and the Big Blue 24 Hour Race.  Lake Tahoe October 7th 2006


Let’s go back a week on this one and start with the big plan we had to buy a 3 person kayak ready for the Big Blue 24 hour race.  We had arranged to go to Paddle Fest at Coyote point and pick up a boat that was advertised as being popular among adventure racers.  We paid our deposit and packed all our gear ready to paddle the boat the 20 miles from Coyote point back to San Francisco.  When we got down there we met the boat builder and unpacked our boat on the grass.  The thing looked fantastic, all orange and white, looking very sleek and fast.  The first thing I decided to do was see how comfortable the center cockpit was.  The hatch looked a little smaller than the others but there was a seat.  I tried to slide into the seat but got stuck half way!  Something was wrong here.  After a couple of minutes I was in the boat but so cramped that there was no way I could stay in that position and I hadn’t even run anywhere yet.  Now I’m only 5’6” and I’m not sure who they designed the boat for but it wasn’t your average racer.  This is where things get really funny because Grant decides that I must have been doing something wrong and his kayaking expertise is somehow going to allow him to get into the center cockpit of this boat.  Grant is 5’9”.  He managed to get one hairy leg wedged and had to leave the other hanging over the side of the boat.  At this point we decided that unless one of us had our legs hacked off at the knees we weren’t going to fit in this boat and race.  We wrapped the whole thing up and gave it back to the guy and went riding in Skeggs instead.   We’d have to worry about the boat later.


The ride in Skeggs was fun until we got back to the car.  Grant had this painful look on his face as he looked for his car keys.  He couldn’t find them.   They’d fallen out of his pocket somewhere on the ride.  We had met Ken White earlier in the day and he had taken on some crazy trails that we’d never been on before and probably couldn’t find again.  Where the hell had we been?  How were we going to find them?  We were lucky that they were only 2 miles back on the trail where he’d taken his last Clifbar out of his pocket.  Could have been a lot worse right?  I was planning on riding my bike back to the City if we hadn’t had found them.


So the week of the race is here and we’re receiving race updates from Todd Jackson telling us a little about the race format and how things are going to start.  I pass these updates on to the team and chat with Grant about our strategy. 


Me: Bike first then kayak right Grant.

Grant: OK.  Where does it start?

Me: Carson City.

Grant:  So are we kayaking from the start?

Me: No! Bike FIRST!

Grant: OK.  So should we bring extra crash hats for the TA as it says we need bike helmets for the kayak?

Me: No, we’re riding our bikes to the kayak so we’ll have our crash hats on already.

Grant: Oh yea, ok.


We cut work early on Friday and everyone meets to load up the truck.  Super supporter Hailey is joining us to cheer us on during the race and drive us home after as we’re going to be tired.


We manage to get 4 people, 3 bikes and a massive rental kayak onto Grants Toyota truck and we’re off.  The traffic is horrendous and it takes nearly 6 hours to get to the lake and drop off the kayak. 

We get to the hotel and start dividing up all of our gear for the various parts of the race.  We have a huge bin for the TA and we start loading it with supplies and gear we think we might need for the kayak and beyond.  Jen Ratay stopped by and hung out for a while taking a look at some navigation equipment that she would need for the race.  She was racing solo as her husband was at the Moab Extreme race and had taken all their navigation equipment.  No worries, after a brief class on the Basic Roamer AR she was all set to go.


Grant was furiously packing gear and making sure that we had all the right kayak stuff in the right bag, as well as enough food for 24 hours.  I made him go through the gear list line by line checking things off.  Bike first than kayak right Grant?  Sure…..


We wake up early on race day and drive the 30 minutes to drop off all the kayak and TA gear.   As we’re leaving the lake to go back to the start Grant sees his bike crash helmet in the back of the car and tries to put it in the TA box.  I stop him and say that he’ll need the helmet as we’re biking first.  Bike first right Grant?  Oh yea, ok says Grant.  Now this should have been a big red flag as to what was coming next.


