Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Nocturnal 12-Hr AR (2011)

A couple weeks ago Team Nature Calls was back together to take on the 12-Hour Nocturnal Adventure Race down in Forever Florida.  Jason, Lori and I were pretty excited, and it would turn out to be a pretty good race.

The Bike (1)

The race started at exactly 6:00PM on Saturday evening.  The first section was to be a bike ride down to the Bull Cree TA.  Along the way we had three checkpoints to find.  Because of all the rain we had the days prior to the race, the entire area was wet.  Very, very wet.

Because it was a mass bike start, Jason, Lori and I knew we had to get up front to try and avoid the congestion on the trail and at the CP's.  And so we did.  We hammered out of the gate on the front, I even crashed 2 minutes into the race as I was trying to make a sharp turn on soft sand. We stayed near the fron and quickly made it to CP1 which was very easy to find.  Then the trails turned to shit.  Nasty uprooted, wet shit.  It was very tough riding.  My heart rate shot through the roof in this area. It took us about 1:15 to collect the three CP's and make it down to Bull Creek TA.  Now it was time to paddle.

The Paddle (1)

At Bull Creek TA we quickly transitioned to the canoes and headed off on the river.  Lucky for people like me (who hate paddling), there isn't much water down in Forever Florida, so the paddle section is fairly short.

We started Paddling north on the river.  We had one checkpoint on the water, and two other which we had to shoot bearings to from that same location.  We got there and found all three points easy enough.

Then we turned around and went back south to find the other two points in the river.  Again, this was fairly easy.  Once back at the TA, we had to turn around and do a quick paddling 'time trial'.  This is mainly just so that we could have more time on the boats. It took us about 45 minutes total to complete the paddle.

The Trek (1)

Now it was time to run. We left Bull Creek TA on foot to find five checkpoints in the area. By now the sun was almost gone and it was getting dark. Time for our headlamps.

We went after CP13 first, then CP12, which is the only point that really gave us a hard time (as you can see by our track below).  But once we found CP12, the rest was basically easy.  We ran as much as we could to try and stay near the front.  Jason carried my pack most of the way since I am just not as great a runner as him and Lori are.  And every little bit helps.

We found all points and made it back to Bull Creek TA at 10:40PM.  The whole trek section took us about 2.5 hours.  We were the third team back.  First place was about 10 minutes ahead, and second place was just about 2 minutes ahead.

So far we had raced for 6.5 hours.

Here's a close up of our track trying to find CP12.  As you can tell, we got a little turned around trying to find this point. At one point I came within a couple feet of it before turning around without finding it. Doh!

The Bike (2)

Back on the bikes we had a few points to find before making it back to the main TA and completing the first part of the race.

It was during this section that I started to hurt.  My stomach was killing me.  We pushed on and made it to CP14 where we ran into the second place team.  They were still looking for CP14.  We got there and within a couple minutes found it, but of course, we kept quiet and got the hell out of there as quickly as we could. We left and they were still looking for it.  Score!

Since I was hurting I asked Jason if he could tow me.  He broke out the handy tow rope and off we went.  We found the last two CP's very easily and made it back to the TA at around 12:30AM.  The last bike took us about 1:30 hours.

The Sports Course

Now that we had finished the first part of the Elite race, we had to complete the second part, which meant we had to complete the entire 5-hour Sports Course.  This is the course that the beginner teams would be doing.  The Short Course race started at 1:00AM, so we tried to get our maps and get out of there as quickly as possible to avoid the mess of riding with the sports course teams.  We left at 12:50AM.

The Sports Course Bike (1)

Our first leg of the sport course was a bike section with just a few checkpoints.  This turned out to be much tougher than we expected for a short course race. But we moved fast and started picking off the points.  Eventually some of the sports course people caught up to us.  It was actually kinda funny watching them run around in circles on some areas. There were some areas of this leg that were pretty tough to ride on.  Basically there was no trail at all.  We were just riding over logs and roots and other crap.  Slow moving, but we eventually found all the points and made it back to the TA.

The Zip Lines

After we finished the bike leg we decided to go do the zip line section.  Forever Florida has several zip line towers in the woods.  It is cool as shit.  We went up, got geared up and headed to the towers to complete our zip lines.  The race tok place during a full moon, so no headlamps were allowed at the zip lines.  It was all done by moonlight.  Very freaking cool!  We were the only ones out there at the time so we made it through all the towers in about 20 minutes.  It was fairly quick, and very fun!

