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Florida Coast to Coast - Part I


Welcome back...

Last week we had the old team reunion in Florida for the 10th Annual Coast to Coast race. Mark, Will, Suzanne, and I were the racers, and Rozzi, Danny, Perry, and Candy were there for support. This year's race started on the Gulf coast at Crystal River and covered 214 miles to the Atlantic coast near Daytona Beach.

Our effort was dedicated to the memory of Mark's stepfather Larry Sartory, who kept us all laughing before, during, and after the 2007 race. Larry passed away from lung cancer the following year.

Even getting to the start line was a bit of an excitement. The Coast to Coast has always allowed racers to bring their own boats, and after the debacle in the '07 race, we were determined to have some quality paddling sections. So Suzanne did a bunch of calling around, looking for any place that had good tandem kayaks for rent. Our best option ended up being two 21-foot fiberglass kayaks from Chequamegon Adventure Sports, which were unfortunately 9 hours away in Minocqua, Wisconsin. I drove out to pick them up the Friday before we left, and delivered them to Plymouth for subsequent overland transport to Florida. Mark, Will, and Perry left on Monday morning with the two kayaks and Dave's trailer behind the pickup truck.

Which blew a front axle at 2 AM outside Chattanooga.

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A Dose of Humility

Last week the Gnome Hunters headed out to New Hampshire to race in the Untamed New England expedition race. We fielded a four-man open team; me, Brian, Rick and Dave. Liz and Chris came out as well, but since it was an unsupported race, they could treat it as a real vacation.

Let's just say that our performance was a bit of a disappointment. And it all started with the portage wheels. (Depending on who you ask, it might have started even earlier.) I also navigated too conservatively at times, and that meant we lost time to most of the rest of the field.

That's not to say we didn't have a good time and see some beautiful sights while navigating through the wilds along the Canadian border. We didn't get to see as much of it as we hoped, but at least we did keep plugging away and finish a short course. Many of the teams didn't make it through the second night (always the black night of despair) and in the end, 12 of 41 teams dropped out or went unranked. Brian has a detailed writeup on Facebook that describes it all - the good, the bad, and the ugly.


Sunrise from the summit of Magalloway Mountain.

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All Night Ride (Or Not.)

I skipped competing in the Tri-Loppet this year because I was going to join Rick, Brian, and Corey for the (now 2nd!) annual All Night Ride.


It doesn't get any prettier.

Start: Brian's house, South Minneapolis, 7:30 PM.

Turnaround: Somewhere near Hutchinson, McLeod County. 2:30 AM.

Finish: Bryant-Lake Bowl, Uptown. 9:30 AM. Breakfast and celebratory beer.

Distance: About 140 miles.

Chafing Factor: Severe.

Rick, Brian, and I started out on time, and rode down the parkway and around the chain of lakes up to the eastern terminus of the Luce Line extension. It was a bit more exciting than usual because there was a strong line of thunderstorms bearing down on the Twin Cities right about that time. As we crossed I-394 on Wirth Parkway, we could see a dark black storm to the WSW, with a disturbing amount of lightning on the horizon. The storms were blowing rain up out ahead of them, so we were fighting a little bit of wind and spit.

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2nd at the Fat Otter Raid!

Ahhh... the joy of looking back on finishing another expedition-level adventure race! Gnome Hunters fielded a three-person coed team at the (hopefully) first annual Raid put on by Team Fat Otter this past weekend. The venue was central Wisconsin, in the Black River Falls area. Rick, Val, and I were all tempted by the close location and reasonable price, and signed up despite knowing little about the reputation of the race organizers. It turned out that was absolutely nothing to worry about - in fact, it was one of the most well-designed 3-day races I've ever participated in.

I might as well spoil the results right now, and say that we did better than we expected - but needed a little help to get there. We ended up in 2nd place overall, 1st in the open division. The only team to gather more checkpoints than us (since the time was filled out with a rogaine section) was Team Goretex, who came east from Colorado, Utah, and Oregon to go after the Checkpoint Tracker points this race offered. But still, we weren't far behind. We were also pushed quite a bit by Midwest Mountaineering, who had a strong performance, took 3rd overall and 2nd in division to Goretex, and further showed their sportsmanship at the end of the race.

I took some helmet cam video at this race too - not as much as I'd like turned out, and my battery ran down too early - but to see our route on Google Maps, read the play-by-play, and check out the video I did get, click on the link for Part I!

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A Gnome Hunters Reunion


Old school style.