We get all the way back to the hotel with about an hour to grab something to eat and roll over to the sign in.  As we’re packing up the room and loading the bikes on the car Grant says “Hey, have you seen my yellow dry bag with all my bike stuff in it?”  I ask him why the hell I would have it in my room and he just shrugs his shoulders.  I ask him if he might have put it in the TA box that was now 30 minutes away and he says that he is 90% certain that he did.  The next few things out of my mouth are not worth repeating but you can imagine what was said.  Did he not listen when we said that we’re biking first?  Did he not read the race updates that I forwarded to him so as he could be prepared? 


Grant drops us at the start ready to sign in and drives back over the mountain to fetch his bike gear that he’ll need.  He wanted Hailey to go get them but I said that he was the one who was going to get a speeding ticket for this, not Hailey   I register us and get the maps while finding a quiet spot in the sun to start plotting. 


Here is the first good news that I get, that maps are 1:24,000 and 1:63,360.  Perfect!  These are exactly the scales that the Basic Roamer AR was designed for.  I was going to get to use the whole thing for this event.  We were given 3 UTM’s that told us the location of CP1, 2 & 3 and we were told we would get further instructions out on the course.  I was so happy that the navigation tool I had developed was so perfectly suited to the race we were about to do.  I had high hopes for the teams that were using one.


Everyone was talking at the start about the best route over the mountains to CP 1.  There were a few choices.  Chatting with Adam Dotti from the Dirty Avocados it looked like Ash Canyon would be favorite.  I then bumped into Peter Pensotti who said Tank Road was much better, I trusted him because he lives in Tahoe and must ride here all the time.


Final picture just before the start


Grant shows up just as Todd says go, he managed to retrieve his bike gear from the TA.  We hear that Jenn from Team also left stuff in the TA and missed the start.  The field splits into two groups, one goes North to hit Tank Road and the other heads West to Ash Canyon.  We lead the group up to Tank Road and really didn’t see anyone again once we hit the dirt.  We were doing well and having fun.  We had to push the bike a little but not too bad.  As we near the top of the climb we’re overtaken by a VW camper, the driver leans out of the window and asks us why we didn’t take Ash Canyon as it was much quicker!  Bollocks!  Why did we listen to another team?  It looks like we’ll have some catching up to do when we get to the kayak.   The ride over the mountain was fantastic.  We were flying on some great trails and fantastic terrain.



Highway 28 near the kayak TA


We cruse into the kayak TA and Hailey is there wet and shivering.  She has been swimming in the lake that’s about 57deg and looks really cold.  There are a bunch of bikes already in the TA and apparently the leaders left on the kayak 30 minutes earlier.  We’re 2 hours into the race and we’ve already lost 30 minutes!  We jump into the boat and Grant starts complaining that he has no foot pegs in the front.  This is going to be a long paddle like this.  I’m wondering why we didn’t do something about this earlier and stuff a pack in front of his feet or something.



Crystal clear Lake Tahoe


We did the 8 miles out and back around the buoy and saw a Mink swimming in the harbor as we came back to the beach.  Everyone was watching and pointing until Grant said out loud that they make great coats.  This got us a scowl from a spectator and I was hoping that Heather would hit him with the paddle because I couldn’t reach.  We find out from Hailey that we’re even further behind.  I blame it on the big fat boat we’ve been paddling without foot pegs for our powerhouse with a paddle.  We drag the boat up the beach and head for our gear.



We jump on the bikes for the ride back over the mountain to CP 3 at the lake.  The ride was fairly uneventful with a little bike pushing but nothing to bad.  When we get to CP3 we see Team and others just finishing up the plotting for the next leg.  We’ve managed to catch up some time.  I plot the next 4 CP’s and we decide that we’re taking a clockwise route with CP 3C and then 3B as our first targets followed by 3A at the top of the mountain and 3D off in the woods.  



Love the Basic Roamer AR..


We set off running, the terrain is good and the pace seems fast but easy.  Grant helped Heather along with a tow rope and we hit the CP by the lake.  The Waterproof pedometer was dialed in and we were hitting trail markers and intersections spot on with the distances measured from the map using the Basic Roamer AR.  Even the 1:63,630 scale seemed to work fine.


