Racing with regular team Raidpulse.com teammates Yannick Huneault and Jean-Yves Dionne at the Frontier 12h fall classic in Kellerman's resort, Parry Sound, Ontario on thanksgiving week-end.

Long day on the road. Dropped the bikes at TA2 on the way and finally arrived at Kellerman's resort just in time for the 2030 race briefing (maps handed at 2000). We were staying at Quality Inn about 10 min drive from race HQ.

The Course:
Boat 12k
Trek 18k
Mountain bike 35k
Portage 5k
Total distance 70k

We mapped until late and finally got to bed at 0100. I was not too happy with my mapping results as I found that it lacked details and colors for different markers but knew we would be fine. When you do the maps you generally print the important things in your mind and for anything less than 24h it's ok. After some observation and a bit of maths we figured the fastest way for us to get to CP1 was to start with a portage east then south-east all on road to cut the peninsula and resume on the intended paddling route to the portage trail east right after the power line. JY was the first one to notice it and it made sens for us as we knew Running Free with Angus at the engine position would be hard to follow. We also wanted to avoid the rush hour at the two first portages.

0445 up for breakfast, get dressed for war, empty our room and hit the road to be at Kellerman's for 0530. Weather was kind of ok, but we knew we were in for a wet and cold one.

I almost had a heart attack a few minutes before the start as I lost sight of my map case... but after looking in the canoe and the car I finally found it beside our TA bag #1 on the ground... rookie move. All teams gathered on the beach for the 0600 start. As all teams entered the water in their boats, we lingered on the beach on the edge of the water just looking around and waiting for the 'GO'. Geoff mentioned something like 'there is still one team on the beach, so we will wait for them...' on the mic, but Bill Young later told me that when he saw it was us he said to Geoff to just start the race as he immediately saw we were up to something. 10-9-8... JY took the boat on his shoulder, turned around and on 'GO' we started running east to the road that would lead us south-east back to the Otter lake long arm. Surprisingly we are the only ones doing this... always a bit stressful when you are the only team making a move... but we were pretty confident about it so we just executed. We had skimmed down the weight for this first section with Yannick carrying our only backpack with pretty much all mandatory gear. JY and myself only had our PFDs on (with food and fluid for this first section) which made it easier for portages. The 3 of us switched approximately every 800m and got to the Otter lake long arm in a good time. There was actually a boat ramp so easy access. We were not cold anymore.

So we started paddling and saw that we were clearly in the lead, suddenly infused with extra confidence and strength. We saw some lights at some point but figured they were at least 10-20 minutes back. Found the portage and quickly made it to the small lake. After getting over a beaver damn we got to the end of the lake where CP1 was supposed to be. After some 10 minutes looking around and counter confirming everything, we saw some lights in the forest... Brad arriving with the CP. 'You guys are just killing it...'. We quickly punched and resumed racing with our third portage to Forget lake. There was no trail and we did not bother with the flags mentioned in the race briefing and just went straight for it and got to the lake in no time. JY killed it with the boat on his shoulder. From there it was pretty much all out to CP2 with only a short portage to Blackstone lake. We looked around for CP2 (both sides) but quickly went on as it was not on the bridge as intended and we were 100% sure of our position. It was on the way so no possible trick there anyway.

We got to CP3/TA1, JY and I picked up our backpack and quickly started our trek, bushwaking from the TA to CP4, then ACP-A and then ACP-B. Then there was a sudden panic... no passport! It seemed we had lost the passport somewhere between CP4 and ACP-B. I think it's the first time it ever happen to a team I am racing with. We discussed our options a bit and decided to go on and keep punching on our race instruction sheet but also decided that we needed to go back to CP4 to punch it again as it was the only one we could not prove our passage (CP1=ok, CP2 (not there), CP3=TA, ACPA-B SPORTIdent). Thinking back, it should not have been such a big deal but at that point we did not have the lost passport related 10min penalty on our mind, so it was more stressful than it should have been considering we had already banked a 10min credit from CP1, and could have avoided the detour back to CP4.

