Some highlights from Wilderness Traverse Race HQ:
Photo Credit: Luis Moreira
- Up on Saturday at 5:20 a.m. Asleep on Sunday at 8 p.m. No naps.
- We want Wilderness Traverse to be an entertaining race to watch. We had great volunteers to help with this year's live coverage. Huge thanks to Pete Dobos and Marie-Pierre Schippers.
- Unfortunately, our race HQ was in an area of radio silence. The radios worked in some areas of the race course but we mostly relied on the excellent cell coverage. I did more texting in 24 hours than I'd ever imagined possible! Our CP volunteers were great about texting us team numbers and times, and we managed to update the leaderboard several times per hour with new info. What we missed was the useful cross-pollination that occurs when people overhear other people's conversations.
- Uh oh, phone call from Pentathlon des Neiges early in the race. Our CP1 volunteers were still enroute to the CP when they went by. I'll bet the volunteers were among the few people who were disappointed that the race started 15 minutes early! The volunteers were able to warn a number of teams who passed them, but not all. We never want that to happen but as an fyi, these volunteers were amazing. They went on to CP5 on the trek where they stayed up until the wee hours making noise and loading fuel on their fire so that a team with an injured member could find them more easily in the dark. They kept the injured racer with them for the night, then paddled him out in the morning. Awesome people in a crisis. As far as I know, they're not racers themselves but they sure had the right skills to staff a remote CP!
- SPOT coverage was good for most teams for most of the race, and we got volunteers to help teams reset SPOTs if there were problems. Grant Killian was a hero, helping me out and answering questions. For some reason, Beowulf's SPOT track moved around in Muskoka but was never on the race course. Too bad - we enjoy watching our friends.
- As expected, the first trek separated the teams, and it was interesting to watch them spread out. Salomon Suunto leapfrogged Pentathlon des Neiges on the way to CP5, and they finished the trek just 2 minutes back. Exciting!
- But we weren't just watching the lead teams. We were impressed to see Kinetic Konnection flying across the map toward CP5, right on the heels of the lead teams. I texted CP4 since I assumed they had forgotten to send me KK's check-in time. But they hadn't seen them. Arggh... sinking feeling. I texted the CP5 volunteers to make sure KK knew. The eventual sad ending to the story was that KK had to be DQ'ed, and it upset us because they're our friends and we believed them when they said that they had gone close to the CP. But we had to make the same decision we would make if they were strangers whose nav skills we didn't know, since we needed to be consistent if a similar situation arose in future. :(
- We watched the teams at the back too - the ones in contention for the new Lanterne Rouge award. It became clear that some of them would be navigating parts of that difficult trek at night. I was cheering for them! Around sunset I got a phone call from Team 12 who had an injured racer and were moving slowly toward CP5, they hoped. Oh, and their cell phone battery was low. I could see their SPOT track from 30 minutes earlier so I asked them to describe what they'd been doing for the last 30 minutes, then asked them questions like, "Are you on a hill? Can you see a big wetland below you? OK, here's what you do... then call me back." We talked on the phone once again; meanwhile, I asked the CP5 volunteers to make things a little brighter and noisier than usual. It was a happy moment to get a text from the volunteers when they finally saw the racers' lights approaching. These remote navigation problems are some of the most rewarding things we get to work on at Race HQ!
- It was sad to see rookie Team 24 get soooo close to CP5, then decide to stop for the night and bail out in the morning. They were fairly confident of where they were, too. The cool thing was how well they handled it. They called to let us know. They weren't cold; they used their mandatory gear and started a fire. A team of veteran adventure racers stopped for awhile at night too but their emergency blankets were so old that they didn't work very well. That's a good lesson for all of us who have been racing for awhile. Time to take that emergency blanket out of the package and make sure it's OK!
- Meanwhile, poor Chetan was waiting at TA2 without camping gear. Wayne Leek gave him a sleeping bag but we hadn't expected TA2 to be such a lengthy volunteer assignment! The last team arrived around 10 a.m. on Sunday.
