Every year at GHO's adv runs I say we'll take it easy off the line and sure enough there I am getting caught up in the adrenaline of the start and red-lining it from the word "go". So as I have exhibited and come to accept my tendency to be an idiot in these long race starts it was agreed upon to let TRex and 'Bent set the pace off the line for WT. ...what do we do? ...hammer it (not redlining mind you) but certainly not doddling off the line and find ourselves jumping into the bush with all the other favorites.
After last year's WT trek experience I realize that GetawayStix really focuses on designing a true navigational race course and so long as he continues this I will continue to toe the line. I figured with the stellar field in this one that we'd likely be insight of those teams that came out of the bush with us for the duration of the course. So I really wanted to put a stamp on this section, however that stamp fell apart; atleast in my mind. My teamates may think and say what they want, but in my own reflection I felt I let us down significantly ...making atleast 90mins worth of errors over the trek.
Start - CP1
First error came shortly after starting the formal bushwhacking ...purposely heading NW on a bearing for a set amount of time, then turning west in the low drainage area (location "A"), eventually hitting a narrow channel crossing I'd seen on the satellite image, skirting a wetland and then finally t-boning the trail just north of CP1 (this intended route is shown in blue). It was a risky move with the chance of being too far north and having to do extra westerly distance if we overshot the 90deg trail corner north of CP1. However, after having reviewed the satellite imagery for the area I figured we'd only have one potential swim (should we miss the crossing I'd seen in the imagery) by staying north of the line. So while on this initial NW push when my mind started to get those twitches to turn left I asked the crew their estimates on our pace to that point. Got a 2kph and a 4kph, so we average at 3kph; however, my spidy senses were tingling and thought we were on a faster pace (should have listened). So before we knew it we hit a significant and identifiable wetland at Location "B" ...which confirm it was actually 4kph. No worries, readjust, swim the channel rather than waste time picking around it and push hard to recover the 8-10min error ...gotta say that this one was worth it though, for as we swam, not 100m south of us crossing in the same direction was bull moose! Beautiful view of it snorting as it swam carrying its huge rack. He seemed to be headed in the same direction so we debated climbing aboard and having him shuttle the team further west; he probably wouldn't have even noticed.
Eventually we hit just south of the 90deg corner in the trail ...it was severely close (phew!) and did the quick out and back to grab the hunting camp's name and getting a sense of where we stood with all the top teams coming out of CP1.
CP1 - CP2
A clean leg on this one, opting for further distance on the trail rather than jumping into the bush before the S-curves and approaching the CP from the bottom of the lake; which we saw a team head off into the bush as we came from behind on the trail. Not sure which team that was but I'd be surprised if the southerly approach was faster ...certaily couldn't have been drier as we stayed dry this whole leg jumping in just south of a wetland to the west of the trail and sticking to the high ground all the way to the tip of the lake and then skirting around onto the trail and in.
CP2 - CP3
After tagging CP2 in 8th and knowing that this meant very little at this stage, we booked it north on the trail with everyone else. My aim was to turn left at the high ground (Location "C") and book it to the unavoidable channel swim at Location "D". By the sounds of crashing bush on our left as we pushed north on the trail it seems most teams near us turned left a few hundred yards too early. For we stuck it out right to the high ground and sure enough ...ATV trail bang on our bearing headed NW. We pushed it here with the sounds of teams on either side of us crashing parallel through the woods, while we jogged. I was certain in my mind that this trail, although way old, would take us to the channel and likely continue on the otherside of the channel only to hook up with those GPS'd by GetawayStix. Sure enough a few minutes later we found ourselves facing the channel swim. A few hundred meters to our left we could see a team crossing the channel right where the channel connected to Pauper Lake. However, I could not locate the continuation of the faint ATV track we'd just left on the other side of the swim. Rather than bushwhack down the channel to pickup the GPS'd trails I figured we should continue west and pickup the GPS'd trails in front of us; besides we'd have the sounds of this other team we had a visual on to help guide us in a few minutes. Seemed logical to me as if you're going to be slowed by bushwhacking ...might was well progress in the right direction.
...a few minutes later of traveling west, when I though for sure we should have interested the GPS'd trail my spiddy senses started to go and I let the team know I wasn't at ease anymore. Another minute and suddenly a team comes crashing in from our left ...likely the team we saw crossing the channel. Yellow snowpants Benoit and I came face to face ...locked antlers and had an ex-national team orienteer's throw down in the forest ...hmmm, maybe not; actually we looked at each other and kept pushing west for the trails. Finally we popped out and booked it to the right; this would be the one and only time that the Shed led WT 2011. For sure enough my spiddy senses we still not happy and with good reason. After passing a small hunting hide (Location "E") the trail was very evidently headed in a 180 from where we wanted to go. Turn around, back to the hide and ditch the trail in favor of a bearing west. The only problem was that my speed miscalculation from earlier in the race had me second guessing how far west we'd pushed. When we hit the south end of a significant lake I wasn't sure whether it was infact Otterhead or Little East or even Blackberry. Assuming that we'd crossed the GPS'd N-S trail and rather than risk a push west with no catching features to stop us I decided to consider this lake to potentially be Little East Lake and convinced the team that the time invested to travel up the east shore line a short distance was worth it to confirm by spotting the incoming trail and cabin. We'd made it a significant distance up the eastern side of the lake with no cabin, nor trail, plus we could see a team on the far shore looking around before slipping back into the bush towards the west. By now the shape of the lake was also more revealed to me and I was certain we were on Otterhead! ...down another 30mins, but back on track again, grrrrr.
Retraced to the south end of Otterhead and pushed hard west through the nice woods before finally popping out on the N-S GPS'd trail. A right and a left and boom hunting camp and the south end of Little East Lake. Stopped for a refill of water as we all ran dry along the trail to the hunting camp. While filling we could hear a team crashing the bush on the western shore and as we got up to leave in came Running Free. I choose to ignore them and was planning to push the western shoreline of Little East to pick up the portage connecting Little East and Big East, then have a quick trail run for 1km and a short coast into CP3. Off we charge into the bush, us leading the way for Running Free. What seemed too early I saw some flagging tape directing a subtle trail westerly; given how much faster we were moving in the bush than anticipated all morning and Running Free right on our tails I decided to hook left and follow the flagging tape assuming this was indeed the portage trail. Hindsight is remarkable, for if I even took a few moments to think about it, it should have crossed my mind that the connecting portage would be a significant trail considering the presence of the hunting camp on Little East. So sure enough as we head west we run out of flagging tape and I start to veer North-northwest to compensate. RF is more or less mimicking our moves and despite the evident contour changes I seem to be continuing west ...eventually coming out to a channel that needed wading across (Location "H"). So I assumed we were infact just south of the CP at the little inlet off the east side of Big East Lake. Despite this channel not being open water and almost a full 90deg to the direction on the map we and RF pushed across without slowing to think about it. Spiddy senses are now just screaming at me to wake up and fix what is so clearly wrong! I laided out my cards and casually questioned to Harper whether he too felt we were compounding each other's problems and conducting a minor battle here that was potentially damaging each other's race. We chose to work together and correct our wrong to the tune of another lost 40min grrr. These petty battles are really ridiculous and I take full responsibility for not just ignoring RF's presence in favor of continued smart navigating.
At CP3, we were not almost 55min back of snowpants and clearly they had picked up the GPS'd trail waaaaay back at Location "E" and booked it through. Stupid me letting my team down!
CP3 - CP4
Rather than bushwhack return to the portage and then bushwhack around the north end of Little East, I choose to beat it out of the CP before either RF or Outeractive (who also arrived simultaneously to us) could join us, for fear of doing the same thing again. This time I kept it simple with a straight shot to the ATV trail (intending to catch a glimpse of Little East on our right as we passed; never saw it). This being the last of the bush and a straight shot, Corner and I pushed the team a little bit and might have gassed TRex and 'Bent a bit. T.Rex was awfully quite on the trail into the CP which concerned me, so gave her a tow rope to play with and she bounced back incredibly on the subsequent bike leg.