February 25th, 2023
After an hour nap, we continued on through the dark searching for more checkpoints. I still felt a little drowsy so I ate some gels with caffeine in an attempt to wake up. I needed the sun to rise and bring me more energy.
We hiked on for a few hours then decided to start sprinkling in some running. We alternated between running and walking to make up some time since this trek felt like it was taking forever. The morning sun started to light up the sky and we hoped to reach a convenience store to resupply around 7 or 8 AM. We arrived around 7:30 AM and saw a few teams sitting around. We were all a bit let down once we found out the convenience store was closed, there was no way we were going to wait for it to open. Luckily, we all had enough food and water to get us to the next transition area. My dream of hot coffee had to get put off till later.
We, as a team, decided to take the gravel road from the store to the next transition area instead of the trail. This meant that we were going to miss 4 or 5 checkpoints but we would shave off miles and get to the transition area earlier. If we got there early enough, we would be able to participate in all the remaining legs and have a better chance to gather more checkpoints.
Once again we alternated between walking and running on the gravel road and felt the hot Florida sun rising and beating down our backs. I was getting a little nervous about heat exhaustion but made sure we were all continuously sipping on water. My pinky toes were also shouting at me as I had previously seen some damage and knew the blisters were growing. I just kept telling myself that I would be okay once we got to the transition area and made myself put it out of my mind.
A few hours later, we arrived at transition area number 3 and were shocked to see very few teams. The race director’s son, who was helping out, let us know that we had passed about 15 teams who were still on the trail. We felt so satisfied because now we could participate in the “o-relay” which meant David was going to go out on a kayak by himself to search for a couple checkpoints while Mike and I rested. Then when he came back, Mike and I would go search for a couple more while David rested. This allowed all of us some rest while also gaining additional checkpoints.
David set out and I tried my best to sleep but found myself only falling into a light sleep. With the daylight and voices of other people, it made it extremely hard to fall into a deep sleep. After about an hour and half I sat up and my entire body was yelling at me. It was sore and achy and I kept wondering what in the world just happened? I looked to Mike and he felt the same way. It was as if stopping was worse for our bodies. It was mind blowing to me though that I could sleep for a full hour before and wake up with no body pain, but thought maybe it was because I couldn’t fall into a deep sleep so my body couldn’t recover? Who knows. All I knew was that I hurt.
I got up and started packing my bags and getting things ready to canoe with Mike. We went down a small river where a checkpoint was and Mike let me know that this was an area that alligators would probably be. We then heard a splash and Mike kept his cool letting me know that it was indeed an alligator. I tried to be calm, but internally was freaking out. Mike and I continued to move quickly and I found myself spotting multiple gators in the water. Breathe in, Breathe out, Don’t look.
We picked up two more checkpoints and met back up with David, it was time for all of us to head out for the last canoe portion for 20 miles. It was around 3 pm, so we still had plenty of daylight left which we were excited about.
We said bye to Chris and started the paddle. This was the last time we would have access to our totes so we made sure to have everything we would need for the remainder of the race. Within 30 minutes we looked off to our right and spotted a gator sun bathing on a large branch. This was the first time I was able to see the entire body of the alligator. He didn’t pay us any mind, his eyes were shut and it looked like he was hugging the branch having a grand ol time. This was so WILD.
We canoed on, picking up more checkpoints and found ourselves going down a narrow side channel looking for a checkpoint. It was just about dark and we were hoping to snag this last one and then we would follow the channel out to a lake. The further we maneuvered through this small channel, ducking under branches, scooting over logs in the water, the more nervous I became. I trusted David on navigating but I was nervous that once it was dark, we would no longer be able to remember how to get back out. We eventually called it and turned around to head back out to the main channel. (After the race we were able to see that we were actually so close to this checkpoint darn it!!)
David took out his super bright spotlight headlamp and lit up our path to paddle. He also lit up countless yellow eyes staring at us. It felt like almost every turn in the river had a new set of eyes reflecting up at us. I felt fearful that for some reason we would tip again and the alligators would make me dinner, but tried to just calmly paddle and knew that eventually we would be done.
We all started getting irritated by the long paddle through the winding river. It once again felt like we were on a loop track, never actually getting anywhere until suddenly, we reached a huge opening to a lake. Finally.
