Monday, November 30, 2009

The Turkey Burn 12-Hr AR (2009)

Going into this year's race we as a team had a different goal in mind than most other races.  Although we wanted to do great on the race as usual, we also wanted to win the Pangea Adventure Race Series.  Out of all the teams that were registered for the race, only four qualified for the Elite Point Series.  Going into the race we (Team Nature Calls [NC]) were ranked in second place in the series, behind Team Shake-a-Leg (SaL).  Close behind us was Team Punch Junkies (PJ), and following them was Team Badfish.

We did several races this year and most came right down to the wire between us, SaL and PJ.  A couple we won.  But in all it always came down to the three of us teams finishing in the first three spots.  And the races were close. One of the races we finished 21 seconds behind the winners (PJ) and just 1 minutes ahead of SaL. So we knew the Turkey Burn would be a tough one.

Somehow, the Turkey Burn Adventure Race always manages to fall on very cold nights, and last weekend did not disappoint.  When we arrived at the start/finish area in Wekiva State Park at 2:00am, it was around 40 degrees.

The Start

The race started at exactly 4:00am with a short 1.5 mile time trial kind of event where one person from each team had to ride the loop and get back to his teammates as soon as possible.  Jason Willems did the ride form SaL, I did it for our team.  JW smoked the ride, and I finished about 1 minute behind him, quickly hooking up with Jason and Lori and heading off on the short bike ride ahead of us.

We had a couple points to find on the bike ride and as usual, Jason led us right to them.  We quickly moved on and arrived at TA1 in about 4th or 5th place.  Here we dropped off our bikes and headed off on foot to pick up a couple points then head to the boats.

The Trek 1

On the short trek Jason again did his thing and got us to the points quickly.  We kept a pretty good pace and tried to stay ahead of the teams behind us.  Sometime later we arrived at the boat TA.

The Paddle

It was still dark out when we got on our boats, and because the air temperature was much colder than the water temperature, there was a pretty nasty and thick fog coming off the water, which made it a little hard to navigate the river at first.  As a three-person team, we all had to get in one boat.  Usually this means that the person in the middle has to sit on the floor of the canoe.  but for this race they had canoes with a middle seat.  This was great because it meant the middle person could help paddle, but it also screwed us up a little.  Having the middle person sitting up high like that threw off the center of gravity on the boat, so balancing it was a lot of work for all of us.  And sure enough, about 1 mile into the paddle, we were coming around a turn and hit a tree trunk that was submerged under the water.  The impact quickly threw us over.  All three of us went into the river, bags and all.  Luckily it was not deep so we just got up and back on the boat quickly, but now we were soaked, and cold.  The more we paddled, the colder we got.  Lori and I were so cold we literally could not unbuckle our lifevests.  Our fingers were so numb that we just could not do it.  :)  But we kept moving on and one by one kept picking up points.  We knew that Team SaL was way ahead of us.  But we weren't sure where PJ and Badfish were.  Finally, after some good paddling and navigation, we arrived at the next TA where we would drop of the canoes and go off on a nice long treking section.  At this point we were still in about 4th or 5th place.  But all would change in the next leg...

The Trek II

This second trek would be good for us, but also it was here where I screwed up and cost us some points.  More on that later.  So off we went on what would be a fairly long trek section with a handful of CPs to pick up along the way.  Again we were feeling good so we kept a pretty descent pace.  Jason was right on the money on his navigation and one by one we hit all the CP's without any problems.  We ran into a couple teams along the way, but quickly got away from them as Jason's navigation was spot on and allowed us to make up time.  After picking up the 6 or so CP's (I don't remember how many), we made it back to the TA where we had originally left our bikes earlier that morning.  As we walked up to the volunteers we asked them how many teams were ahead of us.  "One," they guy said.  Just one.  We didn't even have to ask the team name.  Instead we quickly replied, "So how far ahead of us is team Shake-A-Leg?"  "About one hour."

The Bike II (The ride to the finish)

So were were very happy cause we had passed a lot of teams in that trek and had moved up to second place in the race.  And we had a pretty solid lead on the third place team, which made it even sweeter.  And to make things even better, we were about to jump on our bikes for the last leg of the race.  The bike, which as most of you know is our strongest discipline.

