Ocean Blue Race- 1/2 Moon Bay & Tahoe Recon

Once upon a time… the tale of the FARTS at Ocean Blue.

Timeline: Wednesday, July 23, 8:00 p.m. Coeur d’ Alene… Morgen arrives from Missoula, and we do some packing after celebrating Rachael’s birthday. A good time was had by all, though not much sleep.

Timeline: Thursday, July 24, Coeur d’ Alene… We load up the Durango, and the boys hit the road for a “men’s only” weekend, or all of 35 minutes, until we pick up Jeni! We truly start the road trip at about 9:00, heading for Seattle, where Andy is concluding a busy week of business.

We arrive at about 1:30, pick up Andy, get Jeni’s dress at the mall, and stop at “Whole Paycheck Market” before heading for points south (way south!) about 2 hours later than we had hoped. We hit traffic in Tacoma, putting us even farther behind as we follow the mapquest directions: “…proceed 771 miles south on I-5…”

We had hoped to possibly make it the entire way to the ocean on That first day, but soon realized it wasn’t going to happen. We made it as far as Redding through the darkening haze of the California fires at 1:00 a.m. We stayed at a clean, though by no means fancy hotel, which was perfect for the situation.

Timeline: Friday, July 25, Redding California: We got an early (7:30 am) start toward SFO to pick up an ailing Rick, who was suffering from either a cold or Dengue Fever, picked up on his recent trip to Cambodia.

BTW, let me tell you that traveling in a “regular” Durango (without the rear seat) with 5 fullsize-though extremely fit adults, 5 bikes and all their gear is a stretch… or should I say a squeeze. Good thing that Some of us have shorter legs than others!

We picked Rick up on time and made our way down the coast on scenic highway 1 as the marine layer burned off, revealing a picture perfect blue sky day on the Pacific coast. We checked in at our hotel, the lovely Harbor View, literally across the street from the race start. the proprietor, Bob, was genial and helpful, and the rooms were very adequate, and the convenience was perfect.

Andy and Dave headed a few miles down the coast to enjoy a round of golf at the excellent Half Moon Bay Golf Links Ocean Course, and the others took a recon bike ride down the coast, scoping out possibilities for the race. We reunited in time to make our way down to the race start to check in and to attend a very informative kayak clinic, hosted by Primal Quester Thomas Brestis and Vince, from the professional Team Aquan. Lots of good tips, and they gave a few hints of what we might expect during the kayak leg.

Next, we went down to the 1/2 Moon Bay Brewing Compny, where we joined Race Director Todd Jackson and his crew for a great meal and some enjoyable conversation – carb loading with the latest creations! 🙂

Then we hit the rooms for the “pack-fest,” getting our gear lined up for the morning… this took longer than we had planned, so we didn’t do as well with the sleep as we could/should have, but excitement and adrenaline balanced it out, come morning.

Timeline: Saturday, July 26, Half Moon Bay: Wake up was 5:30, which, as it turned out, could have been 5:00 a.m. We loaded up what we needed into the Durango, which Rick drove over, and trotted across the street to the Start/Finish area, where we set up near the exit of the transition area, arriving at about 6:40.

To digress slightly, Rick was still not feeling great, and so decided not to race, which, with Kelley and Lisa’s abscence, left us with 4. We combined into a Coed 4, and it actually ended up being a fortuitious event… everything does happen for a reason, I guess. Also, having Rick as “Support Crew” was invaluable! We were able to leave our luggage in the room for him to pick up later, and he was a GREAT help during the transitions, and as our official videographer, except for one fateful moment, but more on that later…

The setup was not as smooth as I could have hoped, and we realized we had forgot a few details, such as a tarp etc, but we got squared away just in time for the pre-race briefing at 7:20.

Lessons learned: Bring a tarp, and get to the start area at least an hour early; there is lots to do, what with organizing your bike stuff, your run stuff, your food, your liquid, your kayaks, etc. I was able to pick up a great bike navigation mapholding setup from ARNAVSUPPLY. It was an AWESOME purchase, allowing me to have our map on the handle bars, and navigate without having to really slow down. It even rotates, to help keep the map aligned with our headings.

7:30: The maps are given out. Now the rush really began, and the importance of getting there early became even more important, as Dave was still trying to do last minute setup stuff, as well as plot several UTM coordinates and try to decide on our route in 30 minutes. Thank goodness for understanding the map stuff, as I barely got things in order before the start, and didnt have time to share the whole plan with the team, which all agree would be helpful, at least in the general scheme of things, so that everyone at least had an idea of the format of the day.

Timeline: 8:00 am! Okay, it’s Race Time! The gun goes off, and we hit the course.

Challenge #1: A 2 mile run down the beach and back. After watching the video, Dave is the last one to leave the starting gate, but 2 miles later, the FARTS are among the first 3rd of racers back.

Challenge #2: Kayaking time! We get dressed up in our kayak gear: paddle jackets, spray skirts, PFDs with our water supplies hooked up so we can drink while paddling etc. We push off into the calm inner harbor, make our way through the boats and a mile across to the ‘Ping Pong Ball.’ There we portage our boats across the isthmus and ta da… meet the Pacific Ocean.

We head into the REAL ocean at this point… with nice 8 foot swells, and a brisk 10 knot wind. We paddle for a total of 2:20… just to let you know, that’s a LONG time in a boat! Andy and Jeni enjoyed their time paddling, Dave and Morgen less so. Dave actually got seasick, but didn’t miss a stroke as he chummed for the sharks. Glad to be done, we hit the beach and ready for the dryland portion of the day.

