Pumpkin Scramble V: Nightmare Before Christmas
December 1, 2007
12 Hour Rogaine Adventure Race
Santa Monica Mtns – Malibu, CA
This year’s Pumpkin Scramble was spectacular! The fabulous pictures here from competitors and volunteers say much more than words can.
The fact that the Pumpkin Scramble went off smoothly was quite a miracle and relief after so much drama leading up to the event. Mother Nature did her best to mess with the mighty pumpkin heads!
There were two Malibu fires that threatened the course, a rain storm the day before, high ocean winds on race day, and a high surf warning two days afterwards! Sheesh!
The first Malibu fire happened on the original October date of the Pumpkin Scramble, so it was postponed to December. Then just a week before the race, a second fire broke out and this one very close to the course. Fortunately, the fire departments were able to get this blaze under control within days. Volunteers and I had just enough time to get CP markers out on the course before event day.
Or at least we thought we had enough time, until the rains hit! As fate would have it, a big rain storm hit the day before the Scramble. We feared the course would be a muddy mess, and it didn’t look like the rain was going to stop any time soon. But it did! And the land was so dry before this rainstorm that all the water soaked in and made for perfect conditions—not too dusty and not too sticky.
On the day of the Scramble, everyone awoke to wonderful clear blue skies and cool temps. Athletes who checked the temperature gauges in their cars at the start, wished they hadn’t! It was a brisk 35 degrees at 5am…good incentive to get going as soon as possible! I was sure happy that I brought out my big furry, warm dog costume for the start…brrrr….ruff!
Not the most flattering costume!!
The fifth edition of the Pumpkin Scramble was a 12 hour Rogaine-style adventure race, where CP’s were awarded points according to their difficulty and team rankings were determined by a total point score, rather than the number of CP’s found.
Teams had to find 2 CP’s in each sport (mtn biking, trekking and paddling) to remain a ranked team. Some teams skipped the paddle and continued on unranked. Bonuses were awarded to teams who competed in costumes--7 of the 20 teams dressed up. Many who didn’t, wished they had when they saw how much costumes affected the overall results.
Callaway Golf has some terrific superhero costumes on. And their pics are hysterical b/c they tried to make it look like Superman was flying as much as possible!
Team Spongebob and Patrick had on these bright orange t-shirts, and it took me all day to figure out what they were dressed up as…Pumpkins, of course! Brilliant.
This year’s Pumpkin Scramble started at 6am at the remote Mishe Mokwa trailhead up on Yerba Buena Road. Apparently this wasn’t remote enough for an underground event b/c no sooner did I send off the racers, then a ranger pulled into the parking lot asking about a race. Fortunately, this ranger was cool and didn’t seem to mind…and there isn’t much they can say since I drill every competitor and volunteer to say this is just a ‘birthday party’ or ‘scavenger hunt’! Plus the costumes tend to lessen the amount of flak we get—it’s hard to get mad at people in fur antlers and superhero lycra!
60 athletes on 20 teams competed in this year’s Pumpkin Scramble. All seemed to have a lot of fun on the course, and challenged themselves getting to unknown landmarks. Many teams mentioned the sunrise over Balance Rock as the highlight of their day.
Most teams went directly from the startline trek/bike loop on Sandstone and TriPeaks down to the ocean for their paddle leg. Competitors could enter the water at Leo Carillo Beach or El Pescador and paddle South to as far as Lechuga Point before exiting the water. High winds on the water that day forced us to shorten the planned 10 mile paddle for safety. Most of the novice teams were happy about this, but the more experienced paddlers could handle the water conditions and some convinced the water safety volunteers to let them paddle a little longer.
Another challenge on the water was the crazy amount of kelp that was on the surface along the shoreline here. You’ll see it in every picture and it slowed progress some.
Team Mermaids and Mermen were made up of some of my friends from paddleboarding. From the looks of their smiling pics, they had a great time at their first AR and I hope they’ll be back for more!
Sea Donkeys was the only team that looked at the wind on the water in the morning and gambled that it would die down later in the day (which would be unusual). Instead, they headed to Point Mugu for some biking CP’s. Their gamble paid off when they reached the water at 2:30pm, just minutes after the wind died down and surf lessened. Unlike earlier teams, they had no trouble in the surf zone and breezed thru a relatively calm paddle.
1st place team, Sea Donkeys had the time to take this excellent picture of a bird (one of many on their camera) which they came across on the course. Due to the fires, there are a lot more animals in these parks, so teams came across deer, birds, coyotes and all sorts of critters.
After the kayak leg, most teams then headed to Point Mugu State Park where there were many bike and trek points to be found.
One of the funniest CP’s turned out to be in the midst of a boy scout campground (which wasn’t there when we set the point). The boy scouts took to either hiding or pointing out the CP marker at whim. Here you can see them laughing in a couple team photos of the marker. Some teams passed right by it, not wanting to disturb the boy scouts, only to return after checking every other campground to no avail!
You’ll notice the pics at the Pumpkin Scramble are a bit funny with fingers and toes in them…that’s b/c teams are instructed to prove all team members got to a certain CP marker and also show bikes/kayaks in the shots as well. This can prove quite a challenge for the person taking the shot! Many times someone’s head obliterates the CP marker completely! And it was funny to see how many teams took pictures of a number of random pipes until they got to the intended ‘pipe in wash’ that had the CP marker hanging from it.