So off we went on our bikes, riding strong and feeling great cause all was going as planned.  Team SaL was smoking, and catching them would be nearly impossible, but a strong second finish would be sweet.  So Jason once again led us directly to every point along the way.  we were knocking them out fast and without issue.  And we never saw another team behind us.  But then we got to CP27.

We now had only three CP's to get before getting to the finish line.  After getting CP27 we continued on the trail on our way to CP28.  The trail we were on crossed a very defined fire road trail which was not on the map.  And this one thing threw us for a loop.  We ended up taking that road and ended up getting a bit lost.  A long 40 minutes later (and after some nasty, nasty bush whacking) we popped out on another trail nowhere near where we expected to be.  But at least we knew where we were, and from there easily made it to CP28 and then on to the last two CP's before getting to the finish line (where I screwed up again).

The Finish

When we got to the finish line we were about 5 or 6 teams back.  That one single mistake from CP27 to CP28 costs us that many spots.  But as I've always said and I still stand by it, that is what makes adventure racing so much fun.  There are no certainties.  One tiny mistake, one small wrong turn, can be the difference between winning it all and losing.  And even Jason, who is without question one of the best navigators in the state, can sometimes make a small mistake.  This is what makes the sport so exciting! Unlike almost every other sport, it's not all about physical strength.

So we made it to the finish literally seconds ahead of Team Punch Junkies.  So we were still happy, we had lost our place in the race itself, but in the point series championship, we would end up in second place for the year.  Not too shabby.

The Screw Up

I've mentioned it twice.  And I feel like an idiot because it was my fault.  As we were sitting and relaxing by our car after finishing, Greg, the race director for Pangea Adventure Racing and a good friend, came up to us and informed us that we had missed something.  He was right.  The instructions clearly specified that going to/from the start/finish TA, all teams had to go by the main gate of the park.  I did not inform Jason this.  And both times, as we left and came back to the main TA, Jason, doing what he does best and finding the shortest way, had us go around the main gate.  It was only about a one mile shortcut. But because we did not go through it it cost us some penalty points (and rightly so).  So we ended up losing points to Team Punch Junkies in the series standings and it moved us back to third place.  A lesson I will surely never forget.

Even though we were a little disappointed with ourselves, we still had a great race!  All three of us raced strong and hard and had fun doing so.  Even through the numb fingers and toes early in the morning, we love adventure racing and wouldn't give it up for anything!

Congrats to Team Shake-A-Leg for an amazing race!  You guys truly smoked that course!  And congrats to Team Punch Junkies for another strong finish!  Love racing against you guys.  Makes the race so much more fun and exciting.  Looking forward to next year!

And of course, I want to thank Lori and Jason for another fun race!  You guys rock!  And as I always say, I couldn't imagine racing with anyone else.

Now it's time to get ready for the always tough and brutal Swamp Stomp AR in February.  The SS has always been, in my book, the toughest race in the state. It's 36hours, usually cold (February) and always tough navigation.  But we wouldn't want it any other way!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Leadville Trail 100 MTB Race (2009)

The 2009 Leadville MTB race truly was epic.

As we drove to Leadville early in the morning it was raining and cold.  39 degrees out.  We were all bundled up.  Once we got to Leadville the rain had stopped, but the temps were still in the high 40's.  The town was insane.  The start line packed with over 1000 riders.  Truly an incredible sight. As we lined up the weather was already changing.  Behind us to the East, it was clear blue skies.  But ahead of us to the west-southwest, the way we were going, it was cloudy and looking gloomy.

As is tradition, at exactly 6:30am, the shutgun blast got the race started. The mass start was chaos.  It was very important to pay attention and not crash right away.  The race starts with a 4 mile, paved road, downhill section.  It's fast.  And because of the speed, the wind was cold! By the time I was 2 miles down I could not feel my fingers or toes already. Within minutes we had reached the start of the off-road section, the race was on.

