Adventure racing—where teams travel together, navigating by
map and compass, over hill and dale—is a fringe sport.
Our own Dorothy Parker, Gordon, christened us "Crissy Field is Our Porn Name," in the hopes of winning the best team name competition (our best chance for a podium spot of some kind). Gordon was the kid who wrote "Dick Hertz" on the attendance sheet, hoping the substitute teacher would read it aloud. I am the adult who was grateful we were given race bibs with numbers, not names.
As the name implied, the race started and finished at Crissy Field, the former airstrip where Amelia Earhardt launched her great, doomed adventure. Ours began amidst early morning dogwalkers, as 55 teams of three waddled kayaks down the beach and into the foggy, windy Bay, making for a buoy about four miles away, on the far side of Alcatraz Island.
We set a course along the city's waterfront, where an
Old Salt suggested we might find a favorable current. Just as we passed
Admittedly, foreshortening and the difficulty of scaling the kayakers against such a massive object made it a bit difficult to judge just how close they were. But it looked pretty serious, with the safety boat frantically mother-ducking (OK, I wrote "I.P. Freeley" on the attendance list, too) her charges to safety.
Gordon spun us 90 degrees hard a-port, to a bearing directly across the shipping lane—and the path of the freighter—hollering: "We can make it if we sprint!"
Austin and I had three choices:
1. Bail out and swim for shore.
2. Paddle backwards and hope to offset Gordon's forward momentum.
3. Paddle like mad.
The rest of our $200/person, self-guided tour of Alcatraz,
the Jeremiah O'Brien, and
Remarkably, we were the third team to return to the beach, a
position we promptly surrendered during an Ensure-soaked transition to mountain
biking (it’s not only Masters racers who drink nutritional supplements during
races that can last six hours…or six days). We eventually saddled up and headed
Teamwork is key in adventure racing, and I didn’t question Gordon's route choice directly. But I distinctly recall asking him whether it would be easier to reach our destination by taking the tunnel through the first hill, instead of the 700-foot climb over the top. The answer, for those of you playing along at home, is yes.
To relieve the suffering,
That Sheryl. First he drops us on the climb, then he name-drops us.
Humbled, I rummaged through my celebrity
attic over the next 25 miles of interminable climbing and too-brief descending.
The best I could come up with was having passed through a town in the
Midway through the bike, we enjoyed a nice Schadenfreude moment, encountering two teams heading back *up* a steep, 800-foot climb they had just descended. Oh, yeah! They hadn't paid attention to the explicit pre-race directions: read carefully, then read carefully again before you move. At our age...ah, it's too easy. No more "old" jokes.
Once back at Crissy Field, we pulled on our running shoes. Our final task: find a couple of checkpoints scattered around The Presidio, where Gordon runs on his lunch break. Piece o' cake!
Except...I mistakenly led us down toward
It was maybe 60 degrees, foggy, with winds suited
for kiteboarding, and this dude’s sprawled right next to the sand ladder.
Gordon was chatting away and waving us down. Austin and I exchanged glances.
It's an adventure. It's
He did. We found the checkpoint, and then took Gordon's clever shortcuts back to the finish line. To our astonishment, we finished fourth overall, and first Masters team, in just over seven hours.
And the race director said our team name over the PA system.