- Farther along the race course, we watched the lead group of teams get out of the bike trails in time to make the cut-off for the full course. It got chilly, and some parts of the race course got rain. Then came the witching hour at Race HQ. This is when teams start to drop out at different places, and we need to find them rides back to HQ before they get chilled. This year I'd offered Richard's Bullfrog van for the purpose, and Wayne drove it for much of the event. There was a time when both Bob and Wayne were out on the course driving people and equipment around, so I woke Sean in the middle of the night to ask him if he'd mind picking up Heather's team. For a guy who'd had a tough day, he was really nice about it! :)
- Watching the SPOT trackers for the lead teams on the second trek, I naturally checked out Richard's Team Shed. Well, crap - they were heading east of Hwy 400 on the way to CP11. WTF were they thinking? I pulled up a couple of different maps. To me, it looked like they would pass through private property. I watched as they did some bushwhacking. It looked like they were trying to avoid private property but I wasn't sure if they could succeed. And because it was my husband, I felt an extra obligation to report this to Bob, then remove myself from any decision making. In the end, Bob drove out there and felt they should have known. They got a 2-hour penalty and it could have been worse. This rule has grey areas since it is likely that many teams passed through private property because it wasn't marked on the map, so each case is a judgement call. And in all honesty, we weren't able to watch all the teams closely enough to see other possible infractions, so Team Shed was unlucky that I was keeping a close eye on them. Bob had answered a question about this area after the briefing but they hadn't heard it. The silly thing was that it didn't really gain them much. I felt stressed over this.
- The stress got worse later when I heard from a couple of sources that Richard had been in really rough shape at the start of the second trek. He had done the entire TA lying on the ground and had felt so bad that he wanted to drop out but his team wouldn't let him. Oh, and then the rain started, and Jack texted me from CP12 to say that he heard thunder. By that time, Team Shed had passed CP12 to the east and were continuing to head north. They could be out in the rain a long time since it could be tough to relocate in that featureless area.
- They weren't the only team we were watching on the second trek. Salomon Suunto zipped along on a perfect line and gained back a ton of time that they'd lost on the previous bike leg. TRL, who had been poised for the podium at the start of the trek, was having trouble. We could see where they were and where they had been, and we knew how confusing it would be in the dark. I was anxious for them and kept texting CP12 in hopes that they'd forgotten to let me know: "No TRL yet?" It turns out they'd stopped and waited several hours for daylight. Meanwhile Team Shed relocated on the power line and came into CP12 from the north. Their SPOT track hadn't moved for 90 minutes and I was so relieved to get that text from CP12!
- It sounded like CP12 was a fun place to hang out. I've been there, and I know how beautiful it is. Our volunteers took turns sleeping and greeting teams with guacamole and cookies. Nice!
- With the race so stretched out, we were still watching a team on the first trek after the winners had crossed the finish line. Volunteers became increasingly interested in the estimated arrival times of their final teams. My brain got foggier. Most racers were cheerful at the finish line and seemed to have enjoyed themselves. But one racer finished the short course and lashed out saying, "I can 100% guarantee that you and Bob never rode that last section". I assured him several times that we had, then finally brought up the GPS track on my Attackpoint log to show him. He then insisted that I couldn't have taken my bike with me. When I promised him that I had, he reviewed it closely against his map, looking for some way we had cheated and gone an easier way. And who knows - maybe he didn't find the right trail. We certainly didn't ride that section quickly, and I can't say I'd do it regularly for fun, but we did ride it (and hike-a-bike it) - in a late October rainstorm right before dark, then we had to ride back to Nine Mile Lake on roads since we didn't have buses to take us around! It was interesting how different the reactions were from different racers. Yes, it was tough biking but most of our racers have a pretty good approach to handling challenges.
- Eventually, the remaining racers made their way back to HQ. I was especially excited to see Will Hitchon finishing ranked in his first overnight adventure race at age 16. I'd been on Facebook with his Mom during the night, and I knew she was a little worried but very proud of him. She and his sister were there at CP9 in the middle of the night and helped to inspire him to finish.
- It was great to see so many teams finish a tough course, whether they were on the short or full course. We had a rookie team finish near the top, and our friends on Team Mountain Goats stuck it out and were the last team to cross the finish line. (Possibly unranked after completing most of the short course but there are some details to confirm.) It was cool to see Untamed Torpedoes - also a rookie team - do so well. In spite of their bad nav decision, I was proud of Richard's great result. Last year he wasn't happy at the finish line because his knee hurt so much but this year his team was in good spirits. And lots of other friends finished the race, which definitely was a tough one. I admit I was jealous!
- Then came the detailed checking of results, decisions about penalties and preparation of Coed/Open podium lists for Bob.
- During the entire weekend, I was also updating the leaderboard, posting on Facebook and monitoring tweets and Attackpoint. Marie-Pierre handled the Live Coverage updates on our website while Pete posted articles and videos to the Breathe Magazine Flashblog. Phew!
That isn't everything but it's a glimpse of life behind the scenes at HQ.