Tales of My First Adventure Race

Big Blue 24 Santa Monica Mountains Race Report

The short version: It rocked for 25:15 hours, for a finish of 25:45.

The long version (yes, very long):
I come from a running, then a tri background. Erich works at REI and
comes from a running and climbing and hiking background. I met him at
the climbing gym. He had on a running race t-shirt, so I asked if he
had done it. We got talking about races, and he mentioned having done
some tris and wanting to do more. Since I knew of tris in the area, and
he wanted to get into it, we exchanged email addresses. However,
nothing really came of it as the tri I had mentioned was a weekend when
he was going to be gone. Then May 25th I went to an REI adventure
racing clinic in Rancho Cucamonga that was given by Maja, who was with
the Big Blue group. Much of the info I knew, but it definitely made me
want to do another! I had done one sprint one before, but it hadn’t
involved orienteering and had been in inflatable kayaks. And guess who
walked in at the end? Erich… and we talked for a minute and he said
we should try one of the Big Blue races. I agreed, but mentioned I
don’t have a mountain bike. He said he could find bikes, so I said I
was interested. And two weeks later… there were were. Getting ready
for our first adventure race. And what did we, as newbies, pick? A 2-4
hour sprint? A 6-12 hour? Nope. We were going to just jump in without
testing the temperature of the water: the Big Blue 24 Santa Monica.

The weekend started Wednesday night as I packed for the first time. Got
my gear together, a few hours of sleep, and off to work Thursday. Then
Thursday night got to pack again, this time with my teammate, so that
we could be sure we have everything and put it into the truck. We put
cage pedals onto the bike I’d be using, and put all our required gear
into a single plastic bin. The kayak and one bike was added on top of
the truck, and the second bike inside, along with 4 bins of gear-junk
and our paddles and camping gear. It was another night of only a few
hours of sleep, and we met up again and drove out to Leo Carrillo State
Beach in Malibu.

At the race site, got checked in, managed to find people with 2 extra
chem lights (the only mandatory gear we were missing as REI had only
had one pack when we went), and did our gear check in — once again
unpacking and packing bins (luckily we were smart Thursday night and
had put all mandatory gear into one bin, so it was all that we had to
take to the gear check). From there it was off to the certifications:
Erich did the navigational check in, and the kayak entry and exit were
a breeze — the waves were nothing compared to last weekend’s practice!
The race directory Nick (I forget his last name) did our check in and
kayak cert. My new hero, and an awesome guy. More about this later in
this report! All our qualifications filled, we got to pick up a race
info sheet telling us what we would need to pack in what bins.

Then it was time to — yes, you guessed it — pack again! From the race
sheet, we found out that trekking gear and only trekking gear would go
into the bins. And that the gear of one teammate would not go in. Huh
— our first hint of the day to come — there would be sections that
both people wouldn’t do. From that info sheet, we learned that the race
would involve the following order and events:

  • about 5 miles of kayaking to PC1 (ie passport control, or a check in point)
  • about 5 miles trekking (apparently just one teammate, with PC2, and ending at PC3)
  • about 5 miles kayaking to PC4 (also known as Transition Area (aka TA) 1)
  • about 17 miles mountain biking to PC5/TA2
  • about 8 miles of trekking (with PCs 5a, 5b, 5c, and 5d, ending at PC6/TA3)
  • about 26 miles of mountain biking (with PC7, PC8, PC9/TA4, and PC10)
  • about 5 miles of trekking (ending with PC11 and the finish)

Only trekking gear into the bins?? So bike stuff would somehow be set
up with the bikes, and only one person’s gear, but both people’s food
and water… This led to the fun part: course guestimations! All over
the parking lot people were sketching possibilities, and local races
were letting people know what was five miles away, and thus the
probable kayak direction. And there were no two sketches or discussions
the same. And we sat down to, yes, pack the bins. In went food and
water, but leaving out enough to start the day and for the kayak and
first bike section. Gotta pick what gels you want for what, and where
dry clothes will be wanted. Bike lights go on our helmets, but we are
also kayaking in those, so we’d better just have them on or with the
bikes since we don’t want the heavy lights on our heads all day… so
much to decide… and with our little experience it was quite a
guess-fest! However, we somehow managed to decide as we made 11 peanut
butter and honey sandwiches: our basic “real food” for the race, along
with trail mix and bananas. Gels, energy bars, Cytomax, and water were
all ready to go. We somehow decided on a bin plan: food and water into
one, clothes, a towel, and other extra gear into the other.

