2022 Wilderness Traverse with Angel and Maritl;dr here
I was feeling in decent shape for my Muskegon prep, so I thought it would be fun to make a go of it. Barbara was off with some Canadians and Angel is wonderful so I reached out and she agreed. Then for reasons I still can't entirely comprehend, Mari joined us as well. I know Mari is an Angel fan.PROLOGUE / BIKE 1
The initial prologue went well, we were comfortable and not near the front, right according to plan.
We did awesome on the bike; the map clicked pretty well so I did it nearly mistake-free and we moved up a few places here. And down, as various teams did what I always find slightly annoying, the "I must pass now on this narrow sketchy trail! And then I will stop on the next hill and wait for our slowest teammate. We will repeat this for miles!"
We were on point so we did not miss the turn for the ramp, although it seems prime for others to have done so.
One guy crashed and probably blames me, but I blame him. He was about 2" off my wheel when I hit a root wrong and lost momentum for my line so I went hard brakes to walk it and he couldn't unclip. This isn't pace line country!
We did well enough on the road - I was okay ish on flats, sluggish on grades. Mari has such an effortless float up hills. She pushed me up a few.
We had lost the trail once for a few seconds on the rocks to Dillon road, fooled by a right turn sign with no discernible right turn.
We heard engine noises and thought it would be the road, but it was only some atvs on the trail. We told them we hoped the road was soon and they said, "you've got a ways to go!" so I thought that meant like, seven miles and it was not much more than one. Different perspectives!
We were slightly confused by the turn to the TA since we didn't see the other orange line anywhere, but figured if the road was named with the bay we needed, it probably went there.TREK 1
We went through the TA pretty quickly and got a chance to watch the U Haul get stuck. Mari offered to coach him before it was hopeless but the driver insisted we carry on. She has piloted a 30' Class C RV so was not a stranger to this sort of work.
We chose, mostly, the slightly off short route on the rock out to 6. I got hot in the full sun and needed a few dips to cool down. Not a great sign so soon in the race!
I stopped for another dip at CP6 and got out when I had a stupid leech on me! GROSS!
6-7 looks so easy on paper, but after getting around the lake, we were stymied by the abundance of swamps and didn't just, push hard enough in the right direction. It seems difficult to balance, well, I'd like to walk somewhere I can walk, versus somewhere that heads the right way but is potentially swamp / up and down rocks / thick.
Mari carried my pack a lot during this phase, especially on any easy walking.
Leaving the road to head for the swim, I cramped severely. I had been at my usual cramp proof level of endurolytes, but I was still struggling and here it lit up into pain and immobility I couldn't stretch out of. Mari gave me a pickle juice shot and then I could walk them off. Then I got stung by a wasp.
We had more trouble figuring out swamps and such getting up to the swim, and ended up a little east, which doesn't sound bad, but it's so thick and rugged it takes time to correct.
The swim went well. We all brought swim buddies as we are not big swimmers. I stupidly left my hat on, and it started to fall off, so I couldn't see for most of the swim, and by the end it did fall off and I had to toss it and swim after it.
Did some water refill here, their squeezy filter bottles worked great.
We missed off slightly on the swamp gap, but sorted it and crossed the small portage line. Then inexplicably ended up in a nonsense WEST side of another swamp...while heading WEST!, which puzzled us for several minutes, so we just trusted the compass and found a portage trail to the road. Phew!
I was at 0 power, so I asked to be old yellered as we walked into the TA, but Mari figured since we had until 7 am to leave, we could probably wait a bit before getting rash. I laid around for 50 minutes or so recharging from 5% to 25%, and then we grabbed a boat and got to paddling.
Sidebar: I still insist, that on that day since conditions were good, for a team like ours, packraft to 6, packraft to trail to 7 park boat run to 7, run back, packraft to 8, gives a faster split than 1 mph brush bashing. Might suck to be in a boat for 18 hours straight, but would be faster to 8. Angel and I recently done 3 mph at like, 80 bpm, in Barbara's two person one.
From CP 6.5 until about CP 8.5, I swore off races over 6 hours in length. I was so worked! Thankfully I had the most supportive team ever. Mari's brain is so wired for maximizing team speed, and Angel is a rock. I know they had to be disappointed, but they did not show it. I struggled to find a balance between trying to keep myself out of a low low mental place while still trying to be grateful for all of the assistance.PADDLE/PORTAGE
Angel did well on the paddle nav.
We really struggled to find the portages. As delicate Americans who don't go out on our lunch breaks to take boats for a walk, we were expected something that would have suggested some human travel in the last 20,000 years. No, they were, climb up the steep wet rock. Walk over the loose, wet rocks. Carry the boat on edge to fit between trees.
For the worst one I felt bad, I suppose with my WT history I should have known, instead we snooped around for 20 minutes and let a bunch of boats catch up and starting charging up the giant rock... upside: nice to see BNM again.
Along the way, Angel spotted a python, although after reflecting on Ontario wildlife further, we decided muskrat was a better guess. We also had something make an AMAZING smack noise, perhaps a bellyflopping beaver?
We SMELLED CP 9 before our arrival. Smoke/fire?! We must be close! And then, they offered coffee or broth. I took broth, and it recharged me like nothing else.
From there, I was started to perk up more. I was able to do the long haul portages that were decent the normal on your back way, which was faster.
I misread the final portage to CP10 as ending earlier, so we tossed the boat in and paddled for about 15 seconds to the checkpoint, then climbed up a small cliff and the TA staff said, "there is a beach around the corner...." whoops haha
We had missed the Trek 2 cut off by 25 minutes, which was funny and frustrating. BUT based on Trek 1 speed, I'm not sure we had enough time to do Trek 2 and still make it back, so in that sense it was a blessing.
We were there for a few minutes to address various needs and then headed off....to experience a portage with....portaging through water! Amazing!
We did get a bit sleepy towards the end of the paddle but it turned out that we have all watched tons of the same tv shows so chatting about that perked us up. We spotted TA5 from a long ways off, but it took a while to get to, so that chat was good. It was great to see Steve.BIKE 2
Despite being a short bike, we dropped yet more weight, then got ready and zipped through the nordic center. I even remembered a few things from the overlap with bike 1.
On the roads back to Parry Sound, a roller skier said, "You're only three minutes behind" and sure enough, although we never saw them, we were three minutes back from another team.
The remote finish was sweltering so we quickly moved on, and regretted not bringing cash for Dairy Queen. I'm not entirely sure we nailed the neutral finish orange line back to the HQ, but it wasn't sketchy at all so probably okay.
I learned so much from Mari, it was a master class! Angel was rock solid the whole time. I tried to give them 10/10 ratings back at our carpool lot (Steve and Angel's driveway) but they wanted stars so I said *****.
* gaiters or tights. Save the shins, screw the heat!
* Similarly perhaps arm sleeves for the trek
* water soluble things will dissolve in water
* the squeezy filter bottles produced amazing tasting water
* pickle juice shots
* I have to find better race food options that work for me
* My Topo Athletic Ultraventure IIs stupidly delaminated part of the tread. This is, per my log, at 110 miles, which seems a bit light for >$110. The grip was not great on the early portages, but they are comfy for all day stomping. I threw them out after the race. :-|
* Maybe consider running lighter packs when mule carries all gear (sorry OutThere USA)
* Did not need my rear brake on this WT, so dodged a bullet there since it only makes noise and doesn't stop
* Portage pad seemed helpful, I was less annoyed by those 1200 m ones than the last time I had ones that long. Maybe a carabiner and paracord though so I can adjust the nose without holding arms over head.
* Should really rig a tight bladder holder for PFD. Bottles did work this time but perhaps not ideal
* I want to test an 18650 light again, I love my bright 7.4V lights but the packs are heavy and you end up carrying a backup for safety and that's too much. 3500 mah is readily available and then you only need one on medium so with two backups maybe three per night probably? and they are cheap to freshen up annually as well versus some pack. The only 18650 I have is way too much flood for my personal trek preference so I need to acquire / borrow a spot type one.
* I may rig a bottle holder on my top tube a la Mari
Racing things learned:
* WT for someone making my life decisions is achievable, but perhaps best with goals realistically aligned. Challenge course is pretty tough and I am oddly at peace with only doing that. If I were 50 lbs lighter and in better shape then Explorer could be on the table, with a few tweaks: No hour TA to recover from heat, faster trekking speed, faster portage. Expedition seems out of reach for the foreseeable future when such strong teams barely have seven hours to spare.
* If I feel like complete garbage, it happens, take the break and bounce back and get at it again
* Maybe more interesting food options in my bin bag at TAs
* Paddle nav is best not done from the back seat, so maybe train up more sterns folks if I want to do more of that. veer veer veer