Once a source of "Not all you want to know about Texas Adventure Racing," but now just some "leisure" adventure through the eyes of "The K-SPoT"

Sunday, December 11, 2005

MOAT Dares for First, RunBikePaddle Snares First Runner Up

Alright, finally, a race weekend to fill in this blog. I do expect a separate race report from the newest contributor to K-SPoT's AR Blog, Nick. He had mentioned he was thinking of starting his own blog (eg, Blogga the Hut, Drop it Like its Blog, Mama Said Blog You Out, etc.) but this would be a good venue to have a "blog, counter blog" collab. We'll see...I think it will be Nick's Rants vs. my unbridled "excitement" about racing.

Okay, back to the subject of this session: The Texas Dare. I really didn't know what to expect since this race would be run by Tom and Rick. I made sure not to ask anything too in depth of the race so as not to have an unfair advantage over the non-HART racers...then again, Rick never tells me anything, so I had nothing to worry about. All we would know of the race details would come to us right before race start when we got the instructions and maps...that's all we got. We didn't have to check in after each leg, there was no official "pre race briefing", and there would be no special tests. All these were nice concepts for me, as there wouldn't be any worry about how to prepare for special tests...don't get me wrong, I really do like special tests when they are well thought out and really test your athletic skills, but there are some that are just plain dumb and should never be in an adventure race...I will not go into that rant right now. I finally got my team together and we raced under the banner of Team RunBikePaddle, partially sponsored. It would be Lisa, Stan, and Jason. This was so last minute that we all didn't even train once as a full team before the race. I had raced with Stan and Jason before, so I was confident in their abilities. Lisa I of course was already confident with because of her success with the Rough Riders and she had raced with Jason before, last year. I just didn't know how all 4 of us would mesh together at short notice. The good thing is that Jason is so positive and always cracking jokes, that I knew the mood would be light for the most part.

So I saw Kip right before race time, who was racing under TooCoolRacing.com, with Art, Robyn, and Tom Lane. BTW, I'm at Salento right now because is was pretty tough to blog from home--I get distracted so easily, especially if The Lord of the Rings and Matrix are on TV for most of the day...BBTW, Nick, I did a search on my blog on Google and it showed up! Finally! Still not on Yahoo though...screw them...anyway, where was I? Oh yah, Kip. So we quipped a little with each other and we both agreed we were having strategy meetings on how to beat MOAT, the 2005 USARA Open and Masters champions...haven't they already won enough from us amateurs!? Why don't they go elite already. :) Alright, the fact that there were cash prizes for 1st thru 3rd may have had an influence on their participation. So, we pretty much knew MOAT would smoke the field unless something big happened to them during the race, so I was racing for 2nd. There were so many things conflicting at this time, with my want to taper down for the off season, the struggles of putting a team together, and the general burnout from a long season that I wasn't coming into the race pumped up at all...I even told Nick that I was retiring from AR. I had not even planned to race until Rick asked me to race for RunBikePaddle, so I thought that would be fun. That all changed of course come race day...I was pumped, but relaxed at the same time because I had no real expectations. Except to beat Tommy "The Sly" Fuchs. So in general I was there just to have fun. But the cold weather was definitely cutting into my fun time. It dipped into the upper 20's overnight and race time temp was just cold. Not happy. Hence the debate on how many layers to wear started. It did warm up a little bit, so I decided to just go with a long sleeve layer and the HART jersey with long pants and AR shorts and bike shorts.

The night before we stayed at the Fairfield in Bryan and had dinner at this local Italian place which had great bread sticks! Tina remarked that they were like funnel cakes! I agreed...just put some powdered sugar on them and that's what they were. Tina and one of her teammates were there at dinner too...Lance, who had gone to Southern Texas, now called Texas State, was glued to the TV because his alma mater was playing in the Div I-AA football semis. It was a great game and we followed it to conclusion at the hotel, where TX State fell in OT against Northern Iowa. Geez, where was this going...oh yeah, Lance was also hinting about going out that night before to the Fox and Hound, which apparently wasn't that far away. Thankfully no one on my team bit. We went to bed pretty much right as the game ended and got up the next morn at about 630. Light breakfast downstairs and we were off to Lake Bryan.

