2007/10/06 – Terra Firma Extreme

2007.10.06 — Terra Firma Extreme


Rocky Hill Ranch

What Is It?

3 Person coed/male/female race


  • Run
  • Bike
  • Run/Yard Sale Shopping
  • Kayak
  • Run
  • Bike
  • Orienteering
  • Bike
  • Zip Line
  • Canoe (with a twist)
  • Bike

Team Name: Threesome In The Woods

Team Mates

  • Andrea Dahlke
  • Alejandro Armijos
  • Steve Mertz


  • 3 Person Coed


  • 11th out of 17 (11 hours 48 minutes and 10 seconds!)

Copied Results


HUGE Thanks to my teammates for doing this race. Andrea and Alejandro did an AWESOME job out there for their first 12 hour race! You guys make this race a lot of fun!

And a shout out and huge thanks to Double Team (Deserea, Kevin and John) for putting us up for the night before the race and feeding us. It was a lot of fun, and the back and forth through out the race made the race more fun as well! Congrats on your guys’ first 12 hour as well! Great Job!

One more huge thanks to Megan for helping out in TA! She was a busy body helping out all the HFAR teams and it was greatly appreciated!

And now pull up a chair and a frosty beverage as it’s story time folks!

Andrea and Alejandro, met up at my house Friday night to load up my truck with their gear, and then we piled in and headed on up to Rocky Hill Ranch (RHR). Our plan was to get to RHR and get part of our transition area (TA) setup Friday, so we had less to do in the morning. We get up to RHR and setup the canopy and realize that it is HUGE (first time I set it up) and that my tarps were all much smaller than it, but that’s okay, they were still large enough for us. We also were there long enough that they opened up registration, so we went and registered and found out we were Team Number 1!

After we get all setup, we head off to Kevin’s sister place for some (very tasty) food and good nights sleep. As well as a great breakfast too. Double Team, you guys really did go all out, it was great and thanks for inviting us!

Saturday morning, we head on out to RHR at about 4:15am. We arrive at RHR and finish up getting our TA setup. Making sure everything is handy, and ready to go. I decided to forgo the usual warm up, as it’s a 12 hour race. Everything will be slow and steady and we can use the first event as the warm up.

During the pre-race meeting, our team was thrown a small curve ball. Someone in the crowd asked about using pedometers for doing a pace count and if they were allowed, since GPS units weren’t. And the race director decided at that point they were not allowed. Both myself and Alejandro were going to be using our foot pods to do the pace counting, while Andrea was going to do actual pace counting. So now, we were not allowed to do it. But it didn’t slow us down. Andrea’s and Alejandro’s manual pace counting were pretty bang on! Who needs technology! (Well I do, but I’m nav and don’t really need to worry about figuring out pace counting, I’m too busy getting us lost to count!)

So after the pre-race, we go and finalize everything and get ready to race! We line up at the start, I take the team to the back of the pack, as we don’t really want to be trampled as it is a large group of people there, and both the Extreme and Basic races are starting together. So we want to miss out on the Basic racers that are sprinting, and the Extreme racers that are racing to qualify for nationals.

We start off with the initial run. Nice and slow to start with as we all find out how we are doing today. I wanted to make sure we didn’t go out too fast and burn out Andrea and Alejandro. Andrea has been fighting with some IT Band issues the past couple of weeks and some sore ribs from a bike accident last weekend. So we needed to make sure we didn’t put her into any kind of trouble this early in the race (or at any time in the race.)

Since we weren’t allowed to use our foot pods, I was attempting to base our speed and distance on time and how I was feeling. I think we ran averaging about a 10 minute mile pace. Which meant we ran about three miles for this initial run. The strategy to start towards the back was good as we slowly started to pass the teams that burned themselves out sprinting off the line. I don’t know how many teams we ended up passing, but there were quite a few. We also had to collect pieces while we were out on these initial run and bike legs. Basically it was a screw with a nut and washer again. We get back into TA and everyone was starting to feel pretty good.

