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dash
Posts: 21
January 23, 2012
3:41am
Authors note: Team Florida Xtreme 3 is a developmental pick-up team focused on novice racers gaining experience in running elite length courses with an experienced team captain. Race team captain is Dave "Dash" Ashley, a local racer from Merritt Island with several years of elite level racing experience and a navigator for team Florida Xtreme and Mountain Khakis/Rev3 Adventure. If you are looking to move up from the novice to elite class but would like some backup assistance the first time, drop me a line! ~Dash

January 14th had the promise of a fantastic day for racing in central Florida, just West of Orlando on lake Lousia. Temps were only supposed to reach into the high 60s, although the night prior was cool by Florida standards. FLX-3 members for this race (Dash, RC, Thumper, and Shamrock) met up right when registration opened at 0630 to check in and get our maps. It was still dark and felt quite cold. We all hoped the paddle would be later in this 8-hour race...brrr!

We set up some chairs, said hellos to the race director Greg, his staff, the volunteers, and some other racers, then settled down to examine the map and clue sheet. First impressions were good, this course look fairly short for an 8-hour event and the paddle didn't look very difficult at all for an adventure race. Flat water paddling, no creeks, and fairly short! The course was divided into several segments, the order was run, bike, paddle, run, bike. The hardest sections looked like the last two, as they were by far the longest run and bike sections. Barring any unfortunate circumstances (getting lost, injured, or a mechanical problem) the course looked straightforward and not too difficult to "clean." Notice the use of foreshadowing…

For this race we had decided to share the navigation between Shamrock, an experienced racer, and RC, who only had one race and orienteering meet (FLO) under his belt. Both did a great job on this moderately technical course.

Shamrock navigated the first leg, about 5 k. The "choo-choo train" effect of the beginning of the race made navigation a breeze. We were surprised to see a 3-female team pushing hard on the return from an out-and-back point. They were in 1st place already and looking determined to shoot for the lead. Way to go ladies!

The 2nd leg was a short bike, but with an interesting decision point. You can either backtrack about 2 miles in mixed sugar sand on bike, or "hike a bike" across a waist-deep creek about 100m to shortcut to the next CP. 2 teams with us elected to backtrack. Well, we decided that it looked more fun to brave the possibly alligator-infested water so I volunteered to cross the creek. (Editor’s Note: I recently learned that gators this time of year are pretty docile due to the cooler temps; somehow, this information is only mildly reassuring.) It quickly rose to my waist in the first few steps and my feet started to get mired in the mud...so we looked up and down the creek and found a log crossing. That worked great...it was a treat that 3 of us had lightweight bikes for this part (titanium and carbon frames, low 20lb range). Shamrock rides a real brick, makes a huffy look like an upgrade, and halfway across the log we heard a "crack!" and just like that the log broke apart and fell into the water. He made a leap and hit the far side, but 3 other racers following him didn't have the same luck. We saw one face-plant into the middle of the creek with his bike. Did I mention it was around 45 degrees??

After a fairly difficult bike-whack through some dense palmettos, we caught the trail again. The 2 teams that had elected to backtrack and make the longer bike went sailing by us as we were looking for our CP. Best guess we lost about 3 minutes to them and spent a fair bit of energy in the bike-whack. But I can guarantee we had more fun! Finally we rolled up to the bike-to-paddle TA.

We paired up, grabbed 2 canoes, paddles, and lifejackets, then portaged the boats for about 100 meters towards the lake. Then bad news: whitecaps on the lake. It was a strong wind, and the shallow Lake Louisa had waves about 12 inches high and blowing directly on-shore (north to south). Our first point was 200 meters west, crosswind, and looked to be a daunting paddle. We could already see one team had flipped their canoe in the waves. Hopping in, the wind immediately pushed our canoes into each other and Shamrock/RC flipped. Hey guys, that water looks really, really cold!!! The thing about Shamrock and RC, they are both over 6 feet tall and around 200lbs. Very fit guys, but a large profile and top-heavy on a canoe. On the 2nd try we had better luck and managed to make very slow progress, paralleling the shoreline towards the next CP. RC was paddling in front and sat on the bottom of the boat to increase stability. In each boat the paddler in front had to continually paddle on the left side to keep the canoe from turning away from the wind, and the rear paddlers were working overtime attempting to make forward progress. As Shamrock and RC's boat flipped a 2nd time, we all decided it was faster, easier, and safer to just drag our boats in the shallow water by the shore to the CP. Other racers in front and behind us were doing the same thing, and we quickly made the 1st paddle CP.

