This was such a fun race that it seems everyone wanted to write about the experience!
I've compiled all the race reports below:
Team Fleshwound - Ned Wilson's Report:
Hey everybody, I had a great time at the adventure race this weekend. This is pretty long, but here's how the race went.
It was in and around Martin Dies State Park in east Texas. The race started late Friday night/Saturday morning and was supposed to last until early Sunday morning. They expected the winners to finish in about 18 hours. We would be on foot for about 30 miles, on the mountain bikes for about 20 miles and in the canoe for about 16 miles. You had to use your map and compass to navigate from checkpoint to checkpoint. There were 30 check points. Some were only a mile or so apart, others were 4 or 5 miles apart. Some were on or near roads and trails, but most of them were in the middle of the woods, swamps, lake, or whatever. Chad and I have raced together before, but we needed a four person team so a few weeks ago we found two people from Dallas that were looking to join a team. Hollie had done several adventure races before, and she races mountain bikes. Matt had also done several adventure races and had lots of experience with navigation and general outdoor skills. We were Team Fleshwound. We all got along well and we all had the same goal, which was not only to finish, but to finish in top 5 or so. There were only 14 or 15 teams in the race. A couple of teams were all males, but most of them were co-ed like ours. Chad and I got to the park Friday night around 7:00pm and met up with Hollie and Matt. The campground served as a transition area between each leg of the race and we would come back through it four times throughout the race. We went on a short bike ride around the campground to make sure our bikes were working good and to get familiar with the area. Actually though, most of the race took place far away from the campground. We spent the rest of the evening eating and getting our gear all set up and talking about strategies and looking at the maps and stuff like that.
There was a pre-race meeting at midnight and that's when they gave us maps, had a paramedic speak to us about what do in emergencies, and also about all the alligators and snakes. The state park was located where the Neches River comes in and forms Steinhagen Lake. There was lots of swampland, marshes, and bayous and so that meant lots of gators in certain areas. And yes, we would see some. They said the gators and snakes were just as scared of us as we were of them and that they would probably not approach us. Yeah, let's hope not. Also at the meeting Terry, the race director told us it would be a surprise start time sometime between then and 6:00 am. He would sound an airhorn to start the race. The race would consist of five legs and we would not know what they were until we started each one. We would have to go to a table in the transition area to get the map coordinates for the checkpoints on the next leg. At certain spots there would be a person who had to sign our passport to prove we were there. We did not know what the first two legs of the race would be, but he said they would be short. But he told us that when we leave for the third leg of the race we would not see the transition area again for 10-15 hours which meant we had to carry more food and water for that leg. Also there were several "special events" which were secret and would test strength and teamwork. Then he introduced each team.
After the meeting it was close to 1:00 am and we went to bed to get whatever sleep we could. The horn went off at 3:30 am. We scrambled out of the tents and I went to the table and they gave me a small map of the state park. It was about a 3 mile run on the roads through the park. We decided not to carry any gear for that leg and we were one of the first teams on the road. We kept an easy pace and jogged the 3 miles. Several teams passed us and we let them, because we knew it was a long race. I didn't time any of the legs so I don't know how long that took. Back at the transition area I went to the table for our next leg and it was a 7-8 mile mountain bike ride. We brought water and headlamps and took off. We rode fast and passed several teams. At one point Chad was leading our team and we were going to pass another team in front of us. Chad moved to the left to pass and all of a sudden there was a narrow bridge over a ditch. It was only wide enough for one bike but Chad was right next to some other guy. It was too late to stop so he tried to jump the ditch and the metal culvert in it. He didn't quite clear it. When he landed his chain ring had hit the culvert and actually sliced right into it and got jammed in there. The bike came to an abrupt stop and Chad kept going... right over the handle bars. Team Fleshwound had lived up to it's name. It took all four of us to yank Chad's bike off the culvert and when we got it loose the outside chainring was bent. He still had the other two, which meant he could ride, but his 24 speed bike was now a 16 speed. We finished the bike leg with no more problems.