We canoed to the opposite side, picked up another checkpoint then headed to drop off our canoe and head out on foot. There was not a transition area here, but we were able to top off water. We headed out with a short trek of 4 miles to transition area number 4 (without our totes present). Here we checked in, ate a few snacks, then headed out on our bikes.
The next couple legs went by fast as they were shorter. We biked for around 15 miles to get us to the “orienteering” leg where we would navigate on foot with an additional map to find a few more checkpoints. In this leg in order to get one checkpoint, we had to get two, A and B. We still had plenty of time before the cutoff of noon the next day, so we decided to try and get a couple.
Unfortunately, we struggled with finding the first one, with it taking a long time to find and were hesitant on getting the second. We turned down a road that the second checkpoint was supposed to be on and found ourselves in heavy wet mud. No thank you! Absolutely not. I was not game for soaking my feet in mud and turned it down real fast. We decided to leave it and headed back to pick up our bikes.
It was now time for the last bike ride and leg of the race. We had 55 miles to get us to the finish line and we were ready. We headed out on pavement then turned onto some dirt/sand trail. We were to head Northwest on this trail until it took us into a neighborhood.
We crossed paths with a team that said the direction we were going doesn’t seem to go the right way but we felt confident in our plan and continued on. After a while, the trail started curving and turning East. We found ourselves in another loop, this time actually lost. We would head one direction, turn around, head one direction, turn around. I felt panic creep in. If we got lost out here for much longer we would miss the cut off time. Luckily we saw other headlamps heading in our direction and we were able to talk with a team about what we thought was going on. Mike then looked at the map and realized where we were after exploring again for a while. We were in fact on the wrong trail, a trail that goes in loops. By the time we sorted it all out, there were countless teams with us, maybe over 20 people and we all headed out in a single file line heading back to the correct trail.
Once on the right trail we hit heavy mud and yet again, more sugar sand. It felt like a prank by the race director, laughing at us because we thought the last bike ride would be easy. We pushed through, found a gate that we lifted our bikes over and then finally, we arrived on some pavement.
We started cruising through a neighborhood and then onto a bike path that took us past a few additional towns. The route then led us onto a greenway that we stayed on for most of the remainder of the race. We picked up a few more checkpoints and the sun started showing its face. We were all starting to get amped up, we were almost there.
After a long ride on the greenway, we picked up the second to last checkpoint off the greenway and headed onto the main streets of St. Augustine to ride to the beach. There were a few other teams around and we found ourselves on a mission. We pedaled hard and caught up to a long line of other teams and followed behind. There were about 10 of us all riding together to the beach. I loved seeing people in their cars staring at us wondering what in the world was going on.
We were dirty with race bibs on our backpacks and smiles on our faces, we had just come from the West freakin’ coast of Florida. Let’s freaking go!
We arrived at the last checkpoint and walked down to the beach to fill up the rest of our bottle with East coast sand. I was on another level. It felt like I had been gone for weeks, on this epic expedition through Florida.
We hopped back on our bikes to ride a few miles to the finish line of the race. As we got closer to the finish line and rode through the finishing race tunnel with people all around clapping and cheering us on, I felt an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. I was so proud of us.
Of course there were ups and down and of course it was hard, but that is what we do. We do hard things to see what our minds and bodies are capable of. Throughout the entire race I thought of a quote I heard from Travis Macy, a man who does ultra events and participated in the Eco Challenge:
“It never always gets worse.”
Things will not go as planned, you will feel pain, but it never always continues downhill. There will be uplifting moments like finding hidden checkpoints, laughing with teammates, and occasionally your body will have a second, third, or fourth wind where you can push harder than you ever thought possible.
I can’t get over the realization that we can do so much more than we think, we have to stop limiting ourselves.
Thanks for reading about this epic race, if you want to watch a video on it, David made an awesome YouTube video! Also, we ended up finishing 23rd out of 82 teams and within our coed 3/4 person division, we were 8th out of 18 teams!
4 Replies to “Sea to Sea Expedition Race – Day 3”
Keep up the adventures! I love to follow you all along the way!!🤟🏼
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Thank you for reading!! ❤
You are an inspiration!
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Thank you for reading! ❤ Much love Nancy!