30 April 2015

Race Report: FLX Sea2Sea 72hr AR, Part 4 (Race Day 3)

Day 2 here

PADDLE 3 - 9k - Newnans Lake - night
Before we get to Newnans Lake proper, we have to negotiate a really cool cypress swamp. It's like boat tetris trying to fit our canoes and teammates through the maze of trees and knees. Erl and I get through a bit more quickly than Rev3 because we only have 2 people to manage, so once we finally pop out into the lake we have a few minutes to soak it all in before we're joined by Rev3. And soak it in we do - the shoreline is protecting us from the bitter winds for the moment, and the clouds are ripping across the nearly-full moon. We play "what does this cloud look like?" game for a bit, and then settle into the business of paddling across a very wavy, dark, and cold lake. 
Rev3 playing boat tetris in the Newnans Lake swamp.
This being the Night 2, sleep monsters are sitting on my shoulder, but my mind fends them off with some totally rad optical illusions instead of letting me sleep. Rev3's boat looks like it's doing flips in the middle of the lake, but Jeff, Joe, and Britt are still sitting upright. Then for a while it's like we're on a boat treadmill, with the water moving past us but not making any forward progress. I narrate everything to Erl and I'm sure it sounds crazy but at least it gives us something to talk about as we paddle to Palm Point Park. We were there earlier in the day, and now, the park looks NOTHING like a remember it. Talk about a total mind-screw. To top it all off, both Joe and I are freezing cold, bundled in jackets, making communication really difficult as we scour the park for the CP. Finally, Britt gets out of the boat too and finds the flag for us. We punch and get back in the boats for another wild ride on the windy Newnans Lake.

More hallucinations (boat flips and water treadmilling), plus now the trees on shore are morphing into New Orleans-style houses with ornate iron fences. It's actually kind of scary because falling asleep now would mean almost certain disaster - capsizing in a really cold lake. Not fun. We follow Rev3 along the shore as we try to locate the final CP on this stage. If it wasn't for Erl in the back of OWWWP's boat, I would be super freaked out as we paddle through crosswinds and lots of chop on the water, but I trust his paddling so much that I was mostly just concerned about keeping my eyes open. Finally, we slip into a side channel to the take out and are greeted with calmer waters. 

TA - Kate's Fish Camp - very early morning
Kate's Fish Camp during the day...we arrived in the dark.
The first thing I do once we've got the boat out of the water is give Erl a huge hug. That was a short but super stressful paddle, and I'm so so glad we got through it together and intact. All five of us are really cold, but we have bin access here, so we move slowly through the motions of putting more layers on, eating, and trying to avoid the tempting fire. It's clear that Rev3 went through some tough times in their boat as well, and it takes some effort to get all 5 teammates on the road in a cohesive group for the next trek. 

TREK 6 - 12k - Prairie Creek Pet Cemetery - morning
There are 9 CPs in this section, separated into clusters of 6 and 3. The group of 3 is pretty far away in one direction so we decide to skip the whole thing, attacking the group of 6 instead. The 5 of us hike out of TA, the sun already lighting up the sky with a beautiful sunrise, but things are tense in Rev3/OWWWP-land. Joe got super stressed out by the tough conditions on the paddle, and is having a hard time focusing on the maps. We do our best to support him, but to me it's unclear if he needs silence or hugs to feel better. We stumble on the first CP almost by accident, since it's hung next to the trail but plotted much farther away. But that first flag seems to help Joe click back into the maps and pretty soon we are pinging the next 3 CPs around a swampy pond with ease. 

