27 April 2015

Race Report: FLX Sea2Sea 72hr AR, Part 2 (Race Day 1)

Erl and me in full race regalia.
It's a funny thing to wake up and think, "I might not sleep again for 3 days. At least not in a bed". And this is the thought I wake up with on Thursday morning as we prepare for the start of FLX's Sea2Sea 72hr Adventure Race. Erl and I (On Wednesdays We Wear Pink) and Britt, Jeff, and Joe (Rev3/Mountain Khakis) pack up all of our non-race gear into cars, park them in the designated parking lot in Cedar Key, and then board the (coach!) bus for the trip east across Florida. The bus ride passes uneventfully. Erl and I use the time to mark up our set of maps, hoping never to have to use them during the race but wanting to get an idea of the course. We also steal a few naps and get our feet ready to go. At 1100 right on schedule, the bus arrives at Ormond Beach for the start of the race. A hundred or so adventure racers unload to tropical temperatures - 80s and sunny - which is probably normal for Florida but definitely not normal for our team. Regardless, the sun feels great and Erl suggests not wearing our (pink) calf and arm sleeves for the opening trek. "It's hot," he says. "We don't need these right now." And since Erl has SEVEN (Michigan Coast To Coast 05/06/07, Primal Quest Badlands 09, Abu Dhabi 10, Raid The North British Columbia 11, and GodZone New Zealand 14) multi-day races under his belt compared to my ONE (Cowboy Tough Wyoming 14), I take his advice. As I plan to continue doing for the next three days. 
And they're off! For the start of the 2015 Sea2Sea 3-Day Adventure Race!
TREK 1 - 6k beach-o at Ormond Beach - 1100-1200
Teams On Wednesdays We Wear Pink (OWWWP) and Rev3/Mountain Khakis are giddy at the start line, excited to start 3 days of non-stop racing that we've been planning for so many months. Ron the RD from FLX Adventures counts us down, and pretty soon we're sprinting (!) on the beach road to our first CP. The pace is fast, especially considering the amount of racing left to do, but we don't really care because WE'RE RACING IN FLORIDA! IN SHORTS! WHEEEEEEEE! That is, until a few short minutes later. Joe attacks our first CP by bushwhacking through 500 meters of razor-sharp palmetto and scrubby brush. All of us (well, besides Britt, who kept her calf sleeves on) start bleeding immediately as our legs get torn up by the defensive vegetation. We struggle a bit with the first few CPs, but it's hard to start the race by navigating on an aerial photo map. Joe makes the best of it and we get around the short loop, but not before I trip in the dunes and grind a bunch of sand into my bloody legs and arms. I can't help but laugh that this is the perfect way to start my first true expedition race - cut up and dirty in the first 30 minutes! We run back into TA to find ourselves securely in the middle of the pack, but it doesn't bother us as we pick out 2 canoes and start paddling.

me and Erl in the first paddle section.

PADDLE 1 - 14k - 1200-1430
We put in on a windy, windy (both pronunciations and meanings) grass-lined river. It's hard for OWWWP to keep up with the horsepower of Rev3's boat - they've got one extra paddler, plus all three of them are ripped (Britt's guns are bigger than all of Tecnu combined). And it's clear that Erl and I haven't paddled since...since...December at the Castlewood 8hr? But all we can do is put our pink-bedazzled-visored heads down and WORK. Erl keeps track of our effort and suggests spots for "10 hard paddles" and "20 hard paddles" and we scoot along the Florida water. There are TONS of birds flapping around, several different kinds, and it's cool to take that in. We see Journey Racing and YogaSlackers ahead of us on an out-and-back section of the paddle and give them some early-race cheers. Finally we make it to the take-out and hustle through transition. The volunteers give us instructions to "run down this here road for 200 meters and you will get your next passport". So we do and find the passport in the middle of a really cool ruin - like an old mossy castle. Super sweet. Then we run back to TA and get on our bikes!

Surprise singletrack at Graham Trailhead. I don't always wear sunglasses while mountain biking, but when I do...

