Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pangea - Superhero AR, Sport 3hr (Newcastle Boyz!)

Newcastle Boyz – Aaron (left), Nate, Omer, Nathan

This was my (Nate) and my son Aaron's second time at attempting a sport race with myself at the navigation helm. For this race we were joined by first-time racers, Omer and his son, Nathan. We would be relying on my navigation (Hien is the driver when I race with Canyoneros) and Omer would be backing me up. Whilst I’ve became proficient with navigating orienteering maps, I knew that this race would be my first test with google maps.

My idea of a typical, high feature google map.

Within a minute of receiving the map, and cross referencing against the terrain around me, Omer observed that I was interpreting the map upside down…..

….. Not a great start….

We quickly recovered and with the help of Hien, quickly came up with a solid plan for attacking the foot section, which we would be tackling first. Our team of four then used the remainder of the time to plan how we would attack the bike, paddle and tubing sections. We were confident in our pre-race plan and as an additional bonus, we’d be leaving for foot at the same time as Canyoneros. If my navigation really did start to fail, we could fallback to tailing Hien for the remainder of the race. Solid plan until we drew marbles for which discipline we tackled first…. Of course Canyoneros landed foot and we landed bike. OK, the training wheels were off…..

Our discipline order for the race would be bike -> foot -> canoe -> tubing.

The bike section looked particularly daunting. We were to ride about a mile out of the park to a trail head where we would ride a network of interconnecting trails. We were given instructions to look for specific numbered trail markers where we could take a right turn. If we navigated all markers correctly then we’d ride the prescribed route, collecting all CP’s en-route, and eventually end up back at the trail head.

Once the race started, we headed to the trail head. Once we reached it, I stopped the team for a couple of minutes. I had not arranged my maps correctly in my case prior to race start. By the time I had reordered the maps, other teams were no longer in sight. I had all visions of getting my team lost for the duration of the race, making their first race a miserable experience.

Once we started actually rolling down the trails, we were able to follow the prescribed course with ease. At some point we came to a downhill / semi-technical section and I realized my team mates had never ridden anything but the flat, wide trails of Wekiva State Park. I rode ahead and kept listening behind for the sounds of my teammates struggling. I never heard such a sound, instead I heard cheers and laughter as they quickly became comfortable with blasting up and down the single track. They were having an absolute blast riding the trails and we even passed a couple of teams in the process!
Before too long, we had exited the trail system and were heading back to the main TA. As a bonus, we’d manage to collect all CP’s too. Confidence was building...

Foot 1
We quickly transitioned at the main TA, then quickly dispatched the 3 controls within the main TA area (6-7-5). We then headed towards the boardwalk area and quickly picked up 1 and then 2. Things were going really well, then some cramps kicked in within the team. Not a problem, we slowed the pace and a couple of us scouted out in front whilst respecting the 100m distance rule. I did not have the punch but quickly found CP 3 and pointed it out. All going good, we then headed down to collect the 2-point “Superhero CP”. Using a a bearing we plotted earlier, the control was quickly located, and I called for punch. As the punch card was handed over it turned out that we’d not punched CP 3, we’d walked straight past it. J Never mind, we quickly headed back to CP 3 punched it, and then started working towards CP 4. We’d lost a little time but we knew we’d easily collect CP 4 and head back to the TA. … Wrong!!!!

Whether it was too much sun to the head, or the google map simply having its revenge, who knows.. either way I went a little crazy here. First, it all started when I somehow misread the clue and started looking for an “evacuation sign”. The real clue was along the lines of along “evacuation route”. I first took the wrong trail whilst looking for this elusive signage. I then figured it was the wrong trail and homed in on where the CP really was. In fact, I saw and then ran right past the evacuation route. “Nice looking trail, really great looking place for a CP, but I am looking for a sign”.  Eventually, after a quick consultation with the rest of the team, and a quick look at the clue sheet, the mistake was realized and CP 4 was punched. We headed back to the TA at a slow pace, seeking shade when possible.

There were three CP’s to collect on boat and we were able to find them all with ease. The paddle was great, the boys paddled hard and we spotted some cool wildlife. The spring itself was crystal clear and we spotted huge Gar swimming right under us! We also spotted a couple of Gators too including one which we estimated to be 10-11 foot in length (10x the distance from eyes to snout, right?).
Very cool! Beautiful location!