The pre-race "meeting" was interesting not only because it wasn't officially a pre-race meeting but a pre-race Q and A session, but also because we were so connected with the race directors that it almost felt like just another training camp or something similar. Another thing that was unique was the morning prayer by Mr. Escobar and the singing of the Star Spangled Banner by Deann Brown. That combination made me even more pumped up about the race, especially when in the prayer he said may the Lord "guide our decisions"--as a navigator, I say Amen to that! So we got our race instructions, maps, coordinates and were instructed to meet by the shore in 6mins. We had a brief moment to read the instructions and plot about 5 points before we had to run off to the start. The first leg was a 2.4mile run on a marked course. This was done pretty well with race volunteers standing at most of the turns in the course. There was a section of the course that had went deep into the woods where there was a little confusion of where to go, but other than that there were no problems following the course. MOAT took the lead early, not at a blistering pace, but at a steady pace that slowly the other teams would fall off of. We were doing alright, but Lisa was already sick as a dog the day before so was already feeling weakness because of it. We had to back off and let them go, which I thought was fine...we had a lot of race left to go. The paddle would be next, but before we left we decided to plot all the points right then. It seemed like only a few other teams did the same thing as a lot of the other teams were already out in front of us on the paddle. No worries, we knew we would catch up to all of them along the way as they had to plot sooner or later. First paddle had 2 points. We the first point head on and then had to portage across the middle big island to the 2nd point. We then decided to portage back to west side of the lake since paddling back on the east side would be significantly longer. It was no fun carrying the boats, but it had to be done.

We got back to TA and got on our bikes. We were off in no time, but Lisa was still suffering from something...oh yah, and Jason apparently has Leptosperosis from Nationals! Unbelievable...we should have changed our team name to Team Lepto. Anyway, we were cruising right along when we start hearing this hissing sound. That's almost always bad news when on the bike. The thing was that it was Jason's bike that we were hearing the hissing from, but he has tubeless tires! That damn crap didn't work! He kept spinning the tire hoping that Stan stuff would plug the hole but it never did--it just bubbled up like it was laughing at us. All the while, teams were passing. TooCoolRacing eventually passed and that's when I knew we would be in trouble in terms of getting 2nd place--I figured they would be the 2nd best competitor behind MOAT. Jason finally gave up on his tubeless praising and we put a tube in and pumped it up. That took way too long. Anyway, at least we didn't have any other mechanicals throughout the race. So we putted along and slowly passed other teams...but where was Jaunda, Nick, Will, and Cynthia?! Not much later after I thought that, I saw them riding the levy on the way back! WTF?! How did they get so far ahead?! I can only summise that they were one of the teams that decided not to plot all the points at one time. That definitely put a fire under me. So basically I had no tabs on 2 teams on Kenny's "To Watch" list: houstonadventureracing.com and Black HART, Tommy's team. After finishing the western trail section, it was off to the eastern trail setion for the 2nd checkpoint on the bike leg. About a mile or 2 into the eastern trails, we rode past TooCoolRacing! They had some kind of bike mechanical as well, so it was even, Steven. We got to the 2nd checkpoint of the leg and saw Jaunda's team just a few minutes ahead...we were gaining. So we tried to keep a steady pace and Lisa was slowly coming back to life, which was great news. We got back to transition and prepped for a trek leg with 2 points, both of which were off of a bridge in a creek. That's where we caught up with Nick's team and after a few times of switching back and forth we started to gap them on the run back. This is of course right after a near fatal navigational blunder. We didn't read the instructions fully and thought we had to run to the next checkpoint. But Will was heading back to Lake Bryan while CP7 was the other way. We decided to let them go and do our own thing, but I knew Will was a good navigator so there's no way he would make such a huge mistake. We started on our way when we then saw MOAT on the bikes heading our same way. That was the red flag for me. I immediately stopped and told Lisa to read us the rules again. Sure enough, 7 was a bike point. Man that would have been catastophic. From then on I made sure to confirm what checkpoints were for the current leg. Regardless, we were feeling pretty strong at this point. We were now in 2nd place, behind MOAT who was already well on their way on the 2nd bike leg.

