Racing (Adventure Race) 22:57:00 
Wilderness Traverse 2012
With the lack of a long adventure race in western Canada this summer I was quite excited when team Salomon-Suunto asked if I was interested in joining them for the Wilderness Traverse race in Ontario. This opportunity came along when Leannimal and Phatty moved to France a few weeks ago, leaving their team short of two people. I had heard very good things about the team members of Salomon Suunto and was happy to join Hansel and Goose together with JayXC for their third go at the race. I was a bit nervous about joining a team that I didn’t know but with all the good words I received about Hansel, Goose and JayXC I felt that we would figure it out, and who can resist the idea of fighting it out for ‘Bob the Beaver’?
My race preparations for this race didn’t feel as good as I had liked them to. I hadn’t been running as much as I usually do during the summer months as I was recovering from some overuse injuries that I sustained in an ultra run in May. As well I ended up with a bad chest infection that turned into some lung issues the month leading up to the event. Antibiotics helped me kick the problem but I was not quite my normal 100% yet with a bit less energy than I normally have. On top of that I was a little psyched out by how everyone was hyping up everyone’s skills, leaving me feeling quite inadequate and pressured to be strong on my bike. I was trying not to think too much about it, but it was sort of nagging away at the back of my mind. After meeting Goose and his lovely family on Friday morning though I started calming down a bit and I realized that these guys would be exactly as nice and awesome as everyone was saying.
Wilderness Traverse must be the only race organization that is so organized that they can start a race early! That is exactly what happened during this year's event. At 7:45am we found ourselves running down a gravel road for 2km to the canoe put-in. That was 15 minutes earlier than the planned start time. The strategy for the run was to be up in the front of the pack so that we would have a good choice of canoes to pick from as there was a limited amount of the lighter weight canoes. I had dreaded the run a bit as I find it hard to sprint without being warmed up, but in the end it didn't feel as awful as I had anticipated. Goose offered me to grab onto his pack towards the end so that I could keep up better with the boys. The run was successful and we were first in the water with two good canoes.
It has been years since I have paddled in warm water lakes and this paddle was a treat. We paddled on some very nice lakes and rivers with plenty of portages over beaver dams and dried up waterfalls. Goose and Hansel are both very (and I mean very) strong paddlers and I had myself a personal motor in the back of the boat. We were in the lead for the first little while, but missed CP2 at the end of a portage so we turned around and paddled back to it so that we could press the OK button on our spot tracker to prove that we had been there. We lost 16 minutes on this mistake and ended up towards the back of the pack. From that point and on we played quite a bit of catch up. Each time we passed people we knew we got encouraging words and sometimes tips about red ribbon beer coolers hidden on the course. Despite our mistake we managed to pull out of the water in second place about 2 minutes behind the lead team, Snowpants (a.k.a PentathlonDesNeiges).
We had a pretty quick TA just ahead of Bent and his gang, The Coffee Shed, and only minutes behind Snowpants. We ran the first few km along roads and trails and hit CP4 and CP5 bang on. Most of the trek went through open terrain where we could stick to small ridges and keep our speed up. Somewhere along we passed Snowpants and moved into first place. After a short swim across some water we had two route choices. We could either take a bearing and head straight through to CP6, or we could take a slightly roundabout way but use a trail to hit the CP. As we had been unsure of the swamp conditions prior to the race we thought we might be faster by choosing the slightly longer way and running on the trail as the map showed some bigger areas of swamp. We stuck to our original plan, but unfortunately I got a pretty bad stitch on this run and I slowed us down quite a bit. I was hobbling rather than running, but towards the end of the trail I could go at a slow jog by applying a Hansel trick to my stitch. Hansel took my pack for a while and that helped me breathe much better. In retrospect, the straight route would likely have been faster for us for two reasons. The swamps probably were not as bad as we had initially thought and I likely would not have stitched up as bad if we had stuck to the bush, but there is no way to know that of course. We grabbed CP6 and then swam across a nice river to get to the next TA. A bunch of people were hanging out at this water crossing, jumping off a railroad bridge which was prohibited for use in the race. Snowpants was already in the TA when we arrived. They passed us going between CP5 and CP6. Hansel and Goose did an excellent job navigating. Hansel handled the maps while Goose was up front keeping the bearing and leading the way through the bush and swamps.
