Monday, April 18, 2016

The Earth Day AR (2016)

The 2016 Earth Day AR toook place in and all around the Santa Fe river area (High Springs, FL and Fort White, FL), just NW of Gainesville.

[click here for a short pre-race video]

Foot 1 (5:58PM-7:04PM; ~8.57km, 5.33 miles)

We started with a run around River Rise State Preserve, picking up seven CPs along the way. Navigation was very easy as all controls were right on the trails.

[click here for a short video during this section]

Paddle 1 (7:27PM-10:53PM; ~24.67km, 15.33 miles)

After the foot 1 we returned ot the main TA, picked up our paddling gear, then headed 2km up the trail to the start of the paddle. This section had four easy CPs, all along the Santa Fe River. But it was long. At 15.33 miles, a very long paddling section. After CP11 we continued up the river to the Santa Fe TA.

[click here for a short video during this section]

Foot 2 (10:53PM-1:10AM; ~6.95km, 4.32 miles)

When we arrived at the Santa Fe TA. We were given a new map with seven controls plotted. The map had a red trail leading to most of the controls, but everyone quickly learned that this 'red trail' did not actually exist. I tried to find CP1 for about 20 minutes before I realized that. So I started using the river as my guide and found CP2. CP4 was close to the river and the power lines, so I then attacked that one and found it pretty easily. From that point on it was true orienteering style navigation to find all the rest of the CPs. From CP4 I shot a bearing to CP3, from CP3 shot a bearing to CP5, and so on. It was fun as I love real orienteering. After finding all the CPs I returned to the Santa Fe TA and got back on the boat.

[click here for a short video during this section]

Paddle 2 (1:10AM-2:23AM; ~8.4km, 5.22 miles)

The second paddle was again heading up the river, this time with no controls to find. We just had to make it to the Tudeen TA.

Foot 3 (2:23AM-5:27AM; ~11.43km, 7.10 miles)

Just like at the Santa Fe TA, at the Tudeen TA we were given a new map, this time with ten controls plotted. I decided to attack them backwards, from CP10 to CP01. I started off doing well, finding 10, 9, and 8 with no issues. But at CP7 I made one of the biggest rookie mistakes of my racing career.

The clue for CP7 said "310* @ 130m". Now, as all racers and orienteers know, when you are given a bearing clue, it usually says 'distance @ bearing', as in "210m @ 156°". It's the way I have seen it since I started racing in 2003. So when I read '310 @ 130', I immediately thought, 310m @ 130°. So I shot my bearing and went off into the woods looking for the control. I must have spent 45 minutes looking for it, obviously not finding it, and decided to skip it. About an 30 minutes later, still fuming that I didn't find it, I re-read the clue, and that's when I noticed my mistake. Lesson most definitely learned.

The rest of the CPs on the section were easy to find. I made it back to the TA and got back on the boat.

[click here for a short video during this section]

Paddle 3 (5:27AM-7:53AM; ~13.56km, 8.43 miles)

When I looked at the map for the last paddle section, I almost cried. Paddling is my least favorite of the AR disciplines. I had already endured two long sections, and this one was going to be tough. But, I had to do it. Off I went.

Two bad things about paddling alone... One, it's obviously it's a lot more physically demanding as you are the only source of power. And two... the thing about paddling by yourself, as opposed to with a team, is the boredom! There's nobody there to talk to and keep you entertained. Jason, my good friend and longtime teammate, does a great job at always keeping me going when I am tired. But since I was alone, I started dozing off in the boat. I was tired. But I had to keep myself awake. Luckily for me, about 1/3 of the way into the paddle (as I neared CP12), the sun started coming up. When you have been racing all night, sunlight is like getting a shot of crack. It helped keep me awake. Unfortunately it did not help all the different pains I was experiencing, so I paddled very slowly. But I set a goal to myself to make it to the Lemon TA before 8:00AM. I made it at 7:50AM.

Bike 1 (7:53AM-11:47AM; ~67.81km, 42.13 miles)

I spent about 10 minutes at the TA eating, drinking, and getting ready for the upcoming, long bike section.

The navigation on the bike was really easy, but the ride itself was tough. We rode mostly heading east, and there was an incredibly strong wind coming out of the east. Halfway through the bike section I ran into Peter, Tom, and Jason, of team 'Off in the Woods'. The four of us worked together against the wind and picking up the CPs. They were a huge help to me. I was exhausted. It was nice to have someone to draft off of for a little while.

As we rode towards CP21 we realized time was short, and we would have to skip CPs 22-25 in order to make it to the finish line before noon. We planned an alternate route.

I finally crossed the finish line at 11:50AM. 17 hours and 50 minutes after starting.

[click here for a short video during this section]


I won't lie, it was a tough race. I think racing solo made it much tougher. Would I race solo again on a race this long? Who am I kidding? Probably.

In the end, there is still nothing as exciting to me as being out in the middle of nowhere in pitch darkness. It's hard to describe how much I really love it. And strangely, how comfortable I feel being there.

Thank you to Craig and all the volunteers!

Trekking: 6:49 hours, 29.25km, 18.18 miles
Paddling: 7:06 hours, 46.64km, 29 miles
Biking: 3:53 hours, 67.81km, 42.13 miles
TOTAL: 11:50 hours, 114km, 90 miles