Monday, December 15, 2014

Gemini Springs Sprint AR (2014)

The Gemini Springs AR was the first official race for FL Xtreme Adventures. Dr. Ron put together a nice race that was aimed at introducing adventure racing to anyone who had never done an AR before. So, I asked my brother (Cesar) and my brother-in-law (David) to race with me as Team, Nature Calls. Both of them had expressed interest in AR before but had never actually raced. This was the perfect opportunity...

The point of this race was for me to teach my teammates what AR is all about. So I decided I wasn't just going to grab the map and go, with them just following me. Sure I could have done that, but what would be the point? So as soon as we got the maps, I started telling about reading the map, understanding the passport and clues, etc. And I would continue to do that throughout the race.

The Trek

We started the race with a short trekking section. I explained to our team which way we would go, and why. Near each CP, I would show them where we were and the route we would take to find the CP. Sometimes I would let them tell me.

We quickly found all the CPs on the run, and headed off towards the boats. Already both of them were loving the race and having a great time.

The Paddle

We quickly got on the boat and headed off towards the first CP. Unfortunately on the boat it is a little harder to share the map and show them what we were doing, so we had gone over it beforehand at the TA. We paddled around the island finding the four CPs with ease. Along the way I tried to give them a few paddling hints.

The Bike

We transitioned from the boats to the bikes quickly and headed off towards CP13. When we arrived at CP13, my brother told me that the number on top of the CP did not match with any number on the punch card, so I told them we must have come across a different CP. We were confused because we were sure it was the right place, but we moved on.

We looked around for CP13 for 5-10 minutes. Finally I decided to go back to the original spot. I thought it must have been mis-labeled. When my brother went to punch we noticed we had received the wrong punch card. We had the punch card for the "Sport" race bike leg, not the "Sprint" race bike leg. That was why he couldn't find the number on the card. So we punched it and moved on.

That was a great lesson for both of them... always check to make sure you have the right punch card.

So lesson learned, we continued on the bike leg. At each CP I would continue to share the map with them, showing them where we were, and the route we would take to reach the next CP, making sure they understood.

The Finish

We finished the race in 2nd place, just a few minutes behind the 1st place team. My brother immediately started telling us how if it wasn't for getting the wrong punch card, we would have finished 1st. He is probably right, but what is funny is that this is when I knew I had succeeded in creating two new adventure racers. They were addicted and already talking like the rest of us experienced racers talk after our races. Later on that afternoon at a family event, he was telling everyone how we really should have finished 1st. Hilarious!

So in summary, the race was a complete success. I did what I had accomplished to do, introduce two new people to the sport. They are already taking about the next race. David even told his wife he wants a new bike.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Turkey Burn 12-Hr AR (2014)

There's a special place in my heart for the Turkey Burn. It was the very first adventure race I ever did, back in 2003. And to this day, I have never missed it. In  fact, Dr. Ron and I are the only two people that have raced every single Turkey Burn (all 12 so far). So it's a pretty special race for me.

The 2014 Turkey Burn Adventure Race was held at beautiful Wekiva Springs State Park, FL. It was Pangea Adventure Racing's last race, and they made it a great one. This year I would be racing with my friends Trung and Sway as Team Nature Calls. My usual teammate, Jason, was racing with our friend Aaron (and Jim Musial) on Team Endeavor Racing.

WSSP is basically in my backyard, so I had a pretty good knowledge of all the trails and features in the park. I had spent the last six weeks riding around and getting to know the park even better. And I would like to think it paid off...

The Prologue

As always, the race started off with a short prologue in order to split the teams up. it was a very quick run around the parking area which took us no more than a few minutes. And just like that we were off on our bikes.

Distance: 0.36 miles
Time: 4:34

The Bike (01)

The first bike leg was a fairly easy and straightforward one. From the Main TA, we had to ride up to the Wekiva TA, picking up one CP along the way. As you can imagine, it was a mass train of bikes heading down the trails. We arrived at Wekiva TA and quickly went off on foot for our first trekking leg.

Distance: 3.18 miles
Time: 18:23

The Trek (01)

There were a lot of teams starting this leg together. There were people every where. We quickly headed out towards CP02. From there it was a pretty easy job to find all the CPs on this leg. The maps we had were awesome. Using the contours and scale, we were able to attack each control straight on. We we right on the money on almost every one. So by the time we finished this leg we had caught up to all the front teams.

Distance: 2.01 miles
Time: 31:32

The Bike (02)

Other than the fact that it was still pitch dark out, and that my headlamp gave out on me halfway through the ride, we did very well on this leg. We rode well and found the five controls very easily.  The ride to CP10 was mostly underwater which was fun (and cold!). The ride from CP10 to CP11 was a tough one though. My headlamp was out so it was hard to see. We rode most of the way along side Team 'Mojitos on Monday'.