Then there was a Q&A section with Robyn Benincasa. She had some fun stories to tell, shared adventure racing history, and gave little tips.

After an event BBQ, there was then the race meeting. We got our race
booklets and general info and rules. Wow… were we in for quite a day!
First surprise: there was a drop point by PC1. It would be a buoy
somewhere outside the surf-line (we were given coordinates to it).
There, one person would have to go to shore for the first trekking
section while the other teammate(s) (if any — teams were 1 – 4 people)
would continue kayaking to PC3 where the team would be reunited. This
meant individual kayakers would just go into the shore. However, 2+
person kayaks would just drop a person at the buoy. Looks like there
will be some ocean swimming for one of us! We learned that TA4 would be
a true transition where we would set up our bikes and anything else we
wanted there (and could leave there until after the race). From PC4 to
PC5 would be mostly road biking. PC5, PC6, and PC9 were all the same
spot. PC5a and PC5c would be different after dark, and instead of
“something” there would be a time penalty (so something dangerous after
dark… hmmm). From PC6 through PC9 would be all trail biking (about 13
miles) and then we’d have a final 13 miles on roads. We found out that
from PC9 to PC10 we’d have to carry everything except left over food
and water from your bins, and that at PC10 you could only leave your
bike and anything attached like lights and bike bags. Suddenly the
whole crowd was talking of getting rid of all that is extra in their
bins… until this was cleared up to mean all mandatory trekking,
biking, team, and individual gear. We also learned the cutoff times for
PC6/TA3, PC9/TA4, and PC10, which would start to matter to us — a lot
— come race day.

We made a few last minute changes to the bins and turned them in right
at 5:30. Then we sat down and started plotting. We both placed some of
the points onto our map, double checking each other. We looked at the
areas, figuring out some trail options and looking at pre- and
post-dark strategies for the points that would change, as we figured
we’d be borderline on making it in daylight. Some points seemed a bit
odd, but other teams had the same questions. Like why checkpoint A
changed if it was night or day and when it seemed to be in the middle
of nowhere and just next to the old point. So even though we got the
points much earlier than we expect, there were definitely some
unanswered questions as we climbed into the tent and got what would be
our last sleep before a long, long day. Oh, and we learned we were
sunburned. Next time we have to remember sunscreen is not just for race

We finished packing in the morning, which included figuring out how I
would swim to shore with my pack and with running shoes and the map and
passport and not have it all so wet that I’d get horrible blisters, or
the map would be blurred, or the pack extra heavy. Yet at the same
time, it had to be something I could swim some unknown distance with. I
got to do the first roughly 5 mile trekking part for a few reasons:
although we both wanted to, and Erich is a faster runner, but also a
stronger kayaker. Having never been in a kayak alone, I didn’t want to
learn to do surf entries in the race, since I’d never practiced really
guiding and steering the kayak, as that was Erich’s job in the back of
the boat. My kayaking job was power, setting cadence, and trusting when
he picked to launch. Also, having done some relay races and lots of
distance, we knew my legs would be able to take the run and still be ok
for more miles later. Plus, I’ve done some ocean swimming practice,
including exiting the water. We figured out a system — put my gear in
a big dry bag, including my extra running shoes to keep a pair
definitely dry for all the biking and running later, and have a rope so
I could attach it to my waist and it would trail me through the water.

