Monday, April 19, 2010

The Nocatee 30-Hr AR (2010)

Phew.  What a race.  What an amazingly fun and tough race.  Where to start?

Well, this race took place up in North Florida in the St. Augustine area, in and near the town of Nocatee, FL.  I've raced through this area twice before, and it was always hard.

For this race I teamed up with Trung and Jaime Lynch.  I had never raced with them before, but I know them both and I knew they are both very cool guys and very strong adventure racers.  So at 9:00AM on Saturday morning, off we went....

The Prologue

The race started with a very short prologue.  A simple 1/4 mile run to find some hidden clues.  All took about 7 minutes and we were done and bac to the TA to really start the race....

The Bike 1

After the easy prologue we took off on our bikes for a nice road bike ride with three CPs (checkpoints) along the way. The ride was about 11 miles or so.  The CP's were fairly easy to find.  In this section we hooked up with Jim Carr and Rod Price of Team Eco-Choice.  Since it was a road bike section it helped having five of us trading pulls against a pretty nasty headwind as we headed down A1A.

We quickly found the CPs and made it to the boat ramp were we would take off on our first paddling leg of the race.

The Paddle 1

The first paddle leg of the race would be on a dammed (as in contained a dam) lake which had recently been slightly drained.  Actually, the TA was at the dam itself.  In fact, changes to the course had to be made last minute because of the water level after the lake was drained.  Anyway, we had five CPs to find in this section. The total paddle distance was about 12 miles.  The CPs were again fairly easy to find.  The paddling itself was kinda tough because of the water level.  There were three of us in one canoe, which weighs us down a lot and makes it really hard to paddle in low water.  And it was starting to get really hot out there!

So we slowly made our way up the lake, found four CPs, and paddled back to the dam.  We had to cross over the dam (carry our boats) and find one last CP just south of the dam. Finally, after a few hours (3-4 hours I think), we were happy to get out of the water. I think all three of us share a big dislike for paddling, and we were ready to get out of the boats!

The Bike 2

Now the real fun was about to begin! A long bike section with lots of CPs to find, and all in kinda hard places. It was early in the afternoon, and off we went!

This section would be all off road.  Part fire roads, part jeep trails, part single track. We had nine checkpoints to find, along with an orienteering section in the middle of it.  Thanks to our pre-race planning, this section went really well for us.  Sort of (more on this later).  We did great finding all the points on the course fast and without issue.  CP14 gave us a hard time, but only wasted about 10 minutes on it.  The rest we got right away.

When we reached CP16 we had to go on foot to find five orienteering checkpoints (shoot bearings and go). Again we did wel on this section. Found all points with no issue and we were quickly back on our bikes heading back to the TA.

Just as we got the very last point we noticed something, we were missing one CP, CP9.  That's when I realized I had COMPLETELY forgotten about it! All of the CPs in this section were located north of where we got back on the bikes.  Except for CP9.  That single CP was south.  When we got on the bikes, I just totally forgot about it.  I led us north towards what I though were all the points.  This one mistake would bother me the rest of the race.  But there was nothing we could do about it now.  We were about 12 minles north of the Cp, and there was no way we were going to add 24 miles to our bike leg.  So we had to skip it.  I felt like a complete idiot for letting down my teammates counting on my navigation.

We finished the biking section in the early evening. Now to get ready for some good old fun in the dark.

The Trek 1

We quickly changed, fueled up, geared up, and headed out on foot.  Ahead of us we had a very long trekking section.  Daylight was about to be gone so we moved quickly to try and get at least one CP before darkness consumed us.

We reached CP23 around 7:00PM.  At this point we also ran into Dr. Ron's team, Team Florida Xtreme.  Instead of taking the much longer, but easier route to CP24, we all decided to try the much shorter, but slightly harder route, which meant bushwhacking through some nasty stuff.  Dr. Ron and his team went a different way than we did.  We were both trying to do the same exact thing, try to make it to CP24.  Unfortunately we overshot it and ended up on a road past the CP, and wouldn't you know it, we ran into Dr. Ron who had also missed it.  So since this was going to be a long section, at night, we decided to combine our navigation efforts and team up for this trekking section.

