I have a treat in store for you today. If you're a longtime reader of this blog, then you know that Cliff has guest posted on here before. His tales are as hilarious as all get out. Last Sunday, he and two teammates competed in a triathlon that took place in part of the Waccamaw River and on the infamous Hulk biking/running trail. This triathlon is a little different...instead of a swimming leg, they kayaked. The following account of the race was written by Cliff and I just had to share it with you. It's a little long, but he had a lot to cover. Hope you enjoy.
The Incredible Tri
Shipwrecked by the Hulk
by: Cliff - His Ownself
It was a simple plan. Just paddle the flippin’ kayak (no pun intended) fast enough to launch my team to a win. I’m not a strong person but 1) I have a kayak more suited for going straight’n fast and 2) how much time can a body lose during a 10 minute kayak leg with a group not specifically trained to kayak? Chris, who IS a strong person, using my second kayak was going to do what he usually does, come out the water first but with his last minute change to an SUP, I’m sure to come out the water first just like last time. No doubt. No sweat. It’ll be a boring ride for David Hall and a boring run for Tom Keller neither seeing a single soul on their legs.
The mass start without the 50 yard dash made a more interesting start than the last time as each vessel left the beach at the same moment and there was bumping and banging and gnashing of teeth. The plan was to go hard, get out in front, ease off for the first lap, and go all out on the second. It didn’t work out that way. The shorter kayaks faded back heading up to the bridge but I could not, regardless of how hard I paddled, leave the SUP’s. What the heck!?!? At that moment I knew something was wrong. Maybe I’m dragging a rope or something because the boat was pulling to the right and I couldn’t hit top speed. It was doing other weird stuff too like rocking back & forth and it was very difficult to make the wide turn around the bridge pilings – the boat would not turn! It was then that I finally noticed the back compartment was flooding; I was clearly sinking. Had I stopped paddling, the boat would have sunk instantly so I paddled at 100% capacity across the river and made a very wide turn around the buoy to get on the grass line. I jumped out, pushed the boat into the tall grass for support, flipped it, and got most of the water out. That took a few minutes and shoving off for the second lap I was totally exhausted lifting the water-filled boat. At that point, everyone else was about to finish the second lap so I’m at least 5 minutes behind. In short, my kayak run was a train wreck. Or more befitting of this Hulk experience, a shipwreck. During my previous 3 excursions at the Hulk, I’ve been over the handlebars, wrecked out the corners, toe-stumped, hill-whipped, mud-slicked, toenailed, and basically pommeled, pounded, pummeled and punished in most every way. And now, in the spirit of the Hulk’s naughty reputation, shipwrecked.
Everyone is gone when I finally beach my waterlogged clunker but trying to minimize the damage, I scurry up Spiderman and into the Amazon. Arriving to transition, Team Shipwreck’s elite rider David Hall is all alone and revving blue smoke out his ears. "The Plan" would have had him riding off alone into the boredom of finishing without challenge but it was not to be. The relay is made and he’s charged with the daunting task of making up 7 minutes on, well, everyone! I can only imagine the urgency in his riding and really, the shipwreck probably added a huge amount of satisfaction for his ride that had him catching and passing all but 2 of the riders and 2 very "dangerous" riders at that; Brad and Enoel. What an incredible performance by David Hall!
I was not at the T2 relay but according to my eyewitness interviews, Tom Keller, Team Shipwreck’s running man, sprinted off about 2 minutes in arrears. Brad was way out in front and Dani, being setup very nicely by the awesome ride of Enoel, was a close second. Since "The Plan" had been tossed out the porthole early on, Tom had to formulate, on-the-spot, a new plan; creative and highly specialized. Tom's Plan B: Run like a speckled @$$ ape. And that he did.
I suspect, similar to the situation imposed on David, Tom’s run was made much more exciting by the fact that he was way behind and had to catch people whom few could catch without internal combustion. Also, the Hulk trail very nicely promotes intense underdog motivation with its openness and snaking trails so that you can see your target well up the trail. This combination of urgency and seeing his prey, Tom is on fire. But wait, there’s more!
Anxiously awaiting David’s arrival, Tom was multitasking. Get that? Tom was multitasking right there on the Hulk diligently devising Plan B while trying to keep count of the runners leaving out ahead of him. Under the intense pressure, he reverts to counting in a foreign language; "Een, twee, drie …" Say what? Ok, ‘Een’ don’t tell me nothing but ‘twee’ looks a little like ‘two’ but sounds more like ‘three’ but so does ‘drie’ so maybe ‘drie’ took the place of ‘two’ and ‘three’ was the result? Well, I’m not exactly sure what I just said but basically the dude counted wrong and thought three runners were ahead of him.
