Adventure Racing 15:55:00 
Wilderness Traverse 2013: Parry Sound
This was a pretty special race for a number of reasons! Team TA3 was formed in 2010 when Eco, Myka and MooPoint met while volunteering for the inaugural Wilderness Traverse. The three of them were placed at TA3 and while there, decided to do some races together realizing that their race goals were similar, their respective strengths complimented each other and they all got along quite well.
Fast forward to 2013 and they finally decided this was the year to conquer darkness and sleep deprivation of multi-day racing. I'm honoured that they recruited me to be their navigator, cheer leader and someone who has been there before to bounce ideas off of.
It was also special for me as it is the first race I have done since 2011 having taken a short hiatus upon discovering how much I love this whole fatherhood game and preferred time colouring, reading kids books and having my eyes poked out as my daughter yelled "eye, eye, eye" as opposed to doing any sort of training.
It was also special as this was our first night(s) away from TheMonster. She was hanging out with Grandma in Toronto for the weekend. Strange not having her around!
On the start line, I had bagged a collective 8-hours of sleep over the past two nights, but crazy work commitments, packing and spending more time making my maps pretty and legible was worth it on the start line.
The 3km ride to the start line was good to work some cob webs out and calm the team's mix of nerves and excitement a bit before the horn. Team TA3 rules state that the team shall line up at the back of the start pack. We left a gap between us and the front runners, and much to our surprise, a bunch of teams lined up behind us. It was like a self-corral based on perceived speed at the beginning of the bike. Finally, our countdown ended and off we set into the world of multi-day racing!
Things were pretty tame for the first few kilometres. I imagine there were some interesting moments when the big guns hit the narrower trails, but we were treated to beautiful rays of sunshine singing through the canopy revealed by the settling dust of the disappearing pack. We had time to consider the map on the move so following the correct route wasn't difficult. We did veer off course for a couple hundred metres twice as our odometers were already over a kilometre different, but not much time or effort was lost.
As things started to get rough and more muddy, we were getting on and off our bikes more often. MooPoint was starting to get frustrated as cycling felt good and walking the bike was okay, but the action of getting on and off was really irritating an old injury and getting quite painful. Given the terrain, there was little we could do to help other than offering support.
The trail difficulty eased up a bit when we hit the power line, but there was still enough on-and-off the bike making it really hard on MooPoint. Nearing CP1, we were quite surprised when a convoy of 8 jeeps came up the trail. We went way off the trail to let them pass, but each passing jeep came closer and closer to us until we were virtually in the trees. I did a facepalm when one jeep fell into the hole that the previous one created and he complained that it made him spill his beer. Oh dear. And people complain about mountain bikers being hard on the trails.
Pulling into CP1, MooPoint took a few minutes to really think about what was best to do from here, and had to make the difficult call to pull the plug. She really wanted to continue and felt like she had plenty of gas to keep going, but felt it unwise to aggravate the injury and add months/years to the recovery time.
Reeder was forced to pull out at CP1 due to a laundry list of bike problems and his team had carried on. MooPoint offered for him to use her bike and continue on with us. He enthusiastically (no exaggeration) accepted so we filled our water and on we went!
As we pressed on towards CP2, it became more and more clear that MooPoint had made the right call as the trail became more and more rough. Overall, it was a super-fun trail with some really fun descents, some challenging, technical climbs and not too much that was unrideable.
We took a bit of a risk when crossing the railway by attempting to stay under the hydro line instead of the ~3km diversion that the main trail took to the east. Luckily for us, we found an ATV trail that pushed all the way through. We probably didn't save a huge amount of time, but we at least saved a bit and I think Eco and Myka enjoyed the break from the pounding on the main trail.
Once away from the hydro line, I think Eco and Myka were a little disappointed when I indicated that we were now on the 'gravel road' which they had been looking forward to for reprieve from the jackhammer trail and it really didn't look any different. It did slowly improve as we went along which pleased the crowd. Given that Reeder had stopped at CP1 for a while, he was running low on food, but didn't want to bother anyone about it. That is until he saw the foods that were starting to show themselves now that we were on flatter trails facilitating easier eating. Myka offered up a samosa and I don't think anyone has enjoyed a samosa that much before!