Together, Dr. Ron and I easily led us through the very long section.  We found all the points with only minor slow downs, told some funny racing stories (Dr. Ron has a lot of good ones) and had a really fun time.  Now came time for what would become the toughest part of the race.

The Paddle 2

We finished the trekking section in the middle of the night, on the Guana River where the boats were waiting for us.  Now we had what we thought would be a fairly easy and short paddling leg.  There were four CPs we had to find, and in the middle of the paddle we had another trekking section.  Pretty straightforward right?

Well it turns out that navigating a river like this one, in the middle of the night, is kinda hard.  Usually, when you navigate a river, you have river bends and islands and other features which allow you, as a navigator, to know where you are and find what you are looking for.  But this river had none of that.  It was basically straight as an arrow, and had no discernible features. Almost no way to know where you were.  My point being, finding the CPs became quite the endeavor.  Thankfully, we were still racing with Florida XTreme and Dr. Ron whose many years of navigating experience eventually helped us find all the CPs.  It was hard, no doubt about that.  Also Team Eco-Choice had also joined us.

We ended up backtracking on the river several times.  Getting in and out of the boats in several places only to find we were not in the correct place.  It was frustrating, but we did find all the points.

The Trek 2

We had another trekking section in the middle of the paddle.  It was much shorter than our previous one, and a nice break from the frustration of the river. Working together we found these points very quickly. We were all really enjoying the race so far.  Other than the frustration of the river navigation, we were having fun.  And the night ski, man, that was an incredible sight.  So clear and so many stars!

We found the CPs in this section and got back on the boats to finish the paddling section.  So just shortly after daybreak, early on Sunday morning, we finally, finally got out of the boats.  Phew! Another section down, two more to go.

The Bike 3

After walking about 2.5 miles back to the TA, we geared up for the bike again.  This time we had a long bike section in some of the same area we had trekked the previous night.  we had nine Cps to find in this section.  So again, off we went.

Most of the points on this section were off the trails, but most were again pretty straight forward to get to.  Just a lot of riding.  After a little while it started getting really hot again. And now we had to start worrying about the time. We had to finish the race by 3:00PM, no later.  After the bike we still had another short trekking section to get to, so we needed to plan accordingly. So we kept moving, slow but steady.  we had met up with Team Eco-Choice again, and we worked together to get through the section as quickly as possible.

Sometime just after 1:00PM we made it back to the TA.

The Trek 3

At 1:20PM we started the very last section of the race.  It was a 3.5 miles trek.  We had five very easy CPs to get.  And just about 1 hour later, at 2:27PM, we came across the finish line.

We had finished with all but one of the 55 checkpoints, and ended in 5th place overall.

We had raced for 29 hours and 27 minutes non-stop.  We were tired and hungry.  But were also very happy to have finished such a great and demanding race.

First first off, thank you to my great teammates, Trung and Jamie.  They both did an amazing job! They were great teammates and never complained about anything.  They were always working hard and doing anything they could to help us find the points.  Had a great time racing with them!  Thank you guys!!

I also want to thank Dr Ron, Jim and the rest fo the members of Teams Eco-Choice and Florida Xtreme.  Great time hanging out with all of you.  We now have some great stories to tell our grandchildren about the Guana River.

And finally thank you to Pangea Adventure Racing for another excellent race!

And as a great surprise after a very long 30 hours, Alli showed up to the race finish! Just as we had crossed the finish line there she was. A very welcomed surprised. She drove my tired ass home while I slept the whole way home. And then took great care of my tired, immobile self at home.

Now it's time to relax for a week and then get ready for the next race, the 10-hour Talon AR on May 1st.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Squiggy 6-Hr AR (2010)

Yesterday Team Nature Calls headed back out into the woods for another excellent adventure race, The Squiggy 6-Hour AR, at Morris Bridge Park in the Hillsborough River area.

