Thanks for indulging my literary pretensions with this
year’s race reports. After an international start (a 5-day winter race in
Tahoe Big Blue
Having barely missed (by 7 minutes) the overall victory at one of the other races in this series, we were confident of a strong finish. Too confident. So much so, that Jon, Lynn, Jonathan and I figured we could easily overcome three “pre-existing conditions” (as the HMOs like to call them): two swollen ankles and one cranky back (one cranky personality, too, but they’re used to me by now).
The race started with in typically chaotic fashion, with
200+ over-amped racers swarming through drowsy
neighborhoods and across highways on a 2-mile run to the beach. There, we
grabbed our kayaks (after the previous race’s equipment snafu, Jon had procured
two reasonably fast tandem boats) and paddled after to the 5-10 boats already
on the beautiful waters of
Compounding the error, we tried a “shortcut” on the run back to the start/finish area, only to find ourselves clambering over the chain link fences in right field of the local baseball park.
On to the bike for a climb up to Northstar
ski area. Here, we ditched the bikes and headed out to grab eight orienteering checkpoints
on foot. As we jogged away from the first,
Back on the bikes, it was time for Ken’s back (which he
whined about all through the paddle) to reassert its complaints. Perhaps this
distraction led our fearless navigator (uhh, me) to
interpret the rules too strictly, taking the team on a long, looping detour
around the backside of Northstar’s
There was a downhill mountain bike race at Northstar that day as well, and the course took us right across the race’s finish line (well, I took US on that route—others may have found a less interesting but more direct route). We arrived at a lull in the action, and the announcer asked us over the PA what we would like. “Beer!” Jon replied. And beer we got, as Jon gratefully took a long pull on a proffered stout.
It was time to climb over the saddle and scream back down to the finish, but it was too late to claim a spot on the podium…or in the money. Humbled, we crossed the line seventh, and slunk off with tails tucked firmly between our legs.
Shooting Star Series
This new series of three races offered scenic venues, a fun format, prize money and cheesecake at the finish. Who could resist?
Due to some complexity in the race divisions, and the fact that we could not locate a female teammate for the first race, Jonathan and I teamed up, while Jon joined another friend to form a rival two-person team.
The series offered two twists. First, teams could chose what order to do the various segments (orienteering/trekking, mountain biking, and paddling), which prevented teams from knowing who was leading the race or where competitors might be at any given time. Second, teams would compete in open divisions based on the number of teammates (one, two, or three)—but (big “but”), if a coed team finished first in any division, that team would claim all of that division’s prize money (the second- and third-place teams would go home with some nice schwag but no $).
Rather than a blow-by-blow, some vignettes follow.
· Blazing through the first part of the trek, and skimming through the kayking section (which literally included the kitchen sink among the many fascinating items littering the shoreline exposed by the receding waters) in what turned out to be the fastest time of the day.
· Being lulled by the ease of locating the first few checkpoints, and then floundering for at least 20 minutes trying to find the next, more obscurely placed, one. Noticing, but not really taking into account, discrepancies between the two maps we had been given for navigation.
· Clambering through poison oak and underbrush for the better part of an hour in search of another elusive checkpoint. Seeing other teams appear in the woods, then on the dirt road below, then again on the road headed the other direction. Jonathan realizing how and why the two maps differed, and where we could find the elusive checkpoint. Heading up a hill on a road that turned to trail and then to nothing, and Rick from Silly Rabbits suddenly crashing out of the bushes and running off. A few minutes later, seeing two good teams, Epinephrine/SOLE and Sunsweet, heading our way and realizing that Jonathan had solved the puzzle.
· Jonathan revoking my map privileges after I missed an obvious turnoff.
· Deciding to run (no hiking) the entire final section, and passing another two-person team just before the crest of the ridge we had to climb over. Speeding up as we ran past—to convince them not to try and catch up—a move Jonathan called the “$300 acceleration” because it moved us up the prize money standings.
· Spotting Jon’s two-person team as we ran down the last quarter mile of trail to the finish. Jonathan calling out: “Hey, it’s Jon’s team” and me cleverly retorting: “No #@&$ing way.” Losing the sprint finish by a hair, but claiming the division because Jon’s team had skipped one checkpoint. Being shocked by our second place overall finish, despite hours spent wandering aimlessly.
· Reminding ourselves that there’s a reason the official mantra of adventure racing is: “Never give up and keep moving ahead.”
· Silly Rabbits starting the race in high school marching band uniforms (it was Halloween). Seeing Rick from the Rabbits part way into the race without his band pants and wearing what looked suspiciously like white spandex underwear. Laughing at his explanation: “Some big kids caught me and stole my pants!” Not wanting to think about what he would look like after the kayaking leg.
· Scouting the race location the weekend before and riding approximately 90 percent of the course. Realizing this knowledge was both a blessing (we had the fastest bike leg of the race) and a bit of a curse (several teams shamelessly followed us around and poached off our navigation).
· Running around on the exposed floor of a reservoir (the water level was down about 40 feet).
· Kayaking out toward a checkpoint. Seeing what appears to be a white object floating near where we expected the checkpoint. Seeing three kayaks pass within ten feet of the object and then paddle off. Bypass the object to look for the checkpoint elsewhere. Dickering over the map for 10 minutes. Paddling back to the object and realizing it is the checkpoint, capsized. Wondering where those other kayaks ended up.
· Finishing second in our division, fifth overall, but getting no prize money because the team in front of us is coed.
Race 3—Del Valle
· Scouting the area the week before and running into the race directors. Trying very hard not to follow them around, but noticing that there are some fairly obvious places the course will likely take us.
· Sleuthing out some clever shortcuts in the early morning hours before the start of the race, only to learn that they will all be out of bounds.
· Watching Jen pitch (without injury, except to her pride) over the handlebars.
· Posing for a picture at the “photo checkpoint.”
· Correctly guessing a route between two checkpoints, avoiding a steep-sided canyon.
· Seeing mountain lion tracks in the mud of a little canyon.
· Finishing just two minutes behind the overall winners (Silly Rabbits again).
· Taking home more in total prize money than we spent on entry fees (but not expenses).
· Eating more pumpkin cheesecake.
· The bittersweet realization that the season is over.