28 April 2015

Race Report: FLX Sea2Sea 72hr AR, Part 3 (Race Day 2)

Day 1 here

BIKE 2 - 56k - 0100-0618
After leaving our first TA with bins, we ride roads (in a paceline organized by Jeff, natch) to Dunns Creek Conservation area, which has lots of wide grassy trails - similar to what cross-country skiing trails look like in the summer, except I'm pretty sure there is no cross-country skiing in Florida. We have a really hard time with these CPs - #1 because the map scale is NOT 1:24k and it takes a while to figure that out, and #2 because the clues are infinitely unhelpful for trekking in the dark. There is almost no way to tell a "burnt pint" (actual clue) from a "live pine" or "plaid pine" or "pink pine" at night. Joe navigates us easily to the circle for every CP in this section, but then we spend tons of time trying to locate the actual flag. Hugely frustration for a team with a stellar (albeit angry) navi-GATOR. And it's not just us - we trade places with several teams, everyone's headlamps scanning the Florida vegetation for some hint of a reflective CP flag. Here is one time a 5-person team is an advantage, and Joe uses each set of our eyeballs to help find these rascally flags. One exchange in particular stands out when Joe commands Erl "As your navigator, I am asking you to go in those woods and find a swamp!" Erl replies "Okay SIR!" and marches into a woods, immediately knee-deep in cold water. Joe asks "Is there a swamp?" And Erl (happily?) shouts back "AFFIRMATIVE!" OK maybe you had to be there but we all laughed about that. A couple times Joe has to ask us to "Quit being so jovial" so he can focus on the nav and we do our best to keep the chatter to a minimum. 

This is what night trekking looks like. Please find the burnt pine in this picture.
One CP in particular, the clue being "lone pine", gives us heaps of trouble and we end up spending at least 45 minutes wandering in a field/grove of trees looking for a lone pine with no topographic features to relocate off of. At least 5 or 6 teams are doing the same thing, each secretly watching each other to reveal the flag's location. Finally, Joe spots a small patch of orange and white fabric, crumpled and hidden in some weeds under a scraggly tree next to a trail. He clues Britt and I into its location, but we can't punch because there are at least 20 people within 20 meters of us who will see, and we don't want to give away the advantage of Joe's eagle eye. So Britt turns off her headlamp, scurries to the flag, punches her passport, and scurries back without anyone noticing. Sweet, except now I have to do the same thing and I am a horrible lier. I am super nervous but I inch my way off the trail, turn off my headlamp, find the flag, punch, and then run back to my team and we all jump on our bikes and leave, nervously glancing over our shoulders to see if anyone else caught on to your game. Victory! At least...a small one. 

We continue on roads through the towns of San Mateo (including the biggest climb on the course...an overpass) and Palatka. The weather cools down considerable from this mornings steamy beach run, with misty fog rolling in and we're all wearing our rain jackets. And, for some horrible reason, I start to get sleepy. ON THE FIRST NIGHT OF A THREE DAY ADVENTURE RACE! So embarrassing. I roll up to Jeff, admit my problem, and he chats away to try and keep me focused as we ride through the witching hours. There are a few other teams with us too, which makes things a bit more stressful since I'm trying not to crash anyone out. But finally we roll into the Rice Creek TA where our bins are waiting! Warm clothes! When we get to the TA,  race staff inform us that a trek/paddle loop has been removed from the race as teams are behind schedule. It's no big deal for us, we are pretty cold and happy to go straight on to a trek instead of a trek/paddle. 
Trekking in the Rice Creek area. Pretty fun!
TREK 3 - 17k - Rice Creek - 0618-noonish?
We receive a warning at the beginning of this trek: boardwalks may be slippery when wet. Huh? We haven't suddenly passed GO, collected $200, and arrived in Atlantic City, have we? But we strike out, happy to be on our feet and warming up a little bit as the world gradually turns lighter shades of gray. We struggle finding the correct trail for the first CP, way more trails in real life than on the map, but we finally do and figure out that the trails are actually a network of boardwalks through a swamp! It's really cool and we trot along, doing our best to stay upright. FLX Adventures planned a really cool CP that requires us to balance on multiple logs to get the punch - Britt and I take this one since she smartly is still wearing her helmet. 

There was still another balancing log after this one!
We use an elevated viewing platform as an attackpoint for another CP - Joe stands there and commands me and Britt as we fetch the punch. Except, at first he sends us off in the wrong direction, not realizing it until he turns around for a pee break and spots the CP flag almost 180 degrees from his original instruction. So Britt and I get a little bonus trekking through the soggy swamp...it's all part of the fun on Rev3/OWWWP! Towards the end of this trek, we're feeling a little beat down, my feet especially, and we trot into the next TA eager to get on our bikes again!

TREK 4 - 12k - Marjorie Harris Carr Greenway

Joe is an excellent pooper in addition to being a brilliant angry navi-GATOR.
Except...surprise! We have another bonus trek! No one is really excited about spending more time on their feet, but YogaSlackers are in TA with us so we use the competition to get motivated. We head out in opposite directions and on our way to the first CP, see an adult wild boar! On our way to the second CP, we hear some crashing in the underbrush and a momma boar with three baby boars runs across the trail right in front of us! We're super happy to see these animals, but also happy that they're not interested in messing with us - boars can me really mean. Most of the rest of the trek is on logging roads, with cow-related decorations that Joe uses for inspiration. As we're making our way back to TA, the road turns to powercut FULL of standing water, making us glad we didn't have the option to change socks/shoes in TA because we would be soaking wet anyway. That's life in adventure racing.