As a side note, I forgot to switch shoes after the paddle so I was doing the trek in my Speedcross 3 and found that I really liked them. I had no issues with turning my ankles and may consider trying the off road again on various terrain to see how they feel.
This section included a lot of ATV type trails. Many were muddy with big ruts, but most of it was still rideable. I think we were making okay time in here, but at one point we took the wrong trail at a fork and didn't realize until the trail died out. After a bit of searching around we turned back to the fork and corrected our mistake. But only minutes later Hansel's derailleur hanger broke. JayXC helped turn the bike into a single speed as we didn't have a spare hanger for Hansel's bike. The Coffee Shed passed us while we were just finishing up the repair but then shortly we caught up and passed them and continued on the ride. We hit some nice road and could cruise a bit better. JayXC offered Hansel a tow as he had no gears. But then we had another misfortune when Hansel's chain snapped on a climb. We were close enough to the TA that we didn't bother fixing it. Instead JayXC and I took a turn towing Hansel for the last bit into the TA. Some time was also lost at the end of this ride by turning into a couple of roads incorrectly before the TA. We arrived to this TA in 5th or 7th place. Because we still had another bike section left in the race, we took some extra time to allow Hansel to rig up another single speed before leaving the TA. I was surprised that nobody else caught up with us in this section or even in the TA.
A short bushwhack led us to a road that we followed along to CP11. Then We ran along the road (and my ‘stoopid’ stitch was back, but thanks to the Hansel trick I could still run, although slower than my normal pace). Next we had to get around to the other side of a river. We could either swim across or run back on the road to cross over a bridge. Initially we had planned to run around because we thought it might be too cool at night to risk getting wet so early in the trek, but it wasn't that cold and I thought I would do better away from the road rather than running at a slow pace with my ‘stoopid’ stitch. I think we made the right choice as I think it was the faster way across. It was a pretty wide river and it was hard to see across (my headlamp isn't that bright – may have to order a Bent light for trekking). When we were three quarters of the way across the river some cottage people came out in their boats. It was a bit freaky as it was hard to know if they saw us. I kept turning my head towards them so that they could see my light. It turns out that they saw us so no harm done. On this trek the bush was a bit tighter in a couple of spots, but most of it was still pretty easy. Hansel worked on bearings to get us to each land mark and nailed all of them. I heard that many people had trouble in here at night. A few swims and a canoe ferry had us on the final stretch to the TA where we learned that we had moved back into 2nd place.
The last bike section was pretty short and was a mix of ATV trails and roads. Hansel had to put up with his single speed but did a great job of it. JayXC helped with a tow here and there when Hansel had no gears to use. I think it was only about 18km to the TA and thankfully we had no more bike issues.
The final paddle took us through a beautiful lake just as the sun was starting to rise. There was mist over the water and I kept wondering who owns the cottages (or palaces) on the lake. The paddle only took about an hour or so and there was one final portage to get to the finish line. Goose and Hansel were portage machines. They just threw the boats on their heads and took off. Some portages throughout the race were long and technical, but it was as if it didn't face them.
At the finish line we were greeted by Bash and a bunch of race volunteers.
We finished in second place in the co-ed category (third overall) which I think was great considering the problems we had. The awards presentation was really good with some amazing prices. Thank you Salomon and Suunto for contributing to some fantastic gear and keeping our sport alive. And thank you Getawaystix and Bash for putting on such great event. You did a fantastic job!
It felt a bit strange to race with new people. It always takes a race or two, or training sessions, to figure each other out. Stuff like knowing when and what to help with (I even forgot that I had a towing system on the bike and it took me quite some time before offering to help Hansel when his chain was messed up). I also couldn’t think of much to talk about during the race which probably was a pain in the butt on the canoe sections especially. But I couldn't have asked for a nicer and down to earth team. Great bunch of guys who made me feel very welcome and comfortable on the team. And thanks to Leanne for getting me in touch with Salomon-Suunto in your absence.