Team Honey Stinger is Ron Eaglin, Jim Gorton, Junos Reed, and Wanda Timmons. We came into this race with the intentions of racing as hard and as fast as we could possibly go. I was also determined to make the race as clean as possible with solid navigation. The start was at UCF which had just defeated USF at home the night before the 4 AM start. The parking lot was still full of beer cans, trash cans, and port-o-lets - but it was nice to have some asphalt to set up our TA in - not that we would see it during the race.
We started with a short run up a parking garage, back down just to spread us all out before the bike leg. A few teams took off here - we took our time and moved cleanly onto the bikes and headed out towards CP1 on the UCF campus. Teams were already looking for the CP when we got there - but we zoomed in it quickly and were able to get out as the other team converged on our location. CP2-CP4 were uneventful but did provide some nice double track riding in the dark. As headed off campus Nature Calls was the only other team we saw, and we arrived at the boat TA just behind them, but with a few more teams just behind us.
We headed south on the Econlockhatchee River and found CP5 quickly working with other teams. After we came out we dropped the boats at the mouth of the Little Econlockhatchee and trekked to CP6 and CP7. Mojitos paddled this section and as it turned out that was probably a better choice as there were only 3 deadfalls to get around. Oh well, we came off the south paddle and headed north on the Econ River just behind them. We also saw a team ahead of us - I was pretty sure it was Super Frogs.
The paddle section on the Econ River was great. It did require meticulous navigation, but at night I always keep very tight contact with the map. I really just wanted to avoid costly mistakes - so we paddled a little slower than usual, but at the same time navigated this section flawlessly. Controls were also spaced very well to provide challenge and keep us from just dropping into "go" mode.
We got to Barr Street with Mojitos on Monday and headed out on the first orienteering section with them. The sun had just started to top the horizon, so I was able to ditch the headlamp - and we were on an orienteering map. We made quick work of the first 3 controls working with Mojitos. A couple teams caught us at CP13 as were a bit too far south looking for it - but it was good to have a few eyes looking through the woods - and this early in the race it makes sense to work together. At some point Mojitos decided to take a trail route to one of the controls - where I decided to punch straight through, and that was the last we saw of them. At one control Junos twisted his ankle and landed hard - he was right next to one of the controls and we likely would not have seen it had he not gone down. On one other control I spotted it right in the path of Junos and Jim and then watched as they walked right by it - so I was thinking I was seeing things. On closer inspection (I went to check out where they had just walked) it was the control so I gave them a hard time about not keeping their eyes open. In their defense - they were walking through raspberry stickers. We ran the last section of this trek hard and came out of the woods to the boat TA with Team Endeavor. From this point on it would be a 2 team race.
The next paddle section had some really awesome control locations, and paddling the Econ in general is pretty great. it is a very interesting river. We came out at the next TA and transitioned to bike, making it through the TA just a little faster than Endeavor. I did not even need to consult my map in this section (except at the end to make sure we had to go back to the TA). I've ridden Snow Hill single track many times and there is really only one word to describe it; fun. Endeavor did catch up to us in this section and just as quickly disappeared. They re-appeared as we switched control cards at the Snow Hill TA - but stopped to do something - so we were a little ahead as we headed to the Bridge TA. They arrive at the bridge TA just about 20 seconds ahead of us - we both transitioned to foot together and headed out to do a second orienteering. We had been working together well and we were pretty sure we had at least a 30 minute lead on the rest of the teams. We knew at some point we would switch from cooperation to race mode, but for now we were still working together.
The next orienteering section had some really challenging points, and even though it looks like we did the course in the same order - we took totally different attacks on the CP's. As we punched the last CP in this section we ran into them again on the Flagler Trail - they were about a minute in front of us - and were about 2 minutes behind when we got back to the bridge TA and transition back to bikes.
We had to mark 4 CP's on our map from a master map - and then head out into some technical single track. I still had local knowledge here of the trails, but the navigation was going to be challenging. We spent some time on the first CP (CP48) - but at the same time Endeavor had overshot it and were doubling back when I found it. The next to last CP in this section (CP50) got us a bit confused, simply because there were so many unmapped trails. At this point we were working with Team Endeavor and even some local bikers that ride Snow Hill every week tried to help us (it didn't help - that had no idea the trail CP51 even existed). We decided that we would go to the last known point (which was the last CP) and try again. This time we found the correct trail and then the control. As we got CP51 and headed back to the Flagler Trail we had no idea where Team Endeavor was, as we reached the Bridge TA for the last time, we were informed that Endeavor had not passed through yet - so we had a slight lead heading back to UCF.
That lead did not hold long - it was only about 10 minutes and Endeavor had caught back up with us and passed us, we passed them again just before CP52 and we both headed out on the road ride together. I took the lead and set a pretty fast pace hoping that Jim, who was towing Wanda would be OK. Endeavor was about 50 yards back of us for this section. When we approached the turn onto Lockwood - disaster struck. I looked for clear, seeing one car, and then looked again and saw clear so I called the crossing to the left lane to turn left. As Jim and Wanda (Jim towing Wanda) crossed a Motorcycle slammed into the back of Wanda, and I turned to see Wanda sliding along the top of the motorcycle and the Rider sliding to a halt. Endeavor was right behind us and immediately went into assist mode. About a dozen people called 911 all at once, and we were able to get assistance to Wanda and the Rider quickly. The fire trucks from Station 48 (one mile away) came about a minute later. Once the paramedics were on scene we told Team Endeavor to continue (they wanted to stay). The police quickly assessed the situation, the motorcyclist was OK, but would be taken to the hospital to be checked out. Wanda had a good sized hole in here ankle, and a nasty burn on here rear where she had landed on the motorcyle muffler.
Once we were cleared to continue (it took a while because they could not find records of Wanda and she had been hurt) we very shakily headed back out on the bike. We made it back to UCF shaken but in one piece. Wanda was clearly in pain - but was determined to continue and finish the race. She had a broken ankle - though she did not know this at the time, and the burn on her rear I think was hurting her more than the ankle. We used a mixture of carry and tow to get through the last section, finishing 2 minutes in front of Mojito's for 2nd place, and winning the point series. A very hard fought victory. I really love this sport; you meet incredible people, do incredible things - but the greatest thing is the sense of camaraderie. Thanks to everyone who was out there - and a big thanks to my team!
And best wished for Wanda to get better - you are one tough girl!