We arrived at Big Buck TA not too far behind the front teams.

Distance: 5.78 miles
Time: 1:05:07

The Paddle

When I first saw the paddle map I almost cried. It looked like a pretty long paddle. But it would end up being a perfect distance for a 12 hour race.

We started the paddle in pitch darkness. The cold air and slightly warmer water made for a lot of fog on the river, which made it hard to navigate all the tight turns. Slowly but surely we made our way down Rock Springs Run (picking up two controls along the way) and onto the Wekiva River.

Heading up the Wekiva River the sun finally started to pop out. Finding the CPs was fairly easy. We missed CP18 on the way up the river, but easily found it on our way back.

As we approached CP20 we got our first glimpse of how we were doing. The first team heading back from CP22 was my friends Jason, Aaron, and Jim of Team Endeavor. They were followed closely by Hien and Nate of Team Canyoneros. We arrived at CP20 and ran into Dr Ron and the rest of Team Honey Stinger. My timing told me we were about 25 minutes behind Team Endeavor.

To get CP21 we had to get out of the boats and run down a trail. I say run, but in reality, running was completely out of the question. We were all so cold, our legs could barely function. We were shivering. But we quickly found the control, got back on the boats and found CP22.

Then it was a very long paddle down the Wekiva River back towards the Main TA (and one more easy CP along the way).

Distance: 13.99 miles
Time: 3:55:13

The Trek (02)

We arrived at the Main TA and quickly put on some dry, warm clothes. Also, we ate, a lot. Then we took of on foot for the longest trekking leg of the race.

As I said before, I know the trails in this park pretty well, so finding the controls was pretty easy. We went straight to every single CP without issue, except CP27.

We arrived at the plotted location of CP27 and ran into team Mojitos, who had been looking for it for a few minutes. We all worked together looking for it, and after a short time two (or three) more teams had joined us, including Team Wet Feet AR. We all looked. And we were all positive we were on the right location. But none of us found it. Finally, we decided to give up on it and skip it. Four of us who were looking for it never found it, but one of the teams, Team We Feet AR, found it on their way out. Come to find out later from both Dr Ron and Jason, that they too found it completely by luck because it was mis-plotted. Oh well. It happens.

Other than CP27, the rest of the trek was awesome. Although, by this time I was getting pretty tired.

Distance: 9.84 miles
Time: 3:19:12

The Bike 03

The longest bike section of the race would turn out to be the make or break leg of the race. Mostly break. As soon as I received the map for the this leg, and saw that we had to head way up north into Rock Springs, I knew it would be tough.

It started out tough from the get-go. From Big Buck TA we had to cross Rock Spring Run with our bikes. The water level was just over waist high, and cold. CP37 was just across the river and easy to get. CP38 was east on the main trail. When we arrived at CP38 Team Honey Stinger was heading back down past us. As they past, Dr Ron yelled 'Nope. Time management!'. So Trung and I took a few minutes to look at the map and consider our options.

We had 2 hours and 50 minutes to finish the race. We still had a whole lot of bike points north of us, way north. Plus we still had another trekking section with eight controls, and finally a 15 minute bike ride to the finish line. After some quick calculations we decided it would be better for us to skip the rest of the bike points (on the north side) and simply go try and get as many trekking points as we could. So we turned around and headed towards Wekiva TA. On the way down we picked up two controls that were located along the way.

Distance: 8.54 miles
Time: 1:19:02

The Trek (03)

The last trek was almost identical to the first trek. In fact, the first four controls were the same exact ones. So navigation wise, this trek was super easy. But I was really tired and could not run. So it was slow going.

We moved as fast as we could and hooked up with Team Wet Feet AR for most of it. When we arrived at CP53 I made a decision to skip the last two controls and head back because time was short. So we ended up picking up six out of the eight total controls on this leg.

We headed back to the Wekiva TA to get on our bikes and head to the finish line.

Distance: 2.87 miles
Time: 57:00

The Finish

Now it was just a matter of making it to the finish before 1600 hours. We had about 25 minutes of so. Since I knew the trails I picked the route I knew would have the least amount of sugar sand. And with just about five minutes to spare, we crossed the finish line.

Distance: 3.08 miles
Time: 20:49

Post Race

Our few strategic decisions paid off. Even though we skipped several CPs, we ended up finishing in 4th place overall. I was kinda surprised, but of course very happy.

One last time I want to thank Pangea, Dave, the volunteers, and especially Greg for all the awesome years of racing they have provided us. Great times indeed!

