Checkpoint Zero/Inov-8 Team Blog
presented by Inov-8

A lake swim in February???
posted Wednesday, February 27, 2008 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 2:47 PM - 0 comments

No, it was not a mandatory "special test" given by the Auburn Marines at the Amphibious Warrior Adventure Race last weekend. Instead, Ron Sanders, Rob Lord, and Jennifer Rinderle voluntarily swam the chilly waters to save a few miles of coasteering on foot. The last checkpoint was climbing up a tower that was in sight, so we took the plunge. Swimming sure gets you moving faster on foot once you get out of the water and it's a balmy 50 degrees outside! The swim paid off as we crossed the finish line 3rd overall and 1st in the coed division! (NOTE: Your doctor may advise against this behavior.)

Stomp that Swamp
posted Monday, February 18, 2008 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 10:55 PM - 0 comments

The south east has a lot to offer the avid adventure racer in February. Take this past weekend's Swamp Stomp for example. In much of the country there is still snow on the ground and freeing temperatures, but just south of Sarasota the skies were clear, temperatures in the 80's, and the good folks from WeCeFAR put on one heck of a race for all us cray folks who think running around in the swamps for 30 hours really is fun.

This was my third trip to Swamp Stomp, and while we had the best race yet there, it probably hurt more than any other. I haven't figured out if it was the flu that I had last week, the double cheese burgers we got the night before, or the brackish water that splashed all over my water bottles as they rolled around in the bottom of the boat that made me sick, but whatever it was, it did a good job.

The race started with a short prologue run that was designed to breakup the racers before they got into the Myakka river to start the first leg of the race. This turned out to be part running of the bulls, part easter egg hunt, as you had to find a stack of post cards and grab one to get the passport to start the race. I will have to say I was thankful that we didn't have to find anything with a number on it, or perform any other stupid human trick other than dodging the 150 odd racers on the way out and back.

The real race started with a paddle up the Myakka river. The Myakka isn't a huge river, and in some spots, it's barely wide enough for 2 boats to pass each other, yet somehow we thrashed about in the shallow water and made our way upstream. The first checkpoint was interesting, one had to run out on a nature trail, find a large tower with a swinging bridge to a second tower, and find a clue at the top. I'm not sure how many people looked at the warning on the bridge that said only 4 people on it at a time, but the towers and the bridge were still standing later on in the race when we went by it again.

After that little detour, we continued up stream to collect several more points scattered on the river and Upper Myakka Lake. On our way back down stream, there were a few locals out fishing and bird watching. As we started to climb over a small dam between the lake and the river, one of the locals said something along the lines of "look out for the gators". I turned to look down stream and saw about 4 alligators floating in the stream, through which we had to go. Luckily as we got close they all submerged and gave us no trouble. Probably was better we didn't tell them that Paul was a Bulldog.

We got off the paddle feeling pretty strong, and we figured we were in the top 5, but no more than 10-15 minutes back on the leaders. Our transition took a little long to prepare for the long trek ahead, but it was hot out there, and I didn't figure there would be any water on the course. Of course, this is a pet peeve of mine, if the race organizers tell you to bring water purification, and then tell you drinking from the river isn't a good idea, why tell us to bring anything? Maybe if I got really desperate? Who knows.

Anyway, we started off the trek looking for a point on the south edge of a small pond not far from the start. By the time we got to where I suspected it was, we saw at least a dozen teams or so milling around, all looking for it. This wasn't a good sign. The points weren't supposed to be hidden or hard to find. We spent what seemed like an eternity criss crossing the field, pace counting, everything we could think of and no point. I had come to the conclusion that it was either missing, or misplaced, and was at the point where I was willing to blow it off and keep going. Several other teams had the same idea and as we made our way out of the swamp Michael Moule shouted out that he had found the point and that it was misplaced. He didn't have to do that, but he did, and I'm sure I'm not the only one that appreciated it.

The rest of the long hike was pretty straight forward. We worked in a roughly clockwise direction picking up the first couple points without any issues at all. By the time we had gotten to CP12, we had gone back and forth with a couple times and I think we both finally finally realized that some of the next CP's might go a bit easier with 8 pairs of eyeballs looking, instead of four. This turned out to be a good match up as we both were going the same speed and had similar goals, getting all the points.

