Warning: this is a long read.....I hope you enjoy.
On our way to Candice's house, well we got a bit lost. Not a great start for our team.....we turned on the GPS and found the road we had somehow turned off of, still not sure how that happened.
Anyway, made it to her place, loaded up her gear and drove off (in the right direction) only to find out 8 minutes later we had left a critical piece of gear behind.....hmmm, another bad omen?
We're making good time, make a quick stop to eat and pee, only to have the truck shut off TWICE in the middle of the drive. Is anyone else feeling nervous yet??? So, we have already gotten lost, forgot essential gear (OK, they were only keys to her mother's apartment where we had to drop off the dog, but still they were necessary!) and had a mechanical breakdown, 3 of the four things we were really hoping would not happen to us (the fourth were no injuries).
Fortunately, the rest of the drive up was uneventful, and we arrived at race HQ with time to spare. Although everyone else there looked like they belonged, gulp.
At this point I'm feeling pretty good, I'm not yet nervous, I'm telling myself I've trained, I got my gear, all will be well.
And then we get the maps. All but the last 10km or so of the bike ride is trail. Not my strength. I knew that it would be mostly trail, but figured it would be broken up with some gravel roads. Oh, and the trek? Pretty much no trail. OK, so alot of bushwhacking. Which mean little running. OK, I got this.
|At the start line|
We had positioned ourselves near the back of the pack, we have no illusions about our place here, the "pro-star" teams quickly take to the trail and disappear. It doesn't take long for us to be enjoying this ride on our own. About 12 km in, there are suddenly some teams coming towards us on the trail! We discover later, that many teams missed the turn off. Maybe our timing has saved us from making the same mistake. From this point, we end up leap frogging with a couple of other teams until we hit CP1. We refill our water bottles, jump back on our bikes and continue on. The whole ride takes us 10 hours. This is by far the longest ride I have ever done, and the trail was tough. Lots of rock, a fair number of mud puddle crossings, lot's of sand (have you ever ridden in sand? It sucks) Single track, ATV trail, hydro cut.....but as the ride wore on, I could feel my confidence gaining. There were even a few times where I had this weird clarity....it's like the line I ha to follow was lit up or something. I know that sounds really out there, maybe it was de-hydration, but hey, whatever gets you there. And the last 10km of gravel road? Don't assume the orange line on the map denotes a gravel road.....just sayin'
So we've made it to TA1.....and we get ice cream!! Best ice cream I've ever tasted. We quickly tear through our gear bin, change our socks, shoes and cycling shorts into long tights. We freshen up our water bladders, re-fold our maps, throw some food in our mouths, and we are off again. When we were plotting out our course the night before, we had decided to swim across the channel, hand rail the rest of the lake down, hit the portage trail and follow the shore to CP4....sounds easy right? The other option was taking the road to some trails and going from there. A longer distance, but maybe a safer bet? Even though the ride took us 2 hours longer than we had hopes, we decided to stick to our original plan, so we head down to the shore for a swim. Not relishing the idea of being wet when the sun went down (about 90 minutes away) we, well, let's just say we did not break the rule of taking our race bibs off.
Once on the other side we made pretty good time travelling along the shore of the lake, hit a "creek" that we had hoped would be an easy crossing. Maybe we should have looked a little harder for a place to cross, but ended up swimming again....through swampy, weedy smelly water. With our race bibs on.
A few minutes later is when it all went wrong. We hit another "creek" at the mouth of the lake, The sun was almost down. We didn't want to swim again. The longer, cleaner route across the mouth of the lake was one option. The narrower, but really swampy section was option two. The third option as we saw it was to hand rail the creek east to a small lake we could skirt around, follow the creek back to the shore of Gordon Lake and over to the CP. About a 3km detour. That took 3-4 hours. Let's just say that following a hand rail in the dark is not so easy. The terrain kept forcing us up and away from our river. Finally, we reached the portage and saw a campfire down the shore. Elated, we moved pretty quickly and confidently towards the light. Only to stumble upon a cabin, with a friendly man to tell us we're going the right way, it's the next fire up the shore. There was no fire. Instead, about an hour later (maybe...who knows, I wasn't wearing a watch, and time seems to stop out there in the night) we hear people yelling to us "Swim across, we're over here!" "Huh" swim across? But the CP is supposed to be on the EAST shore of the lake. If we swim across we'll be on the WEST shore. It took Candice and Grant awhile to explain to me that we were on the shore of a little bay, and the campsite was on the point, which technically is still the east shore. Admittedly, I figured this out the next day when I was reviewing the maps.....
So, finally we roll into CP4....after being offered beer by the yahoos yelling at us. There didn't seem to be many of them, but there sure were alot of empties on the ground. And they seemed offended that we did not want any beer.
The next section went slowly, but perfectly for us. We set our bearings (there was a bit of an issue here, when Grant and Candice pointed one way, and I almost pointed in the exact opposite direction. Not wanting to admit that something was wrong, I covertly re-checked my bearing. Hmm....everything looks right, I'm very confident I have set it right....oh, well, 2 against 1, I'll follow them. After a few more checks as we're following the river I finally show Candice my compass......which shows the north arrow pointing south. My compass is confused....it seems to think north is south.....somehow it has de-polarized...hmmm....I put it away, good thing we all brought one)
|At CP5...note the coffee in my hand|
We arrived at TA2 at 11:05, 55 minutes before the "absolute cutoff". We discover Grant's bike is not here!! So Bob tells us to go ahead and transition, when we are ready he will hit the timer, and we will get a time credit to make up for how long it takes for Grant's bike to arrive. As we're getting ready (a little slowly now, as we can't yet leave) we all realize that the team that walked in 3 minutes before is also a rookie team! All of a sudden we are racing again! We all look at each other, and start moving a bit faster. There is a prize for the rookie team who finishes first. And the only two rookie teams left are right here, a 26km ride on the road away from the finish line! Team Spinning out of Control hops on their bikes and take off, not knowing how fast they have to ride, because we won't be there riding with them. 18 minutes later, Grant's bike arrives, and we hit the road. As we turn into the parking lot to the finish line, I am fighting back tears. It has been 29 hours of non-stop travelling. I'm tired, but elated that it is over, and we have done it!
Spinning out of Control takes the rookie prize.....beating us by 8 minutes.
Well, Wilderness Traverse volunteers and staff....thank you for a great first 24hour race experience, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot will see you next year! And I'll hopefully have a new bike......with shocks!!