FLORIDA -- From the front of the pack to the back of it, crossing the state strictly on human power is an impressive feat for anyone. Part two of our series rehashing the 2012 Sunshine Sea 2 Sea highlights a local team who went on a special journey.
Pangea took pride in assisting every team across the state in the inaugural Sea 2 Sea last February. As was told in part one
of our series, some teams were no stranger to a race of this time and distance. However, adventure racing isn't all about who wins the race. Accomplishing personal goals and establishing personal relationships during a whirlwind of different pains and emotions is what adventure racing is really all about.
We Blame Javan
is a team who started racing with Pangea in late 2010. They took to the sport quickly and soon moved up to the Elite division in search of more adventure. Never ones to shy away from a challenge, they decided to take on the three-day race with one goal in mind; finish.
"I definitely had some doubts going in," said team member Bill Dean
. "Mostly because I know we planned to move slowly and I was worried that we were going to get so far behind pace that we weren't going to be able to get there."
The team that we grew to know was a lighthearted bunch as evidenced by their running gag of including a portrait of their coworker, Javan, in team pictures and subsequently blaming him for anything that went wrong.
However, the lighthearted duo was visibly nervous to those who knew them on the eve of the big day at the pre race meeting conversing with people who had more experience in multi-day events.
"Physically, we'd been training hard," said teammate Robert Jordan
. "But neither of us knew what was going to happen after hour twelve since that was the longest race we had previously completed."
"Fear of the unknown," Dean continued. "I have been an athlete most of my life and I am pretty good at staying 'in the moment' and keeping my mind focused on the task at hand so I was confident that, once the race started, the unknown would drop away and I would just be out there racing (which is what happened)."
Of course, the boys did finish (while nabbing 35 of 55 CPs) but it definetly was a battle. The team noted that the physical exertion was actually less challenging than expected (crediting the slow-but-steady approach), but also noted the sleep deprivation as being worse than expected.
"I had trouble falling asleep during the times we chose to stop on the first two nights but still felt pretty really lucid," Dean said. "That all changed in a half-second around 1:00am in the Ocala National Forest when I unexpectedly nodded off for a moment while riding my bike. At that point, the curtain came down."
The team still fought through with limited sleep until finally going down for four hours near the end.
"The emotional roller-coaster the next day was amazing!" Dean said. "Up and down, up and down...just crazy. I would be totally manic one minute and then on the edge of tears 10 minutes later, for no particular reason either way."
The guys learned a lot on their first mutli-day race. They both agreed that having more dry clothing to change into, being proactive about blister management before the race even starts (moleskin & tape), and packing more "real" food are some things they will do differently next time around.
"We were afforded far more access to our gear than I anticipated," Jordan said. "I brought too much of some things (snack bars) and not enough of others (dry socks/shorts)."
"We stopped on the roadside on day three and ate a little beef jerky," Dean recalled. "It was as close as I have ever come to having a religious experience. It was exactly what we needed so I am definitely bringing more real, enjoyable food next time"
Their quest for "real" food actually lead to a major let down moment that is maybe a little funny now looking back.
"We were suffering down the most desolate, boring, god-forsaken, uninteresting stretch of road in Florida (State Rt 20, west of Bunnell)," Dean said. "We decided that the next real town we hit, we were going to hit Denny's (or something) and eat real food for a half hour and everything would be right with the world."
That town ended up being Espanola, FL which not only doesn't have a Denny's, according to the guys it doesn't have anything at all. The oasis they saw on the map was actually a ghost town for all intents and purposes.
"Our spirits were a little low by the end of that bike leg," Dean continued. "We still joke about hitting Denny's when we get to Espanola, so at least we have a good memory from it."
But in the end, through all the ups and downs, the team was rewarded with the sweetest gift of all when their families were there (at 5:00 am) to see them finish.
"Having my family there at the end was the most rewarding part," Jordan said. "Seeing my kids and knowing that they were watching our progress the whole time and were interested in the journey we were taking was really special."
Sometime (during the race) I realized that it was important to me to be able to tell my kids that I had done the absolute best I could; that succeed or fail, I had given my all," Dean said. "That thought really keep me motivated. Every time I felt tired or started to feel sorry for myself I just reminded myself of that. So it was a nice closure to see them at the finish line and let them hold the last CP for us to punch."
Robert's son, Ian, provided incredible closure for the event during the awards cermemonly when he delivered a hearfelt speech congratulating everyone involved in the race. His words were not only extremely eloquant, they were unplanned, uncoached, and amazingly straight from his heart.
"The Sea to Sea was, by far, the most epic thing I've done so far in my life and I'm really thankful to have a friend like Bill who would not only get me into the sport, but drag me across the state as well," Jordan concluded.
"Our strategy for making it involved leapfrogging some of the out and back segments, which kept us moving. This allowed us to really get to know all of the teams involved, rather than just the ones going as slow as us."
And in the end, that's the name of the game. Personal goals and personal relationships.
We Blame Javan - Finishers of the 2012 Sunshine Sea 2 Sea AR
Stay tuned as we continue our series where we highlight some more stories from the 2012 Sunshine Sea 2 Sea...