Explore the West Southern CA Sprint (1st race in series)
April 8, 2006
After being strongly encouraged onto a team for the second race in this same series, and craving navigation practice, and missing my mountain bike, and missing seeing AR friends, I decided Friday afternoon to just sign up and get out there. I left work early Friday, wanting time to make sure the bike was happy while the bike shop was still open. I climbed on, and rode to the track. The ride was fine — I’m ashamed to admit there was actually a spiderweb in the spokes! But it shifted smoother than I remember it doing last time I rode, so maybe it has a self-tuning superpower. At the track I proceeded to do a heartrate test, which might have not been the best idea the night before the race (I knew though that it wouldn’t happen this weekend after the race). Either way, the run was done, and yummy In ‘n Out was had for dinner (probably also not a great refueling after that run and before a race). Then I stayed up way too late packing and double checking my packing… but hey, I was excited for the race, and I had missed that feeling. It would be my first race of the year, my first solo AR, my first AR all in daylight, and my first time as the team navigator!
My alarm went off nice and early, and I drove to the race which was about an hour away back in the hills near Irvine. I arrived right about when I wanted to, and got to see Paul and Karen, and Barrie, again. Damn, it had been too long! I checked out the plan for the day. It was a marked run course (about 3.5 miles and over 1500 feet of climbing, which we were told would be mostly in the first mile and a half). From there it would be a quick white (beginner) level navigation course, and then onto the mtn bikes for another marked course (which Paul said would be about 11 miles, “plenty” of elevation gain, and a combo of double and awesome single track). About 300 meters from the finish we would be told to drop our bikes and run in to the finish. I was definitely a bit nervous — I haven’t been doing any hill stuff at all as I was still doing base training, and I hadn’t done much nav ever. However, I reminded myself that I knew all of that when I signed up as well. That I was there for those reasons — to get in the practice, to see the people who are like some funky huge family, and to just have a good day with my bike and trail runners.
I got my TA (transition area) set up. It was really not hard at a race this short and without rain or any water event — basically meant making sure I had some water to refill with, and a few snacks to grab if I wanted them, as well as a helmet and biking shoes and a bike. I ran into Dale, who I’ve met at a number of ARs, and we realized we live within 10 miles of each other, and should train together sometime. I got to talk to Karen of Wellsport, who I’ve read some about and who was really sweet and friendly and human despite her amazing abilities on the course (it must go with the name). I also said hi to Jordan, Paul’s son, who was setting up a snack booth to raise money for his mountaineering adventures. Talk about a cool kid! He knows tons of facts, and will happily share stories with you. Check out www.jordanromero.com if you want to learn about his journey to be the youngest person to climb the 7 summits.
Then it was time, and we toed the finish line, and were off. I could quickly tell that the hills were going to hurt, and accepted that and moved at my own pace. I knew it would be a long day, and there was no reason to push too hard on the run climb, which I knew would be on of the tough parts of the day for my physically. I just kept moving… no matter how fast or slow, one foot went in front of the other. Up, up, and then up some more. Of course, here a group of us (there were now a few breaks in the field) did manage to make a wrong turn. Yes, in one of the marked sections of the course. However, it just meant we ended up taking a less steep but a bit longer path — we could see racers ahead and knew what had happened, and that we would end up meeting up with them (at least we hoped so, and then we did in fact do so). I made it to the high point, where the CP (check point) was, and got the word to put on my passport (“super sweet”, which the course was). Then I started the mostly down section, and my legs fast felt like jello. I felt the lack of sleep the most here, as I had gotten a bit ahead of the small group I had been with and had to pay close attention to the course markers and rocks and gullies. I got a bit out of control a few times, and distracted by the gorgeous view of the valley’s around a few times, but made it down in one piece, and back to the TA, where I got my trekking passport and headed out.
