Another fine race from Equinox at Otay Recreational Park in Chula Vista, San Diego. The week brought crazy weather foreshadowing ominous events to occur in the race.
So we had to be prepared for anything happening at what Barrie and Steve say is “their easiest race of the year”. The weather turned out perfect, sunshine and warm but not too hot. Guess that’s why I love San Diego!
Race starts at 10am – a good size turnout at over 30 racers. So the start gets split into 2 groups to stagger the kayak / bike section and we all finish on the hike. There is a short and long course offered, and as Bangers & Mash are meant to be at a wedding in Murrieta at 3pm, we decide for the short course.
Into the water we go on the lovely double kayak Barrie let us borrow for the race. We now have boat envy having used the sit-on-top kayaks for the past few races. The luxury of a rudder saves the arguments from starting on the kayak section to the hike section. Bravo!
We have 3 checkpoints on the kayak for 4 miles and get started on the closest one. Some fisherman are casting their rods right next to the buoys, but realize that these kayaks are headed straight towards them…so they swig their beer down, and make a hasty retreat. Checkpoint 1 down and off to number 2.
The proven technique of counting and singing is used again in this race ensuring we stick to the same paddle rhythm and keep our minds focused. It’s too easy to be thinking about other things or just have idle chatter on a beautiful placid lake…, which leads to a slower time. So “snap out of it Bangers and start counting” says Mash. We pull the kayak in at 45 minutes, a respectable time, and run up for the transition.
Bikes are up next. Now I saw someone from work at the event and he said it was his first adventure race. He’d never done the other events before of orienteering and kayaking, but I knew he was a really good biker. So I was looking out for him with his team of 4 to judge our distance and time. So far we were ahead at the transition, so mood was lifted a bit.
Get to car, shove food in mouth, drink energy drinks, change shoes, consult the map for the first few checkpoints and 10 minutes later we are off.
The adrenaline factor in these races causes people to act fast, but not necessarily smart. And other racers see where people are headed and just go after them rather than take that extra 1-minute for additional map reading and decision-making. That’s where mistakes are made. The drum roll of ominous moment…
We had many checkpoints not on the map, just told to stay on the path near the lake. We come in from the car park and miss the first 100 yards of the trail and start biking. My gut says “I bet that Barrie and Steve placed a checkpoint right at the start just to get people that miss that part of the trail”. But we continued down the trail following others….
Sure enough, we hit Checkpoint 2 and have missed 1, so had to turn around and go get it. A whole 10 minutes lost but more importantly a mental frustration of not listening to that little voice. Note: Later you’ll see where I listened to that voice and it was NOT a good move, so little voices can be dangerous!
We bust a groove on the lovely single-track biking trail through to checkpoint 4. I am grateful to Equinox for once having a bike section that I can actually bike most of it. They tell me that won’t be the case for the November 6th 12-hour race. Oh dear.
Back to the race. We check in at #4, consult the map, and have energy food.
RACING TIP: Make sure you have energy food of some sort every 45 minutes, even if you are not hungry. If you wait until you feel you need it then it’s too late and you risk hitting a “bonk” phase, which will lose you a good 15-20 minutes of time. This tip was brought to you from Bangers & Mash experience…
We bike round the lake for a few more miles, ensuring we always take the path closest to the lake. It has these cheeky little splits where you could take either, but as soon as you don’t take the one closest to the lake – you miss the checkpoint. We forgot to do this on one section and sure enough we had to backtrack for checkpoint 7.
CP 8, 9, 10 were straightforward for us and easy to find and follow the trail. The final 2 checkpoints were in the Upper Otay Lake and on the map seemed to actually be in the water, but we were assured the water levels were down and we’d be good. We find 11 easily, spot a very smelly dead fox and then take a few turns here and there before finding 12.
Another adventure race fight (I mean “learning experience”) ensued where Mash headed in a different direction to find checkpoint 12 than her partner, Bangers. She was busy looking for the checkpoint and shouted at Bangers when she found it only to have her ear screamed off never to separate again. Uh-oh!
