CNYO 2011 - Brookfield Horse Trails
Diary of a Rogaine
One Month before - Jason Urckfitz will do the CNYO rogaine with me - yay. I hope we can work together for 24 hours in spite of our language barrier. (He talks about "Fahrenheit" and "miles", spells "rumour" with only one "u", and lives near some place called "Rachester, NY", pronounced similar to "ratchet".)
Two Weeks before - Jason wins the inaugural Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race by an hour. I finish another 40 minutes back. Yeesh, what was I thinking? Nervous.
One Week before - Note to self: Being the assistant RD of a sold-out 30-hour adventure race is not a "weekend off". I do virtually no training for seven days and get only three hours of sleep in 60 hours on Wilderness Traverse weekend. I'm well prepared for our rogaine - if sleep deprivation training is all that counts. Now feeling nervous *and* guilty.
Two Days before - Looks like Hurricane Irene will hit New York on Saturday night. I pack an extra layer.
The Night before - I stay at the Urckfitz' home a few hours from the event site. Jason and I go for a twilight paddle on Hemlock Lake followed by yummy dinner and wine with his family, then bedtime at a reasonable hour and I actually sleep. So relaxing... I should do this before every race!
Early Sat. Morning - Jason fires up the espresso machine and makes two vanilla lattes for the road. So far, my teammate gets a solid A+ on all the important criteria; I don't even care whether he owns a compass.
Before Pre-Race meeting - Great to see Team GHO Slo, Jim and Sue Waddington.
We lay out mapping supplies and check our backpacks a final time. Last night I transferred my stuff into a smaller pack than I normally use for rogaining - a men's Salomon Raid Revo 20. It's a tight squeeze but I hope it will be more comfortable for running. No camera, same as last year. As designated team slowpoke, I don't need extra weight. Later on when the weather turns hellish, I will regret this decision. Those photos would be great to have.
Jason and I talked about rogaine route planning last night. We're both engineers who enjoy messing with numbers and our approach is similar with one significant difference. He normally races on speedy teams who set out to clear the course so they don't need to analyze which controls to drop. This time it'll be different. I pull out my 1:30,000 string and propose a reprise of the 70 km straight-line-distance-between-controls plan that seemed to be working for Tim Grant and me at last year's CNYO Rogaine until Tim's Achilles got fed up.
10:45 Pre-Race Meeting - Tim and his regular partner Audrey Kelly are looking strong. The Milton Basement Racers did Wilderness Traverse last weekend and Tim's main goal for this event is to win the Trifecta Cup, CNYO's prize to the top overall competitor in their three 2011 rogaines - Snowgaine, Regaine and Rogaine. (He succeeds.) Tim and I want to see each other's team on the podium tomorrow - but in a different sequence of course, so we exchange a little trash talk. :)
11 a.m. Map Time - We tape the three maps together and calculate points totals for different areas. Thanks to Stina Bridgeman for posting the map. Click magnifying glass to zoom.
The southwest quadrant near the Hash House is rich in points - not surprising since there are also 6-hour and 12-hour events. I usually head far from the Hash House early in a rogaine but this time the farther controls also appear easier on average than the nearby controls. We want those southern points and we'd rather get them in daylight while we're fresh. So we'll start with a clockwise loop south of the Hash House then head north near sunset.
A river runs north-south in the northeast part of the map. After roughly laying out my 70 km string (there isn't time to do it properly), we plan a route that excludes the controls east of that river. Less than half an hour after getting the maps, we have to seal them up and rush to get ready. I love rogaine route planning and strategy and would like another hour but c'est la vie.
12 noon - Go! After a play-scuffle with Tim off the start, I dive into the bush after Jason. We grab the highest-value control on the map (89) down the hill then skirt a small lake to 44. My teammate moves quickly and as I scramble to keep up, I take two swan dives over hidden logs along the lakeshore. Luckily, he doesn't notice. My hair is full of shredded weeds now - lovely. We revise our plan within the first half hour, deciding to skip the lowest-value control 33 and go straight to 76. With 20/20 hindsight and an unfolded map, we should have gone 86/76.
We usually run downhill on good trails and occasionally on flats. I worry about keeping up but Jason patiently lets me set the pace for the entire race so I still have energy remaining at the finish line. To my surprise, we never crack out the tow rope.
Early afternoon - I half-inhale a large insect that stings my throat. As we bash along, I spend 30 minutes coughing, choking and wondering whether my throat will swell completely shut. Will Jason have to use my bladder hose and mini Swiss Army Knife to perform an emergency tracheotomy?
