Big Blue Adventure Race – Ocean Blue
August 20, 2005
Team CyclePath: Karl and Cynthia Royer
OK Gordon, you have inspired us to add our two cents worth after all. Here goes…
Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip that started from this tropic port aboard this tiny ship. The mate was a mighty (Karl, STOP!) huh? what?…uh um sorry…every time I go to Pillar Point near the world famous Maverick's surf break that song just pops into my head. Be that as it may…
We set our alarm for 5:15 since the transition areas opened at 6:00 AM. Being this is a “local” race for us we could spend the night at home…(love that). We come from the much lauded ~grin~ Hayward area – home to California State University - Hayward…err Eastbay (not real crazy with the name change). A breakfast of oatmeal and Starbucks greeted our day. We drove the 40 minutes to Pillar Point (near the coast side town of Half Moon Bay) for the next in the Big Blue Adventure Race Series; the much anticipated 6-12 hour Ocean Blue Adventure Race.
We dropped off our Futura Surf Ski www.surfskis.com
, PFD and paddles about a quarter mile from the bicycle transition/finish line area. Next, the bikes, bins and foodstuffs were dropped off on the side of the road…those bins are heavy!! Parked the Kia, and moved all our stuff (amazing how much “stuff” is needed for a race) to the bike TA, which was already pretty full of racers, bikes, bins and gear. There were nearly 50 teams competing in the 6-12 hour (and 50+ in the sprint race). The energy was electric and a bit intimidating. A quick look around and it was literally a who’s who in California adventure racing. There were our friends from Thin Air, Breakouts, Team Injinji,Tahoe AR/LTSC, Shooting Star and Bad Hair Day as well as Revo, the Rabbits, both silly and sillier, Subaru, Wellsport, Dirty Avocados, and Trifecta. In addition, our training buddies and friends from Team Lucky were racing and volunteering as well. It was quite the gathering.
Cyn made herself busy by setting everything up…just so…while I did the once over on the bikes. With time to spare, we made our way over to the starting line and anxiously waited for the maps to be handed out. Ahhhh the announcement, “team captains come and pick up your maps, passports and guidebooks”. Yes…here we go! Todd conducted the pre-race meeting and answered some questions. It ended around 7:40. We dashed on over to the TA and begin looking over our map to contemplate our plan of attack. Twenty minutes isn’t a whole lot of time for strategizing…but we could see we were going to start with a run...a bit further than anticipated…like a mile and a half further. Wait a minute…we look at each other and almost simultaneously realize…the wetsuits! Uh…do we want to run that distance in full wetsuits? Time began moving at warp speed a decision had to be made…so it was decided that I would run down and drop our wetsuits off at the kayaks approximately ¼ mile away. You notice I said, “run” down not “bike” down. I took off in a full run as if the race had begun. The race was to start at 8:00; it was 7:45 now, no problem.
So Karl’s off to drop off the wetsuits…and within minutes, Todd announces that we are going to leave at 7:50 and walk down to the starting line.
Ohhhhhh ****. Panic sets in. I admit I am a slightly anxious person (OK a fairly anxious person). Adventure racing challenges me in many ways. One is change…I don’t do well with change. My brain goes into overdrive…can Karl make it back in time…where are we walking to…what if he doesn’t get back in time, should I stay or should I go now? (hey the Clash…sorry, I digress). Todd makes another announcement, get all your stuff and get ready to leave. I look to see if Karl is coming. Nope, not there…what to do? Then Todd says something about the start will be a bit past the Kayak TA. Thank God I think as a wave of relief fills my body…we will be going in the general direction my husband went…we should see him on the way. Next thing you know there’s Karl jogging up the street. It’s all good. I make a mental note…girl you worry way too much, stop it!
I return just as the teams begin the walk to the starting line (coincidentally right by the Kayak TA) about a half-mile away to a beach/boardwalk area. Ready, set, go! The race starts with a short 2-mile run to string out the pack. It took teams down the boardwalk, onto the beach, around a volunteer (that has got to be a weird feeling) and then to the kayak staging area. Running is not our strong suit by any stretch of the imagination, but we have been training hard to increase our strength and endurance in this discipline. For the first time we were able to keep up with the Jones and hit the kayak TA in the top part of the bottom third of the pack. Yeah…we are elated with this.
This 6-12 hour race is unique in the fact that the kayak leg takes place in the Pacific Ocean. We slipped into our wetsuits (yanked and pulled is more like it) allowing me opportunity to admire my wife’s body for the quadrillionth time (I'm blushing now...
