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"

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Eco Lonestar Goes Global

Gander Mountain!
“Eco lonestar boasts an incredible field featuring 3 of top 5 ranked teams in the country! …Gander Mountain / HART, the # 1 USARA ranked team in the country. Also appearing will be M.O.A.T., the 2005 USARA National Champions currently ranked # 2 in the country. Rounding out the field is GoLite / Timberland Sprint the 2005 Eco Lonestar defending champions and current # 5 team in the country.”

With this type of hype, amazingly, this was probably the least prepared I've been for a race in a long time. We had never practiced together as a team, which is huge since we had not even met Tom Willis, our 4th, yet and wouldn't meet him until actual race day. I did no race-specific training or scouting. And I had no idea how my knee would do...it was feeling alright for runs up to 4miles, but we surely would run more than that in this race. Finally, Eco Lonestar had both a new location (Muleshoe) and a new format...

The format went like this, as stated by the rules: "The goal for your team is to collect as many countries as possible and return to the timing tent in the 10hr period. Each country has 2 points. In order to complete a country you must visit and punch both the visa point and the embassy point for that country...If your team only gets one of the points for a country...your team will receive no credit for that country. You may travel to points by foot, bike, or boat--your choice unless specified otherwise...Teams may travel in any order to the points, however, some points close at designated times and this should be noted by teams..."

Eco Lonestar was now all navigation, which normally would favor the superb navigators. So with all this, strategy would play heavily into the gameplan. So it started out okay: we met up at the race site the night before to claim a spot for transition, then we headed over to the Lakehouse for dinner. This also served as a drop point for us to get the keys to Deb's apartment, where we would be staying for the weekend. No 6th street that night--we needed our rest. The next morning was fine, we got up early and got to Muleshoe by about 6am or so...Starbucks was closed...grrrrr. We set up TA, but now Lisa and I started to get worried: the other half of our team, the two Toms, were nowhere in sight! It was coming up to the pre-race meeting and still no sign. I finally got a call: they were lost. Great. Perfect. We were called over for the prerace meeting and they were still not there. Now we started to contemplate what we would do if they didn't show...I would probably just pack up and leave. Thankfully, just as the prerace meeting started, we saw Tom's silver truck pull up. Lisa directed them to our TA and helped them quickly set up while I listened to Dave Poleto brief us on the race.

its on
We rushed around, helping the Toms get ready, then we had to line up next to the timing tent for the first leg: a 2 mile run followed by a 8mile bike of the Muleshoe trails, both marked routes. I finally met Willis, then we walked over to the start. With a sound of the horn, we were off. We didn't try to keep up with GoLite or even Dead Reckoning, but rather we tried to conserve our energy, thinking we would make it up on the nav. We did the run with no real problems and quickly transitioned to the bike. We were pretty steady, passing Ashley's team for 3rd. We were in good position...I was just worried now that GoLite and DR would start to gap us since both of them were both good on the bike. We got back to transition and received the coordinates and our map. We loaded up, plotted and got ready to paddle first. GoLite and DR were just leaving in their sevys as we were approaching the beachhead.

We headed to the east set of paddle checkpoints first...this was going to be a long paddle. We started off with Lisa/me and Tom/Tom. But obviously this was not working--we started to fall back quickly...something we would have figured out if we paddled together!! Grrrr! Anyway, we paddle for a short bit, then we finally decided to switch out and now it was Willis/me and Lisa/Turnbull. A little better, but still not too even...we were the ones ahead for the whole time now. We reached the first boat landing zone after a couple miles of not-so-fun paddling in those rubber duckies. We got out and I tried to get our bearings...something wasn't quite right. First off, I thought we reached the drop point a bit earlier than I expected, but I figured I was reading the map incorrectly. Then the road that we first took just didn't seem to match the topo map. After a little bit of fumbling around and trying to figure out where the heck I was on the map, I finally noticed something about the coordinates: the easting for the boat landing had an extra "8"!!! WTF. So, instead of having a minor of "450", we had a minor of "845". Unbelievable. We were off about 400meters, which made a huge difference here. Finally, I figured out where we were, and started off for the farthest point. By this time, a whole bunch of other teams caught up with us, including Hammer Nutrition (Deb's team), who would become the thorn in our side for the rest of the day.

I really felt HN had the home field advantage now since Art, their navigator, had held a race in this area last year and several of the checkpoints were close to checkpoints from his race...in fact, along the way, we saw one of their old checkpoints from last year's race! Regardless, we plodded along, my confidence shaved away by the early debacle. The first checkpoint was easy--at a road intersection. We moved on to the second one, which would be in a complex set of draws, which was very overgrown. We finally found it, but HN had the lead on us now. We quickly made it up on the run to the last CP in this section, but I wasn't keeping good account of our distance traveled...I was obviously rusty. I kept dropping down into ditches too early. This is where HN pulled away as I fumbled around in draws while the checkpoint was easily located right off of a dirt road. I was way off on my navigation today. It would be a long one...

HN was already clearly away in their boats as we slowly made our way back to our boats--another problem that was pointed out to me after the race was that the boat drop was located in the wrong location...unbelievable. Two wrongs made it very, very, wrong for me as it took me forever to get us back to the boats. We finally got back and we were now in distant 4th. We paddled back and I wanted to go straight to the next set of paddle points which were another 2.5miles to the west of TA. But the rest of the team needed to refill supplies, which I understood. So we quickly stopped into TA. Mo had come with me to the race and this was here first ever adventure race. She first looked like a deer in headlights, but after watching Linda shove a banana in my mouth while I was plotting points, she quickly caught on and shoved the rest of the banana in my mouth and forced fluids down my throat. I was soo glad she helped out--it really made a difference!

