Sufferfest in the Styx

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Team Haku at the Sufferfest in the Styx

Isaac Spangler, Team Haku / 27.06.2024See All Event Posts Follow Event
Isaac Spangler (rear) and Luis Becdach (front)
Isaac Spangler (rear) and Luis Becdach (front) / © Mark Schweder

Recently I had the opportunity to race Off the Grid Racing’s inaugural Sufferfest on the Styx 18hr adventure race with my teammate Luis Becdach as team Haku. This race held up to its name with plenty of suffering, but the payoff was one of the most epic paddles that I’ve ever done.

The night before the race we were able to camp at Kate’s fish Camp which was also where the race started and finished. This was super convenient as we were able to camp after the race as well and have a nice hot shower before crawling back in the tent and passing out.

The race started at 6:00 am with sign in and maps at 5:00 am. That hour went by way too fast and before I knew it, its time was to start the race. The race started off with a quick prolog with 2 CP’s.  We make quick work of the far one and head to grab the other on the way back the TA. Or so we thought… after about an hour of hunting we decide it must have been stolen or mismarked on the map, so we head to the TA to get a jump on the monster paddle we know we have coming up.

After a quick transition we were off on the paddle and making up ground on the few teams ahead of us. The paddle section consisted of a nice paddle down camp canal with 2 Orienteering sections and another CP just off the canal. We pulled into the first O-section grabbed all the CP’s with only a few bobbles but nothing major get back to the boat and we are on our way.  We grabbed the next CP and breezed through the next O-section.

Feeling pretty good we got back into the boat for the real fun, The River Styx. A river in the loosest of terms that is basically a swamp that until recently was thought unpassable. We were told the path through the swamp would be marked with flagging tape so we start picking our way though what looks like a flooded cypress farm following the flagging tape and make quick time of it. As we make our way following the pink tape it starts getting really thick, but we see the tape, so we keep going.

After “lifting” our canoe over all kinds of fun obstacles and paddling through 6-foot-tall weeds, we see another team, so that and the pink tape are reassuring we are heading in the right direction.

Then the pink tape ends and we find ourselves in an unpassable swamp. After trying every which way, pulling and pushing our way though anywhere we could fit our canoe, we decided to back track and at least we would know where we were. While back tracking we find that we missed some tape on a tree that lead down the correct path. So, after this almost 3 hour bonus paddle we were back on track. Then there was another couple of hours of picking our way through the swamp followed by some more tough paddling into a strong headwind to cross Orange Lake and we were at the TA. 

At the TA there was pizza and some watermelon that was a nice surprise and helped put that bonus paddle behind us. We left the TA shortly before dark ready to make up some ground. We started off ok, my nav was a bit shaky, but we were making our way through the course.  Later into the night the time crunch started to get to me, and I started making more navigation errors and eventually we had to abandon all the points and head to the finish. Unfortunately, I hadn’t kept a close enough eye on the clock and we ended up coming in about 10 minutes late.

All in all, this was a great race, and I would definitely race it again. Off the grid racing and the volunteers did a great job and I really enjoyed being able to camp before and after the race. 

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