Everyone had one hour to complete the zip line section. If you did it faster, you would have to sit and wait before you were allowed to continue with your race.  This was our case.  But it worked out well, because we got back to the TA and were able to hang out for about 20 minutes before heading back out on the course. It was a much needed rest.

The Sports Course Paddle

We jumped on our bike and took a 10 minute bike ride down to another very short, and very congested little river.  Here we dropped off our bikes and carried a canoe down to the river.  We only had three CP's to find, but because the river was so congested (branches, logs and all sorts of debris) it was tough moving around. And also, there were a good handful of Sports Course team also in the water with us.

But, we were able to find all the points quickly and without issue, and in almost not ime at all we were back at the bikes.

The Sports Course Bike (2)

After getting off the boat we had to pick up our bikes and back back acros the river with them.  Luckily the river was only about 4 feet deep so crossing it was not a big deal.  On the other side of the river we had one CP to get.  it was very easy to find and not long afterwards we were back at the Main TA, about to start the last leg of the race.

The Sports Course Trek

The last thing left to do was a trekking section with about 5 checkpoints.  I was really hurting, so once again Jason helped me out.  We ran as much as we could and found all the points almost without issue.  By this time there were a shitload of people out there.  Long course teams mixed in with Sports Course teams.  There were people everywhere.  But we did our own thing and Jason's awesome navigation led us right to every checkpoint.

The Finish

We finished the race at 5:38AM.  We raced for 11 hours and 38 minutes.  And come to find out, we finished in 2nd Place Overall!  First place, Team Greenpaw, was about an hour ahead of us.  Those guys are pretty bad ass.  Also, us and Greenpaw were the only two teams that cleared the entire course!  Al other teams missed at least one checkpoint.  So that was very cool.

As always, I first want to thank my amazing team mates Jason and Lori.  We realy work really well as a team.  We help each other out when someone is in need and that's one of the reason we are able to do so well.  Jason' was awesome, not only was his navigation spot on the entire race, but he towed me a huge portion of the race. The dude is just a fucking machine!  And of course Lori is just bad ass.  She always is.

And thank you to Pangea and all the volunteers for another awesome race!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The SCAR 6-Hr AR (2011)

This past weekend, on Father's Day, Team Nature Calls was back out in the trails and woods, taking on the 6-hour SCAR adventure race.

For this race the team consisted of myself, JD and Amy. This was going to be Amy's first ever AR.

The Paddle

We started the race in the water. Heading north on the Wekiva River we had eight different checkpoints to find before making it back to the Main TA.  When the 'gun' went off, it was a race to CP1.  And a very nasty race.  The route to CP1 is a very slim ad very crowded river.  Canoes were constantly bumping and pushing each other.  It was not pretty.  The congestion continued from CP1 to CP2 and eventually to CP3.  It wasn't until after CP3 that the boats started to spread out some.

Heading to CP4 was a bitch.  It was located on an almost non-existant branch of the river. Paddling that portion was impossible.  We had to walk our canoe through soft mud most of the way.  After finding CP4 and getting back on the main river, things went much smoother.  We found all points and made it back to the TA, pretty exhausted.  The entire paddle took us just shy of 3 hours.

The Bike

Now it was high noon.  The weather was brutally hot, and we were about to get on the bikes. We had a handful of points to find nearby, and three points to find a little further south.

We started out doing great.  Found CP9, CP10, and CP11 fairly easy.  We made our way south and easily got to CP12.  it was around this time that the heat started getting to us.  We slowed way down.  We pushed on to CP13 and then on to CP14.  But we were now moving even slower. The heat was just out of control.

After finding all the CPs on the south side we slowly made our way back north to find the last two CP's.  It was around this time that we realized we would not have time to find all the checkpoints in the time we had left.  We had to finish the race by 3:00PM.  It was now around 1:30PM and we still had to trek.  So made a team decision to skip CP15, which was the furthest out of the way.  We pushed towards CP16, found it, and made our way back to the main transition area.

The Trek

We started the last leg, a trekking section, right around 2:00PM.  I knew that one hour would not be enough to get all the trekking points, so I decided to head up and get the north points first, which were closer together than the ones on the south trails.

Running was basically out of the question.  In fact, we saw nobody running.  Even Team Florida Extreme, who won the race, was not running the two times we saw them.  The heat was just too much.