And of course thank you to my two great teammates, Trung and Sway. Yesterday, the day after the race, they went out and did the Space Coast Marathon. They finished in 3:55 and 3:57. Incredible.

Hope to see you all at The Resolution AR, and more of FL Xtreme Adventures upcoming races!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Superhero 6-Hr AR (2014)

The 2014 Superhero was held at beautiful Blue Springs, FL. it was my first time racing at this location and I was pretty excited. Scott and I arrived pretty early, setup our TA, and had plenty of time to go over the maps and plan our routes and strategies. At precisely 0900, off we went...

The Prologue

The race started with a prologue. We were given a set of directions at the start (we did not have time to look at it ahead of time). There were four sets of two bearings (A1&A2, B1&B2, C1&C2, D1&D2). We had to find three of the sets by shooting a bearing and following a specific distance to the controls. All bearings started at a tree near the Main TA.

Scott and I found sets A and B and then tried for D. D1 was easy, but D2 was nowhere to be found. So we had to throw away our efforts for D1 and concentrate on finding C1&C2. After it was all set and done, we headed off on the paddle.

The Paddle (01)

The paddle consisted of a few points along the river. At the far end of the paddle, we had a trekking section at Hontoon Island. We were told we had be out of Hontoon Island by 11:45AM. Because of this time constraint, Scott and I decided to skip the CPs along the river and get them on the way back. We wanted to get to Hontoon as quickly as possible. We did pick up CP03 because it was right along the way and we thought it would be easier to get it now.

The Trek

We started the trekking section along with most of the front teams.  We quickly found CP04 and CP10. We then ran down the road and easily found CP05. When we got to CP06 we ran into two teams there looking for it. One team told me he had been there for 20 minutes and couldn't find it. Scott and I walked almost right to it and helped some of the other teams get it. From there CP07 was pretty easy. But after that is where our race broke down...

The map we had for this section was an aerial map with very little detail on the trails. There were several trails heading down towards the river and Scott and I mistakenly chose went down the first two. By the time we got to the correct trail, it was 11:50. We were now late and the penalty points started racking up. Unfortunately, even though we were on the right trail, the thought of the penalties was weighing heavy on our minds, so we didn't spend much time looking for CP08 and we missed it.

We made it back to the boats at 12:05PM. We were 20 minutes late, which meant 4 penalty points. That really hurt.

The Paddle (02)

CP08 on the trek really put a hurting on our race. We were the last boat to leave Hontoon Island. To make matters worse, I was feeling like total garbage.

For the second race in a row, I started feeling nauseous and dizzy. I had a headache and could barely paddle at all. I had already drank my entire bladder. So the paddle back was completely miserable and very slow. Scott had to basically paddle by himself most of the way as I simply couldn't do anything.

A river patrol boat came by and asked how we were doing. I asked him for water, and luckily they had some water bottles they gave us.

Because I couldn't paddle much, our paddle was slow. Our time was ticking away quickly and I knew we wouldn't have time  to complete the entire race. So I told Scott we would skip the two points on the river so we would have time to get more points on the bike and tubing section.

Our first paddle took us 48 minutes. Our second one took us 1:26. That's how much slower we were moving.

We finished the paddle at around 1330. We only had 1.5 hours to finish the race.

The Tubing Section

I was still feeling like crap, so we decided to do the tubing section first so I could try and rest and feel better. It took us just over 30 mins to complete the tubing section and although it was refreshing, it didn't do much to bring me back to life.

[my watch somehow turned off during this section so I don't have the gps track for it]

The Bike

We had about 50 minutes of racing left. So we quickly left on our bikes. We knew we wouldn't be able to get all the bike points, so I made a decision to skip a few. We got on the single track trails and picked up four points before calling it a day and heading back. On the way back I could barely pedal my bike.

The Finish

This was the worst race I've had in, well, many, many years. We're usually a pretty good team, but my issues during this race cost us a lot. The missed CPs and the four penalty points put us pretty far down on the standings.

But even with all the problems and issues I had, I still had fun. I've said it time and time again, Adventure Racing is simply awesome and just being out in the woods with friends is a good time.

Scott did great! He basically carried my ass the entire race.

So now it's time to start getting ready for the Turkey Burn AR in November. My favorite race of the year!

Here's a short video I made from the race:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Nocturnal 18-Hr AR (2014)

The 2014 Nocturnal Adventure Race took place in and around Stephen Foster State Park in White Springs, Florida. Located upstate near the I-75 and I-10 intersection.

The Nocturnal has always been one of the toughest and most fun races of the year. And this year was no different. The weather forecast for the weekend was looking pretty bad. A high of 100F on Saturday (a heat index above 110), with rain later on during the day.

