Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pangea - Superhero AR, Elite 6hr

The Superhero AR brings out the comic in us racers.  People come dressed up as their favorite heroes while racing.  We came as The Canyoneros! :D  This time we were joined by eagle scout and triathlete Tim Cowan, making a transition over from team Swamp Gators.

Blue Spring State Park has a lot of history and contained a number of unique elements for us to race on--tubing along a blue river, technical bike trails, sugar sand biking, running, canoeing, swamp trekking, and orienteering.  6hr races are frantically fast-paced compared to the longer ones.


We drew marbles at the beginning and started on the canoe, with a staggered start.  The three of us had not practiced a 3-man canoeing together before, but we bolted out fast, firing on a superhero-like 12 cylinders ;)  Nate and I had honed our skills together by now, but Tim's past rowing experience turbocharged our boat.  The six controls on this leg did not slow us down whatsoever.  Well, maybe slightly at CP13.

synchronized paddling machines

Run 1

Up next was the trek portion.  We had a slight mishap after leaving CP1, we accidently took the southern trail, but quickly corrected.  The other controls were pretty easy to find.  There were a lot of people around in this large turnout of a race.

Nate, first to get the manliest flowered float


The only time I have done tubing was in the lazy river at Typhoon Lagoon, but there was a strong artificial current to allow you just sit and float with the current.  After dropping off our backpacks and picking up tubes to float in the river, Tim jetted off hunting for CP6 and 7.  He just about went swimming towards it while Nate and I tried to figure out how the hell to move up stream with them.  I eventually walked the shallow areas near the shore.

the legendary blue spring river--it's really blue!

float with two tubes, swim on top of one, or walk with one around you?

how about the butterly?

On our way back, I experimented with other techniques, like laying on top of the donut while swimming.  It worked, but was still quite slow, as I looked to my left to see Tim doing the butterfly past me.  Once others showed me the way, I jumped on top of the float, sat on it backwards and paddled.  That was the technique!

Bike 1

Keeping up on the map while doing technical biking can be pretty tough.  You constantly lose your map position, so I made a strong effort to focus.  There was an extensive network of trails here, in which we had to punch controls along the way.  Yellow to blue, to orange, to green and back to yellow was the route, all while taking right-hand turns.  We picked up all of them but once we hit green, we noticed Eaglin's team going backward out of it, with him saying he couldn't find the second green one.  With that note, we also only found one green, but decided to just continue following directions of bailing out of the yellow on the return route.


At the punch station, there were two more controls on bike given to us at a kiosk.  We had to memorize the location and the clues.  The first one was easy--at a boat launch.  The other one faded from our map memory and we accidently overshot it and spent a few minutes backtracking to find it.

superheros traveling at almost warp speeds!

Bike 2

We headed back to the Main TA and continued to the Bike, passing a couple controls along the way.  It was raining again.

Foot 2

At the Bike TA, we switched to foot and overshot CP26 without being able to find it, despite measuring precisely and seeing this "root stock".  There was no control there, however, so we left it for the way back.

Another one that was somewhat tough was CP27.  A couple teams cut into the fields prematurely, and so did we, but our suspicions bailed us out and proved successful.  We found the trail bend we were looking for, shot a bearing and ran directly into it.

these spikes are instant death!

The rest of the controls here were a matter of following a bearing and counting paces precisely to where we needed to be.  A couple of them were found with some nearby teams, however.  One noteworthy control was CP31.  We came out of CP30 slightly disoriented, ran down and up the main trail path, before realizing we overshot CP28, which we originally wanted to shoot a direct bearing towards 31 with.  Once we kinda found CP28 again, we trucked west into the tall jungles of palmettos.  These palmettos were 15ft high!  We couldn't see very far ahead.  It made it tough to stay in a straight line.  But we eventually made our way to St. Johns' River, about 100m south of CP31.

We had a long jog back to the Bike TA, but it was kept out of the monotonous zone through conversations of 700lb gators and next year's Atomic AR.  I re-measured the distance from an intersection to the "root stock" of CP26 again, the one we couldn't find on the way in from the east.  Good ole' Nate and his CP honing abilities would not deny us of missing one.

this is our trek

spooky wooded forests we encountered

lots of bushwhacking through sharp palmetto fields

Bike 3
The ride to our last CP was uneventful, and I had remembered a shortcut to it from the morning Trek.  CP34 stated "100m @ 135° from CP24".  We bushwhacked through thick vines, only to end up on another road.  Had we known that, we could have saved time and easily taken the bikes to the road.

Spirits were high as we finished just under 5hrs in a 6hr race.  We refreshed and refreshed the leaderboards on our cell phones, and as time expired, our rank stood at 3rd!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

FLO - Rock Springs Run State Reserve

Here's a park that's new to me.  This is always great, because it allows me no advantageous knowledge of the area and forces me to be vigilant on all fundamentals of orienteering--using the compass, counting paces, environmental awareness, and map reading.

I arrived early and saw about 150 JROTC students waiting in line to start.  Huge turnout!  Fortunately, upon registering, I was able to bypass that massive line.


map and GPS route

The blue course offers the most challenging controls, as well as the longest lengths.  I make an effort to challenge myself as much as I can during these FLO training events.  That means attacking the most difficult course first and route planning as I go.