The first trail we hit is a gravel jeep trail that leads us to the first climb.  It's about 3 miles or so.  At this point it is still pretty packed with people so you have to be careful.  This is were things started to go bad.  Halfway down the trail, some moron was running, yes running, backwards on the trail.  I have no idea why. As he approached the group of cyclists Jason was with, he suddenly cut across the road and took Jason out! What an idiot!  Jason was fine, but his bike had a couple mechanical issues.  Specifically, his headset was not on tight enough and his wheel ended up pointing the wrong way.  So he had to stop and take care of that.

I continued on.  Shortly after we hit the base of St. Kevins pass  the first climb of the race. This is a very small jeep road, no wider than a small single lane.  It is very, very rocky.  And because of the amount of people on the trail, you don't have much choice of picking a line (MTB'ers will understand what I mean).  You are stuck riding on whatever is ahead of you, whether it is rocks, holes, etc.  Lucky for me, I hit everything right on.  My bike was awesome and I was feeling good. Up to this point the weather had cleared up.  It was still cold, but no rain.  In fact, there was a beautiful rainbow next to us.  But by the time we reached the top of the climb, nearly 10 miles into the race, it got dark, cloudy, and the rain started again.  Cold nasty rain.

At the top of St Kevins you transition into a 6 mile paved downhill called Touquoise Lake Rd.; it's steep and curvy.  Kinda like one of the Six Gap descents.  Usually I bomb down this road, but with the wet roads and rain, I was being careful.  Plus I have some slick race MTB tires on my bike so I didn't know how they would handle it.  A the bottom of Tourquoise Lake you then turn onto a gravel road and begin the long second climb of the race, the climb they call Sugarloaf.  No lie.  It's Sugarloaf.  Funny shit.

Sugarloaf climb starts as a gravel road but after a mile or two it turns into a very rocky small road. At this point the weather had cleared again.  It was so damn weird.  It would change in a mater of seconds, from one extreme to the other.  Anyway, the climb was fairly good.  But it was wet and muddy.  It made it slow going.  Again I felt pretty strong and just keep pedaling and keeping a comfortable pace.  The view as you are climbing Sugarloaf is amazing.  So beautiful with the lake below you.  I wish I had a camera.

At the top of Sugarloaf the real fun begins. That's where the Powerline descent starts. Powerline, as I've explained before, is not really a road.  It's just the clearing below the powerline coming down the mountains.  The path is very messed up with huge ruts, holes, and all sorts of other obstacles.  It is a descent which only has one line you can take.  You are constantly crossing from one side of the path to the other, jumping ruts, and holes.  And to make it even better, it was muddy as hell. The clouds had rolled in again so it was also kinda dark.  But man was it still fun.  I consider myself a pretty good descender, and I fly down the descents.  Fun shit!  My bike was handling everything flawlessly!

Shortly after Powerline we get to the frist aid station at Pipeline.  Its the 25 mile point of the race.  I got there exactly at the time I wanted to, 2:30 into the race.  I was right on schedule. I felt great.  Grabbed a couple bottles, some food, and went on my way.

From Pipeline to the next aid station at Twin Lakes its a short ride, only about 1 hour.  It's got a couple of small climbs, but nothing crazy.  It's a great area to eat and drink, which is what I did.  And exactly one hour later, I got to Twin Lakes again exactly on schedule, at 3:30.  I had my split goal written on my bike, and so far I was right on!! I was well ahead of were I was last year and if I kept it up, I would have no problems finishing the race.

But this is where things went downhill for me.  I got to Twin Lakes too fast.  Alli had not had a chance to make it there from Pipeline.  She had all my gear and food.  I had carefully planned out my nutrition, and I was planning to take specific things at specific times.  But she wasn't there yet.  Erica was, so I grabbed a couple bottles from her and went on my way.  I knew this would cost me.  I really wanted my camelbak (which Alli had) and specific food I had bought and made just for this section.  But I couldn't wait. I felt great and was on schedule, so I took off on the hardest part of the race, the climb up Columbine.

