Well, 2 weeks prior to this race, we weren't planning to do the Eco-Lonestar since it conflicted with the Steel Sports Pain in the Pines race. Then Pain in the Pines was postponed, so now the weekend was free. I am not sure why I feel compelled to try and fill every weekend with a race, but that is my curse. The Eco-Lonestar was likely the closest adventure race ever to my house in Round Rock, Texas. It was a mere 35 miles from my front door to the Transition Area (TA). I managed to convince Kip and Marcy to come do it with me. The event would take place on a private ranch near Marble Falls. This was really an off-road ATV, motorcycle, and 4x4 park. With less than 2 weeks, none of us had any time to study maps or go take a pre-ride, so we figured we would just show up and try and have a good time.
Race start time was 7am, but before then we had to drop our boat, set up a transition area, and get registered. It was slightly below freezing when we got to the race site, but since we had so much to get done, we kept moving and did not have time to get cold. The pre-race meeting finished right at 7am and it was announced the race would not start until 7:15. Now we had a chance to stand around and get cold. There were 2 races going on at the same time, a sprint race, and then the extreme (12 hour) race. Both races would start at the same time and run a marked course for several miles, then we would bike a marked course. After that, the extreme teams would continue on with a different course. A few minutes before the start, we stripped off most of our extra layers as we always warm up quickly when running. Then we were off.
We did not try to set a super fast pace from the start as we did not know how long the run was, and well, we were a little cold. The run course went up and down lots of hills and soon enough we were kind of running alone, and then back into transition about 20 minutes later. Now it was off on the bike leg. We were in and out very fast onto the bikes and passed both Team MOAT and Team Werewolves with our speedy transition. It was not long before MOAT caught up and flew by us on their bikes. We rode off and on a bit with Werewolves, then they slowly pulled away from us. The first few miles were very technical, and then it was a bit easier riding on various jeep roads and trails. At one point, I rode right past a turn that I did not see (it was flagged in green). Marcy spotted the turn and quickly corrected me. We biked for a while and then started catching some teams who we knew were behind us before this leg... what was going on? There was lots of confusion on our part as to how this could have happened. We suspect many folks missed the flagged turn that we almost passed, which must have accidentally shaved off part of the bike course. We hoped the lead teams in our division did not miss this turn to keep things fair. (We found out later that all the lead teams had indeed made the correct turn.) We were out for fun, so did not let it worry us too much, but it was a source of conversation for a while. We were told we would hit one manned CP on this leg. After a while, we encountered a volunteer who told us to drop our bikes and follow some orange flagging up to the top of Wildcat Mountain for a CP. We started our hike up and were again surprised by some of the less competitive teams coming down the mountain ahead of us. We saw Werewolves coming down who confirmed they had biked the full course and observed the same things about other teams somehow jumping ahead. What a bummer for a race director to have something like this happen, but for the extreme race, I think it all worked out as MOAT also took the correct course, so at least we had all done the same distance as far as we knew. We saw Jill Respass coming down the mountain with a very bloody nose (and yet still high spirits) from a bike crash. After punching the CP up top, we were back down and on the bikes. We biked back into TA to receive our next leg, which was a short orienteering course. The points were preplotted on the map for us, so we got out of transition very quickly. We caught Team Werewolves at the first CP, then we split up again. Marcy and Kip did a great job of picking efficient routes to all these Orienteering CP's. We actually had the fastest split time for the Orienteering course which was nice. Back in TA we were given our full race map and the remainder of our instructions.
Marcy and I started plotting points while Kip filled his pack, then I traded off with Kip to fill up my pack. Next up was a 4 mile bike ride to the boats for the start of the paddle. With our quick transition, we jumped ahead of MOAT and Werewolves getting out on the bikes. Werewolves caught us as we headed down the dirt road to the boats. There were several gates to open and close, so we took turns opening and closing them for each other. We were able to start our paddling a couple minutes ahead of Werewolves, and still no sign of MOAT. I overshot the first CP on the water slightly, but no big deal as Marcy spotted it and we quickly corrected. We were paddling on Lake Travis and the winds were really starting to pick up. After a few miles of paddling, we had to turn into a small inlet that headed north from the lake. Werewolves passed us shortly before entering this inlet as they were paddling slightly faster than us, but there was still no sign of MOAT (who are very fast paddlers). As we headed upstream, we passed several fishermen and saw one guy reel in a nice fish. The water kept getting more shallow the farther we went. Soon enough, we were out of water and had to get out and portage for a bit. Our boat (a canoe) was much quicker to get in and out of compared to Werewolves kayak, so we were able to pass them heading up this stream. We had to portage about 4 times before reaching the far CP for this leg. Then it was time to head back, doing the same portages in reverse. We exchanged greetings with the Werewolves as we started back. Not long after we started back downstream, we encountered MOAT portaging upstream. They were very close behind us now due to their paddling speed. We actually passed quite a few teams trailing just behind MOAT as the race was still very close at this stage.
Back in the main lake, it was time to work against a strong headwind for the whole paddle back. About 100 feet from the paddle takeout, Team MOAT finally passed us. It was good to be back on land, but all of our feet were rather frozen from having to portage through all of the very cold water. Now it was time to bike back to TA. Most of this bike leg was uphill back to TA, which certainly allowed us to warm up a bit. We also had to bring one of our PFD's back to the TA for a short swim at the end of the race.
We had already plotted the remainder of the race, so we did not have to stay long once we got back to TA. We refilled our fluids and food and headed out knowing the Werewolves were likely very close behind. The next leg involved biking to the north end of the ranch. We would bike as close as we could get to CP's and then trek to them from there. We hit the first one nicely and on the way out of that trail, we encountered the Werewolves heading into the trail. They were only a few minutes behind us. We planned a route to the next few points which involved going back up Wildcat Mountain again for CP 11. We chose to bike part way up and then drop our bikes and trek the remaining way up. As we went up the mountain, we saw MOAT coming from CP 12. After CP 12, we biked around and got CP 13 which was at a swimming hole (too cold to swim today!). The next few CP's involved a bike drop and then trekking to them. We set out well and hit the CP's. From the top of one of the hills, I saw a team not too far behind us just starting this section of the race, so it kept the pressure on us to keep moving quickly. We got these CP's with no real trouble, except the last one sure had lots of briar bushes on the way! Now it was time to bike back to transition and then do a short swim for one quick point. We were not sure we could hold off the two teams we knew were right behind us -Werewolves and MOAT II (an unofficial 2 person team). The good news is that most of this bike leg was downhill. We made it back to TA and set off to the pond for the last CP. Kip volunteered to swim. It was a short swim to the island CP, but the water was rather cold. Out of the water and back to the finish line we went. About halfway back, we saw team MOAT II heading to the swim. They were not official, but we figured we better run to the finish anyhow. We managed to cross the finish line in 9 hours. Team MOAT had finished 25 minutes earlier, and Werewolves finished just 10 minutes after us. It was quite a close race after 9 hours. The bonus in all this is that this race was a USARA Nationals qualifier. MOAT had previously qualified so the entry sponsorship money rolled down to our team.
The terrain was challenging, but the cross country travel was surprisingly easy compared to many parks in Texas. There were plenty of hills and good terrain features to help us navigate through the whole race. Thanks to Terra Firma for putting on this race... it was a lot of fun!
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