Tuesday, April 21, 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. :)