At first everything was perfect.  I saw Lance heading back from Columbine.  He looked incredibly strong.  Rode right by me.  Pretty cool.  Anyway, on the climb I was feeling good.  Until about halfway up.  That's where I started to feel the bonk.  All I had with me were gels and water (again cause I was unable to load up with what I had planned).  I kept eating gel and drinking, but it was not helping.  And once we started the pushing section, two miles from the turnaround, I was beat.

The weather was not helping.  I swear it changed every 10 minutes.  From hot sunlight, to wet cold rain.  It was ridiculous.  At the top, it was cold as hell and windy! I pushed and pushed but my stomach started going to hell.  I got to the point I couldn't drink anymore.  It flat out hurt.  But I kept slowly moving.  And finally after just over three hours from starting, I made it to the top.  And get this, IT WAS HAILING UP THERE!!!  Yes, f'ing hail coming down on us!  My fingers were completely numb.  I literally couldn't shift using myngingers, I had to use the palm of my hand. At the aid station at the top, under hail, I ate everything they had.  Soup, cookies, coke, etc.  I spent about 7 minutes there, tried to warm up my fingers, and decide to start the best part of the race, the descent from Columbine!!

As amazingly hard as this race is, and as much as it makes me want to cry, and as much as it hurts, that descent from Columbine brings a smile to my face.  Again, I consider myself a pretty good descender. And I bombed it!!  I was flying down the first two miles of rocks.  Picking the perfect line and hitting every thing right on.  Then you get to the tree line were the trail turns fairly clean and steep.  And again, I was flying!!  Not even touching my brakes until I would see the switchbacks coming up. Man, it is just a blast.

And so after about 40ish minutes, I made it back to Twin Lakes.  There I was feeling good again.  I stopped and got some food from the crew and got going again.  I was behind my scheduled goal split, but I was still doing ok.  I could still make it. So I went at it hard.

The ride to Pipeline was a little longer, about 1:10 or so.  I made it to Pipeline with 3:25 minutes left to finish.  It would be tight, but it was most definitely doable.  But my stomach was still hurting.  I rarely ate on my ride from Twin Lakes to Pipeline.  I was getting nauseous. So at Pipeline I force some food down and some drink, and went on my way.

I got to the Powerline climb and started the brutal pushing. Push, push, push.  I kept trying to drink and stay hydrated, but by the time I got to the top of the first major Powerline climb, I puked.  Everything I had eaten at Pipeline came out almost perfectly.  So now I realized I had nothing in my stomach and no energy. So I forced myself to eat some gel.  And then, I puked that out as well.  My stomach just couldn't keep anything down. I was completely out of energy and I couldn't eat.  So I was barely moving. This is where my race was over. Anytime I tried to pedal I got dizzy. I almost started crying.  I knew it was all over.  And what sucked is that up to that point, I still had time to make it.

So slowly I kept pushing my bike until I got to the top of Powerline, which starts the Sugarloaf descent.  My plan now was to ride the descent until I saw a support person so I could use his phone and call Alli to come get me.

As I was descending down Sugarloaf, I saw a guy on the side of the road changing a flat.  I thought to myself "I am done anyway, so I might as well help him." And much to my dismay, when I rode up on him it was Jason!  My heart hit the ground.  Sure, I felt bad for me, but J was going for the Leadman crown!  He needed to finish this.  And he was actually doing it.  He had been a good 30 minutes ahead of me, so he was sure going to make it under 12, no problem.  But he had three flats!  When I stopped I immediately looked at my watched and knew it was all over for him.  I seriously felt so bad.  I honestly started to cry.  Thank God I was wearing my sunglasses so he couldn't see.

But J was in good spirits.  He knew shit happens.  He had done all he could.  But the three flats was something he couldn't control. So the two of us continued down Sugarloaf to the bottom.  I was still planning to stop and get picked up.  Jason told me when I rode up on him my face was green.  He knew something was seriously wrong with me.  Jason planned to keep going to the finish.

So when we got to the bottom, I stopped and was just going to call, when Jason came rolling back in.  He had started the Tourqouise Lake Rd climb, but felt like shit.  He figured the stops for the flats took a toll on him.  And I could see it on his face.  He was pale.  He laid down on the road and was not looking good.  So the two of us called it a race at that point.  Actually, about 6 other guys rolled up and quit the race right there.