Next event, bike! One of my favorites, but I know there was a little apprehension for this event with Andrea, as she’s never made it through a RHR ride without crashing. But she pulled through it and did AWESOME. No crashes, and she road more stuff than she normally would have. Awesome job! We road about 10 miles mostly single track. And both Alejandro and Andrea did great on all of it. Our strategy was to have Alejandro go first and call out the obstacles as he came to them. Then Andrea would go, and I would follow up the rear to make sure everyone made it through alright. It appeared to work out great for us! Good job guys!

We get back into TA and I head over to the timing table to give them the bolt, nut and washer that we collected, and I get the maps and instructions for the next 3 legs of the race. Run, kayak, mystery, kayak, run. We get our running stuff together, along with our Sevy seats and head off for the run. The very long and painful run. It’s running on the road, and I’m wearing my trail shoes. Bad mistake there as pavement and trail shoes don’t work well together. The run to the first CP was around 3 miles (thanks Google Earth!) Now this is where I made my first error in navigation. After reading the directions and looking at the map, they looked like they contradicted themselves. Alejandro commented on how the race director’s son continued down the road we were on. And I continued to look at the map. And it just didn’t make sense. So, I got the team to go back along Hwy 71, like what the map supposedly was showing. We watched another team do this same thing, and then watched them go up a hill up to a bridge. And we debated following them to see what was up there, and decided to give it a shot.

We found ourselves in a quaint suburb of Smithville in all it’s Saturday glory. Nothing like checking out the garage sales, while we are running around in our racing gear, and the locals wondering what the hell is going on! We get stopped by one lady who asked us what we were doing, and so we tell her and ask her for directions to where we needed to get to. The little detour we took, ended up taking us about 1.5 miles out of our way. Which meant we lost some placings, and others managed to catch up on us. Sorry guys. I should have looked at the map a bit harder, especially with Alejandro continuing to want to follow those other guys. That was the correct way. I should have showed them the map, and shown them what I was thinking. Then maybe they could have whacked me upside the head and make me realize I was off my rocker or something. Sorry.

We finally show up at the kayak spot where we are suppose to start they kayak. The first nice surprise is they have some electrolyte water (Power Shot crapola stuff, quite nasty but does the job.) So we drink some of it and get our boats and the first trick is to portage the Sevy’s to where we have to put in. Three people, two Sevy’s. I take up the middle position so I can carry half of each, while Andrea and Alejandro take the other ends of the two boats. We get to the water. Now our strategy was for me and Alejandro to be in one boat, and Andrea in the other. We would attach a rope to my CamelBak and then to Andrea so that we could tow her and have her save her sore ribs. So we do this, and get going and I feel her starting to pull on the rope so it’s working, I look back and her Sevy is starting to turn perpendicular to our boat, that’s not right at all! We stop and get readjusted, and try again, but this time she not only turns perpendicular, but gets towed right out of the boat into the river! I am so sorry about that Andrea!

With that idea shot down, we go back to our original plan of Andrea and myself in one boat, and Alejandro in the other. So on we go. Because of the long run, Andrea runs out of water. I still have plenty so I start giving her my water, and to make sure it lasts, I stop drinking myself. Important for later in the story.

The first paddle leg was about 2 miles. Once we get to CP6 we hop out for the little mystery event which was a quick run nav with an aerial map. Two check points and Alejandro with the winning information “Where does a troll live?” Under a bridge! Good job Alejandro! So we get the two CPs quickly, and since it’s in a bit of a park, we keep an eye out for a water fountain or something so we can fill up our CamelBaks. No such luck, and head back to the boats to finish off the paddling. Where again, my lack of attention to the map cost us some time. There was an island in the river, and the map said to go around the right side, but we went around the left. Which meant for us, a lot of portaging as the water was way too low to be able to paddle through, heck there were dry spots. Again, sorry for the lack of attention guys.

