January 30, 2007

Adventures In San Diego

Last week we were down in San Diego again and we were able to get out to another one of Barrie’s Mini AR clinics to meet some new people and learn some new skills without getting too lost. The hardest part was getting ourselves out to Penasquitos Creek Park after a night out at the gas lamp district with dessert (Extraordinary Desserts-highly recommended) but since we were starting at noon we had plenty of time to sleep in, get Starbucks and pack some subway sandwiches for later in the day. This time there was no Kayak section but teams were able to pair up with some more experienced racers to learn the tricks of the trade first hand.

(racers get the final details for the day as maps and rules are handed out)

Our “team” grew to a large size of NINE when Monique and I joined up with Mike and Isaac from Carlsbad to be led by some of the crew from "Feed the Machine”. I have visited their website and read about them in some race reports before so I was glad to spend the day with such a talented group. I also read Bernice’s blog from time to time so it was nice to meet her in person after reading about her adventures. Christian and Melissa helped bring so much balance to a big group and Pablo who lives just a walk away from the park rounded out our team.

(Our team discovers our Northerly and Easterly cordinates)

The plotting and route choices were all on one map this time which made it easier for us (last time Monique and I plotted our first checkpoint on the wrong map!) and we were traversing some of the same trails for the bike and the trekking sections. This did not make for an easy day however because we were only given some of the checkpoints to start out with and the others would be discovered as we made our way through the course. We would also be spending time navigating at night which we have not done before.

(Christian demonstrates the "finger tool" for measuring Kilometers out on the map)

The bike portion of the course went by quickly for such a large crew and we often had more trouble "over thinking" the checkpoints as most of them were located right off of the trial. While we picked up our checkpoints we collected the letters for each one that should have spelled out something for us... I don’t recall if we ever completed a word? The first few checkpoints were AAAE so Im not sure what that would spell out anyways. AAAEEY YOU GUYS? (remember goonies?)

We were able to get to all of the bike checkpoints and our mentors were so patient with us. We had to stop several times where Christian would show Mike something on the compass only to repeat the same thing to me when he was done. Sometimes you have to hear things a few times before they sink in! Thinking back on the other adventure races I have done, I really started to appreciate how quickly Georgina could get us to a checkpoint. The stress of keeping everyone moving only compounds the decision process. One of the things I learned the most from this trip was to check the map often, even if you think you are on the correct trail. Sometimes it is easier to get to a checkpoint slower than to have to turn around. .. .and around. . .and around.

(lights out! Its time to run)

With the bike leg behind us and most racers calling it a day, our team of nine still had high energy levels when we headed out for the trek with our lights and trail shoes. For me, this was the most exciting part of our little adventure. We were entertained by songs from the girls while we learned about night navigation and we got to bush whack our way to some checkpoints!

(Bernice and Melissa sing us songs through the night!)

Barrie made a very interesting course with some climbs to keep us warm through the night. It is amazing how even a little moon light can help you determine so much of your surroundings and how much you can rely on the major land features. It was easier at night to look at the peak of the hills and not just the next trail. I also learned to keep an eye out for the vegetation and the deer trails that can make such a big difference in the route you choose.

After we searched around on all the major trails for checkpoint #4 and couldn’t find it we decided to head back and pickup the rest of the CP's on our way out. Of course, I had to sprain my ankle again the week before my ultra but it helped me focus on having a good time which is why we were out in the dark in the first place. I cannot remember what our finishing time was (somewhere around 8hrs) but I think we all had the last few cars in the parking lot when we arived back at the park. The last run to the cars warmed up everyone for the ride home and by then my ankle was already feeling better.

Looking back I learned so much more than navigating. . . I guess it is just the time on the trail that nothing else can replace. I Posted some more pictures from our adventure on my SmugMug site and hopefully we will have some good reports from the other racers on the Adventure Race Reports site.

Now I am off to rest my ankle and prepare for the ultra next weekend.

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