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The Big Chill, 18-hr Adventure Race - Adventure

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Bastrop, Texas
United States
30F / -1C
Total Time = 16h 23m
Overall Rank = 7/30
Age Group =
Age Group Rank = 2/7
Event warmup:

Wow, what a day. So many details to tell the story, but this is a run-down of the highlights, but similar to other race last May, it was a looong day.

Like the last race, I'm teamed up with my younger son, a captain in the Marine Corps. Our team name is "Semper Fi".

We were up at 5:40 a.m. to truck our bikes and gear over to a ranch 15 miles away from TA. After the pre-race meeting, we were bussed back to our bikes for the actual race start @ 8:30. It was 25 degrees, but sunny with no wind.

Leg 1 = Trek, 8 CPs, 3h-9m
We were given the UTM coordinates and plotted the checkpoints (CPs) and these CPs had a "twist". Each one had 3 sets of word game clues like "Wheel of Fortune". As we located each CP, we photographed each clue card for solving the word game later.

We used trails and bushwhacking to locate the CPs, but we had a hard cut-off time at 11:30 and we on the far side of the ranch when we realized we were running out of time. So we skipped the last CP and trail-ran the ~3 miles back to the timing station. You get penalized a CP for each 5 minutes you're late and we were 8 minutes late, so we lost a CP (that means we're 2 down now).

I just have to say how hard it is, both mentally and physically, it is to get these CPs. You just HAVE to get these, otherwise you cannot compete, nor even finish the race. In a triathlon, there is no stress of finding your route; you just race. In AR, if you can't navigate, you can't do it; just that simple.

It's still cold, but we're pouring sweat from the run while we solve the word puzzles using the digital pics we'd taken. Because we missed a CP, we lost those clues and that slowed us down. After all the puzzle solving, the clue sheet had choices of 3 sets of UTMs to get you started on the 2nd leg. Solve the puzzle right and get the correct UTM, you're golden; solve wrong, and you're screwed. We solved correctly, changed shoes, packed up and got ready to start biking.

Legs 2 & 3 = Bike, 6 CPs, 4h-27m
Now we basically ride our way through 2 State Parks (Buescher & Bastrop) single-track trails, roads, and jeep trails to work our way back to TA. No real drama here, just lots of riding; not too hard, but plenty of spinning up hills and deep sand at times. Good thing we had 8 hrs worth of food and fluids with us.

Leg 4 = Paddle, 3 CPs, 2h-18m
By now the wind was picking up and the sun was going down. Changed out clothes and shoes because we knew we'd get wet. Plotted the CPs, and basically you had to paddle the whole lake in a huge triangle to get CPs on the shoreline and crossing open water 3 times.

The chop was only 1-2 feet, but in a low-slung kayak that's high enough. Tailwind wasn't too bad, quartering wind splashed you pretty good, and the headwind was brutal. The bow (where I sat) would slam hard into every 3rd roller sending plenty of spray our way. My lower body was soaked to the skin.

My upper body strength has weakened since I don't swim any more, so it was good that I had a Marine in the back who can bench-press huge weights and do lots of pull-ups. I pulled my weight, but he was a big asset for sure.

We gutted it out and the sun was setting as we started the final run to TA. When we hit the shore, you could barely see, but we'd done it! We had made it off the water before full darkness. But now we were soaked and chilled to the bone. I was starting to shiver as we got back to our station.

Our wives had been waiting around to see us return, so they helped us by firing up my propane stove; soup, ramen noodles, hot chocolate, and coffee consumed, stripping down, drying off, a change of clothes, and we were ready for #5. (BTW, support help is legal in TA only. The really fast teams had full support teams to take care of their stuff.)

Leg 5 = Trek, 3 CPs, 3h-31m
The plots for these were pretty close to TA, didn't look that hard and we had heard of folks being back pretty quickly. So to travel light; we left our packs, food and fluids behind, after all this would be easy. Wrong.

We ran the first mile or so, just to get warmed up and loosened up from being crammed into the kayak. After stumbling through the woods, bushwhacking, and circling trails, we finally found them, but it was tough. Good thing it was about 40 degrees and pleasant, so it didn't bother us too bad.

The whole time we were out there, you could see headlamps bobbing through the woods, but you don't know if those folks are "lost" or know where they are going either. We ran into 2-person woman team twice because we were both "lost". Of course, you stay kind of quiet because you don't want the other teams to gain a benefit from your hard work.

We arrived back at our station and our wives had still been waiting for us thinking we'd be back "any minute". We heated up some canned chili, downed some more snacks, packed and got ready for the next leg.

