Howdy all! Well, the Quest for a Cure is behind us now! I was the captain of my 2-member team (Hyper-Active / Camp de Base), and we raced in the 48-hour full race. The race was phenomenal, so I plan to write a nice full race report here. I’ve decided to split the race report into two sections. The first section will be for those with ADD, or those who don’t want to hear all the gory details. I’ll summarize the race and my results here. After that, I’ll get into a section by section break-down of the race. To kick things off, I now know that I’m capable of staying awake for 52 hours, 44 of those hours spent racing hard, on only 40 minutes of sleep! Crazy. I also had to be able to make critical decisions and keep us moving in the right direction all the time. If you’d like to view the full race results, head over to the Quest website For the record, they’re a bit confusing. Also, I’ve put up a bunch of pictures taken by our support crew on the Flickr site. I’m also hoping to augment those with pictures put up by the professional photographers that were on the race course, but I can’t guarantee that those will be up anytime soon! Now on with the story!
The saying goes that the most difficult part of an adventure race is just getting to the starting line. I will concur with that sentiment. Nevermind the challenges trying to line up a team, and support crew, and getting all the logistics sorted out, but I mean just getting there physically. I was awoken at 7:30am on Friday by Steeve. He called to say there was a problem. What now? He didn’t find gastrolyte? He couldn’t find a tarp? I wish. He was calling to tell me about his trip to Tim Horton’s first thing in the morning. He was really pumped about the race, and wanted a coffee. He had all his gear, and was heading to pick up one of our support crew. He opted for the drive-through. His bike was on his roof. The big steel beam limiting the height of vehicles didn’t like the bike. The beam? Yeah, it broke the fork on Steeve’s bike! So here we are, 8am, down a bike. Shit! To solve the problem, we waited till 9am, so that he could take his bike to the shop and get an assessment. Well, $400 and a couple hours later, he had a new fork (kindly sold to him at about cost), and we were on our way! Talk about an expensive coffee. As a result, I didn’t get quite as much time to prep the maps as I wanted, but I did manage to get it all marked the way I wanted with about 10 minutes to spare. Whew!
I’ve raced quite a few races now, and think I have a good idea what constitutes a good race and not so good race. Well, I can safely say this was an excellent race. Nearly perfect in every detail. Nearly. This year the weather was extremely co-operative, the course well designed and accurately estimated for time requirements. Check-in, gear checks, and skills checks were also all smoothly and efficiently carried out. Happily, my baseline vital stats only had to be checked at registration, and never again this year! The race itself also had an abundance of challenges and uniqueness to it, giving us racers a very memorable course. The decision to include an advanced section was also a bonus. The one thing I didn’t get was why everyone didn’t give the advanced section a shot. After all, there was plenty of time. Teams were arriving at the cut-off area with 12 to 18 hours left on the clock to complete a 5-8 hour leg, and still chose the shorter route! What gives, aren’t we out there to race hard? Well, I was, and I’m very glad we decided to do the advanced leg. Overall, Team Hyper-Active / Camp de Base was out on the course for a total of 44 hours exactly, taking a mere 40-minute cat-nap at the last major TA to fill up the tanks before doing the advanced leg. We may have been on the course the longest physical time, but managed to nab 2nd place in the duo category, and 5th overall, thanks to the advanced leg. Of course, most people won’t be able to glean that from the results posted nor the ceremony. For the duo category, there was only mention of the 1st place finisher. What? Did we not race just as hard as the 4-person teams? Do we not qualify for at least a mention of our accomplishment? Personally, this was my greatest race result to date, both in terms of race length and placement. I thought we’d at least get a mention at the banquet. Oh well, small gripe, but it did disappoint me. Also, the online posted results are a complete jumble. There is no discernible order to them, and no separation of 2 vs. 4 person teams. Makes it a little difficult to figure out the stats. Cutting and pasting isn’t working too well either.
As mentioned, the banquet was also an excellent event, with lots of pictures being shown throughout, and even an event video!! That’s right, there was a video crew out during the whole race getting footage to use in a promotional video about the race. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ll certainly pony up some cash for a copy of the final video, especially if some of that money is also funelled back into the Cancer Center. Which leads to the final point in my brief report section. This race is about more than a big race. It is about raising funds and awareness, and now also a tribute to Mark Johnston. As a result, this race is an emotional one for me, and many others, and the banquet usually has a misty-eye component to it as a result. Personally, when I hit the lows in the race, I think of why I’m out there. I’m there to feel a bit of suffering, so that I can better understand what cancer patients must go through. I’m also there in memory of my mother, who fought, and ultimately lost, a brave fight against cancer some years ago while I was away at university. Running on empty, racing 44 hours on 40 minutes of sleep is nothing compared to what others are going through. That’s why we’re there. To feel what being human is about. To see what there is to live for. To understand our own limitations and abilities better. I love this race, I love what it stands for, and I have the utmost respect and praise for Jim Andrews and the entire team that puts this race on year after year. I’m positive this race will only get bigger each year, and I hope to always be a part of it.
Now, on to the detailed race report (I’ll try not to drag it out too much though).
Stage 1: Swim, Bike, Run to Whitewater rafts – Moving Time: 1:31
To start out the race, and try to spread the crowd out a bit, they chose to make the entire field of competitors race out to the river, and swim around buoys, pop out on a dock, and run to our bikes. We were told not to worry, the water was chest deep the whole way. Steeve told me ‘I’m not a great swimmer’. He should’ve said, I can’t swim at all. We ran quickly to the beach, and I was the first one in behind the 1st place team from last year. I started my swim then looked for Steeve, he was not too far behind, but not moving much. I soon realized he couldn’t swim, and I actually had to physically go back and perform a water rescue tow, something I hadn’t done since my life-saving course days. I even saw the panic in the eyes. That was scary moment. One race guy had the cajones to yell out ‘You have to go around the buoys’. I was not impressed. I yelled back that I’ll gladly take a penalty, given that my team-mate can’t swim and might very well drown if we tried that. Once he was in shallow water walking to the put out, I turned around and sprint-swam around the remaining buoys to at least show we did it. That was a crazy start, and had me a little worried. Would this be the sign of things to come? Luckily, the next leg was a nice single-track bike leg on a trail to the rafting area. Nice trail, but almost everyone messed up one spot due to some industrious beavers that caused a big flood over the trail. There was a right turn that everyone assumed was the trail, but it turned out you just had to go about 100 feet through the flood to hook back up to the right trail. Oops. 30 mins. lost. We got out of that, and dumped bikes, and picked up our whitewater gear for a 2km run to the rafts.
Stage 2: Whitewater rafting and running to TA – Moving Time: 1:54
Since we were in the 2-person race, we had to do the rafting with another team. Luckily, the 1st place team had gotten there 20 minutes before us, so we didn’t have to wait, and were lucky to be in a raft with a couple of strong paddlers. From this point on, we stayed in 2nd place for the entire race. The rafting itself was amazing! The water was at a good safe level, and the rollers were great. We had only one near-dump on one section, with our guy hanging out the boat, being held on by one leg. It was cool. We popped out the other end, and started a 5k run to the transition area. Enter my only physical ailment. I had worn water shoes for this, with no socks. That was a mistake. I blistered and popped on the run, causing some mild foot trauma. Luckily, I chose to take good care of my feet later, using polysporin, moleskin, vaseline, double socks, etc. so the damage was minimized, but I learned a lesson. Always wear socks. At the end of the run was our loving support crew waiting with food and bikes for the next leg.
Stage 3: Mountain biking to bike ferry to Tyrollean Traverse and back to boats – Moving Time: 3:21
This next section was a mid-length biking leg, with a bike ferry at one spot (2 bikes in the canoe), bike out to a trail section to find the tyrollean traverse on foot, then return on bikes to canoes again. The first section was primary and secondary roads, where we could get some decent speed. Steeve showed off his legs for me, and I gratefully went on tow a few times on this section. That guy has strong bike legs. [Mental note: must spin even more this winter!]. I kept saying save your legs in case I need them later, but he just kept telling me to grab on. We made such good time that we almost beat our support to the bike ferry. The canoe was at the water, but no paddles, jackets, etc. Crap, turn around, go back to the car and pick up the other stuff. I’ll say this, two bikes in a canoe is a little precarious. Yokes and such didn’t allow us to set the bikes on the floor. Instead, they were balanced on yoke and gunwales. Luckily, it was only a few hundred feet across. We made it safe. On the other side, it was another mad bike to get to the ATV trails to the traverse. The trails were pretty easy to nav, and next thing we knew, we were hiking out to the traverse. Wow! Cool spot. By the time we arrived, it was night, so we were treated to the falls lit up by huge lights while we traversed! The only downside here was that the zip line was really no-zip! We had to wait on one end for people to clear, and when we got there, we realized why: you got about a thrid across, then had to drag your ass across. Turns out carabiners are high friction. Pulley’s would’ve been nice! Poor Steeve was dead by the time he got close to the other side. We threw him a tow line, and pulled him over the last 30 feet. We rested up a bit there, then returned to the bikes to get back to the canoes.
Stage 4: Beautiful long night paddle – Moving Time: 3:52
The next stage was the longest paddle leg. Luckily we were under the clearest skies imaginable, and really loved this leg. We were both wide awake, and had fun singing and paddling as we went. We tried our luck at using the bathrom on the move with reasonable success. As a result, we didn’t have to pull over at all during the whole paddle. For a while we were playing pass and chase with the Endurance Junkies, who are clearly better paddlers than us, but let us have our fun! At the far end, we got to try our luck at a lovely 1-2km portage. Not the easiest in the dead of night when you can’t tell which trail to take. We did pretty well at it though, and by the time we had made our way out, the sky was lightening up. We walked up, happy to see our support crew again, who had food, drinks, chairs, and all the comforts ready for us. At this point we definitely needed to fuel up. Next up was a 65km bike that would take us quite a while, so we wouldn’t see the support for a while.
Stage 5: Long bike leg – Moving Time: 5:13
Fed, watered and changed, we mounted our trusty steeds for another nice biking leg, much of it on dirt roads, until we biked through renfrew to hook up with the K&P trail, which was an old rail bed converted to a bike trail. This was generally a flat trail, which was nice, but had quite a bit of washboarding to it, so the bumps and rattles were starting to get on our nerves after a while. I couldn’t believe that I used to bike a hard tail on these sort of races. Thank goodness I saw the light last fall and finally bought a full-suspension bike for racing. Overall, the leg was fairly uneventful. We stopped a few times for some stretching, eating and drinking, but other than that, just pressed on. We saw our friends the Endurance Junkies again a couple times on this leg, and waved them on. We knew we’d see them down the road again. The crux of this stage came up only at the end. The instructions deceptively simple. Follow the ATV trail to the lake, may be hard to follow, but just go to south of lake, and pick up trail to get to TA. Ha! I think that was an understatement. This turned out to be a really fun bumpy, twisty double track, and I think some teams got messed up with all the different trails. I impressed myself though, correctly picking out the right trail every time. I was worried at one point, since it seemed to take a really long time, but we made it out, happy to see the sun, our shade tent, and the volunteers. I’d love to return there to bike again, but this time with more water. We were pretty well out of all supplies by the time we exited the woods there! Time to re-fuel again for what I estimated would be the crux of this race. The trek.
Stage 6: The LONG TREK – multi-part with Ascending, Rapelling mixed in – Moving Time: 10:42
Yup, as the name implied, the directions said it’d be 8 to 12 hours before we got out again. Most [mortal] teams took the higher end of that to get through. The first leg looked dead easy on the map. Head due east along the north end of a lake, follow a creek to the CP. Easy. NOT! This is where I think everyone discovered what I affectionately termed (re-used by others later) swamp-whacking. Steeve and I tried it all. First, straight bearing in the woods. Nope! Really thick bush. Thickest I’d ever tried to nav in a race. Waaaay too much deadfall. Second, try the shore. Nice, except that it was 90% swamp and bog. Very slow there too. Last try, straight down creek. Nope. Too soft on the bottom mostly. In the end, we chose a combination of both, and just kept going… and going… and going. I was sure we’d walked 10km. Generally, we get around 2km per hour on bush-whack legs, but here, I think we were closer to 1-1.25km per hour. Painful progress. However, we did find that little bridge (made of bacon and eggs, right Steeve :-)), checking in moments after our friends the Enduance Junkies! Finding the CP totally re-energized us, and we were ready to tackle the next trek. Simply follow ATV trails to an old road. Well, we followed one trail, and found it dead-ended. Rather than back-track, and get lost on different trails, I had the brilliant idea that we should just bush-whac the 2.5km out. Not the best idea. Although we did get out easily enough, we definitely took longer, and popped out on the wrong road, which lead to another mistake, where we walked right by the next access path to trek. That added about 1.5 to 2km to our walk, which wasn’t a huge deal, but it was hot, and we were tired, so it felt like 10km! The next part was a simple south bearing to another glorious swamp, which we crossed, and scrambled up a rock area to get to the ascending course. We were pretty pooped, but had to keep going. I ascended with both packs on, so that Steeve would have an easier go at ascending. After the Tyrollean line, I was worried he’d have problems again. My fears were unfounded, and he did great! He loved that part, in spite of his slight fear of heights. At the top, I chatted with race photographers and who else.. but the Endurance Junkies again. Man, won’t they leave us