I started with a few other people, and we grabbed the first CP together, and the second, but then I decided to go a different way than they did. For one, I wanted to have to rely on myself and my navigation. And for another, I wanted to get the CPs in a different order than they picked. So we split ways, and I stopped to figure out if I was indeed at the trail that I wanted. While stopped, Paul came by. “Orient the map” he said in typical Paul fashion. I’d been hearing his voice say that in my head, and I smiled to hear it really say that as I did so. “Where are you?” he asked, and I pointed to the right place. In big brother fashion, he made me do it all myself, and I had been right, but now believed it myself. One big lesson in nav: trust yourself. Else you can doubt for hours and never get anywhere! I headed off, and came right to the CP I had been looking for! I continued up the trail, making my way to exactly where I knew the next CP would be. However, I knew it would be just off the right of the trail, and hadn’t realized that it was a bit of a drop there. A few other racers were there as well, and we slid down, and got it. Then I headed to the next point, and along a trail I remembered from volunteering in this area once. I knew exactly where I was on the trail the whole time, and knew when it was too far, and even used elevation lines and the compass to double check where I was and that I should be right by the CP (yup, I was proud of my mad navigation skillz). However, I wasn’t seeing the CP. Again, it was just to the right of the trail, and from down the very brush-covered hill, the group of us looking heard “it’s here!” from below. Instead of sliding down this hill, we retraced back a bit and then got to it. It also ended up being much easier to get to (elevation-wise) from the lower section of road. Then it was up the hill to the next 2 points, and then past the 3rd one along that road. However, I quickly knew I was past it and went back and found it. Here I again ran into a few people, but like the other times I never really stayed with anyone on this section. I just did it at my pace and relying on me. I ran past the TA to grab my last point, and then into TA, onto my bike, and out for a bit of climbing!
mmm mmm mountain biking! Ok, or mountain bike walking ;). My legs were definitely tired from all the foot climbing, and I just couldn’t make it up all the hills. So I walked some, talking with Angie and Raffi on some parts, but soon we separated as well. It was a marked course, but that in no way made it easy — there was single track, and fairly loose ground, and plenty of elevation gain, as Paul had promised. I enjoyed it though, except for the blister I could feel growing on my heel part way through. Oops, I never put duct tape on my right heel! It tends to blister when hiking in my bike shoes. I made it down some single track that I almost didn’t dare to ride (and yes, didn’t make it down parts of it and instead made friends with some bushes along the side of the trail — hey they looked lonely!). I didn’t trust Paul when I came across him and he said it was “just a single track climb and then downhill to the finish”. He was sorta telling the truth… it was a single track climb next, but it also included some single track downhills and then more climbing to regain ground lost during them. But I LOVED that section. I managed some of the more technical climbing bits on the bike, even some of the turns! Since much of it was a trail cut through brush-type stuff, and not with cliffs, I tried almost all of it. I think for that part I even rode every bit of the downhill parts — awesome for me since my mtn biking skills are still very beginner. Soon I saw the CP flag which I knew I would find Barry below, and I rode up and over the last crest and to him. Paul pulled up behind me (he was riding about the course on a motorbike) and they told me it was a single track downhill that would put me back on fire road, and that road would basically take me to the finish. 8 minutes, they said. So in 20 minutes I figured I’d be done, and I started off with a smile on my face — that previous single track section had been wonderful for my self-bike-esteem. Again, I managed to ride almost the whole thing! A few hairpin turns had me put a foot down, but I cruised most of it, and down the final fire road. I dropped my bike at the marked spot, and ran into the finish, tired but oddly refreshed, and definitely pleased with how my day had gone. Oh, and it did end up being about 8 real minutes, instead of 8 Paul Minutes.
The day was awesome, and I felt great! Tired in a wonderful, accomplished way. As for my goals, I met them all. I got in some awesome practice, including greeting a few bushes on the mtn bike section, sliding down a few hills on the navigation (yup, some on my butt). I saw some great people I had missed, and some new faces of people fun to meet. I enjoyed the day (because even moments of self-doubt can be enjoyable looking back), and my quads are sore, and my shoulders a bit stiff. I haven’t been sore in a while… and yes, I love this feeling. I learned a lot for nav, and I definitely got inspired to get out on more technical mountain biking! As a bonus, I won the women’s solo division! Haha… my second division first place ever at a race… and my second race at which I was the only person in my division :). Paul and Karen put on a great event, and the ranch was beautiful and difficult all at once. Now I’m even more excited for the next event, where I will have a team and not have to just listen to myself the whole day!