The Raid the Hammer is a classic point-to-point adventure race in Hamilton. Teams can choose between the Raid or the Half Raid. Considering that our entire team of three, which also included my husband and my brother, were all rookies, we opted for the half. I figured things could really get nasty in the bush and kept it short for the sake of family unity. The half raid is a 12-14 km course through the wilds of Hamilton with various checkpoints along the way. Trail running/trekking, navigation and team work are all key components to a successful race. As it turns out, we were pretty good at two out of three!
Just like past years, maps were not given until kit pick up one hour before the race. This was the 50th running of the Raid and to commemorate the anniversary, the organizers had some surprises in store for us. To make the navigation even more difficult, the maps provided were from up to 25 years ago. A lot has changed in Hamilton in that time! We spent that hour studying the maps, locating the checkpoints and planning our route. Soon enough, it was time to board the buses and make our way to the start line. Luckily, the weather was cooperative. There was a strong wind but with the sunshine and temperatures above zero, it didn’t feel too bad once we were running.
Our inexperience at navigation was evident at the very first checkpoint. I think we were a little complacent and figured that we could just follow the crowds to the first point. This didn’t happen and the groups dispersed on the trails very quickly. We ended up overshooting the checkpoint and had to circle back which doubled the time it should have took. No matter. We learned our lesson and managed to easily navigate through the most of the race from that point.
There race had some steep ascents and descents but that just made things interesting. I took a couple of tumbles, both on flat land and embarrassingly, one involved tripping over a checkpoint flag. I went home with more than a few war wounds and my pride slightly bruised.
The scenery through the Kings Forest was spectacular. I have already decided a return trip to Albion Falls is in order when we can slow down and appreciate it fully. The race was kept interesting with different sections including the “sprint and scramble” through the sports field and “hold the line” along the escarpment where there were mystery checkpoints. We managed these sections quite well and made up considerable time after a slow start.
The wheels fell off the cart at the last few checkpoints. After stumbling upon what we thought was checkpoint 11, we spent the next 30 minutes circling around trying the find checkpoint 12. Finally, after some bushwhacking, lots of head scratching and a few choice words, we finally found it. From that point on, it was smooth sailing through open fields and residential streets to the finish line.We were pretty proud of our 2.5 hour time and the fact that we worked well as a team.
At the finish (after getting some pretty sweet post race nourishment from the complimentary food trucks), I handed in our key fob which was scanned at every checkpoint. Much to our surprise, the race official indicated that we had missed checkpoint 11 and had to give us a 30 minute penalty. Turns out, we found checkpoint 12 twice. The first time mistakenly identifying it as checkpoint 11. That explains our utter confusion in trying to navigate! Since we approached 12 from the opposite direction the second time, we didn’t even recognize it.
Regardless, we had a blast doing this race and screwing up just makes us want to come back and do it again.