Monday, November 06, 2006

USARA National Championships, Santa Barbara, Calif.

Photo by Mike Bitton
Adventure racers mountain bike past palm trees in Santa Barbara, Calif., during the USARA National Championship race.

The first weekend in November I covered the national championships of the United States Adventure Racing Association (USARA), held this year in Santa Barbara, Calif. It was a great time to be away from Portland, Ore., since we were logging record rain totals every day I was gone!

It was a little strange to be at a race where I only knew a few teams. At Primal Quest I knew dozens, at and the Wicked and TRIOBA races here in the Pacific Northwest, I know even more. Walking around the starting line on the beach, I only met a few groups I recognized. Where were all the so-called "top teams" of the sport? I guess they don't bother with "grassroots" racing any more. Or maybe they were taking the weekend off so they could be in Rio for EcoMotion Brazil. That was the case with my friends from DART-nuun in Seattle.

I'd never really spent any time in Santa Barbara before, just drove in once when I lived in SoCal and took a stroll on the beach with my wife. This trip was different. I spent three days driving around town and up and down the San Ysidro Mountains that form the city's dramatic backdrop.

It's funny the things I miss about California -- being so close to Mexico; seeing $100,000 cars being passed by Kias; and the ever-vibrant Los Angeles International Airport. Things I forgot I didn't like -- the endless supply of rude people; maniac drivers in the fast lane of every freeway; and a parade of lousy radio stations. KCRW FM in Santa Monica is the only exception.

I was welcomed like family into the rental home of team Mighty Dog from Atlanta, Ga. Sherry and Ardie Olson, team manager and captain, respectively, have taken me under their wings every time I've seen them since May 2006, when we met at the Mighty MO Expedition adventure race in the Ozarks of Missouri. One of the greatest things about adventure racing is reuniting with friends every few months, always in a diferent state, and sometimes in a different country!

Daylight hours were spent taking photographs of teams. Dark hours were spent downloading photos off my memory cards and onto my laptop. There was no stress to put up stories and photos every night, since the USARA said they had their own method of updating their web page to keep family and friends up to date on race conditions. Sadly, it didn't come together for them, which left fans in a lurch. About a dozen people asked me Saturday morning where all my stories and photos were. I told them Checkpoint Zero had agreed not to post anything until AFTER the event, so as not to compete with the USARA information machine.

I spent a lot of time talking to athletes after the race about training and nutrition, as I will be racing in 2007. In fact, Iwill be racing next month! There's a BEAST race near Seattle on Sunday, Dec. 3. I'll be there with some other newbie adventure racing friends from Portland to see how we all perform under stress. Nutrition and training have become an important new part of my life since I decided to race in 2007. I'm lucky to have so many elite-level adventure racing friends to point me in the right directions!


Hart said...

mikey b!!! where is the usara nationals race report? i can't find one anywhere and i heard there was TONS of controversy. let's hear it!!!

Kev said...

Hi, as an avid participant in the riverboard scene, I have decided to start a yearly Riverboarder Choice awards, so people can vote for their favorite riders, etc. One of the categories is Best Professional Photo. I know that in the past, you have taken some great photos of boarders, such as Ice and co. If you have taken any good riverboard photos this year, please consider putting it up for best photo. Please email me at to submit a photo for nomination. Nominations will be accepted through the end of November, then voting will happen in December. Maximum file size is 2 megs, but you can provide a link if you have the photo hosted on the web. I hope that this is something you will participate in

Lorna said...

What's with the teaser? Give us the story! :-)

Hart said...

mikey you don't seem to blog anymore.. let us know what you are up to. hopefully your training has progressed and you are ready to kick some but this season!