Adventure Racing 14:00:00 
Maine Summer AR as team Strong Machine with Matt, Tom and Amanda. 2nd overall.
As I say every year, I love MSAR. Super excited to race this edition with this group. We had a common goal of going super fast and doing our best to put pressure on Toyota Tundra and whoever else was ahead of us.
For the third edition in a row, the race was scheduled out of Pineland Farms, a beautiful property that serves as a great host. There is a wonderful orienteering map of the property, and I had a feeling that we might use it again (it was used previously in the 2019 edition). I've learned a lesson over the years that the pre-race time at MSAR ticks quicker than at most other races, so I made a point to arrive race ready and also to get myself two breakfast sandwiches from the market before we checked in. We had two sets of maps, which seemed to be the perfect quantity for this group. Matt and Tom went through one set of them while I did the same on the second. Two sets were also helpful as we were able to catch each other's inefficiencies (like Matt pointing out when I plotted a bike route that ignored a convenient bridge - whoops!). We were able to go through the whole route before the pre-race meeting, save for the last trek (I noticed that TT made a smart choice by only sending one racer to the meeting, leaving the other two to continue prepping. Definitely something to consider for the future). The course looked big but doable depending on terrain and trail conditions. The heat was also set to be a big factor, but we didn't know how much it would affect us or the other teams. We also had a good plan for handling the delegation of duties - essentially, Matt was in charge and we'd do what he told us to.
The race began with a retrieval of maps from a Toyota Tundra. Amanda got our map, and then we paused for a minute or two to plan out a route. The idea for the prologue was incredibly cool, with a series of lettered CPs scattered around Pineland Farms on the orienteering map. We had to gather enough letters to spell two words from the designated list. I struggled to be much help here, but we ended up selecting FAST and RACE, which required 7 letters but avoided 2 CPs that were further away than others. Matt suggested that I nav this section, which we did extremely well, moving at a quick but conservative pace. The lowlight was a team miscommunication that caused my bike bottle (we didn't have to carry any gear but chose to carry water bottles) to get left in the woods halfway through. We returned to the S/F after ~45 minutes, where we mounted bikes and headed out. The nav had been really smooth with no errors >30 seconds.
Post-race analysis revealed that the optimal strategy was to spell FAST and KAYAK, which used fewer letters and covered less distance. This somehow evaded us in our preparation, but we were still happy with our choice.
Stage 1 - Bike
We moved quickly on the roads for this section, getting smoothly to CP1. After CP1, we began passing teams in the 8hr race going in the opposite direction (very confusing at first). We arrived at WP1, which contained a neat section allowing teams to split up. Tom and Amanda hopped off the bikes and got CP 4 and 5 on foot, while Matt and I rode MTB trails to get CP 2 and 3. I began with a super slow, over-the-handlebars fall just out of view of the WP... We weren't super smooth here, as we nearly missed CP 3 and rode clear past CP2 before realizing our mistake and coming back. I didn't ride these trails well, but it got much better once I took off my sunglasses and regained my depth perception - amazing how much difference that made. Matt and I returned to the WP only seconds before Tom and Amanda - we remounted and rode less than 2 km to the next TA.
Matt and I worked together on the nav throughout this leg, and it went rather well.
Stage 2 - Sea Kayak
Rootstock was still in TA when we arrived here. TT had left ~ 10 minutes prior. We moved with purpose, but also with the understanding that the paddle would take at least 4 hours in the heat of the day. Some extra sunscreen was applied, water was filled, and food was readied before we set off in our double kayaks. I paddled behind Tom while Matt paddled behind Amanda. It took me an additional few minutes once we pushed off to get my rudder and pedals situated, but we started moving well once we got away from the shore. Matt did nearly all of the nav on this leg; it was a straightforward paddle south through one body of water, through a short connecting river, and then to the south end of another, with some stops along the way for CPs. We had a few sights of TT, and passed Rootstock going in a different direction before our halfway point. Untamed was near us here, but we finished before them. Less than 2 hours in, my feet began to throb. My toes were fully numb, and my heels felt like they had nails driven into them. I had no way to ease the pain as they were locked in on the pedals for the rudder. Just over halfway through, I was able to stretch my legs for a minute and regained feeling in my toes, but the pain began immediately again after we restarted. I adjusted the pedal locations, which provided some temporary relief. Even more pressing than the foot pain was the fact that I felt myself loosing the hydration battle. During the paddle I drank 1.5L of water full of electrolytes, ate as much as I could, and took salt pills. Still, I was getting patches of lightheadedness throughout. By the time the paddle mercifully ended after nearly 5 hours, we were pretty low as a team. The speed had been good for the first half, but the lack of a tailwind on the way home combined with tired bodies made for a sluggish and slow finish. I was happy that my legs began to loosen up in TA. I tried to drink as much water as I could, but I had a feeling that I had passed a tipping point and that things would be getting worse for me. Matt gave me an extra bike bottle, which helped my hydration back on the bike. We rolled out of the TA less than an hour behind TT, and about 20 minutes behind Rootstock.
Stage 3 - "Adventure" Bike
We weren't exactly sure what would be in store for us on this stage, but we knew that it wouldn't be fast, flowy, or smooth. After a short bit on roads with ARDZ, we turned onto a trail around Nubble Pond, which quickly became a sketchy hiking trail. We pushed and carried our bikes, coming past the Dev Squad here. It felt like an eternity (it wasn't) and it was very slow moving. We were super pleased to get back onto our bikes and riding near CP13, where we began to hit some pretty significant uphills. (Post-race note: it looked like Rootstock and TT were able to come in to the north of the pond on some unmapped trails/roads and put 20+ minutes into us with that move alone) We actually missed CP14 and had to backtrack a bit to get it, probably our biggest error of the day. We had been near a Coed 2 team who was moving pretty well, and the male racer took a legit fall off of his bike, hitting his head on the rocks and sliding down the hill a bit. He assured us that he was fine and we kept riding...only to later realize that he had smashed his bike directly next to the CP :(.
The ride through 15 and up to 16 was where I started to feel a tad bit off, and it seemed like I was beginning to slip - I pounded water and food, hoping to stave off whatever was coming for me. CP16 was at the top of Hacker Hill, which at the time seemed to be the steepest hill in America. We were greeted with a nice sunrise at the top (and the yelps of disbelief of the steepness from ARDZ at the bottom). Seeing as I was teetering on the edge of blah-ness, I definitely used too much energy getting up this hill. A handful of km (and 4CPs) later we entered into a maze of sugar sand trails that must have been airlifted from Florida.
We (or maybe just I?) enjoyed this section, with some different opportunities for route choice, although it seems that the top few teams did it all the same way, save for some small differences. The riding in the bad sections was rough, but there was almost always a rideable way to get around the worst of the sand. We struggled again with a CP in here as well, just as night fell. CP24 was on a high point without a clear attack, and Matt and I had some disagreement on when to go in. It took a few tries with some great teamwork, but we got it well enough. This was also right around when I began to slip further into a hole, despite eating and drinking, having filled up water at CP 21. I seemed to be struggling with my head and stomach between hours 10 and 14 of most races lately, and this was definitely the case again. I don't have trouble riding the technical stuff when I feel like this, but my speed suffers on the flats and hills. By the time we got out of the trail system (and finally seeing some other teams for the first time in a few hours) I really needed to go the bathroom. We came through Naples, which was a pretty exciting small town, and I was convinced that I could keep my GI system in check until I got to the TA. The issue that arose was a huge hill climb that buried me further, followed by a screaming downhill (and a screaming homeowner telling us that we were guaranteed to be killed by a car). By our arrival at CP28 and TA2, Untamed had caught up to us and I was hurting on the inside and needing some relief. I had convinced myself that a port-a-potty at the TA would make me very happy...but I was let down. I tried to relieve myself, and got no relief. My body had decided that it would only be happy to remove whatever was in it, and those vaults had been sealed. Still, we TA'd with some purpose, got food and water, and set out to push as much as we could on the trek.