Following a highly successful 2014 campaign, TeamHalfwayThere was eager to travel to Florida and compete in the Sea2Sea to kick off our 2015 season. Enter Jeremy, Paul, and Michelle as racers. This race was personal for Jeremy. He wanted to complete a hat trick and race the Sea2Sea one, final time before heading to the land that gave us chain smoking. Yes, kids, France. Paul was an expedition race neophyte and wanted to get that multi-day monkey off his back (sans pig). For Michelle there was no need for proof. The Sea2Sea was reason enough to escape Washington, DC’s cold and snow. As fate would have it, DC received 8″ of pow-pow while we riding our bikes around the quaint tourist retreat of Cedar Key, Florida.
A month before race start, we decided to get tubeless cross bikes up and running. This decision – supported by our sponsors Stan’s NoTubes and Spokes, Etc. – influenced our race strategy a great deal. As a result, we found ourselves competing against highly talented and extremely experienced teams.
The Sea2Sea was a 72-hour event. After reviewing the first 20 maps with a portion of the 130+ CPs that took teams only to the midway point, it was clear to us that the race was NOT a clearable course. It turned out we were right as the winners didn’t even come within 18 hours of clearing the race course.
The race started with a standard prologue, a bit of a paddle, and then we were on our cross bikes. This would turn out to be a theme of the first half of the race. We arrived at a CP and found that we had a surprise stretch of single track to tackle. Being on cross bikes, we were a bit nervous. We rode and only lost about 20-25 minutes off the leaders. It’s easy to make up time on the road where cross bikes thrive.
We made it to the paddle at 6:45 PM, seemingly plenty of time to make a mysterious 11 PM cut-off that we knew very little about. Little did we know that the creek was completely full of deadfall (and a couple of gators). We lost count at over 12 downed trees. We lost a tremendous amount of time. Additionally, at some point a rather large crack appeared in the hull of our boat. The crack was large enough that we had a full time bailer and two paddlers just to keep the water at a manageable level inside the boat.
We knew we had the cut off, but the only thing teams were told was to “be here by 11 or all your hard work will be for not.” So, we left a point we were very close to in order to make the cut-off. We then learned that there was actually a foot O-course that we weren’t able to head out on. This, it turns out, was the 11 pm cut off.
Our big strategic gamble was to bypass the Rice Creek paddle section and gain several hours of time on the lead teams that actually thought the course was clearable. But, with teams being well behind the race director’s estimates, the Rice Creek paddle section was cancelled. Kick in the teeth.
This was probably our lowest point as a team. We realized right then that, due to factors beyond our control, our race for a top 5 finish was effectively over. Bummed, we decided to have fun and finish strong in true TeamHalfwayThere fashion.
As for the rest of the race, point placement and control selection was either pretty straight forward or impossibly hard. Point might be on the ground, 6+ feet in the air, a 3-inch road reflector, the clue leading to the points could be exactly right, completely wrong, and the maps could be great or the same ones used to find the fountain of youth.
A 100km whack through a swamp at 4am at hour 64 (Ok, maybe it was just a 500ish meter whack, but still). Once we emerged from the brush, we were mentally and physically crushed. 5 minutes later we were on our bikes, riding to get as many additional points as we could, never to give the swamp from hell another thought.
- 2 gators while portaging
- 1 snake falling out of a tree and into the water alongside our canoe
- 1 very pissed off cottonmouth snake
- Oodles of prehistoric looking sturgeon at Manatee state park
Favorite Gear and Food
- Paul: Cross bike with Stan’s Ravens tubeless setup
- Paul: Patagonia Alpine Houdini Shell – who knew temps in Florida could easily fluctuate between 80 and 40 degrees.
- Michelle: RLT 9 Niner – what a better way to break in a new bike than to ride it across Florida with a few pit stops in swamps
- All: Hot dog and Fat Tire beer (aptly named “Portage”) at Fanning Springs TA
- Michelle – “That was the worst bike-whack of my entire AR career; I think we should just ride to the finish in Cedar Key.” Less than 5 minutes later, “You thought I was serious about that, no, just a momentarily lapse and it’s all good now that it’s behind us since that really was the worst bike-whack ever.”
- Paul (in response to Michelle) – “Outstanding! Since I can’t help but take immense pride in being the cause of your worst ever bike-whack experience.”
- Our Hero, Liz Notter. The best damn chauffeur of luggage – I mean racers – from Florida back home to DC.
- All the amazingly supportive Sea2Sea Volunteers. Our favorite thing from the race. Volunteers were super kind, generous, and really were some of the best group of folks we’ve encountered in racing.