Time for another race report for all my faithful followers! This time, I’ll be filling you all in on the Raid Pulse spring adventure race. This was a 6-8 hour adventure race being held in an area I’ve not previously raced at, Notre Dame du Laus, which is about an hour and a half from my place in Quebec. I’ve been attending Thierry and Annick’s races for many years now, both in teams, as well as solo. For this particular race, Deanna and I were actually racing together as a team! So far, we’ve raced together as two solos traveling together, and as solos on our own. This would be our first race as actual, bona fide team-mates! We were both looking forward to it. For a glimpse into the race through pictures, have a look at my folder on flickr. There are both pictures that I took, as well as pictures the race photographers grabbed. I was shooting a bit of video as well for another reason, which I’ll get to after the break.
Before I get into the meat of this post, let me say one thing off the bat. This wasn’t a super-easy course 🙂 We are completely pleased with our finish in spite of the fact that we didn’t get to complete the entire course. In fact, a large portion of the competitors didn’t get to do the whole course. When all the dust and bugs had settled, only 2 teams managed to complete the entire race, including the advanced section. Now that I got that off my chest, I might as well enlighten you on the race itself.
Although we could have camped the night before onsite, we had Jonah at home, so we instead opted for the very early morning drive. It made for a long day, but made the most sense. We did our best to get a good night’s rest, by being packed well in advance. Next morning, it was pretty painless getting to the race. On arrival, we finished registration, and were looking forward to the breakfast we’d paid for in advance. Unfortunately, it was mainly cereals, fruit and bread. I’d really been hoping for bacon, eggs, and potatoes. Too bad.
Not much time to dwell on it though, as the briefing was starting up. I paid only a modicum of attention, instead taking some pictures and video. I did have a look at the instructions and the routes. All in all, it actually looked pretty straightforward. Start on bikes, head to a trek, back on bikes, head to the paddle, then back on the bikes to the finish. So why the videos? Well, I’ve decided to enter a video for an opportunity to have Get Out There pay for my race entries! They are looking for people to do video reviews of races, and in exchange, they will pay for race entries. Given all the money I spend entering race, I could REALLY use the money. They won’t refund races I’d already paid for, but there are numerous other races I still need to pay for.
Once the briefing was out of the way, Deanna and I finished preparing our transition bags, and pored over the map and had a bit of a discussion of the course. I put a tow system on my bike, hoping we could use it to help out a bit on the bike. The opening bike leg was quite a bit of gravel roads for a while, where we might be able to take advantage of the tow. Once the bags were dropped off, it was time to make our way to the start line. After Deanna ducked into the ladies room for a final pit stop, I heard the race director announce we’d be staring in 2 minutes, which was 5 minutes earlier than expected! I hoped we’d be able to start with everyone else, but at the end of the day, starting towards the back wouldn’t ultimately change anything.
She made it just in time, and the starting horn was sounded. The entire race group wound its’ way through the little village to start out. Lots of spectators wondering what all the fuss was about. Must always look odd to have 150 or so crazy adventure racers on mountain bikes all geared up biking by your house if you aren’t expecting it. It didn’t take too long for everyone to start spreading out. We were cycling at our own pace, and racing our own race, and completely content with it. Once we got off the main road, we found our way on ATV trails instead. That’s where we encountered a bit of a navigational challenge. Of course, that was my domain, so I’ll take full responsibility there.
We were following a major ATV road, when it pretty much dead-ended. There were probably 8 other teams around us too, and we all were stumped where to go. There was a little off-shoot on the right, and we found that it turned sort of back into a major road. It looked good, and the direction was correct. Given that our actual map only showed 1 route, we were sure this was it. Sadly, after probably an hour and a half of taking various trails and various forks, it turned out this was completely wrong. We worked our way all the way back to the ‘dead-end’ and the off-shoot, which actually went both left and right. Turns out we should have gone right, as after 100m or so, it hair-pinned, and then pointed the ‘right’ way. That was pretty frustrating. A lot of energy had been expended going up and down steep hills, crossing rivers, mud pits, etc. Deanna was a bit frustrated, but we had no choice but to keep going.
After that mistake, we had no problems finding our way to the transition point, although it was still quite a slog with a LOT of steep climbs and technical descents. We did our best, and I helped as much as I could, pushing both Deanna and mine’s bikes up all the hills when Deanna needed a walk break. It was tough, slow going, and the black flies were absolutely atrocious. However, I was pleased to be able to track our progress with much more certainty now that I had us on the right route again. We were pretty happy to see the transition zone, but a little sad to see that there weren’t too many people there. To make matters worse, we were told we had exactly 3 minutes before the time cut-off to tackle the trekking section. We rushed like mad and made it out with less than a minute to spare.
At this point, let me explain how ranking worked in this race. It was laid out clearly at the start. Every checkpoint was worth 25 points, and you had to do them in order (as many as you could). If you arrived after 6pm, every minute you were late, they would deduct a point from your total. So once again, tactics would play a part in how people raced. For us, the trek made sense to squeeze in, as there were 5 check points here, and only 3 on the paddle. So off we went.
Apparently some of the teams in the back opted to skip a few of the trekking checkpoints, but I thought our best chances lay in getting as many as we could. The first one was a very easy hike up a trail to a lookout. That gave us a chance to have some food and ‘relax’ if that’s possible. Bugs were still horrible, so stopping at any point meant becoming a blood donor pretty quick. After CP4 at the lookout, it was off through the woods to grab CP5 along a creek, then up to the very top of Mont du Diable for CP6. CP5 was pretty easy, but then to grab CP6 was a whole lot of climbing, which was starting to tax the team a bit. with some encouragement, and the fact that I was carrying both the packs, we made it up, and the view was totally worth it. We’d also befriended another team in the woods and had traveled together for a good part.
After CP6, it was a run back down the mountain, where we had to choose whether to go for CPs 7 and 8, or just retreat to the transition to bike on. We checked time, and realized that there was pretty much no way we’d be able to paddle at all and get any of those CPs. As a result, we decided to quickly nab 7 and 8 before heading back to the transition. It was a good call, as we got them with no trouble, and also managed to re-fill our bottles from clean streams, as the heat and humidity of the race meant we were all out of fluids, and still had racing to do.
Back at the transition, they were a little surprised that we’d managed to grab all the trekking CPs and tried to convince us to head to the paddle section. However, that would have meant getting off the direct route back to the finish, and likely make us finish after 6pm, which was not ideal for us. We didn’t heed that advice, and instead just put our heads down and pedaled back towards the finish. There was one more CP we could get, CP12, which was on the other side of a dam that we’d get to cross if we found the right side road leading to it. Luckily, that was also a breeze, and a pretty cool view to boot. After that final CP, it was a short 3k ride to the finish.
We pulled in at the finish area with at least 15 minutes to spare. We’d managed to grab CPs 1-8, then CP12, giving us 225 points. In our category, that was enough for 13th place, and overall, put us at 37th (out of 56 total). So as you can see, definitely not last, but nor were we about to hoist a bottle of Champagne :-). However, the most important thing was that we really had fun, and getting to do the race with Deanna was certainly a fun experience. I truly admire her grit when she realizes she just has to get something done. We were still both smiling at the finish, and still plenty in Love, so I guess that says something, right? I’m sure the post-race showers also helped the mood, coupled with the boxes of wine that we’d brought with us (and actually had in our transition bags ‘just in case’).
After the race, we stuck around for all the post-race activities, including slideshows, showers, and, in a race first for me… a PIG ROAST! Yup, while all the teams were out racing, the community volunteers had gotten their pig on for us. We dined on swine, washed it down with wine, and laughed and compared stories with other racers. By the time we left, Deanna had won a new hat, and I’d scored a gift card for a bike shop near my work. All in all, not bad for a day’s work. By 8:30, we were happy to pile back into the car and head home to check on the doggie. Luckily, Dave had been kind enough to take him for a nice walk during the day. Thanks Dave! And that pretty much takes care of that. Another race in the bag, and a little more adventurous experience for my dear Deanna. Stay tuned, as the race season is just heating up. Next up, the National Capital Marathon!