Race By Mike Erbe & Katrin Tobin • Photos courtesy of Shooting Star Adventures
Badger Cove, Lake Del Valle
We didn’t jump at the chance to race the Badger Cove Adventure Race on November 13th. After a long season of racing, Katrin, Tim & I worried that another six-hour race might plunge us into the deep-end of the dreaded “no recovery” abyss. The final consensus after two minutes of discussion: “What the heck? It looks like fun!”
That, however, was not the predominant sentiment at 4:30 AM on race day as we headed for Lake Del Valle in the Livermore hills. We knew that the steep canyons in the area were going to be a challenge, and with rain showers predicted for the area, we’d be playing roulette with Mother Nature.
The race was configured so that teams would ride to the transition area, kayak then run/orienteer or vice versa, and then ride back to the start/finish. The warning that there were not enough kayaks for everyone to be on the water at the same time (and that there were only two singles) dictated our strategy. By bagging fewer bike checkpoints on the way out, and getting to the reservoir first, we’d make sure we could get out on the water without delay. And given the unsettled weather, we definitely didn’t want to be in the deep-end of the lake if the wind came up.
We felt both clever, and a bit guilty for taking one of the only two singles available, knowing that there were solo racers in route. (While none of us would ever admit to having this self-serving idea, we all recognized it as a good one at once.) We jumped into the boats and paddled furiously for the three kayak checkpoints. Along the way, we were treated to spectacular views of the surrounding hills and clay cliffs along the lake that had been carved by the water. We also made mental notes of some of the inlets and pitches we’d revisit on foot.
After 90 minutes of paddling, the transition to waddling was traumatic. We opted to head straight uphill first, desperately coaxing our stiffened hamstrings and glutes back into service. Finding eight checkpoints on and among these steep knolls and deep canyons was going to keep us on our navigating toes.
The hunt for checkpoints got smoother and more rewarding when we hooked up with Thomas Bastis, who was racing solo. The extra set of eyes and maps made us more efficient and we began watching the altimeters and distances/pace more closely. Collectively, our energy was refreshed and inspired, and by now the weather had cleared up too. We were treated to sunshine and stunning views of the lake from every hilltop we scaled.
Back on our bikes, we had five more checkpoints to pick up on the way to the finish. A couple of them were tricky to find and, as usual, mediocre navigation skills created delays in our itinerary. We felt considerable relief as Tim sprinted up to the fire road after finding the last checkpoint buried in a creek bed. Katrin was back on her bike first, so we chased her all the way back up to the top of the ridge for the descent down the other side to the finish.
As the paved road into Del Valle was off limits, we struggled to find a legal route back home. We could see a fire road on the other side of a ridge and decided to bushwack over to it, rather than ride around it. Thomas had stayed in contact with us and we all took off down a steep, trail-less canyon. This turned out to be some of the most rugged country that we have raced in, and the canyon walls simply dropped away in places to a creekbed that was 200 feet below. We could see the road down at the bottom, and continued our hike-a-bike to it. We guess that this took more time than if we had ridden around it, but the experience sure was epic! Shortly after relaying our bikes down a six foot cliff, we squirted onto the road. Digging deep, Tim put the hammer down and led us across the finish line in just under six hours. This netted us a 3rd place finish in the three person, co-ed division.
Mike Murphy and the staff at Shooting Star put on a great event. The venue was terrific, the course was challenging, the mood friendly, and the barbeque was copious. And, when Mike Murphy dug into the deep–end of his schwag bag and handed out tons of prizes, everyone was a winner!
Team ASJ members Katrin Tobin (42), Tim Johnston (38) & Mike Erbe (49) work and train in Santa Cruz, CA. Tim lives in Los Gatos, while Mike and Katrin reside in Santa Cruz.