Team Jokener lost their babysitter at the last minute, but no problem for Jody and Kristen! They just strapped on the yellow bike trailer, put their 2 toddlers inside and off they went! Looks like the kids were having a great time…and the parents too!
Strategy plays a key role in a rogaine style adventure race. On this course, the CP’s were all fairly far from parking areas, so we opened up the car rally element to include any legal parking space—since it didn’t make all that much difference where teams accessed the trails from. This really spread teams out as they had more choices from which to start biking or trekking. The Brown Clouds drove all the way to the Valley side of the Santa Monica Mtns in order to avoid a long bike climb, and this added to their speed in reaching several more CP’s.
In the last hour of the race, teams are allowed to take the CP markers with them to the finish line for bonus points. Because the CP’s were so far from access points, only 3 markers were returned to the finish (bummer--more for volunteers and I to pick up afterwards!). Teams had to race hard to get from these points to the finish before the 6pm cutoff.
Pretty much the only G rated photo of Team Glacier we have to post. Good creativity on the picture taking guys!
Yes, there is a CP somewhere in there!
The race finished at Leo Carillo’s North Beach with a fun pizza party. The rogaine format is a great way to get all the teams to the finish line at the same time, so they can chat about their experiences. And we had a fun time looking thru the teams goofy photos, many of which are in this report.
1st Place was a tie between two experienced SoCal teams: Sea Donkeys (4 Male-Danny Trudeau, Lee Szromba, Cory Zelmer and Tim Hall) and Avia (4 Coed-Mike Gabor, Beth Dressel, Corry Fitzgibbons and Brian McCarthy). We had an error in calculating results at the finish line and announced Avia erroneously as 4th Place, but all got fixed the next morning after a bit of sleep and some restored brain power! Each of these teams found 19 CP markers.
Team Avia, sorry it's so dark!
Team Sea Donkeys
2nd Place was won by Team Picachu, I Choose You (4 Coed-Shirley Lam, Yannick Chaigneau, Jason Richter and Johnston Julao), who’s savvy choice to wear reindeer costumes put them over the edge in points, and were a mere 5 points behind 1st Place. This young team were quick, confident and always laughing—watch for them to make their mark at other races in the future!
3rd Place went to the 2 person coed team of No Cartilage, No Problem! (Jennie and Charlie Steele), a husband and wife team just getting back to competition after Charlie’s knee surgery. They said local knowledge helped them as they take their dog for walks often in the area of the start.
The top four teams were given some Christmas costumes so they have no excuse not to come to next year’s event all decked out! Also NUUN was kind enough to give product to each of the winning teams—thank you Nuun for your support!
Sorry I cut off two people on Team Avia!
The most important part of the Pumpkin Scramble is that everyone had a good time! And you can tell that by all the smiles in these beautiful photos!
I had a humorous encounter when I went to pick up the CP markers the day after the Pumpkin Scramble. I had seen a fire-ring in the wilderness while putting out the CP’s, but I didn’t want to report it until after the event for fear the fire department would find our pumpkins and cause the race to be canceled. So when I ran into some firemen while driving to the trailhead, I mentioned the fire-ring to them then. Of course they wanted me to show them where it was, so there were several of them poking around in the area of CP marker T5. I had to back up and slip the pumpkin into my pack without looking suspicious—for fear they’d think it was some incendiary device. I had to laugh to myself that yes, I was a suspicious character, but just not for the reason they feared!
I’d really like to THANK the AMAZING volunteers who helped me put on this year’s Pumpkin Scramble!!!! I could not have done it without all your help. Cyril, Sylvie, Darryl, Bill, Christian, Evan, Clara, Kirk, Carmen, Doug, Chris…I can’t thank you enough for all your hard work!! And it’s a testament to your dedication and skills that the racers are emailing me to rave about the help you gave them on the kayak and at the finish line. Sometimes you get volunteers who just go thru the motions—not this crew! You all handled the challenges put in front of you with aplumb…so again, Thank You! What are you doing next year?! Haha!
The next Scramble will be something different! Have you ever wanted to travel the entire length of the Backbone Trail in one shot, but were put off by the complicated logistics? The Backbone Scramble can solve this! The Backbone Scramble will be held on the weekend of May 30-June 1st. The event will be 2-3 day stage event along the whole 65 miles of the Backbone Trail with a bonus third day for expert paddlers to paddle the return. Each day, athletes will travel 30 to 35 miles as fast as they can. Each night will feature a group dinner and camping, so competitors can get to know each other. Teams, Solos (in either run-only or bike/run categories) and Relay teams may compete. I can connect bike/run relay teams with top local paddlers, if you don’t know an expert paddler and want to do the full 3 day event. There is very little navigation in the Backbone Scramble, so I expect fast athletes from the triathlon, ultrarunning and biking communities to join in this challenge…it should be exciting. And you don’t need to be fast—just able to go the distance! It’s a very unique experience and there is very limited space, so it should fill up fast. Please email me for an entry form ASAP.
Teams, ranked in order:
Tie, 1st Place, Sea Donkeys and Avia
2nd, Picachu, I choose You
3rd, No Cartilage, No Problem!
The Brown Clouds
Mermaids and Mermen
Spongebob & Patrick
Wingding (did not turn in CP results)
I look forward to seeing everyone next year for another fun underground Pumpkin Scramble!
PS If any participants are missing a camera case or grey Turtlefur headband, they were left at the finish...email me your address and I will mail them to you.