Saturday, October 22, 2016

USARA Nationals - Florida Xtreme Masters

I raced USARA Nationals with Team FLX Masters; JJ Johnson (who raced the very first USARA in California) and Courtney Spratt (my great friend with over 20 bikes - truly understands the n+1 formula).

We did the usual check-in, ate dinner, went to pre-race, and dropped our bikes. We would get maps the next morning, but we knew the general course layout the night before.

Start at TA1
1. Short Orienteering Prolog
2. Long paddle
3. Bike to another park
4. Orienteering at park
5. Bike back to TA1
6. Orienteering at TA1
7. Bike to  TA2
8. Orienteering at TA2
9. Long paddle to Finish
10. Bike leg returning to finish

Quite a fun course with many transitions and sections. I was really looking forward to the race.

1. Short Orienteering Prolog - 2 1/2 mile and 12 checkpoints. We headed out at a light jog and made quick of this section. We were about 2/3 back in the pack when we hit the boats for the long paddle. It was a beautiful morning and I was quite happy with how it was going. We had not expended too much energy and had not wasted too much time in navigation errors.

2. The long paddle was just that. We took a clockwise route. I love paddling and really enjoyed this section. JJ, however did not - an injury (torn rotator cuff) was severely aggravated and by the last 5 miles of the paddle, JJ was really struggling with the paddling. Early in the paddle he was steering - and we should have moved him, but that was our first mistake.

3. By the time we returned from the paddle we were near the back of the pack. This was fine - we prepared to ride and headed out. We had a small issue with finding the Bartram trailhead - but were soon on the route. There was no real navigation and we simply tried to optimize our timing. As we hit one road section we passed Adventure Medical Kits going the other way, doing well over 20 mph and eating on the bike. A few spots along the trail were tricky and we ended up walking rather than sliding of the trail. (I did slide off the trail as I did attempt to ride it). We were essentially in the same place as we arrived at CP12 and started the first orienteering course.

4. Orienteering 1 - Starting up the road we well overshot the attack point and found a control from another race (as did many others). By dropping south to the water I quickly realized my mistake we double back to CP13. Next we followed the shoreline finding the North-South channel and shot into CP14. From there we headed due south to the trail (second trail) - headed east to the hilltop on the trail and dropped south to the control (also bring a half dozen teams in the area to it). From there it was a straight run on trail back to CP12.

5. Bike back to TA1 - We decided to use the south route (on the loop) to return. Two things happened - it got dark and the trail disappeared. I knew pretty well where we were and we simply bike whacked north (at the north dimple) and picked up the south dimple, and finally bike whacked out and finished the ride to TA1.

6. Orienteering 2 - We seemed to have picked up a lot of places as we headed out on orienteering 2. We decided on a counter clockwise route. CP19 and CP16 went quickly. CP17 was a disaster and I finally got it by shooting a bearing from the gate house of the park. My mistake was using the clue and trying to search each re-entrant. The control really was not really in a re-entrant, but was in an area where there were plenty of them. We did help some teams that were struggling with it (as did we). CP18 and CP21 went quickly, however I totally misjudged CP20 (and let my attention lapse). We ended up having to go to the water where I mistook the coves, which led us on a long back and forth where we ran into Team Chunk - and we got the control and headed back to the TA. We had pretty much lost all our gains from the first Orienteering.

7. Bike to TA2 - This was simply fun and fast (Bartram Trail). Awesome flowing single track with a couple of checkpoints along the way.

8. Orienteering 3 - My this time it was obvious we would not be able to do paddle 3. Not because of timing, but JJ had no shoulder left. We could have paddled with just Courtney and I - but for some reason this never occurred to me. Still we were having fun - and I was looking forward to the next orienteering. Unfortunately it was not looking forward to me. I had misplotted CP27 (see both locations on map). Jeff from FLX was supposed to check my plots - but had missed this one as we ran short on time. We grabbed CP25 and CP29 quickly. We decided to go around by road to CP28 where we ran into AK-47 man. At first he was upset about people that had cut through his yard, but after some chatting at the Bait shop all was OK. I also helped them to know where the best fishing was as we had paddled the day before through some massive schools of fish that I had noted. Some locals were still not happy about our approach to CP28 and it was getting light - so we called it a day and headed back to the TA (on the road).

