(Photographs courtesy of bobcat13 photography)
Marcy, Jason, and I got up very early Saturday morning to head out to Pedernales Falls State Park for the 12 hour Eco-Lonestar extreme race.
We left Austin at 3:40 am for our long drive.
It was a 7 am start and none of us felt like camping the night before the race.
At least, at this time of morning, there is very little traffic on the road.
We had to first make a stop in Johnson City to drop off our boat at the boat drop.
We were then on our way to the park.
Even though it was still dark for the ride from the boat drop to the park, we could tell this was going to be a very hilly bike ride (we assumed) to get to the boats and back.
Even my truck was downshifting quite a bit climbing some of the longer hills.
After a long hilly road, we turned into the park.
After a mile or so, we came across a very large hog hanging out on the side of the road.
It did not seem to realize how fond I am of bacon in the morning.
We got to the transition area (TA) a little ahead of our planned time, and it was still dark as lots of people had camped out and were still asleep. We were able to get a good parking spot and got signed in for the race. There would also be a sprint race going on with lots of racers so the parking lot filled up a bit later. We all decided to go as simple as possible, so we chose to not set up any sort of transition, instead we just used the back of my suburban as our transition area. It worked out very well, and even better when it was time to go home since all we had to do we just close the truck up and leave.
Both races would start at the same time, with the same course. Sprint and extreme teams were to run a flagged (white flagging) run course of about 2.2 miles. Somewhere on the course would be one CP that teams would have to punch. Terra Firma did a nice job of setting up this trail run as it was on nice wide trails for a while so people had a chance to pass and get in a good running order. At every event I have ever done, some people just have to get in the front, sprint for one minute, then start walking, so with the wide road, it was all just fine. We knew the run was relatively short, so we set a pretty strong pace to get warmed up. I had a chance to chat with the 2 teams we know well and thought we would be competing against all day (Werewolves and HFAR Knights).
The trail run took us away from TA, down along the Pedernales river and then it turned up a draw back into the woods. There was lots of white flagging to show the way, but the people in front, and behind us, decided the flagged way was hard, so they picked their own, easier route. This was a bad idea, as the first checkpoint was right in the middle of this draw. Jason and Marcy quickly saw it, so we headed straight for it and punched the point as we watched team after team run right past it. After punching this CP, it was only a 5 minute or so run back into transition where there were lots of people questioning if anyone found the CP (and we told everyone that asked us that we had found it). It turns out later, if you missed it, you were just given a 15 minute penalty. This seemed fair as normally missing a CP in an adventure race means disqualification. I was very shocked that teams just did not turn around and backtrack until they found it.
Once the trail run was over, it was off on a flagged bike course. We certainly don't like those as we prefer to have to navigate on bikes since we feel navigation is a stronger discipline for us compared to pure biking. We were the first team in the extreme race out on the bikes, and we rode alone for quite a while before being passed by others. Marcy was questioning her technical abilities on this single track, but she totally rocked the bike leg. Near the end, HFAR passed us and Werewolves had caught us. We punched the one CP on this leg and were back into transition before too long.
We got our maps and coordinates for the next leg of the race. It was a bike/trek section. This meant we could trek to the points or take bikes however we preferred. We plotted the points very fast, and were out of there. Marcy had a mental picture of how we were getting to the first point, but I was a bit confused as I had not gotten oriented on the map quite yet, but I know to trust her. We chose to bike as close as possible to all the points and then run from there. As we dropped our bikes for the first of these points, I noticed I no longer had the passport. Panic set in. Losing a passport is disqualification for sure! I had failed to zip my pocket in all the madness of transition. At least we were still less than 1k from the transition area. Back on our bikes, heading backwards, I saw our passport lying on the ground only about 200 meters back. Whew, that was a quick recovery for what could have been a major mistake. Now back on course, we ran in to get the CP, as we saw HFAR coming out of the draw containing the point. We were then off to the next point only 30 seconds behind HFAR at that point. We saw them overshoot the next point, so we got in and out of it as they were coming back. We came up with a good plan for all the other points and we hit them all very smoothly and made it back to transition first. The park was a very busy place all day, and it was fun seeing all the kids out on the trails exploring nature.
At least we figured we were done with bikes... not! Now it was time to bike to the boat drop for some paddling. On paper, this is only a 13 mile bike ride, but wow, is it hilly. At least it was all on roads. We quickly got out of transition and headed out. We had a good team configuration for biking, so we got to it. We figured HFAR or Werewolves would likely catch us on the bike leg to the boats. On the long road from the park to Johnson city, cars were very nice and passed with great caution since there were no shoulders and hard to see oncoming traffic with all the hills. One car passed us very slowly, it was kind of strange as to how slowly he passed us. The car disappeared over the next hill, then about a minute later we heard this very loud KABOOM sound! Jason was out in front of the pace line, and to us it was immediately apparent what happened as Jason's rear tire completely exploded off the rear rim of his bike. He was now skidding along on a bare steel rim! It was the most spectacular biking thing I have ever seen. This was not a simple flat, the tire was completely off instantaneously and wrapped up in his chain. We first thought someone had shot his tire out like in the movies. What made it even more spectacular was the fact that Jasons' tires were full of a product call Stan's. This is a white viscous liquid that was now all over the road and Jason's bike. High five Jason. Once we all figured none of us were shot, we got to repairing the bike. We put a tube back into the tire and were on our way in what seemed like under 2 minutes.