alone?!?! Also, we had a funny run-in with the next place duo team. They showed up at the ascending course at the top! Somehow, they had walked to the access trail, and I think were mis-informed by someone they could follow the trail to the ascending site. Needless to say, they weren’t too pleased. However, they were told they could rappel to the base, wait for a 15 minute penalty, then ascend. On the plus, this gave us the motivation to get hustling again. We now knew our next closest competitor was on our heels. So we dug in and marched over to the rappel site. Yeah, well, the trail to get around Calabogie seemed to take forever, and I started questioning if we’d taken the wrong trail. Finally I recognized some landmarks and knew we were good. I’d actually hiked this with Jody last year for fun! The ascending site was where we walked the dog! Too funny. Now we had to hike up to the top of Calabogie Peaks to get to the rappel. Ugh. I’m tired. But we made good time, mostly due to the damn bugs trying to carry us off course. We checked into the CP, and chatted lots with the guy running the rappel. He was a riot. This was a double-rope rappel, and apparently some people likened it to the zip line. A giant pain, because you had to keep feeding the rope to get any movement. Once at the bottom, the idea was to bushwhack, to the next TA. Because of our state, and my map reading, I chose the path of least resistance. Water. We followed a creek downhill to the road, then hiked the road to the TA. The other option would have been a lot of up and down, possibly through thick brush. Of course, our route meant a few more swamps, but by now, they were our friends. Judging by other teams’ comments, I think we made the right call. So ended our epic trek at 11 hours. Whew! Time for a break, eh?
Stage 7: The last paddle, at night again – Moving Time: 4:19
By now, Steeve was pretty tired, and was a bit cold at the TA. He bundled up while we ate and drank, and chatted with… you guessed it, the Junkies again. I thought Steeve would insist on a nap now, but when he saw me all ready to go with my gear, he found the energy to suit up and say ‘let’s go bowling’ one more time. Not sure whether we should’ve slept there or not, but the next leg was certainly interesting. To kick off, it was a killer portage. Killer mainly because we were mostly zombies now. It would have been very comedic to see us progressing I think. We finally got to the put in and dawdled around a bit before getting in the water. Our friends were also sneaking up behind us, so in no time on the water, they blew past us. Oh well, time to sing it out brothers and sisters. Steeve was spent. He was not really paddling at this point, and we had 15km to cover. He kept nodding off. I was yelling, singing, talking, but nothing worked. I even splashed him. These all woke him up temporarily, but he couldn’t get into the rhythm. Finally, I gave in, and said, okay, we’ll pull over for a 15 minute power nap. I waited 4 minutes till I heard him snoring, then started paddling alone. He was too scared to sleep while we moved, but I figured if he didn’t know, it wouldn’t matter. However, he woke up, and grudgingly tried to help again. I just wasn’t tired, so wanted to keep going. No telling where our other competitors were. Maybe right behind us? Steeve bottomed out again. He started hallucinating badly. Suddenly I was a big fat girl in front of him in the boat. He asked if it bothered me that I was a fat girl. I assured him it didn’t. Then, he was 100% certain we were moving backwards, and he almost had me convinced too. They, he got spooked by mysterious lights on the shoreline, that he thought were demons. At least that got him moving a bit. It was all a bit crazy. The worst was right at the end though, because I think my brain shut down too. All of a sudden, I was looking at my map, and the compass, and had no idea where I was or what to do. I totally blanked and panicked. A couple minutes ticked by while I tried to regain myself. Luckily I did, and realized that bam! we were exactly where we should be. What a relief. I was worried we had floated miles off course or something. Not really possible, given that we were following a river in one direction, but with our state of mind, things aren’t always clear. Now we were nice and awake, knowing we were at the put-out. Or were we? Where the hell was it? We saw the power lines, saw the roads, saw the dam, recognized the shore contours, but there was no strobe!! I went ashore for a pee break and found massive piles of deer bones that freaked me out. Luckily, I also noticed I was on an island! Hmm, turns out there was an island in front of the main shoreline, not visible at night, or on the map. After having wasted almost 30 minutes, we finally located the microscopic strobe light at the put out. A rocky shore with no visible path! Long story short, I was very unhappy with that canoe put-out, and said so to the volunteers, even though it wasn’t their fault. We made the final long trek to the top of what seemed like a mountain to re-unite with our support! Definitely time for a nap now! I knew we needed it.
Stage 8: Advanced course, MTB and final Canoe – Moving Time: 7:24
Steeve said he needed at least 1 hour of sleep. I said you’ll get 45 mins., then I told Dave to wake us at 40 mins. I was worried we’d lose our 2nd place position if we didn’t press on. We hadn’t agreed yet on regular vs. advanced yet, since Steeve at that exact moment said ‘I’d be happy with regular’. I wasn’t. But decided to wait till the nap was over. We crawled into the tent and crashed hard. Moments later, strange things were happening to me. Someone was talking to me. Where was I? Did I know what I was doing? Not a friggin clue. You’re in Quest for a Cure. What’s that? Who are you? Can you get up? Not until you tell me who you are and why you kidnapped me! Welcome to the surreal world of being woken up after 40 mins of sleep in the past 40+ hours of being awake, many of them spent racing hard. I was totally lost. I had to wake up in a hurry though, since I had still not even looked at the advanced course or mapped it out. At the start, I just didn’t have the time. Now I had to do it in a sleep-deprived, confused state. Great. Well, I did it. Looking back, it was a little off. The instruction said to follow the power line trail. Instead of highlighting the trail, I just high-lighted the power line. Oh well, the idea was close. Once Steeve was roused and up, I convinved him we should do the advanced. After all, we had tons of time to do it, and we’d rank higher than those who didn’t. Plus, we’d just had a full night of sleep ;-). He agreed, and off we went. Sort of. We had multiple false starts. I couldn’t for the life of me get my compass to work for me, or find the right trail. We passed back through the support area 3 times I think. Luckily it was getting light again, and that helped me, as I knew where roughly we wanted to be in relation to the water. Eventually we hooked up the right trail, and headed on our way. This last section was a great 54km bike leg, up and down, up and down. Lots of annoying hills, followed by hairy descents. On a good day this would’ve tired me out, luckily, I was already tired out, so I didn’t notice as much. Also, I was fighting severe pain in my posterior. Sadly another lesson I learned is that when wiping ones’ buttocks with leaves in the forest, be careful what you use. I think I got a nice rash from something, and it swelled me up quite a bit. Suffice it to say, sitting was EXTREMELY painful, but had to be done to get anywhere. Again, Steeve was great and helped out with a tow now and again, but that was a bit tough with all the hills. Also, the Deerflies were quite a pain, causing me to put a toque on under my helmet. By the time we were rolling out of the tricky sections onto the roads again, I was wearing the following: wool bike socks, insulated black tights, black long sleeved top, black toque covered by helmet, black gloves and sunglasses. Do you want to guess how the sun felt to me? Wrong! I felt nothing. Too tired, too sore, I just kept turning the circles. Sure, I was warm, but at least the bugs weren’t bothering me too much. We finally got to CP 11A, the last point before the paddle to the finish. What? We have to run to the finish after the paddle? Oh well, whatever, lets just go now. We both took a jump in the lake to cool off and wake up before hittng the boat. So here we were, 3km from the finish, 11am on Sunday. Wow! What a relief, we’ve basically made it. In 2nd place! Awesome. You’d think it would be an easy paddle on the calm lake. Unfortunately, Steeve was sleeping again! Curse him 😉 He complained that the repetitive movements and boat motion were making him sleepy. Every 10th paddle stroke, I’d throw a full paddle of water at his face. He loved it. Anyway, it took us exactly 1 hour to paddle across, carry out the boat, then saunter to the finish. Our awesome support crew met us at the put out with cold drinks. Steeve had a 7-up, and I had a Barq’s root Beer. Man, Barqs has bite! It was delicious. We half-heartedly ran to the finish, with random people cheering for us from their team HQs, or in the case of the Adidas Divas, their restful slumber spot in the grass, 15ft. from the finish line.
The Finish and Wrap-up
We crossed the line at 11:59am, just shy of 44 hours. We’d been out on the course the longest, and probably had the least sleep of anyone for the time we spent out there, but we were on top of the world. It took us quite a while to finally get calmed down, fed and showered. We set up our site beside Moose and Panomedia, chatted for a while, enjoying a beer. Dave had been kind enough to have a bag of my favourite snacks on hand for the finish. A giant bag of Chester’s Cheese Corn. Awesome!!! Finally, at 2pm, I had enough, and decided to go for a rest. It was a glorious 1hr. 50 mins of sleep! Getting up was painful. I hurt more than when I went to sleep. I puttered around, helping get the gear put away and did a preliminary clean of the bike. Once we were packed up, we went to the awesome banquet that I spoke about. We had lots of time to chat with the other racers and shared in everyone’s personal accomplishments. It was fantastic. Now that I’ve bored everyone to tears with this story, I’ll say good-bye, until next I see you on the race courses.