May 30, 2007

Fun in the Mammoth sun

I have been to mammoth so many times I get the trips all mixed in.... However, this time will stand out in my mind. We got to go to some new and old places but all my new means. On bikes, foot and with good company.

We stayed with Mandy and Marius (M&M - so cute) and they made us feel old in some strange way. They were giddy as little children...full of life and love even with little sleep. Oh... and so fast too. Age really is in the mind and not in number of years.

Will have to get back to this post but pictures are worth more than a thousand of my words so here you go...

Marius "polar bear boy" goes for a swim

train time?

I swear they had clothes on!

May 21, 2007

Xterra Racing in the dirt ! !

This had to be one of the best weekends ever. Camping, friends, new and old, lots of races, lots of food and time on the trail…an answer to prayers. It was the weekend Xterra races in Temecula and the West Coast Championship for the Xterra triathlon series that drew in a hearty crown and sponsors to the private Vail Lake in Temecula. Guest appearances and races by Marius, Monique, David Sinatra and Fowler, the OC Multisport crew and even Dustin and his woman showed up just to show support. It was beyond doubt a weekend that would be hard to beat.

(moni, Dustin, Christina and Dave load up for the races)

We got in Friday night (late!) and setup camp with the two Davids. Mike and the Multisport crew were already sleeping just like the rest of the campground but we were able to meet up with everyone in the morning just fine. A short bfast and some sun screen and we were ready for the races.

Saturday’s lineup included the Duathlon and a 5K and 10K trail run that covered the same course as the triathlon race being held on Sunday which had two options, a shorter tri had the 5K course and 10Kers would do two of the brutal laps in the heat of the day. The Duathlon also covered roughly the same bike course as the triathlon the turned out to be something around 16miles per lap.

Trail Run Race

Dave (just off the couch) Sinatra and Mike Collins were running the 5K distance (who both ended up raceing the triathlon the next day too!) and Monique opted to go long on the 10K with two laps through the hills. David Fowler and I walked up part of the course to take pictures and talk it up. We saw a couple of the crew helping with the race and they were telling us how they “cut the trail” in just yesterday. I will say that it held up to the true Xterra spirit of the courses and one part of the trail was so off camber and sandy it was difficult to just stay on the trail. Fun.

Monique and I met David Fowler at the Folsom race earlier this year yet it feels like we have known him forever. His tempered confidence and giving spirit make it easy to open up and want to go on adventures with him. At such a young age he has already been to so many places and done so much. He spent a few months in uncharted wild Alaska backpacking, led wine tours through Napa Valley and raced Ironman distance triathlons including Kona. All this and a humble spirit in his twenties? As we walked he was telling me about his girlfriend Hanna and considering popping the question… Do it!

Just as we made our way back down the 5K runners were wrapping up and Monique was heading back out for her second lap. Michael Collins cruised in a 2nd place easy pace finish overall and Dave just cruised in to finish. I give him props for racing anything off the couch and wanted to do the tri the next day too! Inspiration was all around...

(Coach Mike laughs at how easy it was...and
goes on to win the triathlon the next day)


Marius was up next with the Duathlon race. The competitors started with a short run chasing a quad around the dirt to spread out the crowd and then a blast out to a 5K. Marius was looking strong and making up ground as he came into the transition and headed out on the 16ish mile bike in the hills. I think it would have been even more of an advantage if it was a 60ish bike in the hills for Marius.

After the bike they had another trail run to the finish and we had a long day ahead of us so we were off to our tents and a nap and get some rest before tomorrows Xterra triathlon races. Later that night Dave and I split a couple pounds of pasta and I slept like a rock. Good times.

Many more pictures posted over here:

...and Xterra Triathlon picutres over here

May 16, 2007

Desert Winds Adventure Race

Desert Winds race was off the hook... I was soooo looking forward to this race and it was as expected as far as support and the course setup. Beautiful views, encouraging staff and very challenging for a 24 hour Adventure Race. In fact, it was called a mini-expedition race due to the format and time it would take for teams to finish all the check points. The top finishing team (Team Sole) finished in just over 26 hours and they are faaaaasssttttt.

I was racing with Team SCRAT and try as we may, we just couldnt keep it together after that 11 hour bike ride through the sand. We made it though some good navigation gotchas, heat, sand, heat, sand, heat, sand... you get the idea... but in the end the sun was just going to set on us that day and that is the way it is.

