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"

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

HART Expedition AR Training Camp Recap

E-Mo surveying the areaI have some catching up to do! So I'll just start with the week after the TdH weekend. That week was pretty lax as I took the rest of Sunday and the entirety of Monday off. Tuesday was HART practice and we had our BMR testing done with Talamini (our 1st place prize from the Talm-O Meet). We found out that I had a pretty normal metabolic rate while the Warship burns around 3000 calories by just sitting around. Unbelievable! Its gotta be all that muscle! I got a swim and a weights session in during lunch then Thursday night I went for a short 1hr trail run at Memorial. It hadn't rained, so I figured the backdoor trail would be open to the green trail, so I tried it again. It wasn't as muddy, which was a good thing for me, being so clumsy! But to my disappointment, the water was this time high right away, at the first water crossing about a 10th of a mile into my run! I would not be denied, so I looked for a crossing and after a bit of bushwhacking I found one! Then I went cruising along, the trails being a lot better this time around. Then came my next obstacle--the water crossing that is usually deep after the rains...and yes, it was deep. I have gotten this far so I wasn't gonna turn back again like last week, so I searched again for a crossing. This time, I had to use a downed tree as the creek was deep throughout. Vines and trash were additional obstacles, but somehow I was able to make it across...I would not be denied! I had made it all the way to the green trail and took it back to the parking lot.

The next day I had to leave Houston early to get to the HART Expedition AR training camp, which started at Rick's lakehouse. I met up with the Bludworths at around 3pm for our "last meal"...our last hot meal at least. We were all excited and couldn't wait to get started! As soon as we got to Rick's place, we loaded up our packs. It was an expedition-style camp, so no central transition area...meaning we would have to pack and carry everything with us...except for our boats and paddles. Yes, we even had to carry our pfds with us, which was a bulky pain in the buttocks! There were 12 of us and we were each assigned "swim buddies," people we would be teamed with for the whole camp. I was with Jackie, naturally. After a few minutes of final packing, we went over to the house to get our maps and camp instructions. We waited for a few stragglers and then proceeded to bike over to the boat drop about a mile away. The first leg was an upstream paddle on the Trinity, all the way to the Lake Livingston Dam. We started off in daylight, but it didn't take long for darkness to set in and the river began to take a totally new feel. Everything that jumped in the water seemed to spook Jackie and we even paddled by something obviously dead (obvious by the smell, but it was too dark to make it out). Then minutes later after passing the carcass, we here coyotes howling, apparently finding the rotting flesh for themselves. Nice. We paddled a bit faster.

We reached the US-59 bridge and as I expected Rick was there at the boat ramp to check our progress. We were the first ones to cross this checkpoint, so he apparently thought we were mashing. We weren't. He told us to slow down, so we kinda did. We slowly maneuvered through the derelics in the water, floating by the bridge as this was not the time to get caught up on a branch and flipping over. We continued on and this dam dam never seemed to show. We had to stop off on the bank a couple of times because we didn't want to experiment with in-boat urination. I think it was a good call. A little after our first pit stop, Monty and Melissa cruise by us in the yellow cruise missle...bring a handgun to the party, someone else comes with a street howitzer. Their glowsticks slowly bob away in the distance, the pattern of lights kinda looking like a cruise ship. Then again, we are alone. We are dazzled by an array of lightning bugs on the shore, but that too loses its awe after a while. How the hell do these people paddle for a hundred miles and not go nuts?! Then there's the Safari...ludicrous!

After a few more miles of twists, turns, sandbars, weeds, and alligator gars, we finally see lights that are unmistakenably for a dam. We first see the lights on the bridge before it, but then we see the red warning lights on the top of the dam--we are here! By this time, my lower back was screaming because I had forgotten to bring my inflatable lower back support. My back muscle on the left side was obviously swollen. I had to switch paddling positions with Jackie because having to put pressure on the pedals to steer just made my back feel worse. It was a lot better up front. So the fun didn't end there--we had to drag our boat up the steep boat launch. Happy, happy, joy, joy! I had to lay down somewhere and stretch my back, immediately. I took some drugs, but I had to be careful since too much of this stuff would make me drowsy. Thankfully, the next leg was a short trek to the next paddle put in, giving my back a break. We waited for Tommy and Frank to come in and then we proceeded to the next point while Rick transported our boats there. It was a good time to rest up and relax before paddling for a couple more hours. We arrived at Browder's marina and loaded back into the boats and headed west for Indian Creek Marina. We have been there before, but again we never tried getting there in the dark.

Monty and Melissa took off again, and pretty much the whole time we saw the cruise ship bobbing and weaving in the distance. We paddled the whole way with Tommy and Frank, eventually feeling out the shore to find the Indian Creek inlet. We eventually found it, but there were several fingers and we had to decide which one was the right one. The cruise ship went right and we went left, through some nasty tall weeds that were breeding some kind of bug population. We followed the finger for about half a mile, then it pretty much dead-ended. We eventually decided to turn back and go where we saw the cruise ship go. We get there and we see Monty and Melissa going back. Okay, this is getting ridiculous. We try a bit to the north now, but nothing. Finally, Tommy remembers a bit from the last time we were here and go back where we ran into M&M and go right instead of left at a fork--this of course is the right way and Tommy does not hesitate to remind us that he found the right way. This from the guy who had to follow us all the way here because he didn't have his GPS (we were allowed to use our GPS for the lake paddles).