Back at the transition area there was the first special event. It was a bunch of logs laying horizontal about two feet off the ground. The tops were about four feet above the ground. You had to go over all the logs but one teammate was not allowed to touch any of them. They lifted me over each log without me touching it. Then we got the map coordinates for all the checkpoints on the next leg. We would find some of them on foot and some in the canoe. There were 23 check points to plot on the map and that took a while. It was almost 6:00am Saturday morning when we took off for Leg 3. We jogged about half a mile to the boat ramp to get in our canoe and then took off into the lake. The first two legs had been on roads and trails, but this was the leg of the race which required map and compass to navigate. We paddled out to several different islands to find checkpoints. Each checkpoint was a milk jug tied to a tree and it had a code word we had to write down in our passport. Soon we came to a checkpoint that was at a boat ramp. We had to get out and carry the canoes about a hundred yards to special event #2. It was four tires hanging from a tree, each at a different height, about 6-10 feet off the ground. Each teammate had to crawl thorough all four tires. It was a little awkward but not too hard. It was harder for the bigger guys. Then we carried the canoes back to the water and paddled on for a couple more checkpoints. At checkpoint #6 we had to leave the canoes there and proceed on foot. We spent most of the day on foot navigating from checkpoint to checkpoint. We jogged some but mostly walked. We stayed on roads when we could and went through the woods when we had to. We crossed marshes that were usually just ankle deep. At Checkpoint #9 we had our third special event. It was a pole about 10 feet tall and we had to get a tire up and over it, down to the ground, and then back up and over it again so it was not longer around the pole. It was easy, I was able to stand on Matt's shoulder and hoist the tire over the pole and drop it to the ground and then they handed it back up to me and I pulled it up off the pole. No big deal. We took off for Checkpoint #10 just after noon. They told us we were an hour behind the leaders and we were seventh out of fourteen overall. But they also said there were teams in front of us who had missed checkpoints. We had not missed any.
We spent a long time looking for checkpoint #10. We knew we were near it, but just could not find it. We looked for a while and then went back and double-checked our route and looked some more. We saw other teams also looking for it with no luck. We re-plotted the coordinates on the map to make sure we were looking in the right area and the map said we were. Finally, more than two hours after we had left #9, Matt found it in a spot that didn't exactly look right according to the map. Oh well, at least we had found it. We took a shortcut to checkpoint #14 (out of order) by swimming across a river instead of walking a mile or so around it. Several checkpoints later we got to special event #3. We all had to low-crawl under some ropes about 12-18 inches off the ground. It was sandy and we were wet. Then we were off for more walking and navigating our way around.
Between #15 and #16 we got to a point were we had the choice of walking around on roads for miles or cutting across a marsh for about a few hundred meters. The water was about knee deep. We were a little concerned about snakes, but we had a snake bite kit and also we remembered that the paramedic said that it was very rare for a water moccasin to actually inject the venom in just one bite and the even if it did he had some anti-venom. Of greater concern was time. We had to find two more checkpoints and then get back in the canoes. We wanted to get as much canoeing done in the daytime as we could, because at night was when the gators come out. And of course it's easier to navigate in the daytime. It was about almost 6:00 pm Saturday. We chose to cut through the marsh. We could see where the green scum on top had been disturbed, probably by a previous team, and we followed that. After a hundred yards or so we came up onto dry land, but a short ways later it was right back into the marsh. This time it was longer and starting to get a little deeper. It was waist deep for a little while before we finally hit land again. And it stunk! Bad!
Now we were looking for checkpoint #16 and we were not finding it. We spent a long time looking and when we ran into someone else looking for it in a different spot I re-plotted the coordinates on the map I realized that I had done it wrong the first time. Oh well, we finally found it (Thanks Steve). Along the way we saw two snakes in a small marsh but they scurried away from us before we had time to scurry away from them.
We finally got to checkpoint #17 at about 7:30pm This was where we got back in the canoes. They had drinking water here, so we took a break and filled up. We were in the canoes by 7:45pm and we knew we would be paddling in the dark for a long time. We had to find the next four checkpoints on the river on the way back to the boat ramp back near the transition area, but we were a long way from there. We found checkpoint #18 just before dark. Checkpoint #19 was right on the river bank but it was high up in a tree. The tree had a rope swing and a ladder on it so I climbed up it to read the code word. As I climbed the ladder I threw down my life jacket and my hat onto the beach.