I actually took the experience as a very positive one even if it was the first race that I would not complete. DNF can be a good thing...Sometimes finishing is not everything and you need to know when to wait for your race day when it all hooks up. Learning and a new experience is always welcomed by me.

After we ran out of water and spent more time in the heat, sand, heat, sand, etc. we were almost out of this long canyon that would dump us into the Colorado river. I could taste the water miles away - no map needed. I was carrying over 96 oz. of water and it was all gone at this point. Sucking down a gu was a BAD idea ;-0 I learned first hand how efficiency plays such a big role in saving energy and the reserves you have with you.

I also fell in love with my wingnut after this race. After a small collection of about 15 Golite and Solomon bags I have finally met a bag that can do it all and you dont need to take it off for any of it. I'm set.

By the time we reached the water and dumped our bikes we had a few hours of sunlight left so we were off to swim and row through the welcomed cold waters to a few more checkpoints. Ahhh The water felt so good. We were drinking our share right from the river.

Funny how I remember some areas in detail and other moments are already a blur... At one point I was getting out of the water and put my hand on a rock. As I was looking down I noticed that something was wrapped around the rock and moving...?? Huh. Agghh.. A BiG OL snake! That will wake you up!

As the sun set we had a few more adventures including trying to get our gear, kayaks and cars all sorted out. We didn't expect to end up stopping at this checkpoint so it just added to our continued adventure. So did the dead car battery... For me this race was an adventure just like our race director Robert Finlay had promised.

I would highly recommend any race that Kayak Lake Mead puts on. We are looking forward to the night adventure race later in the year.

More pictures posted over here too


May 10, 2007

Big 4-0 Scramble!

So much fun in the Santa Monica sun ;-P

We were at my second of Katherine’s scrables and this was for her 40th birthday. The BIG 4 0 Scramble! Katherine puts in so much work for these and they are a blast because of the atmosphere, people and format for the day. The scramble opens up a lot of opportunity for choices. Unlike most adventure races the checkpoints can be visited in any order but are worth different points. There is also an “absolute” time limit where everyone must report back to before. In our case it was six hours. This makes for a unique challenge where each team must decide on what checkpoints to pickup and get the most use of time. Kat also added another twist where the first team to some of the checkpoints could pickup the checkpoint itself (more on that later) and score some bonus points. The only catch was that the team had to bring the checkpoint marker back to get the credit.

All teams started in the water although it was not mandatory. We quickly found our way to a few kayak checkpoints with Georgina back on the Nav mastering. The day could not have been better. Clear water, warm skies and a day of adventure with friends.

(making out way through the "K" checkpoints)

Soon we found ourselves out of the water and running through the neighborhoods. We found some trolls and other racers running by with all types of checkpoints that caught our eyes. Monique and Georgina were hot onto the checkpoints while Marius was chatting it up with the neighbors who were asking what the craze was all about. I was just trying to keep up at this point. Before long we were collected the trekking checkpoints we were out to get and on our way to our bikes. We were lucky to get some of the light weight checkpoints to carry back too. We saw one team with what must have been a 40lb gnome that they had to carry around with them to get the points for it.

(one team finds a 3 foot pink stuffed animal at the checkpoint)

The bike trails was my favorite part of this race. So many nice trails! Mandy also joined up with us to ride along and this was the first time Monique and I had met her. What a nice new girlfriend Marius has got himself. She is so easy to talk to and also so much like Marius. A great couple right from the start.

Together now Georgina, Monique, Mandy, Marius and I peddled away. We rode some of the backbone trail (walked a lot too) which extends some 70 miles along the Santa Monica Mountains. The trail is part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area which has hosted numerous movie settings over the years with its diversity in terrain and plant life.

(a baby snake sighting)

Part of the reason the bike was so fun for me was because of the crunch time! We had our six hours dwindling away and we really started rushing to get the last few checkpoints before our time ran out. I had no idea where we where but good for us Georgina was on the map and spot on at that. We managed to pick up a few more checkpoints before out mad dash to the transition area.

Full steam ahead down a busy road and up a few long climbs our legs really started to feel it. That is again when Marius kicks it into overtime. If he couldnt be towing Monique he was going to carry her bike! Wow... What a man. I am glad that he was around. I think were were down to less than 10 minutes at this point.

(there is just no stopping "Marius the Mule")

The last climb was all out at we had less than two minutes and there was grunting all around... Mad dash. We make it just in time and hand over our captured checkpoint markers and passport (a camera in this case with pictures of us at each checkpoint). Amazing day and many thanks to the Kat and friends on the trail that day!

