Adventure Racing race 12:10:00  **
It's not easy to sum up this race. It's my 7th consecutive weekend of racing, with a 24-hour event last weekend - and another one next weekend. To be honest, what I really needed was to NOT race. But I love longer race courses, and most of our AR friends were going to be there, and it was the first time that the original Tree Huggers ('Bent, Hingo and I) would adventure race together since last September... so how could I miss it?
We worked on maps until 10:30 p.m., then I could have slept until 2:30 a.m. - except I was too wired to sleep, and there was a loud thunderstorm with heavy rain that continued through the first hour of the race.
We began at 4 a.m. with a trek - 3 km off-road, then a short road run. When we got on our bikes and travelled across the rolling countryside on gravel roads, I realized that my legs had no energy. Usually, I can go into "overdrive" to climb hills, but this morning it felt like pressing on the accelerator of a car that has run out of gas. I expected the usual response, but there was no power. Oh oh, we had a lot of biking ahead. I suppose it wasn't really that slow, since other teams weren't streaming by, but I didn't feel like myself.
Then came the monster trek - the crux of the race. It was about 9 km point to point across an area with lots of swamps. We spent ages the night before looking at two route choices, then went with a route that started on a marked ATV trail that was further south than you would go if you were heading cross-country, but we gambled that it might continue on beyond the point where it apparently ended and turn north onto the nice ridge that we were aiming for. Failing that, it would get us to some higher ground, and we would be able to bushwhack from there with only half as many swamps to worry about. It worked like a charm. There was a network of ATV trails in there, and we did very little bushwhacking. I pace counted and watched map features as much as possible, so I always knew roughly where we were. At trail junctions, we picked trails that went approximately on our compass bearing. At one point, we lost the trail and arrived at a long swamp, which we swam at its narrowest point. The trail (obviously a snowmobile trail) started up again right where we came ashore, and became more and more visible until we arrived at the gravel road we were looking for. We ran into Team Hunger there, then had a good 4-5 km road run where we gained several minutes on them. When we arrived at the boats, we had moved from 11th to 2nd place overall! At that point, I declared that if nothing else good happened to us in the race, I would be thrilled just to have aced that trek. Well, it's a good thing I felt that way, because it wasn't much longer before the wheels came off the bus.
We had a decent 11 km paddle. Hingo was starting to feel the heat, and we just held our own - passing one team, and getting passed by another. We had a 10 km road ride to the start of the advanced trekking section, and fortunately, my legs had found some energy once again. I guess I'm not a morning person. Compared to the monster trek, the advanced trek looked easy. Just a few km long, aiming east for a north-south road. What was so advanced about this section? Sure, there were a few swamps, but nothing more than we had already seen. So... we hadn't taken it too seriously. I'd spent about 2 minutes choosing a route that made an arc near the north end of the swamps, allowing us the option of travelling across them, as we had done with little trouble earlier in the day. Well, it turned out that these were not the same friendly swamps. Foot-sucking, log-filled, vegetation-choked, stinky, deep... When we got there, we veered north to avoid the worst of them, but we still spent time labouring through chest-deep swampwater, disentangling sharp lily pad stems from our bodies. When we weren't in swamps, we were pushing through thick bush or lush fields of poison ivy, which I sat in at one point as I slid down a wet, lichen-covered rock. I'm just at the 24-hour mark, and I'm waiting in nervous anticipation to see how much of my body will be affected.
Through all of this, Hingo was travelling more slowly and quietly than usual, which was our first sign of trouble... It turns out that I don't just have a Rogaine Partner Curse - it seems that I have a general Teammate Curse. We scrambled up a 100' cliff and ran a short distance south along it to get a good view of the countryside. Heading east from there, the bushwhacking got easier, which led to a bad error. We had been heading roughly east, but we kept getting sucked north by swampy terrain. So in our heads, we'd been going farther north than we'd intended. So to make it up, I headed somewhat south of east toward the road. However, I didn't think about the fact that we spent a lot of TIME getting sucked north, but not a lot of DISTANCE, since the going was so tough. So we didn't need much correction to our route, especially since I'd been aiming off to arrive on the road north of the CP. Argggh. When we got to the road, I knew I'd cut it too close, and wasn't sure if we were north or south of the CP. Rats. We asked a passing driver if she had seen any activity north of us, and she hadn't seen anything, so we continued south on the road. Finally, we saw a team biking toward us and knew that we had to turn around. Wasted time: 20-25 minutes in extreme heat. Although our swampy route seemed pretty bad, it sounds like most teams ended up swimming or mucking through swamps there, so our route choice had been acceptable until that last bit of rough compass work to the road.
Next we biked 5 km on a snowmobile trail, and Hingo had to take it easy because he was feeling dizzy with a pounding headache. When we made it to a gravel road, he took a rest in the grass while several teams appeared out of nowhere. We still had close to 30 km of biking to go, mostly on gravel roads in bright sunshine. Not good. We took it easy to the next CP, where a kind neighbour allowed racers to use his outdoor tap to fill bottles and pour cold water on their heads. Volunteers gave Hingo salty snacks. We wanted him to rest in the shade, but he said he wanted to get to the finish line and get it over with, so we carried on, feeling worried and guilty. It was a relief to cross the finish line. We probably hung on for 9th or 10th place, but our concern was Hingo, who attracted medics immediately with a racing heart and chest muscle spasms that prevented him from taking a deep breath. Yikes, it was scary, but the medics kept an eye on him, and eventually he felt well enough to crack a few jokes and jump in the cool lake with his clothes on, which made us all feel better.
So... it's hard to categorize this race. Some beautiful scenery, good teamwork, and a great long trek. Excellent food, fun and socializing at the host site. Nice to race with 'Bent again, and he was as strong as ever. On the other hand... some scary medical issues and a silly nav error. Mostly, I'm feeling like I need a break. I've raced too much, and it felt like a chore to pack for the weekend. My body needs a break, and hopefully there will be time to build up to another mini-peak for Raid The North in 4 weeks.