Once a source of "Not all you want to know about Texas Adventure Racing," but now just some "leisure" adventure through the eyes of "The K-SPoT"

Friday, November 10, 2006


Prologue: I'm losing you and its effortless
would the sun rise or set on my Nationals experience?In over my head? Possibly. Tail in between my legs? Definitely. The Fray and Dave Matthews were not singing about adventure racing, but the feeling is the same when something slowly, painfully slips out of your hands...I guess I should have seen this one coming. While the pain and the swelling from my leg injury went away, with all of the distractions of the past several months, I was still unable to recover the conditioning I needed to just survive this race. It wasn't effortless to get back to CP7, but it sure was effortless for my body to shut down and say "no more", as it had enough of the Santa Ynez Mountains. The impending DNF was devastating, but for safety-sake it was the right decision.

November 1
sunny SBMy roller coaster of a journey started on Wednesday as I hopped on a plane over to Santa Barbara. The airport itself screamed Sunny California! We got off the plane and there were no terminals--it was all open-air! We crossed a gate and we were already out front. I picked up my gear and was immediately waiting for the Fess Parker Double Tree shuttle to swoop by and take me over to the host hotel to meet up with Rick, the Bludworths, and Michael Mey. It took the shuttle a while to get here, but it did nevertheless. Another team had arrived while I waited, Wild hares from Nebraska. Already, we were talking about possible routes for the race and where the heck the paddle was going to take place. They were still wondering if the race director was going to make us paddle to the Channel Islands, but I knew that would be super ludicrous as they were about a 25mi straight shot from SB...and there was no way they would make us paddle that far in sevys, right?!? Well it turned out not that far, but certainly far!

now that's a mountain!The weather was fantastic, and it was like that for the whole weekend that we were there! As soon as I got to the hotel, I stepped outside to take the views in--one side of the hotel was a view of the beach, the other was a view of the mountains! Spectacular! The rest of the HART crew that was already there were wandering about in SB looking for food and eventually got back to the hotel so that I could check in at the close-by and cheaper Motel 6 and dump our gear there. After walking the beach for a few minutes and watching Rick unsuccessfully dodge an breaking wave, we headed over there to check out our digs. The rates were a bit higher than what we have been used to here in Texas, so Rick assumed that, like everything else in Santa Barbara, the rooms would be the "upgraded" kind. Nope. Same ol Motel 6. It was TINY! We could barely fit our gear in there, let alone 4 full-grown adventure racers!

After putzing about, we decided it was time for dinner and headed over to State St, the main drag. 99% of the restaurants were here, so we figured there would be something here that would satisfy everyone. We stopped at Bucatini for some italian-style carbo-loading. It was really good! They had pizza and saved some for Monty, who was coming in late that evening, and I had the Fusilli Tartufati...yes it was goooood! We turned in pretty late and Monty ended up taking a shuttle down to the hotel.

November 2
that's not over hard!The next morning we headed back to State Street for breakfast...this was starting to feel like a regular vacation--everything revolved around eating! We walked around a bit, but nothing appealing opened until 8am. By that time we were tired of waiting for places to open up, so we of course headed back to Fess Parker for breakfast, where we were just 30mins ago. It was a good decision. While the service was spastic, the food was pretty good. I had the usual omelette. They had trouble getting Jackie's order down to her liking, so she literally ate around the parts she disliked.

chillin on da couchI had sat down in the couch just to enjoy the remaining time that we had before the race, but Jackie and her team decided to head back to Motel 6 and start getting gear all organized. My team wasn't here yet, so it would had made no sense for me to go anyway. I just sat there in the main room, chillin w/ Rick. Teams started to flow in. Andrew and Jill were the next to show. They had to drive back into LA to pick up Tara and Kyle, so they didn't stay very long...plus they wanted to take the scenic Pacific Coast Highway down there, which I agreed with wholeheartedly. Troy and Sheila were buzzing by us all the while, trying to get everything ready before registration, race start, etc. Then, next thing you know, it was time to eat again. Rick, with his priest-like patience, decided he was heading to lunch, without or without us. I told him that Jackie etc were heading over to join us, but he was out the door. His attempt to escape was foiled as they ran into him on their way over. We walked over to a burger stand called The Habit. Tom, Lisa, and Linda had just got into town and joined us there. Good times, good food.

