Big Blue: Over the pavement and lost in the woods
Sometimes in adventure racing, the difference between doing well and getting hopelessly lost is just one wrong turn.
Getting ready for last Saturday’s Tahoe Big Blue with our team of three Sierra Sun staffers and one Tahoe World substitute ” all of us newbies to adventure racing ” we were acutely aware that there were going to be portions of the race for which we weren’t adequately prepared.
The orienteering course, for one thing, sounded difficult. I had nightmares of the four of us wandering aimlessly in the forest, searching desperately for the little orange flags that marked the control points we had to find.
The kayaking section was another question mark since none of us had much paddling experience, and we had witnessed first-hand the kind of waves that Lake Tahoe can throw at you on windy days.
So it’s ironic that the one big mistake we made, the mistake that dashed our hopes of reaching all of the control points and officially finishing the race, came during one of the easiest portions of the course: On our mountain bikes, on the Fiberboard Freeway (which is paved), we missed a turn. This was the turn that would have taken us directly to the first mountain bike control point at Northstar and on to the orienteering course set up nearby.
Heck, there was even a sign pointing us in the right direction if only we would have looked back at the key intersection we blew by so quickly.
Instead we found ourselves peddling an extra nine-mile loop around Mt. Pluto that cost us enough time to make finishing the course impossible before dark.
But that, I guess, is adventure racing.
It’s also a perfect reason to give it another go; to sign up for next year’s race; to try to fix the mistakes that cost us this time around.
And it was a fun day with a great group of people, which in the end was what it was all about. At least for Team Bad News that is. The other Truckee teams entered in the race represented well.
Ann Marie and Brian Hess of the Snot Rockets took second place in the two-person coed division, taking home some nice schwag from the race’s sponsors and a real sense of accomplishment.
“We were totally surprised,” Hess said of their second-place finish, “but it’s awesome.”
Hess and Marie both said they would be back for more adventure racing at next year’s Tahoe Big Blue if not sooner, and they too would be looking to cut down on the mistakes they saw only in hindsight.
Also finishing strong for Truckee was the Truckee-Tahoe Lumber/Home Concepts team of Eric Werner, Dave Pearson, Gerhard Skerbinek and Ira Cross.
The boys from TTL/HC took second place in the four-person all-male division, a surprising result for the group which had to overcome slow going on the kayaking and orienteering sections to end up on the podium.
According to Cross, “Our whole team is a lot stronger on the mountain bike. We can just charge uphill and we fly down, so it was really fun being able to get on the bike and start spinning after a whole day of walking around doing the orienteering and the rest.”
“I thought it was a good layout,” he said. “We made a lot of mistakes just being new to adventure racing, but next year we’ll be a whole lot stronger.”
Next year was on the minds of many of the competitors at the finish line, many of whom were already comparing notes and devising strategies to eliminate the mistakes that had slowed them down during this year’s race.
“The problem [with adventure racing] is once you start doing it, you get hooked,” said Lisa Miller of Team Poshly. “It’s so much fun. You start doing one and when you’re doing it it’s like ‘This mountain bike section sucks.’ But then when you see the end, you almost don’t want to get to the finish line. And when you’re done and you’re drinking champagne, you start looking forward to the next one.”
And while I didn’t believe her before the race, now that my legs have recovered and my body is starting to feel normal again, I realize that Miller was right. Adventure racing is addictive.
So with only 362 days left to train for the 2005 Tahoe Big Blue, Team Bad News had better get its act together.
Part II and III: