually pretty scary.  We had to take our time because one misstep and you were going to stumble all the way down, hitting god knows what on the way down.

After a little while, we found all the points and ran back to the main TA.  We were now 'officially' done with the race.  We had completed the required course and collected all the mandatory checkpoints.  Now we had the option of heading back out to try and collect as many 'bonus' checkpoint as we could before the time cut off.

This being Linda's first race, all she wanted to do was finish.  So she did not want to go back out.  The race had been pretty tough and she was pretty beat.  But After about 25 minutes Charlie convinced her to go back out so that we could get just one or two bonus points.  So we promised her we would go to the easiest ones and just get one or two then head back.  It was the only way we could get her to go back out there.  Even though I really wanted to go for some of the harder ones which were worth more points.  So we went out, got our two easy ones, and went back to officially finish our race.

Jason and Erica came in shortly after we did.  They had gone after the harder bonus points and it paid off for them.  They finished 1st-place overall!

I had a great time!  The course was excellent and very tough for such a short race.  Now I am all pumped up and ready for next month's Coast to Coast 72-hour race!!!