unloading gearAn air of seriousness was starting the permeate our little vacation, as check in was drawing in nearer, and more importantly, so was race time. We went back to Fess Parker to retrieve the rest of our gear from the HART trailer and brought it back to Motel 6 for distribution and organization. Later in the afternoon was check in. It was pretty quick and painless. They didn't have a gear check there since they promised to have some along the way during the race. We got some really nice schwag like gaiters, hats, socks, zanfel, etc...Lisa even got a pair of Merrel shoes free by the end of the race! We chatted with a few teams in line and it was a pretty relaxed atmosphere. We still had time between then and the pre-race meeting, so we headed out for some last-minute supplies and then headed over to another italian place for dinner. It was more of a fast-food establishment, but the food was still good. After eating and stopping by a local hardware store to buy some glowsticks, we zoomed back for the meeting.

check inMy heart was pumping because I knew this was when we would first receive the maps and possibly the coordinates for the course. I was assured to be in trouble when Dan Barger, the race director, came up to the podium and said that he likes his races to be tough...in words that I have since deleted from my mind, he said if we wanted an easy sport we could go and play ping pong, or something similar to that. He didn't seem to be a nice person at all. A bit arrogant, I think. It seemed like he had something to prove, to put up a race that would be tough to survive. Dave Boyd of MOAT confirmed this the next day right before start as he told us our goal should simply be survival, and he wasn't just meaning us--that applied to their teams too! After a few more minutes of talk, we received the maps and coordinates. It was as scary as could be. We would be heading deep into the mountains and staying there for most of the race.

the devil came down to californiaAfter a few more clarifications, we scrambled back to the hotel to finish up packing our gear and for me, to plot the checkpoints and determine the best routes. It took two huge 1:24 maps, and he used most of their extent, horizontally. Routefinding was somewhat difficult as I knew I had to take into account the extreme elevation changes from point to point. In Texas AR, you can pretty much take a straight shot and not worry about being penalized by a nasty elevation gain, such as a mountain, being in your way. After conferring with Lisa a couple of times, I highlighted primary routes of travel from point to point. It was getting late so I had to do all of this quickly so I could get to bed at a reasonable time. It didn't matter as I didn't sleep a wink that night--those mountains were haunting me. One mistake on navigation could mean several thousands of feet of uneccessary climbing. Nevertheless, I lay there, in a cold sweat, wondering what twists and turns we would go through tomorrow.

November 3
start lineRace day. We get up at about 430 to get ready and head over to Fess Parker to stage our boats. We walked over there and the place was already a loud buzz of activity, everyone hastily pumping their two sevys up. Since there were 3 people per team, one person would have to paddle solo--Tom was tapped for that duty. After waiting several minutes, a pump finally became available and we went pumping away. We then had to carry our boats across the street to the beach and line them up right next to the surf. It was still dark, so we had to be careful with our steps. We headed back to the hotel and mounted our bikes, heading to the start line. We got circuitous directions to the start--I would have probably gotten lost along the way if it weren't for all the other teams heading in the same direction. It was about 5-7mi, which turned out to be a good warmup, especially that hill right before we got to Lookout Park. That was a little taste of what was to come.

rubber duckiesAs we entered the park, we staged our bikes against a chain-link fence then retrieved the last 5.26% of the course's UTM information. Okay, so he didn't lie about this one (he said we would get 95% of the info before today.) We plotted waypoints for the first leg, a beach run, and CP1 for the paddle. After doing a final check on our gear, we headed down the ramp to the beach, where the GoLite flags were loudly flapping in the wind. It was surreal for a second, then Dave Boyd gave me the ominous warning about it being a survival race. After a brief flurry of pre race announcements we lined up for the run and in no time we were off, trying, very hard, to avoid the surf. It was a bit of a comical start as people were tripping and falling over washed up derelics the sea had spit up during the previous high tide. Of course, race start of 7am was minutes before the 2nd high tide, so we were now doging the surf more frequently as the sand higher on the beach was very tedious to trudge through. We started east for a short while to spread the teams up before going west where we would have to go up on a couple seawalls. It did bottleneck a couple of times, but it was fine--it gave us a short time for a breather. Five miles later, we were getting close to arriving back at Fess Parker. We saw teams already in the water heading for CP1. The plus on this leg was that Tom was picked to wear one of the helmet cams. I thought it was cool at first, then I realized they were using those Oregon Scientific ATC-1000 lipstick cams, the same one I have. After using it a few times, I realized that its not very durable, the video quality isnt that good and it eats up batteries worse than NiteRiders! At the end of the run, Tom gave the camera back and we hit the water in our little rubber duckies. We walked into the water a ways to avoid the nasty breaks. No problems here. You could tell that a few teams have never paddled sevys before, so we had somewhat of an advantage here. Even so, I was not looking forward to a 8-10mi paddle in those things. Plus the waves coming inland was playing havoc with steering those things. It wasn't so bad heading out since we were heading into them, but heading back to the bike pick up proved to be very frustrating for me.

