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Steadley and team steadily trek across Florida peninsula

Scott Steadley (right), a retired Navy captain from Hendersonville, hikes with teammates, from left, Mike Rogers, Chris McKee and Chris Greenwood during the 72 hour Sea to Sea Expedition Race across Florida. Scott Steadley (right), a retired Navy captain from Hendersonville, hikes with teammates, from left, Mike Rogers, Chris McKee and Chris Greenwood during the 72 hour Sea to Sea Expedition Race across Florida.

Can you handle Florida’s toughest race?

That’s the headline teaser on the website promoting the 72 hour Sea to Sea Expedition Race across Florida. Fifty-nine year old Hendersonville resident Scott Steadley took the bait. He anted up a cool thousand bucks and signed up for the grueling race — 300 miles of trekking (in hiking boots), canoeing and biking across the Florida peninsula. The race is maybe first cousin to an Ironman triathlon except Sea to Sea doesn’t mark the course; organizers just give teams a map and say you’re on your own.

“I got talked into competing by my cousin Chris McKee in Virginia,” said Steadley a retired Navy captain who was more curious than overwhelmed by the challenge. “I had gone to Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School when I was in the Navy and I competed in some other races including a half marathon.”
“Last August I began training,” said Steadley, a Hendersonville resident who then weighed 270 pounds. “My wife Julie put me on a Keto diet and I lost 50 pounds.” Steadley’s race prep included hiking in local parks, kayaking on Lake Osceola and biking the Oklawaha Greenway. “After I did a 100-mile trial bike ride I knew I might be in shape for the race,” he said. “My blood pressure dropped like a brick.”


Tampa to St. Augustine

 

The Sea to Sea race is broken into 10 alternating segments — four biking, four trekking and two canoeing. “We got bused to a remote beach north of Tampa. We knew the general west-to-east cross-Florida route but no specific locations. They fed us information in stages and gave us maps and we had to hit the checkpoints and make it to St. Augustine on the Atlantic Ocean in 72 hours.” Team members toted most of the gear such as backpacks, paddles and life preservers; race organizers provided food and snacks to the 70 teams that competed.
The Sea to Sea race is open to both men and women and Steadley was part of a four-man team. “Our greatest disadvantage was that we had never competed together, a factor that improves race times for seasoned teams,” he said. “The fact that our team was able to come together from distributed geography — Denver, Virginia Beach, Orlando and Hendersonville — without a lick of team training, and not only compete but qualify as finishers was pretty remarkable.”
Steadley credits his cousin for leading the charge and trusting that they could do it.
“We had to prepare for temperatures between 30 and 80 degrees,” he said. “They gave us a GPS tracker. We didn’t always know where we were but our friends could track us on the race’s website.”
To finish in three days left little time for shuteye and Steadley said he may have caught a total of two hours of sleep. But staying awake provided another benefit. “It was about 9:30 p.m. on day two and we were dead tired paddling our two canoes on a river snagged with fallen trees,” he said. The team was about to doze off. “I remember passing close to a pair of big orange eyes —alligator eyes.” They paddled on.
Teamwork was a recurring point in my interview where each man offered a unique skill such as planner, navigator, checkpoint finder or morale booster.
“Our goal was to qualify as a finisher,” Steadley said. “This was our first event and we didn’t expect to win any prizes. Not all the teams made it and we just barely did.”