Ray-Ray loading gearRick was there and we beached our boats and prepped for the bike up to the next checkpoint, which would be a dark zone. So I couldn't wait to get there! After dragging our boats out of the way, we headed up 224...and I mean up. Right away, it was a climb out from the marina. Neat! This portion of the ride would be the hilliest, so we took our time. It actually took less time than I thought it would as we were at hwy 156 in no time. Left and then right on 150 and then left on 2025. The dark zone was at one of the Lone Star Hiking Trail parking lots off of 2025. As soon as we got there, Tommy and Frank, Monty and Melissa, and Jackie and I, we quickly bedded down for our 2hr dark zone. It was about 5am at that time, so it would be daylight by the time we got up. We were allowed one luxury item and Rick had suggested a sleeping pad, which I thought was a great idea! But everyone was suprised that I had actually packed it--I believe I was the only one who did. It wasn't that heavy and fit snugly in my pack, so I figured it would pay off during our dark zone, which it did! It was so comfy! Other than being abruptly disturbed by the other group arriving at the parking lot, I slept all the way to 7am. The little nap actually helped a ton and I was up like sunshine! It seemed that Jackie and I simultaneously got up, so we started packing our gear and did our business in the woods--well synchronized!

After loading our bikes in the trailer and getting a few choice chunks of advice from Rick, we were off on the next leg which was a trekking leg where we had to pick off 5 cps. We were again the first ones out, just at a walk. We had agreed before hand that we would not run a lick since this was just a training session and we didn't feel like running with 30lbs hanging off of our backs. We took the LSHT east and then veered south down a dirt road. The CP was right off of an intersection and we spotted it quickly. Tommy and Frank were there at the same time. Then back north to CP2, which was on a pipeline trail, next to a downed tree. Got it. Monty and Melissa had caught up to us too, but both the other teams decided to stop momentarily to shed clothing as the temp was getting a bit warmer. We continued on without them as we figured they would catch up with us again anyway. CP3 was at a creek crossing. We followed the pipeline east and I had to count creeks/peaks. We got to the creek and had to head north a bit and there it was. We were supposed to call Rick at this CP, which we did. He said we were making good time. CP4 looked to be easy since it was at a road intersection. As soon as we got to the intersection, we saw it right there. One more CP, at a creek. I again started counting creeks and hill peaks. We got to the creek I thought it was at, but we couldn't find it. I was starting to get suspicious because the clue said it was on a fence and we didn't see a fence anywhere. That's when I asked if we had crossed a road, which Jackie confirmed we didn't. She then said that perhaps we weren't there yet, and I agreed. As we were about to head further south, Monty and Melissa caught up with us. So we continued on as a group and along the way Tommy and Frank caught up too. We arrive at the correct creek as there we immediately see a fence. The CP was right in the creek so one of us had to get our feet wet. I volunteer.

yup, everything's in there!Our next transition to bike was at a parking lot off of 2666. After slogging through a couple of creeks with no definite trail markings, we head further south on a dirt road. We follow it until we hit Red Road. We take a left, intending to take it all the way to 2666. We actually cross the LSHT again and apparently this is what we were supposed to take. Oh well. We follow the road southeast to the intersection with 217, then take a nondistinct trail southwest to 2666. We follow 2666 west and finally get to the parking lot. Rick informs us that we were supposed to use only the trail system to get here, but it wasn't very obvious by the wording. Oh well. We took a rest period as we waited for the other group to arrive. I took advantage of this time and took a nap. Of course, to our dismay, the other group of Caroline, Eric, Ross, Raymund, Nikki, and Dave P arrive through the LSHT. Nice. As they arrive, Rick tells us to mount our bikes and navigate the backroads to the intersection of 220 and 220C. After a bit of bikewhacking, we get to the main dirt road again and its smooth sailing from then on. Along the way we see some Houston Fit people training--we didn't use Double Lake much because of this--we didn't want to disturb their training session. We get to the intersection and there's Rick, waiting on us...of course saying we took too long.

We sat there, waiting for the other half of the camp attendees to show, so it was like another dark zone for us. We all sat, some of us napped. As we waited, several HoustonFit folk ran back and forth by us. At one point, one of them asked what kind of group we were...we were like "an adventure racing group". LOL. After a brief downpour, the 2nd group emerged from the LSHT and rode the hill up to our location. Rick wasted no time to tell us to load up and head out again, giving them no rest whatsoever. This is where people were starting to run into water issues as they didn't stop and refill their hydration packs. It was a pretty easy ride through the forest, having to get off once in a while for mud and downed trees, but it was obvious some were suffering from dehydration. I had a good vantage point as I was in the cleanup position...unfortunately that meant no one had my back if something were to, per se, fall out of my backpack...Anyway, we rode a loop and ended up back close to the LSHT primitive camping ground and we took a short water break. Rick caved a bit and gave us refreshments and then ordered a mandatory pit stop at the nearby Subway, both of which were not on the original agenda. He also modified the ride back to the paddle and told us we had to trek back instead due to traffic concerns.

