By Mike Erbe and Katrin

Team ASJ entered the extremely rugged Big Blue series of adventure races as a three person co-ed team. The following are the results from the first three races of the series, with the Tahoe Big Blue finale coming on September 11. Tune in next issue for Tahoe and final series results.

Race #1:

Silver Sage AR, June 19, Reno. FIRST PLACE (3 Person co-ed )

Race #2:

Red Tail AR, July 14, Walnut Creek. FIRST PLACE (3 Person co-ed)

Race #3:

Ocean Blue AR, August 7, Half Moon Bay. THIRD PLACE (3 Person co-ed)

Three Down, One to

“I am getting REALLY SICK of these damn hills!” We are five plus hours into the Red Tail Adventure Race as Katrin Tobin vehemently spits out the words…along with a mouthful of trail dust. I catch Tim Johnston’s wink – we’re counting. This is the first complaint we’ve heard Katrin mutter since we bought a bottle of cheap Chardonnay, five years ago.

We’re on our mountain bikes, backtracking after having realized we’ve descended right past the last checkpoint. The three of us, aka: Team Adventure Sports Journal, are shredded and bloody from running
through fields of star thistles. We are hot and tired due to the endless hills and the dozen or so hike-a-bikes already behind us. Only after hobbling to the post-race meal do we realize each one of us was pondering
the same question: “Why do we do this?”

The Red Tail race was held on July 14, in the Briones Park area of the East Bay near Walnut Creek. It took place a month after the June 19 Silver Sage, which staged & started at Wingfield Park right on the Truckee River in Downtown Reno.

At the Silver Sage Race, the inner tubes we were issued were useful immediately as pumping them up gave Tim something to do with his exuberant pre-race jitters. Once the maps and race instructions were handed out,
things were less straightforward, however. We decided to ride first, before the heat scorched the Sierra Foothills to the West where we’d be looking for the majority of the cycling checkpoints. We did a lot of scrambling up the steep, shaley knolls out there. When our eyes weren’t crossed from gasping for air or staring at our contour map, there were spectacular vistas of the sage hills and the Sierras to appreciate.

Tubing the Truckee River was, initially, even more refreshing than expected…even after running up river two and a half miles in our PFD’s. But, by the time we emerged, I was shivering and numb; dependent on my hardier teammates drive and encouragement to get me through the trans-river zip line challenge we faced next.

Hypothermia was ultimately averted by 90 degree temperatures and running the Downtown Dash. Aptly named, the Downtown Dash required hours of running in order to find answers to questions like: “There is a statue
at the main gate of the university stadium. To whom is it dedicated?” “In the El Dorado casino, there is a brewery. What is the percentage of alcohol in their beer?” What is playing tonight at the Pioneer Theatre?” But, after five hours of hard racing, we stumbled, rather than dashed, between marching bands, parade floats, festival booths, past tourists, and Black Jack Tables. We nabbed the answers while zigzagging through the streets of Reno…crisscrossing the campus of UNR in the process… and finally looping back to Checkpoint F (F is for Finish…In case you were wondering).

We plopped down our race passport and were giving each other high-fives when a soft voice said, “You missed one.” Seems that when we read the marquis to determine “What is playing tonight at the
Pioneer Theater?” we overlooked the note on the bottom of the marquis that said, “Starts tomorrow.” Running back over to find the correct answer bumped us down to fifth in the overall finishing order, but we still managed to win our 3 Person Co-Ed division. As we recovered in the shade anticipating race organizer Todd Jackson’s generous raffle drawing, we stretched, joked, and discussed all the things we’d have to do better at Red Tail to get in the hunt for the overall win…

At Red Tail, we were one of only a few teams that opted to do the orienteering section first. Since it was already cooking hot at 8 AM, we would again save the water sport, in this case, the kayaking, for last. In an attempt to reduce the inadvertent body piercings from those nasty star thistles, Katrin and I strapped on gaiters just prior to the orienteering section. Good thing we did, because they sure were spiky!!! Tim’s only comment as he stoically plowed through miles of them, sans gaiters, was: “These things sure keep me light on my feet!” We then blasted out on the bike section and quickly learned that there is not ONE INCH of flat ground in Briones Park. In looking at the trail map, the contour lines simply blurred together to form trails consisting of pitched descents and steep, gut-busting hills. We were spending a fair amount of time in our granny gears, and trudging up the aforementioned hike-a-bikes. By now, it was 90 degrees, and we were wilting.

As we jumped off the bikes and transitioned for a three mile run DOWN to the kayak start at San Pablo Reservoir, thoughts of cool water, similar to a mirage, popped to mind. The paddling gave our aching legs a much needed respite. In coming off the lake, we faced the three mile run back UP to our bikes, followed by a short ride to the finish.

As usual, Tim’s horsepower was impressive as he took turns towing first Katrin then me with a bungee cord. As we rolled toward CP-F and the finish line, Katrin’s rear tire went flat. It was, rather fittingly, the last victim of star thistles. We had persevered and in the process, completed the race in 7 hours and 31 minutes for another category win…eked out by a mere 10 minutes…and fifth place overall finish.

We considered the Ocean Blue race, held in the Half Moon Bay area, to be our home turf and were committed to racing hard. The race led out with a run prior to jumping in the kayaks. After a paddle through the harbor at Pillar Point, we portaged over the breakwater to the open ocean. The waves were huge and we were really glad that we had taken the time to put on the spray skirts. We hopped on the bikes and were immediately challenged as we pedaled up the steep canyons away from the coast. Katrin was in superb form, and spent the day leading us on the twisty singletrack and switchbacks. We lost some time due to a navigational mistake, but were determined to make up for it. We transitioned to the last leg, another run, knowing that we were in the hunt for another good finish. As usual, Tim provided loads of serious horsepower, and took turns towing both of us with the bungee cord. We sprinted in to the finish for a 3rd place in our category and 6th place overall.

Due to their consistent finishes, Team Adventure Sports Journal has garnered the points to hold down the lead in the Big Blue Series Championship. There is one race remaining in the series, The burly Tahoe Big Blue. Stay tuned for a full report appearing in the next issue of ASJ.