Checkpoint Zero Wins Dramatic Sea 2 Sea AR

(comments: 0)

Checkpoint Zero outlasted Rev3/MK and Florida Xtreme/ US Air Force to win the 2013 Sea 2 Sea AR after a roller-coaster ride from one side of Florida to the other.
 
"Complete disbelief really. Shocking."
 
Joe Brautigam recalled his reaction when crossing the finish line to the news that his team had won the race.
 
"We kept telling ourselves that ‘anything can happen’ and ‘you never know’. Honestly though I think all of us figured it was impossible to win."
 

 
The 2013 Sea 2 Sea AR was Pangea’s second adventure race to span the state for three continuous days. The new February tradition was a great outing both years despite being completely different each time.
 
In just over 50 hours, the inaugural event saw Odyssey Adventure Racing sprint away from the pack like a closer at Belmont. After an early flub (misplacement of CP 1), the traveling circus rolled through Florida like the great show that it is with three teams ultimately clearing the course.
 
2013 kept up the tradition of one dumb mistake by us, but also introduced a new plot device to the narrative; (freezing) cold weather.
 
Ultimately three teams were again in position to clear the course but this time it was taking well over 60 hours. Also those teams were virtually neck-and-neck from wire-to-wire and attempting to finish the last half a day on the coldest night of the year.
 

 
The race started with a wink and a nod to the false-start of 2012 with CP 1 running away from the teams down the beach-line as the race began. Once caught, the symbolic first control was punched and the real race was underway.
 
After an hour long Paddle and multi-hour Bike and Foot sections, teams were staggered heading into the Margaritaville TA during the last moments of sunlight on Thursday. The rain came down all night as teams paddled the dark and lonely Wekiva River.
 
By time midnight rolled around, not one team had arrived clearing the course. Checkpoint Zero landed soon after on point with Florida Xtreme/ Us Air Force and Rev3/MK coming after 2 a.m. with a perfect score card. The two trailing teams shaved their deficit down to one hour as the bikes left Wekiwa TA en route to Lake Louisa State Park where the sun came out to play.
 
Last year’s champions, Odyssey Adventure Racing, were the only other team to grab every CP on that challenging paddle section but by the time they completed it there was not enough time left to complete the entire Foot section that followed.
 
As the sun showed up on Friday morning, the race for the crown had essentially come down to three teams. Checkpoint Zero was out in front racing toward a bridge where they expected to find a simple CP to punch.
 

 
Checkpoint Zero | Michele Hobson, Peter Jolles, Jeffrey Woods, Joe BrautigamCheckpoint Zero (CPZ) was a four-person coed team of experienced racers who were no stranger to winning. Captain Peter Jolles, and teammates Michele Hobson & Jeffrey Woods had all been in races twice as long as this one and Joe Brautigam was no slouch either listing his experience as over 100 ARs all time.
 
The crew had only raced as this unit once before despite knowing and racing side-by-side with each other for years. There was no doubt they were one of the favorites going in and knew how to handle the ups and downs of an expedition.
 
"Our goal from the beginning was to clear the course despite what other teams did," said Hobson. "Things can change dramatically during a race of this length so you just have to keep moving forward and sometimes hope for the best in the end."
 
That is a great attitude to have for the long-haul but that patience can be tested when something does go awry.
 

 
The simple CP on the bridge they were searching for was actually a simple informational point that they needed to write down for credit. Problem was the the clue sheet needed to complete this task was never handed to them (or teams behind them) when leaving the previous TA.
 
This is the part where that "one dumb mistake" comes into play. Last year the mistake was soon enough to be settled with a restart. This time the race had already been going on for almost 24 hours.
 
"This was one of the most frustrating parts of the race," Jolles said. “We've been burned before by blowing off points, but we've also been burned by spending too much time looking as well."
 
"At the time we were all pretty pissed off to be honest," Brautigam admitted. "It slows you down and you being to question everything."
 
The four decided to wait for the next teams to show up, which were Rev3/MK and Florida Xtreme/ US Air Force, and they found out that they were all in the same boat and moved on. Ultimately everyone was credited with the same time for the section giving CPZ a virtual one-hour lead which was basically equal to the amount of time they spent waiting.
 
It wasn't a perfect solution but in that situation there was no perfect answer. The time credit did become a factor for the two teams that trailed in the rest of their race.
 