that cool dude RossAs we rode back out west on 220 and turned right on 2025 to head back into Coldspring, Tommy notices that there is only one shoe lashed to the back of my pack. Muthafu...what's up with losing gear?!?! So I had one shoe now to complete this newly-added trek section. Wonderful. To say the least, I was a bit perturbed. Grumbling the whole way, I along with Jackie, Tommy, and Frank catch up to Monty and Melissa and roll into Subway, most likely stinking to high Heaven. I tell Rick about my missing shoe and apparently his fuzzy feelings for us are over. I now decide that I have to do the trek in my bike shoes. Fun! After refueling with sandwiches, cookies, and soft drinks, we head back out on foot in our two main groups. We were the first to leave, with the clipity clopity of my bike shoes. It actually wasn't too bad--at least we weren't running. The trek actually didn't take that long and we were back at Indian Creek in no time. We quickly switched into our padding gear as the locals gawked relentlessly--it was sure a classy marina, as Jackie could attest to. LOL. We shove off and head pretty much straight east for Lake Livingston State Park. We started off in the day, which was nice, so we could get a good bearing for the CP pretty easily. The water was pretty rough, but no white caps--it was just a disorganized series of waves occasionally coming over my bow...at least my pack that was lashed to the front of the boat shielded me from green water. It slowly turned to dark and we dug on, slowly getting closer to the other side of the lake. As we approached the park, we saw an inviting fire burning on the beach...it drew me in and I kept wanting to head straight for it...heck, the GPS said it was on the right bearing! But we then saw flashing lights to the left of us and we knew it was Rick's trailer. We corrected course and headed straight for him. Amazingly my back was doing fine on this paddle, possibly because of the combination of me being in the front and me taking some medicine. Unfortunately, I figured I couldn't have too much of a good thing and took another pill for the final paddle back home. This would turn out to be a bad mistake, in post-analysis of course.

There was a bit of a "special test" where we had to do a "tower climb." Thankfully, it was a stair climb, so it was easily done. Again we waited a while, so I took this opportunity to nap again. Beetles were crawling everywhere, but I didn't care a bit. We must have waited over an hour and I finally had to get up and see what was going on. Looking out on the water, we could see what was obviously the other group, but they were on the wrong side of the park. They stayed there for about 30mins and were growing restless, trying to figure out what they were doing. Finally, I took my headlamp out and turned on the blinking distress signal. They must have seen it because they then started to paddle straight for us. Success! A few minutes later, they arrived at the boat ramp, relaying their trials and tribulations. We started loading up the boats and readied our bikes for our ride back to the marina by the dam. Rick had given us instructions on how to get back to the dam, but he eventually escorted us back as he was worried about speeding traffic on the dimly-lighted highways that late on a Saturday night. We all made it to the marina safely and started to get back in our boats. Tommy, Frank, Jackie, and I headed out first on the water and were the lucky ones to entice the alligator gar and whatever other flying fish to jump up and scare Jackie out of her seat. I heeded her request to follow behind Team Tommy so they could clear the way. Yes, I was back to steering to give Jackie's back a break. But for some reason the drugs were not working this time around and I think they were starting to make me drowsy--not a good thing since this was about the time the sleepmonsters would be creeping in. I struggled to find a comfortable position, but it was impossible as I had to keep my feet on the pedals to steer the boat. We slowed down considerably and were playing catch up for most of the time. The fog added an extra eerieness to the paddle as sand bars and branches would appear seemingly out of nowhere.

dark zones rock!I was ready for this paddle to be done as I was starting to fade. I was sleep-paddling. My brain was as foggy as the mist we pierced through and all I knew was that the other two boats we pulling away from us and I couldn't really do much about it at this time. I didn't want to stop either and delay our finish. I just kept wishing the take out was just around the corner, but it seemed like eternity. Again, I was wondering how these lunatics could do a CR100 or Safari and not go crazy. Finally, we see something red glowing in the distance--the other two boats are drawn to it so I figure we have arrived. I was so relieved. One other thing that made the paddle so long was that 2 or 3 less floodgates were opened on the dam, making the current a trickle compared to what it was when we had to paddle against it. Figures. One by one we helped each other drag our boats up the steep, muddy embankment. I unintentionally napped a little as we waited for our turn, my paddle anchored into the muddy river bed. Finally, we scooted up and hauled Big Red up and over to the grassy field and that was it. We were done. A little over 30hrs of nonstop fun. We walked back to the Lakehouse to retrieve our vehicles then after a few moments of loading up our boats we were outta there. Sweet, sweet bed, here I come! Funny part was that Mo was just waking up for her shift at Starbucks, so as I was arriving she was leaving. I crashed and didn't wake up until she got back home from work.

So all in all, great times! It was a really great experience and gave us a good taste of what a linear expedition-style adventure race would be like. I can't wait for the real deal!


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