Racers: Alexandre Provost, Nathalie Long, Pascal Laroche, Jonathan Dionne
Race the Phantom is a unique and wild adventure in the beautiful maritimes and we have been toeing the start line every year since 2010. We not only discovered an awesome area over the years, but also made great friends. So we knew for long that we would be back again this year to race hard and happy to see our good friends. This year the race was held in remote Mount Carleton Provincial park. Beside the obvious quality wild racing for 40h at a very affordable price reason we had another good reason to go: we had won the previous 3 editions, and we were hungry for a 4th one!
Gear in action at RTP
Julbo Eyewear Dust - Pipeline
We all slept at Jonathan’s in Québec city on Thursday August 1st and after a very good night of sleep we hit the road early to get to HQ in Mount-Carleton park well ahead of time to get our gear ready and start doing the maps as quickly as possible. We found a nice sheltered area so we were ok to map out the course and get ready even if it was raining.
Note about the map: we were given a 1:50 000 map which is pretty standard in AR. What was interesting and new was that the organizers had been able to put a layer of logging roads on the map, which are everywhere in this area. I was very pleased when I saw and was looking to confirm the accuracy on the terrain.
Racers: Alexandre Provost, Nathalie Long, Pascal Laroche, Jonathan Dionne
What makes Race the Phantom unique as well is the midnight start. It means 2 full night out, even if you speed things up a bit, it is still more of a night race than a day race. Starting a race at midnight is not easy: imagine how you feel when you will go to sleep tonight, well this is the time we were unleashed into the wild. We had a thin hope to sleep 1.5h before the start but we could not do it, I think Nath managed to get a bit of sleep but I just could not lie down as I was too excited to get on with things.
TA1 - access to our gear
TA2 - no gear
Canoe on Sisson branch Reservoir
TA3 - no gear
TA4 - access to our gear
TA5 - no gear (but a surprise!)
Trek 3 in Mount Carleton provincial park
The race started as planned at 12:00 on our bikes. It was raining, but not too hard, so it was ok. We too a combination of trails, paved road and logging roads to CP1. It did not took long before we got alone into the night. “Good thing” I remember thinking... as we rather race with no distractions around.
The first leg went very well except one place where we missed an intersection. We realised it pretty quickly though as the direction was not making any sense, and turned back quickly, for a net loss of about 15min. The rest of the ride went well as we rode loging roads and there was not too much elevation gain.
2:43am We got in TA1 first and soon we were on our feet for the first trek. Cycling PEI arrived as we were leaving, which put some pressure on us. We followed our plan and caught CP3 on the way with a short bushwhack that saw Pascal falling into a mud trap! For the rest of the trek we requested him to hang at the back as the smell had followed him...
4:40am We clocked in at TA2 eager to get in the boat and for our legs to get their first (and only...) break of the race. Pascal was also happy to jump in the Sisson Branch Reservoir for a quick mid body bath... It was still dark so we had to follow the compass attentively heading southwest to CP4 that was located on an island. No need to say we were really happy that we carried our kayak paddles on the previous trek when we started paddling. The alternative would have been canoe paddles, which is significantly slower (and harder).
As Bruno Haché (course designer) had mentioned, there were a lot of logs coming out of the water, so we had to be careful to not get impaled especially close from the shores and islands. We turned off our headlamps on our way out of CP4. The rest of the paddling went well but we took a bit of headwind at some point. We got CP5 + ADV2, and as it was and out and back to TA2-3 we figured we would be able to evaluate the distance/time between us and the next teams. Surprisingly we crossed the first team, either Cycling PEI or Eco-Logical Adventures about 4k from TA3, which gave us confidence for things to come.
The next section was a trek mostly on logging roads for the first part, and we ran most of it. The bushwhack up Moose Mountain was surprisingly of light density, which was very nice! We crossed path with Cycling PEI and figured they must have not done ADV5 on Sisson Branch Reservoir, so it felt we were slowly building our lead. Now on the way back we punched CP6 and ADV4. We caught up with with Eco-Logical Adventures on the way to ADV4 which was fun.
12:04pm We clocked in at TA4 and took some extra time to get ourselves prepared for the rest of the race. Having access to our gear we ate some goodish “boulettes”, pringles and pepsi! Our bikes had suffered a bit on the first leg so we made sure they were fine before leaving.
We then embarked on a 9h bike ride with mandatory CPs 7-8-9 and ADV CPs 5-6. Not long after we left the TA the rain started to drill down on us. It was pouring like hell. We sucked it up and just continue our road. We had to pull our jackets at some point for sure. We heard some teams even got hail... epic adventure racing! The ride itself was quite diverse, with a lot of logging roads, a short trek to CP7 that was nicely located on the side of a superb pond, 2 bikewhack including one quite energy consuming after CP8 to get to the road, then some pavement, and logging roads again. ADV5 was some bit%?& to catch, as there was a never ending very steep uphill that eventually made us descent at the bottom of the valley. Nice one Bruno... ADV6 was an out and back from CP9 on a kinda rolling dirt road.
On the way to TA5, the map vs reality differed a bit and we had to count and track a lot to make sure of everything, we did a little uphill detour but in the end we caught up with the right trail. We light up our headlamps half way as we came to a huge logging area and made our way to TA5 relatively straight.
10:20pm We got to TA5 and we had a great surprise: kraft dinner and cold coca-cola! Wow! Totally unexpected happiness! but at first I had mixed emotions because I had carried a pepsi can the whole way since noon for us to pop it during the night... but more coke is always good! We transited relatively quickly given the comfort of the TA and were out at 10:30 on the last trek. into Mount-Carleton Provincial park
The last trek in Mt-Carleton park should have been a highlight of the race and I guess it must have been for many teams... but for us it was somehow the hardest part. The sleepmonsters were slowly catching up with us and It was in pitch dark, so we had no mountain views reward, I’m sure it must have been gorgeous.
The trek was fairly simple with trails leading to all CPs at Mt-Carleton, Mt-Head, Mt-Sagamook and finally Mt-Bailey. Rocks were really slippery to we had to be extra careful. We had a very good pace until Sagamook but somehow slowed down a little (a lot actually) on the way down. We all had our moments of sleepiness at some point and I remember being close to falling in the creek... Then out of the blue Pascal said “j’commence à m’sentir blé d’inde en ost&...” which can be translated to “I really start to feel like a corn...” Probably not very funny but in the state we were it provided some very good laughs!
We happily crossed the finish line shortly before 6am, cheered by Troy. Jonathan sacrificed himself to collect the last advanced CP... that was located in the Nictau lake... it was close to the shore, so we did not break the 100m rule and encouraged him as he swam under a buoy to pick up a nice and chill can of coca-cola!
We all had a very good race. Pascal and Jonathan supported me was very well with navigation. Nath did great and set a good pace on foot considering she was injured shortly before the race. We all helped each other whenever needed. Every time we made a mistake we reacted promptly and in a constructive way.
The post race award ceremony was as great as it can get, with good food, BBQ and Picaroons beer. We proudly received the coveted NSAR Champs belt buckle flask!
Advanced CPs: to do or not to do... how to decide?
Whenever there is a course that include advanced CPs all along the way teams are forced to take early decisions that can have an important impact on their race. The way we usually figure if we have time or not do advanced CPs is by doing the reversal math when planning the course. We started from the end by evaluating the time required for each sections, including the advanced. That way we knew we had to be at a certain TA or intersection by a certain time to still be able to complete the regular course, which was the most important thing. It’s a bit like a self-induced cut-off. Knowing your average pace per discipline helps a lot when make that kind of assessments. So basically we were going to do the advanced CPs as long as we were meeting those “cut-off”. So as Troy would say...”clear as mud ?”
Kudos to Bruno for the course design! Super travail! Nous avons beaucoup aimé le parcours! The navigation challenge was very good, and the CP’s were placed exactly where we expected them to be. It really felt you worked hard for this one! Nice job! And about the map: I think it must have been the best 1:50 000 map in Canadian adventure racing history! It really made a world of difference to have the logging road as it removes the “chance factor” from the outcome of the race. Thanks!
Thanks to Natural Selection Adventure Racing and all crew and volunteers. Thank you for being there all night long! Best of luck for next year, chances are we’ll be back even for a shorter event!
Congratulations to all participants out there, the race was hard and required a lot of resources. The conditions were very tough, be proud of what you accomplished. Make a gift to your friends and bring them into the fantastic adventure racing world and community.
Thumbs up to Troy for keeping the AR flame lit in the east. We will make our best to support you whenever we can.