Saturday, July 14, 2007

07/14/07 Ten Hour Scout Adventure Race!

My first adventure race was the Scout Adventure Race in Orange County, California near Irvine Lake where teams of four people would have to navigate, trek, mountain bike, kayak, rock climb, zip line and traverse slack lines in order to accumulate points. My first official adventure race team was named "My Kind of Party" and included two veterans (Nick & Louis - both of whom were local to the area) and two rookies (myself and Corey). No, we didn't wear all matching outfits - we wanted to have fun, not look like idiots. We were supported by Lorenzo who stayed at base camp keeping our drinks cold, our tires inflated and our spirits lifted.

The start/finish area was at a campground near the lake. The mandatory team meeting started at 8:30pm the night before the race. During this meeting, the race director cheerfully announced that the race would begin at 3:30am, and better yet - the maps were still being copied and would not be available until 10:30pm, a mere five hours before the start. Fortunately, I was not the designated navigator so the map was meaningless which allowed me to leave the meeting early and try to get some extra sleep. Ignorance truly is bliss. However, I soon realized the other teams' strategy: Bring numerous small, loud children to the campground, get them all hopped up on sugary caffeinated snacks, then let them roam free and create havoc as other teams tried to map check points or rest up before the start.

This race had an extensive list of "Mandatory Gear" which competitors had to keep with them at all times throughout the event. One of these required items was a compass. Since I don't know how to use a compass, I resented this unnecessary burden of 3 extra ounces. But after careful consideration, I realized that the compass might indeed serve a useful purpose after all - I could always drink the liquid inside of it if the situation became desperate enough. Proud of my resourcefulness, I gladly tossed the borrowed compass into my Camelbak.

Oddly enough, the mandatory gear list did not include flare guns. How would the search and rescue team ever find us? I seriously doubted the helicopter pilot would be able to hear me blowing my mandatory plastic whistle over the roar of the chopper engine. I thought about asking Nick and Louis about flares, but didn't want to insult their navigational skills.

The race began on foot in complete darkness. Click HERE for a short video of the start. The topographical map showed the elevations of hills and valleys with checkpoints scattered all over like bad acne. I had no idea how we were going to find any of those pimples in the dark. But fortunately, Nick and Louis had a pretty keen sense of direction, and we found the first four CPs after covering almost four miles in about an hour. Then it was back to base camp to pick up one more mandatory map, grab a quick snack and head back out into the darkness on foot for some CPs that were at the top of three different steep hills - much too steep for bikes.
At one point, Louis asked me if I had a lighter because Corey had a tick lodged into his shin. Contemplating just how tough Corey might be, I was fairly sure he could withstand a few seconds of leg hair scorching, but considering the fact that Corey had doused himself with potentially flammable insect repellent and he possessed an above average quantity of body hair, I was hesitant to risk the possibility that he would become completely engulfed in flames. I doubted anyone was tough enough to survive that and still finish an adventure race. I didn't want to lose a valuable member of the team, and I especially didn't want to carry his charred remains across the finish line in order to avoid disqualification, so I found a tube of Aquaphor (like Vaseline) in my pack and smothered the tick. Eventually, I used some tweezers (the one item of mandatory gear that proved useful) to pull it out of his leg.
During the run, I literally tripped over one of the check points and Corey also found another that we weren't even trying to find. Five hours and sixteen miles later, we had apparently used up my supply of "Dumb Luck" and Corey's supply of "Beginner's Luck." So we went back to camp in order to transition to the next phase of the event. Corey and I easily climbed the rock wall and floated down the zip line before the boys all eagerly jumped on their mountain bikes. Being the chick who was less than enthusiastic about the prospect of spending hours on my least favorite event (aka: walking and pushing the bike) in the sun, I used my gender-based excuse, "I have to change my sports bra" in order to procrastinate just a bit longer. In reality, changing that sports bra really did give me a renewed sense of energy and I was ready to go. We cheerily clicked along for about three miles downhill before realizing that someone forgot to bring the map. Rookie mistake. This is where "Beginner's Luck" and "Dumb Luck" combined to create "Dumb Beginner's Luck." After about a 45 minute delay, we were back on track and on our way to collecting more checkpoints. The ride was really not that bad. Even the part where I fell didn't suck until the bruise really started to develop a few hours later.