Race time came about fairly quickly… if you think mass tri swim
starts are crazy check out a mass kayak start in the ocean! Kayakers of
all levels battling waves, capsizing, and flying back towards shore —
sometimes taking out an unaware kayaker entering behind them! And at
the same time watching out for a seal (or maybe sea lion, I’m not sure)
that was on the beach in the edge of the surf. Erich and I made it out
relatively painlessly, making sure we watched the surf for a bit and
planned our timing (which Nick had given us some tips on at the
certifications the day before). Sure, one wave hit on me as we were
waiting, and we had to go through one wave on the way out, but we had
plenty of power and did just fine going through it. Around the large
kelp beds, a bit out to sea, and paddled our way north along the coast.
There was a decent amount of spray, and I probably would have been glad
for waterproof pants during parts, but we made it to the buoy. I left
my water shoes, jumped into the water and unclipped the pack.

In the end, I held the bag with my right arm on the way to shore. The
rope was too tricky in the water. Turns out all those one-arm swimming
drills can be really useful in a race. I’m glad I did — the dry bag
was very buoyant and made it easier to get a breath in waves, and I
could trust it to know what way was up as some fairly large waves
pounded down on me. In fact, the waves were so strong they broke the
back of the helmet of a guy coming in around when I did! But I made it
to the beach, despite the feeling that swimming as hard as I could was
getting me no where, and having to rely on waves to help me make it in.
I somehow made it up the rocky bank, as the 2 hours of paddling had
left my legs fairly cold and with less circulation. Opening the dry bag
was another tricky bit with cold hands (I now love my paddling gloves
— I’m not sure what I would have done with out them) but I managed.
Dumped out the pack, got the passport signed for PC1, pulled socks and
running shoes on over wet and sandy feet (wiped as well as I could with
my cloth race bib), got the dry bag attached to my pack, and was off,
fastening the pack and checking the map. I ended up with another
runner, and that was useful since it was a bit hard for me to navigate
trails, and we helped each other out. A third guy was also with us for
a bit, and I was glad they were both there when we came across a huge
rattle snake on the trail! I’d of course seen ’em before, but not in my
path when trying to go fast. One guy threw rocks at it, and it went to
just off the trail. He ran on, and the other guy also made it safely
past. Talk about motivation to run fast! I quickly put some distance
between me and that point. Made it all the way up to PC2 without any
other major issues. Passport signed, and down the hill to PC3. Took one
extra stretch of trail (that looped back onto the on we wanted, adding
about 200-300 yards) because it looked to be right on the map (both
myself and another guy chose it after consulting maps, while a few
other runners went past it without checking). Then to a campground, and
some campers directed me to the exit. However, a ranger saw me and told
me where the bridge was — which was where I needed to cross under PCH.
I never would have guessed the beach was on the other side… as the
waves crashed against it, you couldn’t tell there was beach to the left
and it looked to just go into the ocean. But at the end of the beach
was PC3, Erich, and the kayak.

Back into the boat, one wave stole Erich’s pack but we caught it and
were off — without capsizing like about 80% of teams did! We had seen
this point as we paddled out to the drop location, and knew it took
about 1.5 hours to get to. However, now we had the waves helping us and
more sunshine, and it was a much drier, warmer, and easier paddle. Once
reunited and out on the water, I learned how getting from the drop
location to PC3 had gone for Erich. He was fine for the paddling part,
but came across some other kayakers not so lucky. Still on their way to
the drop, their sit on top kayak was flooded and they were fairly
stuck. Erich helped as he could, which ended up being going farther out
to sea a few hundred yards and flagging down one of the aid boats to
help them. Then he headed into shore, capsizing and drinking some
ocean, but not losing his pack, which was in garbage bags and duct
taped to the small dry bag. Learned for next time: have more large dry
bags, and tie everything down!).

I had been careful to drink some Cytomax and get in some gel during the
run. Erich, however, had watched the ocean and picked the perfect
launch timing, but had only taken in a little water. As a result, I
paddled alone for short stretches while he puked salt water back into
the ocean. He doesn’t get sick easily, but we think the combo of salt

water and waves were the culprits. For next time: better nutrition even
if just waiting.

Made it to PC4/TA1 in about an hour (which turned out to be the same as
the start and finish). Made it part way into the shore, lost the wave
we were on, and then another broke over us. I watch it land on the dry
bag of my pack tied down in front of me, watched that end drop deep
into the ocean, and go ready to flip. We caught my water shoes (I just
wore the running ones for the final paddle), both paddles, and Erich’s
pack, so still lost nothing. Again a lesson was learned: practice what
you will do race day (ie what gear where and how it changes the balance
of the kayak), and keep paddling hard even if you catch a wave or you
just sit at the breaking point and will get slammed.

