First AR of the season, a 26h race called Shenandoah epic down in the US in Virginia hold by Rev3 Adventure. It was supposed to be our first race as a team of 4, same as the team going to the world championships but unfortunately JY Dionne got sick a week prior to the race and couldn't come anymore. We got very lucky to find James Galipeau at the last minute, a very strong racer from the Ottawa area who was willing to come and race with us as he had this race in mind for some times. So there we went leaving on the Thursday night from Ottawa driving down the 10h to Virginia.
After stopping on the way we arrived on Friday afternoon with well enough time to get our food and gear settled in time for the race briefing at 7pm. Our fourth team mate Jonathan Dionne met us there and we were a full team just in time to get our race package. We planned the route we were gonna take the next day whilst racing and went to the hotel to finish packing our transition bag. Note to ourselves: next time let's pick an extra star on the hotel... :/

On Saturday morning we went to the main transition area to drop our bikes and bags an hopped on a bus that took us to the start of the race. It was sunny but still cool, good racing weather.

The race started at 10am on canoes. Alex and James in one canoe and Jo and I in the other one. Clearly the guys were a stronger duo than us and we were struggling to keep up with them.

After an hour or so we arrived to the first Trek where a few CPs were to be collected on foot before going back to the boat. We left a little fast for me and I must admit I was in the red already. James was pushing me up the hills running but at least we were keeping up closely to the other lead teams SOG and REV3... The trail to the last CP all the way up the hill was a little steeper and a bit more technical which slowed me down on our way down but I tried to pick up the pace as soon as I could. We bushwhacked a little bit which at the end didn't end up being an advantage as we lost a bit of ground but it was worth trying.

Back to the boats we changed partners and James and I went together which evened out the duos and we were then paddling as unit which was great. On our way down the river we crossed a few little rapids and had some CPs to collect. Jo and Alex managed to sink their boat right in front of the camera which made great pictures :).

We caught back with the leaders at the very end of the canoe section, right on track. Finally arrived to first proper transition (where we had left our bikes and gear) after about 4h on the water/trek. We went right away to the "special challenges", the first one being a "mental one", a kind of puzzle where you have to reconstitute a square with different square triangle and other woody bits. I did that puzzle as a kid but couldn't remember how it was done. After a while we finally got it and went to the "physical challenge" that was pumping a tire tube until it blows out. That one was pretty easy!

We then transitioned to our bikes and off we went for a grueling MTB... Alex towed me most of the rideable uphill, he was on fire. It was our first time on the MTB in the trails of the season since the trails were still full of snow at home and man it was technical which isn't my strength. I hiked my bike a lot and tried a few times things that I wouldn't usually but I also ended up crashing 3 times :/. The worst bit was CP12. OMG I was ready to abandon my bike right there. It took us several hours to reach it hiking our bikes there, Jo had two punctures, one on the way there and one on the way back. At least the way back was a little easier to ride (or was I more confident?). Once out of there we were moving towards transition when we met a team who asked us why we were not going on the road? What? wasn't it out of bound? Our mistake, we thought all the road was out of bound but it turned out there was a small part of it that was ok to use. It cost us a bit of time on the way to CP12 (15min) as we hiked our bikes in a trail instead of taking the road but now it was making sense how team Odyssey got ahead of us since we had not seen them passing us but saw them coming back from CP12 before us :/. 

Oh well, lets keep moving... we transitioned to the Orienteering trekking leg where we got a new map to plot. I think we took a little too long there but in the meantime we had to plot a series of new CPs on the map so it was necessary to make sure the CPs were well plotted, so not a big deal. There was a fire which was nice as I was getting a little cold. It was dark. Off we went running towards our first CP. The first two went super fast and third one should have too but the fatigue and a lack of attention from all of us made us do a mistake and we lost a considerable amount of time (50min) looking for that one. Once we realized we went too far we had to backtrack a bit. The rest of the trek went more or less smoothly with some little mistakes here and then but overall it went ok and we kept a good pace. Once all CPs were collected we went back to transition to take back our bikes and started climbing the massive hill we went down earlier (which I hike most parts). I think it took us about 40min to get to the top. It got cold on the way down but soon the sun was rising and we reached transition in the daylight. Only two legs left, a trek and a bike both in the same area on a different map again.

The trek went super well, Alex was spot on with his navigation. At that point my quads were burning like hell. That's what you get when you don't have a proper training in before a 24h race I guess :/ Jo was towing me on that leg but even then I could feel my quads overly tired. However, the fact that we had to go back on the bike was even less appealing to me than being on foot at this stage so I just ran... Back to transition and off we went for our last bike section. OMG I was dreading that last leg but it ended up being the sweetest leg of the race with very nice fast and smooth single tracks. Once again Alex was spot on for the nav and his route choice was great. We crossed the finish line in 24h04min in 5th place co-ed, 7th overall after clearing the course.

For the first race of the season it wasn't that bad but I do clearly have a lot of training to do with my technique and we as a team will have to be more vigilant to minimize the nav errors. Overall it was a great race with a great team and I am happy I raced with those guys... They rock :) 

Thanks to our main sponsor for this race Untamed New England. Look forward to their 24h race in Sugarloaf ski resort in Maine on June 22nd. Next year the 4+ day expedition race is back and is shaping up to be an epic challenge in true and famous New England wilderness...

Thanks to Nuun hydration who kept us hydrated all along the race, Osprey packs for robust and roomy backpacks, Icebreaker for exceptional merino racing clothes, Light & Motion for top quality bike lights, Unleash compression for race and recovery garments, Platypus for efficient hydration systems, Swiftwick for comfy and blister free socks and arm warmers, Thule for top quality roof racks, The North FaceJulbo Eyewear and Suunto for providing the right navigation tools (altimeter and compasses).

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