BIKE 3 - 67k - afternoon
After completing the bonus trek, we're allowed to get on our bikes, just behind YogaSlackers and just in front of Journey Racing. We ride roads thru Interlachen, and Jeff gets the brilliant idea to look for fast food places to get some hot food. Ever since midnight, it's been cold and misty, and we're starting to accumulate a little fatigue. As we ride through town, we spot the golden arches not 100m off course...TIME TO STUFF OUR FACES! 
We barge into the McDonald's in soaking-wet race gear and each order about $10 worth of food - I get large fries, a chicken sandwich, small coffee, and small hot chocolate. Total score. We sit down with our food and plan to watch Journey Racing ride right by, ignoring the delicacies of theAmerican obesity epidemic. Except...they have the same plan as us and park their bikes outside the same McDonalds! 
3-team party at McDonalds on Day 2!
So it turns into a 3-team McDonald's party which is super fun. But the party doesn't last much longer than a large fry, as Joe herds us back outside and onto the roads through Hawthorne,  to Palm Point Park, and into the Newnans Lake TA. In a paceline. Organized by Jeff. Natch. 

TA - Newnans Lake - evening
When we arrive at Newnans Lake TA, we have exhausted our supply of maps and are given the final set by race staff. Also, they tell us we can't have access to our bins. What? This news is contradictory to what we were told in the race powerpoint, and we were planning on restocking food. So we have a few panic moments of do we have enough calories to last 5 people another 5 hours? Turns out, if we all pool our remaining food, we do. OK. Crisis averted, and we get set for the next trek which looks to be longish. As we're transitioning, the YogaSlackers roll in to the same race news and have a completely different reaction...let's just say there were some words. And in the end, it all turns out to be a non-issue because the bin truck arrives and we all get our bins anyway! PLUS...race staff orders hot pizza and feeds us! Total oasis!

TREK 5 - 30k - Newnans Lake Conservation Area - evening/night
We trek out of TA with new shoes for some of us (dry Hokas for me) and an hour or two of remaining daylight. Joe attacks the cluster of CPs nearest the TA together with Lattanzi and Bacon from Odyssey, and then as we move away (north?) we end up taking different routes. We still struggle with actually locating the flags - getting to the circle is easy enough, but it seems every flag is crumpled or half-hidden in vegetation. The struggle is getting real as we go into Night 2! We choose to trek an extra 2 kilometers instead of swimming 100 meters because it is really cold out and we're all shivering after a few seconds of non-movement. Eventually our route kicks us out onto a long road out-and-back for just one CP, which Britt and I go get, and when we return to the team we find Joe succumbing to Night 2 sleep and cold monsters. He's walking along, but not really in a straight line, and chattering away, but not making any sense. We pile all of our extra clothes on him, but it's not very helpful since the open road offers no protection from the bitter wind. I offer to "navigate" which really means just hold the map so Joe can put his hands in his pockets to warm them up too. We bumble on down the road in this rag-tag fashion, Joe slipping further into oblivion, but then emerging with a few coherent sentences when I have a nav question. It's really fascinating to watch his nav experience take over like instinct, even though his primary consciousness is failing. Finally we get into a more protected forest section and Joe takes the map back over, and we are all super relived that his condition has improved. 

Me and Britt punching a rare nicely-hung CP with Lattanzi from Odyssey.
A few CPs later, we decide a team sleep is needed, so we find a sheltered pine grove and choose our spots carefully - well, Erl and I take the time to find a nice tree to lean against, while Britt, Joe, and Jeff each just pass out on the forest floor and are snoring in less than 30 seconds. Not a joke. Erl and I rest against the tree and keep track of time - after 10 minutes, everyone is still snoring, so we add 5 extra minutes and then get everyone back up and moving. The nap seems to help our Rev3 teammates and we knock out the rest of the CPs, using mostly roads to travel. Lattanzi and Bacon join up with us for a few CPs, and we pass Shane, Jen, and Alex from the other Odyssey going the opposite direction, along with the YogaSlackers (accompanied by their "media director") and a bunch of other teams as well. Everyone's bundled against the cold and windy night, but trekking helps keep everyone somewhat warm. We hike the paved road back into Newnans Lake TA, having cleared this section despite the difficult flag placement, challenging temperatures, and sleep deprivation setting in. Go team! 
The road back to Newnans Lake TA.
In TA, our biggest concern is putting on as many layers as possible to protect us on the paddle across Newnans Lake. It's really cold, really windy, and dark - lots of things can go wrong in these conditions so we layer up, and eat some hot food from our bins with the hot water provided by race staff. Turkey tettrazini! Cup O Noodles! Hot chocolate! All of these things are so delicious, and pretty soon we walk, Michelin-man style, to the boats and put-in to the dark swamp channel.


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