What an experience... lots of fun! Finished 4th of the male pairs, which we're really happy with (especially given our lack of canoe prowess!).
Adventure racing is definitely a different kettle of fish from my usual race. It's tough stuff - more "adventure" than "race"! We did the "Pinecrest Course", which featured a 4k canoe, 21km mountain bike, and 5k trail run.
The canoe course was just a big lake - nothing tricky about it other than our lack of experience. We finished around where we hoped, in just over 30 minutes, but when you can see a bunch of boats ahead of you and not so many behind it doesn't feel great! .
The bike course started with some easy gravel road, but then we went off that and into the trails.
The trails were not your typical well groomed mountain bike trails - it was a more natural surface, which in the Barrens means lots of rock and a generous dose of mud. Lots of people walking their bikes, including me at times... I had a tough time with this course, the rocks just bounced me around like crazy. I wiped out a couple of times, low-speed but still confidence-shakers (but certainly not as badly as the guy claiming he broke his arm!) I held us up while I mucked through the thing, but we were still passing people as everyone struggled with the same conditions.
Then there's a long paved road section back to the camp... this was our time to shine, we really put the hammer down and I felt really good again. One team offered to work with us, but it was clear they really meant "we're going to sit on your wheel for the next 10km"... forget that, I put the hammer down and we pulled away from them.
The run was diabolical... I guess technically they were trails, but in some sections I would certainly debate that. Climbing on top of large boulders, sharp climbs, very tricky and technical. I got some pretty awesome scratches on my legs (if you don't bleed it wasn't much of an adventure, right?) from the foliage. Challenging stuff! We almost got lost a few times, but fortunately between my teammate and I one of us always noticed any mistakes. I'm pretty sure the course was short by a bit, but my GPS might have lost some distance in the twisty bits, and I was gassed enough that I didn't mind at all when we came out and heard the finish!
The craziest thing about the course is that there is a longer version... it's staggering to think of doing a 14km canoe with portages, 50km on that terrain of mountain biking, then having to run 16km of insanity! Kudos to anyone who got through that.
Other Things About the Race
I really liked the post-race meal, it was a fantastic spread of sandwich stuff, salads, fruits, veggies, deserts... mmm!
The location was spectacular. Beautiful lake, trees, rock, Muskoka at its best. The facilities at the camp were also spot on.
The attitude is much less anal-retentive than the triathlon crowd I'm used to. The lack of organization in transition was a bit frustrating, as people had put their bikes all on one side of the rack and left no space... but whatever, not a big deal. The start was also a bit ambiguous... where's the start line? Who knows? We just kind of lined up and went when they told us to go! Mostly it was refreshing rather than frustrating though.
The course was mostly well marked, but there were a few confusing points where we could have gotten lost... and listening in on other people's conversations after the race, several did. I did an off-road tri a couple of weeks ago that used a more generous amount of plastic ribbon to make it very very clear where to go at every turn, that would have helped. But honestly, I didn't mind other people getting lost! ;)
The shirts are awesome - T-shirts made of really soft bamboo material. Guats is the brand (they also sponsored the race) - I didn't even know this existed, it's excellent. I'm not affiliated with them in any way BTW!
All in all a great time, it's on my short-list to do again next year!