Right as we were arriving at CP1, MOAT was heading the other way, so we weren't too far back. We exited the boats to run to the CP, but I was screwing around and too a little too long to hop out of the sevy. Just as I was stepping out, Lisa yells "Kenny, look out!" A break hit me about a milisecond afterwards and knocked me out of the boat. It bent my bad leg a bit, and it hurt like a mother. I tried to pull the boat high enough up on the beach to avoid the surf, but water had filled the boat so it was near to impossible to get that thing up there. After punching the CP, we emptied the boat and headed back out, trying to time the waves again. We were off east, past Fess Parker, to our awaiting bikes. I was fine for the first half, but the 2nd half was a bear. I knew I was slowing down as Tom, who was for the most part behind us during the paddle, was now catching up and eventually passed Lisa and I. I just couldn't steer the boat anymore, with the waves hitting us offcenter from stern. If there was a Hell, Lisa and I agreed, this was it. Making it worse, Robyn Benincasa was out there on her surfski cruising like it was effortless. I wanted to commit a boat-jacking and leave that plastic thing behind. We FINALLY made it to shore and rode the waves in. Rick was there waiting for us, and Tracy was cheering us on, saying we were the 3rd texas team in, meaning we were behind just the MOAT teams. Nice. Too bad that damn paddle took so much out of me.

We carried the boats back up the ramp and tried our best to dry ourselves. Not everything was packed in our drybags, so there were several articles of wet clothing that we couldn't use now. After refilling our bladders and getting our gear situated, we headed out of Lookout Park and up the mountain, literally. The climbing started immediately and we hardly had any respite. We rode up to route 192 where I had mistakenly picked private roads as my way up. I eventually realized that I needed to take Romero Road all the way up. No prob. We were back on track and we were with a huge clump of teams that were eventually gobbling us up on the uphill ride. Hauntingly, there were teams that just breezed by us in full conversation mode, like that 3k climb was not reality. Amazing. We were in deep trouble. Well, we meaning Tom and I as Lisa seemed to find her climbing legs on the right day! She was flying up that thing with the rest of the teams. Amazing. Tom was right--she is a gameday performer. During and after the race we kept joking about how we rode between Beuscher and Bastrop and we kept having to wait on her, but now it was her waiting on us. I kinda expected me to struggle a bit since I was most likely still out of shape because of the injury, but I didn't think I would struggle this early. The paved road turned into a fire road and then finally there was a decision point.

Here, there was a trail that went straight up Romero Canyon and dumped us out at CP3. Also, the fire road went on an a less direct, windy road to CP3. I figured the direct route was the best bet, so we started the push bike section of our race. Of course, this was the flatlander in me thinking--there were no real elevation penalties here in Texas for taking the direct route. We later realized that MOAT took the windy road, which was more rideable and was able to conserve their strenght for later. As we trudged on upwards, the same scenario showed itself: Lisa was up front while Tom and I were covering the rear and teams were going up that route faster than we were. Brian Schmidt, another Suunto T6 tester, actually recognized me and said "hi" as they slowly but methodically passed us as we had to take a breather while Tom took on and quickly unloaded a Hammer gel pack. Yummy. I walked away shortly afterwards as I didn't want to get caught up in the festivities. We continued on and didn't see another team until we reached a point that intersected again with the windy fire road we abandoned early on. This was our last chance to jump on the slow, but less steep, path to the top. A team that I didn't know caught up to us there, and moments later Jackie, Monty, and Mey were up at the intersection. We had lost a lot of time on this route. But we decided to try and get it over with quick and continue straight up, "only" a mile more, while the windy road would be 3miles more. This is where I slowed down dramatically. I couldn't understand it. I just couldn't muster any energy and everything seemed to be 100 times heavier. I was out of shape. That mile seemed to take forever...and I mean forever. I kept hoping to see the top on the next switchback, but over and over again, I was disappointed. Finally we made it to the Romero Saddle, at about 3200ft. Momentarily I forgot about the pain and enjoyed the awesome view--the beach seemed so far away!

