Monday, November 17, 2014

CFITT 2014 ~Pedaling Florida Coast to Coast~ Day 1

Months raced by like minutes and October turned into November in the blink of an eye.  Still digesting loads of Halloween candy with my body still recovering from the previous few months worth of riding adventures, I had very little motivation to pull myself back together and once again ride my bike long distance anywhere.  I had just recently finished a mini bike-packing trip through the Palmetto Trail and knew that my bike and gear were sound, just not my body and mind.  I was catching up on tons of work and felt each day running shorter and shorter.  "The Cross Florida Individual Time Trial is Florida’s Premier Off road Ultra Endurance Event. It is a one of a kind coast to coast bikepacking challenge, the only one of its kind in the United States.
The route is 250 miles of mixed terrain: Singletrack, forest road, paved roads, bike trails, double track and grassy abandoned easements. This is an at your own risk personal challenge that each rider voluntarily wants to engage in."  CFITT goes from the Atlantic Coast in New Smyrna to the Gulf Coast in Inglis Florida. As the day to leave for Florida grew near, I went into packing mode and had all my gear loaded and ready a full day before travel time.  I was not surprised I had this down to a science, since packing up and rolling out to ride was becoming quite the routine lately.  I contacted my friend and fellow MTP Velo team member, Patrick Lackey to go over the logistics of our trip.  Since we were leaving midday Friday after work, we were unable to take advantage of the van ride being offered by SingleTrack Samurai who was hosting the event, so we formulated our own method.  We would drive to Gainsville, rent out a one way rental, follow Patrick to the finish line, leave his car there, and then use the rental to drive back over to New Smyrna, check into our hotel, get into temp riding gear, drive the rental to the drop off point and use our bikes to return back to our hotel.  It was a great plan.
Our trip down south included a stop at an old BBQ place which used to be pretty good, but we both agreed our meal that day was lackluster, but at least we stopped to enjoy it.  Pretty soon, we rolled into Gainesville and started going through our plan of attack.  In the finish line parking lot, we run into Bill Bailey waiting for the shuttle as well as a few other people who I will eventually ride with for most of the next few days.  Then, we drive across Florida to the Atlantic side in good time.  Next thing you know Patrick and I are pedaling bikes, after dropping off the rental, across the back side of New Smyrna in some cooler than expected temperatures.  Dinner that night was at an Irish restaurant a few blocks from our hotel as we discovered walking 2.5 miles to the meet and greet several hours after it had started might not be a good idea, especially with the race meeting planned for 4:45am the next day.  Nightfall came quickly and we finalized getting our few belongings laid out and ready for the next morning as 4am was going to come up fast.   Patrick briefly mentioned getting my mail-out box ready before I went to bed, but I had not grasped the importance of this statement until it was too late.  We discussed race tactics and anticipation for the following day and I also manage to grab a vitally important snapshot of the cue sheet he had made earlier that week.
 I hit the bed and my mind shut down instantly knowing I needed to get as much rest as possible since tomorrow I was planning on a nonstop pedal attack across central Florida.  4am and I jump out of bed, into my race kit and have everything setup except, I now realize what I had forgotten to do prior to going to bed....get my mail-out box ready!  Since we had no way of returning to New Smyrna, all the clothes on our backs had to be mailed back to our homes!  Ok, I thought, I can do this...I will just stuff my things inside Patrick's still open box and use one box to mail out...wrong.  His box was packed tightly already since he had his night clothes and misc day trip stuff.  Patrick gave me the " I told you this" look and I knew this was all on me and that I had made a major blunder.  I wished him good luck today and mentioned that I hope to see you at the start as I knew I had to get out of the room immediately and work on mailing out my box.  I was slowly starting to panic and setoff down the hall fully geared up to find a computer kiosk from which to print out my mailing label at 4:15am!  I sat down in front of a nice computer terminal and went to the website.  Here is where all my trouble actually started.  The website account creation for is one of the worst facilities on the free earth.  I have never had so much difficulty attempting to create an account based on their incredibly ridiculous password generation requirements.

