The 4 AM start and a recent cold front was going to mean at least a few cold hours of racing. We started with a straightforward 2 mile run, which got the pack spread out. We ran hard so we could head into the bike leg with a bit of a lead. CP2 was pretty easy, and we transferred to the trail to CP3. and headed south. At CP3 we ended up doing a short bike whack to the parallel trail, but found the control quickly as other teams closed in. We pedaled hard for CP4 – it was solid riding with just a bit of mud. We stayed on the fenceline which had us missing a small trail bend, but we simply dropped the bikes and followed the fence to the control. CP4 to CP5 was much more of a challenge, A good portion of this was along a spoil bank with a lot of mud. We opted for the direct route which was head west and then up the unmarked horse path. Our bikes got pretty caked with mud, but a lot of this was also ride-able. And it was back to the TA where we had about a 4 minute lead on Team Shake-a-Leg.
The next section was a real highlight. We headed due east from the TA on an old logging tram. The tram eventually became overgrown (at CP6) and we bushwhacked to the marked “boats” location where we used three roped boats to ferry across the lake. Another set of boats was used to ferry across the second lake – and we finally reached our boats at the marked spot, where I estimate they were (see map). This was really a highlight and I wonder how they got all of these boats into this pretty inaccessible area?
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We paddled to CP7 and looked towards a portage to CP8. We instead (seeing it was think paddled back around). We heard from Teams SAL and Nature Calls that is was actually a pretty easy portage and took less than 10 minutes. The paddle back around took us 18 minutes (so we lost a little time there). We shifted into hard paddle mode and headed for Blackwater Creek.
This is where we (meaning me) made a huge mistake. I missed a crucial turnoff onto the creek and instead headed down the Wekiva thinking we were on the creek (we did make a left turn – but we needed to make a second one). We paddled for a little over an hour and finally came upon Wekiva Haven – oops. We turned around and headed back and after about 40 minutes located the turn into the creek. In all including figuring out our mistake we had lost a couple of hours. (FlXtreme also was with us – sorry guys).
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Finding the creek was now the least of our worries. The creek could only be described as “full contact paddling” with lost of deadfall and obstacles. We still completed this section of paddling in about 2 hours. Arrive at the TA near 1:30. Now our problem would be time. We decided to skip all the foot checkpoints except the mandatory CP11. This was sad – since that was the section I had most looked forward to. I can handle making mistakes and blowing our chances at the race – I do enough races that I’ll get more chances. What I regret is missing a really cool foot section – though I figure the race director will probably let me pick up the controls – so I’ll still get to do it.
Anyway – we did run hard back to the TA via CP11 (well hard by my standards and physical condition). My team-mates are all good runners (and so am I usually, though I had just taken a month off from running to heal and was not quite back at 100%). It felt good to be back on the bikes for the last leg of the race. We had over an hour, and only 3 CP’s that were all pretty close and the entire route (except for one short section) was all good riding. We made it in with 20 minutes to spare – and congratulated those teams (Miami SAL, Badfish, Nature Calls, and Eco-extreme) that had run quite a great race.
Prologue – at 6 PM we finally got all the teams off of Backwater Creek. Team Tarzan, Luchadores, and Colkat probably also all have quite a story to tell….
See the race photos - especially the incredible paddle photos at http://teamracephotos.smugmug.com/2008%20Race%20Photos/669936