Checkpoint #20 was going to be very hard to find. By now it was totally dark. No moon out tonight. There was tons of little inlets and coves on the river banks and we had to find this certain one and go up into it and through all these little islands for quite a ways. We stayed close to the bank and went slow so we could track every inlet on the map. We got to the right one and turned up into it. Here we saw our first alligator. Just two bright gold eyes on the water surface. We steered clear. We started seeing more of them as we went deeper into all these islands. Sometimes they would just sit there at the surface, and sometimes they would sink down under water when you shined the headlamp on them. There were lots of stumps in the water and we went really slow so that we could avoid them. We didn't want to go near anything that even had the slightest chance of making us tip over. We found what we thought was the right island for our checkpoints and sure enough, there it was. Now we had to find our way back to the main part of the river. We still moved pretty slow so I could track our route on the map. By the time we got out to the main part of the river we had probably seen 20 alligators. Usually we could just see their eyes, but one time we saw the whole body of one up on the bank of an island. I was glad to get back on the main river because that shit gave me the heebie-geebies. No gators on the river, just in the swamps. Finding that checkpoint had taken forever and it was now close to midnight.
Checkpoint #21 was similar to #20, but not as bad. It was in a swamp, but it was not as far from the main river. It took quite a while to find. Not as many gators, but still a few.
Sometime on the way back I complained that my ass was hurting from sitting on the metal canoe seat for so long and Chad suggested I should sit on my life jacket for a cushion. Hey great idea! So I reached down to unbuckle it and it wasn't there. I had left it on the beach, along with my favorite running hat, a couple hours ago when I climbed the tree. Screw it, we weren't going back for that.
Checkpoint #22 was actually the boat ramp were we had started this leg back near the transition area. We had to cut through some more swamps and islands to get into the lake where the boat ramp was. When we pulled up to the boat ramp it was almost 3:00 am Sunday. Terry, the race director was there and he said he couldn't believe we had found #20 in the dark. I think he said that of all the teams who had to look for it in the dark, we were the only team to find it (others had found it in the daytime).
We walked back to the transition area and changed into dry socks and long sleeve shirts. The next leg was another bike ride. We ate a little food and took off. We had to plot two points on the map and find them. They were both on roads, so it was easy to find them. But one of the roads was covered in sand. Sometimes it was hard packed and easy to ride on and sometimes it was loose like at the beach. It went on for about 3 miles or so. When we found those two checkpoints we had to go back down the same sandy road. It sucked and we were tired. Sometime near the beginning of the bike ride we had surpassed the 24 hour mark.
We got back to the transition area and we only had one more leg to do. We weren't exactly pleased to find out that it was another canoe leg. We walked back to the boat dock and there was special event #5. It was a bunch of ropes tied between two trees like a spiderweb. Each rope had little bells on it and we all had to go through one of the holes without ringing the bells. But we each had to use a different hole. Chad and Matt were biggest so they went through the two biggest holes. Hollie and I both had to be lifted through smaller holes that were higher off the ground. They had to passed me through several times before I finally made it without ringing a bell. Now we got back in our beloved canoes. It was 4:51am Sunday morning. We only had to find one checkpoint on this leg. It was another boat dock further down the lake. It was near one of our very first checkpoints, so we already knew pretty much where it was. As we paddled across the lake I fell asleep several times while I paddled. I also started seeing things that weren't there. Several times I thought there was a tree right in front of us and would start to turn the canoe to miss it. Then I would just kind of snap out of it and realize that we were in the middle of a lake. There were no trees in this lake. That was really weird to experience that. I have never been that tired before. Chad and I hit the boat ramp and dragged our canoe up it without saying a word and both laid down in the parking lot and dozed off for about two minutes until Hollie and Matt got there. Now we were supposed to leave our canoe there and hike on the road back to the transition area. It was about 2 or 3 miles. The walking woke us all up some.