Leg 6 = Bike, 9 CPs, 2h-15m
This was a bike ride with another "twist". By now, it's 10:30 or so and we had to ride 4.5 miles into the small town of Bastrop to find 9 points that we had to locate using a Chamber of Commerce guide, a tourist brochure and one plotted CP. We had to find the following and take pics of us with each item to prove we'd found it:

1. The courthouse and a certain statue
2. The Bastrop Opera House; pic at the front door
3. A popular bar; go inside and take a pic with a dog (this was a statue of the Budweiser Dalmatian). A guy asked what was happening and I told him we were doing something like The Amazing Race; the crowd thought it was a hoot.
4. An historical house and its marker
5. The town museum
6. Find a newspaper and find the ad that the race company had placed in it.
7. The town arcade; go inside and get 25 tickets for each team member. Normally, you get tickets by winning games, we "tipped" a kid $5 and he gave us 50 tickets. The clue sheet didn't say "how" we had to get them. ;-)
8. A certain candy store, but this closed at 9, so we missed this one.
9. A bridge that we plotted its location and punched our passport.

This leg was certainly different and it was kind of cool zipping around the deserted streets of the small town.

Once done, we made the 4.5 mile ride and a mother of a hill back to TA. It was a little hairy riding on the highway, but due to the late hour, traffic wasn't bad and we had our headlamps and blinking tail lights.

While we were at our last stop, I told my son we were probably done, and he said no, we had another trek to do. What!? Another leg! Oh man, this was just like the last race; we thought we were done, but we weren't. Far from it.

Leg 7 = Trek, 7 CPs, 43 minutes
We arrived back at TA to get the next set of instructions. Go back to our station and plot out the 7 CPs.

Crap, we have to trek 3 miles back to Bastrop State Park to find 6 of those and we're facing a hard 2 a.m. cut-off.

Just like before, for each 5 minutes you're late, you get docked a CP. We flat, just didn't have enough time; even if we hiked/ran back there, found some checkpoints, we'd take a good chance of loosing them if we messed up any at all. And we already know how 3 "easy" CPs can turn into 3 hard ones.

To be an official finisher, you have to get at least one CP per leg and there was a close one that we could snag pretty easy. So we made a plan...

We'll get the easy one, throw in the towel, pass on a chance at those 6 CPs, and see how it turns out; we really didn't have much choice. This was not like the last race where we could go all night if we had to.

So we headed down the trail and after ~20 minutes, we found the bridge and the punch for this CP. I punched our passport and we hit the trail back.

By now, it was 1:15 a.m. or so and we walked into TA to say we're done. Well, it turns out that other teams have had a harder day than us and we're right in the mix for placing. That's just the way AR is; at first, you don't think you're doing well, but you find out later, you're actually doing well.

We hung around until 2:15 a.m. and they announced the winners; we had gotten 2nd place in the 2-person division and about 7th overall. (Results still aren't final.) We had the faster time, but the 1st place team had one more checkpoint than we did, and AR is all about getting those checkpoints.

Woo hoo!

What a day... and night, and morning.

The final tally:
30 miles of biking
12 miles of trekking
7 miles of paddling
Post race
What limited your ability to perform faster:

One of the hard things about the day; was all the getting hot and then getting cold. I bet I sweated out my base layer 8-10 times during the day. Move a lot, get hot; stop for a minute and get cold, you just had to deal with it. Part of racing a race like this.

Another thing about a long AR in the winter; how many times do you have a chance to stop and cook supper during a triathlon?

Last updated: 2011-01-02 12:00 AM
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Average
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2011-01-23 11:49 PM

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Waller County, TX
Subject: The Big Chill, 18-hr Adventure Race

2011-01-24 6:42 AM
in reply to: #3317299

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Atlanta, Georgia
Bronze member
Subject: RE: The Big Chill, 18-hr Adventure Race
Holy Cow..

These things are like IMx5..Way too many skill sets to name - Awesome job all the way around, podium, hardware and all, but just doing some of that course is pretty incredible.

Nice Job, J!!
2011-01-24 8:40 AM
in reply to: #3317299

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Dallas, TX
Subject: RE: The Big Chill, 18-hr Adventure Race
These races are perfect for you! You get to bring your love of the great outdoors, camping, running, cycling, etc... all together into ONE!

Yeah, Tim and I were talking yesterday how we weren't sure how we would fair paddling 1-2 miles. Let's face it, triathletes aren't really strong in the "arm" department. I just think my endurance will give out. I hope Tim will be in the boat with me. If not, I know I can gut it out!

Sounds like lots of fun... but I have to say that a 8-10 hour AR is my limit I do believe.

Pretty sure I won't get to do an AR with the two of you! You are too hardcore for me! Or... maybe it could be one of my awesome things to do next year when I turn 40? Obviously it would be a pity gift. Ha!

2011-01-25 9:13 AM
in reply to: #3317299

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Extreme Veteran
Round Rock, Texas
Subject: RE: The Big Chill, 18-hr Adventure Race
So, you  have to be in shape AND think at the same time.  Too tough.  Way to go!
2011-01-25 9:27 AM
in reply to: #3317299

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Subject: RE: The Big Chill, 18-hr Adventure Race
Wow, sounds awesome. Congrats. What a long day.
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