Our now 8 headed monster made quick work of the tough bonus points on the long, flat, somewhat unremarkable Florida back country trekking section and we were all excited to finally be heading back to the TA to get in our boats. We were less than 3 miles from the finish when we decided to take a short cut through the woods to cut off 2 miles around on the road. We had crossed through at a point farther up the trail on the way out and it wasn't bad there, how bad could it be a little further south. It was less than 400 meters. To make a long story short, it was bad. Really bad. The palmettos were thick the whole way, not to mention the vines and other vegetation that reached out to grab us and flay the skin from our bones. We missed the trail we were aiming for and ended up bashing about for about an hour. We went much farther than the 800 meters that indicated on the map because we couldn't keep a straight line going and I'm sure we weaved back and forth quite a bit. Eventually we did find our way out of the nightmare, but not without copious amounts of cursing.

When we got back to the TA we were informed that the furthest two points on the paddle had been removed, almost cutting it in half. We got in the water a little bit sooner than TravelCountry, and started a slow paddle down stream. Here we pased ABC on their way back up the river, as well as several other teams. We got to the take out for the first bonus CP and just as we got out of the boats we were joined again by our friends and we shouted to get them onto the slightly hidden road. Even teaming up, it can still be difficult to find some points. We identified the right features, went right out to where we thought the point should be, but didn't see it. We stumbled around in the dark a bit, when we finally decided we had to have been in the right place the first time around. Sure enough, as we made it back there, the point was in a small grove of trees. I'm not sure how we missed it the first time, but we did. The rest of the paddle was straight forward, and we were ready to get back on the bikes.

After stuffing our faces and getting suited up to bike, my stomach started feeling a little queasy. It wasn't entirely unfamiliar, as it had been hot, we were out of water for a while on the last trek, and you never know how you are going to feel. Just before we started out I thought I'd have one last shot of Red Bull for the road. That threw my stomach for a loop and I promptly lost everything I had just eaten, probably 500 calories worth. Not pleasant, and not a good thing to be happening halfway through a race.

Not wanting to stick around and see what might happen next, we set out on bikes for the final 2 sections of the race, hoping that we wouldn't run into the dreaded sugar sand we had been warned about. I wasn't completely with it, and wasn't able to read the maps to well, and I think everyone was having a bit of difficulty staying awake and energized. We took a few wrong turns early on in the bike section and got pretty lost. We finally cut our losses and went back to our last known position and started again. After getting back on track, we headed off to get some of the most out of the way CPs. The points were quite far out of the way, and the going was tough. We had at least one section of a mile long "trail" that was little more than what looked to be a faint 4-wheeler path through a field wet grass. It was at this point where I realized that mountain biking in Florida pretty much sucks. There is a lot of hard work, and there's no reward at all. At least in north Georgia you get some sweet downhills after pushing our bikes all the way up.

In the middle of the bike section was a short running time trial where each team member had to run a loop and grab a can of Red Bull from the can halfway through. Paul and Allen ran first for us, while I tried to take a little nap and settle my stomach. After about 20 minutes, they still weren't back, and TravelCountry had run the loop twice. Shortly after Paul and Allen came in saying something about expecting a huge Red Bull banner or something, not the standard garbage can, and they had run right by it the first time, and had to do it again. DOH!

Our final ride back to the finish was shortened as the race directors eliminated all but one of the mandatory points and left only 4 bonus points for the teams that wanted them. Don, the navigator with TravelCountry had come out to the area the week before hand had gotten some inside knowledge on which trails to take, and which were submerged in water. I was quite thankful I didn't have to hike-a-bike anymore and we knocked out the remaining points and made it back to the finish.

We crossed the finish line a little dehydrated, battered, and bruised, but that's about on par for these kinds of things, isn't it? We enjoyed a great post race bbq with plenty of food and drink. Thanks again to the good folks at WeCeFar, Checkpoint Tracker Race Series, Inov-8, Nuun, Brain Crux, Gatorade, and all the other sponsors who donated prizes.


Where's Pablo?
posted Sunday, February 10, 2008 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 9:37 PM - 0 comments

Can you find the member of Team Checkpoint Zero/Inov-8 among the Rhododendron in the picture at the right? Obviously, Rhododendron -- a species of which is the national flower of Nepal -- can be thick in the Southeast.

Jon, below, and I took these pictures recently while we scouted the course for the upcoming Checkpoint Zero Race. Looks like Tony and Yak are planning another beautiful -- and challenging -- event.

- Paul