Jason, Lori and I had not raced together since the Turkey Burn, so we were ready to rock!

The Prologue

In order to split up the teams and put a little distance between them, the race started with a short prologue.  Basically we ran through a mini and short obstacle course right around the start/finish area.  We tried to stay near the front of the pack as we knew there would be back ups at some of the obstacles.  And in a few shorts minutes we were done and on our way to the next part of the race.

Ride -N- Tie

The next part of a race was a section called Ride N Tie.  One teammate rides a bike while the others run.  You can switch off at anytime you want.  The section was only a couple miles long, so we decided Lori would ride and Jason and I would run.  The ride actually turned out to be harder than we thought as sections the trail were not bike friendly.  But Lori did a great job while Jason and I tried to keep a good running pace.  When all was said and done, we finished the section in about 3rd place overall.

The Bike

After a very quick "special test" back at the TA, we tok off for the bike portion of the race.  This section was awesome!  Most of the bike was on great single rack trails which were perfectly maintained.  Very fast trail and very fun to ride.  We were the first ones of the trail, followed closely by our friend Greg (from Pangea Adventure Racing) and his son.

In this section we had five checkpoints to find, three of them would be right along the trail, while two we had to go find off the trail.  We moved quick on the trail and easily found all the points.  Lori who hadn't ben riding much (since she just finished a massive 7-day kayaking trip) did amazing on the bike!

Greg and his son stayed with us most of the way, but unfortunately halfway through the bike one of their derailleurs broke, and Greg had to tow his son all the way back to the TA.  Great job on that Greg!

So we were the first ones back to the TA, and quickly jumped on the boats to star the paddling section.

The Paddle

Now it was time to canoe down the Hillsborough River.  This was a very nice paddle.  Very pretty river. And thanks to all the rain we had the last few weeks, the water level was high which made paddling easy.  Well, except for the fact that heading south on the river the current was against us and very though.

The CP's on the river were again fairly easy to find.  Saw a nice big gator sunbathing or waiting for one of us to tip their canoes, one or the other.  Anyway, once we reached the last CP and turned around to head back to the TA, we were smoking it, thanks to the very strong current.

Made it back to the TA in first place, with a few teams about 10 minutes or so behind us.

The Trek

With a few teams on our tails, we wasted no time in leaving the TA on our last section of the race, the trek/run.  We had seven checkpoints to find in what was basically a very big swamp area.

Kip and Jessica had warned us about the mosquitos in this area, and man were they right.  Only once before have I experienced anything quite like it, and that was while racing through the Everglades.  It was insane.  As soon as you stopped for even a second, you were swarmed by hundred of big nasty mosquitos.  Luckily were had prepared with bug spray, but it was still annoying.

The first two checkpoints on this section were fairly easy to get to as they were off trails.  But the rest were out in the middle of the swampish area next to the river.  It was very wet and very muddy.  We hard a little problem finding FP3.  Looked around for a bit until we finally got our bearings (after making it to the river) and got it.  After that, it was smooth sailing.  Jason's navigation was, as always, spot on.

On our way back to the finish we decided to take the shortest route, which meant taking a dip in the river.  We tried to pick a good section to cross, but still ended up having to swim in what turned out to be pretty cold water.  That's adventure racing!

Made it to the finish line where we had to do a small mental test before finally crossing the finish line.  So a few minutes later, we came across the finish line, 1st Place Overall!  Second place came in about 5 minutes after us.

As always, I want to thank my awesome teammates, Jason and Lori.  We had a great time and good laughs!  Jason was again the man on his navigation and got us to all CP's very quickly!  Awesome job guys!  Can't wait to do it again!

And thank you to Kip, Jessica, and the rest of the WeCeFAR volunteers.  Excellent course!!

Now to get ready for next week's 30-Hour adventure race up in Nocatee, Florida with Trung and Jamie.  Should be fun!