Pre Race - Tight timeline will be the theme...
Ryan Ognibene, Katie Ferrington and I piled our 3 bike boxes, 3 gear bags and backpacks into my car and then figured out how to get ourselves inside. Finally it was time to travel to Sea2Sea, a 3.5 day race across the width of Florida. From the Tampa airport, Katie's expedient driving trimmed 25 minutes off of our travel time and got us to the pre-race meeting with 1 minute to spare! A tight timeline would end up being the theme of our race week in Florida.
The meeting was in Cedar Key - the planned finish location for the race. During the pre-race meeting, we learned that we'd be questing for an astounding 130+ Checkpoints (CPs)! And it was here, we learned for the first time that we'd be starting from Ormund Beach. Only in adventure racing will you travel across the country for a race that you don't even know where it begins!
We had a gas-station dinner and studied our maps and rules of travel until we fell asleep to dreams of the next day's race.
The Race Start - Day 1 - The kind of race day you want...
Day 1 started with a beach run. Since I'm not super fast on foot, we'd try to push the pace as much as possible and get into the boats before the mass of other racers.
Ryan nailed the nav. Katie pushed us quickly and I tried my darnedest to keep up. We all donated our first bit of blood in the evil palmettos. And I saw the Atlantic Ocean for the first time! Wahoo! I wanted to go jump in!
We were first and jumped into the boats. We held the lead for a while, but the Yoga Slackers caught us and we stayed neck and neck with them for a while. We transitioned to bikes and broke away from the Yoga Slackers and got our taste of flat & zippy Florida single track.
We paddled to the first paddle stop where they gave us some new on-foot CPs to pursue. It was dark now, and midway through, the Yoga Slackers had caught up to us. We kept pressing on, but it became apparent that we would miss getting 2 of the CPs before the cutoff.
This first day had gone near perfectly according to plan. Our team worked well together, taking up slack where another was weaker in that discipline. I could tell I was going to enjoy racing with this team.
Day 2 - McDonald's is heavenly 2 days in...
During this ride, we stopped at McDonald's where we entertained the elderly customers with stories of our harebrained exploits. We slammed about 1000 calories each and got back on the road. This road ride lulled me to sleep and I had my first heavy surge of sleepiness. With a 5 hour energy, though, I was able to come back to life.
At the TA, they had hot pizza!!! Which was amazing and perked us all right up! We transitioned to foot and went out to get the trek CPs. This trek proved to be a little harder for us than it needed to be. This was where Ryan had his first bout with extreme sleepiness. After getting several CPs, he had to hand off navigation to Katie who did really well filling in. But there was no doubt that we were all a little more sluggish than we needed to be. This was also the section where Ryan and Katie's feet started to really cause them some pain. We got back to the transition area after this and decided that we should have taken a nap prior to going out rather than once we got back. Lesson learned. I fixed the team's feet and we had a 1 hour nap around the fire.
Day 3 - Making friends and sharing stories...
This trek was frustrating. We had some good mojo back and we were doing well. But a misplaced CP caused us some frustrating brain wracking. After changing our approach Ryan figured out the issue and we ended up finding our other CPs but the mental and physical drain was apparent. We again, shook it off and went back to our bikes.
Day 4 - Bouts with Looney Tunes
Then, I noticed Ryan began answering questions that weren't asked. Uh-oh! Sleep deprivation is kicking in! And we can't let what happened in Cowboy Tough Day 4 happen to us with our temps being this cold! I knew I had to dig deep to keep Ryan mentally with me, and paddle hard to get us off the river ASAP. I was seeing things and having to make myself ignore them, staying focused to get us off the river and warmed up. I paddled the hardest I've ever paddled before.
I was sure I'd pay for the level of output in fatigue after getting off the river, but I felt it was my duty to help get Katie & Ryan off the river ASAP, they would be able to tow me if necessary until I recovered. Little did I know how greatly I was spending myself.
Once we were off the water, we all felt a great relief and we warmed up & dried out by the fire. But as we were sitting there, I felt myself slipping. My mind was beginning to fail me.
We had to get going, but while packing, I could plan what I needed for the next section and set it out on the ground, but I mentally couldn't get it into my back pack. Ryan had to pack it for me. And it only got worse from there.
The rest of the night I toggled between consciousness and being totally gone. I rode my bike in a shaky, slow zigzag and searched for reflective CPs --but couldn't remember why. I began talking to myself. Slowly at first to keep me focused on riding straight....but then it got worse.
For hours on end, I uncontrollably recounted the same singsongy conversation with myself like the people you see at the bus stops and city alley ways.
[FYI: Two blisters from paddling had gotten infected and severely swollen from the swampy river water, and my hands had become quite painful...that's what the "ouch" was about below]
"Ride Straight. Go faster. Ouch! That hurts! It's okay. Uh-oh! Don't forget to Ride Straight! Go faster. Ouch! Ooph...that hurts! It's okay! .......uh oh! ......ride straight! it's okay...." On and on it went. And honestly, in my moments when I'd come to, it annoyed the tar out of me. But, I couldn't stop it.
My poor team mates had a crazy talkative 2 year old on their team for this night. They did well trying to engage me in conversation when I could and pulling me along in my hazy cloud.
Premature Finish - Catch that Plane!!!
Bad News: While nearing Cedar Key we realized that with the daylight savings time change and the race cutoff, we were going to have to quit the race 2 hours early to make our plane on time. We quickly got a few CPs that we could on the way to a premature finish. The other Cedar Key CPs were hard to give up since they were now closer together and easier, but we weren't in any position to pay for new plane tickets!
We threw our passports in, and realized that though we were all exhausted...we now had to make our quickest transition of all: Find all gear bins & boxes, pack bikes and gear and make ourselves smell decent all within an hour and GET TO THE AIRPORT!! If it had been up to me, I would never have gotten to the airport. But Katie is a boss at sleep deprivation and drove us there. And as soon as we got onto the plane, we all 3 fell fast asleep.
Sea2Sea was a fun race, and I loved racing with my team. I learned a lot about racing in swampy conditions (wear paddling gloves even if it's not cold enough). I hope to do it again...and next time, I'll bring stronger caffeine.