One thing we could have improved were our transistions. When I'm the first one to be ready out of TA, that's bad. I'm usually the last one because I have to wrangle the maps, but almost everytime this race, I was either the first one ready or 2nd. We were off again on our bikes for a long road ride to a coasteering portion west of the park. This time it was Stan's turn to not feel so well. The wind was palpable so that didn't help the situation. We got into a paceline to help out, but we were at most portions barely going 13mph. I know we lost a lot of time to other teams on this leg. I knew Nick and co. would catch up since they were so good on the bike. To add to the discomfort, there was a pack of dogs right at the turnoff onto the dirt road to the river and one of them looked rabid! One good thing came of that encounter--adrenaline started to pump. We got the points along the way and finally arrived at the coasteering leg. I was feeling spry on this leg so I hammed it up a little bit when Deb drove by blasting "Take my picture, Smack my bitch up". The coasteering took us a little more time than I thought it would take, mostly because the water was a little bit lower than usual, but no major snafus here. In no time we were back on our bikes, but my greatest fear was realized--two teams, both HART, were right there crossing the field to get to the bike drop. TooCoolRacing was not too far behind. I think it was Jaunda's team and Tommy's team in hot pursuit. This is where I pleaded that we go a little faster, maybe around 14-15mph if possible. Jason heeded my plea and said "I'll see what I can do" like what Lance Armstrong said in a wind tunnel when they said they needed the test to go at around 30mph or faster for a duration of time and he was thinking he would have to do that himself (not the wind tunnel)...so he took turns towing up the hills and encouraging us to bust up them like they weren't there. I'm so glad he agreed to race with us! And the whole time he was still joking around and trying to keep spirits up. I knew we were now pretty beaten up after all that running and biking, so I'm glad another paddle session was coming up...the only problem is that I saw no way around another portage, this one being substantially longer. First CP was hit dead on again, our boat pretty much pointing at the CP. Then came the portage. The portage began at the same spot we portaged to during the first paddle. We had to portage along a pipeline road to CP 15. I was pretty tired so carrying this 100lb monster was no easy task for me. So there was Jason again dragging the boats singlehandedly for us. I also forgot my tow straps made specifically for dragging the boats, so that contributed to our misery. But we finally found techniques that worked and got to 15, seeing CP20 along the way. That was a nice bonus. From 15 was CP16 which was on a small island on the western side of the lake. This started to remind me of the Lake Somerville race with the sun setting and everything turning to sillouettes, but I had an easier time finding this island and again landed with our boats pointing at the CP again. We were off quickly back to TA for the final trek leg.

We thought we had a good lead over all the other teams, but on our paddle back to TA we started hearing voices in the distance, so we knew someone was coming up fast behind us. Regardless, we decided for comfort on this last leg and took a bit more time in TA to change into warm, dry clothes. CP17 was along the eastern levy trail, where we had seen MOAT running back from earlier on the start of our 2nd paddle. No problem. Off to 18 which was back on the middle island, along the shore. On the run back along the levy, that's when my heart dropped--TooCoolRacing was mere minutes behind us! We all got serious again. Before then we were walking quite a bit, but now we would only stop to walk when we really needed a break. 18 took a short time to do the search, but no real problems. Then 19 was outside the park at an intersection, which we found bushwhacking through thorns and thick brush. Then it was off to the final point, CP20, which we already knew the location of. We now were in stealth (SR-71 as Nick would say) mode, turning our headlamps off as to not reveal our location. We ran back to the park and were relieved not to see Kip and co along the way. As we hopped back onto the pipeline trail, that's when we saw them, right after they had found CP18. I kinda knew we had it in the bag then, but I wanted to push a little longer and have 20 in hand then reassess. So we ran down the rough, bumpy, uneven road until we got back to CP20. Right as we got to 20, we saw another team portaging to CP15. Man, I was just thinking doing the paddle nav at night would be brutal. So we pretty much turned it off on the way back, especially for me as I twisted my ankle twice on that damn road. We briskly walked the whole time as we didn't see TooCoolRacing again. Once we got back to the main road of the park, we jogged it in for our victory lap...man, this was one of the times 2nd place felt like 1st, considering who beat us for 1st. We finished in about 10.5 hours. All the feelgood stimulants that the body releases started to rush in and I was hugging anyone within a 10 meter radius. We got cash booty! I think this is the first non-academic cash prize I've won!

So Nick's team slipped in after Tommy's and Kip's teams. It sounded like Caroline, Raymund, Eric, and Weihan had a tough time of it all day. Caroline started it off bad early as she slipped and fell in the shower! Not good. Overall, I would think the Dare was a great success! It was as advertised--straightforward without any easter egg hunt sessions. I'm already looking forward to the race next year...hopefully MOAT won't show so we could have a shot at the 1.5k! JK, kinda. Nick, your turn...


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