The kayak, now with all our gear and plenty of water, was nice and
heavy as we carried it up the beach and into the parking lot area where
we bid it farewell and headed into TA1. There we took our time. Rinsed
off salt water, had some food. Checked that we had the gear needed for
biking. Put sand-free and dryish feet into dry socks and shoes.
Refilled my water. All ready, about 45 min or so later, we set off on
the bikes. Crossed under the freeway, heading to Mulholland Drive for
about 17 miles. A mile in, we needed to stop and adjust my seat and the
straps on both our pedals. We figured out using a tow rope about 2
miles out. Although I managed to keep it loose much of the ride, I
think mentally it was a huge help. Just knowing it was there and that
Erich was helping gave me more confidence that I could actually do the
climbing. And yes, it was some nice climbing. We leapfrogged back and
forth with one team, saw another, but were mostly on our own. Then a
nice downhill section — well, somewhat nice. It was long and fast, but
we knew we’d also have to climb it once we pasted PC9. Turned onto a
side street, as we could see there should be some way into the park
land from that community. Found the street, and learned it was private
and gated. A local biked out the gate though, and was able to direct us
to a public access point for the park we were looking for. Through the
gate, and we were onto a dirt road, which I was very scared on, almost
to the point of stress asthma. I let a team or two behind us pass, and
walked the bike. This made me more and more nervous about the night of
biking I knew was to come. But I just made myself forget about that and
focus on the trekking ahead. Only a little bit down the dirt section
and we found PC5.

Here we had a faster transition — dropped bikes, refilled fluids and
food, grabbed a snack, changed shoes, and were off. We easily made it
to PC5d around 6:30, and decided to attempt the back way to PC5c. It
was a Dark Zone (ie closed) after, so we thought, 9pm. We got to the
end of the trail, and found the creek it looked like we would be able
to follow up to PC5c. However, we made our major navigational mistake
at this point: instead of pulling out the compass and just doing a
general direction check (which I didn’t even think of) Erich picked our
direction based on only the look of the terrain. Ooops! We couldn’t see
the side of the mountains next to us, and chose a different two peaks
to head for! So we went down into the correct creek, but took it the
wrong direction. For 1.5 hours we climbed through poison oak, over
rocks, slipped into the stream, through brush after brush after brush,
up a dry stream bed, back down it, up to and then away from a beehive,
and more traipsing through brush. This was our low point. Having never
done anything off trail, and having the built in feeling that it was
wrong to be going through plants like that, and that it was dangerous,
I got a bit (or maybe more than a bit) bitchy. I was also frustrated…
felt like I was just following along, and that Erich would have been
faster alone. Up to that point, I had felt we were both contributing
well. But now, I had no idea where we were or what was going on. I was
tired of getting poked and stabbed and grabbed by brush, and I was
tired. I was probably also a bit low on liquids and calories, and I was
definitely getting a bit grumpy. Erich was getting annoyed with that,
and was being less patient when I asked questions about why we went
which way, or wanted to see where we were on the map. I finally broke
down. Some tears were shed, and I just told him I just want to know
what is going on, and have some part in decisions. That I was not there
just to follow because he could read maps and terrain better, but also
to learn how to read maps and terrain myself. He apologized, and from
then on we both looked at the path when there appeared to be two ways
to get somewhere. It was better, but I was still not in a great place.
He was more patient from then on out, and I think glad to know I did
want to help. I think it was a good reminder to both of us that to have
fun, and not worry about how competitive we were. Our ease with the
first part of the race had woken a bit of our competitive sides, and
this brought us back to our pre-race goals. The car ride home we made
more sense of this, but I will get to that at its time.

