NORCAL-AR #3 Henry W Coe, San Jose, CA May 30th 2008
After a tough week it was great to be heading South on a Friday afternoon to camp at Coyote Lake and get a good night sleep before the early start of the Norcal-AR #3. We had a guest teammate for this race. Galen Pewtherer of Team BAARBD.org would be racing with us as Andy Tubbs had been sequestered by Team True Grit for some last minute PQ teambuilding. They would be racing against us at this event with the full might of their team and our strong man.
I picked Galen up at I280 and Hwy 92. IÕd rushed home from work and got the boat loaded in record time. Everything was looking good as we loaded GalenÕs gear into the truck and started down 280 at rush hour. We were somewhere South of Palo Alto when I noticed the shadow of the boat on the road and one of the deck covers was flapping in the wind. Just as I told Galen and started to move over to the shoulder, the cover let go and floated in the air behind the truck. Woops! No way I was going back for it as it landed in the middle of the highway at rush hour. We kept going and I hoped the others managed to hang onto the boat.
The next thing I did was to get off the highway at the wrong exit for Henry Coe and Coyote Lake. I had to switch on the GPS to find the park and IÕd been there a bunch of times before. This wasnÕt looking good for my navigation capabilities this weekend. Galen must have been wondering what heÕd got himself into. We were lost trying to find the race venue.
We eventually found Coyote Lake and our campsite. I started getting the last of my gear together while Galen set up his tent and went to sleep. We planned on getting up at 5:30 to give us plenty of time to go stage the boat and it was lucky we did.
After a quick breakfast we loaded all our gear and drove the ½ mile to the boat launch where I was convinced the kayak staging would be. We met Brandon in the same spot so it all looked good. It was now 6AM and no one else had shown up including our teammate Mari. WeÕd unloaded the boat and still no one else had shown up and it was now 6:15.. Something had to be wrong.
Right then Mari came screaming into the parking lot to tell us we were in the wrong location. We had to load the boat back on the truck and go back to the picnic area about ¼ mile closer to the campsite. Again, Galen must have been wondering what heÕd got himself into.. This was the second time IÕd got us lost and the race hadnÕt even started yet.
So now we were in the right location with all the other boats, the Zebra mussel inspection had been taken care of the night before and the boat was cleared to go in the water, so we headed to the race start location in Henry W. Coe State Park about 3 miles up the road. I managed to find that without too much trouble..
We picked up the race map and plotted the points off the master map at registration. I made Galen double check that IÕd copied them all in the right places and after that we wandered off get our bike gear ready and plot a route around the first 10 CPÕs.
After studying the points it looked like we could make a descent loop out of the course if we opted to do a couple of out and back sections. There were a couple of mandatory CPÕs but they could all be gotten in any order and nothing was out of bounds.
With the route decided and the bikes ready it was time to line up for the short pre race briefing and the race start. Mari was riding a brand new bike equipped with some fancy carbon parts from Ritchey. It had only been ridden around the block before being brought out to the race. What happened to the golden rule of never using something new in a race.
As everyone lined up for the start Team AR Navigation supplies were all facing in the opposite direction to the rest of the teams. It looked like everyone else had decided to take the anticlockwise loop as compared to our clockwise choice. HummÉ What did this mean??
When Rich said go we headed straight for the road with a couple of other teams, as the majority went in the opposite direction. We were riding the road in a small group and hammering along without any warm up. Mari was slipping off the back of the group a little so I hung back for her and with a little push kept her in the draft. We had about 3 miles to the first CP and about 2 miles to the first junction.
I must have been still asleep when we hit the first intersection as I rode right past it while all the other teams around us turned right and hit the dirt road. By the time I focused on the map weÕd climbed the fence on the other end of the bridge even thrown our bikes over too. What the hell was I thinking? We had to climb back over the fence with our bikes and try to catch the group that was now about a minute ahead of us.
It was less than 10 minutes into the race and IÕd taken us down completely the wrong road and over a fence at the very first intersection. The other teams must have wondered what the hell we were doing. Both my teammates seemed to take it in their stride as this is a normal part of AR right?!
Now it was time to focus and get over the early race jitters.. I sucked down a fully caffeinated gel pack hoping this would kick start my navigation skills and wake me up a bit otherwise it was going to be a very long day.
We found the first CP which was #2 and immediately spun around to head back the way we came. By this time weÕd managed to make up our lost time and get back in the lead of the ÔclockwiseÕ group.
The next CP was up a single track trail from the bridge where IÕd made my first error. It was easy to find at a trail intersection so I started to feel better. Immediately after this we had a sweet section of single track that flowed slightly downhill into a gully. I was letting the bike roll and picked up some nice speed when I suddenly came around an off camber corner and the bike started to wash out from under me. I immediately stood the bike up and slowed it down while yelling at Galen and Mari to watchout!! I was stopped at the side of the trail taking a look at the map when Mari came flying around the corner. She kept the bike upright on the turn but was still going at a high speed when she hit the large bolder hidden in the grass next to me. She was doing her best impersonation of Superman as she flew through the air without her bike and then hit the ground in a huge cloud of dust. I ran over to see if she was ok and all she said was &*XK that hurt, GroanÉ HowÕs my new bike?? Groan..