We get to the end of the paddle section so we ended up covering about 4 miles total in the boats. Not an overly long paddle, but still, a long time for us with the lack of water and not being able to tow. But we finished. Part of our required gear was a piece of rope that was 10-15 feet long. Kind of an odd requirement, but when we get to the take out spot we see why. A 12foot cliff we have to climb up, using a ladder, and we have to get the boats up it! And using the ropes make it that much easier!

We get to the top, and we knew we would have to portage the boats, so we were all thinking of ideas and my idea was to roll up the boats and tie them to the paddles using the rope. Then we saw another team roll them up around the paddle and bungee them. Better idea! (Thanks Double Team for the idea!) So we do that, but of course we didn’t have bungees for it, but we did have the life jackets which we used to strap them together with. Then we started making our way back to TA. It wasn’t a far trek, which was good because my shoes were full of sand at this point (turns out there was about a 1/4c of sand in each shoe.)

We get back to TA, Andrea and Alejandro take care of the boat equipment while I go and get the next map and directions. I was feeling pretty good physically, but remember, an hour ago I stopped drinking to make sure that my team mates had enough to get through the leg. We get back to our TA and I grab three bottles of HEED (like Gatorade but better) and make everyone drink one bottle to replenish. I sit down to start to plot the points and realize that I was completely dehydrated and was not able to function mentally. I stared at the 1:50,000 map and just couldn’t figure out how to make my plots on it. I wasted quite a bit of time trying to figure it all out. Finally, I feel the liquids starting to seep back into my system and I could start to think. I manage to bang out of the points after that no problem and figure that we are going to be biking a hell of a long way and a short trek nav in the middle with some random mystery event to finish (if we get there by the 6pm cut off!)

Realizing this, we load up on as much liquids as we can. Alejandro’s CamelBak broke, the bottom of the compartment that holds the bladder ripped, so we were fortunate enough to borrow someone else’s. And we filled our bikes and extra bottles where we could shove them. And off on the bike we went! On to the dirt road from Hell. It’s about 2pm or 3pm (don’t remember) and the clouds are gone, so the sun is beating on us, while we try to ride on this rocky, road that was very wash board like. It was quite painful all around. But it was pretty much uneventful. We caught up to and passed Double Team again. This back and forth with them all day was a lot of fun competition! Great job Double Team!

We get the CP we needed on the bike and head off to the next one, which is the start of the orienteering section. Finally! Something I’m supposedly good at! That road navigation behind me now, I should be able to bang this out quickly enough! We get to CP12, and head on down to unlucky 13. Very unlucky 13 for a lot of people it seems. I shoot the bearing and ask my crack team of pace counters for a count and off we go! Right to where it should have been… but it wasn’t there. We search and search and probably wasted 45 minutes at least searching for it with about 6-10 other teams running around looking for it. Great my expertise and I suck at it. This time though I didn’t go into any dark places mentally. Just a slightly shaded area. Finally we decide that it was enough, and time to move on. I look at the map and try to figure out how to go about getting to point 14 without knowing where exactly we are. But I did notice that CP 14 was off of the power lines… and that the path we were on followed the creek which would eventually get to the power lines. Follow the path while looking for a way up to where we needed. And low and behold the path comes out at the power lines, not far from where the point was suppose to be. I just didn’t know if we were on one side or the other of it, and taking my best guess of where we were and where we should be, we headed up to where it should have been. AND THERE IT WAS! What a HUGE relief that was to find that CP! Pulling that one out of nothingness sure felt good. And after that the other CPs were easily found thanks to my team mates with awesome pace counting and eagle eyes!