I wore Hoka Mafates on the 30k Newnans Lake trek, fully aware that I was choosing comfortable cushioning over excessive water retention, and now that we're back trekking in swamps, my feet are starting to pay the price. I can literally feel the wet skin folding under itself and macerating. It's really uncomfortable. But bad feet sort of go hand-in-hand with multi-day racing so I just try to suck it up, reduce excess movement, and stuff my face with Girl Scout cookies. It just so happens that the area we're trekking in is a pet cemetery and it's really beautiful to me. The sun is shining on a clear morning, birds are chirping, and hundreds of pet owners have hand-crafted beautiful tombstones scattered across the meadow to honor their pets. Maybe it's race brain, but the area is so serene and soothing that I don't even care we can't find the final 2 CPs on this section. Joe does care, however, and is hell-bent on figuring out this map and getting the CPs. Britt and Erl are really proactive in helping him, and Jeff and I are sort of trotting along behind, trying to keep our feet intact while offering our teammates cookies. After several re-attacks, strategy sessions, and head scratching, we finally find the final 2 CPs and then shuffle the bike trail back to TA.

On the way back, I realize I've been wearing 6 layers (LS baselayer, SS jersey, LS shirt, LS fleece, waterproof vest, waterproof jacket, plus gloves/buff/hat) since we got out of the boat, and I'm still not sweating or overheating. This is another affect of multi-day racing that's new to me: the inability of your body to regulate temperature effectively. I peel off layers as we shuffle back and it's like watching clowns emerge from a tiny car...it just keeps going! When we get back to TA, race staff inform us that the final 2 CPs were mis-plotted on the race maps which is why they were so difficult to locate. No idea how Joe figured that one out, but his I am in total awe of his skill as a (angry) navi-GATOR. Go team!

BIKE 4 - 120k - afternoon/evening

Re-uniting with my people!
I finally get to change out of my soaking wet Hokas into dry socks and mostly-dry bike shoes. Such a luxury! I also choose my most obnoxious blue-and-PINK jersey because we're in for a long ride across Florida. We are on mostly roads to start, and the traffic is manageable. We stop at a human cemetery for a CP, and shortly after pass by a horse farm where some little kids are taking a lesson. Since I grew up riding horses, I have to go over and say hi, and Erl gets a pic of that for race mojo...sweet!

Me pretending to help Joe.
As we continue riding, the roads get more and more busy. We're on some state highways with a shoulder, but it's still really stressful to keep our sleep-deprived selves out of harm's way. For a while we're able to find a parallel bike path to ride on, and we find a kid with a broken chain whom we stop to help. Then we get chased by another team who glom onto our paceline (organized by Jeff) without asking...boo. We inadvertently lead them into the incorrect location for the Little Blue Springs CP anyway so that backfires on both of us. It's pretty tough to keep our spirits up as we get pack on the traffic-filled paved roads, but then we realize we're going to ride through a town (Chiefland) and start making plans for an ice cream stop. We spot a gas station and Erl and I have visions of slushies and sitting on the curb with our shoes off...such luxury! But as we roll in, Britt cracks the whip with a "Just grab something you can eat on the bike, we're leaving here in 5 minutes." WHAT!?!? I'm so deflated but I know Britt's right - we have to get on the water with some amount of daylight left so we grab cold Gatorade and frozen Snickers, fill our bottles, and eat the ice cream while continuing the ride.
me and Britt: can we get off our bikes yet?
We ride past the next TA to get one last CP on this huge ride (75+ miles). It's on a distinct iron bridge over the Suwannee River, but we struggle finding the access trail in a neighborhood and ask for help from the locals. Finally we are riding over the river and into TA at a State Park, each discussing what needs to happen as we prepare for Night 3. 

TA - State Park - sunset

OWWWP legs. scratched up but still stylin!
I'm feeling pretty sleepy, so we plan to get all of our transition tasks done and take a 10 minute nap before getting on the water. Turns out the race staff has hot dogs for us, which I can't eat, but also oatmeal which I can eat! I share that with Jeff and it hits the spot for both of us. So yummy. Erl and I find a quiet tree to take a quick nap under, and even though I don't actually sleep, it turns out to be the best break of the race for me...my mind just unlocks and I get up feeling truly refreshed. We finish up boat prep and then put in to the Suwannee River for another night of paddling!


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