Wednesday, March 9, 2011

HuRaCan 300 Report

The HuRaCan 300 Challenge was promoted as the ULTIMATE OFF-ROAD ENDURANCE EXPERIENCE in the state of Florida. In my opinion, it was promoted correctly and I verify this by my desire to lie down in the middle of the street the moment after crossing the finish line to go to sleep! The race started Friday morning at 8am sharp – 13 starters – 5 women – 8 men. There are only a few brave souls that will attempt a 300-mile self-supported mountain bike race across Florida and on that morning we were all lined up fumbling with our GPS devices. There were no maps or cues available for this route – it was all loaded onto a Garmin. My Garmin specifically was not loaded up with the route until around 930pm the night before the race and since I was not familiar with this specific GPS, I was lining up at the start questioning my ability to navigate the route quickly. So my Plan B, just in the case my Garmin failed or I failed at the Garmin, was to try to pace along with Rob Roberts, a local rider who rode the route last year and set the 41-hour record. My thinking at the beginning, as I stood around all fresh and pain free, was just hang on as long as I could and get use to the Garmin along the way. I figured my Plan B was quite unrealistic but why not try.

We all rolled off leaving the start behind not really knowing what the next several days would bring. My best friend, only known here as Racer X, came to Florida with me to race her first self-supported race and even though she had never even held a Garmin in her hand, she was up to the challenge. I stayed back with her for some time to insure she was comfortable with following the GPS. The others disappeared rather rapidly and Racer X and I just held our on pace. Eventually, the time came for me to leave my Racer X behind and try to hold a pace true to me. I really thought I may not see another racer after that but now I had that “carrot” in front of me and it kept me motivated and I knew Racer X would be fine. I settled quickly into my pace with only Linkin Park playing on the iPod and even with the strong headwinds on the open road, after about 30 minutes, I was surprised, and owe it all to Linkin Park, to see a line of racers pace lining up the road in front of me. I had no idea who was there but once I caught up, I decided to settle in the back to get a bit of a rest. It was just nice to be riding with others and such a surprise I found them. I could see several racers missing but I did not know how many or who. Carol sat right in front of me and then made a move to pass the group and I matched her pace and followed. We rode together just for a short time when I spotted another rider far ahead up on the horizon. YES another “carrot” I thought! So I passed Carol and pulled in front so she could catch on if she wanted and all my focus went to that rider up ahead. I looked back a little later and saw no one on the road behind me – thinking shit I must have taken a wrong turn… But wait there is still the rider in front and I was bridging the gap slowly. I finally caught up with Rob – I was so happy to see that pink jersey! Then Rob and I finally started catching up to the leaders – I had no idea at this point how many were ahead and who so I only focused on staying up with Rob. I mean he was my Plan B if theGarmin was to fail.

We slowly began catching the 3 other racers and ended up on our own eventually in the front. Rob was riding so strong and steady and as soon as we hit the sandy roads he pulled ahead quickly. There is apparently a skill for riding in the sand that I lack and I just worked through it trying to keep Rob in my sights even though he was pulling away! As soon as the road surface improved to a harder dirt surface, I cranked it out to match his pace again – praying for no more sand. We rode together for a while and it was a perfect pace – fast and steady and a little chatting about Tour Divide stuff. I kept following my green line on the GPS to stay true to the course and all was going well. Then there was this sharp right turn onto an abandoned double track section. I put my head down for just a few seconds to verify with the GPS and when I looked up – no more Rob. It was like aliens or something had abducted him. No sign of him anywhere…. So I kept my GPS arrow on that green line marking the route on my Garmin. That was when I noticed for the first time, that was all there was on my Garmin, only a green line and a black screen. I was missing ALL the topo and land features. There were no roads, no rail roads, no towns, no rivers, no lakes, no topo lines, no nothing and with the GPS having a percentage of error associated with it, my little GPS arrow was always off just a little from that green line. I was lost for about 30 minutes at that point wondering around in the forest when I backtracked to find Markley up on the railroad bed struggling to find his way. We decided to work together and still remained lost for another 20 minutes.

During that time, Jeff passed us by without us knowing and we fell back into 3rd place. We eventually caught up with Jeff again on a Greenway section and decided to all work together in hopes we could find our way better and might have a better chance in catching up with Rob. That plan was constantly challenged though out the night as we continued to lose the route and lose time. We became very familiar with every Kangaroo Gas Station on route, as we did not want to stop and take time for a full meal at a restaurant. Our stops consisted of around 15 minutes – we all had our routine to get in and out - for me I would head directly to a chocolate milk and chug it as I stood there. Then I would wonder around the store grabbing and eating anything that look appetizing at the moment and pick up a few extra items to snack on while on the bike. Then a quick pee and not to forget the reapplication of DZ Nuts Bliss, then fill up on water and maybe a chain lube and then off. Every stop was efficient and there were always the strange looks of the people inside the store as they watched us gobble down as many calories as we stood in line to check out. There was that occasional brave person that would approach us and ask what we were doing, still keeping a safe distance.

The three of us continued to work together through the night our longest stop around 30 minutes to try to eat something more substantial. Riding through the night was a good strategic move even with the navigation errors, crashes, and doubts. We all hung in there strong and having 3 suffering along side one another made it tolerable! It is incredible how close you can bond with another person during such an experience even when you just met them several hours prior. I feel like I have known them forever and most importantly trust them! There were many moments of TMI but everything becomes comical at some point. Finally the moment we had talked about all night, the moment we anticipated all night, and the moment that would lift our spirits for another day of riding - the sun finally came up! It was amazing to see our surroundings so differently and the sky just lit up and it did revive our drive to continue pedaling even though the pains and fatigue from 200 +miles were starting to set in! We still had a difficult river crossing to look forward to and about 80 more miles. At this time, I personally envisioned those 80 miles paved road with a tail wind gently blowing me into town because I could just not imagine it getting any worst that what we had just survived through the night. How could there be more single track in this state? But you know there was more single track and many more miles of sand and many more ambiguous route issues and those palm fronds just making everything more difficult and many more barbed wire fence crossings. There were moments of paved road as I dreamed of – obstacle free - but I never envisioned trash being thrown out of the car window at me. Just add it to the list of new experiences I suppose this race has offered!

So many stories and memories for such a short period of time and even though I have never experienced Florida in this way, I believe I saw the best parts! In all honesty, The HuRaCan 300 Race was an amazing adventure through some very unexpected rough terrain. Karlos and Rob designed a challenging course that surprised racers. At the end, I felt like, walked like, looked like and probably smelled like a Zombie from the Walking Dead!

I finished in 31 Hours 36 Minutes – 1st Place Female and tied for 2nd overall with Markley and Jeff. We were only 3 hours behind the 1st place Finisher Rob Roberts! It was a close race and I hear fun to watch. Of the 13 racers to start, only 8 finished. I feel amazing to have been part of this experience and ride along side some really strong positive racers. The day after the race I was ready to ride again and looking forward to seeing some of my new friends at the starting line for the 2011 Tour Divide Race!!!

Rob Roberts Blog below:

Official HuRaCan 300 Website:

HuRaCan 300 Photos:

Official HuRaCan 300 Call-Ins:

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