shoot me nowThere was one final climb to the actual CP and I was in utter pain. I was in full grimace mode. I collapsed in a heap when we got there and I really didn't think I wanted to continue on like this--I was sucking badly. People we had destroyed on the paddle were slowly coming up on us as I sat there in disbelief. I sat there, trying to compose myself and put on some dry clothes as the night would definitely get cold...and I knew we would not clear the next section by dusk. The next section was a trek section with 3 CPs. Pretty straightforward. Tracy was there again being very encouraging, and I think that was the only reason why I went on this leg. I got up on my feet and we headed for CP6, which was down a steep trail, a continuance of the Romero trail. Along the way we saw Boyd, Talmo, and Patti coming up the trail--I figured they had cleared the leg. But Patti's leg was going numb, so they were bailing on the race. I couldn't believe it! I don't know if it was the course or a pre-existing injury, but that was a major development. They were really nice too as they helped us on the navigation, giving us a few tips on how to get them. That energized me for a second. So we said our goodbyes and continued on down to the creek. These points could be taken in any order, so there were teams flying in every direction. We had run out of water, so we had to draw some from the creek. This was not prime since all kinds of bugs were living in these waters, but it was our only choice since we were in the middle of nowhere. We used iodine pills to help kill the buggers, we hoped. Filled up, we trudged on. Somehow we caught back up to Monty's team on the way to CP6. Boyd had said this one was quite a bit off, so we had to decide when to cut in on the creek to catch it. We had to bushwhack down a draw and eventually we made it to the creek. We continued down the creek quite a bit and finally I saw a couple of guys standing by the creek. That was the other good thing about this race--most of the points were manned, so if you were at the CP, you knew it. The guys there agreed that the point was off...which made me flashback to pre race when Dan Barger said ALL the points were where they should be. Nice. Now it was time to get back on the main trail. For some reason we decided not to take the same draw we just used to get to CP6 and that made it a lot harder for us. The brush was thick throughout and we finally had to eat it and go through this very dense thicket. It was painful. I was cussing throughout and couldn't believe we were going this way. Regardless, we got through and backtracked along the trail to get to CPS4 and 5.

goin trekkingMonty's team shot ahead of us again so I figured that would probably be the last time we would see them. We headed east on the creekside trail, which had a gradual climb. It seemed to take forever for us to get over to the next points. Along the way, Dead Reckoning, who we were ahead of until then, rushed by us and Tara says, "what happened to you guys?!" Nice. Anyway, we pushed painfully on and as the sun began to set, we arrived at the rockface that Boyd had advised would be our best route to the CPs. With a brief discussion, we started the bouldering up this rockface. It was a bit sketchy, but we had made it to the intermediate top. When we got close to CP4, Tom blurted out "Marco!" and amazingly someone responded "Polo!" I laughed. We were obviously at the back of the pack now, so the guy manning this CP was a bit more compassionate, doing all he could to motivate us to finish. Next was CP5, which we immediately knew was another nasty climb as we saw someone's headlamp flash about another 100-200ft above us. Crap. I was a zombie at this point. I just wanted to get to this point so I could rest a bit. I felt good for a second, but only a second. We got up there and it was a similar experience. The person there was very nice and positive. We headed back down we came, back to CP4. There we rested a bit since we would have to scale back down the rockface we used to get up there. It was a lot more hairy this time since we were going down plus I was a lot more out of it this time around. Somehow we made it down. We then continued east on the trail until it spit us out on a fire road. I was so happy to be off of that trail.

Now it was time to make it back to CP3/CP7. They had to tow me because my walking pace was that of a slug. This was about the time we had agreed we couldn't go on past CP7. It would be too dangerous for me, especially since the next section would be a tricky downhill bike to CP8. Boy, we had a lot of time to think about it--this road was so windy! It took us an eternity to get back, but when we saw that outpost tower we knew we were back. We took a final vote to continue and no one raised their hand. I probably would have kept going if they both put their hands up...but they knew better, they made the decision for me. We got to CP7 and then officially dropped out. It was about 10pm. The boggling part of this was that we saw bikes belonging to Monty, Jackie, and Mey still there! I thought they would have been long gone by now. We also saw Wild hares there--they were dropping out too, but I didn't get a chance to talk to them. It was too cold and windy to sit there and chat. Our next focus was how to get down from there. I was hoping Rick would still be up there with the van, but he was most likely ferrying other people down the mountain. So our options were: wait for the next transport, which would probably take 2hrs, or ride back down ourselves. The guy there guaranteed the ride down was all downhill. That was the only reason why we agreed to ride ourselves down. We also saw Jason there and they were low on fluids, so we gave them all that we had, thinking we wouldn't need it anymore since we were going downhill...so we thought.