We picked her up after checking that the bike was fine and made sure nothing was broken on either of them. Apart from a pain in the rib area everything seemed to be ok. We started riding up the next steep section of single track and it was obvious that Mari was still in a fair amount of pain. We decided to give her some ibuprofen at the next CP and see if things felt better. We didnÕt hear another complaint all day but that doesnÕt mean it stopped hurting. As we know Mari is super tough.
The next couple of CPÕs were easy to spot and we had another great single track section down into the valley where we would climb serpentine trail back up to the main ridgeline. Just as we turned onto the climb we saw Mike Murphy of the Shooting Star Race Series coming towards us. He had come out of retirement to do this event solo. We said hi and in return he said something like Ōgood luck with that oneĶ as he flew by. We all looked at each other. Did he mean the trail or the next CP?? Was it misplaced?? I guess weÕd find out. A minute or so behind Mike came Aquan followed closely by True Grit. It looked like the race was going to be close.
As we got to the top of the trail and the intersection where the CP was we could see a whole bunch of teams wandering around in the fog. It seemed the CP flags were difficult to find from the direction they were coming from. For us it was easy as the trail we were on went straight past the tree where it was hanging.
Now we had a fairly out and back section along the ridgeline of about 2.5 miles. JO was hanging out keeping an eye on things and rode with us for a while. We had to stop for a minute to give Galen some salt tablets as he was starting to cramp. Once we found the CP we said goodbye to JO and headed back along the trail to start the long descent back to the finish.
We were riding with a some other teams at this point and I hooked Galen up to the tow line to help him along a bit. He was cramping still and seemed top be suffering quite a lot
After another short climb to the ridge trail we needed to find a CP that was a few hundred yards off the trail near a dried up pond. This was CP 7 and it was about 200 feet below us.
I checked the elevation to make sure we were on the right section of the ridge and matched the terrain up with the map before we all walked our bikes down the hillside toward where I thought the CP should be. This was quite steep but there was no poison oak around, just open grass. As we got further down we could see a lone tree and what appeared to be a dried up pond. I walked around the other side of the tree and there were the ribbons and the CP marker. WeÕd managed to hit it spot on without any real searching. There was no way we were going to push our bikes back up the hill so we contoured around the hillside until we found the trail again. It was probably a little longer but much easier.
All that was left was a steep downhill single track to the valley and the flat road back to the TA. I was a little way ahead of the others when I came around a really technical rocky corner and went straight over the bars. It wasnÕt as spectacular as MariÕs earlier flying session but still kicked up a cloud of dust as I hit the dirt. I was back on the bike in seconds and told the others to be careful as they came through.
We now had a straight flat section back to the TA ready for the next set of CPÕs and the Kayak section.
When we arrived at the TA we were the only ones there. We were leading the long course teams even after all that happened. The only person in front of us was the Shane from Nike Beaver Creek. He had skipped a few CPÕs on the bike section so was down on points.
We quickly added fresh food and plotted the next set of points. While I was plotting a couple of other teams arrived including Aquan and True Grit together. This was a close race as there were 5 teams within 5 minutes of each other after the first bike section. We were first to leave the TA and I wanted to make up as much time as possible on the road section to the kayak. I was sure that once we were on the water the powerful kayaking of team Aquan would allow them to overtake us.
We jumped into the boats still wearing our bike shoes and were out on the water before the next team arrived. It wasnÕt long before I realized that the kayak rudder pedals were almost impossible to use with bike shoes as we weaved our way up the lake like a eel. WeÕd decided to head North first to get CP 13 first. IÕd managed to spot it from quite a way off and as we got to the shore Mari jumped out to get the number. We could see another team off in the distance behind us, which I was sure was Aquan. The next kayak CP was in a small creek bed at the end of the lake.
We saw Shane of Team Nike/Bever Creek just getting back into his boat as we pulled up to the shore. We had a short run to get the CP and as we arrived back at the boat Aquan were just pulling in! They were just a couple of minutes behind us. It was going to be a race of the triple kayaks, Team ARNavSupplies in the home made woody and Aquan in their fiberglass barge. As we passed Team True Grit I couldnÕt resist taunting Andy Tubbs as he was sitting in the back of the double kayak.
We now had the long paddle back down the lake where I was certain that weÕd get overtaken. We went past Shane and as we got closer to the Southern end of the lake we looked for the opening in the trees for the creek. IÕd been down this section of creek at a previous event and it was difficult to navigate in a small boat. Now we had a 21.5Õ triple and I was trying to steer it around the fallen trees and debris in the water wearing bike shoes.
We got to the point where the stream was so narrow that we beached the boat and started to run. Mari was leading and shouted back that she had found the CP. As Galen and I turned around Aquan were just coming around the corner and parking their boat next to ours. As Jackie jumped out of AquanÕs boat you could see her knee was bleeding. Apparently they were pace lining with True Grit at the end of the bike section and someone had slammed on their brakes at the front of the group. This had caused a chain reaction and Jackie hit the pavement. This had slowed them down a little IÕm sure. We were back in the boat and paddling as fast as we could back to the TA and bikes. We made a really fast transition to the bike again and we were out of there before Aquan came ashore.