From here we simply biked back to the finish. We were looking forward to some real food and got some awesome South Carolina BBQ. The banquet was great and it was great to see everyone. I also won an entry to the 4 day race in Virginia sponsored by 361 adventures which I am setting up a team already. All in all I would have liked to been able to clear the course. Neither JJ, nor I were at 100% - but I also was satisfied and enjoyed simply enjoying the race. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Cauldron 36 Hour Race

I thought I would throw together a little blog post for the Cauldron 36 hour race by Off the Grid Racing. I raced with Courtney Spratt, Junos Reed, and JJ Johnson as Team FLX.

The start was at Blue Spring recreation area - a beautiful spring near Marianna FL.     Checkin was at 8 PM and it looked like I was going to need all 4 hours before midnight to prepare the maps for the midnight start. There were 28 8 1/2 x 11 maps to prepare and it became quite obvious that we would be doing a LOT of biking in this race.

The race started with a prelude orienteering of about 4 miles (probably less) - but it became obvious that it was not going to be fast. The first few controls were in rocky outcroppings and caves and were pretty tricky to find in the dark. We took out at an easy pace and finished the section about even with Canyoneers and Disoriented, but Team Pangea moved through this fast and had a solid 30 minute lead as we headed into the first bike section.

The biking had a few odd issues, the CP at the first BP showed the flag well off the road and it was actually on the road, 15 minutes wasted. By the time we got to the 3rd control we had joined forces with Disoriented - which worked out OK since the control was on the SW corner of the intersection and the clue said NW corner. It would not have been too bad if that corner was not all briars. Well, that's Adventure Racing. We learned early to keep a wider net on checkpoint searches.

The ride took us to Hinson Conservation Area for another orienteering course  This was a great course and took us into the day. This course had some incredible areas and lots of cool water features along the Chipola River. We had no issues at all with this and had a great time crawling in and out of the rock formations and caves along a scenic section of the Florida Trail. Only one control inhere gave us issues, one on a Spring. We found the watercourse of the spring and I headed upstream to the spring, but Junos who had the passport went downstream and we had a bit of confusion (in the dark) bringing us all back together. As it turns out we passed Pangea going the opposite direction at exactly this time.

After the trek we were back on the bikes with Team Disoriented and about a solid hour+ behind Team Pangea.

We would bike back to Blue Spring Recreation Area and move onto the paddle.

I wish I had more pictures of the paddle, but this was a high point. Crystal Clear beautiful water. Interesting checkpoints and a nice sunny day. It really does not get much better and we did the entire paddle within minutes of Team Disoriented which were our race buddies. As we got back to the main TA we took some time to prepare for the next section of the course which would be around 24 hours until we saw our gear again.

It was hot when we left on the LONG bike and besides being long it was hot. After a few hours of biking Junos started suffering serious heat issues. We headed to a convenience store (3 miles out of the way) and cooled off and got food and drinks. After heading back out - Junos stomach gave out and from there it was simply a issue of getting to the next TA alive, which we did. A lot of thanks to the lady with the hose who helped us cool off.

Florida Caverns State Park was a welcome site and it would also be a long time before we headed back out on the bikes on the home stretch. The next section was a trek and Craig Sheriff was really encouraging at the TA. After about 2 hours of trekking Junos really started suffering and we headed back to the Caverns TA to drop him off.

With Junos settled we headed back out to complete the trek. We ran into a few teams and helped them out and I am happy to say we completely cleared this trek section and were the only team to do so. There were some really challenging controls - but incredible caves and feature. Visit it - you won't be disappointed.