After the pit stop, we continued west. This is where we saw a lot of teams coming back, including Ashley's. After weaving through a few bubbas in their boats cutting us off, we finally made it to the 2nd boat landing zone. I had a better bearing of where we were here, but I still couldn't hit them right on like I did at the Big Chill or at the Texas Dare...I either significantly over or under shot the point. Just as we were running from the boats, GoLite and DR are heading back to the boats.

sevys suck
After overshooting both points on this section, we headed back to the boats where we actually saw Hammer Nutrition! We had made up a ton of time on them and we were on their tails now. The whole way back, we were in their draft and kept an eye on them. We were not feeling so hot--three of the four of us were not in the best of shape...but Willis certainly was! He was very, very strong...strong like horseradish! He was definitely a prime acquisition in that aspect. We made it to TA and loaded up for a long bike leg, which was fine with me! I had enough running for the day. We mounted our steeds and were heading out of Muleshoe, still in 4th. There was still one checkpoint that had a closing time, so we headed to that one first--Grelle Park. On our way out of the park, Bike Drost pulled up in his truck and commented, "this must bring up bad memories for you, huh?", referring to my near death experience at last year's No Sweat race. I kinda felt that was uncalled for right then, in the middle of the race, so I just ignored him and concentrated on the map...because I would have to face my demons straight on...these were the same roads where I had trouble staying on my bike and had to vomit every 5minutes...and it was starting to get hot too. I was a little worried, but this time I had concentrated to keeping my hydration valve in my mouth constantly.

The next checkpoint was almost identical to the one at No Sweat, so it was almost automatic. Right before we reached the point, thats when we saw Hammer Nutrition again and we razzed Art about having the edge on us because he probably had already scouted all these places before. Rick was at this point and he was very encouraging. He cheered us out of there and almost immediately we saw Ashley's team--they had made up some time on us. A couple of us were not feeling too hot on the bike, so we were slowing down. Then, making a tactical maneuver because of this lack of energy on the bike, I decided that we backtrack the way we came and go around all the rough terrain to get to the next checkpoint. I figured we needed to conserve our energy for later. This move cost us some time as Ashley's team reached the next point before we did. I was distraught...it was starting to come down to the line and every little decision would make a huge difference. But the weird thing was that we didn't see Hammer Nutrition. What happened to them? Anyway, no time--we were off to the next checkpoint. I had a mind fart and missed the turn, so we had to backtrack a little...5mins lost. This one was easy--in a creek next to a bridge. This was now where strategy would come into play. We had only about an hour and a half left and we had 2 cps out further. Lisa and I decided that we needed to head back since it would be a slim chance that we would be able to make it back in time if we went for either of these points. It was a very tough decision, but with the current condition of our team, I really didn't think we could make it. So we headed back, with a couple of points to pick up on the way.

we qualified!
Next one was next to a landing strip...no prob. The final CP we would get was in a little subdivision. No prob. That was it. We had about an hour left. I felt that we had no chance now of placing in the top 3, so we slowly made our way back to TA. We rolled in at about 9hrs 10mins...and I was a bit depressed. That was one of my bad nav days. I was about content with placing in 4th or even 5th, as I knew Hammer Nutrition and Ashley's teams were still out there looking for cps. But now the time was ticking...it was getting close to the 10hr cutoff and neither of them were in. It was too close to call, but I still was convinced we didn't have it. After having a beer, some pizza, and a quick dip in the cold Lake Travis, I was fumbling around with the kayak when Turnbull walked up to me and said we had 3rd! I still didn't believe him and told him to walk over to the timing table and ask in person. I acted disinterested and kept messing around with the boat tie downs...he finally came back in a few minutes and I gave him the "so?..." look...he gave me the thumbs up!!! I couldn't believe it! I was soooooo happy! I had already started thinking about what other races I needed to consider to qualify, like TerraFirma, all of which I weren't happy about, so I was so relieved with this info. I really was close to doing an Irish jig...and the amazing part was that I was feeling good enough to actually do it!

good times, good friends
So with this accomplishment, everything else during the weekend was gravy. Deb and Hammer Nutrition came in at a close 4th, followed by Ashley's team. GoLite defended their title nicely and DR finished 2nd. I swear I must have had a permagrin the rest of that day. After the awards ceremony, we packed up and headed out for some margaritas and mexican food. It was a good time. After some odd service from the waiter and Mo trying to convince me to take home a stray puppy that had befriended her, we headed back to Deb's place. We were planning to head down to 6th street, but Mo insisted that I get some rest...I'm sure she was making sure that I would still have the strength to paddle with her tomorrow--she was so excited about it!

The next morning we went to Katz's downtown for breakfast--man, that is some great food! She had bartended at Katz's there in Houston, so she gave me the quick history of the place...it was hilarious! Then we headed down to Town Lake and paddled the Esperanto around. She was so eager to learn that when I was ready to turn around, she still wanted to keep going! What have I created?!?! It was so much fun--I'm so glad she came with. After we headed back and docked, it turned out to be about 5+ miles of paddling, which is awesome for a first-time paddler!

After stopping by REI, we headed back to Houston. I was craving one of those huge burritos at El Rey's, but they were closed on Sundays, so we had to settle for Mission Burritos. That was it. It was a great weekend! Nationals, here we come!


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