We get back to the bikes and find a couple of other teams that still haven’t found CP13 that spent all that time we spent, plus the time we spent getting the other ones, and still nothing. We head off on the bikes to CP18 in hopes to make it in time, as that was the one with the 6pm cut off. We actually had plenty of time as it wasn’t far away at all. We get there and find out we have to drop off the bikes, run about a quarter mile and we get there more water to drink! yay! We fill our CamelBaks and find out we have a zip line to do. Cool! I wanted to do one of those for a while now. Alejandro goes up first. By going up, I mean, climbing a very tall telephone pole to the top, where there is a 1.5 foot by 2 foot area to stand on, which is mostly being taken up by the overly large man at the top who is the safety guy. Alejandro zips off! Looks like fun! Andrea is up next. She climbs up, cautiously, not really looking forward to the top area, I can tell. But she makes it up and zips off! Still looks like fun! Good job guys! My turn! I climb up the pole no problem! All that rock climbing has come in handy! I get to the platform and that is when I start to freak out. There isn’t enough room on there for me and this other guy! And I really don’t want to just jump off the platform! I start to freak out pretty bad and decide to sit down and try to ease off… and Zip! After the initial fall of a few feet that was a lot of fun! I wanted to do it again!

We gather up our stuff and move onto CP19 which is another mystery event. With some more of that nasty Power Shot water stuff. But we drink it as it’s definitely needed. We find out that one person gets in the canoe, paddles across the pond to a ribbon, touches the side, turn around paddle back. The second person gets into the canoe, without a paddle, and over to the other side and back, then the third person gets into the boat, again without the paddle, over to the other side, we have to then jump out, run down to some thing on the other side of the hill which had something we needed and run back and then paddle back. For us, it was pretty easy decision, I would paddle all three legs with me picking up Andrea, first, then Alejandro. We banged this out pretty quickly thanks to Alejandro’s quick run to grab the apparently mouse pad that we had to get. Then we got our passport punched and ran off, I was quite winded from that paddling. We get almost back to where CP18 was and I realized I forgot my bike shoes at CP19 so I sprinted back there and back and now I was quite winded.

We then move back to where our bikes are and meet up with a team that missed the cut off time, we left at 6:10pm cut off was 6pm. Lucky us! Bummer for them! We then start the long travel back to TA on the very hilly road. At least it was paved! (I never thought I would be happy to ride pavement!) I was feeling pretty good still, so I offered up towing if anyone wanted, and both Andrea and Alejandro turned it down and they proved why! They were biking strong themselves! Good job to be riding that strong this late in the day!

On the way back, Andrea made the note that we had CP19 done. But there was still CP20. She was worried that there was going to be something else after this. I tried to comfort her letting her know it was probably just going to be the CP we have to punch when we get back to the timing table. We get back and find out that CP20 was just the finishing punch! So we finished the race! We beat our goal of racing for 12 hours and depending on what was left, either stopping there or continuing. We didn’t have to worry about it! We finished! I could not have been happier for them for finishing their 12 hour race! They did an amazing job! And put up with my screw ups.

Multimedia and Maps

Final Thoughts

This race was an absolute blast! Andrea and Alejandro were awesome team mates! Great attitudes through out the entire race even when I screwed up and didn’t pay enough attention to them. Sorry. That will be added to the things I need to work on.

The other thing I need to work on apparently are my nav skills! I’m not as good as I should be when it matters! And this is just from lack of use. I see many trips to Bastrop over the next while to get practice in my future.

A Couple Days Later… (2007/10/08)

Still am thinking this was a great race for us. The only thing I can think of that we could have done better was to have 100oz hydration packs for everyone. This would have helped out during the kayak leg a bit.

I need to work on my nav skills. Take more time to realize what I’m looking at on the map and relating it to what I’m seeing around me. CP13 was a definite case in point here. After talking with others about it, it was kind of obvious on how to go about it, after the fact. So I will be practicing using the map terrain more rather than just dead reckon and pace count it.

I had no aches or pains to mention from the race. The body was a little fatigued today, but nothing a little extra rest can’t fix.

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