Map with routes
Notes on the map (which is over a 1 meg download). My route
goes counter clockwise, meaning #31 is the first one I visited.
My planned route is in red, actual in blue. The controls in
yellow are timed, meaning they close sometime during the
race (#53 120 minutes after start, #59 90 minutes after start).
There were an additional 7 controls worth a total of 900 points
on Marin (North of the Golden Gate Bridge, not shown). Each
control was worth its number minus its number mod 10 (e.g, #59
was worth 50).
I decided to do the San Francisco Night and Day challenge, run
by Eric Bone and Terry Farrah. I've always wanted to see SF, and
this seemed like the most fun way to do so. I've also always
wanted to do a metrogaine. I did the 7 hour race. There was a
16 hour race also, but as the races started at 4pm, more of a
percentage of the latter would be at night, and that doesn't
appeal to me much. As my race would go to 11pm, I'd get a taste
of the night anyway.
Pre Race Prep
The interesting thing about a metrogaine is that you can buy
food and water along the way if you can find a store when you
want one, so you can pack light, and there were to be no
water or food controls, of course. I did some poking around
the 'net before the race to try to plan how much water, and
how many calories I would need for the race. The plan was a
light run for the 7 hours.
I planned to consume 240-280 calories per hour (40 of which
would be protein), and 500ml water per hour. I had a 2 liter
Camelbak with a small pouch which I just managed to cram in
the requisite GU and Clif bars. I even made up a little
schedule of when I would consume what, to force even calorie
intake, and taped it to the back of my map. Probably way
more anal than most people. I figured I'd buy the necessary
extra water and at-large calories along the way. I mixed
about 250ml of Gatorade with the water in the Camelbak to
start. I also packed a blister kit, some advil, some
cash, a wimpy head lamp, and a phone card. Loaded up on
a nice plate of sushi and sashimi; possibly not the best
pre-race fare, but I'm not gonna fly across the country to
SF and not have sushi downtown.
I had no idea what sort of pace I would, or could set in
this race, having never done anything like this before.
I looked at the results from last year, and, according to
the numbers posted, the winner of the 7 hours did so at
a pace of 8.7K per hour. A 10 minute per k pace, which
I figured should be the minimum, of course comes out
to 6K per hour. As last year's race was in Seattle, and
San Fran is much hillier, I figured the sweet spot would
be about 7-7.5K per hour -- at least that was my planned
I also made a note to measure actual K on actual planned
route, not the typical O method of straight line distance.
Space in a metrogaine is different than typical O, as
you have to stay on the grid, and can rarely go straight.
I also, along these lines, made a note to look for route
planning that had a lot of 90 degree legs between
controls, and avoid the 45 degree legs, due to the forced
structure of the gridded space.
Race Planning After Map Distribution
The course was over 3 maps, Marin to the north, downtown, and
South SF, with the hash house being in the south. As Marin
required a ferry and/or bus and/or a walk across the GG
bridge, and also looked rugged, I ruled that out of hand
immediately and did not even pack the map. Not only did
it seem a logistic and strategic nightmare, I did want to
spend time in the city.
The first thing I noticed about the map was that the timed
controls were on a diagonal, but on a road that followed
the diagonal. Thus much cheaper between than any other
two similarly visually situated controls in the grid
space. Not only that, the second one (#59), which closed
90 minutes after start, seemed on the border of what one
could get as part of a reasonable route early in the race.
So I figured the winner would be getting #50, and #59.
Following that logic, if we accept that the winner would be
at #59, then it seemed certain that the winner would also
be getting #103 and #84. Thus we had to get #103. If
OTOH, we tried to get #103, and missed #50 and #59 on the way,
that would be alot of dead time going without feeding myself
points, either on the way or on the way back. So the crux
of my plan was to make sure we got to #59 at about 90 minutes
in, and optimize as much as we could before then.
After that, it would be to pick up the valuable controls on
a route back to the hash house area, as there were plenty
of valuable ones close in to the south. I figured the winner
would also be getting close in control #86 and #105, and
while I did mock up a southerly loop near the hash house,
the real plan was to re-evaluate at #105.