Your Password must be at least 10 characters long.
Your Password must contain at least one upper-case character.
Your Password must contain at least one number.
Your Password must contain at least one of the following special characters: - () . & @ ? ' # , / " +

Allowable characters are letters, numbers and the following special characters: - () . & @ ? ' # , / " +

If you had more than one number, you failed, if you had more than one upper case character you failed, if you had more than one special character, you failed....get my problem?  Realize also that the entered password was not viewable, so anything you typed had to be clearly visualized.   This was not the kind of problem I was expecting to have at 4:25am.  I thought to myself, relax, you are a computer professional, you can do this...I was wrong, I couldn't do this.  After 5 more minutes frantically trying to create an account, Patrick pops in and asks me why I am still here .  I mention to him that I am stuck trying to create an account and just cannot do it!  4:35am.  He tries to login with his account and fails repeatedly at logging in.  I tell him to go and focus on his race.  I then deduce that maybe the terminal is not sending special characters correctly to the form or maybe the machine has a key logging virus to which I then immediately stop touching it and run out into the lobby to see what else can be done.  There is a front desk person walking around handling various tasks and I finally explain that I cannot print out a mailing label and that he please hold onto my mailing box until I contact them this upcoming week and email them the label.  He politely agrees to hold the box for me and my problems are temporarily solved.  I set about taping the box only to stop and think for just a moment. What if I never see these items again?  Is there anything of true importance in the box?  Yes there is!  My special Snake Creek Gap Time Trial belt buckle!  I literally rip the buckle off the belt and stuff it in my upper bike bag next to my camera.  I then seal the box and hand it off to the front desk.  He wishes me good luck on my journey and I race off out the door of the hotel, not looking back since I am already late.  4:47am and I am racing down the beach boulevard searching for the start of the race.  I finally find the spot on the beach where everyone is meeting up and as I hear Karlos' voice yell GO! I yell NO while riders depart all around me as I flounder onto the beach crossing Celso at one moment for a quick hello.
I haven't even taken my checkpoint #1 (CP1) wheel dip picture yet, so that will take some time. I reach down, grab my camera quickly and place my back wheel in the Atlantic ocean also managing to soak both of my shoes in the process.  I turn on my Canon quick shot and try to snap a picture, but something is wrong and the damn camera keeps fighting focus and not allowing me to take a proper shot.  I finally realize that my rear blinkie light is messing with the camera lighting adjust, so I tear the blinkie off my bike and "temporarily" toss it up onto the beach.  I turn around, take my photo properly, turn off my camera, stuff it back into the top bag, grab my handlebars and push my bike up and away from the water.  I then look down to pick up my blinkie only to find it is gone.  I look around some more thinking some sand got kicked up on it.  Nowhere.  I yell out loud SERIOUSLY?  Did someone just snag my blinkie within 1-2 minutes time?  I cannot believe I am wasting precious time looking for a red safety light.  I cannot believe it is gone!  I ask a few of the other stragglers if they had seen my blinkie and they give me a puzzled look and I explain it, but they have just not seen it.  I chalk it up to a loss and push on through the beach sand, very much concerned I was losing my mind.  I make my way to the lead-out road and come across Karlos, the mastermind of the CFITT, and he hands me a mini cue sheet and phone number to MTB Cast, which lets riders call in and do mini race reports.  I use this service every time I do a bike packing race and it is so cool to hear the stories of other riders after the event has transpired.  I explain to him that I am running late and so much has happened and now I lose my blinkie on the beach, which stops a certain person in motion.  As Karlos is "talking me down" and letting me know how he also started late and not to worry so much, the person that stopped walking forward looks conflicted and I straight out ask her, did you see a flashing red blinkie on the beach?  Her face turns red and she says yes...I ask her where and she pulls it out of her pocket!  