2006/11/18 – Jail Break 2006


Huntsville State Park

What Is It?

  • Mountain Biking (10 miles)
  • Flat Water Paddle (5 miles)
  • Trekking/Orienteering (5 miles)
  • Team Challenges

Team Name: Team O.U.C.H (Obviously Unprepared, Confused and Hurting)

Team Mates

One: Steve Mertz
Two: Tina Burgos


2 Person Coed


  • 5th place Coed (out of 18)
  • 9th place over all (out of 54)

Official Results


I started off this race by paying in advance and hoping to find a team mate to race with. I tried hooking up with one HoustonFitAR Member but she had family obligations and couldn’t fully commit. So Thursday before the race I was frantically searching for one and a friend managed to hook me and Tina up. Tina and I went back and forth with the whole prerace never met before jitters and finally we decided to go ahead and do it. So huge thank you to Tina for racing with me!

I show up at Huntsville in the TA area, looked around and get a call from Tina, and she’s already there and ready to put the boats in the boat area. But first we need to see if I will even fit in the boats. The kayaks we were to use were like Necky’s but a little shorter so there was some concern if I would fit or not. I tried out the first one they had and I fit, wasn’t comfortable but I fit. So we decided it was good enough and we would use it. Then we got the second one off Tina’s vehicle and it was newer, and I tried it out just to make sure, and it was a little roomier so we were good to go!

We go to check-in and find out we had to have all of our gear there for a gear check to make sure we had all the mandatory gear. We go back to our vehicles and get our gear and go back in for the gear check. We had everything and moved on to the third table where we got our shirts and schwag bag. We then went up and started setting up our TA and get things ready for racing.

In the schwag bag we were given the maps, coordinates and clues for the race. So we went about plotting and getting that all setup. While I was plotting the points, I noticed something odd. The UTM grid was a little off. I checked the size and it wasn’t 1:24,000 like most races in the area have been. I checked against the 1:25,000 and that worked. I started to wonder how many others noticed this or if it was just an oddity in the map we had. But we finish plotting and start going over strategy of how we should tackle the various points. We also find out we start off with a Three Legged Race. And I am known for not being able to do Three Legged Races well.

Tina tells me we should double tie our laces so that they don’t come undone while we are racing. We have to use a carabiner to link ourselves together like in a chain gang. We get all set to start the race and we go off! Tina and I are actually doing well together three legged. I keep my eyes down at our feet to stay in sync and she keeps us going forward. Then Tina’s shoe lace comes undone! They weren’t suppose to do that since we were double tied! She quickly ties it back up and we go running again. Then my shoe lace comes undone! This is crazy! We tie again, run off again and again, Tina’s shoe lace comes undone. We finally just link the shoes together at the bottom of the laces where they can’t come undone and hobble into the first check point.

We then take off running down the road to the horse trails where I wanted to run along for a bit then cut cross country to a jeep trail. Plan worked out perfectly. We got to the road, and hit he check point no problem. Great feeling after last weekends complete screw up of naving on my part. We start to head back the way we came as there was another checkpoint the other direction and I find the place where we need to cut through, bush whacking and off we go!

This time though, I was off a little bit and we hit the wrong trail. After running up and back on the trail a bit, we realized where we were and fix our situation and ran to the main road, and to the trail we needed for the next point and there it was. Great! Two check points and only one small glitch so far! Vengeance is mine! We take off down the paved road up to the nature house to hop on the bike trail up there to get to the next point. We see the fence line and hop over to it and run the fence to the next point, no problem! Three points down, two to go.

We bolt off to the next trail we want and things get a little confusing. There are more main trails here than show on the map. We search up and down a trail a little bit, only to not find the CP. We get back to the trail we came from and one of the other HoustonFitAR teams pointed us in the correct direction on a different trail (Thanks Holmanators!) We go down the trail and missed the CP, but found where we were suppose to grab the last one, so we get that one and head back to where the other one is. We find it and head back to TA. We did realize during the first three checkpoints that Tina was punching them incorrectly. The CPs were being labeled as OM1, OM2, etc. But OM1 was really CP2, so that confused things up a bit. But we drew on the passport that we knew they were wrong and where they should have gone. And they accepted it. Great!

We get to TA and it’s a bike leg now. We quickly get our gear together (Thanks Jason M. & Jason W.) and we are off! Well, almost, I forgot the maps! Back down to the TA to get them quickly and back up to the road. We go off down the bike trails. Today I’m really feeling the groove on the bike. I am actually cornering not too badly and finding smoother lines than normal. Really in my zone. We then start going up the hills and I am glad to see I’ve not really lost too much of my climbing legs from last weekend and am able to go up fairly easily.