So there you go.  I almost had it.  I was there.  But it wasn't meant to be.  After 86 miles, I had to stop.  Turns out, out of the 6 of us doing the race, only one finished, Ralph.  Lori and Jim had missed the cut off at Pipeline, And even BB2 had to quit earlier in the race because of his knee.

The race this year was harder than all the others.  The weather was a huge factor.  The muddy trails, the cold, everything, made what is already a tough race even harder.  But we gave it everything we had.  We tried.  That's all we could do.

I want to congratulate all of us.  Jim, Lori, Jason, BB2, me, Ralph and G$.  As I am sure you will hear from G$ later, this race is tough, and just starting it is a huge thing.

Finally, I want to give huge props to our support crew.  They were awesome!!!  Alli, Erica, Nikki, Matt, Ryan, Scott, Stacey, Karen, Kevin.  These guys took such great care of us.  They spent their entire day dealing with the tough weather just to be there for us.  Love you all guys!!

So thank you (Roadies) all for all your awesome comments and support.  You guys are great!!  But on the plus side, we know have a full week of partying it up in Colorado, so expect many drunk pics to come!!

Peace out peeps!


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The ACC 30-Hr AR (2009)

As expected, the 2009 Atlantic Coast Conquest was a tough, fun, and VERY competitive race.  Loaded with tough racing, and fast teams, this race was an all out war to the end.  Well, a war for second place that is.  First place was well out of our reach, and almost all other teams, from the word go.

The race took place up in the Jax/St. Augustine area.  Mainly in the Guana River State Park, and surrounding areas.

The Trek (I)

For us the ACC started with an approximately 10k trekking section where we had to find five different CP's.  All were fairly easy to get.  A couple took some searching for, but we still got them pretty quickly.  We tried to run as much as we could, so we maintained a slow jog most of the way.  We thought it would be enough to get us near the front of the pack.  But when we finished the leg, we were told 5 other teams had come in ahead of us. Guess I need to improve my running speed.  :)

The Bike I

The first bike leg was a short section were again, we had to find five points along a part rural and part off-road area.  We felt good and started moving quick.  The second CP gave us a hard time as we turned on a wrong trail, and had to back track to find the correct one.  After that one the rest of the points were pretty easy to find.  We passed a couple teams along the way.  And as we were heading back to the TA, we could see another one in front of us, on the bike path we were riding.  We caught them just a few short miles from the TA.  It was Team Relentless.  A great team and one of our main competitors.

Now just over three hours in the race, we were about to start what would become one of the hardest paddling legs I have ever done.

The Paddle I

At first glance the paddle section seemed innocent.  We knew it would be very long.  But we didn't expect it to be so hard.  As soon as we started heading south on the Intracoastal Waterway however, we quickly found out.

The combination of a very tough North-East wind, with the rising tide, made for the boats to be very hard to track.  Then entire way south on the river, our boat very badly wanted to go left.  For probably 80% of our paddle on the way down the river, I paddle only on our left side, trying to keep the boat heading straight.  It was brutal.

But slowly we inched down picking up the handful of points that were placed along the way. We made it to the south end of the paddle where we had to get out of our boats for what we expected to be a short trekking section.

The Trek II

The trek proved to be a little harder than expected.  The maps we had were pretty bad.  Trails marked that were not there.  Trails not marked that were there.  And a scale so small that it was hard to get any details in the few part the map did match the trails.  But everyone had the same maps, so everyone had to deal with the same thing.  And Jason did a great job.  Until CP21.

As we got into the woods, we came across a huge group, several teams together, looking for CP21.  We knew that was not a good sign.  We didn't stick with them as we were still not ready for 21.  But when did try to find it, it took us forever.  A point we should have found in 5 minutes, took us about 45.  Later we found out that almost every team had a tough time with it because of the maps and the plot.

Anyway, after the CP21 fiasco, we went back to the boats and started the long paddle back to the main TA.