I excitedly explain that I was looking all over the beach for that thing and she apologizes that she thought a racer had dropped it, but from the frustrated tone in my voice she interpreted me as being upset with her and I immediately change my tone and also think if I had seen a blinkie on the beach, I would have picked it up too....anyways, who cares, no harm, no foul, only thing lost here is time...about 25 minutes worth.  I finally approach the bridge leading out of New Smyrna by about 5:25am....all alone except for a few straggler racers also having their own issues.  I then remember one other thing I had forgotten to do...turn on my SPOT!  Now I would not have an official total race leader breadcrumb trail.  I was very frustrated by the fact that my tracker was off, so I stopped and went through the steps to turn it on.  Madness building up in my mind, I sped off and passed a group of racers up to the point of entering the college campus wall.  I could not find the spot to enter!  I knew it was a sliver of an entrance and I was already lost, GPS clearly pointing me to the right spot, but I could not find my way across the wall.  Several of the racers I had passed had also caught up and were facing the same difficulty.  This is one aspect of bike pack racing that I have yet to master as all of my previous endurance races had every obstacle flagged and clearly marked.  These races were across areas where marking was just not realistic.  I finally find the hole and speed off again almost reaching the entry to the initial single track behind the college, only to have yet another setback.  My GPS starts flashing "batteries low"  I stare down in disbelief, cuss at the unit and toggle to check if this is for real.  I find that the thing is about to die with no power bars left. so I stop, open the GPS, pull out both batteries, place them aside and them realize I have to dig through my rear bag all the way to the very back of it to find replacement batteries as I thought I would not be replacing batteries at all during this race.  I replace the batteries, close up my GPS and stuff all my camping gear, dry clothing, and food back into my rear bag, synch it tightly again and proceed to enter the boggy initial terrain.  Total time lost: 10 minutes.  At this point in the race, I was just in shock at having such a rocky start.  I didn't know what to think and just tried to roll with the punches.  The knee deep bog was handled with ease thanks to the fat tired beast that my Krampus is all about.  I was still wet from the beach, so slogging through more water did not faze me as I am used to nasty conditions.  I shrugged off the crud and entered into the type of riding that I know how to do best.  Then another setback hit me, literally.  Riding along in the pitch dark with only a little light, I am knocked off my bike by a tree branch sticking out around a tight corner at the right angle and take the impact 100% on my right hand.  I feel a searing hot pain and know thats a game changer.  I sit there in the early morning darkness on my ass in the damp woods somewhere close to the start of this race and consider just going back to the hotel.  I remove my glove and there is a healthy laceration on my right pinky.  I grab a strip of duct tape from my seat tube and tear off a little bit of my cue sheet and wrap it around my pinky as a temp bandaid stop gap.  It hurts so bad and don't realize until a week later that it had a small fracture thanks to adrenaline keeping it under control.  I slide the glove back on, jump back on the beast and get back to putting in some miles.  My right hand was throbbing but after some focus on the trail ahead of me, the pain subsided.  I also realize the reason I couldn't see the branch is because my bike handlebar light was disconnected due to some low branch snag.  After re-connecting,  it was like night and day!  After a few more miles, I come across a creek crossing and hear Karlos somewhere around the area cheering us on.  It was good to know someone was enjoying watching us suffer.  The next miles were uneventful and I hardly remember putting them in except for coming up on some forgotten monorail tracks parallel to some crazy fields.  Up ahead of me is another rider riding at his pace clearly having fun and enjoying the ride.  I come up on him and he has the biggest smile on his face and greets me with a loud "how's it goin" greeting!  I am clearly still very much in a dark place and lightly reply back to him "doing better now, just need a little more energy, thats all"  He explains the history of the abandoned monorail project and was very knowledgeable about the area.  We ride side by side for a bit getting to know each other and I find out his name is SkiJi (aka Jimmy)!  He turns out to be the coolest cat I have met on a bike packing trip yet, next to Karlos, of course  ;).  As I tell him who I am, he just about loses it as he tells me that he reads my blog!  I am in shock that anyone would read the long winded stories of my backpacking misadventures...but there he was an actual fan of my writings, LOL!  At the moment, I just didn't know how to read him and felt very much lost in my head from my crappy start so I decided to continue alone.  I powered up ahead of him and made short work of the monorail bed, only to miss a turn, backtrack and ride with SkiJi a little more.  I then raced ahead and hoped that CP2 would be approaching soon.  At this point, I am