This leg of the race is pretty uneventful. We got to the spill way on the wrong side for getting the CP, so we cross through the water which is only a couple of inches deep. Then we head off on the trails again. We passed a team at the CP, and start going up the hills again. And now I’m getting a side stitch. I really need to work on getting rid of them once and for all. So I have to ease up a bit and let Tina go ahead of me. I’m hanging on to her wheel not too badly and then we pass another team. That made most of the pain go away, and Tina figured it would when she first saw them so she picked up the pace a bit.

We managed to pass one more team on the bike and as we hit the paved road and bike back to TA I get a huge cramp in my calf. I’ve never really gotten cramps before while out biking or running, and this is really painful. But we are almost back to TA and I can down some electrolytes there. Once we are done transitioning out of the bike gear we head towards the water for the Mystery Events and the paddle.

The first Mystery Event was one of us had to be in a lanyard with a carabiner and clip into a rope and go through a rope maze without unclipping the carabiner. When the guy was explaining it to us, he was looking at me, but handed Tina the rope and I thought that was kind of weird. But whatever. We start weaving through some trees and over and under the ropes itself. Then the rope weaves through a picnic table! That’s why he handed it off to Tina, who is much smaller than I am! Thanks Mr Volunteer! Just as we start to finish up with the rope, one of the teams we passed on the bike caught up and were starting to go through the ropes. We then moved onto the second Mystery Event, where I was blind folded and had to piggy back Tina to some cones, bend down so that her foot could touch them. I think there was like 6 cones, but don’t quote me as I don’t really know. I was blind folded!

Off to the third Mystery Event! We get to the beach and they tell us we have to fill up a piece of pipe with water, to get a tennis ball to rise above the top. The catch is, there are holes in the pipe that we have to plug as the water level goes up. We struggled a bit with this one and a team passed us. But it was the Holmanators so it was okay, since they gave us a hint to the CP in the first leg of the race.

We finally get the ball up and we bolt off to the paddle. There were two strategies for getting the CPs on the paddle. The first and the most popular it looked like was to go for the long one first, then the ones closer to the boat launch. The second was the reverse of that and get the closer ones first then go for the long one. I decided that since everyone was headed for the long one there could be a wait there. So we went for the closer ones first. We had no problem finding them and getting them out of the way, then we headed to the farthest one. That one was a bit painful as it was so far and I was tired. Tina is an animal of a paddler and just kept going. I had to take mini breaks on the way there and back. In hind sight I would probably go there first like everyone else, while fresh and then get the mini breaks at the end when we stop for the CPs. Live and learn! And as usual, my legs went to sleep while in the kayak so we got back to the boat launch and I had wobbly legs I could barely stand on, let alone run, but I hobbled along a bit and we managed to finish the race! I thought for sure that there were quite a few teams ahead of us, that passed us on the water. But there wasn’t many at all. In fact we made up time and passed The Holmanators and almost caught up to the next team that was in front of them. You never know where you are in the race, until it’s over and the final tallies are counted.


Tina and Steve Running from the cops!

Tina and Steve Running from the cops!


Here are the maps that we used for the race. These maps are huge, so please be patient if you download them.

Huntsville State Park - Topo (22M)

Huntsville State Park - Topo

Huntsville State Park - Trails

Huntsville State Park - Trails (19M)

Final Thoughts

It was a very fun and well organized race. I am very happy to have gotten to do this race. And to race with someone experienced like Tina to help push me when I needed it. We had a lot of fun out there, running through the bushes and passing teams on the bike and paddle. And to finish 5th in Coed and 9th overall. That just blows my mind. I never really thought I would be able to come that close to a top ten placing, let alone be in the top ten overall and top five for the division!

It makes me want to get back out there and train harder. Work on my weaknesses and fine tune my strengths. I will definitely be continuing this sport next year!

Days Later… (2006/11/20)

I’m still flying high from how well we did at the race. I’m sure Tina is use to these high placings, but with myself, never being really athletic until 08/2005 when I started this sport, and training so hard, and getting some pretty bad injuries to work through… and then BLAM! A great race, with a Top 5 Coed finish. And a Top 10 Overall! I have no words to describe how it feels. The work I put in, paid off. And knowing that, it has rejuvenated me into wanting to train harder and better. Causing conflicts with my need for a mental and physical break this week. But next week it’s game on!

I am a little sore in the legs, most likely from the blindfolded piggy back Mystery Event from having to dip down for Tina. And my left calf is really tight from where I got the really bad cramp. But other than that, I’m feeling good physically and mentally. I am definitely looking forward to training again after this race!

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