We managed to eat some food while we rode and made some plans for the next section of the race. We wanted to be out of the TA before Aquan arrived but I still had to plot a route. I made sure I ate everything I had with me and finished up the bike bottle before we arrived.
Mari and Galen reloaded my pack and got my INOV-8 trail shoes ready for the Trek while I plotted our route around the next 7 CPÕs. I looked at the main bushwhack section for the course and decided it would be much better to do it going downhill, so this meant that weÕd be going clockwise around the course with a couple of short out and backs in the middle. Our big climb would be on a trail and early in the loop.
We started running at a good pace and couldnÕt believe that weÕd held the lead through the kayak section but holding Aquan off on the trek was going to be very hard. They were a powerful team on foot and with Mats navigating they were sure to have a great route picked out.
We had a short section of flat road before things started to go uphill. There were a few moments of indecision at an unmarked trail junction. It looked like the trail had been rerouted at some point and it didnÕt quite follow the map. We found the spur we wanted to be going up and really started to push on. The climb to CP 21 would take us back to the top of the course on a climb that seemed never ending. All our legs and especially our lower backs were just burning from the effort. We were pushing hard to try and hold Aquan off as long as possible but hoping we wouldnÕt blow up.
We were always looking back thinking weÕd see them powering up the trail behind us. The race was really on!
I was still shoving food and water down trying to fuel up for what was coming ahead while Mari made sure Galen doing ok. At one point she was towing Galen on a bungee and pushing me ahead of her while lifting my pack weight. If this was her final ramp up for PQ IÕd say she was ready to go. Watchout Montana!
The next few miles were a bit of a blur but I know we came back down Serpentine Trail and out to another small pond. Just after this IÕd planned on doing a small bushwhack to cut off a section of trail. I was busy looking of the right section of ridgeline and checking my Waterproof Pedometer when we saw Aquan running on the trail towards us. They looked strong and were running well while I was feeling really tired. Seeing them almost exactly half way around the course meant that the race was still very close, this made us push even harder. Now we knew why we hadnÕt seen them behind us.
A few minutes later as we came down from the ridge we saw True Grit joining the fire road from the short out and back trail we were looking for. They were also looking strong at this point. I looked closely at the map I realized that we had done all the real climbing for the day and it was all downhill for us from here. The other two teams still had to climb up Serpentine Trail to the high point on the course. We may have been slightly ahead at this point.
After the next CP we had a bushwhack down the hill to a CP in the creek bed. I could see the spur that we wanted from quite a way back up the trail but picking the right route down would be key. When we got closer there seemed to be two spurs to choose from. One that looked more direct but was covered in poison oak bushes with thick scrub and the other that seemed clear.
After a quick check we took the clear spur. It was easy going and we made sure to swing to the left as much as possible. We dropped into the creek and immediately saw the CP about 30 yards to upstream. We collected the number and now we only had 1 CP remaining on the flat road back to the finish. As I ran along the creek bed I hit the side of my left foot on a sharp rock. This was really painful but I thought IÕd just run it off. The problem was the pain wasnÕt going away.
As we got near the road we saw JO again. He ran with us for a few hundred yards asking how things were going. We had no idea how close the other teams were but we kept pushing anyway. We got the final CP and started running along the road. The pain in my foot from kicking the rock was getting worse not better and I was starting to lag behind both Galen and Mari. We had about a mile to go and we thought weÕd seen a team coming down off the ridge ahead and up to our right. This could be one of the 6 hour teams or it could be Aquan on their way back to the finish ahead of us.
With about 1/2 a mile to go to the finish we could see Aquan ahead of us. But the strange thing was theyÕre running towards us and away from the finish!! Mari thought they were taunting us by running out to meet us after theyÕd finished, but they ran past us heading in the opposite direction congratulating us and giving us high fives!! Apparently they had made a navigation error at some point and still had to get 2 CPÕs with a 4 mile out and back. It looked like we would beat them. We still didnÕt know where True Grit were on the course but the last weÕd seen of them they were at least 10 minutes behind Aquan and we only had a few more minutes of running for the finish.
As we arrived at the finish there were a few teams getting ready to leave on the trek section but no True Grit and Aquan were still running in the opposite direction. WeÕd WON! I couldnÕt believe it. After the stupid error at the beginning weÕd pulled it together and hit every CP spot on with what seemed to be a great route choice.
It was about 15 minutes till True Grit came across the line and another 15 minutes until we saw Aquan again.
It was worth all the effort and hard push in the end to win the event outright against some very strong competition.
Now I just have to fix a broken toe before the next race.
As always IÕm looking forward to the next event in the NORCAL-AR series. Thanks to Brunton, INOV-8, Ritchey, Magura and Ellsworth for providing AR Nav Supplies with the best gear for Adventure Racing.
Our CP Order for NORCAL-AR #3
Trek: 2, 16, 9, 5, 3, 10, 4, 8, 1, 7
Bike: 20, 21, 19, 24, 22, 23, 18
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