Finally we found a slope and went up so that Erich could get a better
sighting of the land. I ate some sandwich, and drank some, and felt a
bit better. From this slope we saw our error, and proceeded to head
back, having decided to just go back to PC5d and then take the trail
route to PC5c. Here I picked being wet over being poked by more stuff,
so we just went along the creek, getting wet instead of trying to find
ways around rock-free sections. This probably did help with not getting
tons of poison oak, and did make it an easier trip. However, we
overshot PC5d along the creek (it was much faster getting back) and
were already half way to PC5c, so kept going. At this point it was
getting dark (around 8:30) and so headlamps were on and it was a bit
tricker to see. Then there were other headlamps ahead! A team going
from PC5c to PC5d! They said they’d been going for a while, and that it
was a nasty, if not impossible, trek in the dark. They also corrected
us — it was a closed section from 7 on, not 9. So we headed back to
where we could find the trail back to PC5d, helping them find it as
well since there were little to no clues from in the creek and dark.
About 2.5 hours after first finding it, we again passed PC5d, and
continued on trails to PCs 5b, 5c, and then 5a. Here of course we
learned a lot… mainly, take the 3 seconds to orientate yourself with
the terrain and to double check your directions and planned path, but
maybe more importantly also to be forgiving, understanding, tough, and
to communicate.

It was mostly hiking, and it was not a high energy point. Much of it
was runnable, especially in light, but it was dark and I was still not
completely back to happy and we ended up walking much of it. We came
across teams that we had been with at PC5 who were heading back, done
with all the checkpoints, and that again was a reminder of our mistake.
But we got the rest of the points fairly uneventfully. One trail that
looked to go through didn’t and cost us about a mile, and we got a 30
minute penalty for getting to PC5c after dark and missing the challenge
there (turns out it was a swim of some kind) but the rest was just
hiking along, mostly without talking, and some talking to other teams
we came across. This made me appreciate my teammate more and got me out
of the funk I was in — there were teams where one person was just
pushing, almost to the point of leaving other members. There were teams
smiling, and who remembered us from earlier. There was the team Erich
had helped in the kayaks. It reminded me how lucky I was to have the
teammate I did, and that every team has its issues, and I got back to
trying to be cheerful and happy, and did a decent job of it, and felt
much better. During this section we also figured out that letting me
play a bigger role in setting the pace was a good idea, as I would push
it at a pace I felt I could hold, as opposed to trying to keep up and
then feeling bad asking Erich to slow down a bit. This definitely
helped our morale.However, I was still tempted to give up after all
that, and in my head went back and forth through how bad it would be to
stop at that point, and how cold and tired I was.

But we hit the transition area PC6, and some teams were at it as PC9.
One was a team with Lance on it, a guy who had been very helpful in the
parking lot, and who gave us some more tips. He said I looked tired, to
which I answered just cold, and got on changing to drier and warmer
clothes, and he said we’d warm up soon with the bike climb to come. And
he seemed to know we could do it, and so I regained more of my
determination, got ready, and when Erich even asked if I was ok, and to
let him know if he was pushing me past what I was comfortable with, I
again believed that a tough day should never end a race, and that only
missing a cutoff and being forced to stop was a reason to give up. So
still tired, but warmer and more confident, we picked up the bikes and
headed out for 13 miles of trails, and the part of the race I feared
the most coming into it. If that little dirt road to transition scared
me, how much worse would big downhills be in the dark?? But I had to
try it.

