Feeling Blue? Make or break time for Bad News | SierraSun.com

Feeling Blue? Make or break time for Bad News

Paul Raymore
Sierra Sun
Photo by Josh Miller/Sierra SunLeft to right: David Bunker, Jamie Bate, Paul Raymore and Lauren Shearer
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[Editor’s note: This is the third in an ongoing series about the Sierra Sun editorial team’s attempt to complete the upcoming Tahoe Big Blue Adventure Race. Read Part II below.]

One more day until the adventure begins.

One more day until the agony of lactic acid build-up in every muscle in our bodies.

One more day until the Tahoe Big Blue adventure race.

Team Bad News is ready. Or as ready as we will ever be.

So are the other local teams competing in this year’s Tahoe Big Blue, including the group with my favorite name ” Team Snot Rockets ” made up of Brian Hess and Ann Marie of Truckee, and the team with maybe the longest name in the race ” Team Truckee-Tahoe Lumber/Home Concepts (TTL/HC for short), which is composed of Truckee residents Dave Pearson, Ira Cross, Gerhard Skerbinek and Eric Werner.

With race day just around the corner now, everybody is getting excited to see their training (or lack thereof) pay off.

“I don’t think we’re going to win,” said Snot Rocketeer Brian Hess, “but we want to do well. We’ve trained hard and we want to do well for ourselves. We’re not going to come in last. But it’s mainly for fun. It’s just a good time.”

Both Hess and his teammate Ann Marie are first-time adventure racers, but with the training they’ve done and their familiarity with the area, they hope to finish strong tomorrow.

“Our first goal was to finish the race and just have fun,” Marie said, “but the more we’ve trained and the more amped we’ve gotten… we still want to finish the race, but now it’s become more competitive in that we’re aiming to finish in eight hours. So we’ve upped our goal. Now we want to finish in time for the barbecue.”

While physical training and fitness certainly play a large role in races such as the Tahoe Big Blue, the mental challenge will be equally important, according to race organizer Todd Jackson.

Proper strategy in navigating the course will likely make a bigger difference in who crosses the finish line first than will overall fitness. And it is this element that makes adventure racing so different from other endurance sports.

“The navigation is what makes the races fun,” said Lisa Miller, “If you get lost, it’s totally your fault.”

Miller, a Reno resident who will be competing in her second Tahoe Big Blue with Team Poshly (which translates to “let’s go” in Russian), attempted to explain why “navi-guessing” is a better term for most teams’ strategy during the race. She also tried to reassure those of us on Team Bad News that we probably wouldn’t get too lost if we paid close attention to our maps while plodding along through the unmarked course.

If attitude plays a role in adventure racing success, then the guys from Truckee-Tahoe Lumber/Home Concepts should do just fine.

Meeting them before a training ride on the Tahoe Rim Trail on Wednesday, the four teammates explained why they were doing the race together:

“How else can we hurt each other really badly without being at work?” asked Gerhard Skerbinek, who might have a bright future ahead of him as a motivational speaker if his professional adventure racing career doesn’t work out.

The TTL/HC guys, who are also all first-time adventure racers, hope that their varied talents will help them survive and do well in the race.

“I think we all have our strengths. We’ve got a soccer player here, a climber, a kayaker ” I think all together we’re going to be a power to be reckoned with,” Skerbinek joked. “This will be an adventure. Next thing you know we’ll be in the Eco Challenge.”

Team leader Dave Pearson shared his teammates enthusiasm, and was especially looking forward to the mountain biking portion of the race.

“The mountain biking is going to be the most fun. I think they’re talking 20 to 25 miles with 4,000 feet of climbing, and that should be fun,” he said.

Maybe they’ll be willing to pull Team Bad News up the hills then?

Maybe not.

As for the rest of us mortals (who hesitate to call 4,000 feet of climbing “fun”), we’re just hoping to finish before dark, without getting too lost, and still on speaking terms at the end of the race.

A late roster change should make things more interesting for our Sierra Sun team as Renee Shadforth was called away due to a death in her family, leaving us with too much testosterone and not enough common sense on the team.

Fortunately, a quick call over to the Tahoe World produced Production Manager Lauren Shearer as a substitute. We all figure that with less than three days to prepare for the race, she should be in perfect form to join Team Bad News by race day.