As we turned into the park where the boats were stored, we discussed the paddling section. It would be a little different than normal paddles. First, there was an intermediate paddle competition. The team with the fastest paddling split would win a special prize, and of course who would not want to win a special prize! The area available to paddle was very small, about 2 km one way. So, the race instructions spelled out we would be doing laps. On lap 1, all 3 of us would be in the boat to the first point and back, then for the next 2 points, which were farther upstream, one person would stay at the paddle put in location and the other 2 people would paddle. We were using my canoe, so the person in the middle is not super effective at paddling anyhow due to the long reach, so this would be fine with us. Jason and I had recently done very well in a paddling race, so once again, this worked out great for our team configuration. It was fun going back and forth as the "legs" were only about 2 km each way. The final point, which was the farthest away proved the most challenging. The water got too shallow to paddle, and as it got shallower, the water speed really increased. We chose to get in and out of our boat a few times in order to paddle the boat to the CP. We got soaked up to our waists in a few spots. The rules stated we must stay in the water, and we were not clear if running along this shore for the last 100 meters was permissible. It was a challenge getting to the point with the boat, but on the way back it was fun going downstream with the fast moving water. We also got to see the other teams behind us and our relative gaps. HFAR was paddling very well, and we did not put any time between us until the last lap when Jason and I really kicked in hard. So, Jason and I raced for an extra hour, while Marcy got to hang out on the shore and talk to other racers and officials. It turned out we ended up with the fastest paddling time, so we won that little mini-race. I really liked that in the event as it gave us some mini goals to aim for.
With the paddle done and HFAR only about 5 minutes behind us, we got back on the bikes for the ride back to the park. Unfortunately now we had a bit of a headwind for a good portion of the ride back, and the hills were still there. We figured this would be the end of biking, and our real strength is on foot, so we pushed hard on the bikes for the ride back. No one caught us and the ride back seemed easier than the ride out for whatever reason.
Back into TA, we got our next set of instructions. As Marcy and I started plotting maps, Jason took off my helmet, to which I hated to inform him, that our next leg started with biking!!! Fortunately for us, it was just a short biking leg to a different part of the park where we would drop our bikes and trek to 5 points. So, helmet back on, and back on those bikes (yes, our bike training has been lacking so we all ended the day with sore butts!). We got to the bike drop, but the volunteer had not gotten there yet and we were in the middle of a very busy parking lot. None of us felt comfortable with leaving our bikes laying in the middle of a parking lot (a typical good bike these days costs $3000+), so Marcy found a spot in the woods not far from the parking lot for us to stash our bikes. We were finally off on foot. Jason and I had frozen feet since they were good and wet from the paddle section. It did not take long for our feet to warm up. Marcy was ready to run, so Jason and I just tried to keep up. Marcy had some great route choices and led us super efficiently to every point. It could not have gone any better. With all the points punched on this leg, it was time to run back to the bikes and bike back to TA. On the way back to the bikes, we saw a team biking this section of the course. This was odd, and is always a shame when it happens as the team who gets the penalty rarely is actually trying to cheat. It turns out most teams followed our lead and stashed their bikes in the woods, so a couple of teams got to the bike drop and did not see any bikes so they biked onto the trek course. Fortunately I don't think it really changed any of the outcomes of the race. Back on the bikes, we made it back to TA, where there was a volunteer waiting with a pack of Oreo cookies. Advice to others! Don't get between Marcy and a pack of Oreo's. You could get hurt. It turns out, we had a special test involved getting an Oreo from our forehead into our mouths (without using your hands). We were not very efficient, but we got it done.
Next up, we were told there was now a 5k trail run that would be timed. The fastest team would get another special prize. We figured we had a good 20 to 30 minute lead over the next team at this point, so in theory we could take it easy on this 5k, but not super running Marcy, she declared, we were going to win this! (and for the record neither Jason or I really complained as we had not run very much in this race). They started the clock for the run and we were off. This was a tough run, it was not any sort of course where you could set a PR, as it was through deep sand, mud, up and down very steep hills and through the woods, where there were no trails. It was all flagged, so all we could do was follow the course. We ran the course, found the final CP which was on the course and made it to the finish line before anyone else started the trail run. It was a painful run for sure, in that we were trying to run hard after 7+ hours of racing. As it turns out, we were able to win the fastest trail run time also, so we got another special prize.
In the end, we ended up first overall and got some cool swag from the race directors. We then enjoyed some very tasty chicken chilli! HFAR ended up second with Werewolves in third followed closely by Merrel. A super thanks to Kathy and Scott for putting on a fun race in a park that not too many folks have used. This park offers some great navigational opportunities with plenty of terrain for all. And of course thanks to my teammates for racing with me again.
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