Wilderness Traverse race 20:48 
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot decided that yes, we were going to attempt Wilderness Traverse again this year. As a team of 4 this time. Myself, Candice and Grant again, with Gerhard (who was part of the original team) joining us. As one of two rookie teams that finished last year, we went into this race somewhat better prepared, or at least we hoped.
I spent much of my training this year focusing on my riding (I even knit myself a new bike!) as I felt that that's where I was weakest. I hoped that would pay off and make us faster as a team on the trails.
We arrived at HQ Friday in good time, unloaded our gear, sorted through our gear, and got front row seating for the course reveal.
PADDLE about 7 hours
Our plan was to follow the main land shore to the north tip of Meneilly Island and then cut down to the island where CP1 was. Not the shortest route, but the safest. It was very apparent early that most teams were opting for the shorter, but more challenging for navigation course, through the islands. At one point we thought we could follow the pack and rely on their nav, but this was our race, and we wanted to run it ourselves. Yes, it put us near the back of the pack, but we figured it's early yet, we'll still have a chance to make up some time. We got the CP, and continued on our way into the Naiscoot River Channel towards CP2. It was a bit tricky when we reached the middle channel, we saw a team ahead attempting a portage that we had thought to try, but as we got closer, well they were returning...not the right place. So instead, we scooted around the corner, paddled (poled?) our way through some thick lily pads, then pushed our way through some bushes into the river. The paddle along the river was relatively quick, but boring after awhile, we kept hoping to see something new around the next bend. Finally, sometime after CP2 signs of cottages appeared and we hit the "portage" over the dam. There were a few other teams there pushing through and resting, resulting in a line up that cost us some time. Finally we're on Six Mile Lake, into Little Wilson, then Wilson and then we are done! A quick 1km portage to our gear bins and transition to trek.
TREK about 12 hours
We moved through transition fairly quickly, a quick shoe change, food in mouth, food and water into packs, and a heavy dose of bug dope, man the mosquitoes were bad there! (they only got worse) Trotted down the trail until we hit the creek we intended on following towards Spectacle Lake. Had a fun group crossing at a set of rapids (some old river rescue courses coming into play here) followed the north shore of Spectacle and set our bearing to bushwhack our way to CP4. We felt pretty good moving through the bush here, knew where we were, and moving at a decent pace. Then another team caught up to us. When asked what bearing they were following, they responded "yours!" Ok, so we have followers. Not to be rude or anything, but we weren't really looking for company. We came out on the shore of Trout Lake, found another team who asked if we knew where we were, we answered yes, they asked where and we said at CP4, it's right over there. We arrived at CP4 just as the crew there were cooking up some freshly caught fish. We didn't stick around though, as yet another team was arriving, and well we weren't here for a party. We had a quick team picture snapped (I know one of the volunteers there, he emailed me the picture) and were off. Off to make an error that would later cost us.
Our intent was to bushwhack to the power line from CP4, rather than follow the shore to the trail. We moved along the shore to where we were going to start our bushwhack, but a bunch of other teams caught up to us, and we stepped aside to let them pass, and double check our map. I guess we got all caught up in the traffic, and second guessed our intent and thought, well maybe we should play it safe too. So we continued on past where we were going to turn off, found the trail (or so we thought) but it was wrong. We figured that out rather quickly when the trail veered off in the opposite direction we wanted. So we trudged back to the lake, set a new bearing and set off for a bushwhack, our original plan. Which was not the best plan. We spent the next 3-4(?) hours bushwhacking our way slightly northeast hoping to catch the trail before the hydro line. Finally, through the treeline I spotted what I thought was the tip of a hydro pole. Candice and Gerhard confirmed my sighting, good not a hallucination. We went for it, and then hit the first bog. OK, we can cross this, it's all Labrador Tea and mossy bogginess. Kind of like walking on water bed. I had visions of going through, and not re-surfacing. That just made me move quicker. Ok, through the first one. To have another stretch in front of us. OK, let's do that 3 more times. And then a really deep, mucky 5' "water" crossing. To deep to walk, to short a distance to swim. I'm not sure what you'd call what we did, but somehow got across it. Only to find a swim across the swamp that was at least 50' across. So we swam. Gross. And then stumbled onto the trail. Oh, so happy. It was still light out. And we now knew where we were. We got onto the hydro line, had a quick re-fuel, pulled out our lights as we'd need them soon, and continued on our way over to Dogfish Lake. We encountered a team biking towards