Towing Troubles Thwart a Team Triumph

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Team Trekking

Good day to you all! Time for another race report. This one is from a 4-hour sprint Adventure Race put on by the fine folks at Raid Pulse. Normally, I wouldn’t be interested in doing an adventure race this short, but seeing as I was cleared to cover it for Get Out There Magazine, I figured why not? It’s quite surprising to look back on all my races this year. I have done a surprising number of them with Deanna! Some as team-mates, some in different events, but either way, we’ve toed the line together quite a few times together. Each race, she gets a little stronger and a little more skilled. This race was another example of that, but unfortunately, the outcome wasn’t a podium or anything. We were just happy to clear the whole course! You’ll have to read the rest of my post to find out what I mean by that. Before reading it all though, I invite you to check out some pictures from the event that I’ve posted, as well as view my quick 3 minute video race review. That’ll give you an idea of the race, then you can read my whole tale.

As with pretty much all adventures, the disciplines that we’d cover were biking, trekking, and paddling. For this particular race, the order of events was set to be mountain biking to a trekking section, back onto the bikes to a paddling section, then back on the bikes to pedal to the finish. A week before the race, I took Deanna out to Gatineau Parc to actually coach her a bit on mountain biking technique, since she has never really done any. We spent several hours out there, and the improvement was dramatic. By the end, she was much more confident in riding, handling the bike, and braking. I was quite happy, and knew that it should pay off in the race. However, in spite of the coaching, I still put on my trusty bike towing system for the race. As you might have guessed from the title of the post, this *might* not have been the best idea I’ve ever had. More specifically, my application of the idea wasn’t the best.

The race start and finish took place in Wakefield, which made it very easy to get to. With an 11am start, we were able to eat at home, and drive to the race venue with lots of time to get ready. The main biking took place on relatively easy trails in the parc. Some nice hills, but nothing too technical. The trekking section was laid out as an orienteering course, and all took place on the trails at Ski Vorlage. To finish off the challenge, the paddle was on the Gatineau River, where we’d grab a few CPs then head to the finish to celebrate. The trek and paddle CPs could be picked up in any order, allowing teams to choose the route they thought would be most efficient, or, in the case of a time crunch, skip some CPs in order to finish. Each CP had a specific point value. If you got all the regular CPs, it was good for 160pts. If you also grabbed the 3 ‘advanced’ CPs, that took you to 215pts. If you finished after 3pm, you were penalized a point for every minute you were late.

Once we were briefed on the race and had the maps in front of us, out strategy was pretty much to just race to clear the regular course. Thierry, the race director, didn’t think too many would make the advanced (only 6 teams out of 54 actually attempted it). After all, I had to take video on the course, and this was only Deanna’s 4th race. With that in mind, we lined up and awaited the start. At 10:55, set out on the course, immediately settling in to a nice mid-pack position. Once into the trails of Gatineau, we managed to pass a few teams and start to make up some ground. Deanna is a strong cyclist from all the road riding we do, so we tried to capitalize. At one point however, I suggested that she hook up to the tow so that we could grab a few more spots on the field. It went well enough for a bit, but shortly afterwards, Deanna said she wasn’t comfortable being on the tow on the trail (it’s usually easiest on pavement and gravel roads, not trails). I suggested she stay on so that we could get more practice. However, after a few more twists, turns, and an imminent downhill, I reluctantly agreed and told her to unhook. This is when pseudo-disaster struck.

I heard a fairly scared-sounding scream from behind me. Stealing a look back, I saw Deanna starting to go down. I also noticed we were still attached, with me going high speed down the hill as Deanna was at a dead stop and wiping out hard. The tow stretched. And stretched. And stretched. Surgical tubing is amazing for that. But sadly, I reached the end. My bike was actually snapped tight, then pulled backwards, causing me to a pretty amazing end-o (according to the racer who actually saw it). I landed hard on my right palm and left hip, but felt okay. I was more worried about Deanna, who hasn’t had quite as many wipeouts as I have over the years. She was already dusting herself off, and appeared mainly scratched and bruised, but generally okay. Phew. Sadly, as we were getting sorted, team after team flew by us. Ugh. Then, we realized Deanna’s front wheel would no longer spin. I was hopelessly warped. I tried loosening the brake, but even at make spread, it rubbed. I tried bashing it back into shape, but no dice there either. I was quite angry now (at the bike). After losing enough time, I made an executive decision as captain. Shoe and bike swap were in order. I could ride her bike, knowing there was only rear brakes and a fragile front wheel. My experience would mean we’d still make good time, and she’d have a comfortable safe ride on my bike. We finally got that sorted, and headed off. The first little bit was odd, but we eventually both got comfortable, and honestly, I think we might have actually made better time with swapped bikes than otherwise, as Deanna had strong reliable brakes and a comfortable position, which gave her more confidence.