We walked into the transition area and through the finish line at about 6:30am Sunday. Every team that had finished in front of us was asleep. Terry had been cooking burgers for all the finishers. So we sat with him and ate a burger. Me and Chad and Hollie drank a beer with ours. It was now light outside and we were much more awake than before. There were several teams close behind us and we stayed up to watch them finish. Then we hit the showers. After the showers we watched several other teams finish and then we drove into Jasper to find some real food. After breakfast at Whataburger (I guess that counts as real food) we got back to the park and around 9:00 after the last team finished and there was an awards ceremony. There were a lot of teams that had gotten to the finish line before us, but a lot of them had either missed checkpoints or had one or more teammates drop out due to blisters or whatever. So we actually got third place in the co-ed division. We had finished in about 27 hours. I think the winners had finished in about 20 hours. Team Vignette (Carpe Diem) had beaten us by about 4 hours, I think, for second place
That's about it. We had gotten about two hours of sleep on Friday night before the race and none on Saturday night, So we hit the tent and slept for about four or five hours. Made it back to Austin last night about 8:00. I guess I'll unpack now and try to see if I can't get the nasty swampwater smell out of my clothes.
Team Pushin' Up Daisies - Lee and/or Gale Torbett's Report:
Before starting the review, I would like to thank the SWEAR organizers and their staff for putting on a really great race. It was well organized, challenging, and just plain tough. The hard work you and your staff put in before the race was evident and it paid off. The special events were challenging and innovative and added a special dimension to the race. It was a racer’s race. I talked to most of the competitors after the race and without fail, all were complimentary. You did good and should be commended. We all look forward to your next race and as word gets out as to the quality of your races and the challenges they present, I am sure you will draw more top teams from all over the U.S.
We finished the race and were the only COED MASTERS TEAM there. Hopefully our ability to complete such a demanding race will encourage more COED MASTERS TEAMS to enter. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Team "Pushin’ Up Daisies" our roster and ages are: Lee Torbett--56, Gale Torbett--49, Stewart Kelly--43, and David Loder--33.
We breezed through the 1st run and bike leg and moved to the canoe leg. As we entered the water we were in 2nd place. We got to our first check point on the water, an island, just as the lead team, TEAM RAW, was leaving. However, it took us 30-45 minutes to find the check point and by that time 3 or 4 teams had caught up with us. We moved on to the next few points, went through the hanging tire and portage special event and finally docked our canoes to begin the trekking portion of the race. The first leg was an out and back run along a road and as we met other teams coming back we determined we were in 4th or 5th place with only about 10 minutes separating us from the lead. We continued to see-saw back and forth with several teams and by the time we reached cp11 we were right behind the lead teams. We found cps 12 & 13 with no problem and moved towards cp 14. It was here we became disoriented and by the time we figured out our mistake we had wasted another precious 30 minutes or so. We moved on to cp 15 and made another mental error. We missed our cutoff and somehow or another ended up following the road along a power line. We had gone about ¾ of a mile before we realized our mistake and turned around. We then found cp 15 with no problem and moved towards cp 16. We were very low on water. Fortunately, we had a water purification unit with us and we paused long enough to fill up a camelback and a couple of bottles. Found cp 16 and then 17. Stewart and David swam across the river and David brought back one canoe to transport Gale, me and our equipment across the river. We started down river and found cps 18 and 19 with no problem. We found the right slough for cp 20 and moved up the creek. Evidently we didn’t go up the slough far enough and as it was getting dark we made the decision to look no farther and get back out to the main river before dark. We couldn’t have been more than 100 meters from the cp. In the dark, we decided not to look for cp 21 and continued on down river to the bridge and towards cp 22 where we docked our canoes. We headed for the transition area having found all of our points except for the last two (cps 20 & 21).
We left the TA on our bikes headed for the canoe docking area, only to find out when we got there we had not looked at the back of our instruction sheet and to make matters worse we had left it at the TA, so back to the TA, we plotted the two points for the hike and bike portion and finally started off in the right direction. We headed for the park entrance and down 190. Unfortunately, we had failed to set our odometers and we made the decision to go back to the park entrance and start all over. We were only about 100 meters from the road we needed to take when we turned around. Another 30 minutes or so wasted. This time we found the road and found our two cps with no problem. Back to the TA, we left our bikes, and headed for the boat dock to get our canoes. Another special test, and we aced it. The key here was that once a portal was closed, it could not be reopened. Gale went through the bottom hole, left her hand in the portal and the rest of us climbed through the same hole, one by one. Old age and treachery will outperform youth and skill, most of the time. Then into the canoes and to the final docking area. No problem and we started the final jog back to the finish line. We laughed and talked most of the way back, joined hands and crossed the finish line together. Our total elapsed time was 24 hours and 45 minutes.