So Mark sent me a Facebook message a couple weeks ago:

After all the fun we had at the 2007 Florida C2C, how could I possibly pass that up!? I always knew he wasn't quite ready to retire yet.

Also a little funny that Buck hasn't mentioned it to his usual team (Midwest Mountaineering), yet. Even though they all know. But still, this is not exactly being "disloyal" to a team - a concept which is kind of silly in the first place. The only time that should ever, possibly, be an issue is if you somehow race against your usual teammates.

But still, it's a lot of commitments for me this year - wow. I'm glad that cost is not a problem, like it is for so many people. But I'm going to see if I can avoid some of the time-off issues by flying directly from Florida to Hawai‘i (c'mon, aren't you jealous now!) I can send my gear box and bike back to my parents in Minneapolis, and catch some "recovery" "sleep" on the plane. I was planning to visit Annie in November again, but we'll see if early October works out better, in terms of both total time off, and total airfare.



Gnome Hunters' Plans for 2010

Time for another beginning-of-the-year meeting to plan our outdoor adventures! Last week we met at the Happy Gnome, fittingly, to discuss the future of Gnome Hunters.

This year is better than last, since we have at least three good expedition level races - the biggest one is Untamed New England, which will take place in the Dixville Notch area of northern New Hampshire (which I've been to, and it's beautiful). There's also a 3-5 day near Las Vegas in the fall, and finally, Fat Otter Adventure Sports is making their first foray into expedition length events with a 2-3 day in Wisconsin. That's right in our backyard, and probably worth it, even if they haven't had the experience of other race organizations.

We've contracted a bit this year too, with five primary members, although Corey is looking to do the Spring 12 hour and move on to longer events if she likes what she finds. We talked a lot about one-time subs (since they're always necessary), and about rebuilding Gnomads to at least have a sport team.

Brian has spent a lot of time working on our web site and Facebook page. It makes me think that this might be the time to start courting sponsors again, although with the state of the economy and based on long experience, sponsorship for AR is always hit and miss unless you're a nationally competitive team. Right now, I think we're just at the cusp of being players on the national scene - with results like our 13th place at Nationals year before last and 6th at MIX. We even picked it up beyond either of those two races at the Wild 24 hour race, and perhaps this is the year to move on to the next level.

Corey and Val are both great runners. I already gave credit to Val in a prior post, and Corey's best marathon was somewhere around 3:15. That's a definite difference from previous race years. I'd like to spend some time this spring helping them with mountain biking, since that should bring us to skills parity with the best team in Minnesota - and likewise, with many of the best teams in the country.



Gnome Hunters on Facebook

Finally! It's exactly what it sounds like. Gnome Hunters now has a Facebook page, just like several hundred million others. The nice part, though is that we've uploaded 1000+ photos from our various and checkered race history - fertile ground for risking the "overexposure" on today's social media... it's a good thing adventure racing is such a wholesome sport. I wouldn't want to have any trouble with photos of me partying too hard!

Oh... that reminds me of something.

Check out the Gnome Hunters.



The Wild 24 Hour Race

So this was only our third (my second) major race this year, but it sure didn't seem like we were out of practice. We captured a solid 2nd place finish with a convincing performance in the orienteering section at the end. Even though second place really means first loser, finishing within an hour of WEDALI is a victory in many people's eyes, including ours. And we were even ahead of them for a time! But first things first.

Brian, Dave, Val, and I made up the main team, and Rick and Chris raced as GH 2. Race headquarters was at the Black Bear Casino and Hotel off I-35 and Hwy 210, so it was quite obvious we'd be using Jay Cooke for at least some of the race - and I had some ideas about other nearby areas.

The pre-race meeting was 2 PM on Friday, and afterwards we loaded our ropes bag and paddle bag into a trailer and got on the school bus for a rocky, dusty drive to the start in the middle of the Nemadji State Forest.

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Wild Summer Race Video

Here's the promised summer race video. I did a little more with the soundtrack than in previous videos, as I'm slowly learning the ropes in Soundtrack Pro. This is also the first time I've done a video that includes original music, in addition to the stock clips; and the first use of an animation, showing the control locations on the bike loop.

Download this video (52 MB)

Click on the still frame to play.

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Wild Summer Race

I shot some video today at the Wild Summer race. The weather was perfect - a sunny, 80 degree at William O'Brien State Park and surrounding areas. The race format was interesting - there were three basic loops, one for each of the three major disciplines: trekking, biking, and paddling. Teams could choose to do the loops in any order, and had to come back to the central location and check in before going out on the next loop. Each loop had a separate set of maps and passport that the racers would pick up at the time they left.

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