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.

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