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dash
Posts: 21
March 5, 2012
2:16am
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 3 March welcomed back RC, Shammy, and Thumper to Team FLX-3. The 6-hour Boar AR was looking to be a hot and very windy race. The four of us had been to Christmas, Florida, back in December’s “Christmas in Christmas AR”. We knew to expect some sand, dense undergrowth, and unpredictable paddling conditions mixed in with almost a sure sighting of a few alligators!

We arrived at race HQ a 0700 when registration opened up. Avoiding the long lines we set up a sun shade, some chairs, a folding card table, and unloaded our bikes and race gear.

RC was our lead navigator, and this was his first time leading an entire race. We checked in and he began marking up the map with our most likely routes, identifying roads, trails, off-limits areas and making measurements with a digital map measurer. The map Pangea provided was going to make navigating difficult…it was an aerial photograph of the race course, similar to what you would see on Google Maps, and lacking in detail. While it had a legend with distance, there was no printed map scale and no labeled roads, trails, or waterways. Fortunately our digital map measurer is programmable to common map scales and is user-programmable, so we used the legend to program the map reader (about 1:11,000) and were all set to mark meters and kilometers for our planned routes.

Lesson learned #1: Always bring something to measure the map with, and be flexible if you don’t get a “standard” adventure racing map (1:24,000). You can use a fancy digital tool, a piece of string, or make your own plotter with a piece of paper cut at 90 degrees, a pencil, and the legend provided on your map.

Arriving 2 hours before the race start was a great idea, and we had ample time to mark up the map, pack our gear, and make one final visit to the port-a-potty before the race started at 0900. Order of race was either bike or run first (teams could choose), then bike from main TA to paddle put-in, run from paddle take-out back to paddle put-in, bike back to main TA, then either run or bike (whichever you did not do to start the race), and ended with a final combined bike/run.

Since the weather forecast was calling for 88 degrees and it was only in the mid 60’s at race start, we opted to run first.

Lesson learned #2: Running consumes more calories and generates more body heat than paddling or biking. Given a choice, always run in the coolest times of the day.

RC did outstanding during the run section, we hit all the checkpoints on our first attack and ended up back in the main TA in the middle of the pack. We hoped on our bikes for a short and uneventful pedal to the canoe section.

Here is where things got interesting. If you have never raced in Florida or some other swampy location, it’s hard to imagine how difficult navigation can be when there are multiple channels, dead-end creeks, 10-foot high reed grass, and lots of mud, plants, and countless unfriendly critters out there. To top off that list, the wind was blowing around 15 mph steady and gusting over 20. The paddle was TOUGH.

We found the first few points quickly, but then it was around 45 minutes to locate two CPs that were hidden deep in the reeds. For both points we made the mistake of continuing past our initial attack point, spreading out and looking around without maintaining our bearing, distance, and map location. CP 15 was a real morale-buster, as it was only 50 feet from our initial attack point but we moved away from it during our first search. Later in the race we discovered that several other teams just gave up on these CPs. It turns out we would have been able to gain several more points if we had cut our losses earlier, as we didn’t “clear” this course and there were easier CPs later in the race that we ended up missing due to the time cut-off of 6 hours.

Lesson learned #3: If you don’t locate a CP on your first attack, re-group the team, get back to a known location on the map (trail intersection, key terrain feature, bend in river, etc) and re-attack the point. It’s almost always faster than continuing to search, moving further from your initial attack point and likely getting lost in the process.

Lesson learned #4: Identify your likely difficult/time consuming CPs before the race. Assign a time cut-off for those points if you can’t locate them, and be prepared to skip a CP if you are likely to get more CPs later by doing so. At the end of the race it’s the total number of CPs each team gets that determines the winner, there is no penalty for skipping a CP.

After almost 3 hours we finally cleared the paddle and had a short jog back to our bikes. Two teammates were showing signs of heat exhaustion at this point: Sweating heavily, not very responsive in conversation, tiring easy on the run, and complaining of cramps. For the last 2 hours of the race they continued to slow down despite drinking extra water and taking electrolyte supplements.

Lesson learned #5: Don’t get behind on food, water, and electrolytes in a race. It takes time to re-hydrate, digest food, and stabilize electrolyte levels. In a race you have to be ahead of your nutrition or your performance will decrease steadily until you’ll have to stop and deal directly with the side effects (cramping, blacking-out, dizziness, low-blood sugar bonk). I strongly recommend using a stopwatch timer set to continuously count down for a reminder to drink and eat, and always dissolve electrolytes in drinks.

Despite suffering from the heat, RC continued to navigate dead-on back to the main TA and out for our bike section. We arrived back at the main TA again with the combined bike/run section remaining, but only 10 minutes until the cut-off. Of the last 7 points remaining in the race we only collected one before returning to the race finish at just under the 6-hour cut-off. Very hot and tired, we dropped our bikes and did a toast with some ice-cold beverages. Another race complete!

Wrap up from the Boar AR:
- No bike mechanical issues
- 2 teammates had heat exhaustion
- 2 points we had extreme difficulty finding during the paddle
- 1 Alligator sighting
- 1 “mystery” animal brushed up against Thumper’s leg underwater while in the swamp
- 1 canoe almost flipped over (soooooo close)
- 1 teammate threw up (I promised her I would not say who….)

Come join FLX-3 for the next Pangea race, the Myakka Mud Slide, on 31 March!

~Dash

PS here is a GPS map of our race thanks to my Garmin Forerunner 310XT: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/155044638#.T1QGkSdr6zc.facebook
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BadCompass
Posts: 5
March 20, 2012
1:21pm
Thanks Dash!
-Robin
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