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12 Hours at Orange County

Story by Chris Vargas
Photos by Mark Scheetz and Chris Vargas

Mario and Ron climb The first 12-hour event held in Orange County at the Flying B Adventure Park was a great success! Although the rain threatened to delay the race - Mother Nature was some what forgiving and the heavy showers that were predicted did not happen. Although it did rain on and off in the days prior to the race it was not enough to delay it; but it did present some problems for the promoters.

The Warrior's Society designed course (8 miles, 1600 feet of climbing per lap that club members Ron and Monique Sawicki laid out), including the "Warrior's" single track the club built for the event, did suffer some damage. Karen Lundgren and Paul Romero of West Coast Adventure Racing (the promoters of the event) had a lot of work to do to get the course ready. Although they have promoted Adventure Races, this was the first mountain bike event they have promoted and they wanted to make sure it was a success. They were up the Thursday night before the race putting the finished touches on the course.

Monique on Warriors Trail As Karen Lundgren wrote to me after the event "Paul and I worked our butts off getting the course in shape in time and Mother Nature cooperated and our hard work paid off.

We have received tons of positive comments and based on those comments we are pleased. The things we wanted to accomplish happened - we wanted a racer friendly, family friendly event and people said they thought it was. We wanted people to have fun and hang out - they did. We wanted people to feel like they got value for their money and they did. We wanted to offer cool prizes that people were excited about - it happened (to some extent). We wanted a professional looking event that would surprise people - it did. We wanted the timing to be flawless and it was.

There were of course some things we learned and things we will do different next time, but that's all part of the game and part of the fun for us. If the majority of the people walked away happy we are happy, that's what it's all about."

Cameron at the start Paul added "We are only just now going to sleep since the weekend. What a week it was. From our perspective it was great to meet many of the riders of OC. We are in a recovery mode for a bit, before we make any firm opinions about our experience of last weekend. There are some striking differences in mountain bike and adventure races that are...interesting."

"In retrospect, a few things we learned quickly, i.e., we love the idea (from 24 hrs of Adrenalin) of every rider brings/donates a volunteer. We've never had a need for this in adventure racing, but it's apparently needed in the MTB world. There are some exciting sponsorship prospects in the works that could aid in the boosting of mountain biking in So Cal, and as we firm them up, you all will be quick to know."

Jason on the back loop The course was tough with many steep climbs up trails and roads named "Elevator Shaft" and "The Staircase." Cameron Brenneman a member of the 1st place coed team (16 laps), "Big Gears, No Tears," was looking to continue his winning streak after his record setting first place finish in the 56.5 mile Vision Quest endurance event (held 3 weeks before on March 5th in the Cleveland National Forest in Orange County) - and he and his team mates delivered. Cameron told me "One of the most memorable moments was when my teammate Sean Donovan said, 'Is there any downhill on the course? It seems like you go uphill the entire 8 miles.'

"I agreed that the course was one of the most challenging courses I have raced in awhile. I think the hardest part of the race was having to get back onto the bike several times."

Leslie on the Warrior's Trail Warrior's Society Race Team member and solo rider Jason First summed up the effect the course had on the participants: "I actually enjoyed the first 6 hours, after that it became extremely difficult and slow. People everywhere were hiking rather than riding up the climbs. But everyone on the course was encouraging each other, we all struggled together. All in all, I'm happy I did it and learned a lot from it." Jason went on to complete 10 Laps for an 8th place finish.

The "Warrior's Trail" single track also gave some people trouble. The trail was designed to be as steep as possible. The trail tunneled through heavy brush and had many hair pin turns. The trail ended with a 60 foot drop/runout called "Dan's Drop" after Dan Dulac one of the owners of the Flying B Adventure Park.

Ned on the Warrior's Trail The trail was designed by Warrior's Society member Tom Taylor, a noted Orange County technical trail designer and Warrior's Society founder Chris Vargas. Warrior's Society members spent over 400 hours building the trail by hand.

As previously mentioned the Warrior's Trail is steep. Those that had quick releases on their seats were advised to use them and lower their seats when descending the trail; those that did not have quick releases and little technical riding experience wished they had them.

The course was challenging enough for the teams, and even more so for the solo racers.

Mario on the podium Warrior's Society Race Team member Mario Correa finished first in the solo male category with 13 laps - 104 miles, 20,800 feet of total elevation gain. Mario is an accomplished solo racer having competed solo in many 12 and 24 hour events and other distance events such as the La Ruta de Los Conquistadores multi-day stage race in Costa Rica, the Transrockies Challenge and the Cascade Cream Puff 100.

Monique on the podium Warrior's Society member Monique Sawicki of Team Mata finished with 12 laps in 11:20 hours - 96 miles with 19,200 feet of total elevation gain. She was the first female by a long shot and was also 2nd place solo finisher overall right behind Mario Correa. Monique is currently defending her 2004 female NORBA National Marathon Series Championship title. In 2004 Monique set records riding solo in the 12 Hours of Snow Summit and in the Vision Quest.

Club member and Club Director Ned Reynolds completed 7 laps as a solo rider riding a singlespeed.

Keith starts lap The first place Corporate Team was Ellsworth Bicycles with 12 laps and the first place Open Team was "Partners in Grime" with 13 laps.

The Warrior's Society coed team was the first place single speed team and finished 4th overall with 14 laps. Two of the team members, Calvin Mulder and Keith Eckstein, rode fully rigid bikes. Keith showed real grit and determination by riding with a broken hand.

Many thanks to Paul Romero and Karen Lundgren of Team Epinephrine for promoting the event and to Dan Dulac and Allen Dean, the owners of the Flying B Adventure Park, for hosting it.

Thanks to all that participated. We hope to see you back at the Flying B!


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