20-30 miles in and everything is going fine as the terrain was matching the bike setup perfectly...then came the roads...  I met up with Ray Egan and Larry Garcia at this point and we chatted for a while.  Upon finally getting to CP2, Osteen Marker, I realized the terrain was switching more and more to paved roads or paved bike/walking trail.  Being how the terrain in Florida is basically all flat, there is no rest after long climbs.  You are always on the pedals.  I kept rolling along catching back up to Ray & Larry who are setting a strong pace on standard MTB tires.  I try and match their pace and slowly fade back as my legs are pissed and my tires are fatter.  I know that I had been hammering along too harsh to catch up to the group, but I was going to work myself through until I reached the ferry and that was that!  The only problem was that my legs kept fading and I kept worrying about time.   Of course, now that my legs are noodles was when one of the harder sections of the ride started...super long craggy rock rail bed which felt like it went on forever, but it was really only about 5-6 miles.  Somewhere along the way in-between railbeds and jumping fences, we were yelled at by some fool in a pickup truck about trespassing. Jason responding to him that we were in the right only set him off further threatening to call the cops!  LOL!  Cops don't want none of tha Krampus! They can't go where I go.  LOL!  We finally arrive at CP3, the Fish Camp,  and take the obligatory picture including the bike, leaning tree and lake.  I think at this point was when I met Tony Buchman.
I tell the group we had formed that I was going to roll ahead and fine the next convenience store as I was experiencing a massive case of the bonks.  I find the next convenience store, and sit there in a daze munching through a Subway footlong and a coconut water.  I know the heavy initial push to catch up was weighing down on me.  Everyone else catches up, grabs something quick to eat while basking momentarily in the sun.  Not too long afterwards, SkiJi comes rolling by yelling that he was not stopping as Tony speeds off after him! His steady pace was paying off! A lady riding on a tandem rolls up and comments on how pale I look and if I was feeling alright.  I told her I just went out too hard, that's all.  The rest of the group finishes up and speeds off leaving me alone wondering why I am not back on my bike!  I finally get back on and slowly pedal away only to start picking up my pace after about 5 minutes of warm up time.  The liquids I had chosen were "clean" and not filled with high fructose corn syrup so my system was processing quickly and smoothly.  I feel much, much better and the bike starts picking up speed.  I enter the Chuck Lennon area and there is a bas ass MTB park nestled in here that is part of the CFITT course.  As I start on Red Panther and connect to Screaming Hawk, I come across Ray and Larry who are having a time navigating their loaded bikes through these tight trails.  Then add in a ton of hard trail options which were very much my elements, and my body was happy and rolling along.  Upon exiting on the Raccoon Run blue trail, I come across another rider, who has just experienced a major race ending mechanical regarding his backpacking gear.  It seemed his rear bag support had snapped and he was not able to keep it steady.  Upon a quick assessment of the issue, it seemed he had already tried zip ties and extra straps and they had snapped, so I was no use to him at all.  Fortunately, for him, he was in a very populated area to quit the race, so I quickly said my goodbyes and kept on trucking.  As I popped out of those trails, I felt fantastic.  My energy levels were restored and as long as I kept a steady pace, all would go fine.  I started pedaling along and started worrying about time again.  I skipped the next convenience store, caught up to SkiJi again and passed him soon afterwards as he was feeling the burn of the long haul.  I start opening up the throttle a little more as I knew the miles between myself and the ferry were now few.  I floated that fat tire beast across some sandy loose pack along beautiful, seemingly endless gravel roads and once again caught up to the rest of the stronger group from earlier. I virtually fly past them like they were standing still.