So we trekked as fast as we could and found CP's 24, 23 and 22.  We headed towards CP21, but after only 5 minutes of looking for it I decided we had to abandon it because we only had about 20 minutes to make it back to the finish line.

So we left and trekked as fast as we could towards the finish.  We made it in and finished the race with just about 2 minutes to spare.


In the end, we finished the race, but had to skip about 5 checkpoints.  The heat just got to us and we ended up moving slower than expected.  But it was still another fun race!  I don't care how much it sucks and it hurts, I love adventure racing more than anything.  Always will.

JD and Amy were great teammates.  We helped each other out and made it to the finish.  Thanks for racing with me guys!!

A big thank you to Greg, Pangea and all the volunteers for another awesome race!

And congratulations to Team Florida Extreme and all the other teams that endured the heat and finished the race!

Now it's time to get ready for the next couple races..  The 8-hour Luminescent AR on July 30 and the 12-hour Nocturnal AR on August 13.  Can't wait!!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Florida Sunshine 30-Hr AR (2011)

This past weekend I hooked up with TrungSway to tackle the 30-Hour Florida Sunshine Adventure Race through Ocala National Forest.

The Pre-Race

As we looked through our maps and race directions, we knew we would be gone from the Main TA for a long time.  After leaving the Main TA at race start, we had a bike leg, boat leg, (very short) bike leg, trek leg, bike leg, and one last boat leg before making it back to the TA.  Following that we would have another trek leg, followed by a bike leg and back to the main TA for the finish.

Based on what I saw on the maps, I estimated our times and figured we'd be gone for about 15 hours before making it back to the Main TA.  So we prepared accordingly by bringing extra food and drinks.

The Prologue

As it's become a staple on the Pangea races, we started the race with a short prologue in order to split up the teams a little bit. It was a short 1/2 mile run while one person carried the front wheel of one of our bikes, and another person carried the rest of the bike.  We completed this section and quickly jumped on our bikes to start the real race....

The Bike (1)

The first legs of the race a 13 or so mile ride to the Alexander Springs TA.  Along the way we had one CP to locate.  The first half of the ride turned out to be great.  Mostly on a nice paved road (SR42).  But after finding CP 1, the sand trail became crap.  It was pure soft sand for a good way. Riding on soft sand is tough, but riding on soft sand when you are loaded up with a lot of equipment, extra food and extra drinks (plus we were carrying our kayak paddles), is much tougher. Needless to say, we had a lot of bike pushing to do. But finally after about 1.5 hours we finally reached the Alex TA.

The Paddle (1)

At the Alex TA we dropped off our bikes, picked up a canoe and headed north on the river looking for five checkpoints. On paper the paddle looked simple.  It was approximately 7 miles roundtrip.  On a normal day that takes about 1.5 hours.

Turns out the river was very shallow, with a lot of grass.  There were several tight areas were it was hard to move through.  We had a lot of getting in and out of the boat.

Finding the CP's was easy enough, but it started to get pretty hot out there.  CP2 was easy.  We missed CP3 on the way out because it was much harder to find.  But we did find CP4 which was very close to CP3 and gave us an idea of where to look for CP3.  We would get it on the way back.  CP5 was no problem.  And I almost missed CP6, but Sway has an eagle eye and spotted it before we passed it.  At CP6 we turned around and followed our path back. On the return trip we located CP3.

The entire paddle took us 3 hours.  Twice as long as I expected it to take.  We finished around 1:30PM, and it was now very hot.

The Trek (1)

After the paddle we had a short 20 minute bike ride from Alex TA up to the Mud TA, slightly up the road.  At the Mud TA we dropped off our bikes, and this time we took off on foot for an Orienteering section.

Now let me start by saying this, I love orienteering legs.  In fact, Orienteering is is without a doubt my favorite part of adventure racing.  And the harder the orienteering section is, the better I like it. We started off by finding CP13 very easy and fast.  No issues.  But after that, things didn't go so smoothly.

I am a pretty good navigator. It's the reason I love adventure racing so much.  I can navigate pretty well.  I learned from the best, Jason.  But on this race course you would have thought I had never held a map on my hands before.  I was a complete rookie.  Making simple and easy mistakes.  Seriously simple mistakes that were just dumb. What sucks is that once you make a couple mistakes, it gets in your head and you start doubting yourself and making more.  And that's exactly what happened to me.