Challange #3: Mountain biking! We transition well, though we wished for a tarp to keep the sand off. We head south, but we aren’t allowed to use the highway south of the start area (remember this for later!) we make our only real navigation error of the day as Dave somehow misses a 1/2 mile wide chasm on the map, and we overshoot our first waypoint, but we get back on track and head for the hills, and yes, there were hills! We hit the hill, and pedal up for about 40 minutes, making good time. We then head down the other side, making REALLY good time! So far, we’ve been on the bikes for about 90 minutes.

Challeneg #4: Running! We check into CP 2, and get our new map, which has the general directions for the trekking points (1 mandatory, 2 optional). Dave asks the park ranger about general distances, and we decide to hit the mandatory point first. It is a nice run through the park, and the marker is hung from a Redwood some distance off the trail through a mud bog. We make the run bog, and after looking at what’s left, we decide to get back on the bikes and make sure we get the remaining mandatory points, plus one optional one on the way. Once we get back to the beach, we notice that the wind has picked up a touch… say to 30 or 40 mph, straight into our faces for the entire ride back. A nifty touch…

Challenge #5: More biking! We get the clues for our secret point, which involved some biking and a run on the sand to the famous Mavericks surf zone, which is home to some of the world’s biggest waves during the winter. After that, we head upstream on the coastal highway (we’re allowed to use it north of the start area.) It is uphill, against the wind, and there are NO shoulders along the way, and plenty of Saturday afternoon recreational, high speed traffic. Kind of scary, actually, but we make our next waypoint, which Dave has determined is a “short cut.”

Yes, indeed… what a short cut! We get to the bottom of our short cut, and it is, to say it lightly, a bit of a grade… say, 40%! Riding is out of the question, and even walking is almost too much… remember that we have bikes, packs, and 7 hours of racing under our wheels. We struggle up to the ridge, and then, joy, we get to push another 30 minutes or so, followed by a great up hill ride/push for another 20 minutes to get the final check points. In all, we climbed 2400 feet in 1.5 miles, an average of a 30% grade. The good news is that we were then headed down!

The ride down was hairy, as it was steep, loose sand/gravel, and the side of the mountain was right there! Once we got the the highway, though, it was awesome! 6 miles downhill, with the wind to finish! We race in to the transition area, drop the biles, and run across the finish, hand in hand, which is captured on video for all time… oh, wait… the camera was on the wrong setting, and we have some excellent footage of Rick walking, but we did get some good still shots to commemorate the big moment.

Following the race, we had burgers, beer for those who wanted them, and we volunteered to help with the teardown for a couple of hours. When all the teams finished, they did the awards, and lo and behold, the FARTS won the 4 person co-ed category!

Following the awards, we headed up the coast to Napa, where we stayed with Dev’s friends, Ed and Shirleen, who treated us a WONDERFUL evening of food, wine and companionship. It was a perfect end to the day!

On Sunday, following a great breakfast, we drove up the hill to Lake Tahoe, and checked into our digs for the night, the Village at Squaw Creek, which was excellent! We dropped our bags, got our bikes and rode down the hill 2 miles to meet Todd Jackson, who had agreed to take us out and show us the ropes for some REAL mountain biking, as well as a preview of the race conditions…

To say it was a real mountain is an understatement. We rode uphill in granny gear for about 2 hours, climbing about 3000 feet. From there, we went up and down for another 2.5 hours, traveling a total of 22.5 miles. It was an awesome ride, and we learned a lot about riding on rocks and trails that before we wouldn’t have considered attempting.

We had a nice, home cooked pasta dinner in our room, sharing a bottle of Silver Oak as our “Victory Dance,” and went to bed.

Monday morning, we got up and drove down the shore of Lake Tahoe to the D.L. Bliss State park, where we embarked on the Rubicon Trail, a 7.3 mile trot along the shore of the lake, with several hundred feet of hills thrown in. We practiced pushing each other up the hill, and follwed this up with a short dip in the lake before heading back to the room to move out.

We load up and drop Andy at the Reno airport before heading up highway 395 toward Bend, about 400 miles away, where Dave is working for the following week. After a nice drive where we almost ran out of gas somewhere in BFO, we reached Bend, had some food and wine at Lexi’s, and next morning, Jeni, Rick and Morgen complete the drive back to Spokane.

All in all, it was a great weekend, and we learned a TON! Here are a couple of the things we picked up:

1) Get there early

2) Bring tarps

3) The races are harder than you think! Tahoe is supposed to be a real challenge, so practice your uphill running and biking, especially on single track.

4) Pick a good running order: For us, on the bike, it seems like our best order is Andy, Dave, Jeni, Morgen, and Dave and Andy can take turns leading the drafting efforts. On the run, it’s better if Dave leads, as he knows Jeni’s pace well. It’s important that the leader not ride/run away from the rest of the team… NJLB is our motto… No Jeni Left Behind!

5) Use good tactics. The best team at the race got  DNF for not allowing themselves enough time to get the mandatory CPs because they went for 2 “sucker points” on the running course.

6) Slow and steady is good, fast and steady is better, but taking a few extra seconds to check your map, your instructions and your compass is best… running/riding fast in the wrong direction is bad.

7) Having a Support crew is awesome!

8) The 4 of us were pretty well matched as far as speed went. Keeping the team together is important as per the rules, and for team morale.

I’m sure there’s more, but Rick has written lots down already, and I’ll do more as I think of it. There are only 7 weeks left until Big Blue, so get on those bikes and get riding uphill!

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