The Talon is one of the very first races I did. In fact, it was my third adventure race back in 2004. It is held in Alafia State Park which has some of the coolest MTB trails around. I love riding the Alafia single track. Moonscape is one of the touch single tracks I've ever ridden. Anyway, I digress. Back to the race.
For this race Team Nature Calls was back together with Jason, Lori and myself. Our last race a couple weeks ago we won, so we were hoping to do well in this one too.
The race started with a short run (a few miles) in which we had to find two checkpoints (CPs) along the single track trails. We went off fast and stayed towards the front in order to try and avoid the congestion we'd knew would happen in some areas. We finished the run near the front. it was already getting pretty hot.
During the race we had three 'special tests' we needed to complete. We could do the at anytime during the race, but we'd knew some of them would get busy later on, so we decided to do the ropes section right away. we were the first ones there. We had to simply put on a harness and zip line over a small lake. In no time we were back at the TA getting ready for some riding.
The Bike 1
The first bike section was a nice long ride along some of the cool single track. For those who know the park, we rode 'Rock Garden', 'River Loop', 'and 'Sand Pine'. Along the way we had four CPs wich would be right on the trails. Finding the CPs was easy, and the riding was fun, although a little frustrating at first.
As we started the race we found ourselves behind several of the slower teams. Several people who were getting off their bikes and any sign of a drop or a hill along the trail. I was starting to get angry and Jason had to reason with me. There was nothing we could do, just try to pass them when we could. Eventually we got clear of all the slow riders and got towards the front for some good open riding.
We finished the bike section, now in second place, and decided to quickly do the last two 'special test'. One was a puzzle and one was a dart throw thing. Done and it was time to move on.
Now it was time for the first orienteering section of the race. We had a handful of CPs to find by using compass bearings and distance. Basically you shoot a compass bearing from a specific point, for a specific distance, to the first CP. Once you find it, you shoot another bearing from that one to the next one. And so on. The race director made a little interesting by adding math to the equation. For example, the instructions would say something like, "To get to CP8 from CP7, go 16x22-57 feet at 13x31+23 degrees. Anyway, it was a fun section, but it was hot!
The Paddle 1
We now had a short ride of a few miles (no CPs) down to the river TA. We packed up our paddles and headed off. Reached the river still in second place, quickly jumped on our boat, and headed South towards CP11. we were paddling against the current and against a head wind, which meant the paddle back up river would be very nice. And it was. we quickly caught and passed the team in front of us, and made it back to the river TA in first place.
The Bike 2
Back at the river TA we transitioned back to our bikes and headed West on the trails to find two CPs. The ride was mostly on berms which were up pretty high, which meant some climbing. I have to admit, it hurt. We had a bit of trouble finding CP14, but eventually got to it. After that CP13 was much easier to find, but tougher to get to. Lots of bushwhacking for that one. But it wasn't long before we were heading back to the river TA. And did I mentioned it was hot out there?
The Paddle 2
Back on the boats now we headed North on the river towards CP16. This part of the river was very different to the southern portion. Less water and lots of trees, logs and other debris on the way. We had to get out of the boat several times. Fairly tough, but Cp was easy to find and we made it back to the river TA still leading the race.
The Bike 3
From the river we jumped back on our bikes and headed back towards CP18, located near the river. In order to get the CP we had to cross the river. This was one of those few times I realize how great adventure racing is.
As we were pushing our bikes up towards the river's edge, Jason, who was at the front, stopped to listen. I asked him what was up and he calmly said, "I thought I heard a rattle snake". A few minutes later, when we reached the river, we saw a young gator, about 3 feet in length, entering the river on the opposite bank, exactly where we had to go. But none of us thought anything of it. I quickly picked up my bike over my shoulders and waded across the chest deep river heading towards the exact place the gator had just gone in.
Anyway, we crossed the river, picked up the CP and headed back to the main TA.
The Orienteering 2
Now we had another orienteering section, similar to the previous one. A solo racer, Nick, had joined us for this section. The four of us quickly found and made it through, picking up CP20-27. We made it back to the main TA easily 45 minutes ahead of the closest team. Unfortunately, this is when we found out we had made one mistake.
After we picked up CP27 we misread the instructions and thought we were to head back to the TA. But we really had one more CP, CP28 to find along the way. We literally walked within a couple feet of it on our way to the TA, but since we weren't looking for it, we didn't see it. So when we made it to the TA they informed us we had missed the CP. Unfortunate mistake on our part, but we had no choice, we had to go back for it. An hour later, we were back, with CP28 marked.
So just like that, a small mistake turned a 45 minute lead into a 20 minute deficit. Six teams had jumped ahead of us. But as I've said a million times, that's adventure racing.
At this point we had finished with the mandatory portion of the race. Now we could start the bonus portion.
The Bike 4 - Bonus Points
So we jumped back on the bikes to go after as many bonus points as we could. After finding the first two we headed up a sandy trail to the others. The heat was brutal. It really got to Jason and I. We were both hurting and moving really slow. We actually had to pull over and rest under some trees for a few minutes. And as always, Lori was strong as can be. She never ceases to amaze me.
Although we were moving slowly, and some of the CPs gave us a hard time, we managed to get six CPs, for a total of 9 bonus points. We made it back to the main TA finishing the race at 5:13PM. Nine hours and 43 minutes of racing.
Now we had to play the waiting game to see if any teams managed to finish the mandatory course, and get more bonus points than we did.
We finished with nine bonus points in a time of 9:43. Only one team got more points than we did, a 2-person male team, Team Rinkside Sports (with 11 points). A couple other teams finished with 9 points as well, but we finished faster than they did. And in case of a points tie, time is always the tie breaker. So we were second overall. But in the elite racing division, the 3-person coed, we were solidly in first place.
It was definitely a tough race. The incredible heat made it much tougher. But as always we had a blast doing it.
I've said it dozens of times before, and I am sure I will say it dozens more, but I really want to thank my awesome teammates J and Lori. You guys rock!
That was my 3rd race in four weeks. Now I get a nice break before my next race in June. I better start doing some heat training.