We were the first ones to hit the manned CP.  I guess the other teams went anti clockwise.  We bushwhacked up to CP 3B and found it fairly easily in the daylight and after going back to check in at CP3C again we were off on the long trek to the highest point in the event, one peak over from the top of Snow Valley ski resort.  We bumped into Team and others coming along the trail and said hi, but everyone was moving fast and there was little time for a chat.


The route we had chosen put us quite high up on the side of the mountain and we aimed for the saddle between the two peaks.  As we were climbing we could see lights on the top of Snow Valley peak and we guessed that some teams had either taken the road all the way to the top or had hit the wrong peak.   That cost them a few hundred feet of extra climbing.  Once we found the CP on the peak we had a long downhill run to get the last CP before returning to the lake for more instructions.   CP 3D turned out to be the hardest one for us to find.  It was now very dark and the flag was supposed to be 6’ up in a tree.  None of the flags had glow sticks and this made them almost impossible to find without being right on top of them.  We were in the right area for about an hour, just walking around in circles until we decided to go back to a known place on the trail and try a different approach.   Within 10 minutes Grant had spotted it and took the information.  We kind of sneaked off as there were other teams walking around having the same trouble finding it as we did.  We went back to the lake and checked in for some hot soup and the next UTM’s.



Where the hell is CP 3D??


I was shaking while I was plotting the next 2 CP’s.  It was cold and the wind was howling.  The hot soup really helped but it was time to put on more clothing.  Team Ultimate Direction were at the CP and they were talking about quitting because their girl was freezing and Rick had to get home for work at 9:00AM.  We said goodbye to them as they headed back to their cars.  I wondered if Rick made it to work on time as it was about 1AM and a long drive back to the City.


We were going to be on the bike for the next 4 hours as the 2 CP’s took us back to the top of the park.  It was a long hard uphill slog to CP 4 and we eventually arrived just as 2 teams in front of us were leaving.  They gave us a clue on how to find the CP but we still had trouble.  We were told to go to the end of the trail and shoot a bearing of 128deg.  What ended up happening was that we went to the next trail intersection assuming that is what they meant by the end of the trail.  What we actually had to do was go to the intersection and turn right.  That then took us to the end of the trail where we shot the bearing and found the CP.  We must have wasted at least another 45 minutes on this one.  I blame it on sleep depravation and tiredness but this should have been an easy one to find.  From here it was downhill almost all the way to the finish with a short pause for CP 5.  This was easy to find as it had a glow stick stuck on a pole right next to it.  You could see it like a beacon from 100 yards away.  I wish some of the others had been like that.  I gave Heather the info from the tag on the flag but there seemed to be some confusion.  Grant had forgotten to tell Heather the phrase from CP4!!  And now he couldn’t remember it.


I was going to kill him!  There was no way we were going back up the mountain to get it again.  He would have to try and remember.  I was furious and told him all about it.  Can you imagine going all the way back up to 8,000’ to get a phrase that Grant forgot!  I was not impressed.



Grant trying to remember the answer to CP4


Now we had a long fast descent but both Grant and my headlamps had gone out.  We had to resort to our backup lights which slowed us down a lot.  The long slog back to Spooner Lake was miserable.  We were out of food and fairly cold at this point but the view across Lake Tahoe was beautiful.  There were a number of points where I wanted to just lay down at the side of the road and have Hailey come pick me up.  I was so tempted to tell Grant and Heather to go on without me but we suffered through.  The 10 miles seemed to take forever and my feet were numb from the cold but we eventually made it.   Hailey was waiting for us and cheering as people came across the line. The finish area was great with a campfire and a BBQ going.  Todd Jackson cooked up some excellent breakfast burritos as we consumed as much food as we could find.  We were exhausted but in good spirits.  We had taken second in the division behind Team which wasn’t bad for our first 24 hour race this year.  This race was different to the other really long aces I’d done.  I don’t remember any point in the race where I swore to myself that I’d never race again.  Somehow I must be getting used to the pain.   Thanks very much to Todd Jackson of Seventh Wave for putting on a fantastic event and to for qualifying for the USARA National Championships.  See you all at SVS Finals and the USARA Nationals.



A big thank you to our sponsors for this event


The gear and support they provided us was the key to our success during this event.