In the early planning, I spent alot of time hemming and
hawing about how to optimize point pickup before the
deadline at #59. The big issue was #56, a valuable
control, close in, that I figured most people would
get. Also, an easy control to get from the south, but
very awkward if not impossible to get coming back from
the north. Thus, I wanted to get it on the outbound
loop. Also, part of the problem was that #66 looked
approachable from the south, but not the north, so once
at #56, you have to get #66. But if I did that, I could
not get out to #63 and #51 as well in the 90 minute limit,
based on my expected pace. It was worth about 50 more
points to do the route to #63, so I made the painful decision
to plan to drop #56 and try to grab #66 from the north
on the way back. (The relatively worthless #26 and #27
seemed like obvious drops, but I penciled in #26 just
in case, as it seemed so close to my planned route).
I agonized on that one decision for a long time, and while
the rest of the route planning was straightforward, I found
the hour of time given to plan (the maps were late and
there was a mandatory meeting) not sufficient to feel
comfortable (my original plan was to try several
permutations). I filed my intention sheet and hoped for
the best [an intention sheet in a rogaine is where you
mock up your planned route for the organizers in case
they have to conduct a search].
Race Play by Play
#31. Was not used to map, and did not see the road that
went along the starting area, and was one road farther
south than I wanted to be. Forced to go out of my way
a block, and climb more than planned, as the cross
street I wanted wasn't there.
#41. Found the navigation harder than I expected. I
was not reading street names on the map, so was navigating
as I do in in traditional O (strict contact) while trying
to keep up a reasonable pace. Decided my technique would
be to get on the street the circle was on as early in the game
as possible (so long as that did not incur extra climb), in
order for there to be less to think about and to count.
#63. Did not realise the red line was an uncrossable
freeway (it was stated that red lines were federal land
boundaries that could be ignored). Bungled a bit there.
Saw another team come out of #63 on the way up the hill.
Figured we had the same plan.
#51. Caught the other team on the way to this control.
Verified with each other that we had the same plan. The
race was on. Asked if they were going to skip #26 (they
said yes, I was still undecided).
#34. Took a split on this one to determine my current pace,
and to see if I would have time to hit #26. Was feeling
strong, at least stronger than I expected to. Different
route to #34 than the other team, and never saw them again.
#53. Skipped #26. Figured I could probably make it, but
it would be tight, and I did not want to risk 50 points
for 20 points. I knew #59 was a sure thing if I skipped.
#59. Difficult navigation keeping track of the cross
streets. The clue was difficultly worded, that is,
it wasn't obvious to me what I was looking for (it
was the price of a shoe in the back of a store, but no
address was given, so I wasn't confident it would be
a no brainer). Saw another team ahead, and made
sure to keep them in sight. Got to the store at
around 71 minutes into the race. Could have hit #26
safely. Could not find the shoe, and was searching
with the other team. Was frustrated (more on this
aspect of the race later). We exchanged team numbers
to vouch at the end of the race, but as we were leaving
the salesman asked if we were "looking for this". Turned
out he had "brought it up to the counter because
so many people had been in looking for it". Sigh. Lost
4 minutes here. Also realised alot of people had been
thru here ahead of me. Wondered if they had hit #63, or
if I was leading.
#84. Church on a hill. Tough climb. Was feeling a
bit thirsty, but had plenty of water left. Think the
Gatorade/water mix was grating on me. Was thinking about
buying a half-liter on the fly, but did not see a
#103. Another tough climb. Some sort of tourist
monument. Small snack truck here; decided to buy
some water, but it was closed. Was feeling quite
strong, and well ahead of pace, and decided on an
impulse to hit the 2 controls on Fisherman's Wharf,
which weren't part of the original plan. Bad decision
in retrospect, as there was more than 80 points to be
made in the south later. But hey, you have to visit
Fisherman's Wharf, right?
#37. Wrong. I'm not sure what the hype is, just
alot of tourist kitsch that seems avoidable, in my
well-traveled opinion. The downtown and some of
the other areas are much cooler. Also, mobs of people
here, who, on an O map, would have been mapped
medium green, as progress really was compromised.
Control was a Ben and Jerry's -- chance for some
at large fat calories, and some water, but the queue
was too long.
#57. Sloppy nav along the wharf as I was trying to
avoid the throngs. Saw a guy selling water -- I
asked how much -- $2 for 500 ml bottle. Thanks, but
no thanks. Still had plenty in the Camelbak. Wondered
if I'd regret this tightwad decision once I got out
of touristville and back into the downtown ...