BIKE 1 - 43k - 1430-1730
It's not long before we get to ride some super fun rooty trails to kick off the biking of Sea2Sea. The trails are awesome and the SegSlayer is crushing them! Then we get on to some pavement and Jeff organizes us into a paceline as we make our way to the Graham Trailhead. YogaSlacker's "media director" (yes, really) is there to greet us along with race staff. The staff informs us of a surprise singletrack section with instructions to "just follow the trail, it's easy". All of us have heard this before, and all of us have been burned by the "easy to follow" trails. And, wouldn't you know, not 100m down the trail there is an unmarked junction! We flail around for a bit before I spot Ron in the woods and ask for help. He shows us the correct trail to take and we ride on. The trails are surprisingly technical and full of short punchy climbs (much like Council Bluff for you MO people). They are awesome and all of us are riding really well, but both Odyssey teams catch us and we let their faster legs go ahead to avoid early-race stress. Back on the roads, Joe's pedal starts seizing up and we worry about its potential to survive several hundred more kilometers of riding. We put some chain lube on it to try and get it to rotate again, but Joe is still having to work really hard to keep the pedals turning over. My bottom bracket seems to be overly noisy as well...oh great! We roll into the next TA with some concerns, but lubed the crap out of Joe's pedal and my bottom bracket, all we can do is load them on the race trailer and hope for the best. Then we get to turn our attention to boat selection and more paddling!

A super sweet pic from Erl's race camera on Black Branch.
PADDLE 2A - 13k - Black Branch/Haw Creek - 1730-2045
We put in to a small river on the side of a road, and immediately the river is full of vegetation - cypress knees, downed trees, lily pads, etc. Luckily we have a few hours of daylight in which to negotiate all of the deadfall - Erl gives new meaning to my "princess" paddling style as he drops me off on the (dry!) riverbank before each downed tree, then jumps into the waist-deep water to lift the boat up and over the tree, then jumps back in the boat and picks me up on the other side. Yeah. See what I mean about Erl being the best teammate ever? It's true. I stay dry until we get to a somewhat-mapped portage which is just ankle-deep mud, but there's no princess option for the 400m or so we must slog with our boats. Eventually the mud opens back up into a real river, with islands even, but the islands prove to be tricky as we can't find CP18 immediately after a mapped portage. We circle the island in question several times, certain we are in the correct location, but the flag is elusive. We are forced to bail with an impending early-race cutoff looming over our heads, so we abandon and motor on down to Russell Landing for a heavily-hinted-at "surprise" trek. It's dark and relatively cold at this point and we're all pretty excited to warm up a bit by running.

Russell Landing. This was the norm for trekking sections throughout the race.
TREK 2 - 7k - Russell Landing - 2045-2300
We take out at Russell Landing and sure enough, surprise trek! We have to be back by 2300 which is a pretty aggressive cutoff for so early in the race, but we vow to do our best. It's hard to manage the TA with so much to do and new teammates - with Alpine Shop we all have our jobs but now I'm a bit lost on how to best help Rev3, especially Joe. But with plotting and re-fueling managed, we head out into the still-sharp Florida vegetation, still with no calf protection, still donating blood. And even better, half of this trek is through a swamp, so we get to wash out our cuts with swamp water! We manage our time pretty well, but the maps are confusing (waypoints with no CP value are shown...strange) and we end up not clearing this section. It's a bummer but not much else we can do except keep racing! We get back to our boats and put in with a herd of teams all fighting the early cutoff as well.
Pretty sure this is the first TA with bins.
PADDLE 2B - 9k - Haw Creek/Dead Lake - 2300-0030
The rest of the paddle isn't very eventful - it's dark, but it's Night 1 so we aren't very sleepy. We continue downstream easily, paddle a few kilometers in a lake, and then get to a very busy transition area. We get to see our bins for the first time! I might have changed socks/shorts here, but honestly I can't remember. I do remember Andy Bacon from Odyssey trying to poison me with bacon. Nice try, Bacon/bacon. My body is a non-mammalian-meat temple.


Day 2

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