The Mount Laguna Adventure race was this weekend and was our first chance to test out our fitness skills on a longer terrain. It’s a fun training event first then race second rather than the other way around.
The event was put together by Team Equinox (Steve & Jake) where they had spent long hours thinking and trekking and testing the trails in Mount Laguna. They then had a group of like minded fun adventure racers to come and put then through their paces. They did an awesome job and it is much appreciated!!!
So seeing as it was my birthday….what better way to spend the day than to push myself to a new limit of physical and mental exertion. And indeed I did.
Race Report Summary
27.1 miles total in 8:55 mins
15.7 miles of hiking (expected was 11 miles)
11.4 miles of mountain biking (expected was 20 miles)
We woke up at 5am but the week had been quite busy with work, geocaching adventures, good bye parties, and my birthday. So it was very difficult to drag myself out of bed to get into the car to get to the race….We arrived at the El Prado Campground at 7:45am with the expected race briefing to be at 8am. Thank goodness it was not a formal race because they did not start the briefing and map handout until 8:30am. This meant that all the stuff we had just thrown into the car at 6am could be sorted out into some semblance of organized chaos.
I thought of little tips along this day of learning….some of which we did and some of which we didn’t.
Tip #1: Organize your stuff the night before. (did it)
Tip #2: Pack it into the car the night before as well. (should have done it)
Tip #3: Have a standard checklist at hand to tick off what you need pre, during, and post event (we were not even close)
So we faffed around and checked our stuff, handed water to Steve to take to checkpoints. It was already 70 degrees at 8am so we knew it was going to be a hot day of racing. Water was going to be a key resource.
We got the maps at 8:30 and sat at a picnic table and talked with 2 ladies from the team called So Cal Hoycats. They knew the area and were helpful in chatting with us and discussing their thought process. We discovered that we needed to plot UTM coords for the long course and that was a nice “uh-oh” moment. We’ve never plotted a UTM coordinate before and did not have the ‘plotter’ tool. The ladies explained it and I had my “ah-ha” moment that it was not as hard as it sounded. Just using a ruler to measure distance. Our GPS geocaching adventures meant I knew what I was doing.
Tip #4: Know what a UTM coordinate is and have one of those plotter things handy (we kinda had this)
We also picked up a new crew member at this point, Keith from our weekly hiking group. He didn’t bike but came along for the atmosphere and asked if we were running or hiking the first section. “We aimed to hike it but we are going at a Barrie pace” And our team “Bangers & Mash” became “Bangers & Mash & Gravy”
Tip #5: Know who’s on your team at the start and set expectations for pace and style (did this)
The whistle was blown at 9am and we took our time to plot coords. Seemed logical where they were placed giving me confidence I’d plotted them correctly. I had a good plan of action for the route we were going to take, knowing that there were some places to check and adjust if needed and of course to expect the unexpected. If Equinox put on the race, they like to put some little twists to teach you!
Tip #6: Have an initial route plan laid out, using existing trails as much as possible (practice here has ticked this one off)
Tip #7: Be ready to adjust the route as needed or before (got this part but learnt a new tip added later)
We started by mountain biking to get to the first transition area. It was 2.5 miles and took 20 minutes. Enough people were around that meant you didn’t need to follow the map as much at this point. It was hard to get started and uphill with a full backpack got my first mental test “will it be like this the whole way?!” freakout moment. Now I know that this is just the start up jitters and the loosen up of the legs…so don’t fear the first 30 minutes.
Tip #8: The first 30 minutes are about loosening the mental jitters. Expect it and it’ll shake out.
Hiking adventure begins! Got the map, got the route, and ready to go. The start section is exciting, all the team is in jovial spirits and because it’s my birthday, Bangers had set up little ‘points mean prizes’ activites along the way where he would ask questions about the tv series Friends and we had to answer questions. This was a nice touch for the birthday – but actually a great adventure race tip as well for mental agility and focus. We’ll repeat this one!
Tip #9: Have a trivia topic that can engage the whole team and last a whole adventure race to kee a positive mental spirit.
Part 1 of hiking was complete with 5 miles down. Stopped for water – we had already drank 100 ounces of water already. Continued on and the first section where the long adventure racers had to choose diferent options to get to their checkpoints. I discussed the choice with the team and why (take the road up and around or the closer trail and expect bushwhacking). I chose the latter and was happy with the choice. During the navigation – I was vocal about the route we were taking, expectations of landmarks they would see (sharp bends, up hill sections, hills to the left or right) and also the expected timing. This meant my team members always knew what was going on, what to expect, and had confidence in me and in themselves.