 
Rev3/MK (Rev3) and Florida Xtreme/US Air Force (FLX) are two teams that were actually racing as one for a good portion of the race. All five are part of the national Rev3/MK team and Dave Ashley was actually meant to captain Rev3 in this race but couldn't due to national teammate restrictions.
 
Rev3/MK | Dustine Reppuhn, Greg Voelkel, Britt MasonGreg Voelkel stepped in to captain Dustine Reppuhn and Britt Mason on Rev3 while Chuck White agreed to come down and race with Dave on FLX.
 
Although the teams were full of great athletes and adventure racers, only Dave had completed a race of this length before. Their focus going in wasn't to win but just to be competitive and complete the course in time if possible.
 
"For me this was a leadership challenge," Ashley stated. "I had a teammate (which he had never met before) and an entire 3-person coed team counting on my guidance for race training, equipment, food and hydration strategy as none of them had done a multi-day adventure race previously."
 
Florida Xtreme/ US Air Force | Dave Ashley, Chuck WhiteAlthough the teams were linked, they hadn't intended on racing together throughout.
 
"We hoped to stay together whenever it made sense," Voelkel said. "We did not have much of an expectation to win the race. We hoped to perform well, finish and have a respectable placing."
 
However, as they left the bridge that morning they were essentially one hour behind CPZ and the only other teams left with a chance to clear the course.
 
"It was a huge morale boost knowing that only three teams left had a chance to clear," Ashley said. "All we had to do at that point was continue clearing and barring any significant mechanical issue, injury or serious navigational error we should stay in the top three."
 

 
That Friday afternoon in Clermont was perfect racing weather. With the temperature nearly reaching 70 degrees and no clouds in the sky, the teams were treated to a warm crisp day of racing which was a huge turnaround from their cold wet night on the river.
 
CPZ, still racing determinedly, opened a larger lead finishing the Foot course and exiting Lake Louisa almost an hour ahead of the two trailing teams. Still thinking they were out-classed, Rev3 and FLX were just worrying about their own race and not trying to chase the leaders.
 
"We took a long transition after Lake Louisa," Ashley said. "With a very talented and experienced team sitting that far in the lead we accepted our best chances were 2nd and 3rd. We all ate and drank well which payed off as the next bike leg turned out much more difficult and longer than most teams expected."
 
CPZ were one of those teams that spent more time on their bikes than expected. 
 
"We had a lot of problems with one of the bike points," Jolles said of the segment. "At times like this you just have to remember that if you’re having problems, probably everyone else is too. It had already been a close race, and we figured it would be close all the way.”
 
Rev3 and FLX on the other hand handled the section pretty well.
 
"Taking into account we did this leg deep into day two, it went fairly smoothly," Voelkel said of the same segment. "We did figure out the difference in color between the pines and cypress on the Google earth map which really helped us find the CPs quickly. With lots of route options, we picked the routes with the least amount of sand."
 
As is the case with a race this long, a lot can happen and fortunes can change. When Rev3 and FLX arrived at the next TA Friday night nearly an hour ahead of CPZ in actual time, it was official that the race was on and nothing had been decided.
 
"We really hammered the bike leg," said White. "Once we found out we were in first and second plans went from fun mode back to attack mode."
 

 
Once the sun set on Friday, it was hardly seen again and the temperatures dropped steadily. The teams were now locked in a great back and forth struggle and electing to skip sleep.
 
Heading into a marathon Foot orienteering section at the Richloam WMA, it was definitely turning into a battle of attrition.
 
"The adrenaline was so powerful," Reppuhn said of leading the race. "All of the sudden game was on. The thought of sleeping was just ridiculous."
 
CPZ transitioned quickly as well and began the o-course around 23:00 Friday night; nearly an hour after the two front running teams. The excitement got the teams out there in a rush but it didn’t take long for everything to slow to a crawl.
 
"It was a whopper of a trek!" Ashley said of the section. "I measured the course as 30+ miles after the race."
 
The distance was impressive, but the difficulty of the section was compounded by the lack of sleep for all teams.
 
The leaders decided to attack the section going clockwise in order to get what appeared to them as the more difficult CPs first. About half way through, the two teams disagreed on when to sleep and FLX laid down.
 
"We could not even keep a pace count after almost 48 hours of no sleep," Ashley said. "Several times I woke up to Chuck tapping me on the shoulder. I had been dreaming of having a full conversation with saw palmettos and was pretty irritated that he interrupted."
 
They slept for about 15 minutes.
 
Looking back at it now we should have slept for at least 30 minutes before the sleep monsters hit," White said. "The more tired we got the slower we performed."
 