We pulled into TA1, LOVED that we were given ice cream, changed gear and headed back up the road with nightfall imminent. We had a 'no swimming' rule on our team. Our route around the tip of the lake was not a bad choice. We hit the trail junction way sooner than I calculated so I was a little weirded out by that for a while until things matched up well enough that I really realized that I was no longer making the map fit, we were actually where I thought we were!
We skirted the lake all the way around to CP4, but not before dropping in on some cottagers enjoying the beautiful night, then on the infamous bush party with a mountain of empties. Given the ratio of empties to partiers, they were surprisingly tame and respectful and...well not doing dumb stuff like trying to swim drunk or anything. Reeder enjoyed a beer while we paid Yip and kids a visit.
From CP4 we went to the end of Gordon Lake and went on our bearing. This was my first race navigating in quite a while and my first with my Moscow compass with no declination so I was a little concerned about this part. We hit a couple of stands of thick alder so Myka and Eco certainly got a good taste of being tangled up in the bush at night. They pushed through with no problems at all!
I was VERY happy when we hit about 20m upstream of the beaver dam above of Evans Lake! The plan on the other side was to hit high ground and make our way to Horseshoe Lake, but I didn't calculate for the cliff face we met. We skipped north and made our way up, but ended up being pushed back down to the wee pond north of Evans Lake. The new plan was just to follow cintours and a rough bearing over to Horseshoe Lake.
Once at Horseshoe Lake, we were pleasantly surprised at how quick we were able to move along the shoreline as opposed to the rocky, cliffy terrain higher up!
Seeing a fancy, glittering light at CP5, I instantly knew that it was 'Bent's CP, but unfortunately he had just fallen into a deep sleep and was difficult to rouse. We ended up being the only team to come through without his enthusiastic cheering.
Leaving CP5, we went back down to the shoreline and quickly made it to the end of the lake. We bushwacked over to Little Wilson and the original plan was to loosely handrail the lake, but keeping high and hit the ATV trail northeast of Wilson Lake. I took us down to the shore line hoping it would be as quick as the shores of Horseshoe Lake, but unfortunately it was quite difficult to skirt without swimming so up we went. My 'keep high' strategy was equally difficult with all of the cliffs in the area. I decided to head a little north hoping to put us in the area with fewer contours, but we kept getting pushed further and further north by cliffs until we hit the s-shaped lake between Wilson Lake and Miskokway Lake. From there, we took a bearing to hit the re-entrant leading down to the river. We crossed the river at a set of rapids and climbed the other side with the rising sun. Thank goodness for daylight as the ATV trail on the top was really just a line of ferns in amongst different undergrowth. We carefully followed it until it became more distinct as we neared Wilson Lake. For some reason I got some wicked chaffing here that I have never experienced before! I have no idea what the difference was; perhaps I have become soft in my AR hiatus!
From there, it was a bit of a death march to get ourselves to TA2, but with some entertaining stories and more good food, we finally got there to find MORE ice cream! Oh the joys!
We saddled up our bikes once again and it seems that a fire ignited inside both Myka and Eco! They were saying that the bike was feeling much better than they expected. It was getting pretty toasty already, but we were keeping moving at a good pace which kept the breeze up.
We finally rounded the final corner and crossed the finish line for Eco and Myka's first multi-day AR finish!
It was pretty special to be a part of them accomplishing this amazing goal that they have had their sights on for a good number of years. They have both volunteered at more races than most people have raced in over the years, so it was pretty special to see everyone cheer them on so hard!
It really was too bad that MooPoint was forced to bow out, but we were really lucky that Reeder enthusiastically joined us. It was great having his positive energy and AR experience to throw around. I think I almost scared him off to start with as I had learned quite a bit about him through AttackPoint without ever having met him. Once he was over that, he relaxed a bit :)
Huge kudos to G-stix and Bash for QB-ing such an amazing event. There was an army of highly motivated and hard working volunteers performing a wide variety of tasks. I think it speaks highly of the race directors when volunteers not only continue coming back year after year, but enjoy working so hard to help the event.
I was super-impressed with the course as it is exactly what I picture a true AR to be: minimal checkpoints, minimal instructions, no room for interpretation of the few out-of-bounds areas and no 'just to make it hard' sections. Pity that we weren't able to make it on the paddle as it sounded pretty nice!
It certainly did get my competitive juices flowing again. I have already signed up for Logs, Rocks and Steel so we'll see how I perform without having trained much. We'll see how the next year goes and whether I up the training or not. I know I'll ramp back up eventually, but maybe after some more active fatherhood-ing.