RACING TIP: Emotional outbursts are VERY common in adventure races (well at least with us anyway) as you are exerting so much physical energy that your emotional energy needs releases too. The most common form of this is through cries of joy whilst speeding on a single track…or towards your partner when they choose a different trail. Acknowledge it’s from the race and not at each other, then hold hands, sing a rallying team song to re-focus, and move on.
We return back to the transition area and head out on the hike section. Clock check: 1:30pm. How are we going to make it to the wedding by 3pm in Murrieta? Hmmmmm…..
We look at the map and Checkpoint 1 (of 4 hiking points) looks easy enough, straight up the hill of 800 feet. But there are fences all around with “No trespassing” on them and of course we would not be expected to cross that right? I look at the map and trails are marked off the road about 1 mile up, so we walk (yes on the road even though explicitly says to not do so). Here’s where my “little voice” says it will be ok and I should NOT listen to it. We get to the trail and even more signs stating, “No trespassing”.
I sit down and am ready to quit. Tired, stressed from the repercussions of missing the wedding, and arguments from Bangers telling me “I told you so” led to my breaking point.
We walk back towards the transition point thinking we are going to get in the car and go home, and we meet another 2 racers walking on the path – Teri and Josh. We chat race talk for a few moments and then they look towards the barbed wire fence and say “let’s go for it” as another 4 racers (that guy from my work) also cross the road and go for it.
So we are back in the race, charging through. Ticked off checkpoint 1 and 2 and at this point not looking for trails, just busting through the shortest direct route from A to B. Seeing many other teams at the same stage as us gives me a mental boost that we are not far behind other teams.
We chug up the large hill for Checkpoint 3 and then here’s where the little voice says “don’t follow the pack, take this route instead” and I should NOT have listened to it. We take the trail in the opposite direction, and then cut across the field, and we should arrive at the checkpoint 4 hilltop. Except there is a large gulley of water between us! And we essentially have to walk on the ridgeline of the hill all the way to the end to get to the other side….and as we see the teams that took the trail the other way get to checkpoint 4, my heart sinks. Uuurrrggghh!
We finally get to the trail and are looking for a quick way up to the top of Checkpoint 4 when we suddenly see the 4 Mexicans (Ramon leading) charging out of the bushes. We yell “can we get through there?” and he shouts back “yes” and we switch to a more direct path through the bushes.
RACING TIP: If a Mexican that does not speak much English shouts “yes” to something you say, NEVER assume he knows or understood what you said. You’ll understand why in 1 more sentence.
We turn to the bushes to go up the hill when suddenly Bangers is screaming like a wild banshee. “RUN!!!” he screams and pushes me. I’m trying to see what he is talking about; I don’t see a wild animal around?? Then I see a swarm of bees all around Bangers and I understand. I think he’s over reacting a bit as bees like to fly around people, but suddenly I have one of these bees on me and it stings me. “Ouch!!” I scream and REALLY understand why Bangers is screaming over and over again. “Get them off me” and “run” and “ouch” continue for what seems like hours but is really just a few minutes. I start to worry about allergic reactions. One is fine but he had over 50 of these things at him…”can you breathe” “how are you feeling” “let’s turn back now to get back”
Banger says he wants to get the last checkpoint, so we climb up on the trail. At the top of the hill he takes his pack off and there are 4 bees in his back lodged between hid backpack. His hands are starting to bloat, so I start to get concerned. I consult my emergency book in my bag, which turns out to be about avalanches and not bee stings. Uurrggh.
We hustle our way back 2 miles to get back to the finish….which we complete at 3:45pm (cutoff 4pm) and proceed to get him some anti-histamines so he can pass out from the pain.
Now you know why it’s called “adventure racing”.
Post Race Note: Bangers is ok, we counted over 23 bee stings on his arms and back. So he get’s the “most bee stings in adventure race” award.