We got off track heading to CP12.  Finally got back to it and found it.  CP11 wasn't too bad to get (still didn't go right to it at first).  And then we head to CP10.  I have no idea what I was thinking with my route choice.  As I said, it was as if I had never navigated before. I felt like an idiot.  Anyway, for some reason I led us to CP10 from the north side.  Big mistake.  There was zero approach to it from that side.  So we had to backtrack and approach it from the south.  Once we got down there we found it quite easily thanks to Trung's eagle eyes.

Right around the time we found CP10 all three of us were running out of water.  Trung and Sway were completely out.  I had a few sips left.  Luckily we ran into the race photographer right by CP10.  he had bottles of water and gave us a handful for us to take. Definitely a lifesaver!

Then it was just a matter of distance.  We had CP9, CP8 and CP7 to still get. They were easy enough, just a lot of trekking.

After it was all said and done, what I hoped would take around 4 hours, took us just over 7 hours. It was dark and I was getting pretty tired.

The Bike 3

By the time we got back to the Mud TA it was just after 9:00PM. We had been racing for 12 straight hours, and we had yet to make it back to the Main TA.  Now it was time to bike again.

This next bike section would take us on some very cool single track around the same area we had just trekked.  The trails weren't hard.  For those of you who've been, they are much like Croom.

We had a time cut off to worry about.  We had to finish the bike section, bike back to Mud TA, and then bike back to Alex TA, all before 2:00AM.  I knew this would be impossible.  We decided to cut the bike short. So instead of the 7 possible CP's on the bike route, we went after only 3 of them.

Right around this time is when I ran out of food.  After 14 or so hours of non-stop racing, in the incredible heat, I had gone through all my food.  I had plenty more back at the Main TA, but I had no more with me.  I started to bonk halfway through the bike.  I ate some of Sway's food, but it wasn't enough. After picking up CP's 14, 15 and 20, we made it back to the Mud TA sometime after midnight.  Now at just over 16 hours of racing, I was feeling like shit.

The End

In my many years of racing I have bonked many times, but never, not once, as bad as this.  When we got the TA I could barely stand without getting nauseous. I sat and tried to eat some of Sway's last food, but it didn't help.  Our next leg was going to be a very long paddle.  We heard that the fastest team so far had made it in just around 5:30 hours.  That meant it would take us an easy 7 hours to finish.  That would be seven more hours of racing without food (by this time Sway and Trung were just about out of food as well). There was no way.

So we decided to skip the paddle and head straight back to the Main TA on our bikes.  I could eat there, then we could head out on the last few legs of the race.  But I couldn't even manage to do that.  I tried standing a few times and immediately I was dizzy and wanted to puke.

So as much as it sucks, after 16 hours of racing, we called it quits.

Lucky for us that Greg, the race director, had stopped by the Mud TA to drop off some water, so we were able to jump in his truck and get a ride back to the Main TA.

I really want to thank Trung and Sway for racing with me.  Even tough we did not finish, I still had a great time racing with both of them.

And as always, thank you to Greg and the rest of the Pangea volunteers for being out there for us.

I have been pissed at myself since Sunday. But we have our good races and we have our bad races. I already can't wait for the next one.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Missing River 8-Hr AR (2011)

Jason, Lori and I (better knowns as Team Nature Calls), were back together again this past weekend to take on Pangea Adventure Racing's Missing River 8-Hour Adventure Race up in High Springs, Florida.

When we got up to River Rise Preserve State Park at 7:00AM, the temperature was 48F.  It was kinda weird given that it was April 30th, in Florida, but we weren't complaining.  After checking in, getting our gear ready, and having a quick pre-race meeting, we were ready to head back out into the woods and have another fun day.

The Prologue

The first leg of the race was going to be a bike section, but before we got on our bikes we had a short prologue in order to split up the teams a little bit.  For the prologue, teams had to navigate to three different checkpoints (CPs) by shooting a direction bearing and following a given distance from a central point.  Jason, Lori and I did pretty well in this section and in a short 8 minutes we were jumping on our bikes ready to start the real race.....

The Bike (1)

We started the race by biking up some kinda sandy trails from the River Rise Preserve up to the O'Leno Preserve.  Along the way we had two checkpoints to collect before reaching the first Bike TA. We rode well and after finding CP1 and CP2 we reached the Bike TA together with our friends Aaron and May-Li (Team Checkpoint of No Return).

The Trek (1)

At the O'Leno Bike TA, we quickly dropped off our bikes and took off on foot to find three CPs around the river.  Team Checkpoint of No Return went off on a clockwise loop, we attacked them the opposite way and ran the loop counter-clockwise.

The CPs were fairly easy to find.  Halfway around we ran into Aaron and May-Li, and after a couple quick high-five's we continued on our way. Around 18 minutes later we were done and back at the Bike TA.  Team Checkpoint of No Return had not made it in yet, so we wasted no time getting back on the bikes and leaving before they came in.

The Bike (2)

After leaving the first foot section we tried to put as much distance as we could on Team Checkpoint of No Return.  We knew they are good paddlers and they would make up time on us during the paddling leg.  So we rode fast.  A mere 27 minutes after getting back on our bikes, we reached the Main TA and there was no sign on Aaron and May-Li behind us.

The Paddle

After quickly checking in with the race volunteers we took off on our bikes again, for a very short ride down to the river. Once at the river we picked our canoe and off we went.

On the paddling leg we had 8 CPs to find.  Three CPs were north of US441 on the river, the other four CPs were south of 441.  We decided to go south first.  The southern portion of the river turned out to suck.  There were a lot of shallow sections with a lot of rocks.  Several times we had to get out of our boats and walk along the water because the boat was getting stuck.  But at least we had no problem finding the CPs along the way.  By the time we reached the furthest south point (CP14), Team Checkpoint of No Return had caught up to us.

After CP14 we turned around and started heading back north.  Luckily, after continuing north of 441, the river became deeper and there was no need to get out of the boat.  We continued to paddle close (although slightly behind at this point) to Team Checkpoint of No Return.  After a short while we reached CP7 located at the end of the river (not really the end of the river, but more on that later).

We left CP7 with Team Checkpoint of No Return a few minutes ahead of us.  We knew we had to try and paddle hard to keep the gap between us as close as we could.  By the time we reached the end of the paddle back at US441, we were about 7 or minutes behind Team Checkpoint of No Return.  The entire paddling leg took us exactly 3 hours.

The Bike (3)

We now had just two legs left in the race.  One was a bike, one was a trek.  We had to do both legs, but Greg (race organizer) had told us we could decide which leg to do first.  During our short ride back from the river to the Main TA, we saw Aaron and May-Li already leaving the TA on their way to the next leg of the race. They chose to go trekking first.  So we chose to go biking.  So we reached the Main TA, checked-in, and left right back out on our bikes.

This section of the race would take us back north on the trails where we had to find five different CPs.  The riding on this section was very bumpy.  A lot of it was on horse trails and the horses had torn up some of the trails pretty good.  Knowing that Team Checkpoint of No Return had a slight lead on us, we tried to ride as fast as we could. We worked together as a team and in just under one hour we had found all five CPs and were back at the Main TA.

While we were out on the trails we ran into Team Utility Mutants, who is another excellent Elite team.  They had decided to also do the bike leg first, and leave the trekking leg for the end. But we knew they had closed on us, just weren't sure how close they were. All we knew was that we had to complete the last leg (trekking) as fast as possible.

The Trek (2)

So after a quick change into our trekking shoes (for the first time during the race), off we went.

We ran the entire section and thanks to some great navigation choices by Jason, we completed the trek in jus around 37 minutes.

The Finish

As we ran the last few hundred meters back to the finish line, only one thing was on all our minds. We had not seen Team Utility Mutants while out on the trek, so we were pretty sure they were still somewhere behind us. But we had no idea what was happening with Team Checkpoint of No Return.  Had they completed their last leg (bike) and finished the race already?

Coming into the finish line the three of us were looking all over the finish area for Aaron or May-Li.  No sight of either.  We reached the finish line, handed in our checkpoint passport, and learned that we were the first team to finish. Hell yeah.  It's Miller Time!!

Exhausted we congratulated each other, sat to relax, and a couple short minutes later, Aaron and May-Li came riding in, finishing their race about 3 minutes behind us.


First and foremost, as always, a huge thank you to my awesome teammates Jason and Lori.  Jason had an awesome navigation race.  He was spot on the entire race!  And Lori was a machine, giving me a lot of help when I was hurting during that last trekking section of the race.

Also thank you to Team Checkpoint of No Return and Team Utility Mutants for an awesome, fun and very competitive race.

Lastly, thanks to Greg, Pangea, and all the volunteers for another awesome race!