). It is usually very cold water up here in these parts. We were grateful that, for whatever reason, on this day it wasn’t too bad. We began the approximately 8 mile kayak with a harbor start, which is a good warm up prior to the ocean swells. Our surf ski is long, skinny, and fast! We take off and in no time we kayaked across the harbor and were able to pass 3 teams using the long steady strokes we have been practicing. We did an uneventful kayak portaged over the breakwater wall and were greeted by a bed of 6-inch deep seaweed on the open ocean shoreline. We entered the surf (well not really a surf entry which was A-OK with us) and made our way to the first buoy.
We have had this surf ski for a little over 2 months. It definitely has a learning curve. It has taken us awhile to learn the vessel and the correct posture/paddle stokes for optimum performance. We definitely don’t do it justice. That being said, by next year we’re hopping to be far more proficient with it. As it is now, we are still tentative in swells bigger than say…a speed bump; though we have gotten pretty darn fast on flat water. The ocean was relatively calm for about 100 yards then came the swells. This was reminiscent of Santa Barbra, the waves hitting our starboard side (sideways waves being the most challenging) although we were able to stay upright this time (yeah…improvement). Noting the buoy’s number in our head, we made a turn downwind and began riding the waves. Now we are were having some fun! It also allowed us to relax and utilize some deep paddle strokes, which helped us move up the food chain quickly. We made a mental note of the second buoy’s number and blazed over to buoy number three. Just when things are going good…this buoy presented a bigger challenge. Couldn’t tell if it was a letter or number (eyesight is the first thing to go). It was bobbing back and forth, left and right…taunting us really. Ahhh…there we go, it’s definitely an “S”. “Nope”, Cyn said. She thought it was more that just an “S”. She being visually challenged, I felt we were wasting time paddling closer into the buoy while the progress we had made was slowly passing us by. She shouts something and we turn for the next buoy and then it happens. A swell hits us in just the right way and…over we go into the vast ocean. We scurry back on; both of us cussing like sailors (he was, not me, I am much to prim and proper). We dug in, determined not to repeat Santa Barbra (tipped over at least 10 times). We paddled to the remaining CP’s and despite the one fall we were able to paddle our way into the top half of the pack by the time we returned to the kayak TA. We transferred the buoy CP numbers/letters onto the passport and Cyn runs up to the PC personnel. She returns shortly saying it was not right. Then a light goes off in her head, she scribbles something down dashes back to the PC volunteer. She comes back victorious. The “S” buoy turned out to be the “IS” buoy. Sometimes I really dislike it when the perfectionist in her comes out, but not this time, this time it worked to our advantage. We changed out of our wetsuits as quickly as we could and into running gear prior to sprinting back to the bicycle TA. In hindsight, we should have stayed in our wetsuits and ran to the bicycle TA, which was only a quarter mile away. Experience does have its advantages.
We come into the TA and do a quick transition and we were on our bikes heading south and feeling REALLY good about the kayak section. There was a short single track that Cyn was leading. She went around a 150 degree corner too fast and was not able to stay on route to cross a short bridge, she gunned it, trying to blow through the thick plant life in the creek, instead she sunk up to her wheel axle and said hello to the edge of the bridge with her head.
I hopped off my bike to assist only to see her jumping up, grabbing her bike and taking off, covered in mud. This is going to be an interesting day. I again followed trying to keep up.
A short ride through a residential area had us looking for the correct street to find the appropriate culvert for the Highway 1 under crossing. Cyn read the road signs (novel concept) and before we knew it we were riding parallel to a creek bed. Down a small trail through the culvert, up the other side to another street, a quick dash and we were at the next TA (bike/run). There were four PCs on T-stakes during this leg that could be acquired in any order by bicycle. We decided to go after the lowest one first (7A), which was off on its own separate trail. We backtracked a short distance after acquiring 7A prior to starting a hike-a-bike up a steep trail. This trail was the most direct route to the furthest PC (7C). On the return trip (mostly downhill) we found the appropriate trail and picked up the final two PCs (7D & 7B). A “Rut”weiler bit Cyn about half way down this trail. Her front tire got stuck in the rut and weiler I was leading I suddenly hear her cry out as she is falling (sorry, I know that was bad). Her left elbow, which has been scarred all season from many falls, donated a bit more flesh for the team. It was pretty nasty and blood began dripping down her arm and again (this is becoming routine) I asked if she was all right. She responded, “it’s only pain”, as she hoped back on her bike and took off.
Mud and now blood, I love that look on a woman! A good day indeed and what a teammate! To our utter delight and amazement the race volunteers told us we gained a total of six spots during this leg…oh happy times!
I had carried Cyn’s running shoes to this bike drop for the next portion of the race, which entailed a short trek (trek indeed, this was a run!). My bike shoes are ok for trekking if the trek is less than 3 miles. The map showed the trek to be about 1.5, so off we go, Cyn in her running shoes, me in my bike shoes. Back under the culvert to the ocean beach and found the CP right where it was suppose to be (the large Salomon flag with a volunteer standing by it was kind of a dead giveaway) Cyn is lagging a bit behind at this point as I approach the volunteer and it is at this time he hits me with a curve of sorts (uh oh). We are required to run an additional mile down the sandy beach to the next flag before running back to the bike drop. I look over at Cyn and tell her the news. “Oh good, I was hoping we would get to run down the beach,” she said somewhat sarcastically (running is not my forte; although I try and convince myself that it is). Somewhere along this section I realize I should have taken my bike shoes off while running on the beach. I saw brighter teams running barefoot. My teammate had said it is “only pain” after the rutweiler so how could I whine? I did anyway, “my poor feet”…WHINE! On our way back from the furthest most flag we are passed by a lot of teams. Running is definitely not our strong suit. Once we completed the one-mile detour on the beach we were able to pick up PC 8 and make our way back under the culvert and then to the bike drop. We ended up running about 90% of this leg…hey; we are getting stronger, not to mention the motivating factor associated with teams breathing down your back! Makes the competitive juices flow…AR kryptonite! We jumped on our bikes, and rode them back through the culvert for the final time then along the boardwalk and back to the bike TA (PC 9). A quick change of water, slip into running shoes, grab a tow-rope and off we go after PC 10.
We ran a mile out along a bluff looking for the PC on the beach. We could see the PC volunteers from atop the bluff. There was not much of a trail heading down. We tried bushwhacking down a rather steep bluff that caused Cyn to kind of…well…freak out (yep, I know my limitations and I am fond of living…) so we went to plan B. We traveled further north to the far side of the cove and came across a garter snake slithering across the trail trying like hell to get away in the process. Finally found a game trail leading most of the way down; bushwhacked a bit more, then slid/fell the remainder of the way onto the beach. Found the PC, met back up with my slightly lagging teammate and proceeded to run back to the TA. That was interesting. Todd later told us there was a trail that led to the beach. That would have been so much easier. As I said before, experience has its advantages.
We began the final bike leg starting with a relatively easy four-mile jaunt along highway 1 to Montara State Beach where the beginning of the hill climbs would take place. There were two PCs that could be acquired in any order. We determined the longer, less steep route up would work better for us. We picked up PC 12 with minimal problem, prior to PC 11. The route had switchbacks and was partially paved, making for a pretty easy climb to PC 12. The route became steeper as we neared PC 11 requiring us to hike-a-bike. In the distance we could see PC 11 and upon our arrival we noted that four teams were there in various stages of completion. I sprinted up the hill to get the PC followed by Cyn at a somewhat slower pace.
Now with this many teams close by, the race within the race was on in earnest (at least in our minds
). No more thinking, get down the hill without falling and go balls out to the finish. The four teams seemed to be within reach but were out of site during the fire trail ride back to highway one. Then we saw two of the teams ahead of us at the highway crossing. We hooked up our tow system and took off down highway one back to the finish. We were passed by a three person team within a half mile (darn!) and then we were able to pass the two teams that we saw from the highway crossing (yip, yip, yip, YAHOO!) About a mile away from the finish the three-person team that had passed us earilier stopped (think one of them were cramping). On the home strech we were able to pass the other team we saw crossing the highway earlier
The way this course was set up we were able to play leap frog with several teams throughout the race and crossed paths with others during the out and backs. The course had three opportunities for route choices that in this case we were able to use to our advantage.
We’ve learned much about AR and ourselves this year. We have gained a lot of experiences and have had our fair share of hard knocks and rutweilers. This was our first overall top half finish, which is a milestone of sorts for us. As with most anything in life, if one works hard, perseveres and pushes their comfort zone, stuff that was once thought out of reach is indeed attainable. Life is full of surprises. I wonder what will be next.
The course encompassed eight miles each of kayaking and running. Twenty-five miles of mountain biking with a total elevation gain of 4000 feet. Our friends at www.cyclepath.com
continue to support our AR habit and would love for you to stop in and say hi at either of their Hayward or San Mateo stores. The surf ski was awesome and we highly recommend contacting Vince Darwood
if you are in the market for a light and fast kayak.
Training for AR at the summit of Mt. Shasta - August 28, 2005
As always enjoy the journey…K&C