11 March 2016

Team Commie Bar Finishes Florida 72hour Sea to Sea...

Commie Bar successfully completed another multi-day event with a battered and bruised but strong finish at Cocoa Beach, Florida on Sunday March 7th at 2:30pm.  Team members Jon Gamm and first-time Commie racer Charlie Raffay completed a 75 hour, 350 mile course that started with a beach run near Clearwater, then traveled northeast of Orlando, and then down to the finish at Cocoa Beach - on 3 hours of sleep total.  All told the team put in 270 miles on the bike, 55 on foot, and 25 paddling.  The team completed all sections but one - the final trek into the swamps at night which got the majority of teams (17 out of 29) placed into the 'Relay' category as a result.  Not sure why they chose 'Relay' - it was nothing of the sort - but the end result was a strong showing for a team that is still learning how to manage multi-day events. Some highlights:

- Charlie Raffay's first ever multi-day event and first AR in over 3 years and get this, he did the whole thing with NO shoes!  Really, no shoes.  Flip flops and water shoes only - amazing.  Should of seen the look on other team's faces when we passed them.

- Mid-night paddle on the alligator-infested Hillsborough River.  Alligator's eyes shine green in headlamp light in case you were wondering.

- Many miles of bike riding on 55 MPH roads with no shoulder and constant traffic.  This was the most dangerous part of the race -- waiting to get clipped by a side mirror (didn't happen thankfully).

- 93 mile night bike through Green Swamp Preserve.  My ass will never be the same.

- Eating at McDonalds after a 50 mile (hilly!!! Florida has hills!!!) bike ride to a Publix parking lot
transition area.

- Midnight 40 degree water crossing during a trek.  Charlie stripping buck naked for the crossing and parading across the water with nothing but a smile on his face.

- A stunningly beautiful paddle on the Wekiva River - unfortunately immediately followed by a miserable paddle on the St Johns waterway fighting large power boat wakes the whole way.

- Going for a bonus CP on a bike ride and then hammering it to the TA at 20-25mph alternating drafting to make the cut-off just in time.

- The final trek from Hell -- 50 people up on a ridge at night searching for a CP that we finally found after an hour's search, and then getting into a group that led us off track and hopelessly far from the next TA.  This led to a ride to the TA in a U-Haul trailer with 20 others.  Lesson learned -- beware group think.  Trust your own instincts.  This is what got us put into Relay category.  Charlie had us on the map -- we needed to break out but didn't.

- The final stretch:  after 90 min sleep get up at 6am and take it into the finish.  Just a 35 mile bike, 7 mile paddle and a 2 mile beach run to go.  Bike ride went fine, then came the paddle ...

- The paddle from HELL: Start from a causeway on the Banana River (Florida Inner Coastal Waterway -- more like the Ocean than a River).  We are in canoes - NOT kayaks.  It is windy but we go anyway.  The wind is at our backs to the first CP which we find quickly.  The second is buried in a maze of mangroves and after a fruitless search we decide to push on to the TA.  Now, however, it is REALLY windy with 1-2 foot waves and we have to get around a built up land mass about a KM away to get to the TA.  We plan to angle our path 45 degrees into the waves and aim to get around the corner of the land mass so the wind can take us in and around.  Good plans sometime fail to live up to reality, however, and the reality was that the wind and waves were just too much for us to push past and we came up short about 100m from the target and crashed/flipped into an 8 foot sea wall.  While Charlie corralled the boat and gear I scrambled along the wall and found an old dock that I could reach and pull myself up unto the shore (actually some guy's backyard) and then pull gear, boat, and Charlie up afterwards.  Bloodied from barnacles and battered by the experience, we pulled the boat into the front yard, bandaged up our cuts and with pack on back started walking to the TA.

 Along the way we found another team that had met the same fate,and learned that the paddle had been called off shortly after we departed.  We made it into the finish, and celebrated with a big buffet and Sierra Nevada beer.

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