Wednesday, October 26, 2016

24 hour Hobie Eclipse Rally

    So how does one decide to  engage in pedaling a craft untested in the endurance field? Well naturally, it all starts at a bar with a few drinks. But prior to the bar scene, the seed was set earlier in the day, September 23rd, when  my good friend TJ Holman, a fleet and outside sales manager at Ozark Mountain Trading company (omtc), Held a Hobie Demo day at Rock Lane Marina on Table Rock.  There was every possible Hobie paddle and pedal craft Hobie makes courtesy of OMTC and additionally the Hobie factory team came from Texas headed up by Steve and Lisa Oxenford bringing the gamut of Hobie boats.
  The day was fun getting local folks out to try anything they wanted. I volunteered teaching people how to paddle board. In my down time is when I boarded the Hobie Eclipse 12’ with the mirage drive to get a few minutes of time on it.

As much as I wanted to hate it thinking it was goofy, I enjoyed the stability and ease of cruising the system offered as well the workout. Think buns of J-LO!  It was a great workout.

    Fast forward to the  bar at the end of the day and chatting it up with my river family, I mentioned I may want to try a 24hr pedal on the Eclipse. It Didn’t take much for TJ to announce, “Shane is doing a 24hr pedal on the Eclipse.”  and It began. Jaden, whom also works for OMTC as assistant store manager heard it.  As the drinks flowed he said,” Sounds like something I want to try.” And there you go. An idea was born.

October 22nd the morning began with a family breakfast of Eggs, bagels, homefries and coffee, Lots of coffee.  Looking out of the screened window from the condo we could see the morning fog on the water. Geougous!
                                                        View from the condo

We planned for a 9am start but as usual we started on river time, 10am it was.  Jaden was ready although not fully knowing what he was getting into since he’d never attempted a 24hr event before. Yet, he seemed confident. He had been cranking out 12-18 miles on the Hobie Eclipse before work for the past few weeks. Opposed to me having 20 minutes total time ever on the craft. Both scenarios made for the next 24 hours to be interesting.
Minutes before we start the 24hr event

The pedal started as most endurance events do, lots of talking. I asked Jaden a lot of questions about himself and his life. He responded to everything positively but it always seemed I ended up dominating the conversation. For me it’s a bit of a flaw I own. There’s a bit of uneasiness in silence for me when getting to know someone, so I fill the gaps with talking.  So I chatted him up for the first couple hours getting to know him. The most significant findings about Jaden I found was he’s a very experienced whitewater kayaker and he’s very soon becoming a dad!  His wife is due in the next few weeks.  Pretty awesome he is able to come out and do the event before he enters fatherhood. Lastly, he’s never attempted an ultra-distance event like this before.

    The daylight hours were fun. The morning slipped into early afternoon in a blink of an eye. The water became choppy at about noon as the boat traffic came out. The Hobe Eclipses’ took every Next I know we are over 5 hours in and we have pedaled 18.5 miles. Cruising and checking out all parts of the lake.

                                               Jaden Pedals near The Branson Belle
5 hours in

 Having warmed the body up a bit, Jaden and I began to have the “What’s hurting on your body talks.” Now, you’d think it would be the calves but for both of us it was the thighs. Mine was mostly right above my knees and for Jaden it was more upper thigh.  I battled cramping in the lower and Jaden in his upper. It lasted a couple hours and was gone by late afternoon.  The sights seemed to take our minds off the physical conflicts.
  We managed to find good spots to take breaks. I thought these would be conversation points but we each were messing with social media and filling our faces with snacks we had.

Cool little gravel bar we found to eat some food

   Then the night-time came.  As the dark approached the speed dropped considerably. It was already a slower speed than expected as all the boats churned up the water through the day.  A full 12 hours of paddling and we made nearly 37 miles.

Still, not a bad pace with short breaks every 2-3 hours but I personally was hoping for more.  What made it difficult was if we got too close to the shore there were stumps that came up a couple feet that were inches below the water. Visible during the day, concealed at night.  If we chose to pedal the center of the lake we ran the risk of boats hammering by us or on us. Some weren’t even running navigation lights at all.  A little scary.  So we kept a slower but steady pace.
   We had a good run from the boat ramp at Rock Lane Marina to the dam which we established during the day. It was a 2 hour out and back loop. Occasionally we would go a little further and check out sights like the Branson Belle running at night. It was pretty hilarious the seeing the passengers faces looking at Jaden and I. Looks of confusion and expressions of WTF. A high spot for sure.

   The other high spots for me was every few hours seeing the crew.  Tj Holman has been  a friend for a couple years now. You can’t help but smile when pedaling up and seeing him. Always willing to help and the main reason why this event happened.

TJ in the center

Brenda Herndon had her trial by fire crewing the MR340 not just for me, but for the 3 man sup team I was on and also 2 other individuals. Also a 230mi race I was in 2 weeks prior this Hobie event. She knows how to keep athletes running.
                                                          Brenda at the MR340

Ron Abel has crewed 2 events prior as well. He and Brenda make a good team and work well together. Ron’s specialty is cooking for us. He’s affectionately called the kitchen bitch. He keeps me fed well. We love him for it.
Brenda, Me, Ron

And James Crawford. This was his first event as crew for me. He’s been around ultra-paddling events before acting as safety crew/checkpoint manager for the mr340 and also competing in it. He’s the plucky comic relief. Always picking our spirits up and this time he brought 10 year old scotch.
James - PCR (Plucky Comic Relief)

 Then came the trouble times, between 2-5am. This is when that magic moment happens and the body wants to shut down and sleep.  My magic started at midnight.  The fortunate part was as we pulled into the boat ramp about that time we found the crew cooking S’mores and wolfing them down.
Rough life the crew has
Jaden and I welcomed a little marshmallow roasting and made a couple ourselves. Most of them made it in our mouths but a good amount oozed on our faces. At this point we really didn’t care.  The sugar rush was well worth it. Propelled us to get back on the water and pedaling.  
  By now the temp had dropped into the low 50’s.  The warmth of fire gone, we now had to go into warmth maintenance mode. I layered up and layered down finding trouble keeping a balance. Jaden seemed to do ok with the balance of heat.  We did our usual to the dam and back loop to get us 2 hours of pedaling.
Jaden at the Dam
It was pretty dark but the quarter moon illuminated the lake decent enough. Just not enough for me to avoid running aground on our way to the dam..  Now in inches of water I faced the dilemma of how to not get my feet wet and get the mirage drive system unstuck. Getting my feet/shoes wet in the first 30 mins would mean being wet and cold for the next 1.5hrs. In 50 degree temp that wouldn’t be a good thing.  Then the solution struck. Though I wasn’t very familiar with the drive system’s inner workings, I did remember how TJ put them in. Turns out they’re simple really. You lift up the pedals that lay on the drive “feet”. There are 2 knobs you slide and and the whole drive system pops out. In seconds the drive system was out and in my hands.  I used it as a paddle and back paddled off the gravel bar.  Once clear I dropped the drive system back in, lowered the pedals, and was off chasing Jaden.

The Mirage drive system removed and sitting on the board
(Obviously taken during the day)
  Jaden and I discussed a sleep schedule. I suggested no more than 90 mins. We settled on an hour. I slept in Brenda’s suv and he slept in TJ’s tahoe. 3:15am came quick. I got up and got my stuff together and didn’t see Jaden. Not knowing his physical condition i figured I’d go pedal around the bay until he surfaced.  Shortly after I saw him loading stuff on his Eclipse.  He was a little mad his alarm never went off. The kind of mad that he wanted to be on the water and didn’t need the sleep he got.  After getting back on the water I could see he was in good shape, it was just an alarm mishap.

Pedaling through the wee hours was rough after a little sleep. Yet, no complaints from either of us as we continued pedaling. Our bodies must have thought we were playing mean tricks on them as the cycle continued of a little rest then pedal a few hours. We pressed on and were miserably happy doing so.
The best part of a 24hr event for me is that moment when the darkness recedes and the sun begins to rise. It's magical in a way. It's what I look forward to every event I do. It's a reward for a full days output. So as we approached the sunrise I began to get a familiar feeling. One that I know well, but don't care for. You may know it as something else, I know it as bubble guts. So a pitstop at the boat ramp and a spirited walk up to the bathrooms i began a journey of other sorts. It lasted 20+ minutes. I came out to morning. I missed the magic of the sunrise due to my body's revolt.
Over the years I've learned to find the goodness in whatever you can. While my restroom romp cost me a sunrise, it gave Jaden the opportunity to experience it wholly on his own. Being his first 24hr event, he was able to bare witness to the magic a sunrise can bring after putting your body to work for 21 hours. I haven't talked to him about it yet, but i'm sure it was a moment he'll remember always.
Jaden, Sunday Morning around 7:30am
Jaden and my last pedal to the dam and back at daybreak. Pedaling in the fog was serene

For me the real magic came about 22.75 hours in. Jaden and I came in and I told all the crew they needed to be on some type of craft and we were leaving in 10 minutes. No-one questioned it. They all jumped right on it. We all went out an cranked around the lake for the remaining hour. It was by far the highlight of the trip. TJ got to be on a sup I built custom for him named Makuahine (mother). Which s a story later to be told. Ron kayaked, brenda sup'd, and James canoe'd. And Jerico, who had driven 7.5hrs from Mississipi just to be with us, pedaled a native kayak.
The family paddling together. Jerico is back pedaling with me

The 24 hours concluded with us all rolling into the boat ramp at Rock Lane Marina where Jaden and started 24 hours prior. Not keeping an eye on the gps until we stopped at the ramp, I looked and it read a cryptic 66.6 miles. A benchmark was made. A standard set for 24 hours of pedaling a Hobie Mirage Eclipse. A first of it's kind. The craft, although seemingly gimmicky at first, won me over. I like it. There just may be another adventure or 2 coming out of it, with Jaden and the crew of course.

A huge Thank you to Ozark Mountain Trading Company (OMTC) for your support for this event. They loaned us the 12' and 10.5' Hobie Eclipses.  Larry (one of the owners) even came out to the finish with donuts and milk.  
As always a monster thanks to the crew: Brenda Herndon, Ron Abel, James Crawford and of course the traveling Gnome Jerico.