Monday, July 26, 2010

The Nocturnal 18-Hr AR (2010)

This past weekend I headed down to the middle of nowhere to race the Nocturnal 18-Hour Adventure Race.

Starting at 2:00PM on Saturday afternoon and finishing at 8:00AM on Sunday morning, it was going to be mostly a night race.  Team Nature Calls was going to be just Lori and I, since our other teammates were busy with other commitments.

The race took place in Forever Florida. I had never heard of the place before. It's south of St. Cloud (although it is still considered St. Cloud).  It would also take us out into the Bull Creek WMA, a place I've raced through before.

The Start/TA/Heat

Lori and I got to the race start around 10:30AM. And it was hot. Incredibly hot. We knew that when the race started at 2:00PM, we'd be sweating bullets.  Sitting around the TA getting our maps and gear ready was miserable. The heat was just unbearable. But it would get much worse.

And at exactly 2:00PM, off we went.

The Bike 1

The race started with bike ride.  We had to bike from the S/F Ta down to the Bull Creek TA. In between there would be two CPs we would have to find.

The ride was not hard, and finding the CPs was easy.  But already the heat was brutal.  The whole area we were in is pretty wide open.  In other words, it's mostly white sandy roads (a lot of soft sand) with very little shade. So yeah, hot.

Lori and I took our time and rode at our own pace. At around 3:30PM we reached the Bull Creek TA and quickly transitioned into the boats for a short paddle section.

The Paddle 1

There is not a lot of water in the area we were racing, so Greg (the race organizer) had to get clever.

Our first paddle was short.  We only had three CPs to get on the river, which was not long at all. So to add some time on the boat, Greg had us do a sort of time trial.  So after we picked up the CPs and got back to the boat TA, we had to go back out and paddle around a number of buoys he had set out.

All in all the paddle was nice and the CPs were fairly easy to get.  And lucky for us, the river was actually pretty shady, so that was a plus.

Lori and I finished the paddle at around 4:30PM. Now it was time to trek.

The Trek 1

We started the trek at around 4:40PM.  And I know I keep saying this, but it's hard to express just how incredibly hot it was out there.

On this trek we had to find four CPs along mostly sandy trails. The points were not hard to find, and the trails were not hard to follow, but the heat (and no shade) made the whole trek miserable.

Starting the trek we decided to take a shortcut through the woods while heading to CP7.  it was a short, but thick, bushwhack. Tons of big banana spiders.  And we even ran into a wasp nest, which we luckily saw before we walked into it.  After that, it was all trails to the rest of the CPs.

We finished the trek at around 6:30PM.  And in that short two hours time I went through an entire, full, 100oz bladder of ice water.

Oh yeah, while out on the trek, we ran into this beauty (below).  She was just curled up in the middle of the trail.  We went around it and as I tried to take a picture it ran away, which made it better for my picture.

The Bike 2

When we finally finished the trek I was so hot I decided to take a swim in the river just to cool off.  So I jumped right in.  It felt sooo good!

Now it was time to bike again.  This was going to be the longest (distance wise) leg of the race.  A bike leg with a few CPs to get, while making our way back to the main S/F TA.

During this section we ended up riding with Dr. Ron's Jim's Bicycles team.  I always like racing with Dr. Ron, he's a funny dude.

All the CPs were exactly were they were supposed to be.  The ride was mostly on nice shell-packed trails which made for good riding.  So mostly this was a section to get some miles in.  We had to try and stay hydrated as it was still brutally hot, even though it was now early evening.

We finished the leg and arrived back at the S/F TA at around 8:50PM.

The Trek 2

At 9:00PM, with a beautiful and bright full moon shining down on us (yes, Greg planned the race so it would be a full moon), we headed off on foot for the second trekking section of the race. The moon was so bright that we didn't even have to have our headlamps on, unless we were looking for a CP.  Still, even at night, it was till hot out.

The trek was fairly straight forward.  Lori and I quickly found CP6 and CP7.  At CP8 we again ran into Team Jim's Bicycles (Dr. Ron).  The six of us worked together to find the last three CPs before heading in.

All were fairly simple.  I think the one that gave us the hardest time was CP9, but that was our own fault.  We just didn't count our distance correctly.  Other than that we found all the CPs and at 11:30PM got back to the main TA for some zip-lining fun!


Forever Florida has some really cool zip line towers. I had no idea they had places like this in Florida, yet there it was, just an hour from my house.

They have these very tall towers all throughout the place. You get clipped into the line, and then zip line from tower to tower.  In between some of the towers they have suspension bridges that you have to cross, while way up in the air.  I really thought this was going to be boring and time consuming, but it really turned out to be one of the coolest things I have ever done in a race.

Unfortunately they don't allow you to bring cameras out to the area, so I couldn't take pictures.  We also didn't have our headlamps, but with the full moon it was amazing!

On this first zip line section (we had another one later on), we zip lined five different times.

The Paddle 2

During the zip lines I lost track of the actual time, but it was around 12:35(ish)AM that jumped back on our bikes and rode a short distance down to our second paddling leg.  This was was even shorter than the previous one.  It was a very, very tight river with lots of turns.  In other words, with a few boats in there it was really congested.  But, it took us no time to get the five CPs and get back to the TA.

The Bike 3

Around 1:30AM we headed off on bikes again, this time for our last bike leg of the race.

Again, this was a pretty straight forward section.  Five CPs and lots of riding.  Once again, halfway through this section we caught up with Dr. Ron and the rest of Jim's Bicycle team.

We slightly miscalculated the location of CP14 and spent longer than we wanted searching for it.  But we found it, moved on, and by 3:40AM we were back at the S/F/ TA.

Zip Lines (part 2)

At this point we headed back to the zip lines.  Now we had a shorter zip line section to do before moving on.  This part was short and quick.

The Trek / Finish!

At 4:30AM we headed off on the third trek, and the final leg, of the race.  I was tired.  Very tired.  But I knew I only had a short while to go.

This leg was once again pretty straight forward.  The only thing that gave us a hard time was looking for CP17.  It wasn't because we didn't know where it was.  It was because finding the FFT (Florida Foot Trail) was kinda hard in this area.  The typical orange blazes that mark the trail were hard to see since the trees were so far apart.  And the trail itself was very seldom used, so it was barely there, and very faint, so it was hard to follow.

But at exactly 6:55AM we made it in and crossed the finish line!


We finished 6th out of 17 teams.  And only six teams (us included) were able to complete and clear the full course.  The other 11 teams did not clear the course.  So we felt good about our race.

This was another excellent race! Greg and the rest of the Pangea staff and volunteers keep outdoing themselves with amazing races.  At every single transition area there was always a huge tote full of ice for us to use on our bottles and bladders. That was truly a life saver.

Lori was, as always, an awesome teammate. She is strong as a bull, even letting me hang on to her backpack during some of the trekking sections when I was hurting or moving slower. She is a bad ass! Thanks for another fun race Lori!

Not sure what I'll be doing between now and my next scheduled race, the Coast to Coast 72-hour race.  There are a couple races in between, but I haven't decided which one I may be doing.