Friday, September 15, 2006

Fantasies Realized: My Local Adventure Races

by Heather Kirkby

Do you dream of bungee cords? The magic ones that connect you to the rider in front when you’re going up some horrific climb at a gut-wrenching pace? I do.

And so, when Mark pulled out a bungee cord from under his saddle saying “here, grab this, throw it over your stem”, I thought I was in heaven. We were training in Skeggs and the boys were putting the hurt on me on a fire-road climb. In that instant my dream of so many years came true. I was being towed. And very quickly I realized this was in fact hell. The reality is you end up biking a heck of a lot harder once you’re ‘on the cord’ for probably all kinds of psychological and physical reasons. Shame? Pride? Fear? Excitement? Alas, some things are better left to the fantasy world.

This summer I did two local adventure races with a couple of guys that contacted the VB list. They were seeking a chick teammate. I was seeking a change from bike racing. One night ride in Marin later and I knew I wanted to race with these guys. I also knew it was going to hurt. I still didn’t know anything about the bungee cords.

AR is mostly a flair-free world, but it is not without creativity. Their self-expression is all in the team name. I think my favorite name is Dirty Avacados. A recent coastal race even had a name contest – and Salty Crack were the winners. Other gems include – Beer is Near, We got the Hall Pass, Team not in Training, Moms gone Wild, Freebird and the Devil Pig, and Quit yer Bitchin’.

The races I did were in great local parks. They were both considered a ‘sprint’. 6 hours of racing is a sprint? Uh, ok. I’m really looking forward to a longer race so I can drag my ass more and do what I do best – eat.

Proudest moments of the summer? I was not towed on the bike in either race. But, uh, in the second race, in the run, they dragged my sorry butt all over Del Valle Park on the end of a bungee cord. These guys will tow anything - bike, boat, and yes, a draggin-ass-runner.

SVS1 – Grant Ranch Park, side of Mt.Hamilton, San Jose, CA

Freaking hot, freaking fast. I had not raced in a long time (half a year plus) and so it was a bittersweet reunion with my friend Pain. In these races we navigate the whole time (well, our teammate Mark does all the navigation, we are just a few extra sets of lungs + legs along for the ride) – so it’s sort of like doing a giant orienteering course and sometimes you’re running, sometimes you’re biking, and sometimes you’re paddling all the while in search of spots on the map. The run hurt. From the start we blasted up 800 feet (surely to spread things out a bit, like the old Sea Otter mtb start). Ouch. From there we ran through fields, scrambled up and down river canyons (uh, yes, no escaping the poison oak). I even ripped my fav Bella shorts as I crawled under a barbed wire fence – a few months later I still have a nice long reminder of that incident on my outer thigh. Man, was I happy to get on the bike. The heat was unreal – it was during that 100 plus season we had this summer. I was popping endurolytes like a kid in a candy store (with $ and no parents).

The whole scene was totally low-key. I loved it. The event organizers had parked their RV next to the start/finish line. When we crossed the finish line they were completely rocking the BBQ! Sweet.

SVS2 – Del Valle Park, Livermore, CA

This one hurt more. A lot more. I mean, within minutes from the start the pain was coursing through my veins and I’m thinking “argh, this is horrible”. Double ouch. The guys were on fire on the run, and it was a long run. I turned myself inside out to stay with them – one of them was carrying my camelback and the other one was towing me! We ran and ran and ran some more. Up, down, cross-country. The guys are really great and encouraging. I love the whole dynamic of being a team and all having to finish together. You really start thinking of others’ needs – physical, mental, nutrition, gear. I have never been so happy to see my fat tires. Whatever part of me that died on that run was definitely not the biker because I was pretty psyched once we got rolling. We jetted all over that park. Unbelieveable. Finally, we hopped in the kayaks to paddle down the lake to get the final orienteering control point. We’d been neck and neck with the Silly Rabbits all day (due in part to a flat tire or two that they had). They quickly pulled away from us in the water and we were left in their wake. It wasn’t a bad way to go. We’d absolutely raced our hearts out and rolled in for a close 2nd, snatching up the 2nd of 3 qualifying spots for US Adventure Race Nationals. I had the cramp of a lifetime when we exited the boats for the final 100 yd run up a slope to the finish. Oh, not happy legs, not happy legs. I’d been warned and had been trying to wiggle them to ward off the cramps before getting out of the boat. To no avail. The last thing I said during the race was “Grant, gimme your hand, I can’t walk”. Nice.

Some Happy Finishers

Onward to Natz

So off we go to Natz in early November. They are conveniently in Santa Barbara this year. This race is billed as being 24-30 hours so a whole different game than what I have known. Less speed, more food, it’s gonna be great, right? We’re doing a 24-hour race in Tahoe in early October as training so we’ll see. Though the organizers said the fastest teams may finish Tahoe in 12-14 hours. Grant said if we finish in less than 14 hours we’re turning right around and doing it backwards. They want to see how I handle the ‘sleep monsters’ (this is genuine AR is some kind of wacked out bonk from lack of sleep).


At 3:53 PM, Blogger Velo Bella said...


At 3:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heather, you'll always astonish me!!! Please, keep on writing on your new adventures, I always enjoy reading them! Tempted by any in the Alps? I'm sure you are, winter or summer, you won't resist...
Love from Valérie, already missing you guys!


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