Mandy takes a picture of out team right after we finish off all of that pot luck food... Ahhggg.. Satisfaction ;-P

More pictures posted from the race over here


May 02, 2007

Castaic Lake Adventure Race

Well I was going to race the Xterra this weekend, however, my knee was still giving me problems and with an adventure race at the same location I thought it would be best to take it slow, hang out with Monique on the trail and learn some navigation skills. Yes, I learned a lot and we got cooked in the process. Good times ;-)

Like our normal schedule we decided to sign up for the sprint AR and just pack all of our gear for the weekend and head out. We arrived just in time for a great clinic by Cyril from Dart-Noon. Insightful tips on navigation and team racing. We were inspired and after we learned that the sprint AR did not really have any navigation and that we could not use our new Tango boat we decided to upgrade! We switched to the longer 12hr race and thought we would just get more time to practice. Now, what was Cyril saying about bearings and declination? Oh well, we were off to get some dinner and get some sleep before our big day.

Race day morning was an easy start for us. We decided that as a team “Fletch-Lives” we would take it slow and make it a long training session. The race started with a run/trek from the start to where we had dropped the kayaks at CP1. We let everyone take off on the start and even decided to go way around the trail so we would not be following the crowd. I am not going to say who's idea that was but it was just the start of a long day of learning. Sometimes it is not so bad to follow everyone IF they are going in the right direction.

Finally... arriving at our Kayak, we were in good shape and looking forward to getting into the water and making our very first paddle in our new Tango. What better time for the first time in new gear and even a boat at that then in the middle of a race. This is an adventure! At this point we had lost sight of any of the leading teams after our little detour but we had arrived and really knew how we got there on the map so we were learning something. Once in the water navigation was easy and the tango was rockin’. We started passing teams but tried to stay focused on our goal. The heat was already starting to crank up and the water felt so nice. Arriving at the first Kayak CP(checkpoint) we found instructions for a orienteering trek for about four additional checkpoints. We grabbed our instructions and started running north. Hey, where are we going. Ahh, North? Our first instructions read something about “shooting a bearing” and we soon found ourselves sitting at a picnic table reading very slowly.

We were very thankful for the teams that helped us out and we did learn so much. Just when we started gaining momentum I had my knee problem back in full force. Agghhh… After walking backwards down the hills and popping several Advil’s we managed to complete the trek section and we were back in the boat. My knee problem was from my weak hamstrings and quads pulling my knee to the side. I realized that I was pushing with my legs out to the side when paddling and it was just making it worse. That was a huge help in understanding how I got jacked up in the first place. I had been paddling quite a bit lately and it all started making sense. Now if we could only get to 170 degrees SouthWest of the letter "F" in the word Forest on the map....

We started picking up checkpoints and learning the little details of the map that only come by painfully overlooking them. By now the heat was out in full force and we were running back to the starting TA and we would be out of the water for the rest of the day. We packed our food, water and headed for Grasshopper Valley on our bikes. Here is where we really got cooked.

We were actually racing up to this point but somewhere in Grasshopper Valley we wondered around for hours trying to get three checkpoints. We saw lots of dead cows, little shade and a scant racer here and there. Our pace was slowing way down and we soon found ourselves without water and deep into the valley. We had passed all of the checkpoints on our way up and arrived at the end of the valley at the furthest northern checkpoint some long hours later. Another lesson learned is to get out of the valley (heat) and get to the ridge where there is some light wind and visibility is much better. It is also easier for the rescue crews to find your body if you cant find your way out. At the last checkpoint they had water and that was all we were looking for to keep us from blowing up.

As dark started to set in and we were heading back to the TA we had renewed energy. We had survived the day and the heat. We had found all of the checkpoints and learned how to get the details out of the map that we needed. We had raced as a team.

Back at the TA we discovered that they had taken down the bouy for the last section of the race but I was so stoked that we were ready to take it on if we would be able to... We could have raced all night. It was cool out now and we were ready to go but everyone was packing or had already gone home. We were just getting going now and understanding this map reading thing? We were lucky to get our cheese burgers and it was better than any metal and tasted so much better too!

The next day we decided to volunteer for the Big Blue and hand out water for the Xterra race. Another cookin' day but so much fun. Here is the short race report from the Xterra and are some pictures from our Adventure Race and Xterra Race