us.....well that was rather discouraging. But we were given some friendly advice from the team to take the north shore (that was our plan) and that the bushwhack we intended from CP5 to CP6 took them 2 hours in daylight....the road would also take 2 hours. We tucked that information away, wished them well and watched them speed off. Once we found the creek/river that led to Dogfish, and we crossed our second set of rapids we started the steep rocky trek along the shore. It is now full on dark. We are treated to a short view of the night's super moon. Gorgeous and red. But no time to stop and admire, and then it disappears behind some clouds. We spot a fire on the far shore, and some encouraging words are yelled across to us "You're going the right way!" After we lose the fire, I think I start hearing thunder in the distance. Then I hear it closer....no wait, that sounds like a generator! We have reached the cottage about halfway down the lake. We are greeted by a bunch of kids yelling "What's your name?" "Are you coyotes" A tattooed, beer drinking man hanging out by some muddy ATV's greets us. "Turn off your lights, save you batteries...come here use my light" He then tries to convince us to not continue the shore, take his road. We explain that that will take us way out of our way. Again he tried to discourage us from going on. "The shore is bad, it's worse than what you just trekked, I have extra bunks, come on in and sleep" We thank him, but explain that we are going to keep going, but promise if we run into trouble, we'll come back. He then asks us if we have protection. "What do you mean" I ask. "Guns" was his reply. Ummm, no. As we set off, we here his buddy tell him he could have been more encouraging. So he yells out "Good Luck" to us. Nice guy.
We find the ATV trail and start heading towards CP5. We are a bit confused when we see a team (the same team of guys who "followed" us before heading towards us, "You're almost there" they encourage us. Hmmm, where are they going? We get into CP5 a bit dejected, convinced we are dead last, clearly the teams we tried so hard to "ditch" moved faster from the last checkpoint than us. But know, the crew at CP5 let us know there are still teams behind us. OK, that picks our spirits up a bit. It starts to rain, and the crew also tells us that many teams have opted to take the road to CP6/TA2. Not our original plan, but we figure we can give it some thought as we move onward. It starts to rain a bit more earnestly. We are now moving along a slick, muddy wet trail in the rain. So we totally were not prepared for what happened next. Candice and Grant were just ahead of my and Gerhard, when she suddenly grabs Grant's arm and pulls him to a stop. A rattle snake is there on the trail. They almost stepped on it. It is not happy with us being there. We stand still for a moment, than quickly skirt around it, and then let out our breath. Close one. Maybe that spooked us enough that it helped make the decision to take the road into CP6.
During the road trek, the rain continued and got heavier. I started thinking about the ride ahead of us. We rode the same hydro cut last year, and I remember the struggles I had. At the beginning of the race. On a dry day. In sunlight. Lot's of hills and lot's of rock. That would be super slippery in this rain. By this point Gerhard was having some old race injuries come back to haunt him, and he was fairly certain that we was not going to continue when we got to CP6/TA2.
BIKE about 2 hours
We arrive at CP6 to a pile of teams there. Catching some shelter under the tent. Munching on watermelon that Heather brought (Heather is Grant's wife, she came to volunteer at the race, and to drive us home) No one seems overly happy at this point. We call in that we will continue on as a team of three. We then are told that our options are to go on the full course (we have made the time cut off after all!) short course ourselves (which still involved a 35-40km road ride back to HQ) or to simply quit . Well, that was not an option. The three of us get ourselves ready, and mull over the other two options in our heads, before we get together to talk it out. I'm thinking of potentially (probably) walking my bike through much of the trail. My feet don't relish that idea. I think of my kids back home, who need me not broken. I think of a friend who was recently in a bad bike accident that happened during a race. And then I say it out loud "I think we should short course" A moment of silence, and the other agree with me. Thank You. It wasn't an easy decision, and I hope that the feeling of quitting will go away. Cause it kinda felt like that. We report to Heather that that is what we are going to do. Apparently everyone is (except the Speed Bunnies.....but then again they RAN past us on the road, so I wasn't completely surprised, and it looks like they rocked the hydro cut, nice work ladies!!)
We jump on our bikes and start the ride which felt really, really good. And then the deluge began, the kind of rain that makes you pull over in your car because you can't see and your wipers won't work fast enough. But we made it, got back to HQ a bit before 5am. This time, unlike last year, we got to see many other teams come in, and hear bits of their stories. And yes, I think we'll be back next year. I just want to know one thing: how do the pro teams move so bloody fast while bushwhacking?