Rev3 didn’t fair much better and eventually had to lay down as well.
 
"For me, the trail was like a moving walkway in an airport," Mason wrote in her race recap. "We would never go anywhere because we were stuck on this walkway."
 
They eventually huddled up for about 30 minutes of sleep.
 
"We should have stopped when Dave was talking to plants and Britt thought she was on some sort of conveyor belt," said Reppuhn. "(Voelkel) was the only one that seemed to be going in the right direction. The rest of us just looked like zombies looking for brains."
 
Despite seeming to be in control, Voelkel admits that the section was a blur.
 
"What’s the difference between a swamp and a marsh? I know because I grew up in Louisiana," he said. "But some things can’t be explained at hour 50."
 
Eventually, 15 hours after they started, both teams finished the section still clearing but it certainly took a toll.
 
"My brain shut down at the end of this loop," Voelkel remembered. "I felt drunk, drugged and out of body at the same time. I passed the map to Britt and told her I could no longer navigate."
 
Despite their interesting night on foot, the teams were still holding their lead on CPZ. Energized by the thought of the finish line, Rev3 transitioned quickly and headed out on boat.
 
White’s feet were in real bad shape so FLX helped Rev3 off seemingly conceding the race. They followed out about ten minutes later but did not feel strong enough to keep up.
 

 
CPZ started the last Foot section loop counter clockwise. After finding the first CP with minimal difficulty, things started to fall apart.
 
"We spent one and a half to two hours looking for the next point and never found it," Hobson recalled. "We had a similar experience with the next one."
 
The team was tired and not even getting the CPs they were searching for.
 
"That was a horrible feeling leaving and not having all the points," Jolles said. "But we weren’t having any luck at all and quite frankly we were all in a zombie like state."
 
Eventually they slept for 18 minutes. Enough to stave off the sleep monsters but enough to feel refreshed.
 
They kept at it and it eventually made it to the end of the loop. Now daylight, in what turned out to be a very important decision, they went back and grabbed the two they missed.
 
"We knew we had to go back but we knew we had to pick up the pace," said Jolles. "We turned our slow walk into a slow jog and cut our predicted time by half. We had gotten all the points and knew that no matter how we finished we gave it our best and left nothing out there."
 
Much like Rev3 and FLX, they all agreed that the lack of sleep really hurt them here.
 
"In hindsight, taking even an hour nap before this section would have been much better," Jolles said. "We could have slept four or five hours, gotten up at dawn and finished faster than we did."
 
"(When) we revisited those the two CPs we missed during the night they took us no longer than two minutes to find," Brautigam recalled. "That’s something I will remember in the future."
 
CPZ took their time transitioning and eventually headed out on boat almost three hours behind Rev3. Even with the one hour credit and more than twelve hours of racing to go, team morale was pretty low.
 
The last stages of the race on paper were more of a physical battle than a mental one and with the sun going down they were getting the brunt of the cold weather while on the water. They would continue to fight, but without much confidence of overcoming the deficit.
 

 
"We kicked ass on the canoe," Reppuhn recalled. Rev3 was in a great position to finish strong.
 
"We revived on the paddle leg and had a good time," Voelkel said. "I had to really concentrate to keep my brain functioning but Britt was navigating. My brain could only steer, paddle and hallucinate."
 
"At one point I steered us around an imaginary car," Mason recalled. "For the three of us, this leg was the most enjoyable."
 
The team polished off the last Boat leg in just over seven hours. From there they were one long bike ride and two CPs away from winning the race.
 
Temperatures were dipping below freezing and with riding right into a nasty wind chill, finishing the race could easily be the hardest part.
 
"I have to admit I was uncomfortable from the start of the last bike leg," Voelkel recalled. "I was operating with half a brain. I had no idea what Britt and Dusty had left in the tank. My biggest fear was that one of us would fall asleep and crash out."
 
The team found the first CP without issue. They were now one CP and a bike ride away from winning the race.
 
"Boom got the first point," Reppuhn said. "Then onto the caves. This is where the nightmare begins."
 
They were in the right area but could not find the cave where the last CP was hanging.
 
"There was a hill down there which I thought could house a cave but no luck," Voelkel said. "Dusty contemplated going further down the trail but I stated I had been down there pretty far and crushed the one idea that could have saved us."
 
"In hindsight, we were going off a 1:24000 scale when the map was 1:48000," Mason wrote. "So we were not going far enough. We had lost our focus and could not puzzle out the problem."
 