CP1, 2
Upon GPS replay, I completely walked right by this one by a mere 3 meters the first time!  Once I overshot and hit the main road, I had to confirm my positioning by going to far east end of the trail to know that there was a mapped intersection there.  I ran back, re-attacked, only to bail again.  On the final attempt, I confirmed positioning by going to the far west end.  Then I conveniently picked up CP2 to use as an attack point for CP1.  This time, I used a straight bearing.  It just about led me right to the CP.  I realized why I walked right past it the first time.  The control was very low hanging, and plus, I didn't know my orienteering symbol for "root stock" to be on the lookout for one.

gnarly mess of a CP1 attempt

This one was straightforward, as I used a trail intersection to shoot a direct bearing.  The only frustration was having to walk through thorny brush.  This control was also low-hanging, meaning I had to be quite sharp on my searches from there on out.

Again, I used a trail intersection to count 100m north before cutting into a sparse field of palmettos to easily find the control within a small depression.

It was a rather long jog to this control.  I tried to pass the time by stimulating the mind with exercises, such as counting paces, identifying any map features in real life such as curves and changes in vegetation, and visualizing what I would see at CP5.  Once I got to the line of erosion, which was very faint in some areas, I followed it through thick brush.  The only thing that kept me connecting the dots with the broken up faint paths was trusting the compass of going west.  The depression was easy to identify as a sunken area of plants.

Easy...find the marsh and follow the southeastern side til you ran into the control.

Heat was starting to catch up, so I used the rule of 3 to bushwhack across open land as a shortcut.  The "rule of 3" states that if the slower bushwhack is less than 3 times the distance of the direct jogging route, then choose the bushwhack.  It also conserves energy.

I could attack 7 by running into the trail intersection nearby (right side of image above) and identifying the "two distinct trees".  I even cut across into a closer trail, found the intersection, shot a bearing and easily identified which two trees contained the control.  There's a small area where it seems like I tried to find the control, but the trail almost seemed to end there and I ran off trail, which caused me to double back a bit to make sure.

There was no easy attack point near CP8.  It was crucial that I followed a sharp bearing from 7, which I did to find it.

Here, I used the main road's intersection into the vegetation boundary, went southwest for 100m, and then cut southeast-ish for 100m.  It got me into the ballpark to be able to visually locate it in the vicinity.

CP10, 11, 12
These were a matter of shooting direct bearings to locate the controls.  The forestry would also keep me off a straight line, so I had to hunt on occasion and use map reading skills to locate where I was in relation to the control.

For instance, on CP10, I actually found the man-made objects at A first (black X on map).  Upon identifying that on the map, I knew I had to head back north.  I needed to find the end of a long hill (B) to hone in on the control at C, which was a small knoll (or small mound in layman's terms).

All in all, I didn't get hung up on any of them, except CP1.  It's always the first one that gets me, while I adjust and re-calibrate my bearings and distance judgment.

After a quick bathroom break and refuel, I bought a green and orange map, and headed out on the green.  Little did I know the green was almost identical to the blue course.  This wasn't what I wanted.  I wanted completely new controls.  Oh well.  Nothing major to note on this one.

map and GPS route


The volunteers were wanting to shut things down at this hour, but I promised them a quick completion time :)

map and GPS route
Upon GPS replay, I nailed all of them effortlessly, except CP7.  Looks like I missed that one altogether.  Leaving CP6, which at that point, my legs were cramping severely, I took the challenge of shooting a hail-mary 750m long bushwhack.  That's a huge distance with a potential for a large margin of error at the end of it.

After counting 680, I ran into a giant banana spider's cobweb.  I screamed the typical "AHHHH!" and swung my arms in a terrifying state.  The sudden shock sent my legs cramping severely again!  Not only was I caught in an entangled web, but I was paralyzed with an excruciating calf cramp.  Once I calmed and started clearing the fibrous web from my body, I looked up and noticed I had taken out the main portion of the 8ft web structure and the spider was nowhere to be found.  I quickly felt all over myself and I saw the spider hanging inches from my head!  Again, I went into a frenzy state screaming "BAAHHHHHH!"  The beastly spider finally thudded on the ground like a rock, with all its weight.  If you guys have never seen a banana spider before, they can span the size of an open hand.  It is very freaky watching them move.

So at 680m, I lost count in my quarrel with the spider and started hunting for a CP.  I found one (A), punched it and ran off.  If I measured 750m on map, I should really be aiming for at least 800m in real life because one step during a bushwhack is usually shorter than 1m (as opposed to one step in a jog).  Turns out, I spotted a power line, which led me to the intersection of another CP (B).  I deemed that the right one and punched that for CP7 again.  But after reviewing the GPS, I didn't even get the right one.  Had I read the clue of "earth embankment" I would have realized it right away (C), but I was too tired at the time.

At this control, there was no distinctive land feature available to use to attack CP5.  However, upon closer look at the map, there are tiny tick marks to the left of the road.  Out on the field, these corresponded to power line structures.  I counted 3 after the intersection of another set of power lines (circled red) before using that point to shoot a direct bearing to CP5.  It worked perfectly.

It was a strong performing day.  Three big courses with only one error and one hangup is success in my book.