All in all, we had a very satisfying race. It was our first long Adventure Race. We have competed in 5 Hi-Tec Races. Physically we felt we could keep up with any team out there. Inexperience and mental lapses cost us but we learned and look forward to our next long race and fully expect to go into it better prepared. Hopefully, there will be other COED MASTERS TEAMS entered and we look forward to the competition. Our goal was to show that COED MASTERS TEAMS can be competitive with the hopes of encouraging more COED MASTERS TEAMS to enter and more race directors to have a COED MASTERS DIVISION for those of us who are almost "PUSHIN’ UP DAISIES".
Team Vignette - Marcy Beard's Report:
The race went very well this weekend. We started out at 3:30 a.m. with a fast run and a mountain bike through the state park. Then we plotted 24 checkpoints on our map before heading into the next section that would take us about 14 hours. One team had a lead on everyone early in the race (Team R.A.W.) and we were with the next group of about 4 teams. The first canoe leg went very well, with a couple fun special tests and searches for check points thrown in the mix. After getting out of the boats in mid-morning we started another trekking section. We reached a point where we had to decide whether to go through the park and cut cross-country to the next checkpoint or follow a road that went off the edge of the map and hope that it came back onto the map in the right place. We opted to take the road; we heard that other teams went through the park and may have had to deal with a slow trek through a swamp.
We reached the next checkpoint in the lead. Darran and I did some excellent navigation and had no trouble getting us to the next few checkpoints. Team R.A.W. was right behind us at checkpoint 9, but we did well on the more difficult navigation legs.
Then we lost ground on one leg where it looked like we had little choice but to go through a swamp. We thrashed our way through pond frond plants and mucked our way through waist deep water with a muddy bottom. It was rather disgusting but we got through it. Then it took us some time to find the checkpoint. By the time we found it and then took off for the swim across the river, R.A.W. was right behind us. We prepared for the next canoe leg on shore together. It was really neat competing with the top team for much of the race. They looked very strong and focused.
R.A.W. was fast in the canoes and pulled ahead. We both did a portage over land to save about a mile of paddling. We had to look hard for a couple of the checkpoints, including one that was 40 feet up in a tree and one that was guarded by at least 2 alligators. We could not believe we were watching real gators cruising through the water and stalking fish to eat. We found a decent shortcut after the last checkpoint and came out very close to the boat ramp. Apparently R.A.W. had gone a longer way and we were only minutes behind. We saw them leaving the transition area as we arrived. Jason was there cheering us on and helping us by getting our bikes together and feeding us. He was also volunteering so we got to see him at various points on the course which was really cool.
The next section was a hike/bike and we started just as it got dark. We were told we had to stay off certain roads and push our bikes through the woods (he even told us to go across a swamp but we were NOT about to do that). Apparently not all teams got the same instructions and everyone else used the roads. So we ended up bush-whacking with our bikes through some very very thick brush with our bikes. It took about an hour to get through a mile of it. We finally found the two checkpoints and started back. R.A.W. had an insurmountable lead because they stayed on the roads, but we had a solid hold on second place.
The last leg involved a fun "spider web" special test where John showed his ability to run and dive through a section of the web a couple feet off the ground without touching any of the strings. The rest of us either stepped carefully through the lower sections or were lifted through the upper sections. Then we paddled down the shoreline to a boat ramp and trekked back a couple miles to the finish line. Woo hoo! I think about 10 of the 14 total teams finished (3 of the 5 CO-ED teams), including everyone from Austin that we knew. We were 2nd CO-ED and 2nd overall. The last two teams came in just after 9 a.m. Sunday morning.
We had LOTS OF FUN! It was a great learning experience and we worked together really well. What a blast!