We rode on strong, and once again, started making up time on teams. We’d probably lost the better part of 20 minutes all told with our accident, and in a 4-hour race that is an eternity. However, we also didn’t want to push too hard. A good decision further on the bike route also helped us pass a group of 5 or 6 teams. They’d all chosen to seek a lakeside trail at Lac Phillipe, whereas I took us on the campground roads. We never saw those teams again till the finish line. The rest of the bike was uneventful, if not hot, and we arrived at the trekking transition set to go. A quick change of shoes, helmet removal and grabbing a Vanilla Boost, and we were off. I’d planned what I suspect was the most efficient route for the trekking CPs, and we struck off.

By now, Deanna was getting a bit hot and tired, so I grabbed her pack to carry for her while she could drink and eat more to keep the energy up. The process of picking up the trekking CPs was quite straightforward. With the aid of a good topo map which showed where the ski runs were, we hit all the CPs perfectly. I was surprised when I saw some teams searching for CPs or heading into the bush where they shouldn’t have. Our only slight issue was that at the end of the trek, I was looking for a trail that should have been at the base of the mountain, but couldn’t find it. The unfortunate solution was climbing about halfway back up the ski hill to rejoin the original trail we’d taken. This took a bit more out of Deanna and I felt bad about the extra climbing. Top teams ended up clearing the full trek in 1 hour even. Our time for all CPs was 1hr 20mins. Totally respectable for sure.

Coming out of the trek, we had less than an hour to get to the paddle, clear the 3 CPs, and bike to the finish. It was definitely going to be tight, but we are comfortable paddlers, and had faith in our ability. We focused on getting through transitions quickly, and had a plan going into each one. At the trek, we opted to keep our trek shoes on rather than putting on bike shoes. Just put on helmets, and biked to the next transition. At the paddle, I put together the kayak paddles, and we helped each other put PFDs and jerseys on (jerseys have to be outermost layer). I also spotted a nice kevlar canoe which I could easily portage to the put-in. Without even pausing, I grabbed it, hoisted it, and took off at a jog while Deanna followed with our gear. We put in the water, and set off right away paddling hard.

The plan was easy. Paddle downstream for the first 2 CPs, then paddle hard upstream to grab the final CP, at which point we could then spin around and follow the current back to the canoe take-out. We had no problems grabbing our CPs, and again managed to pass a few teams on the water who were less comfortable paddling as us (all that kayaking has definitely paid off for Deanna’s paddling skills). Before the take-out, we once again reviewed the plan. We’d hit the exit, I’d toss my paddle and bag, which Deanna would grab and take back to the TA. She’d get out helmets, which we’d put on, and put our packs over our PFDs rather than changing. Meanwhile I once again hoist the boat and run it back to the transition. This all went smoothly, helping us be back on our bikes in no time. The final bike was a mere 400-500m, so we just had to cross the main road and head back to the start. We found ourselves in a big pack of racers waiting to cross the road. As soon as there was a break in the traffic, they all went gangbusters.

I started going hard, but realized it was sort of pointless. We were, for all intents and purposes, done, and pipping a team in the last few meters wasn’t going to accomplish anything. Instead, I let up a bit, and we just cruised to the finish while I shot some video. The finish line was a flurry of activity with teams yelling their numbers to be recorded at the finish. It was only then that we realized our official finish time was 14:59. One minute to spare!! We had no idea, since we hadn’t carried a watch. Too funny. However, we’d managed to finish 100% of the regular course, which by looking at the results, was nothing to sneeze at. It looks like only half the teams finished the full course, and even less finished the full course and finished before 3pm! Our final ranking shows as 6th in category, and 20th overall. In my books, we were actually more like tied for 5th in category, and 15th overall, based on the big blob of teams that finished at the same time as us. All in all, a great results given our bike accident.

Once the race was all done, we all got to enjoy a great meal of rotisserie take-out chicken from Au Coq while prizes were given out and stories of the day were told. I told our story, which nabbed me a prize, PLUS I won a draw prize as well. Good deal. Although we’d raced a good race, I’d also decided to squeeze in a bit of extra pain for the day for myself. I opted to mountain bike back home through the parc, an extra 45km in the hot, sticky night. It was a great solitary ride, giving me time to reflect on what a great day we’d had, and how lucky I am to get to share it all with someone I love. Not something I take for granted, believe me! Then, the next morning, a torturous 25km run in the crappiest humidity conditions ever. By Sunday night, I was a hurting unit, but grinning from ear to ear for the great outdoor fun I’d had. We’re already looking forward to another fun weekend, this time relaxing a bit out at Calabogie (although I’ll likely cycle to and from for training!). Till then, hope you enjoyed my little story.

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