The Paddle II

Lucky for us, the paddle home was rather nice.  The wind started dying down and the current wasn't so bad.  And in fact, we even got to see an air show!

There was a squadron of planes flying in formation and training right above us.  It was very cool.  The flew by us several times, in different formations, and with their smoke trails going.  I took several pictures I will post later.

The paddle back was un-eventful.  Just long.  So we made it back to the TA at 8:00pm.  Just about 12-hours into the race.

The Bike II

Around 8:30pm we started what we expected would be a fun bike leg.  It was night time, nice weather, and according to the map, the points we had to find should be easy enough. But this leg turned out to be the hardest part of the race.

We started off on a great note.  Found the first few points and were moving fairly good.  Again what the map showed, and what was actually there, did not match so well.  But Jason did the best he could, and it was working great, until CP30.


CP30 is how this race will be remembered by most of us.  It was the one checkpoint that either made, or broke, the race for a number of teams.

As we approached CP30, around midnight, we passed Teams Eco-Choice and Punch Junkies.  Jason picked his attack point, we put our bikes down, and trekked into the woods as we expected to come up right to it.  A few minutes later, we ran into Eco-Choice and Punch Junkies also looking for it in the same area.  And about 20 minutes after that, there were approximately 8 teams out there all looking for the point in the same area.  Nobody could find it.  Jason even worked with Dr. Ron trying to pinpoint where we were and where the point was.  We walked up and down the area for a long time, with no luck.

One by one the teams gave up and just skipped it.  We decided to do the same.  It was tough because we knew we were in the right place.  And we knew that missing just one point on a race like this means a lot.

We then continued on the bike, trying to make heads or tails of the maps we had, and eventually found the rest of the points and made it to TA2.

The Trek III

After we got off the bike on the south end of the park, we started a trekking section to find the last six points of the race.  It was just about 7:00am and daylight was starting to break.  Just about 23 hours into the race.  These points were all actually very easy to get.  Not actual check point flags, but rather we had to find answers to a handful of questions.  It was a beautiful area we were trekking through.  But I was so tired I didn't enjoy it much.  I was ready for some real food!  :)

After the trek we quickly got back on our bikes and rode the 10 miles straight back to the finish line.


In the end Team Shake-A-Leg owned the course.  They flat out smoked it!  Finished almost 4 hours ahead of any other teams, and got every point!  Pretty impressive really.  They are definitely the team to beat now in Florida AR.

As expected, that missed CP cost us a lot.  Besides Shake-A-Leg, a couple other Elite teams ended up finding CP30.  And so even though they finished behind us, they placed ahead of us.  But, that's adventure racing! You never know how things will turn out, and the outcome of a race is not decided until the last team crosses the finish line.  And that's why I love it so much!

As always, as a team we had a great time!  Lori, Jason and JG are awesome teammates!  They make it that much more fun!

Not it's time to concentrate on one thing and one thing only, training for the toughest bike race in the U.S., Leadville.  For the third year in a row we are all heading back to tackle the brutal climbs, scary descents, and soul sucking altitude of the hardest race I have ever competed in.  But on the plus side, for the second year in a row I'll be racing against Lance Armstrong.  :)

Monday, March 2, 2009

The BOAR 6-Hr AR (2009)

The BOAR is a 6-Hour adventure Race named for the location of the first time the race was held, at The Big Oaks Ranch.  Since then the race has moved to a few different locations.  This year's race it was held in the Orlando Wetlands / Seminole WMA area right near Ft Christmas.  For this race our team (Team Nature Calls) was Jason, Lori, Matt (Lori's son, Erica's brother) and me.

We knew this was going to be a competitive race.  The team's list before the race was loaded with some strong racers.  Team " Shake A Leg" was there.  A very tough and fast team from South Florida.  Team "Badfish," also a very strong team.  And others like Team "Punch Junkies" and Team "Up a Creek Without a Seat."  Anyway, lots of fast and strong teams.  So we knew it would be competitive.

From the word go the race was fast.  We started with a short 3/4 mile run down to CP1 where we had to collect a chip and bring it back to TA.  From there, we'd be getting on our bikes for a short stroll up to our bikes (with two CP's along the way).  Since the run was so short, most of the teams were on the bikes right behind each other.