At this point we had cleared the course and we were confident that we’d be able to collect the remaining tubing CP’s quickly and return to the main TA. We grabbed a tube each and inflated them as we walked to the launch area. The team then quickly entered the water using a variety of techniques. Omer went in first and sitting on the tube, he quickly started heading to the first CP, backwards. Aaron and Nathan then went in, laying down on top of the tubes. As they quickly paddled into the distance, I followed suit and went in laying on top of the tube. Rather than quickly moving forwards, I started inching along despite all my best efforts. Ok, I don’t float good but I had the map and started calling out directions and distances to each CP. This strategy worked well until we reached the CP where we were to take the team picture-“Oops! Forgot about that”. The team then took a good few minutes to regroup, take the pictures and move on.

To save some time, Nathan decided he would lose the float and swim ahead to collect the remaining two cp’s. This was a great move, he swam like a dolphin and before too long, we’d collected all CP’s and were back at the main TA!

where is the underwater CP??  are we in the right location?  no?  party anyways!

We had two first timers and my son who had only raced once before. Everyone was fantastic and the team’s hard work had netted us a podium thirdplace finish! Thanks to Pangea for again laying on a great course. We all had so much fun!

PS I still don’t like google maps (kudos to Hien and the other elite navigators for processing them with ease).

Time to clear course:      2:28’52.2
Distance:                         11.42 mile

Calories:                          1399 (quickly added back with a post-race trip to Texas Roadhouse)

Pangea - Superhero AR, Sport 3hr

Two Canyonero teams led way to introduce two new girls to the sport of adventure racing--Amanda and Anastasia.  Anastasia had been running a couple smaller events with us before and Amanda had been wanting to join at some time.  The Superhero AR, at the historical Blue Springs State Park, provided a treat for us, allowing for 4 disciplines, including tubing down its infamous clear blue river.

Distances on this run section were so short, we finished this section before we knew it, within a mere 27 minutes, the 2nd fastest time behind the 1st place overall winner.  There were several trails in the park that were unmarked on the Google maps, but as long as we went in the general direction, we found trails to get us where we needed to be.

a Canyonero army in tight formation

Amanda spared the wooden fence today - she has the superhero ability to Spartan kick it down if needed

Greg Watson was our superhero speed rabbit, bolting ahead to punch controls and catching back up while the team headed for the next.  The order was CP 7, 6, 5, 1, 2, 3, bonus CP, and lastly 4.

GPS route


As we arrived at the canoe launch, we waited a few minutes for the elite teams to provide us a canoe, which would be credited back to us at the end.  Anastasia, who just became a US citizen, sat in the middle and used her Russian navigational skills to flawlessly guide us to the controls.  She has the uncanny superhero ability to orienteer without a compass.

Canyoneros II - Russell "the Muscle" barks at an alligator to turn the other way

Heading up the "blue spring" river, we gazed at plenty of longnose gar fish, many of them 3-4ft long.  Depending on the season, locals will also see manatees drifting around.

The biking leg consisted of riding out of the park to a nearby technical biking set of trails, finding controls along the single-track, and heading back.  Trails went left, right, up and down, with us ducking under tree branches and avoiding the fall into the abyss.

riding into the jungles of FL


Despite this being one of the few times Anastasia had ridden a mountain bike, and it being off-road on top of that, the Russian mindset in her came out as we offered to help tow and speed things up.  With a heart rate at 190bpm, "No!  I must do this on my own power!" she would reply--an admirable attitude characterized by many Canyoneros in the past, indeed.  Win or lose, we give it all we got!

Unanimously voted to be the funnest section of the course, it was also the most refreshing ending to the heat-filled summer day.  There were four controls here.

We all grabbed a deflated tube at the Main TA and blew them up as we spent 10 minutes walking along the boardwalk, towards the tube launch.  Russell used his superhero lung muscles to blow up all the tubes for the team.  Everyone took cue as I showed them the fastest, most effortless way to tube upstream and down the river--sitting on top of the tube and paddling backwards with your arms, a technique we learned at last year's Superhero AR.

CP20 was quite unique, being underwater

As the race wrapped up, I believe a co-ed team ahead of us was penalized for starting their race before their proper staggered time, so we jumped ahead and took 2nd place in the premiere co-ed division.  This was icing to a day filled with a variety of exercises that kept monotony out of the agenda.

Canyonero Superheroes
Juan Chavez (left), Amanda Wilson, Russell Barton, Greg Watson, Anastasia Nikolaeva, and Hien Nguyen

stones as trophies - Pangea Adventure Racing comes up with some of the most fitting and original awards!

We celebrated at a nearby Texas Roadhouse, where we witnessed Juan Chavez down a 23oz Porterhouse with his superhero ability of eating steak with just a spoon.

Congrats to team Newcastle Boyz! for their 3rd place overall victory, led and navigated by my usual teammate, Nathan Whitaker, also with brand new racers.  We all had a blast at this event.