Verb / stôrm: Move angrily or forcefully in a specified direction
Generally races are all the same. Start at point A, and proceed to point B as fast as possible… What happens in between these points is what defines the race, and challenges the participants. It’s where memories are made, bonds are developed and conclusions are imminent.
On May 15th, 2011 I raced the 10th anniversary of the renowned adventure race Storm the Trent. Although the distance I raced was the shorter distance of the bunch, I still found myself challenged and pushing my personal limits to achieve the best possible time. As with most adventure races, this race consisted of 3 disciplines: A Trail Running/Orienteering jaunt, a Mountain Biking section, and a paddling portion. For the most part, I’ve done these races before and knew what I was getting myself into. Then race day came, as did hardcore winds, blistering cold temperatures, more rain than I care to write about, and white caps the size of… well… really large white caps! After only recently getting the feeling back in a few fingertips (from what I’m sure was frostbite I got from the Paris to Ancaster race a few weeks prior), I certainly wasn’t looking forward to racing in another cold rainy mud-fest event. But alas, the weather will be what it wants to be, and as we all know one of the elements of being a weekend warrior is accepting to deal with whatever Mother Nature throws at us come the day of our events. So I packed up my gear and headed to the site.
The race itself was held for the second time consecutively at the Golden Beach Resort, on the south shore of the stunning Rice Lake (located just 90 minutes north of Toronto). For an early season race, there really is no place like the Kawartha’s for the welcomed beautiful spring colours and crisp groomed trails.
Once I arrived on site, the registration process was extremely quick and painless. The 1st stop was race kits; the 2nd stop was your race jerseys and participant collector item (which this year was a great mesh duffle bag for your dirty post race clothing). 3rd stop was for the race dignitaries to conduct a mandatory gear check… once through all three stops, it was off to study the maps! With Adventure Races, if the route isn’t already defined then it is up to you to figure out a direction to go to collect all of the check points needed. Choosing the proper route is crucial to developing a good game plan and most importantly having a great race. It seemed like only 10 minutes of gawking at the maps went by before the pre race meeting commenced, which in actual fact it was ¾ of an hour. During the race briefing racers were informed that the paddling section had been cancelled for the day due to the rough and lousy conditions, this sucked for me as it was my maiden voyage for my new kayak… all well, there’ll be plenty of time this season to get out on the water with it.
With the paddle portion of the race, participants were buzzing about what the race director had in mind for the third leg of the race – another run section perhaps? That seemed to be what the crowd felt was in store. After the briefing we were given a few more minutes for last second gear adjustments, and then it was a nice big group ride to the start area. We started the race on foot once the starting horn screamed, and I quickly made my way to the front of the group up to the highest of the 4 checkpoints we had to collect. It was really a free for all as everyone went different directions. I felt I was moving at a moderate pace but was very careful not to push it too hard this early in the race, as we still had quite a ways to go. Once I crested the mile long hill, I captured the checkpoint using my little key fob that was supplied and I started heading back down the hill towards a swampy area. I reached the swamp and halted as I scanned the immediate area for the 2nd checkpoint which according to the map had been in this vicinity. After slopping around for a few moments, I caught a glimpse of it and made my way over to it. 2 down, 2 more to go. The final two checkpoints were fairly straight forward and I collected them with ease, as I then headed towards my bike.
As I got to the transition area, I noticed there weren’t many people there. I caught a glimpse of a team of two, but that was it. I picked up my bike and headed down the road. The bike section consisted of a heap of gravel and paved roads before we made our way into a big section of single-track trails. Once in the single-track, we had 6 checkpoints points to capture while on our bikes before heading back. I chose to ride my newest mountain bike this race which was my hardtail 2×10 29er, and I’m glad I did as there were a great amount of sandy sections on the trails.
During the bike section, I kept playing cat and mouse with a team of two men. I’d pass them on the bike, and then make a wrong turn or read the map incorrectly to which they’d pass me before I’d catch up to them again. This happened so often that we were kidding with each other at every pass! At one mandatory checkpoint I had asked the marshall how many people were ahead of me, and she said I was lucky enough to be the race leader… good Grief. Ordinarily for people this is a good thing, but for me I prefer to be up front but following closely in a race. It’s sort of a stressful situation for me knowing that everyone in the race is chasing me down for my current position; it’s also a time where I tend to make a lot of really dumb mistakes. I took off after the 6 Mountain Bike checkpoints at a comfortable pace and had found the first two fairly easy. For the third checkpoint I made a left turn where I should have made a right and spent and endless amount of time searching in the wrong direction for the marker. I must have been searching the wrong way for at least 10 minutes before I backtracked and realized what I had done. A sickening feeling came over me as I saw imprints of more than one bike tire on the trail system I was following; I knew my lead was shot. I continued at my own pace catching and passing a couple of teams, I still hadn’t found the team of two men that was right behind me going into the single-track… that was until the final marker where I saw them – I had caught them! Once I passed them I knew the lead was mine once again and I cranked harder than ever through the trail system back out to the main tract. What was concerning is that I didn’t hear the other two guys at all. I pedalled and kept looking behind me, but there was nothing. Once I made it to the exit of the bike/orienteering portion, it was back onto the dirt and paved roads where I knew I could easily put some good time between us… That was until I noticed a couple of tire tracks in a mud section! They were still ahead of me! I looked at the map and noticed that there was a small section that involved a small bit of bushwhacking, but would take you out to a main road quicker – they must have taken that. Dooooh! My heart started racing as I cranked as hard as possible as I headed back towards the finishing area. It’s at this point that the wind had really started picking up and made cycling on the open main roads BRUTAL. I turned a corner to see about a kilometer up a head two cyclists… it had to be them so I charged. I was able to close the gap a bit, but not catch them. We entered into the finishing area pretty well together but with them in the lead. As we entered, the marshal informed us that there was another running section added to the race in lieu of the paddling portion… Wicked! One last shot to win this thing! I docked my bike, threw my helmet onto the ground and took off in my biking shoes! They had a board up indicating where one more checkpoint was located that we had to find before coming back through the finishing chute. I looked it over, got a general bearing and took off after it. My body was bagged from battling the wind on the bike trying to wheel these guys in, but I pushed on. After running for 5 or so minutes I climbed the hill where I thought the marker was located, only to find nothing but straw grass!! Confused, I looked around frantically for it but couldn’t find it. Then, in the distance, I noticed the team of two men standing on a dirt mound with their key fob checking into the final check point. They had reached it first. I made my way over to the check point, punched in, and ran towards the finishing chute. I crossed the line seconds behind the team of two where they were standing to greet me. They truly deserved to win this race.
I finished the race in 2:09:55 which was 2nd overall and 1st in the Solo division. Despite being directionally challenged this race, I was very happy with both my efforts and the outcome of the race. I gave it everything I had and felt I did very well. My next Adventure Race of the season is the Ultimate XC in Quebec in June; I think I may work on my orienteering skills before then!!