 I yell out that I have a ferry to catch as I fly by and proceed to hammer out the remaining miles.  5 miles left to the ferry and the gravel dumps me onto a long, paved road shoulder and I once again feel the drag of my tires holding me back bit, but my legs were able to keep things moving along.  However, the wind within the last 3 miles was solid and against me making me work super hard for that final stretch.  As I roll up to the ferry, I realize I had worked way too hard once again and felt very much drained.  I also realized I had about 30 minutes of time to kill and nothing to drink.  A soda machine sat there looking at me beckoning me to drink up. I felt so drained from that last push that a bit of sweet caffeine would have been magical.  After a bit of hustling to get some spare change, I feed the machine and guzzle down a can of Mountain Dew in a few minutes time.  It brought me back from the edge.  Feeling satisfied to have caught up with many other riders, such as Bill Bailey, Jerry Metz and a few others whose names escape me, I laid back and just relaxed contemplating what to do when on the other side.  A voice inside me said find a solid pace, and finish the ride by morning time.  There was also a deeper rooted voice telling me to ride a bit further and decide where to setup camp since I was racing noone except myself and I was really crushed.  As Tony and SkiJi caught up, I recalled discussing Tony's race plans earlier in the day in which he had mentioned a place to camp.  I mentioned to Tony that I was probably going to camp as well.  I was 95% onboard with this idea as nightfall would be upon us within the next few hours and the temperature was dropping quickly.  The other side of the river started with a taste of the nasty stuff that sugar sand can be.  Everyone was off their bikes and pushing along except for Jerry and I.  Then it was just Jerry pushing along and away.  I was so drained, the actual work of steady balancing on the floaty sand was more of a struggle than simply pushing alone.  The group rode along consistently for the next 10 miles until I found the campsite sign for Delancy East.  As I stopped in front of it alone and ahead of most, I was faced with the sole decision to camp or to simply push onwards.  As my feet unclipped and my weary legs stretched out, the decision to stay and camp hit home quickly and I awaited Tony & Skiji to pick out a spot.  Jason Greene showed up before they did and I mentioned my intent to camp to which he agreed as well.  A few more guys rolled up with one of them wanting to camp, but his friends urged him to continue onwards.   We rolled into our awesome campsite for the night, picked out a spot a bit further back from the other campers so that we could get some sleep, had a brief safety meeting to discuss the issues of the day and ate whatever foods we had packed.  Everyone held great conversation about the days events.  I knew I had made the right decision as I laid there snug inside my super cozy sleeping bag and tent shelter.  The heat made recovery much more pleasant as my legs were really throbbing.  Jason slept outside in a bivy hardcore style while Tony and SkiJi both snoozed away in really nice ultralite setups.  Those guys were pro.  I fell into a deep sleep at around 9:30pm and planned on only sleeping until around 4am.  As the night wore on, I awoke at around 1:30am and wondered if I should be getting up to go or not, but the cold chill kept me firmly zipped up in my bag.  I did hear Jason grumble something about the cold being too much for him as he loaded up quickly and set off back on the trail.  As I lay there in my bag nearly back asleep, I hear the rustling sound of drunk rednecks in a campsite nearby.  I do believe one of them was idiot enough to babble some kind of nonsense close to my tent...any closer and he would have been met with my blade which I had placed in a tent pocket for quick retrieval.  Fortunately for him, I thought SkiJi was pulling a prank close by and simply told him to bugger off to which he did!  I went back to sleep, woke back up around 4:30am to clear the kidneys, rolled back into my tent,  stretched my legs and rolled over in my sleeping longer actually racing, I treated myself to a few more hours of sleep and before I knew it the early bird was singing its song.....

CFITT Track Day 1

No comments:

Post a Comment