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dash
Posts: 21
January 31, 2012
3:46am
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

Saturday January 28th welcomed 3 new racers to Team FLX-3: Jeanette, Stef, and Wesley. The 6-hour Treasure Coast AR would be the longest race yet for all three. Weather was forecasted to be sunny, low 70s, and little wind. Perfect conditions and in a perfect location, Jonathan Dickinson State Park near Hobe Sound, Florida.

Here is a quick rundown of the team:

- Jeanette: Completed about 10 ARs, mostly Pangea sport races with a few of the shorter Elite events. Former soccer player and gymnist, looking to gain experience navigating. Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering, wow!
- Stef: Completed about 7 ARs, Pangea sport races, also training for a marathon. Strong cyclist, looking to gain experience navigating. Very fit, killed this race physically!
- Wesley: Completed 2 Pangea sport races with family/friends. Strong paddler, and looking to gain experience from racing with an elite team in a longer race. A loving husband, brings his wife to the race and sets her up in style with a tent, chair, and cooler full of cold beverages!

I was a little nervous meeting up with three strangers for a 6-hour race. Teamwork and chemistry are so important in adventure racing, this was the equivalent to going all in and not even looking at your poker hand! Well, live a little, right?

Things started off pretty well, as I showed up to the race registration about 15 minutes late and was able to locate all three of my teammates after a few minutes.

Lesson learned: Plan to arrive early. The directions only put us at the front gate of the park, the race start area was another 10 minute drive from there! We lost valuable time that could have been spent analyzing our maps.

After gathering all of our gear into one spot and snagging one of the few picnic tables, Jeanette and Stef started looking over the maps and clue sheet. Since this was Wesley’s 3rd race, we spent some time going over some race fundamentals such as what gear was needed and how to pack for a 6 hour race, options for hydrating and fueling, differences between canoe and kayak paddles (we brought kayak paddles for this race), and some of the key differences between the many types of mountain bikes.

Jeanette used a cool tool I had never seen before. Using a small piece of colored wire, she would bend the wire into the shape of a trail on our map to measure between two checkpoints. Marking the length with her finger on the wire, she would then straighten the wire and measure the distance off the map scale. It was quick and easy to measure the distance between two points, even if the route curved back and forth. As we would soon find out, our “map” only showed about half the trails that were actually out in the park. If we didn’t know the distance to travel and use a cycle computer or pace count to measure, we could have easily gotten lost. Nice work Jeanette!

Lesson learned: Don’t trust your map to show all the roads and trails. Measure your map and keep track of your distance, this will help reduce the possibility of turning too early or missing your turn. Some racers use different techniques, such as a string, a mechanical or digital measuring tool, and some experienced navigators can eyeball distance accurately.

The Treasure Coast Elite AR was composed of 4 sections. All teams must first do a short (~3k) trek, followed by a moderate (~10k) paddle. After that, teams had to accomplish both a moderate (~10k) trek and long (~20k) bike but could pick the order, either bike/run or run/bike.

Step started off navigating, and Wesley was our “rabbit” and had the job of punching our passport at the checkpoints. The first trek was entirely on a nature trail and was very straightforward, with the typical “choo-choo train” of 16 teams heading off in the same direction. Stef masterfully navigated us through this section.

Following the short trek, we sped through transition and grabbed our kayak paddles. There was a short line to launch canoes, then we were treated to a beautiful paddle through mangrove-lined waterways with glassy conditions. Jeanette flawlessly lead us through this section, while Wesley and Stef showed off their paddling skills.

Lesson learned: We all had kayak paddles, and it paid off. We were faster than teams with canoe paddles. The wide channel and relatively little overhanging vegetation was perfect. If the waterway was narrow, or had more overhanging trees, canoe paddles would have been the better choice. Bring your own paddle to the race, and make the decision once you see the park and map.

We opted to avoid congestion with the flotilla of other canoes in the narrow sections of the creeks, and went back to the furthest checkpoints first. That strategy rewarded us with some quiet time on the water where we didn’t see any boats, and we were able to gauge how fast other teams were moving as they passed us on our way back to catch the earlier points. We easily found all the points and were quickly back at the main transition area.

Lesson learned: Often, paddles are “out and back” and some of the points along the way you have the option of getting now, or when you return. Keep an eye on them as you go and grab them if convenient. If other teams are clogging the shore, or you don’t see a point the first time you go past, it’s often easier to get it and/or see it when you are returning the other direction. So don’t sweat missing one if you can grab it on the return trip!

Next we had the option of the long bike or moderate trek. We elected to bike first, and with another quick transition (great job team!) we headed off with Stef navigating, Jeanette marking distance on her cycle computer, and me rabbiting.

Not nearly as much sand as FLX-3 encountered in the Resolution AR, JD Park certainly had some of the deep stuff out there. Most of our checkpoints were right off trails, but far enough that you had to know where to look. And there were a maze of trails that didn’t show up on the map, while some of the map trails were incorrectly marked. A typical adventure race!

Stef did a great job of keeping us in a “known” location for most of this section. He communicated with the rest of the team when he was not sure, and several times Jeanette, Wesley and I were able to help keep the team on track. With a little bit of luck and a brazen bikewhack move that paid off, we finished the bike portion and moved up the leaderboard several positions over other teams. At this point we had about 90 minutes left to race, the temps were warming up, the sun was beating down, and we were all getting tired. Time for a 10-k sand run!

Lesson learned: The navigator should regularly communicate with team members and use their eyes to help locate key terrain features. A strong navigator will let the team know how far until the next turn or checkpoint, which direction they should be heading, and any other details that will help the team stay in a “known” location while racing. Team members should all know how to use a compass, pacecount, and have a cycle computer with an odometer set in kilometers. This philosophy saved us several times during the Treasure Coast race.

With a slightly slower transition to remove some of the bothersome burrs that we collected during the bikewhack, team FLX-3 headed out for the last leg. We already knew that time was short, we were tired, and any serious navigation error would cost us a point at a minimum, and likely several slots in the overall placement as well. Only 10k to go!!

Stef was handling the long race and heat well, so after a quick huddle we elected him the navigator for the final section. I rabbited and counted pace. Jeanette and Wesley were both getting winded, and worked together motivating each other to keep pushing. While nobody was severely worn out, we discussed things a team could do when one team member “hits the wall”. Stef had a tow rope that we practiced with, while Wesley experimented with holding on to the pack straps of the person running in front and slightly to the side for some extra speed. Even with a pace count we had difficulty finding two of the three points, but ended up with a full control card and headed back to the finish with only minutes to go.

Lesson learned: Teams must stay together at all times in adventure racing, so you are only as fast as your slowest member. Pair up your strongest paddler with your weakest. Provide a push on the back during straight bike sections, or carry a tow rope. If needed, you can tow on the run as well. But I only recommend this if you are close to a cut-off time on the course, or going towards the finish line. Towing on the run can easily wear out both members, so don’t do this early in a race!

Team FLX-3 completed the Treasure Coast Adventure Race in just over 5 hours 42 minutes and in 5th place overall. It was an impressive finish, as only 5 teams out of 16 “cleaned” the course with all checkpoints. Jeanett, Stef, and Wesley had just finished their longest race…ever! Their navigation was stellar, and everybody stayed positive on the course. Not too bad for 4 people who were complete strangers at 7am that morning!

Looking forward to seeing the folks from Pangea and team FLX at the Boar AR in March!

~Dash
[Last edited by dash, 01/31/2012 1:21pm]
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Posts: 19
February 3, 2012
6:28pm
Great insight on team unity, navigation, competing against other teams and all the facets that go along with adventure racing.
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