Swamps & Sequins

2 big events happened this past weekend: the USARA National Championships and my friend’s wedding. While I wasn’t racing, it was a big event I didn’t want to miss, with many friends that would be in the action. Lucky both events were in the Tampa Bay area so I didn’t have to choose!

I drove down Thursday morning, arriving 7.5 long hours later. Race check-in was bustling, which of course made me jealous. I wasn’t a racer; I wasn’t race staff… just a spectator. I hung out with Dan, Monica & Jay (Litespeed) and helped Paul at Checkpoint Zero with his new Checkpoint Tracker program (online live race reporting).

Friday morning came early for me (and even earlier for the racers, who had to be ready to go at 5:45am). Since I was pseudo-Media for the day, I had insider info that they would be transported to the actual race start, which would be at 7am and was therefore able to press snooze and hit Starbucks before heading to the Fort King Trailhead. My camera luck continues to be non-existent with the battery being totally dead in my 35mm (Paul gave me a small video cam to capture some action though). The start was on foot and involved a great river crossing in Dead River Park, where I staked out hoping for some good footage. Teams had the option of using a canoe to cross, swim, or traverse a cable footbridge. ASM came thru first, opting for a canoe. Then I heard Litespeed and prepped for some good shots…. but they keep going. Hmmm! I didn’t have a course map, but figured they might have another crossing in mind (as it wasn’t mandatory to cross at our location). I did get see other friends and local racers (NADS/Cycleworks, SEAR/Cycleworks, Misguided, Flight, Mighty Dog, Tally Ho, Blazing Saddles). I also saw what 1-2 hours of bushwacking in FL swamp will do to one’s unprotected legs: slice ‘em up, thanks to the razor-like edges of the saw palmetto plant. Just imagine what a 30 hr race will look like… all of a sudden, I wasn’t so jealous of not being out there racing!

My next stop was Oak Ridge Equestrian Area in Hillsborough State Park. This was a beautiful area where racers continued with their foot orienteering. A group of us spectators staked out a checkpoint near scenic suspended bridge spanning Hillsborough River (that they would later paddle). First through was Wedali 1 & 2, quickly nabbing the CP located in a small depression. Soon afterwards was Litespeed – yeah! However they passed right by the point and kept running. Argh! It killed me to see them blow by it and not return for about 10minutes (and losing 7 positions); but is was way early in the race and I was certain they’d bounce back. After the foot section, racers transitioned nearby to canoeing, where they paddled up the HB River to a CP near some rapids, then came back down and through the 17-Runs area: an unmaintained section of the river that challenged racers with a plethora of fallen trees. I got in my car and scooted over to Sergeant’s Park for CP3, my final viewing area before wedding duties kicked in. I hung out on a boardwalk waiting for some action (and trying to dodge creepy fuzzy caterpillars that were everywhere). Mighty Dog was the first team thru. Within 30 minutes, Litespeed came checked in. They were around 18th, but well within sight of the front pack. All is good!

Then I headed to St Pete for wedding duties… some last minute prep with the bride, then rehearsal and dinner. While some of the others went out, I went back to the hotel to grab a race update. The wireless connection at the hotel was intermittent at best, which was totally frustrating. I finally got a page to load and saw Litespeed was near the lead again! (They were in the lead, but at that time a “nav challenge” was costing them time.) Excited to see them finish, I headed back to race HQ and grabbed some winks (not as much as I wanted due to a touch of food poisoning or something that woke me up.) After 2 hrs of sleep and another 2 of mere resting, my restlessness took me to the finish line. The winners had come in a bit earlier (and 2nd place, some of Dan’s friends/other teammates)… I tried to snooze on a bench while waiting, but didn’t accomplish much except more rest (which actually does do some good). Around 8:30am Saturday morning they rolled in, tired and wet but looking good in 11th place (12th overall, as 1 masters team had come in). After they showered, we all grabbed some bfast, then they all went to bed, while I returned to my wedding duties.

The wedding itself went well! And yes, I did have some sequins (on my shoes) – we were all dolled up :-) (I’ll post a pic when I get one). All the bridesmaids managed not to trip on our dressed (it was a close call). The bride is Vietnamese and the groom Slovakian, so the customs, languages, food, etc was all unique and made for a memorable weekend.

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