By: Josh Lederman
Here are some notes on the Huracan from this years race. It was my first attempt at the course so some midwest insight might be helpful to me for next year and anybody else that wants to take on this challenge.
Preparing for the Huracan 300
The Huracan 300 is not like all the normal long gravel events I was used to. This year’s course was mapped at 340.1 miles. There are no official cue sheets you receive a GPX file and a route description a few days before the event. When you read the description (I’ll attach it below) you see how confusing cues would be. There a many fences to jump or crawl under, there is a couple times the trail disappears and you continue forward until you cross it again looking for the purple line on the GPS. There are two water crossings. You can start anywhere on the loop and go in either direction. Most of the starters at Santos Trailhead went counter clock-wise as did I. Last but not least there is about 30 miles of super technical single track and about 75 more miles of flat singletrak that is sand based and very rough with roots and feral hog trail destruction. The then there are miles and miles of double-track and gravel roads. The middle section of about 75 miles is pavement but is the hilliest section available in Florida. Actually, while the climbs were significant if you’ve ridden any of the gravel events around the midwest the hills were no problem.
I’m training for Tour Divide so I’ve been doing all my riding on my rigid mountain bike with 2.1 inch Schwalbe Mondials setup tubeless. I had two Exposure Joysticks one on my helmet and one on the bars. I navigated with an Etrex 30. I would have been slightly more comfortable and faster in the technical single track and sand with na wider MTB specific tire. The Mondials are so bulletproof that I may just use these again even with the lack of volume and traction at times.
I didn’t take a sleep system because the 340 miles seemed like a Trans Iowa distance effort. Even with a sleep system I’m pretty sure I would have gotten very little quality recovery sleep the first night as it was chilly at 45 or so degrees and extremely humid. Had I had a sleep system I would have tried using it. My course ignorance really bit me after the Green Swamp section.
Huracan 300 Play by Play
After the first 25 miles of single track I knew I was screwed. Singletrack is way slower than regular gravel especially if it is sandy, rough, and technical. I made it to the first checkpoint just fine without having to stop at all for resupply at the few places it was available. I got in and out of the CP convenience store pretty quickly and remembered to take a selfie in front of the store as proof. Selfies are required to prove you did the course which is a little redundant since we had Spot Tracking but it is kind of fun to see everybody’s posts afterwards and maybe its a hold over from before the Spots were used.
CP1 at 80 miles to CP2 at 125 was just insane. Sandy gravel to double track to single track that went into the Croom Wildlife Managment Area and super twisty technical single track in a trail system that has lots and lots of criss-crossing trails. Navigation by purple gps line was super hard. Just riding that section was super hard, up and down super steep drops. I eventually got to easier single track, then a paved road to CP2.
At CP2 I learned my Spot wasn’t working. Damn! I tasked my son, Sam, to figure it out and he emailed Matthew Lee at Spot and Karlos the race director and it started working although I didn’t learn this until the next day.
The added stress of the Spot issue and the last section of insane single track had me a little worried and I was looking forward to the first water crossing in the Green Swamp. I took off with Austin from Austin, Texas. He’s a super strong rider on what I believe was a full suspension bike; at least front suspension for sure and he had 3 inch tires! He had to turn back for something. I can’t remember what he turned back for, but I continued forward knowing he would catch me soon enough.
I had reviewed this part of the course quite a bit. Some years a reroute is required as the creek crossing can be chest high depending on rain and such. When I reviewed it I thought it was your regular gravel road to the stream then continuing on the other side, easy-peasy. Wrong! Crazy sandy gravel, to double track then dive into the jungle for miles and miles. I did finally get to the crossing which was totally uneventful. I was able to step from rock to rock and wheel my bike along in the hub deep water. I didn’t get wet all.
I’ll get this report moving, I got to mile 169 about 6AM. I didn’t know if the next 15 miles was more sand, where I was having to walk, or single track, where I was having to walk over the feral hog trail destruction, or what the heck was ahead of me. So, I decided to ride off course and find a hotel. First 5 miles to one that was full then another 7 miles to one that gave me a room. I got to bed as the sun was up at 7:30 AM.
I was back on the road at 12:30PM with a slight dehydration headache. I rode to where I left the course and found that it was 15 miles of pavement and easy gravel to CP3. Then another 5 or 6 miles of easy pavement to within couple miles of the hotel I stayed at. That kind of sucked. I had added 27 miles to my course and cost me many hours. Oh well, it was done, and it was about 70 degrees, light wind, and clear skies. My headache was gone and all was right in the world.
So this was the hilly section. Like I said above, not that big of a deal. Then we were back on gravel and heading to Lake Apopka where, I’m told, it is “teeming” with alligators. The road down to the lake’s edge was nice gravel and fun downhill then the same gravel skirts the lake. It was dark and I was worried. So my speed didn’t really drop under 16 mph. I saw lots of weird poop on the gravel but didn’t see any alligators. I’m fine with that. About 15 or 20 miles and I was at CP4. Now it’s like 9:30 PM and the Super Bowl is on and I’ve got 100 miles to go. Time for a hotel. I back track 3 miles to a fleabag roach motel and see the last couple minutes of regulation and overtime then hit the sack. I got up about 8AM and was back at CP4 at 8:30 or thereabouts.
Day three of the adventure was pretty awesome. Foggy chilly morning of national forest single track then a river crossing about 3 feet deep in crystal clear water with fish and really cool swamp-jungle surroundings. I caught up to a couple guys from Atlanta and rode with them to CP5. Along the way we probably had 2 to 3 miles of the sugar sand where at night you can’t identify a way to pedal along the edge of it but during the day you can very carefully ride on the very edge in first or second gear. That takes a long time but it opened up to canopied gravel roads and finally CP5.
At CP5 we caught 4 other riders. With about 55 miles to go it was time to act like this is a race. I told James and Zach I’d be turning around quickly. I resupplied and pedaled off. Not knowing if any of the others would want to chase I went as hard as I could for a couple hours looking over my shoulder pretty consistently. Now in the Ocala National Forest it was smooth flow single track with minimal sand. Pretty nice. Then a bunch of foot paths that were okay but not as nice. Finally routed over regular gravel roads around a Navy bombing range that I found out later was active. A reroute by any roads available was authorized but I didn’t know that until the next day.
The effort after CP5 made my right Achilles hurt it feels better now but I’ll definitely have to remedy that issue prior to TD.
58 hours 39 minutes, if I’m doing the math right. Saturday 8AM to Monday 6:39PM.
That’s it, it was fun, great weather, excellent experience. I’ll definitely do it again. The goal would be two riding segments. Just past CP3 on day one, hotel, then ride it out.