#62. Throngs of people getting on a cable car.
Control was mishung -- described as cable car
schedule NW corner of intersection, was actually
NE corner, checked the one on the SW corner first.
A bit frustrated having to avoid people and traffic
with all the extra road crossings. Had been priding
myself on approaching on the proper side of the street
as the control throughout the race, and was feeling
a bit surly about this one. Still felt strong, but
was longing for some ice cold, sports drink free water.
#44. Tried to optimize climb avoidance.
#43. Hit a corner
grocery in Japantown on the way; paid $1.79 for ice
cold 2L of water. That's better. Downed a good 300ml
and carried the bottle; didn't feel like dealing with
Refilled the Camelbak at the control. Was surprised that
I had only drank about 1L so far from it. Was just under
4 hours into the race. On schedule with eating. Dealing
with the CB was a pain; had to unload everything to refill
the bladder. Started to get cold, otherwise felt good
physically. Downed all the fresh water that would not
fit in the CB.
#26. Another change of plans. Plan was #66, but looking
at the map indicated it had to be approached from the
south, so if I'm going to do that, I might as well grab
#56, since it is not that far from the south approach. Then
if I'm going to be at #56, would it not stand to reason
to pick up #26 also, since a bit roundabout, but climb-avoiding
route to #56 takes us right there? (Probably not, the 20
pointers just aren't worth it).
#56. This was worth it. Really cool area, where the
"street" was actually stairs, and there were little
#66. Was approachable from the north after all, as green area
was park, not vicious wild veg (more on that at another
control). But was happy with this change in route.
#64. Positively Haight Street :-) (actually not the planned
route, but was well worth it).
#83. Got lost in the park and lost some time. Was not
sure what was mapped road, and mapped tarmac path on the
20 year old USGS base.
#52. Bingo exit from 83. South of #83 was fenced in arboretum,
was not sure if it was faster to go east or west, guessed wrong.
East was certainly safer, and I knew that at the time, but I
will take chances out there. Was still feeling OK physically,
but walked up this hill. Was starting to wonder when the
headlamp would have to come out. I hate night navigation, and
was dreading that.
#86. This was a big gamble. Control did not look approachable
from the west, at least not on road, as they did not connect.
Heading east on Kirkham saw the mountain, and figured I could
bushwhack it if I had to. Did not look signed, nor too thick,
but very steep. But decided to take Kirkham where it bends
around to the north, and approaches the closest part of the
switchback of the road going up the other side of the mountain.
Property looks like a university or hospital or the like,
and the woods are not signed!; we're in business so long
as I can climb the lines in the near dark. There was even
a small staircase going nowhere up the side of the hill to
get me started.
#105. At #86, put on the headlamp. 9PM, 5 hours in, 2 hours
left. Nav to #105 looks tricky, and it is in the dark. Have
to stop a bit at streetlights to make sure I don't make a
mistake. Beautiful view; glad I did this one at night.
Obvious what inspired the Journey song Lights. Clue
said "telescopes", thought this was going to be an observatory,
but was those tourist ones that you put a quarter in. Realised
I had not been keeping up with my eating schedule, but was
not hungry. Hydration was fine. Was getting cold. Not bonking,
but definitely not feeling as strong as an hour ago.
#45. At this point, I re-evaluated, and felt I had plenty of
time to get #45, #81, #87, and possibly #61 with a pickoff of
#22 on the way in. So I went for #45, figuring #87 was not
But between #105 and the south of the map is where I taped my
two map sections together, and there was some sort of disconnect.
Either the route I thought was there was not, or I made a mistake
due to this misalignment, and found myself lost, needing to
relocate near where Portola hits Woodside. It took 4 minutes to
sort this out, as I could not find Portola on the map -- a pink
line that did not look like a road, especially in the dark.
Control was actually 25m from the center of the circle (clue said
thusly, but I was still annoyed). Had not eaten in a long time, but
was not hungry. Forced a Clif down anyway, on instinct. About an
hour or so left. Could not find a place to throw the wrapper away
and carried it for almost the rest of the race in my free hand.
