This was my second Swamp Donkey Adventure Race, last year was fun, but challenging. This year I determined that we at least would not get lost. Team Barbells & Bacon’s motto became, “if we know where we are, we know where we’re going.”
Friday night we grabbed supper on the way out of town and arrived at Falcon Lake about 7:30 to check in and drop off our canoe (thank you Al!). I did the Navigation test and learned about trees (there had been some controversy last year that needed addressing this year), then I picked up our race package and jerseys. As we settled into our room, I cooked bacon, made porridge and watched the Bombers self destruct (or was it an incredible comeback by the Eskies).
Saturday morning started early with a 6:00am race instructions pickup. Here we were given the coordinates and descriptions of where the course would take us. After breakfast, map plotting and the racer meeting at 7:30 we headed to the field, with our bikes, for the role call and mass bike start.
Barbells & Bacon raced as fast as we could to get near the front of the race. 17km and one checkpoint later, we arrived at our canoe (where I took the middle “seat” so I could navigate us). A short paddle, 800m of portage (again, big thanks to Al for the light canoe) to High Lake and another short paddle (90 minutes all told) got us to the orienteering section of the race. The dense bush made travelling difficult but our coordinates were spot on and we got in and out fairly easily. My secret food source was bacon fried bagels – lots of fat, carbs and salt!
Since we didn’t get lost (goal #1), we beat the 2:00pm time cutoff by 30 minutes and headed (by canoe again) to the advanced set of coordinates. Here the bush was a little thicker, the swamp was wetter and the teams were closely packed. Checkpoint 8 had us up to our chests in swamp water, but checkpoint 5 was easy to find, just by following the edge of the swamp (and the 20 other teams we could see).
Decision time. At this point it was nearly 3:00pm and we had two more advanced checkpoints to retrieve. Wisely, my team dissuaded me from going further into the bush and we headed back for the canoe. We met several teams who made the decision to bushwack, only one team successfully completed the whole course and arrived back before the final 6:00pm cutoff. We leapfrogged several teams who tried to get one more checkpoint but had to turn back.
A long paddle, the portage again (thanks one more time Al – look for the case of Diet Pepsi coming your way soon) a short paddle (the underwater checkpoint was neat) and we were back on our bikes. The last ride was all on road so it was fast and fun. We arrived at the finish line at 5:30pm – well within the time limit and with no regrets.
After retrieving our canoe, we enjoyed an amazing supper and after party. Fun draw prizes, cheering for the winners and sharing stories of success and woe. We arrived home at 10:30pm, happy, tired and very proud of our accomplishment.
Special thanks to Tim who worked very hard to keep us “straight” on the paddling section.
Big appreciation to Steffen who took care of driving, registration and hotel accommodations.
And of course, thanks to everyone at Swamp Donkey for a world class event!