We had stashed some food in our paddle bags and Craig had grilled up some hamburgers and hot dogs. Junos was feeling a little better and had gotten some decent sleep. Courtney and JJ and I spent about an hour debating whether we would do the optional paddle here, finally deciding to attempt the bike leg return to the Main TA. I had estimated it at 30 miles (I was very wrong). We had about 5 hours to complete this before the 36 hour deadline and as it turns out a combination of sandy dirt roads, heat, and distance was going to make this a real challenge. As it became obvious that we would make it back in time we stopped at a convenience store where JJ got into a fight with a coffee machine and an ice maker. But we did get some food and drink in us for the ride home, and nobody was going to challenge our use of the ice machine as we smelled pretty bad,

It felt great to make it to the finish line. I estimate at least 130 miles of biking, about 25 miles on foot and 7-8 of paddling. It was really great and I am now really looking forward to USARA nationals.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Expedition Alaska Part 6 - Mount Marathon and Aftermath

continued from:

Finally Sleep

TA7 was a great location. We were at the military resort in Seward - a camping area and RV park for the military. It had real bathrooms and HOT showers! The team was completely wasted (tired) when the totally over capacity passenger van dropped us off (nice ride for a couple of miles from the Lost Lake trailhead to the TA - just to keep us off the roads.

I was so tired I have very little recollection of what was happening. It was dark, we were in the TA. I think Shu and John had the tent set up. I know I woke up with all of the other team members in the big TA tent we had. The folks from Vidaraid were then and we chatted with them. I got a shower as did the rest of the team. We pretty much had a full day and teams were rolling and hiking in to TA7 in much the same condition we came in early that morning. It was all pretty hazy. The next few hours were pretty much a combination of packing gear, repairing feet (mine were really bad), eating, chatting with teams, and generally not hiking - though we did walk into Seward to see some of the Men's race of Mount Marathon - though John and Terry got the best view of that.

We all hiked to the official finish line (about 2 1/2 miles from the TA) and got the final picture and official finish. We talked to the media crews. Again all hazy. We were all looking to a real nights sleep in a real bed. Before that we would have a little get together with beer, wine, and whiskey and start telling our stories about the race. This was a wonderful and relaxing end to the major part of the race. We still had the last leg to complete (the Mount Marathon 5K) the next morning - but after what we had done - this all seemed like a formality. Plus we would get a real nights sleep. Around midnight we set off for the hotel room we had been assigned, and collapsed.

Mount Marathon

This is Mount Marathon - the trailer here tells it all

I woke up early the next morning. My feet were in incredible pain - but I was going to make the Mount Marathon. Kerry was literally out - like a zombie. Terry and Ric were already stirring, the rest of the team (Sterling, Julie, Tim, Julie) were at another hotel. We got up and dressed - I was moving slow, so Ric and Terry headed out towards the start of the Mount Marathon race. We still had plenty of time - and I wanted coffee and donuts  - so I headed towards town and successfully found a coffee shop. The rest of the team found me in the coffee shop. I had a massive danish and 2 cups of loaded coffee and was feeling almost ready for the Mount Marathon start.

What can I say - even though my feet were in pain, the Mount Marathon was a blast. It was only 5 K (of course 3022 feet was up and another 3022 were down). I am forever spoiled on 5K (of course I always thought - what's the point on a typical 5K anyway). The climb up started with a scramble, a cliff, climbing trees, open scree, falling rocks - and the down climb was pure insanity. It was awesome - if I could ever get back to do it again (and could get an entry into the race) I would be there.

We regrouped before we came back down (we had to hunt a while for Julie) - and we all crossed the line dirty, gritty, and happy.

Everyone contributed along the course. We wrapped up with a wonderful party.dinner and then it was all off on our own separate ways.  Here are some pictures of our journey;


Lena and Tim






Susan (Shu Shu)

Ron (your author and guide)