Adventure is the game, Thin Air is the name |

Adventure is the game, Thin Air is the name

Big Blue Adventure SeriesAdventure racers take on the bike leg in a recent event.

It took Team Thin Air more than seven hours to cross the finish line in second place at the Big Blue Adventure Race in Red Bluff on April 23 – and team member Susan Bower called the race “a sprint.”

That’s because the Truckee resident has competed in 100-mile races that take 24 hours to complete, as well as a 450-mile race that took seven days. So, covering a measly 40 miles in seven hours pales in comparison.

“It’s really a blast,” Bower said of competing in the Big Blue Adventure Series, a string of multi-sport races in which teams and individuals compete in a variety of activities, including kayaking, canoeing, orienteering, mountain biking, trail running, navigation, high ropes skills, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and more.

The race in Red Bluff included running, kayaking, mountain biking and navigating. The terrain varied from fields of volcanic rock hidden by tall grass, to canyons with steep cliffs on both sides, to swift-flowing portions of the Sacramento River.

“I didn’t get to look up much,” Susan said. “It was such rugged terrain, I had to constantly look down.”

Race organizers give each team a topographical map about 15 minutes prior the race. Check points are plotted on the map, and bikes and kayaks await the teams in areas where transitions are necessary.

Although the courses are often scenic, there are always risks involved.

“My arms and legs are covered in poison oak,” Susan said. “So that’s kind of a bummer.”

Bower’s four-person team, which includes friends Mats Jansson and Thomas Bastis and husband Scott ” who sat out the race in Red Bluff in order to watch their 17-month old son Zachary, placed first in the three-person coed division of the Red Bluff Adventure Race and second overall. Ten seconds is all that separated them from first place, which was taken by a two-man team called Breakouts.

In naming Team Thin Air when the group was assembled in 2002, Scott picked a fitting name, but one that is quite conservative compared to others. Team Pull My Finger, Lost Kiwi, Skirts to Chase, Silly Rabbits, Too old to move, Cyclepath, represent some of the zany but clever names.

“I didn’t get too creative,” Scott said.

Scott and Susan, ages 34 and 35, moved to California from New Hampshire 10 years ago and have lived in Truckee for five years. Both said they enjoy the team aspect of adventure racing, as well as the opportunity to explore new territory. The competitive nature of the sport is another perk, the couple agreed.

“[Adventure racing] adds a lot of gear to our garage,” Scott said, “but it keeps our spirits high and keeps us energized.”

To have energy while speeding through grueling miles of extreme terrain, one must train between races to stay in shape. Scott said he and Susan try to get about 10 to 15 hours of training in each week, and sometimes more than 20 hours. But finding time in the day for their training regiment ” which normally includes running, cycling and kayaking ” with a 17-month old child is not easy.

“It’s very challenging,” Scott said. “Both of us have been known to run at night with head lamps. We’ve got to squeeze in [the training] whenever we can.”

Zachary, now weighing in at 26 pounds, sometimes joins them in his jogging stroller. When Zachary was just 2 days old he accompanied them in a front pack, Susan said, so he’s accustomed to tagging along on training days.

In Red Bluff, Scott had a hard time waiting around as fan instead of a competitor; but someone needed to watch Zachary. And it may have been even tougher for Susan to do the baby-sitting, as she is the more competitive of the two, Scott said.

“She won’t admit [to being competitive], but if you’re on a mountain bike in front of her, she’ll catch you,” he said.

Susan did not fully concede to Scott’s claim: “I’m not that competitive. I just compete with myself. I like to do the best I can.”

Team Thin Air did better than expected in Red Bluff, Scott said, as they qualified for the national championship in Florida in November and received a $400 sponsorship for their efforts. They have not yet decided if they’ll make the trip.

The Big Blue Adventure Series comes to North Lake Tahoe September 10 and 24, and the next race is May 28 in Reno. To learn more, check out the Web site at

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