Well were out of the woods…It was an adventure for sure and maybe not so much a race for our team. Sometimes it goes sometimes it doesn’t.
I don’t even know if I can describe you what an adventure race is and how nasty hard they are especially the long ones like Untamed…Its part of a world cup series first of all and if you win you get a spot at worlds champ. Its 4 days…ok 3and 1/2 for the best teams in the world and more like 4 +days for the others. You sleep when you want or when you can, you carry a bag thats about 25 pounds all the time, your feet are wet 2 min after the start and for the whole duration of the event, you push your bike through the woods where there is sometimes NO trail, you bush walk through nasty terrain with your paddles sticking out of your bag, pack raft on rivers , windy lakes, try to run when you can, mt bike 200km or more, walk 140km or more…and add on top of that canoeing, ropes sections, sometimes swimming with your pack in swamp, rafting and Oh more bushwalking!
It was my first one. I’ve done a 3 day stage race event in 2009, a 24h one in 2013 and dislocated my shoulder in the last one I attempt in May. The teams are built like this: 3 men and a woman. You can do it in any other combination but then you are not allowed to compete in the top category.My 3 teammates have done a couple of Untamed and every time there is something that you forgot or could improve. This year was no difference.
We started on Wednesday morning the 18 at 10;30 am with a short prologue to separate the teams a little before starting a long leg of canoeing and trekking. We started off really well and we got to the end of the prologue right behind one of the best team in the world. We got in the canoes and started to paddle our way 7km to a point where we would stop the boat and start a trek. The lake was very winding and as you know I dont have much tallent for anything boating! We got passed by 8 teams and ended up in 10th. We rushed up the Mt where a rope section of rappel was waiting for us.The bummer part was that we got stopped at least 1h there because it wasn’t very well organized and taking the teams down the steep rock sections was very slow. If you got there in the top 3 you actually got a great advantage…but everybody else got stuck. Then the gap between the teams were already big. Anyway, we made our was back to the canoe and paddle to another PC 4km, another trek and back into the canoe for the last section 26 km of wind , waves and sore arms:)…we got to the T1 just at around 8pm, wet and cold.
The moral was good at that point sitting in 10th. The next leg was a mt bike leg longue of 130km total. But thats an average. You get lost you end up with 160km! Dan our team leader and navigator was great and always got us to the PC right on. That section was pretty smooth except for our sore bum! Half way through the mountain bike we had a chance to stop and take a nap at a lodge (1h). At that point it was an individual orienteering section where each member go out on their own to get the PC’s, the others nap. Awesome pancakes were waiting for us from the lodge and I got a chance to sneak in a shower! Just before we got back on the bike as a team we had to do a conservative project that consisted in racking 100 pieces of wood. Back on the Bike for another 65-75 k.
T2; leg of trekking and pack rafting. The wind was so strong at that point that inflating the small raft became a question mark. We saw teams get down to the lake and turning around to get to the PC on foot which was WAY longer…We did the same. But after getting to the first one on foot, we bush walk for a while and decided to try the water. Its was possible but terribly hard to move forward unless you had body builders arms! Martin and Dan made it pretty much in a straight line struggling in the head wind. Doum and I had to do a detour to protect ourselves from the wind and cut across. The start of the river that we were looking for was right there but very shallow so even pack rafting was difficult. We walked on slippery rocks trying to make our way to the next lake that we had to cross…its was already getting dark on thursday and our body got really cold. At the lake we decide to go on foot the catch that PC. Crossing the water would of been faster but running in the woods was a better idea to warm us up. The next section was going to be a tough one especially after the water section. Couple more PC’s to get before 3 mt summit where trails only existed for one of the PC…We talked for a minute and decided to finish 2 more PC’s that were before the Mt summit one’s and take a break of a couple hour in our 2 person tent…3 of us in there in our not warm sleeping bag (its not because it says sleeping bag that its warm..) and our survival blanket. We all slept but the cold made us very uncomfortable and the night not so restful… Back on track around 5am friday toward the start of the hiking trail that would take us to the first summit. At that point my feet that I had tried to tape were not responding very well and blisters staring to get really bad. I stopped a couple of times trying to get myself somewhat confortable but I got no luck. After another 12km of walking I stopped sat down and looked at my feet. Not good. What ever I did didn’t work. Beginner? newbie? didn’t do the right thing? I felt stupid because everything else was ok. Unfortunatly I decided to stop and let the guys go on on their own. That decision was hard but sometimes you have to be smart and for me to be hurt for weeks after I just can’t deal with that anymore. I sat down on the side of the road looking at the guys walking away happy that I had told them it was ok to continu without me. They worked so hard for this. I bundle up in my survival blanket sitting on the gravel waiting for the emergency truck to come and pick me up… I swear I saw some moose eyes right there behind me looking at me, hiding…I was sitting in his track but really I think it was my imagination at that point. My eyes could barely stay open. We are still in LEG 3….The guys entered the forets at about noon on friday and came out at 9pm. Buswalking through tight rough rugged forets with black flies and mosquitos….I had the bug spray in my bag…
I got my ride after waiting 45 min. They took me back to T3 where eventually the guys swung by that night around 9pm..I found some left over pizza that I put in their bin, some little debbies and granola bars, on top of everything else they had for food. I wish I saw their faces when they found the pizza….they told me they were in heaven!. At that point the longer canoe section more than 30km on moose lake got cancel and every one started the 4th LEG on bikes.
That night I came back to my lodge, wrote online to let everyone know that we were ok and that the guys were still on course but ranked has unofficial.
You think you’re tough? You think you can do hard things? Hard adventures? Try 4 days of adventure racing with no sleep. Thats will make you tough. No matter what happen, no matter how you finish, just to be there in that race is tough. Just to think about doing one is tough. You know why they called this untamed? Because you never learn and all you want to do is try it again because there is no way you can get it right the first time, the second time or the third time. Event the best teams in the world find things to improve after many years of racing. Its an ever ending story and its addictive. After my first experience in 2009 I said that I never wanted to do this anymore…well I guess I forgot quickly!
I met the guys a little after T4 where the rafting section started. They looked like their spirit was high, they had decided to sleep at T3 for the night and made some decisions about the race…well the adventure at that point. I got them off on the raft and met them back at the lodge. They were happy even tho things didn’t go as plan, they realized a lot of things could of been done differently and that we, as a team, would attempt more races.
Sometimes it goes sometimes it doesn’t …
Huge Congrats to the team of Store.CA: Ben Letourneau, Vince Meunier, Ursula Tracz and Ryan Atkins for their 4th Place finish and team Untamed Canada- Clinique du Pieds d Equilibre: Alex provost,Stephanie Lajoie, Jean Yves Dionne et Jonathan Dionne for their 5th place finish. That was impressive .
Till next time