I think most people have already heard that the hardest part about this race was the heat. Here's a description of the course for those who didn't race.
We raced as a 2 person coed team, our first race as husband and wife. By the end of the race I think my wife was ready for a divorce, luckily she was too tired to follow through with it.
Race started at 6:30 am with a 10 mile paddle from Gaviota to Refugio Beach. Paddle was pretty straight forward, 1 easy to find CP and and easy to find TA. This was our first race using a sit inside kayak, so it was nice having only small waves for surf entry and exits. 10 miles was pretty short for a 24 hour race, and went even quicker with a good boat that was comfortable. We finished the paddle in less than 3 hours, about the middle of the pack as opposed to end of the pack in most previous races.
First transition was to bike. This was a 35 mile ride up Refugio road, east along the ridge on W. Camino Cielo, across highway 154, continue along E. Camino Cielo, then down a single track to the race headquarters at Sage Hill campgrounds. This section could pretty much have been done without a map. Race organizers had decided to provide a water drop at the top of the ridge at first CP. Initially I thought that sucked since I believe we should be self sufficient. However 14 miles and several hours later of continuous climbing on paved roads, I had gone through all my water and was happy to fill up. Finally a downhill sections, half firetrail / half paved road, then more uphill on paved road to the next transition. The single track was easy to find since it was right next to the CP. Finally a fun bike section, a downhill single track, and some payback for the people riding semi-slicks.
Sage Hill campgrounds had a drop box for us to fill up at. We were still mid pack, but at this point it was so hot we didn't care. Volunteers told us it had been 106 at noon, we were there around 4pm. At this point we were hardly racing, our goal was just to finish the race. We continued on the next 20 mile bike sections. Another 5 miles on paved road past some watering holes where tons of people were swimming and having fun. We decided to take at 10 minute break to swim and cool down, it might have been the best part of the race, and I think that was the only reason we managed to continue. Back on the bikes, then finally a route selection. A slighly longer trail along the creek bed with no elevation gain, or a 400' climb but shorter route. This seemed like a no brainer, no more climbing. Unfortunately, this 1-2 mile section ended up being a hike a bike through a creek bed of boulders and sand. Map had is marked as a 4wd trail, I don't think so! Talked to others that went over the peak, said it ended up being so much climbing in the heat that it was also mostly hike a bike, but I still think it would have been faster. Trail finally opened up to more fireroad, then another 8 mile uphill to the ridge again. Fire road was easy to find, look for the water tower then turn right. Road started off with too much gravel to bike, but finally firmed up and became rideable. Finally got to the top of the ridge and the next TA at 9pm.
At the trek TA, we saw the 1st place solo biking by. We were told only a few teams had finished the trek, and many had dropped out because of heat. The TA was pretty busy, with several teams taking care of hurting teammates and contemplating dropping out. With the sun down and temperatures much cooler, we regained some energy for the 11 mile trek. The trails for the trek were very hard to find on the maps, but there was a route that took you through a big loop. We weren't sure how hard these trails would be to find at night. Trek started with a fun downhill section towards town and first CP. It was supposed to be on a peak, but we found it at a trail intersection. Apparently the volunteers had thought it was too hot on the peak, so race management had moved it down to the trail. Then continued with some up and down traversing to the next checkpoint on Gibraltar road. Leaving, once again the trailhead was right at the CP, so easy to find. Continued with some more up and down traversing. At one section the trail was completely washed out and you had to scramble down the washout holding on to a rope that looked like a bunch of shoelaces tied together. The navigation got a little tricky at a trail merging in a canyon with streams running through it, but not too tuff. Now the hard part started, back uphill to the ridge. Last treking CP was towards the top on a peak. There was no marked trail to it, so I just assumed it would be along the northern ridge was was least steap. When we got near it, I saw a small rutted out section of hill, assumed it might lead to the trail, and next thing you know we were on the way to the top. During this trek section we had been leap froging with 2 other teams. They were faster, but twice had gotten lost and came up behind and past us. As we neared the top of the peak, we look behind us an see a light on another peak. Instantly we feared that we made a mistake and climbed the wrong peak. Since we were almost at the top we pushed on and found the CP. The light on the other peak turned out to be 1 of the other 2 teams. On the way back down we passed both the other teams and were asked for directions. A short climb more brought us to the TA at about 4am.
The last bike was 17 miles. Most of it was along the E. Camino Cielo ridge going West on paved road, then a fireroad down to the finish. On the maps the ridge looked pretty flat. As tired as we were and as sore as our asses were from the first 12 hours of biking, it sure didn't feel flat when we rode it. The CP was easy to find along the road, and once again right at the trailhead. The last fire road down would have been fun, but our shoulders were so tired from carring our packs with all that water that it was just painfull. At the bottom of the trail it ran right into the river, so we had to ride out through the camper park. With one last push of energy we made it to the finish is just under 24 hours.
Overall we were dissappointed in the course. The heat was a major factor and I'm glad race management decided to provide water drops along the way otherwise I don't think anyone would have finished. I did hear that this year's rains had damaged many trails and that the original course was altered to this. In my opinion adventure races should be navigationally challenging, and be as much off pavement as possible. This race had way too much bike riding, especially since most of it was on paved roads. There was not enough trekking, what was there was actually the funner section of the race. The navigation was simple and almost non existent, and there wasn't any route selection or decision making to be made, and CPs were placed at trailheads which made them easy to find. We've done several other Big Blue events and as always the event was well planned and all the staff and volunteers were very friendly. We're hoping to race Tahoe 24 and hope the course is better than this one.