Supposedly, there would be a slight uphill to start and then it would be downhill the whole way. Nope. He lied. After a few miles of still going uphill. I had to stop and look at the map--I was pissed off. This road still followed the main east-west mountain ridge, so it would still have some uphill components before hitting Gibraltar Rd, which was for sure downhill all the way. It would be about 8 miles to this junction. We had already gone halfway--otherwise we were going to ride back to CP7 and push that bastard off of a cliff. I was fuming because he put us in a perilous situation--we had given all our fluids away and I was still on the brink of collapse. Regardless, we kept on westward and we finally got to Gibraltar road. This was the most fun I had, and it wasn't during the "official" race. Gibraltar was straight down and I hardly used my brakes. There were a few sharp switchbacks where I had to check my speed, but otherwise it was tuck back and let it go. I know I at least hit 40 on some sections. After getting all the way down, we were not out of the woods yet. We still had to navigate our way back to the hotel. I had already turned off my navigating computer in my brain, so I had missed the turn off to go through the middle of Santa Barbara. Instead I kept following Foothill Rd west, looking for the Santa Barbara Mission. Never saw it. Finally, I stopped and asked a couple of nice people how to get back to the beach. That's when they informed me we missed the Mission about 10mins back. Nice. Even quitting this race was taking forever! We started zig-zagging through neighborhoods, trying to find State St. Somehow we had found it, but our main concern right now was shelter and food. Riding down State we spotted a Jack in the Box--that would do nicely! Unfortunately, the place was closed for inside dining and was only the drive thru was open. Again, there were a couple of nice guys who told us there was a Dennys down the way, but before we went onward Tom had pleaded to the manager and he let us in so that we could order, but we still would have to sit outside to eat. I didn't care--I just needed hot food at this point!

The miserable factor was down a few points now and Tom had called Linda for an emergency extraction. We would be home soon. Jack in the Box never tasted so good. Linda scooped us up and in no time we were back in the warm, comfortable, albeit cramped, Motel 6 room. Lets just say I had no trouble sleeping that night. As soon as I hit the bed, I was out.

November 4
We woke up just after daylight, hungry again. I wasn't tired anymore, but I was for sure sore. There was no doubt this time--we were going to IHOP for breakfast. It was weird, I was hungry but got filled fast. That was the same for last night. We headed back to the hotel to start putting our gear back together as we knew Rick would command that our gear be in his possession at anytime. Then I got a call from Aaron Brown, a friend I met during my summer in Japan several years back. He was in town for a rocket launch. We had lunch at Left at Albequerque. On our way down to State st. I saw Monty's team on their way to the finish line. They had made it! They had survived. We continued on to lunch. He was hoping that he could show me the town a bit, but as we were discussing this, I get a call from Lisa saying that our gear needed to be in his possession within the next 30mins or we would have to find an alternative to getting our gear back to Houston. Called it. So Aaron rushed me back and I packed my gear frantically.

Hammer Nutrition Happy AgainWe were all over at Rick's trailer and that's when I heard both Dead Reckoning and the other MOAT team with Shaun Bain had dropped out too. Wow. So Monty's team was the only one from HART to finish. We loaded up the gear and then headed to the awards banquet later in the day. That was the first time that I heard the results of the race. Eastern Mountain Sports got both 1st and 2nd in the main division. Funny how things change in just one year--last year the 2 MOAT teams took 1-2. There were many discussions about what went wrong at this year's nationals, but I will not go into them here as I don't have the will anymore. Its time to move on to next year.

November 5
My birthday. I was hoping I would be celebrating it under different circumstances, but I can't change that now. My team was nice enough to sneak in some birthday cupcakes for me and we had that for breakfast. Mmmmm. Then it was off to the airport for me. It would be a long day of plane travel for me since I had transfers at LAX and Denver. I didn't mind, I was happy I was heading home. Lisa drove me to the airport and we of course had to stop by Starbucks beforehand--that was the only time I had Starbucks this whole entire trip! Yes, unbelievable. I was home later that night, glad to be in familiar territory again. Mo picked me up and I was so happy to see her. And that was my trip. It sure made for a great vacation.

In all, it was a good learning experience, but it sure would have been nice to cross the finish line.
As usual, there is next year.


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