37-43 then a long road hike/jog to 56 in a field. On this map, open fields can be anything from low grass to chest-deep tangled goldenrod and thorns - more often the latter. We tend to move faster through the forest beside a field. I look down and the left leg of my tights is torn open from knee to ankle. I thought Jason was brave to wear shorts and gaiters with his knees showing and now my bare calf will be exposed to poison ivy, thorns and ticks for the next 20 hours. Argghh. Jason stops to tape a toe.
79-67-49. Our feet get completely soaked at 49 (hydro pole in marsh) so blisters or trench foot may be an issue later. The next water stop always seems too close or too far on our chosen route and we're told that some springs marked on the map may not be running. If I'd worn my bigger pack, I could have carried a 3-liter bladder or an extra bottle. Doh! I am drinking a little less than I want but I only run out once. Although I'm eating well, I back off at times since there's no point eating without drinking. It's a hot day and I feel a little spaced out but I'll be fine when the sun gets lower.
Mid-to-late afternoon - 86 then 69. Confusing - the trail has been altered by logging. It's the first serious puzzle that we have to solve and I'm very glad to have two experienced navigators on the team. We didn't talk beforehand about how to work together - we're just doing it. We both follow the map and agree on safe attackpoints and routes as we approach each control. Whoever happens to be in front leads the way and each of us tries to spot the control first. Because we're both staying on top of the nav, small errors rarely turn into bigger errors, and when one person's concentration lapses briefly (as is inevitable over 24 hours), the other person usually catches it. We both watch the compass and estimated distance. It's all good. We find everything we look for.
66 (painful climb) - 48. Our first water stop on a hot day. Bliss. It's been 18 km straight-line-between-controls and 27 km actual route. It's only 5 controls till the next water so we can drink all we want. We are moving quickly on our planned route and will have to add some controls that we'd planned to skip - the opposite of what usually happens in a rogaine. The decision point will come later.
63-81-46 (small dry pond, tough to find in dense woods) - 72. It's getting dark in the forest but the next control is at a horse camp so we'll get our lights out there. We just have a 700-800 m bushwhack, possibly crossing a field. (Private property is not out of bounds but we must use discretion and not intrude on anyone.) Then it's 1 km on paved road to the camp.
Dusk - We emerge by a well-kept field and plan to walk around its edge until we notice the electric fence. OK, we'll follow the outside of the fence - the road is just 300 m away. We get caught in thick alders and tangled weeds over our heads. Progress is painfully slow. At one point, it's impossible to move forward and we drop into the creek until it gets blocked with vegetation too. Argghh. We should have stayed in the woods but there's no going back.
The farmer sees us and calls over to ask if we're lost. Fortunately, he is friendly and finds our dilemma amusing. He did orienteering in the military. He explains which wires are electrified. I touch them all and get a good shock from every one. From a distance, he must not realize that we are beyond the outer fence. As he walks toward us, we climb into the creek and duck under a low road bridge to get closer. We meet at a place where he can hold the wires apart for us to step through and he walks with us to the road. So lucky he is a nice guy and not using us for target practice.
We walk toward 82 having lost 15 minutes, a lot of energy and a wee bit of pride. We get our lights out, pump and purify water, and replenish food. I switch my brimmed hat for a Buff. I miss my larger Salomon pack with its handy, organized pockets. I need to find a way to attach my NightLightning battery to my headstrap instead of carrying it awkwardly in my pack. Because I'm fussing with gear, this stop takes me too long. Stina Bridgeman and Anne Schwartz, whom we've been leapfrogging for several hours, arrive after us and sail out efficiently. Coming on the heels of the Great Electric Fence Caper, my inefficiency here bumps up my stress level for the next half hour. Fortunately, Jason remains focused and stops me from making a wrong turn on the simple road walk to 77, the control guarded by friendly horses.
20:30 - Long road hike to 78. Sore feet, both of us. I'm finished with running on pavement - only trails, dirt roads or shoulders from now on. We revise our route for the northeast quadrant. We've got time to do a lot more than we'd planned. It's another long road hike to 62. We trade stories to stay alert - "how did you meet your spouse?" and that sort of thing. As we head to 52, a team jogs toward us looking strong. It's Tim and Audrey - great to see friendly faces. From then on, we see "MBR" and times written on all the intention sheets and we try to reconstruct their route in our minds.
61-71-39. (Skip 35.) After the nasty bushwhack to 39, we head east to an overgrown north-south road. With our revised route, we should have gone south to 58 but we go north to get 74. (We skip 51 - the highest value control we dropped.) The map shows a Y-junction of major trails but our side of the Y is not there. We retrace our steps, analyze forest boundary signs and make forays into the bush. Nada. Well, crap. The alternative is 700 m of bushwhacking (which can be nasty) and we'll need to aim off to hit a road or we'll be in the bush even longer. We start and within 150 m, I notice a reflector way off to my right. It's the trail. Happy dance!
At 74, we discuss crossing the marshy area and river to 84. Either of us would do it if the other person really wanted to, but I suspect we're both relieved when the other person doesn't push it. We head north to 53 - a conifer veg corner by an overgrown creek. As expected, it's tough to find with the conifers mixed in with other thick vegetation.
Sun. 1 a.m. - Northeast quadrant. Climb to 59. Skip 42 - probably should have gotten it. Enroute to 57, the spitting rain becomes a downpour. Raincoats on. Dry socks and foot cream for me, and I feel like a new person. Goretex pants on before 68. The rain is ridiculous now. We meet Francis Falardeau's Laurentian Rogaine team coming toward us and they are not running either. I keep trying unsuccessfully to clear my glasses until Jason explains that the world is foggy, not my eyes. We plan to do a shortcut bushwhack down a hillside to 84 but it's steep and wet and we procrastinate until our road hits the main road. This makes it easier for pace counting - although we also have a secret weapon in Jason's eagle eyes which can spot the faintest "herd paths" (aka "elephant paths" where I come from) where other teams have gone.
As an aside, although I don't have photos of my own, here is what the storm looked like elsewhere in the northeast U.S. This gives you a good idea of what it was like out there.
4 a.m. - This is our low point. Jason is sleepy, we're soaked and cold, and we've got a long road hike to 83. (Should have gone 40-54-83. Skipping 38 was OK though.) As rain lashes us, I serenade my poor teammate with "wake up" tunes including "Singing in the Rain". As we enter Brookfield, I spot a school with covered doorways and we huddle away from the rain and wind to drink our much-anticipated Starbucks canned double espresso. Heading further into town, the convenience store has just opened up. We review our maps and drip on their floor. The owners laugh and roll their eyes. We still have plenty of time but we haven't tackled the northeast section as efficiently as we could have. We'll do an out-and-back to get 54 and 58, then start heading back.
6 a.m. - It's morning and we only need lights in the woods now. I'm wearing two polypro layers and a toque but Jason is still wearing his original jersey and must be chilled in the heavy rain. Feeling bad for him, I do more running over the next few hours than I did all day yesterday. Although my feet are painful and blistered, the rest of my body feels good - and hey, we get to the controls faster. We put the lights away after 58 and are finally heading home. After 64, we get the first major gust of wind to go along with our heavy rain. We exchange glances and laugh. How could we ever explain our crazy hobbies?
Down to 47 and up to 41. Rivers are running down roads and trails. Near 41, we get the answer to what happens when a tree falls in the forest. The wind isn't constantly high but when it hits, it is wild. Treetops swirl. Sometimes I just stop and stare in disbelief. It gets better in valleys but high areas are scary. We're both chilly now. We look at the map and decide it's not worth the risk to get the 34-pointer next on our list. However, we've left high value controls 73, 88 and 87 till the end and they are kind of, sort of on the way to the Hash House so we soldier on. We meet the Nightcrawlers, Eric and Mary Smith, at 88. After 87, we can't get out of the woods fast enough - although we know we won't be able to nap in Jason's truck while it is parked under a tree. We finish more than an hour early, content to leave points on the table.
11 a.m. - We're greeted by friendly smiles and CNYO's usual variety of hot post-race food. We've earned 2583 points out of 2856. The Laurentian Rogaine male team was first with 2667 points. The mystery is Tim and Audrey, who aren't back yet. Turns out they're about 40 points behind us so we're 1st Coed and 2nd overall. I know Wilderness Traverse wasn't the best taper for MBR but I'm happy with our result. It's an all-Canadian podium - if we count Jason as an honourary Canadian, that is. :) The amazing Nightcrawlers win the Masters category and finish 3rd Coed with 2076 points - the only other team over 2,000.
13:00 - Nap. Sandwich. Latte. Shower. Long drive. When podcasts make me sleepy, I belt out Broadway tunes to stay awake.
Measured our route with string:
Straight line distance between controls = 65 km
Actual route (not including weaving around) = 102.5 km
Sun. 21:30 - Home and safe. Thanks to Mark and Barb Dominie for all their hard work to put on this event. And thanks to Jason Urckfitz, an awesome teammate in a hurricane. :)