About an hour after reaching PC6 we finally headed out, lights in place
and ready to ride and walk with out bikes. During Bulldog Road, I
realized I had ran that trail before… that it was the trail (and it
turned out we did almost the exact same course but with bikes) from the
14 mile trail race I did in May. I was glad I didn’t notice this ahead
of time, as that was one of the hardest (if not the hardest) courses
I’d ever ran. By the time I really realized it, it was good cause I
believed I could walk it. And we figured out a system to keep us closer
to the same pace — Erich was able to walk both bikes easily, which
helped me a ton! We made it up to PC7, the big climb conquered. The aid
station people were awesome — told us how great we looked, that we
could do it. Got me in a happy, excited mood again. Although we learned
that a team in front of us had finished that bike loop and just dropped
out from exhaustion (ie hit PC9 and fell asleep immediately) and that
the solo team behind us had dropped out after seeing Bulldog, leaving
us in last place. Whatever, I thought. Last place is the team that had
a tough day and still kept going. 10-15 teams had dropped out, and now
I was determined not to. Yes, there are physical reasons that you
should drop out as well, but no, I wasn’t having any of them. I just
needed to get past the mental and do it. And it was a good thing — all
that support and realization made me just go for it on the downhills on
the bike from PC7 to PC8. Sure, we missed one turnoff and had to hike
back up about half a mile, and there was a ton of fog making it hard to see, but by the end, I was much more confident. I
was picking my own paths instead of hoping to see which way Erich
picked on the dirt road, and was having fun with making it over
sections that would scare me once I thought about it (after I crossed
them). I started having a great time and feeling like this was
something I could really do. So when we got almost to PC8, I wanted to
finish this thing. I knew we could. We ran into Nick and another
volunteer right outside the checkpoint, and they told us there was just
over an hour to get to the next point before the cutoff. Most teams
made it in about 50 minutes. They laughed at some of my comments about
the bike section, and were amazed to learn it was one of my first few
times on a mountain bike, and were impressed. Again, this built the
confidence that we could indeed finish this.

PC8 was also staffed with great volunteers with red vines and smiles,
but we hurried through, intent on no missing the cut off. Between PC7
and PC8 we had moved the map to my bike, as it was trails I was
somewhat familiar with and it was a fairly straight forward section
directionally and would give me practice at following where I was along
a map. I knew our turnoffs to get back to the trail to PC9 and easily
found them. At one point we crossed a bridge, and almost went down a
very wrong trail, but it really felt wrong to me, and then a guy showed
up and helped us with the right one. In fact, he told us he had to head
back to PC9, and then trailed us in, and we made it at about 7:55 — we
could continue! We had definitely found our sense of fun out there on
those trails, especially me. And Erich was impressed with how well I
just pushed it and went for it over sections of that last stretch. And
we were rewarded with another break at PC9. Someone asked me to at
least look a little tired… to which I answered “but it’s morning.”
And I really wasn’t that tired. Sure, I had less power in my legs, but
I was smiling, and felt great. More awesome support and cheers, more
water, more Cytomax, a banana, and another sandwich into the side pouch
of my pack, and we were back at it.

Here is where Nick amazed me. Yes, as race director he has to do a
final sweep of the course. But he didn’t have to stay with us in his
car all they way to the checkpoint, playing awesome, inspirational
music he found all on the radio (we never heard a single commercial or
un-motivational song) and talking to us — remember bits about our
check in, asking about our history, complimenting our determination,
and biking, and pure strength in not giving up. Every time it started
getting tough, I just heard the words of the songs, and his pride in
our race, and smiled and felt great, like we were winning. He gave us
one of the best compliment I’ve ever received. He told us how he has
done a number of Eco-Challenges and has done Raid Gauloises, and that
any day he would want to be on a team with us. That we were showing the
spirit and heart and drive and enthusiasm and teamwork that AR is all
about. And we made it, with his help but as a team… pounding up the
hills, tow rope in action, and flying down them. We almost didn’t have
to talk to get the rope hand-offs. We just knew. We were completely a
team, and made it to PC10 feeling energized and ready to go. The lady
who gave the talk at REI, Maja, was there, and we told her we decided
to do that race after her talk. And then Nick joined us for most of the
final trek down the hill (until we passed another team and he stuck
with and motivated them). He gave little patient tips to improve our
navigation, and was impressed with how we worked as a team. It was a
bit stressful though — of course he knew right where to go and would
be able to make our decisions in a heartbeat, but I just stayed
relaxed, and helped by double checking at each split in the trail (as I
was leading and Erich guiding). Soon we were ready to fly, and we came
to a downhill, and were off. We spotted another team (they had left 10
minutes ahead of us, but one teammate was very sick so were walking it)
and we knew we could catch them. In the last mile and a half, we did.
But I didn’t care… I was happy to be finishing, and content with how
much progress we had made as a team. I don’t know when I last ran a
trail as confidently or well as I did the last 2 to 2.5 miles to the
finish. It felt awesome, and Erich was right behind me supporting me
with each step, and I could feel our team energy flowing. Back into the
park, across the line 25:15 hours later, smiling and feeling sore feet
but fresh and energized. That accomplishment feeling is great. Yup, I’m
still addicted to it.