At this point we were still in the wind, very wet, and getting close to hypothermia. Time for a short team discussion. Should we continue the race? Should we cut short the paddle section? Everybody had a different opinion. In the end we discussed the team goals...no stopping with time and CPs still on the course! So much for an "easy" adventure race.

After dragging/carrying our boats another 300 meters, it was time for a change of plan. We could not continue stepping in the water it was just too cold. With around 10k left on the paddle we simply could not carry our boats on land the entire way and finish the race in 8 hours. A quick check of the race rules...nothing here says you NEED to carry your canoe, paddles, and life vest to each CP. So we dropped them at the paddle-trek transition area and jogged the remaining paddle course. Greg, we dare you to DQ us!

I really don't recommend doing this. Paddling is faster than jogging. It takes much, much less energy (even into the wind). You don't have to cross private property in the canoe, nor do you have to follow the entire coast line to get to a CP. But if all else fails (and the rules don’t prohibit it) it works.

I'll save the stories of meeting land owners as we cut through their backyards, neighborhood children giving us directions, and watching teams of strong paddlers sail off into the sunset (and up in the leader board) for another discussion. It was a humbling time. Over 2 1/2 hours later, we finished the "paddle" and transitioned to the long trek.

With 4 hours to go, "cleaning" the course still looked very possible. The long run on the "paddle" section slowed Thumper down a bit, as none of us had trained to run so much (it ended up around 15 miles total that day). We encountered deep sugar sand during much of this section, further sapping our energy levels. Fortunately Thumper and RC had set recurring timers on their watches. Thumper's was for every 20 minutes as a reminder to drink. RC was every hour as a reminder to eat food. We never ran into dehydration or the dreaded "bonk" of low blood sugar on this race. Shamrock was killing the navigation, and we hit every checkpoint on the first try with minimal searching. Pushing hard at the end, we made the final transition trek-to-bike with just over 2 hours remaining. We were smoked.

Then more bad news.

Two bikes had flat tires. One was a simple tube, easy to fix. However I run tubeless on my Specialized Epic S-Works, and it is usually a godsend. No pinch flats, self-sealing punctures, tubeless is the only way to go for advanced racing. But for some reason I had a flat. What the heck??!!??

After about 45 minutes of trouble shooting, we narrowed the problem down to my valve stem. Air was leaking around the seal. Simply tightening up the nut stopped the leak. Meanwhile we had run through 2 tubes on the other bike (cheap replacement tubes were splitting) and used up all of our CO2. On our last tube, we used a hand pump and all our tires were finally full. We took off!

And finally, more bad news. We missed a CP with a navigation error, and got another tube flat. With no more usable spares (patching didn't work) and a bent valve stem on the only good tube, we were completely out of the running to get all the CPs. Even worse, we were located about 4 miles from the race start with only 30 minutes to get back...carrying a bike. Another decision point. Do we just have one member ride back, get a car, and drive back to the finish? Or do we tough it out? We elected to carry/push the bike back to the start line. We finished around 40 minutes past the cutoff – a huge disappointment after working so hard all day.

Looking back, what could we have done differently?

Certainly the paddle hurt our time and energy. Paddling together as a team may have given us the skill to make it across the lake in our boats. Once there, coming back into the wind would have had us off the paddle leg about one hour faster than running.

The bike mechanicals killed us late in the race. We packed well, with lots of CO2, spare tubes, a pump, and a patch kit. I had never seen a valve problem before on my tubeless tires, that won’t happen again. And our handpump was very difficult to work, putting lots of strain on the fragile valvestem when attempting to make the 200+ pumps to fill a 29-er tire. This week I ordered a new pump with a flexible nozzle on the end. You screw it onto the valvestem of your tube, and when pumping you don’t risk breaking/bending the valvestem. Oh, and bring more CO2. It’s way, way better than pumping!!!

Another great race from the folks at Pangea. Thanks go RC, Shamrock, and Thumper for giving 8 hours (and 40 minutes!) of their all until the very end. We’ll be ready for the next one….will you?

~Dash
[Last edited by dash, 01/31/2012 2:12am]
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darkmatter
Posts: 43
January 26, 2012
2:31pm
Nice race report. Thanks for sharing.
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