He can see Dani turning into the Amazon as he launches from T2 and after emerging from the Amazon, he sees Dani dropping off the road into the flats of "Knee Deep" and "Aladdin." Once on the flats, he can see Dani and Brad in the snaking trail still well ahead but unfortunate for them, he’s looking past them and chasing the number ‘drie’ person who was never there to start with! Holy geez you couldn't make this sh..tuff up!
He catches up to Dani and after a short "breather" in her draft, makes the pass. Side note/side question: Who among the multitudes could ever claim to be recovering in the draft of a petite assemblage of muscle and lung cruising the Hulk at 7 minutes per mile? Only Tom. A little further up the trail, still on after-burner, he catches and makes the pass on Brad. There again, and it’s a very serious question, who can catch Brad anywhere under any conditions? But after taking the lead, Tom is not trying to hold the lead; he’s still madly chasing someone that ain't there for goodness sakes!
It’s quiet at the finishing line – everyone waiting – and we start to see movement and then figures in the far distance. That’s neat about the finish line position; the long, straight run into the banner makes perfect viewing for the race fans. As the figures get closer, we can make out 3 runners. It began to be clear the blue shirt was in front - Tom was lined up on final approach and coming in hot. Dani was a close second with Brad right behind her in striking distance and closing the gap. Now, I don’t have much experience in the race world but of all the races I’ve seen, this one certainly, without a doubt, had the most exciting finish of all. Battling it out heel-to-heel were 3 extremely fast, highly trained, very competitive runners within shoelaces of one another at breakneck speeds, pumping, straining, and fighting for the lead all the way to the finish. Tom maintained the lead and passed through the banner at Mach 2 only 6 seconds in the advantage. At about 50 yards out, Brad had launched an all-out attack forcing Dani to respond with power-lunges and barely holding on to second place by 2 seconds. What a wild Hulking finish!!
46 seconds later, guess who; Wade Davis, of course, for second place solo. A few minutes later was Fritz Gildemeister to round out third overall solo. Then, another "race" appeared in the distance; 2 very different silhouettes with very different gaits; it’s Jay Hamas and James Fogarty, elbow-to-elbow, screamin’ down the rock road with no one finally taking the advantage to a photo finish! At the Hulk, there are no decimal places, hundredths, or thousandths - which could have certainly been employed - but regardless, Jay edged-out James by a nasal fraction.
So, in the end, notwithstanding the kayakalamity, Team Shipwreck took the gold with the phenomenal performances of David and Tom.
Could it have gone another way? What if Chris would have been in a ‘fast kayak?’ He’d have easily gained those 6 seconds. And what if Enoel had been imposed with the pressure of damage control to make up an initial lost time for his team? What if Dani would not have set a land speed record the day before in the BFF 10k? She only needed 6 seconds for the win. And what if Tom could count to two? Maybe his urgency would have been a little less - 6 seconds on 2.5 miles ain't much! Any one, or a combination thereof, would have produced a different result.
But for me, the real news story is no surprise. Two relay teams with great skill in mountain biking and running did take first and second place overall but remember that each leg for the relay teams were with fresh racers and they were still only able to put a few seconds on Brad and less than a minute on Wade. The race those 2 guys had, as always, was VERY impressive. THESE guys are the real story!!
Regardless, it was the most exciting race start to finish. Thanks to Pete for his unbelievable level of energy in keeping the community and activities organized – I don’t know how he can sustain this level year after year! Thanks also to the volunteers who did a very good job making it all come together.
Well, I'll be done talkin' now ... gotta go check when’s the next Hulk adventure.
This adventure had to be told. To understand the awesome feat of these athletes, you just had to be there. I wouldn't have missed it for the world, especially the part after Cliff had finished on the kayak and he was trailering it back to the trail. Picture this....Cliff's in a hurry to get back to the trail to watch his teammates on their leg of the race. After loading the kayak onto the trailer, he didn't fully secure it. So...he came barreling up to the trail looking for a parking spot, hit the breaks and the kayak flipped up and off the trailer into the road. HaHa! I yelled, "OMG, the kayak fell in the road!" It was so funny, I couldn't stop laughing. And what truly made it so funny was the fact that he had been hamming it up with his friends, making bets on who would win and who was going to buy breakfast for the winners. He was being sorta cocky about it, actually. And this last fiasco with the kayak, after nearly sinking, was just the cherry on top.
Gotta go.....all sorts of things going on this weekend. Tell you about it next week.