We celebrated with some food and drinks and chatter at the finish —
races are all about the people and experiences for me, not the times
and the places. This race was a good reminder of the relative
importance of those parts for me. Maja was there, and gave me a hug,
telling me how proud she was that her talk helped inspire us, and there
looked to be tears in her eyes. She said someone had said she didn’t
have the experience to give the talk, and we helped her feel successful
with it. I was glad I had told her we had been there… I had almost
not mentioned it, figuring she had given talks many times and never
remembered who went. We also talked with teams, and one guy
congratulated us, and mentioned how at least we weren’t last (his team
was, and we had mentioned being able to pass another team — ie his —
near the end). And I told him how it just meant that his team had a
really tough day but kept going despite it all (there was currently an
ambulance checking over one of his teammates who was fairly sick). Yes,
I was proud to have passed another team, to have had that last little
bit in us. But I would have been just as happy to finish last. Either
way, each time had its little issues or maybe even a perfect day — but
I think our race was perfect for us. What we needed to become a
stronger team, and stronger people.

And the race was done. We gathered up gear, just throwing it into
whatever bin was nearby. The kayak was put back on the truck, We got
somewhat rinsed off, and started off. We picked up the bikes, and
continued home. Erich wanted to rest first, but I said we could take
turns driving and talk to keep each other awake — I just wanted to get
home. We talked about the race. I apologized for being grumpy and
unhappy during and for a bit after the off-trail adventure, and we
talked about why. About different backgrounds, and how going really
into nature like that just scares me. That I’d never camped (until with
him the weekend before) and had never gone off a trail. That some part
of me was worried we were going to get really lost and not find our way
back. We talked about what we did really well, and how we were happy
with our teamwork by the end. And we talked about wanting to do
another, but wanting to really practice for it. His thing was also that
we needed to try and test all gear beforehand next time. We were lucky
that lights and such ended up working out as well as they did. We also
talked about our place, and how I was glad our easy day didn’t continue
after the kayak and first bike section. We had no flats, and only one
major and a few minor navigational issues. Without them, our first race
would have been too easy, and would have given less of a sense of
accomplishment. It would also have made me think differently of
adventure racing: that it was more like off-road tris where you know
where to go and what to expect. This made me want to do it again. It
was hard. It really made me push myself, and learn about myself and
about Erich and I as a team.

That worked for a while — like down PCH, through a sandwich (NOT PB
& honey) and to the 10 Freeway. But I was riding, and asking Erich
questions to keep us talking and awake, and he was giving short, single
word answers, and I soon gave up. We were both too tired and worn out
for staying awake chatter. He ended up calling someone and was on the
phone, and I fell asleep, figuring that would keep him up. We talked
little bits on and off the rest of the way, but I dozed on and off and
he was on the phone for most of it.

We made it home, and sorted out gear, and I packed up my car and headed
to Holly’s for a shower and a nap. I wanted the gunk off more than
anything! And some sleep before the 45 minute drive home wouldn’t be a
bad idea, either. And how good that shower felt! I found a leaf and
small twigs in my hair, and it took about 3 times of conditioning my
hair to get the tangles starting to come out. And I scrubbed off what
little sunscreen was left, and sap, and plenty of dirt and grime. I
learned that next time wash *all* the sand out of my bike shorts, and
to apply more random BodyGlide, as there was plenty of chaffing in
areas usually fine. I got out of the shower cleaner, content, and
relaxed. Clean clothes felt great, and I ate and read and fell asleep,
overall content with the day and its lessons and adventures.

Today I’m not really all that sore, but am definitely tired. My feet
are a little sore — even one of my blisters has a blister. But I’m
planning for the next race. I wonder if I’ll do the next in the Big
Blude series — Erich will be out of town. Perhaps with a different
partner, or maybe I’ll volunteer at it.

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