Adventure Racing 25:00:00  90.0 km (3.6 kph)
Ah, Wilderness Traverse. My annual white whale. 2014 was good, but biblical rain meant a short course finish and the bad taste in one’s mouth of not quite achieving what you wanted. Talking to Bob in the spring and I felt the move to early October had some positives and negatives. Positives include I should be in better shape after an active summer (or so I thought). Big negative was the unknown of early October weather. Hemmed and hawed and decided to bit the bullet and sign up Lather.Rinse.Repeat. to give it another shot.
Checked around for possible teammates and some expressed interest but couldn’t make it work. As always, Amber was game to go. I’ve raced with Ken the past 2 races and a little arm twisting got him onboard. For our fourth, I connected with veteran AR guy and fellow busy dad MJ. We had talked about racing together sometime and this was the year. Or so we thought. Plan was to get some training in together but save for a couple hours paddling for Amber & I, it didn't happen. Oh well.
Same as last year, Mrs. W and the kids dropped me, my gear, and our tent trailer at the Orrville Community Centre and continued on up to Grandma's near Sudbury for the weekend. Amber and Ken both arrived, but we were awaiting MJ when I got a text: "Rear ended on the 401. I will be ...late". We go through registration and briefing unsure if we will be a team of 3 or 4. Finally MJ texts that his back is messed up from the accident and he won't be racing. Okay, plan B. The remaining team spends a cool night in the tent trailer, but we're ready to go Saturday am after a reasonable sleep and a decent breakfast. Staying in the parking lot did have it's perks as I didn't feel crazy rushed before the start.
Starts with a run and we get our shuffle on and watch the bulk of the field run away from us. Oh well. We are who we are. We get a decent running pace going but less than 100 m to the bike pickup and I turn my right ankle. Walk it off, but not impressed. We forego a shoe change and jump on the bikes for short ride to CP2. We drop bikes and come back the trail before jumping off and bearing south to the lake. A few other teams around us and we find CP2 okay. We bearing W and catch the bottom of the lake and then try to bearing over to the next lake, but I got us further north than I wanted. Eventually we have to relocate from the Seguin trail and follow the tracks down and back to get CP3. The extra relocation has cost us - back to the bikes with only 2 other sets of bikes left. Onto the road and we get a decent pace going and motor over to the next TA where we see some teams.
When we changed to a 3 from 4, we had to improvise for a middle seat and Amber's small rubbermaid bin made the sacrifice. The other wrinkle was only having 2 kayak paddles for 3 of us. For sheltered channels, Amber gave me the kayak paddle so Ken and I could dig deep but out in the windy open sections, we swapped so I could crank to keep us on course with the canoe paddle. Picked a light canoe so Ken did the first portage and I did the second. Came across a team bickering at the long portage takeout so I grabbed our canoe and took off. Almost caught their canoe portager by the end and I hustled our team to get back on the water while they continued to complain. We gave Amber the park map while I kept the topos and she did great navigating us through. A couple big open bays were challenging, but we grunted on, picking up CP6 & 7 and passing a few teams along the way. The final crossing to the TA was into the teeth of the wind and we were working hard. The paddle is usually my least favourite discipline and while I didn't exactly enjoy it this time, I felt we did okay. We worked hard and steady and even passed a few teams.
Up to the TA and the warmth of hard paddling disappeared quickly. I started to shiver and grabbed my dry clothes and found a utility closet around the side of the park office where I closed the door out of the wind and changed all my gear. Felt MUCH better after that and was able to get some food before the long night.
Leaving on the trek on the road and we finish eating and do some gear adjustments on the road. Ken decides his troublesome toenail needed to be addressed so we dug out the scissors and got it fixed. I adjusted some layers and tried to leave most of my gear on the road in the process. Nice chatting with team Soggy Socks - little did we know we'd be hanging out most of the night with them.
Down to the Moon River and then E along the shore. We picked our way along the bottom okay, but in hindsight, probably would have been easier going to go back up on the ridge with the river in sight. Eventually, was able to nav by sound as we heard the Moon River Falls grow louder. CP10 was a fun spot, with a great group of volunteers (thanks for the batteries!) and a bunch of teams there. Too friendly, though as I wanted to get going.
Head NE with lakes on our right as handrails. Get over to Douglas Lake and skirt around it to the East and back to our bearing. At this point, I start to disconnect with the map and how far we've gone. We cross a seasonal swamp, some ridges, then get to what is shown as a seasonal lake, but looks rather significant. I'm convinced it is Kenney Lake, although in hindsight, I know I've made the rookie error of thinking (hoping?) we've gone further than we have. We go around it to the West then turn NE again towards the CP. Unfortunately, we get kicked NW by more swamps/seasonal lakes further and further. By this point, I'm tired and my confidence is waning. I confer with some other teams we find stumbling around but noone is sure. One navigator and I figure we're somewhere in the swampy lands W of Durocher Lake and if we go back E, we'll eventually be able to turn N and get to Kenney Lake and onto CP11. Sounds good, but if that's NOT where we are, I got nothing. Confer with the group (4 or 5 teams) and we collectively pull the chute. I text HQ for location info. Barb nicely gives us another chance to sort ourselves out, but the spirit has gone out of me and we cave. At this point, someone unseals an iPhone and we of course see we are W of Durocher Lake. Sigh. We had a fire to warm up while we sorted out our fate, but then we elect to move on as a group. Everyone wants to quit, but of course at that point, the only option is to go forward so we make a long trudging line onward to CP11. Nav is no longer a concern as we check our progress on the iphones.
Eventually we descend on CP11 and overwhelm our poor host Richard, who does his best to raise our spirits with soup & hot chocolate. We're too big a group to take advantage of the luxurious warm tent, so we refill some water and trudge onward. Plan is W around the lake, then N along the W side of 3 small lakes until we catch the cottage road on the south side of Kapikog Lake and E to CP13.
Morning light arrives shortly before the cottage road and we are left with the zombie march along the road to the marina and the TA. We are all out on our feet and my sore left knee is really sore and compensating for my turned right ankle has made the outside of my right foot really sore. Amber says at one point "I don't think I can do this" but it becomes apparent that there isn't much else we can do. It's one of the fun things about Adventure Racing: you can say "I quit" but it may take you another 8 or 9 hours before you can actually do it.
Trudge into CP13 and tell the friendly staff we're done and could we please call a cab. Our bike gear is there, so I grab some warm/dry layers and then lay down on the gravel near the fire. The battery pack on my Petzl is all the pillow I need and I actually fall asleep for a few minutes. Eventually, we get a ride in a truck back to HQ. I doze on the ride, but am awake to realize we were still a long bike ride away from home. Had we made it through, either long course or short course, there was still a long race to finish.
We all climb into the trailer for a couple hour nap, then I get up and sort gear before lunch and the awards. Mrs. W and the kids arrive to hook on the trailer and take me home to bed.
DNF. Not great, but what can you do. Our race was a little out of sorts from the get go and it cost us. Undertrained and probably not as strong as I wanted to be. MJ is an experienced racer and maybe our night nav is stronger with him consulting on the maps and we don't make the error that sends us too far west. We'll never know.
Thanks to Bob, Barb, and the entire WT crew for a fun, challenging experience. I know when I sign up that I'm in for a big challenge and it never disappoints.Thanks to all the racers - especially our "lost" group. Sucked to get lost and DNF, but it was kind of fun visiting with others in the same boat. Thanks to Amber & Ken for working hard without complaint the entire time. Sorry for the nav error that ended our race.
WT 2016? A discussion this old guy will save for another day.