Blame it on the fallen leaves!
This year was to be my second time participating in the Don’t Get Lost Raid the Hammer Adventure Run, again with my teammates Rebecca and Alasdair. We arrived at Ancaster High School for the “Half Raid” just before the “Full Raid” participants headed to the buses to be taken to the starting point. We registered, got our maps, t-shirts, and an SI stick, and grabbed a table in the cafeteria to read the course description and plan our route.
This would be a point to point race, in which we were bussed to the start at Christie Lake Conservation Area, and had to make our way back to Ancaster High School, while finding a number of checkpoints along the way. The fastest team would win, since all checkpoints were of equal value, and there were no optional additional checkpoints to find. At one point in the race we would have to find 3 of 6 checkpoints in an area, and in another, 1 of 3. There was some strategizing involved here, but unlike some other orienteering races where checkpoints are worth different point values, and you might choose to go for the higher value checkpoints even if you will exceed the allotted race time and incur penalties (because you’ll gain more points than you’ll lose), that approach wasn’t an option for this race.
After the pre-race briefing, we took a short bus ride to Christie Lake Conservation Area.
And then, on Meghan’s shout of “GOOOOOOOOOOO!” we were off. In this first part of the race, the “Scramble”, we had to find 3 of the 6 checkpoints in any order we wanted. We headed for #3, along with the majority of the 50+ teams. Ditto for #4. We then went for #6, when the majority seemed to go for #5. That was our first mistake. We missed the trail for #6, turned around, and while running back looking for the trail, lots of people who had just found #5 passed us running the other way. We found the tiny trail, not very visible due to fallen leaves, and found #6.
Checkpoint #7 was the first one that all teams had to find. Then it was the “Gnarly Run I” trail run (2k?) to #8. I decided early on that this course would favour strong runners (as opposed to strong navigators), as the navigation was minimal. In the “Run DMC” section, after finding checkpoint #8 (at a trail junction), we had to go to either #9 or #10 or #11. Before the race, we planned to go to #9, the closest one to #8, but it would involve a bit of off trail navigation. However, when the time came to actually look for the checkpoint, we couldn’t decide where to leave the trail and start bushwhacking. A spectator said to us that in the time we spent discussing our approach to #9, we could have been to #10 and back! So we scrapped the plan for #9 and headed for #10, which involved no navigation and instead was a simple 800m trail run. Mistake #2 was the time lost in this section. We punched #8 again (as required), then started the “Gnarly Run II” section, a 1.5k run to Governor’s Road.We passed a pond on the right side that I used to visit as a kid with my family – we called it the “Frog Pond”.
After checkpoint #12, we headed for #13, which was the aid station. We punched the control, but opted not to stop at the aid station, since we had all the water and snacks we needed. We did discuss quickly whether we should stop in, in case it was mandatory and there was a gear check, but we decided not to.
To reach #14, we could either run along a trail which would take us away from the checkpoint and then back to it, or bushwhack a much shorter distance across a creek and up a steep hill. During our pre-race planning, we opted for the trail run. When we reached the point at which we would bushwhack if we wanted to, we looked at the creek, agreed that we didn’t want wet feet and that the climb looked steep, and kept running! However, one of the junior teams did the bushwhack and beat us there.We easily found checkpoint #15 at the top of a very steep hill, at which point we were passed by one of the “Full Raid” teams. Sigh. It was after leaving #15 that we somehow took the wrong trail, and before long, the terrain in front of us didn’t match what we were expecting on the map. Turns out we went the wrong way and had to backtrack. Mistake #3.
It was quite a distance to #16, the last checkpoint before the finish. And yet again, we ran past a small trail, likely invisible due to fallen leaves!It meant that we climbed up the last steep hill – further along than we should have – up to the grass, ran along the grass to where we thought the checkpoint would be (at which point the photographer said to us, “Try to get along team!”), had to climb down the hill to the checkpoint, and then back up the same hill! Mistake #4.
From there it was an easy run along the grass to the high school, where we could see the finish line from far away. In the end we crossed the finish line at 2:23:02, and ended up 34/52 half raid teams (excluding the junior teams, who were in a separate category). We had covered 15km.
We enjoyed the post race snacks (smarties!) and free lunch from the food trucks (Johnny Blonde and 50 Pesos).
Such a great race! Next year, I’m hoping to do the Full Raid!
Remember that aid station that we didn’t stop at? Well, at Adventure Running Kids a couple of days later (where I volunteer as a group leader) I found out from Meghan that at some point during the race, the aid station volunteers were in contact with her to say that 2 teams had yet to check in at the aid station – including Kyra. Meghan said not to worry, that she was looking at me at that moment eating my lunch! Oops!!!
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