Just a few miles after getting on the bike we made it to CP2 with about 4 other teams, and several other close behind.  The trail then turned into this rough, rooted up trail, which was very muddy in some spots.  It was tough going at times.  We picked up CP3, and bout 25 minutes after we started, we reached the boats, where we would start our first major leg of the race.  What would turn out to be an incredibly tough paddle.

The Paddle

We were the first team to put our boats in the water, with team "Shake A Leg" (SaL) right behind us.  The paddle was kinda like a loop with several points along the way.  We decided to attack it in a counter-clockwise loop.  Team BadFish did as well.  Teams SaL and Punch Junkies decided to go at it clockwise.

The water level on the river was pretty low.  On our way up there was a lot of getting out of the boat, pushing, getting back in and paddling again.  Finding the CPs was pretty easy.  Jason was spot on with the navigation as usual.  Just a little slow going because of the water level.

Somehow we made it to the northern most points at the same exact time that some of the other fast teams did.  From there tough, things got rough!

The way back south to get the other points was basically a trek, with a couple canoes along to make it a little harder. The water level on the other side of the river was almost completely gone.  It was basically a very small canal with about 2 inches of water, or no water at all some spots.  So we had to pull or push our canoes almost the entire way.  To make it even better, the ground was this nasty quicksand like muck that sucked your legs in and made it hard to walk.  Needless to say, it was not fun.  But we made our way through it, picking up a few more points along the way.

And finally, after about 2 hours and 15 minutes, we reached the end of the paddle at the exact same time that the other front teams did.  I couldn't believe it.

The Bike

So we got back on the bikes we headed off for the next leg.  All the front teams started the leg together.  IN fact, at one point all four of us were looking for the same CP at the same time.  We spread out a little bit over the course of the bike section, but not by too much.  Our team did pretty well in finding all the points.  Only lost a couple minutes with one, where we overshot our attack point by about a hundred yards.  But no biggie.  Everything else was spot on.

The bike was short and only took us about an hour.  We reached the main TA almost at the same time that teams SaL and Punch Junkies did.

The Trek

The final leg of the race was a trekking section with about 5 points along the way.  We left the TA at the same time SaL did.  Except they went at it again on a clockwise type loop, while we decided to go at it counter-clockwise.  Team Punch Junkies was in the TA about to leave as well.

Finding the CP on the trek was fairly easy.  Only one was slightly misplaced, but still easy to spot.  We kept a pretty steady pace going, knowing that a couple other teams were right on par with us.

The last two points we came to were on the Florida Foot Trail.  As we headed up the FFT, we came across team Punch Junkies who was heading in the opposite direction.  There was one point right on the trail, and another which was a bushwhack off the trail about 500 paces east.  We quickly found the point on the trail and started bushwhacking.  After about 8 minutes, we came right to it.

Race was done.  Now all we had to do was make our way back to the finish.  Instead of going back to the FFT we made our way straight north to the main trail that would lead us to the finish.  Once on the trail, we had about 1 mile to go.  This is where it gets interesting.

The finish line was located in what you can call an intersection between two trails.  We were coming at it from the East, while teams Punch Junkies and SaL were coming at it from the South.  We had no idea where each other was.  And so after 55 minutes of trekking, we made it to the finish line just three seconds (yes, 3 seconds!) behind team Punch Junkies.  About 1 minute later team Shake A Leg made it in.  And about 7 minutes after that team Badfish came in.  Amazing!

I have done a lot of races, but never one so close and so competitive.  My hats off to Punch Junkies, Shake A Leg and Badfish for making this a very fun and exciting race!!

And as always, many thanks to my team, Nature Calls.  Jason and Lori were strong as bulls like always.  And our AR semi-rookie, Matt, raced like he's been racing for years.  Very fast and very strong, never complaining and pushing as hard as he could.

So another great and fun race in the books.  Next up is the short Squiggy race, followed by the tough and long 30-hour ACC in April.  Can't wait!!