#81. Figured I'd just climb the mountain as was possible at
#66 without a road, but it didn't work out that way. Went to
the one deadend at the base of the mountain, but was all private
residential land and thus out of bounds. Decided I was just
stay on roads close to the base, and hope for the best. Veg
on mountain was not bushwackable, but by luck found a path.
Was a poor path, but was generally going up. Almost seemed
like bushwacking, especially in the dark. Need a stronger
headlamp. Eventually hit a better path, but was contouring
the mountain. Bushwacking was still impossible. Turned
right (west), but trail decended. Went east, then found
another trail going up. All this stuff was unmapped.
See people with headlamps way up on the mountain, which
inspires me to keep pushing, and eventually hit a wide trail
that obviously leads to the summit.
Control was plaque at base of cross, was asked to find the
year such and such happened, but this detail was not mentioned
on the plaque. Perhaps there were two plaques up there. Was
livid, after the arduous trek up that mountain. Wrote down
key information from the plaque to prove I was there, to haggle
with the organizers when I got back.
Finish. Had about a half hour left. Decided I had time to
get #87. But got lost in the neighborhood east of the mountain,
and while I could relocate, in evaluating the approach to #87
from the east, after my experience approaching #81, I deciced
to call it a race at that point. I ran a good, strong,
and relatively clean race, and while I didn't think my planning
was the best, I still felt, considering everything, that it was
good enough that I had won, and did not want to
risk a big blowup on #87, which looked very risky, especially
in the dark.
Back at the hash house at 7 hours, 50 minutes, and 26 seconds.
First place, 1390 points, 50 points ahead in 7 hour foot, and
tied with best score 7 hour bike. Was shocked that I was still
running, but certainly not that fast, and not up hills.
I was shocked that I could run for most of 7 hours straight,
and keep up a decent pace (for me), to boot, at least for the
first 4 hours. So I was pleased with my physical performance.
I was also pleased with my calorie and water management, and
Strategy and route planning were the weak part of the game,
but not so weak to cost me the race. Too many big
pointers south of the hash house were not collected, and I
think they could have been, at the expense of some 30s and 50s,
at least the ones at Fisherman's Wharf. In talking to other
competitors, however, they also made mistakes in going for
20 pointers. If I ever do this again, (and my quads right now are
saying "no way Jose"), I will have to really knuckle down
on route planning (or just draft a good partner ...).
My total estimated mileage was 43K, for a pace of 6.3K/hour.
Prior to donning the headlamp, my estimates mileage was
35K, for a pace of 7K/hour.
The organizers did a great job. It must take a ton of work
to put something like this together, and the course design
was interesting, and challenging to attempt to optimize.
It was definitely worth flying across the country for, but
as more of a woodsy, navigational guy, it has to be a city
like San Francisco to make it worth it.
I did have couple of quibbles with the course -- SF is probably
one of the hilliest cities in the world, and it seems a bit
cliche that the course setter put a control on the top of each
one. I would have preferred a bit less of that, perhaps some
hilltop, and some hills simply as obstacles for the over/around
problem. Perhaps I'm being over critical here, and that is
just part of the game.
One other nit that can (and should) be fixed is the verification
of visiting a site. The principle is sound -- that is, a multiple
choice question asking a question that can only be known (in
theory) by visiting the site, such as "on the plaque at the
base of the monument, what year was the monument dedicated?".
But reading these things, and trying to find the piece of
trivia asked for, which was often at the end, is an annoyance
in the heat of the race. Sometimes it was ambiguous, sometimes
simply not there, and sometimes there was more than one
mural/plaque/etc., leaving you in a frustrated search (and
in these cases of duplicates, both were either wrong, or the
clue could be construed to fit both). I often found myself
100% sure I was in the right place, and simply searching
like a madman (oh, its there), or re-reading the things several
A better approach would be to keep it simple, such as, "what
is the third word in the plaque?". (And always make it the
third word of whatever you are reading). No ambiguity, quick,
no long reading. I love treasure hunting, but this is a race,
and I think could be made more enjoyable if the verification
were less like trivia, and more quick and simple.
One team took to taking pictures of the ambiguous points
on their cell phone. Good idea, but I would not want to
be saddled with the extra weight.
But overall, forgetting these two quibbles, a fun race. Notice
no complaints about the map. Yes, 20 year old USGS, and problems
here and there, but appropriate for a rogaine -- that is
part of the game ...