I only officially signed up one week before race start. It was my first adventure racing since the 2007 Keen Games. The majority of my training consisted of road biking, a handful of road runs, and no paddling. I spent the night before arranging the mountains of the gear, much of which I never end up using. It’s always tough, but you want to be prepared for all weather and courses.
The game plan was to keep the race simple, clean navigation and regular eating and drinking. I knew my legs wouldn’t be up for the distance, but I hoped keeping the pace in check would get me through the day (I have a bad habit of going out too hard).
I made the 1.5 hour drive from Toronto on Saturday morning. Arriving at Golden Beach Resort, it was exciting to see racers getting boats and packs ready, discussing the race course, and getting warmed up. Firstly, I went to registration to get the race maps. I was surprised to see so many different legs, and four maps. I felt slightly overwhelmed, as racing solo, you can’t bounce route choices of teammates. My plan with navigation has always been to take conservative routes and minimize the number of landmarks you need to catch. It’s tough enough to read a map when your biking 30km/hour, let alone while looking for different catching features. I was happy to see a lot of biking, as this had been the majority of my training.
The race started with a 1km neutral start, which included the first hill only 20 meters into the race. I was hoping this hill wouldn’t be a sign of things to come, as I hadn’t looked at the contours when planning the route.
The first section was approximately 15km of road, gravel, and ATV trails. The ATV trails were tough, as there was a lot of sand. I was in the lead group, which was changing composition very frequently, as all the racers tried to find the right pace. The first major hill was all sand, so I walked the majority of it. I didn’t mind, as it was a long race, so one hill won’t make the difference. Additionally, the conditions were ideal to break a bike chain, so you need to be very careful when climbing. I almost blew right past the first CP, which was about 20 meters off the trail. Luckily there was a team of 4 yelling at each other, so I had looked up.
The second section was a 5km orienteering section. The route was essentially a circle, and relatively straight forward. I ate a whole Clif bar during this section, as I’ve always found eating the easiest during running stages.
The third section was a 5km mountain bike section along the hydro cut. I struggled to peddle through the rolling, sandy hills. I was also treated to watching a couple crashes, as racers struggled to bike in the sand (no injuries!).
The fourth section was a 5km mountain bike orienteering section. The two teams in front of me took the first single track path, but I elected to stay on the double track. I got nervous after 5 minutes, as the trail snaked around, which wasn’t matching the map. This aspect of racing solo is the toughest, as you’re alone in the woods, and are completely second guessing yourself. I stayed true to the path, and made it to the CP before the other teams I had left with. It was a nice win! The remainder of the single track was a lot of fun, as the trails were dry and twisted through the forest.
The fifth section was a 10km mix of road and gravel. I actually enjoy the road sections of adventure race, as it gives you some relief of constantly making decisions, and gives you the chance to turn the brain off for a couple minutes and enjoy the country side.
The sixth section was another 5km orienteering section. I chose to do the route counter clockwise, which was the opposite of most other racers. I think this was the right decision, as the approach to the last couple CPs would be easier. Again, I think this was the right decision, as I left the stage ahead of the majority teams I arrived with.
The last stage was a 5 km paddle. I was pumped to be on the last stage, and still part of the lead group. As soon as I got into the boat, I knew I was in trouble. I had no energy to paddle, so every stroke was a battle. Soon the other boats left me in their wake. I wanted to quit right there. I ate a gel, which almost instantly gave me enough energy to keep moving. I was looking back to see if anyone would catch me. I managed to fight the ‘quit monster’ and make it through the leg. When I got out of the boat, my legs were toast, and I hobbled to the finish line.
Overall, I was happy with my race and had stuck to the game plan. Only about 2 minutes of navigation errors, I had eaten well, and I didn’t kill myself going fast out of the gates. I finished second in the open solo male, which was a nice surprise.
I really enjoyed the race. Organization, pre-race instructions, and volunteers were great. The race course was a good balance of challenge and entertainment. The legs were a good distance, as you never really got tired of one discipline, as you transition relatively frequently. I didn’t enjoy all of the sand of the bike legs, but the sand did soak up all the rain in the week prior, so it wasn’t too muddy. Looking forward to next year!