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.

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