The race started at 1500 hours on Saturday and it was hot. Brutally hot.

The Trek (01)

The race started with a 13km trek from the Main TA at Stephen Foster State Park, along the Suwanee River, up to Big Shoals State Park. For the first 2km or so everyone jogged at an easy pace. But after that most everyone just started trekking, no running. The heat was just too much.

It took us just over 2 hours to complete this section. Jason and I found the 5 CPs without much trouble. But it was during this leg that my stomach started feeling like crap. I was staying hydrated, but I still felt dizzy and just kinda sick to my stomach.

We arrived at the Big Shoals TA in 8th place.

The Paddle (01)

After a short portage with our boats down to the river, we jumped in and quickly started catching up to some teams ahead. Shortly after we started the paddle we hit the Big Shoals. An area of the Suwanee River where the river drops 9 feet in about a 1/4 mile. So it makes for some pretty fun small rapids. But because the water levels are so low, we were forced to get out of our boat for a short portion. I got some great video of it.

I kept feeling worse and it showed because my paddling was barely there. Jason had to do the bulk of the paddling for both of us while I tried to rest and recover as best as I could.

This paddling leg was just under 15km long and it took us about 2:15 to complete. The CPs were all fairly easy to find. And even though I was barely helping Jason, we still managed to finish the paddle tied for second place with Team Mojitos on Monday.

The Bike (01)

On our short walk from the boat drop off back to the Main TA, I started feeling better. Once at the TA I ate a sandwich and drank a coke and I started feeling good again. This was good.

We left on our bikes and quickly caught up to with Team Mojitos. Together we rode to the first checkpoint, CP11. We stopped in the area where we thought CP11 was located and started looking.

The four of us looked for 15 minutes before the rest of the teams started arriving behind us. We could not find it. Shortly after there were no less than 20 people looking for the CP. It started getting dark. We were there for exactly 30 minutes before Jason and I decided we must be in the wrong place. We got back on our bikes and headed up the trail to see if we could located the correct place. We rode up and down the trail a couple times but we could never really pinpoint the exact location of the CP. So after a total of 45 minutes, we decided to give up and move on.

We really hate skipping CPs so we were pretty bummed. Plus by this time I was starting to feel like crap again. Worse than before.

We found CPs 12, 13, and 14 and then headed across the Suwanee River bridge for the rest of the CPs.

As we crossed the bridge I couldn't ride anymore. I felt like complete crap. We stopped for a short while so I could rest and try to eat something. It was then that for the second time in my racing career I have thrown up during a race. The first time was during my 3rd time at the Leadville Trail 100 MTB race in 2009. This was the second time. And man was it a good one. Immediately afterwards, I felt like a million bucks! I was ready to race!

At CP16 we ran into our good friends Aaron and May-Li of Team Endeavor Racing. It was also around this time that the storm hit. And man was it a storm. The lightning was out of control. But the rain was coming down so fast and so hard that it was truly hard to see. I've raced through a lot of bad storms before. But this was definitely one of the worst ones.

CP18 gave us a bit of a hard time. Somehow we missed the Blue Trail we were supposed to be on and it took us a while to get back on track. This entire bike leg ended up being about 30km for us, and it took us about 5 hours.

The Paddle (02)

The second paddling leg was a breeze. I was feeling like a champ and the storm had passed. We quickly found the three CPs along the river and finished the 10km paddle in 1:45.

The Trek (02)

The second trek turned out to be a long one. We only had seven CPs to find on our way back to the Main TA. But CP27 turned out to be a killer.

We spent 45 minutes looking for CP27, to no avail. Like CP11, it was a tough one. Several teams were looking for it at the same time, most had no luck finding it.

We found the rest of the CPs, but we were kinda upset about CP27. The section turned out to be about 17km long for us, and it took us almost 4:20 to complete.

The Bike (02)

After the long trek we were not sure we would have enough time to complete the last bike leg of the race. We only had 2:30 hours left of racing, and we had 8 CPs to find on the bike.

It turned out that the biking was much easier than we had expected, thanks in large part due to the fact that the sun was now coming out and it was no longer pitch dark outside. This really helped a lot.

None of the bike points really gave us a hard time and we managed to finish the 13km bike in about 2 hours.

At 0823 on Sunday morning we finished the race in 8th place overall, after missing two CPs. But as always, we had a great time racing!

Thanks as always to Pangea and all the wonderful volunteers!

Thanks to May-Li and Aaron!

And mainly thanks to my teammate Jason for carrying my slow ass through another awesome race!

See you all at the SuperHero AR in a few weeks.

Here's a short race video I made: