September 24, 2011
Learning to navigate like a newbie.
I teamed up with Garth Campbell again to race this, our 12th MOMAR together (I have also done 2 solo MOMARs). We have been fortunate to be able to be on the podium for teams of two men quite a few times in the last few years. This race would sadly be different, but more on that later.
We lucked out on the weather for race day since it was pounding rain all night before and surprisingly the wind was also light on Comox Lake. It was the calmest conditions we have ever raced in. This was really great, because it allowed us to complete the kayak section in a record time for us of just over an hour. It wasn't fun and my weakly trained shoulders and arms started to fatigue out during the last 15 minute, but we got the job done.
We punched the first checkpoint around 13th position and rolled right into the run. Most MOMARs transition to the bike off the kayak, but I prefer going straight into the trek since it is usually our strongest discipline. It took a few minutes to get the legs moving properly after being cramped in the kayak, but eventually we were rolling along and passed a couple of teams on the road before turning onto trail and started climbing. Unfortunately, Garth's stomach was acting up and he wasn't able to push quite as hard as he would have liked. Still, he hung in there and we were still able to gain on teams ahead of us as we climbed. I picked up the 2nd checkpoint with little issue and then we moved onto a long gradual climb.
We passed a few more teams and then I was a bit surprised to catch up to Hayden Earle and Roger MacLeod (a team expected to place well overall). They had put 6 minutes into us on the kayak paddling their double outrigger so I hadn't expected to see them so soon. The route turned up sharply and a power hike was in order to get us up. Soon after we caught up to Todd Nowack (now 9 time MOMAR champion) who was briefly checking out another route. We soon established that we were on the correct path and we continued on together. After a bit more climbing we picked up checkpoint 3 and heard from the volunteers that we were not far behind two leading teams (Marshall House & Ryan Pogue and Norm Thibault & Stefan Jakobson). This stoked all 3 of us up as grabbing the lead was now within grasp.
The single track turned onto logging road and it was at this point that we spotted both teams just ahead. We gradually ate away at their lead and were feeling pretty good. As it turns out, I should have been paying more attention to the map and less about the competition. On the map, it showed a left turn onto a another road so when we hit the next intersection that seemed to match the map, we all turned left. Soon though, the road ended in a clear cut and didn't seem to continue. We were all baffled since everything else seemed to match and their was no dead end road shown on the map nor had we seen any other intersection.
Soon we found ourselves in the bush wondering what to do. Todd disappeared while the rest of us were bungling around. I decided to head off in the direction that the road should have gone, hoping to intersect the trail that we needed to take. The going was slow off trail and there were a few swampy areas to traverse. It was frustrating going so slow and not being confident that we were going the right way. Given the limited information on the map, things did seem to match up, but as the time drug on and we did not hit a trail it became obvious that we were not where I thought we were. We finally made the decision to head south and hope to hit a road or trail so we could get back on track. By now more than 30 minutes had passed and we knew our chances of a high finish was over.
We did find a road and then it was time to try and figure out where we were, after a few wrong choices we finally decided to head north, joined by Marshall House & Ryan Pogue and another guy who had also gone way off course. Norm Thibault & Stefan Jakobson headed south with another team of 4 we had also picked up. For once our choice turned out to be correct and after a couple of km, I was able to find where we were on the map and got us back to where we had make the mistake. It turned out that we had all ran passed the correct turn which wasn't a logging road as we had expected, but rather a quad track. The spur we had taken wasn't on the map at all. While the map was part of the problem, we should have paid more attention. An even more disastrous problem was that we barged into the woods without really knowing where we were going. When the road ended, we should have gone back and figured out where we went wrong - even if we had gone back and confirmed that we were on the correct route, it would have been better to risk losing 10 or 15 minutes rather than the 1 hour 15 minutes we ended up blowing. It was a classic beginner mistake that I should not have made - I'm still kicking myself.
After losing that time, we found ourselves way back in the field and it was kind of tough to motivate ourselves to push too hard being so far behind the leaders. Still, we trudged on and started gaining positions back. Once we were back on track, checkpoint 4 was easy to find and we then had a fun single track to bomb down. One and a quarter hours behind schedule, we finally pulled into checkpoint 5 where Todd's girlfriend Kim was volunteering and Sonja waiting to snap a few photos. We gradually got our mojo for the race back as we picked up the rest of the trekking stage checkpoints with only one minor bobble. We picked up a huge number of positions throughout the remainder of the trek and battled our way back to the front half of the pack which was some solace at least.
We finally pulled into town and grabbed our bikes for the single long cycling stage - to my knowledge, having only 1 bike stage was a first for a MOMAR. The mandatory climb started almost immediately and while it started out gradually, it angled up quite a bit towards the top. We both were in our granny gears, but managed to grind it out for the duration, picking up a few more positions as we went. We finally reached the top of the climb in decent shape, except for my throbbing back from being hunched and straining for so long. Now the payoff for all that climbing - tons of sweet single track! It was a lot of fun and pretty much all within my abilities - a couple of sections were rough and punishing. It was all flagged, so navigating was easy as long as we paid attention. I feel we made pretty good time, rode to the extent of our skill level and only got passed by one solo, Ron Hewitson who flew by us near the bottom of the single track. We ended up posting a pretty decent time (top 5) on the bike stage given how much we ride (I have only ridden 3 times on my mountain since the last MOMAR in May).
The final stage was orienteering, in the same area as it has been for the last few years. Our legs were toast and while I navigated fairly well, I didn't hit some of the controls quite as quick as I would have liked, leaving us with a fairly good, but not exceptional final stage. We finally made it to the finish in 6:05:59 (our longest MOMAR ever), having fought our way back to 16th place - actually a bit better than I expected (and better placing and a bit better than some of our early races). Despite making a mistake at the same place as we did, Todd got back on track much quicker and battled back for the win. Hayden and Roger pulling in for a strong 2nd.
Next year, we plan to be back to redeem ourselves.
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