This is a course that FLO put together to help raise funds for Dave "Dash" Ashley, who is competing in Estonia for the World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships. Going out of the country is something we've been dreaming of for the future.
The day started at 11am for us. We thought the elite course started at 11am, but found out it was a mass noon start. So what did we do? We had to have our warm-up by doing the sport course :)
It took us some 34min to complete a 3.5k course. I would report more, but there was no thrills to it. Just a good ole fashion Canyonero-style warm-up.
We were allowed to strategize with the map ahead of time. Two CPs stuck out to us as most difficult, CP50 and 51. Once the starting line was cut, we all bolted out, some went clockwise, we went counter-clockwise, as to hit the seemingly more difficult CPs first and leave the mind-numbing jogs to the end.
After punching the first control, we cut across a stream and saw people repulse at the sight of us doing so. They went around instead. We've been told this is an adventure racer's tactic. Orienteers prefer to keep clean and dry.
I pace counted to after what I thought was the sharp bend leading east towards CP42, but ended premature. That's ok, because the feature I was looking for after bushwhacking south was a ditch that spanned west to east. There was room for error. We ran into it, followed it east and found the control easily.
The beauty of the FLO events is that we try whatever we want without the pressures of a real race. Instead of going back out on the safer trails after CP44, we bushwhacked a straight line to CP45. After hitting the trail near there, I thought it was faster to just jog on the trails the rest of the way, which was rather short. The trail leading off the main road was pretty obscure, so we overshot it initially and realized quickly.
We could have kept it safe and followed the trail all the way towards 50, but decided to take short routes over. There was some easy lane changes that cut the time down signficantly. As we made our way out to the marsh near CP50, the attack became apparent as you ran along the "beach".
This control was the toughest by far, and upon GPS replay, we spent 33 minutes looking for it, 20 of which were waste. This was the only control we had trouble with. In the end, we were saved by Ron Eaglin and his partner. We also met up with Tim Cowan, a coworker of ours who races for Swamp Gators. On our exit, Tim ran west of the marsh, while we cut straight through it to head up north.
We met up with Tim again here.
Tim decided to stay on the trails to go towards 46 after punching 47, but we trucked through swamp. This bushwhack has taken over the award for "Nastiest Bushwhack" ever. Once we poked into the woods, it was about 100m before we hit marsh. We thought to ourselves, "this isn't too bad". Then we got deeper. It got thicker, more foul smelling, and murkier. The logs we tried to stand on were too soggy and crumbled under us, making me crash down into its bowels of shit.
Frustration was apparent, but it was past the point of no return. We got further and further, but the whack gave us more brush and entanglement. We were going about 1 ft every 5 seconds, trying to clear thick vegetation in the sickest of swamps.
Eventually, we saw grounds and it was the best sight ever! As we got out of that sticky mess, we located 46 and saw Tim fumbling out of the woods again. Tim's a great runner, but our tactics have proven to be the faster choice so far; dirty, but faster :)
Bushwhacking is a strategy that also conserves energy and keeps you in the cool away from the sun.
CP43, 41, 37
These three were the most mind-numbing CPs to get to. The jogs were long, the trails were in the open with the sun baking down on us.
I decided to take the slightly longer route to CP37. It appeared to contain a more accurate attack point. The exiting bushwhack also saved time for us.
Heading towards CP35, we met an older man, Joe, laying down in the shade beneath a tree. It was obvious he had met his challenge for the day. I gave him just about the rest of the Powerade I had in my Camelbak. I was shocked he had only carried two bottles of drink with him. After understanding he was still alert and somewhat healthy, we ran back to the finish (~1km away) and came back to recharge him with an extra bottle of Powerade I had back at the car. He wasn't the only person(s) we saw just chilling under shade that day. There were several others.
We cleared the course in 3hrs 43minutes and were happy with the way we found most of the CPs. The next day I woke up with a pounding headache that felt like a hangover. What did we learn? For the 18hr race coming up next week, about 5.5hrs will be during the hottest part of the day. Our original gameplan was to run those 5.5hrs at a pretty good pace in order to maximize daytime visibility. That has since changed. We are going to start slow and stay slow the entire race. If ~5hrs of FLO racing got us so dehydrated, imagine going into the night in that state, with another 13hrs of race to do. It'll definitely affect how sharp you are, mentally.