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ARC Muskoka Overnight

11-12 September 2004


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Caleb Suter writes:

Hello TriHarders,

Mark, Woody, Daniel and I competed as TriHarder in the 24-30 hour ARC Muskoka Overnight race on the weekend.  We had the wonderful support crew of Dawn (Mark's wife), Sarah (Mark's daughter), and John (my father).  Using his many connections Pierre raced with another team and will have his own interesting stories.  I have some good news and bad news.  The good news: my muscles are sore today so yes, I'm not superhuman unlike all of the rumors to the contrary.  The bad news: I don't have the map so all of my distances are estimates.  Any of the other racers are encouraged to correct them.

We arrived at the registration around 5:30pm and unpacked all of our gear and grabbed dinner.  The captain's meeting began at 9:30pm and we worked on our maps and packed up the support vehicles until 1:00am.  We woke up at 4:45am, had some ARC supplied breakfast and boarded buses at 5:45 to take us to the start.

The race began with a 3km trail run to our canoes.  We had to carry all of the canoeing gear.  We then paddled about 15km with three short portages (including one down a cliff!).  The rest of the canoe section was pretty straight forward.  We were very fast in the boats - I don't remember ever having a paddle at this pace before in my life.

We had a quick transition (10 minutes?) to the hiking section.  We had to carry our rappelling gear and wore our life jackets for the next whole section.  Mark did a great job navigating our way to the first CP.  We had four landmarks which we were planning to find and then change our bearings in order to have the fastest route.  We did mistakenly identify the last landmark which cause a little confusion but we quickly recovered.  The next CP was located "at the end of a meandering well marked trail or bushwhack directly to UTM ##".  Unfortunately this statement was correct and false.  The trail sucks.  It did meander.  It was not marked well nor appeared to be well traveled.  After following the trail for a short time we determined our exact position and decided to just bushwhack to the next CP.  Again Mark was on the ball and got us there with no effort.  We rappelled down a cliff with a small overhang - this was my first rappel and I had no idea what I was doing (besides the instruction I received from Woody when paddling in the canoe).  I received no words of encouragement from the staff - they told me "that in all likelihood I would plunge to my death, that this was a very difficult rappel that they were not prepared to do themselves, that the equipment they supplied was defective, that my gear wasn't up to standards but would have to do...."  I made it and I will own a photo to prove that I was hanging over a cliff.  We then had the option of "continuing to follow the trail to the next CP located on a road".  We wisely choose to hike 1km cross country to the road and run the road to the CP. 

We had a 20 minute transition to our bikes.  The trails we followed were in infamous B105, 4/14 and the power line trails from last year's race (and I had just gotten over my nightmares).  We had a trail ride to a road and along the road to a CP.  We then rode north along power lines to another CP.  We kept riding snowmobile trails (with plenty of water/mud c/o ATVs) and cottage roads for a total of 5 CPs and a good 6 hours of riding - 4 of which was in the dark.  I'd go into more detail but it was all the same - dark, muddy, non-ridable for what seemed like kms at a time, and tiring.

We were happy to arrive at the next TA.  We packed up our paddling gear, wore our life jackets and Costeered to the next CP (the "Paul the Race Directors Adventure Racing Dictionary" defines Costeering as "navigating a coast line").  We essentially swam across a river and did a series of island hopping for a total of 6 swims and a good couple kms of wading waste deep in lake water at 2:00 in the morning.  We then ran a series of roads/trail for about 6kms to the boat launch.  We arrived around 4:00am and there was a 9:00am cut off time.  The race director then asked us to take the short cut and was going to cut off all of the teams behind us (we were in third place overall at this time).  Apparently this would cutoff about 2 1/2 hours of canoeing and a 5km bushwhacking leg.  The race was much longer than they had anticipated.  We took the short cut and paddled about 20 kms to the next TA.  The route we took was the reverse of the route from last year (up and over a concrete dam and over a beaver dam to a roadway with a portage back to a softball field).

We then transitioned back to our dirty, poorly tuned bikes for the exact same as last year's final ride to the finish.  We went south at the hydro lines to a road, through Bala and to the Pinecrest Lodge in Torrance.  We were the second team to cross the finish line (the team in front of us was a team of two - two members had to drop out).

We finished in 28 hrs, 40 mins earning a 1st place victory in the open male category and a 3rd place finish overall.  I want to thank Mark who was so strong through the race.  His navigating was awesome, he never seemed to get tired, and he towed me on the highway through Bala at the end (his brakes weren't working and I was his brakeman).  Daniel was strong in all disciplines and waited for me with words of encouragement during the trail riding (I would not have had the spirit to get through some of the mud puddles otherwise).  Once again Daniel solved a tough navigation problem by seemingly to point at a random point on the map (a good km from where we thought we were) and declared that that was where we were - he was right.  Woody was a master of all disciplines, never seemed tired (except for a brief nap in the canoe), towed me early in the race to conserve my energy, and managed to race despite having being stung by two bees to which he is allergic experiencing a fat lip, a sore throat, and the bites being really itchy.  We eventually found him some medication which contributed to his need for a nap in the canoe.

Like always we have been very fortunate to find excellent support.  Our gear was always laid out on time, our bikes were cleaned, our clothing was dry (most of the time).  We had great, freshly prepared food which the race director even displayed some envy towards and they were very helpful with filling our water, and reacting to last minute requests (demands?) from the racers.  We managed to keep all of our TA times to less than 20 minutes which would not have been possible without great support.  Dawn, Sarah and John deserve a big "Thank You" for all of their help.  They actually had a lot more to do than to support us - Sarah came down with an illness and had to go to the hospital hours away to get some mediation.  Had we not been told about it - we would never have known.

Once again - thank you to everyone.



Jason Woods writes:

 ARC Muskoka Overnight. Thanks for the write-up Caleb. On a personal level, I want to thank the boys for looking out for me when I got stung. There were points before I got fully medicated that I'm sure we were all wondering if that would be the end of our race. Thanks to that brutally lost Enduro Extreme team that provided 2 greatly appreciated Benadryl tablets! Mental note to self, carry my epi pen! And, apparently 4 anti-histamines do contribute to drowsiness and hallucination, as Daniel was witness to on several occasions. I had raced with Daniel and Caleb before and have always been impressed with their drive and their abilities, but this was my first opportunity to race with Mark. Mark was a rock. He was steady through the whole race and never really waivered. Being the oldest (by like 40 years or so), we naturally looked to him as an elder wise man, and he kept us on track. Honestly, Mark was a great race leader for us. I think that we were all a little disappointed with the group at ARC. While they are all nice people, they consistently set courses that (to me anyways) seem to lose sight of what the sport is about. I still don't understand why pounding through 8 hours of mostly walking your bike around mudholes is considered a mountain bike leg. I appreciate hike-a-bike and the disciplines associated with riding, but make it doable and sensible. There are other teams, less fortunate than we were, that will have paid good money only to succumb that bike leg. Anyways, it was a good race by all, with a great result that we can all be proud of. A special thanks to our support crew, who had many of their own challenges to work through, but managed to keep us in good spirits at all points! I'll send some pictures when I download them!