The team spent an hour searching and ultimately moved on hoping everyone else would have the same trouble. The unfortunate error that gave CPZ the one hour time credit on Friday was really coming into play on Sunday morning.
 
Motivation hit an all-time low and the team just wanted to be done. Mason’s knee, which had swollen up a day ago was all but finished.
 
Rev3/MK finished up the race in 63 hours and 33 minutes one CP shy. They were so disoriented and tired they immediately just tried to find a place to sleep.
 

 
Next up was FLX, who unknowingly now had a chance to claim the top spot. The only thing they did know was how badly they were hurting.
 
White decided to save two minutes of transition time with 24 hours to go and decided not to apply bag balm to his feet. The result was blisters the size of ping pong balls.
 
"I decided to go barefoot on the last paddle with hopes the cold boat water would reduce the swelling," he said. "Didn't work out. I had to use my expert knife skills and cut my feet open in order to get my bike shoes to fit."
 
Ashley wasn't faring much better. He noted that if the boat tipped he didn't know if he had enough strength to build a fire to warm back up.
 
He also said that Bryce Read from Blue Ridge Adventure Team gave him some tomato soup before heading out on the last bike. "Small kindness like that between teams is what makes adventure racing so special to me," he said.
 
Ashley doesn't remember much of the rest of the race. White said that in all the commotion of fixing up his feet he forgot the clue sheet. He had memorized 99% of the clues but could not remember the last one. Ashley was so disoriented he thought that White grabbed the last control on the way.
 
"The volunteers asked if we got all the controls. ‘Of course’," he replied. "They checked and we missed the last one. I was too tired to even understand what they saying and I didn't even realize our mistake until the next morning when my wife Diane explained it to me."
 
The stage was now set for CPZ. The one-hour credit had expired since Rev3 finished. If they finished the race with all of the remaining CPs they would be the winners.
 

 
"After the last O-course we knew we were hours behind, much more than any time credit," Jolles said. "It was a little disappointing, but that’s how these things go. We replayed the mistakes, did the coulda, woulda, shoulda routine but knew that the only way we’d win was for a significant bike failure as the points were easy."
 
The veteran team didn't report much trouble on the last legs. It was definitely cold but the team had been there before.
 
"There were times when we were miserable, the last bike comes to mind," Brautigam recalled. "But I have been colder and I have suffered longer."
 
"Our goal from the beginning was to clear the course despite what other teams did," Hobson reiterated. "Things can change dramatically during a race of this length so you just have to keep moving forward and sometimes hope for the best in the end."
 
The team finished what they started and were rewarded greatly in the end.
 
"Complete disbelief really. Shocking."
 
Joe Brautigam recalled his reaction when crossing the finish line to the news that his team had won the race.
 
"We kept telling ourselves that ‘anything can happen’ and ‘you never know’. Honestly though I think all of us figured it was impossible to win."
 

 
Checkpoint Zero | 1st Place Sea 2 Sea AR 2013 Rev3/MK | 2nd Place Sea 2 Sea AR 2013 Florida Xtreme/ US Air Force| 3rd Place Sea 2 Sea AR 2013
 
The next day the sun came back to say hi. Teams seemed fairly rested and cleaned up. Everyone felt accomplished even though one team’s elation was another’s bitter pill.
 
"It’s like being in the Super Bowl and all we had to do was run the clock out," Reppuhn stated. "Only the running back fumbles the ball and the other team runs it back for a touchdown and wins the game."
 
Such is sport.
 
Despite the disappointment in the end for some, the competition and battle that went on is something everyone involved should be proud to be apart of.
 
"It was a joy to see some new faces coming out and racing at this race," Jolles said. "There seems to be declining levels of competition at many of the races and to have several fast teams at one event is refreshing. I’d rather come in second, or third in a hard fought race than win an event with no competition. It’s a whole lot more satisfying as it pushes one to be a better racer."
 
As we head into the 2014 edition of this race, a lot of the same faces are returning. Checkpoint Zero returns Jolles and Hobson and add Susan Alderman and Chris Von Ins who finished fifth with Perpetual Motion last year.
 
Brautigam and Woods are racing as a two man team, ironically enough, as Rev3.
 
Ashley will take the place he was meant for in 2013 as captain of the Rev3/MK team with the returning Mason and Reppuhn.
 
The rest of the field seems as strong as ever and although it may be impossible to ever replicate the drama of 2013, the possibilities are always endless for how this one will turn out.

Go back

Comments

Add a comment: