Adventure Racing (Salomon AC) 6:35:00  **
Bob Miller set a long and interesting course for the first Salomon Adventure Challenge of the year, based at Fenelon Falls. Crash, Gazette and I raced as the Tree Huggers in the all female category, where the competition was really for 2nd place, due to the presence of the mighty Adidas Divas. 'Bent, Gazelle and The Padre raced all-male as Team Hunger.
The race began with 25 km of mountain biking, much of it on ATV trails meandering around a powerline - lots of hills, rocks, mud and some stretches of knee-deep water. We deliberately held back at the start to avoid getting caught in the crush of people biking too fast. We could catch them later when they slowed down. Things started out reasonably well. Actually, the race was going much better than we knew, since most of the top teams had taken a wrong turn away from the power lines onto a private road, and many of them went quite a way before realizing their mistake. Going the correct direction at the fork in the road took us directly into a hike-a-bike section through knee-deep water, so I guess it didn't look like a trail to everyone. But then we messed up with a rookie error. I'd been saying from the start that our biggest risk with a mass bike start was getting separated on technical trails - and that's exactly what happened. Most of the time we rode with our teammates in sight, but with a twisting, technical, rocky trail, you had to watch where you were going, and teammates were bound to spread out a bit if one of them rode a hill while another walked, for example. It was easy for a teammate to get out of sight for a minute. At one point, I came down a tough hill and mentioned to Crash that we should wait for Gazette, but she thought Gazette was ahead. Since we didn't know which direction to go, we stationed ourselves so we could see up and down the trail, and waited while teams streamed by - including some top teams like the Adidas Divas, who had retraced their steps after their wrong turn. Argghh! Then we saw people who knew Gazette, who said she was going backwards about 400 m back. Just as we were getting set to go back to find her, she realized that she must be behind, so turned around and found us. Apparently she had been ahead, but pulled over to the side to wait. Somehow we didn't see her as we rode past, nor did she see us. It felt like it took forever to reunite our team, but it was probably only 8 minutes or so. Rats.
After that, our day went very smoothly. We got to the first bike CP and learned that we were ahead of 'Bent and the boys. We had a good ride through a beautiful forest on rocky, muddy snowmobile trails, then had a fast road ride to the TA. The trek was in an area where the map was almost devoid of features, so it was a matter of holding a compass bearing and tracking time/distance travelled. At the time, I was thinking it was going to be tough mentally for some teams, because the bush was often thick and the ground was swampy in places, and it took confidence to believe that you were going to find what you were aiming for. As it turned out, there were teams that spent a long time in there, some of whom never found the first trekking CP. We found it, and managed to get quite wet in the process. I'd aimed off to be sure of which direction to turn when we hit the creek, and that meant some scrambling through beaver territory, where we ended up wading through waist-deep water at one point. There was more bushwhacking toward the Ganaraska Trail, and just before we left the bush, we ran into Team Hunger. We stayed close behind them for a road/trail run of 4-5 km, with Crash towing me to keep the speed up.
Then we had a beautiful paddle down the Burnt River with 3 portages around rapids. We'd missed the cut-off for the advanced section, but only 6 of 48 teams made it, so that was OK. Most of the final bike ride was on rail trail - almost an hour. Crash towed Gazette, and I led the way, watching for traffic at the intersections.
We finished in 6:35 on the Regular course, not far behind 'Bent and the boys at 6:07. That got us 2nd in the female category - yahoo! Team Hunger was 3rd in the all-male category, which was a great recovery after a couple of early nav errors. The major news of the day was Tiny's team, The Pink Guard of Nero, who finished 2nd overall and 1st coed - just 20 minutes behind Team Simon River Sports, and ahead of Team LSN, who were leading until a surprising rail trail nav error near the end. Congrats, Tiny!!
A preliminary check of results showed 19 teams out of 48 who didn't complete the course within the 8-hour limit, so this was a tough race. I enjoyed competing with a strong female team. Next weekend, it's a solo race with virtually no nav, so it will be completely different - I'll need to push harder. Should be fun too.