What was Started…Is Now Finished!
It’s been a week since my epic ultra endurance bikepacking adventure race (a race to finish my ride before I had to be home) concluded – the 2019 Mini-Depart HuRaCaN. If you have a few minutes, please settle in for a short read and let me tell you a few things that went on.
First, no matter how well you plan – things still can go wrong.
One: Before, yes BEFORE, we even left to embark on this epic adventure, I realized that I left my full 2 liter hydration bladder at Scott’s house nestled comfortably in his refrigerator. Scott’s house was 1.5 hours away! Now, we are currently parked in a deserted campground, it’s 6 am, with no store in sight, and a several hour ride ahead of us before we are able to refuel. To say I was a bit upset is an understatement. I quickly looked through my truck to find anything that contained water and that I could carry in my hydration backpack. Let me take a moment to inform you if you didn’t know that life is full of irony. You wanna know what water I purchased for my car trip because it was on sale to make sure I was hydrated prior to the ride? Take a guess please. The answer is…Smart Water!!! So every time I took a bottle out to refill my drinking bottles, I received a “gentle reminder” was that I wasn’t so “smart” after all…and this happened for 4 days straight. By Day 3, it became a rather funny story when I explained it others who asked about my “Smart Water.”
Two: Within 8 miles of the start (a beautiful morning indeed), we got turned around on the trail in the forest and started heading back to the start line. Not a good omen when you have at least 343 more miles to go. Luckily with my three (yes, 3!) gps devices, I got us back on track. It happened when we stopped to take a picture. The 2 fast guys rode on ahead. We (the 3 of us) got turned around and going the wrong way. One guy stated that he is directionally challenged (oh great…now you tell me), the other guy got lost the last time he was here (not a good sign), and me – I’ve never been there before…in essence – 3 blind mice. After I said that you can ride back to the start line and I headed off in the correct direction – they “took a chance” and followed me. It ended up being the correct call. Whew! This trip was going to be interesting.
Three: I live in the Mid-Atlantic and an hour from the beach. I don’t live near nor ride on sand often…like ever. So on Day 1, Mother Nature pulled me and my bike down three times with the assistance of gravity and mostly the “sugar sand” that inhabits a large majority of the trails in Florida. Let’s say that going down three times on the first day is not a good omen as well. I am a fast learner so it “almost” happened more but I won. But the ego and hands were already bruised.
Four: It ain’t flat in Florida! We went through a section near Clermont called the “Florida Pyrenees.” I am not a fan of nor excel at climbing hills especially since I live in “Coastal Virginia.” You might say: “A couple of hills isn’t so bad. It gets you out of the saddle and stretches your legs.” Well it is a different story when your bike is packed with your gear causing it to be 40-50 pounds not including your weight = Not Fun! I made it and was glad those hills were behind me.
Finally: We hit a section of the ride called the Green Swamp. it should have been labeled the Green Monster. That day it was 88 degrees with heat index in the 90’s. The week before the highest temp I saw was 54 degrees – a bit of a difference. Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, there was no stores, no places to refill water, or civilization for the 70+ miles of off-road trail! This is where teamwork is essential. You rely on each other to get you through the tough sections, whether that is a bit of fluids, a bite to eat, a word of encouragement etc. And, we did that!
Secondly, During a ultra bikepacking race there is only one winner and everyone else is on a long bike ride. Enjoy the Adventure!
One: Take time to stop and take in your ever changing surroundings. You are passing by beautiful places and if you are always in a rush, sadly, you will miss them. The reason I go “off-the-beaten-path” is to see which is commonly missed and see what an amazing country we live in. They make for awesome memories when you reminisce especially when you…
Two: Take photos, a ton of them! As the days pass by, the sharpness of your mental images fade but if you have pictures, they stay fresh. I love looking back on them and remembering the location and the short story behind it. I love sharing them as I tell a story to help my story “come alive” in front of their very eyes. Photos are a little snapshot of an event – but you have to keep the story alive!
Three: Stop, meet new people, and have a chat. This is one of my most favorite past-times. On this trip, I met and rode with 4 new people: Scott, Jonathan, Ron, and Thierry. Great riding partners during this long adventure. In the deep woods of the Wekiwa Springs State Park, we came across Paul & Scott relaxing by the trail. They joined us on our ride and at our campsite.
Then there is the 4 key people who saved my ride. During Day 1, my right crank arm started working it’s way off my bike (not good!!!) because if you have no crank arm…you don’t go anywhere. Kevin let me borrow a metric allen key to tighten it down. Whew! Epic fail averted.
Day 2, the crank arm stated dancing its’ way off again. Barely made it to Clermont where Roman, tightened it down for certain (supposed to be 54psi, it was 15 psi) – no charge at his bike shop: Epic Cycles. I did get some electrolyte tablets to keep my legs from cramping. Day 3, we made it through Wekiwa Springs only to arrive at “The Store” that was closed. Argh! Again, we were saved by a trail angel, Hannah. She gave us water to get us down the road to the next “open” store for which we could refill our bellies and our depleted stashes.
And finally on Day 4, TJ came to my rescue. My bike wasn’t shifting well, especially since my first run in with Mother Nature, her gravity and her sugar sands. He stopped, took the bike he was working on off the stand, put mine up in the stand, did a few tweaks, lubed the chain, and took it off the stand and it was running like new. No issues at all with the upcoming undulating terrain that lied ahead all the way to the finish.
Finally, all these trials and tribulations lead to a memorable adventure! Come back in a few days and read about the positive take-aways and other meandering thoughts. This is enough for now. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming…