Racing Season Upon Us..

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Well, it’s been a little bit since I popped a post online, so here we go. I’ve been pretty wrapped up with final preparations for the upcoming race season, which is actually well and truly upon us at this point. In the past couple weeks, I had my first adventure race of the summer, as well as my first ‘marquis’ event, which was the National Capital Marathon. I’ll leave that one for a post of its own, and stick to talking about my adventure race in this post. If you’d like to check out some pictures from this event, I’ve posted them over on flickr, as per usual. These were all pictures taken on the course by volunteers at various points, not me, so I’m not even in all of them, but they give you a bit of an idea of the race. The race took place on the May long weekend, specifically on the Saturday. This was slated to be a 5-8 hour race course, and unfortunately for me, we took the entire 8 hourse to complete it, due to some unfortunate errors, which I’ll get into soon. The entire weekend, as you may recall, was sort of miserable. There were frost warnings issued, and the temperatures stayed low, and the rain poured forth. The location of this race was in Quebec, in the Val de Monts region. Not far from Ottawa by any means, a mere 40 minute drive. The actual start and finish took place at Lafleche Aerial Parc. This is a real fun place which has all sorts of zip lines, aerial obstacle courses, as well as caves that can be explored. If you’re looking for an interesting way to spend an afternoon, this would be it!

I was racing with Steeve Lavoie, a fellow I’d met at a few other races where he was racing in the solo category. I’ve been trying to hook up with more racers so that I have a group of people I can count on to do longer races with me. This was our first time racing together, and in preparation we’ve been doing quite a bit of paddle training, so we knew we had a pretty good dynamic heading into the race. However, anything can happen in a race, and this was a chance for us to see how we dealt with things as a team. To save anyone the suspense, we got along great! There is no doubt in my mind that we’ll do a couple more races this summer, hopefully longer ones, and with other people as well (3 and 4 person teams). He dealt with adversity well, and had a great attitude and enjoyment during the entire race. The same can not be said for everyone out there! So that was a big relief. Anyway, on to the race coverage.

We arrived nice and early around 6:45am to the race site, since we had to go through registration, gear check, and a certification course for the aerial parc. We breezed through that, got our stuff together, and I went to the race briefing, where we recieved our maps and instructions. This was relatively uneventful, the only point I’ll make here is that I chose to take the instructions in french, not english, in consideration of Steeve, who is mainly a francophone. After that, we lined up in the rain on our bikes to get set for the start. The first leg of the race was a pretty simple bike leg, which was half on the road, and half on cross-country ski trails at Nakkertok. There was one checkpoint on the way to the canoe put-in, and it was at the intersection of two ski trails. We over-shot a little, and I had to make a quick course correction, but we still found it pretty quickly, and were on our way to the boat transition. We arrived at the transition zone in a great 4th place, and a time of 35 minutes. Awesome! We were pumped.

The next leg was a seemingly easy paddle section of about 12km in a lake. Flat water only, with 3 different checkpoints. The first was an overpass on a narrow, water-swollen creek, the second on a little island, and the third was a paddle-by quiz question where we had to identify the color of paint on a sign. First CP, not a big problem. We opted to avoid the creek, and Steeve went on foot to punch our passport, while I relieved myself and had a snack. He returned soaking wet, as he ended up swimming across the ‘creek’ after getting the control. Ha ha. Sign of things to come I guess. The next CP was supposed to be a relatively easy CP, located in the woods at the top of a hilly island. I chose to get that one, hopping out, and running blindly up the hill to get the CP. I found it pretty quickly, but after turning around and attempting to sprint back to the boat, I got turned around in the woods and missed the spot. Hmmm. I first went along the shore in one direction, then the other, with no success. After doing probably 2 complete circumnavigations of this small island, I finally found the canoe! Not until wasting almost 40 minutes though!! D’oh! Also, by then, Steeve thought I was injured and had headed up the hill looking for me. Double d’oh! We finally hooked back up, with me supremely mad at my flub. I can’t believe to this day how I screwed that up. There are more details, but I can’t bring myself to type it all up. If you want the details, just ask me some day. We got back in the boat, and paddled like two men possessed, trying to make up time. We probably passed 5-6 teams in this next leg. We found the next control with no problems, and made it back to the transition to find we’d dropped down to 11th place! This leg had taken us 2 hours and 7 minutes, and cost us 7 places. Oh well, no time to dwell on that, we had time to grab a quick snack, then hop back on our bikes to press on.

The next section was the crux of the race. A very tricky bike leg that had us all over the ski trails at Nakkertok. If you’ve ever been there, you might understand how easy it is to get turned around. And yes, we managed to do just that. We started by overshooting the trail entrance we wanted to take on the road, and instead started on a ski trail further along. Not a big deal with thought, but by the time we doubled-back to the place we wanted to start at, we’d probably lost another 30 minutes. These minutes add up real quick in a short race, so we knew we were essentially cooked from here on out. That made the race a little easier for us. We just decided to have a great ride on the trails, and have fun with it. This was definitely the place for a fun bike ride. The trails were some of the gnarliest we’d ever ridden, with foot-deep mud in parts, perilous descents down rock-strewn and flooded trails. We smiled the whole way. The Gods even treated us to free energy gels. At one point, we came across two muddy energy gels on the ground. I rinsed them off, and we each had one. One man’s loss, another’s gain I guess :-). Towards the end, we missed another critical branch, and lost probably a final 20 minutes as a result. The trouble is that time was running short, since the course was supposed to be shut down at the 8 hour mark.

We finally rolled into the second transition stage after 3 hours and 40 minutes, to find we’d dropped another two spots to 13 :-(. Not only that, but we were told to skip CP8 and go straight to CP9, skipping the only true nav / trekking section. That’s too bad, as I’m confident we would’ve nailed that one! The final section was hiking up a nice hill to get a couple controls, then heading to the aerial park for the zip lines and obstacles. Luckily, the clock stopped once you got there. Unfortunately, that also meant standing in the pouring rain, soaked, and freezing while we waited for our turn to do the zip lines along with all the ‘clients’ at Lafleche. We hit a nice roadblock there, and we were getting pretty cold. After completing the zip lines and obstacles, the clock was turned on again, while we entered the caving section to retrieve another couple checkpoints. This is where my size played nicely. I squeezed myself into all the little crevasses quikly, and managed to find the three CPs in no time. We emerged the caverns to pick up the two final CPs, which were in the hills surrounding the park. Once those were done, it was a quick jog to the finish. Our final time was 7 hours and 35 minutes, putting us in 13th place (out of 17 in our category). I felt like I could race easily for another 8 hours, which is good to know, but I was disappointed at the mistakes that had cost us so dearly. Of course, this is the chance you risk in every race. Some work out, some don’t, but I take something away from every race, and it only makes me stronger for the next challenge.

Thierry at Raid Pulse put on yet another great little race, and the event was wrapped up by a nice hot chicked meal from Au Coq, along with a prize ceremony where almost everyone walked away with something. I scored some great socks for sharing my story about getting lost on the world’s smallest island, as well as a bag of beef jerky that we passed around with new friends made at the race. All in all a great day in spite of any efforts by Ma Nature to make it worse.

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