Of Racing, Redemption, and Relaxation

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Hello sports fans! I’m back to try and catch you all up on another of my recent weekend activities. This time, I’ll be tackling what I did over the May long weekend. Originally, the plan was pretty simple. Race hard at the Raid Pulse 5-8 hour Adventure Race at Lac de L’Argile, then spend the remainder of the long weekend prepping my house for my housewarming party the following weekend. However, when I got an invitation to do some camping in Prince Edward County, I put the kibosh on the second part of my plan and decided the weekend would be about racing and relaxing! With that, I’ll present you with a brief summary of both activities, which I’ve conveniently put into one set of pictures for you all to check out on my flickr page. I also put together a map of the actual race. No pictures on this map, but you can check out the terrain. After you’ve had a quick look at those, head on back for a quick report on the race and the camping.

As you might have already gathered from my oh-so-witty alliterative title, the race went pretty smoothly for me and my team (actually, 2 teams, but you’ll read that in a moment). A few weeks back, I was racing solo at Deerhurst resort in the FAC race, and unfortunately, due to a navigational snafu, my hopes of a good placement were dashed on the rocks. The goal for Raid Pulse was (as it always is) to have a strong, and technically flawless race, which if all works well, would lead to a good overall standing. For this race, the competition would once again be very stiff. Starting the race was over 60 teams, all chomping at the bit and hoping to do well. I was racing with my team-mate Carl, so we were in the very competitive duo male category. However, we decided to race not as a pair, but as a 4-person team before starting the race.

How did that happen you ask? Well, simple. As it turned out, there was another 20-person co-ed team racing, and it so happened it was out two team-mates for the 24-hour wilderness traverse adventure race that would be happening two weeks later. Since they live in the Montreal region, we hadn’t trained with them at all, and it was actually Marie-Noel’s first ever race! So before the race, we decided that we’d all race together as part of training and preparation for Wilderness XC. It’s always more fun with 4 people anyway. We agreed to race smart, share the workload, and have buckets of fun, no matter what! While the weather outlook had looked dodgy, it ended up being pretty good race conditions. Mostly dry, and good temperatures.

It looked as if bad luck would plague us before even starting this race. On our way to the start line, which was a 2km bike ride away, JR ended up getting a puncture on one of his tubeless tires! We sprinted to the front of the start area, and proceeded to carry out a formula-1 tire change as the race director was counting down for the start. We got a new tube and the tire re-mounted just in time for the starting gun. Talk about a stressful start. The whole first section was a nice bike ride through lots of ATV trails and some singletrack. As a team, we were moving pretty well together, helping each other whenever it was needed to keep our speed up as a team. I had taken on the navigation duties, and was very anxious to prove myself to everyone in light of the upcoming 24hr race. For the bike section, things went very well, and we got through it in very respectable time.

At the end of the bike was the ever-popular trekking section, generally the crux of any race, as you are literally on your own in the woods, making route choices to try and find the checkpoints. We made sure we were all eating and drinking lots, to make sure we didn’t bonk later when it mattered. We were obviously hoping to get to the advanced course, but nothing was certain. As the trek progressed, we continually seemed to nail our checkpoints, with my navs bringing us out usually very close to exactly where we wanted to be. It was definitely a confidence booster, and felt good to not have to wander around or back-track to re-set the clock. Sadly, I’d forgotten my watch once again, but with 4 of us, we were more methodical about ensuring we didn’t stray too far from the time goals we set for finding features.

With high spirits, we popped out of the final section of the trek right where we wanted to, and now had to make our way along the camping area to the beach where our boats were waiting for the paddle section. With no certainty about which roads were dead end or not, we made one slight error and ended up on the wrong side of a creek. Rather than circle around, we opted to just swim across, since the beach and boats were literally just on the other side. The water wasn’t too cold, and we probably saved 5 or so minutes by swimming, so it was totally worth it.

We were now onto the last stage of the race, a nice triangular paddle on the lake to pick up two more checkpoints. Depending on what time we finished that off, we’d have the option to challenge to the advanced course. As we were paddling along, we verified the time, and realized that we were a mere 20 minutes away from the cut-off, but had at least an hour of paddling ahead of us. D’oh! No advanced course for us. In spite of that, we didn’t let up the pressure in the least, as there were teams within sight of us both ahead and behind. With decent paddling, we stayed ahead of the teams behind, and even managed to pip one or two teams ahead before finally running back to the finish line.

As usual, I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t have the opportunity to race the advanced course, but still really happy with the way our team worked and raced together. The personalities gelled pretty well, and some of the overly-competitive characteristics were evened out by the need to help each other to get through it. We couldn’t feel TOO bad about not doing advanced, as only 7 teams actually got to it. We still finished quite competitively, and ahead of a lot of others. In fact, we tied for 14th overall, which I was plenty happy with, given the fact that it was our first race together, and Marie-Noel’s first race EVER! More importantly, we’d gotten to know each other well enough that we were comfortable to be heading into a 24 hour adventure race as a mentally strong team. That’s probably the most nerve-wracking aspect of a longer race: will we get along? There would undoubtedly still be some mental challenges, but I was now sure we could get through any of those challenges!

Once the race was done, it was time to move on to the more relaxing and social aspects of my weekend. Basically, I showered, loaded all my gear back onto my car and set out again on the lonely roads for a 4.5 hour drive from the race site to Prince Edward County where I was meeting up with Deanna for a couple nights of quiet riverside camping. Admittedly I was a bit tired from the early rise, and the day of racing, but I managed to keep my eyes open while driving. I made only one stop on the way, and that was for gas, and to fill my belly with Kentucky Fried Chicken AND Taco Bell. Yup, it was a crazy meal choice, but I was starving, and didn’t want a grumbling tummy while I fumbled in the dark trying to set up the tent!

I made pretty good time and showed up just after dark, about an hour and a half earlier than I had expected to get there. I also arrived to find that we weren’t alone that night. There were a number of relatives enjoying a roaring campfire as I pulled in. Luckily, that also meant there was a nice gooey s’mores ready to greet me made by D’s sister Cheryl. Yum! Just what I needed. A little chocolate fix. The tent was set up fairly uneventfully before I joined the gang at the fire and enjoyed the warm flames and the beautiful evening. Had some nice quiet time on the dock a bit later as well, just enjoying the evening. Every time I camp I’m reminded again why I love it so much. Nothing quite like canvas walls and the sounds of the outdoors enveloping you!

The remainder of the weekend was spent remembering how to relax and just enjoy life unfolding around you. We were pretty lazy around the campsite, hanging out near the water and on the dock, as well as having fun camp snacks and general camping fun-ness 🙂 Our only real plan was to head out on bikes to do a bit of biking around the county, and hit the County Cider company for lunch. We made our way out, and for the first time in a long time, I will tell you that I wore NO helmet, and had ‘civilian’ clothes on. Not a stitch of spandex was gracing ActiveSteve’s body! I know, it felt weird too, but quite enjoyable too. Now, if only I hadn’t been riding a fancy-looking bike, I would have fit right in as a country cruiser. Hee hee. Either way, it was a fun ride complemented by a nice meal of wood-fired pizza at the cidery and some wine tasting!

The only other outing of note was a trip into Picton for Ice Cream on a whim. I’d never been to ‘Scooperman’s’ before, but will hazard a guess I may just return there. Tasty treats await. Of course, Slickers is still my perennial favourite in that area, but in the heat, Scooperman did the trick! We had a few other visitors throughout the weekend as well, in the form of other relatives popping down to spend some time enjoying the river-side setting, but apart from those little visits, we were the only ones who camped overnight. The second night we made a nice roaring fire, and Deanna even fell asleep by the warmth of the fire. Yup, definitely a peaceful setting, and I’m already looking forward to a return trip (which is actually coming this weekend!)

The moral of the second half of this post? Well, I may be crazy, but I haven’t totally forgotten how to actually slow down and enjoy the simpler pleasures as well. In fact, I may be starting to develop a taste for it again, so maybe, just maybe, I’ll opt to do a bit more camping rather than racing all the time! No guarantees though :-). That’s it for this post, and I still have 2 to write! Dang. Where does the time go?

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