Then my navigation got a bit flaky. For some obscur reasons, we took an unreliable trail that was running southwest of ACP-B and that I misinterpreted as the trail on the map. I guess I did not noticed at TA1 that it was actually a road... so instead of running on a road we bushwaked our way to the marsh/lake north of CP5. It did not take us that much time as the forest was not very dense but I knew something was wrong when we crossed a teenagers team once we finally got to the road just north of the marsh/lake. We located ourselves quickly and went on to CP5 which was in and out. We saw solos KURA (Adrian Makurat) and Unleash Frenchie (Nathalie Long) doing good at that point, so it was clear our trek in the bush cost us some time on our rivals. Back on the road we hit the afterburner (as LosDobos would put it) and furiously ran until we hit our marker for our detour to revisit CP4. Back on the road quickly we went for another in and out bushwak to CP6. Then we hit the light speed button this time and ran the next 4k non stop passing Adrenaline Rush on the way. I figured our two mistakes must have taken us down to 4th place at that point, but it seemed we were gaining back... we guessed Running Free were in front and maybe another team and/or solo. We focused on the task and did not looked behind at our mistakes anymore. CP7 was bang on from the road contour line/curve. On the way to CP8 (side of McQuillan lake) we used the high ground east of CP7 for 600m then headed straight north. We got slightly east of the CP but were on it in no time. JY went to punch our race instructions sheet/passport and saw Angus (RF). Apparently he seemed a bit puzzled by what JY was using as passport. From that point we knew we had caught back with the leaders and we headed pretty much straight to CP9, then CP10 and CP11/TA2. JY kept telling us he heard Running Free voices 200m behind him but I suspect he was making it up to make us go faster.

We got out of the bush to TA2/CP11 first, but knew that our lead was on the slim side (turned out it was 7min). We took a bit more time than usual to change into our bike shorts, refuel and get the bike gear ready to hammer the trails. My front tire had lost half of its air pressure so JY pumped it back as much as he could but I was clearly running on very low pressure (which was ok on the trail given the slimy conditions). I desperately wanted to head out before any team could see us but Running Free got in as we were going. JY had some trouble with his towing system right off the bat so he gave it to a team that was arriving from the trek and that offered to put it in their TA bag, sweet (thanks guys). We hammered the power line trail north to CP12, then east-south-east to CP13, that took us a moment to locate even if it was at a trail junction. From there we kept moving fast to ACP-C. Trails were really muddy and again JY stressed us a bit saying he'd heard a team behind, so we kept pushing it.

CP14 was suppose to be located at a major junction. We crossed one but figured it was the trail coming straight from CP13, so we kept looking for the the next major trail junction even if the mileage was getting a bit high and direction a bit off. We crossed some ATVs and when we asked it there was a trail junction a bit further they all agreed... I should know better than asking ATV guys... no offense. So we kept going a bit anyway but nothing made sens anymore, and when we saw a 'Blackstone' sign it was officially time to backtrack. I was a bit angry at myself but knew nothing was over as this was not a clear shot for anyone. A good 12min on the way back we crossed path with Running Free... good news for us. Then right before the first junction that we intended to try Adrenaline Rush, Kinetic Connection and some more teams appeared. They were all going in the same direction we were coming from. I chatted a bit with Adam (AR) and Robert (KC) mentioning how far we went (6k total from ACP-C without the appropriate junction). I remember saying to myself that I should avoid giving important race data to teams that are not far behind us right after that episode. Our lead must have been around 25-30min on RF but again was pretty much gone. So we went on our new trail and everything started making sens and quickly found CP14. It made sens once there, but was pretty hard to figure out with only the topo. Kinetic Connection and Smokie & The Medic (Vince Trudelle) were not far behind us so we had to start moving again.

Then a bit further down the trail a Blondie with a back road map book in her hand appeared from nowhere and asked us to stop, explaining that the bridge that was suppose to be 'assembled' at CP15 (same as CP2) was not there and that we had to take the long way around to go back to Kellerman's. We knew the CP15 area having previously passed there for CP2 and we felt comfortable with crossing the water with our bikes. As it seemed the shortest way and the full course (and some real AR) we elected to just keep going on until the end (roughly 20k) on the initial route. Turned out Kinetic Connection and Smokie & The Medic did the same thing. There was some paved road on the way and my very low pressure front tire did not played well with this, but we rock it anyway as Yannick hammered the front and paced us to the end.

We crossed the finish line/pub door at 1629 to grab first place for the 3rd year in a row! Yeah! :)

Navigation was not that easy on the trek as 1:50 000 maps don't have much contour lines and we hit a few slopes here and there, but beside one major mistake we felt we had a good run at it.

Besides some missing CPs we enjoyed the race/course a lot as it was beautiful. Paddle section was awesome with bright fall colors. It was tighter than it looked. The course was a bit on the long side, especially the last part of the bike section, but harsh weather conditions made it longer and tougher than expected for many teams and organization. The fall classic is the championship race and it has to be tougher than the spring race. It was indeed. Diner and prizing were excellent!

Congratulations to all racers, volunteers and race staff, thank you and see you next year.

Thanks to Yannick and JY, it's always a pleasure to compete besides such talented racers. Thanks to Raid Pulse for its constant support of our team over the years. Try adventure racing with a Quebec touch @ www.raidpulse.com.

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