So to all the teams out there competing in the Tahoe Big Blue tomorrow: Good luck, have fun, and if you see Team Bad News lost in the woods somewhere, please show us the way home.

[The Tahoe Big Blue adventure race will take place Saturday, Sept. 11, in and around the North Tahoe Regional Park. For more information on the race see http://www.BigBlueAdventure.com.]

[Editor’s note: This is the second in an ongoing series about the Sierra Sun editorial team’s attempt to complete the upcoming Tahoe Big Blue Adventure Race. Part I focused on getting the team together for the race.]

“First of all just try not to tip the boat over, because that’s going to cost you a lot more time than anything else.”

Those were the first words of wisdom our kayaking instructor Micah Schwartz gave the Sierra Sun’s four-person team before our recent kayak lesson on Lake Tahoe.

It sounded simple enough on shore. But after paddling through the whitecaps that Lake Tahoe threw at us during our one-hour lesson, Jamie Bate and David Bunker found themselves surfing down the face of a wave one moment and upside-down in the lake the next.

Fortunately, self-rescue techniques were some of the pointers that Schwartz had given us on shore, and the two of them clumsily made it back into their boat and back to shore.

For the Tahoe Big Blue adventure race, the four of us in Team Bad News will be using a couple of two-person kayaks from Tahoe City Kayaks. And because none of us has much paddling experience, the store took pity on us and made Schwartz available for a quick lesson in efficient paddling strategy, navigation and water safety ” all things that we will have to know if we are going to get through the six-mile kayak section of the Tahoe Big Blue.

The lesson started off on dry land with Schwartz showing us how to set up the kayaks for a proper fit, how to paddle efficiently and in synch with one-another and tips for not tipping the boat over:

“The main thing is going to be, in the tandem boats especially, balancing each other out,” he said. “When I’m leading tours out here the first indicator that tells me someone is about to flip a boat over is they’re in a tandem boat and someone says ‘Hey, look at that rock.’ or ‘Hey look, a fish.’ Because they both look over the same side and they’re both leaning the same direction and the boat goes over.”

So vowing not to look overboard for anything less than Tahoe Tessie herself, we dragged our kayaks into the water and awkwardly got in. The first thing I noticed was that the 12-foot-long tandem boats held a much straighter course than the little eight-foot sit-on-top kayak that I was used to paddling around Donner Lake.

On the water Schwartz elaborated on how we should pace ourselves for the race: “Your main strategy you want to do is just pick a pace that you can maintain for the duration ” something you can stick with … because when you get tired is when you start to make mistakes, and it’s easier to flip the boat over.”

Equally important, according to Schwartz, was using the right muscles to power the boat.

“If you leave your body really rigid and just use your arms and shoulders, your arms and shoulders are going to get fatigued really quickly, and that’s going to make a whole lot of difference if you’re doing a race,” he said.

Instead, Schwartz had us focus on using our abdominal muscles as much as possible to help drive our paddle strokes through the water. We were slowly getting the hang of paddling in tandem, maintaining a (somewhat) straight course through the water and steering the boats when we made the fateful decision to turn for home. With the wind at our backs it should have been a quick trip back to the beach, but Jamie and David just had to go for one more lesson and they flipped over while surfing their boat down a wave.

After initially laughing as we watched the two of them struggle to get back into their kayak, Renee Shadforth and I quickly realized that being in the lake was probably a lot warmer than sitting up in the wind and spray. But then we realized that sitting in the car would be warmer still, so we paddled back to shore and tried to imagine how we were going to get through the six miles of kayaking we will soon face.

Tahoe City Kayaks

Tahoe City Kayaks is a full service kayak store and rental shop at 1355 North Lake Boulevard in Tahoe City. They offer a full line of kayaks for rent including single and tandem sit-on-top, touring and whitewater boats (including inflatable boats for the Truckee River).

They rent kayaks at the store everyday and at Bristlecone Beach off Lake Forest Drive (just north of Tahoe City) on weekends. Kayak tours of Lake Tahoe are also available if booked in advance (24-48 hours notice).

[For more information on tours, rentals, or where to go paddling in the North Lake Tahoe area, call Tahoe City Kayaks at (530) 581-4336.]

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