Hey guys, wait up!

Unfortunately, my bike got tired before I did and simply refused to cooperate. The rear brake kept engaging making each rotation of the chain harder and harder. Although the boys were all rather experienced bikers, none could really figure out the problem because they seemed unfamiliar with my hydraulic disc brakes. I silently cursed my decision to buy whatever gear the cute guy at the bike shop recommended as my team mates stuck alan wrenches into my bikes many orifices, all to no avail. Between the map delay and my bike's technical difficulties, we were quickly running out of time and we realized we would not be able to accumulate any checkpoints on the kayaking portion of the event. So we went back to camp hoping there would be enough time to complete the slack lines and then cross the finish line before the race finished at 1:30pm.
On the way back around noon, the weather was pretty warm. I actually felt fine for most of the event. But it suddenly became downright HOT once Louis announced that it was 99 degrees. This was one of the few moments when I wished there was a solo entrant division. Again I pondered the necessity of carrying a mandatory glow stick, space blanket and long sleeved shirt during this portion of the race. Maybe if three of the hungry and stranded team mates became desperate enough, we could baste the fourth member of the team in glow stick juice, spread him out on the tinfoil blanket and broil him.

When we got back to camp, we had about 45 minutes left before we had to finish. Just enough time to eat something and regain some leg strength before attempting the slack lines. As I munched on what seemed like the 256th energy bar I had eaten that day, I desperately wished Clif bar came in "Corona w/Lime" flavor. Then I got up and began to put my climbing harness on. As the belt lightly slid up my backside, an excruciating pain radiated from a place deep within me where the sun doesn't shine. I wondered how many female adventure racers still possessed the ability to bear children and I seriously considered replacing my bike saddle with a 1961 Chevy Impala bucket seat.

For those who don't know, traversing across a slack line is like the opposite of tightrope walking. The line you have to walk upon is not tight, it is "slack" - hence the name. For support, you can hold onto a rope above your head, but this rope is also slack so it isn't very helpful because it jiggles back and forth. A LOT. After more than 16 miles on foot going up and down steep hills and ravines, and bushwhacking through sharp prickly shrubs, then another 20 miles or so of hot mountain biking on fire roads with no shade, sprinkled with a little rock wall climbing and a touch of zip line - just to ensure your nerves are completely and utterly frayed - apparently the race director and my team mates thought it might be yet even more "adventurous" for Corey and myself to attempt this slack line section, you know, to get the full experience (translation: to cause an absurd amount of damage to each and every fiber of muscle in your body). Whatever miniscule bit of strength I may have had left in my legs was quickly extinguished as I watched the participant before me convert his slack line into a slingshot and fling himself face first into the ground about three feet below. By now I was out of clean sports bras and could not think of any other believable excuse that could create enough delay to skip this event so I climbed on and tried to get it over quickly with minimal wobbling. Naturally, it lasted for an eternity and my stomach felt like a blender full of Clif Bar/Gatorade martini - shaken, not stirred. But I managed to avoid the face plant and still had enough fumes left in me to grab my team mates' hands and jog across the finish line.
Nine hours, forty-five minutes after we started, we gave each other high fives, simultaneously congratulating and thanking ourselves for not abandoning, maiming or killing one another.

Click HERE for Lorenzo's photo gallery of the event.

If you are a data geek - here is the first 8.5 hours from my GPS watch (the batteries ran out before we finished!)


dolface said...

and? how'd you do? (and did you have fun?)

Ron Sanders said...

Looking up "Trek Y-8 Mountain Bike" on Google it brought me to this Blog. Happy accident. I enjoyed the story and cringed at reading about your brakes engaging (I've have the same thing happen to me in a race). I know you are still running, but I hope you are also adventure racing.