Tip #10: Navigators need to be open in communication with the team mates of what’s happening, what’s expected, and distances and times. (got this one from a few good practice sessions and training from Barrie)
We go the R2-L checkpoint at the water dam and headed back to the trail. This was a BIG decision for our route. We could backtrack to hook up with a clear main trail or carry on the way we had seen another 2 teams. The map didn’t show a clear reason why they had chosen this….so we went the backtrack route. All went well to get to checkpoint 3.
At checkpoint 3 it was now under the mid-day heat, we had eaten all the good food and were sweating a lot. Not overheated but not feeling peachy either. We had done 8 miles of hiking, the limit we did on the weekly Wed hike. This was my biggest navigation learning that I did not do and Jake gave me tips at the end of the day.
I had plotted the option to go to R3-L after Checkpoint 4 because there was not a trail showing on the map. It didn’t look like an easy trail from CP 4 but was trying to use prior tips of “always stick to trails if there is one”. I did not look to adjust until after we had gotten to CP4 whereas I should have used the higher vantage point we had at R2-L to see if I could see any unmarked trails in the valley for a possible alternative to R3-L.
Tip #11: Use higher vantage points on hills to scout out navigational points across the whole course – even 2 or 3 CPs ahead (my biggest race learning)
By not using this tip we had to use a harder trail that had more elevation gain and was less well marked creating over 1:40 minutes of a hunting detour. We came to a road and I was not sure if it was the road on the map – it looked abandoned rather than a “road” (now I know a road is a road is a road). We walked for a few minutes and kept checking and asking questions to see if we were on the right path. But 5 minutes turned into 15 turned into 30. We knew we had to head back to be at the transition area before 3pm and i was now 1:40pm. That’s when we saw the trail we were looking for.
Do we go or skip it? I REALLY wanted to tray and get it, if we didn’t then we had no option to complete the long course. So we followed the trail, but we had the same issues with 5 minutes becoming 15 becoming 30. At 2:25pm we had to turn back and knew we’d miss the 3pm deadline too at the transition area.
*LOWEST MENTAL POINT* reached at this point for me and the team. Felt dejected after so much looking, lacking energy and cold water, and had been in the hot sun for hours.
Tip #12: Have a plan to get out of these mid-race mental funks (we didn’t)
We hiked it back as fast as we could and got back at 3:45pm. Christine was not pleased to see us so late at the checkpoint (sorry!) and we were close to having a search team started. Another kicker to the mental low point.
Decision – do we just call it a day then? We would not be able to finish even the short course in time….and we were tired….and our feet hurt. And we were cranky. But we were here to practice and see what we could do. The point was to make mistakes and see how you recover. We settled on just biking back to camp.
So we got back on the bike after a 40 minute break. No rush from our decision and it let the throbbing feet cool down. We started the bike and it was not easy going back uphill. But a funny thing happened after 15 minutes. We had reached the trail split off point to the camp or to the checkpoint. We looked at each other and felt just a little bit of energy to tackle 1 checkpoint and then we’d go back to camp.
The trails were nice and flat with a few tree roots and rocks thrown in for some technique practice. But overall very do-able for us both. We took 20 minutes to get to the checkpoint and cheered to ourselves. Let’s get 1 more and off we did in another 20 minutes. Time was now at the end and we had to get back before the deadline of 6pm. So we biked back and rolled in at 5:55pm.
We felt fantastic – exhausted from the heat and 9 hours of being out there, but elated that we had lasted 9 hours and had pushed past a mental barrier and not given up. We heard the stories of others and found that only 2 teams completed the long course – most did not find the R3-L that we had spent so long searching for. We also found we were only 200 feet away and had touched the early orange marker flag. Vindication in my navigation!
Overall we did the most time we’ve ever done at 9 hours, the most total distance at 27.1 miles, the longest hike ever at 15.7 miles….and all whilst having fun and exploring a beautiful new area of San Diego. A great way to spend a birthday!
Thanks to Steve and Jake for setting up a fun course! If others are interested in trying out a race, their events page has some great upcoming events….including canoeing in La Bufadora.