Ten minutes to nine on Friday morning, two days ago, last minute instructions were being given to approximately 320 participants lined up to start the 2012 Canadian OxFam Trailwalker. Where was I? En route, of course! In the driver's seat, my teammate Jesse was concentrating on driving as fast as was safely possible, while one of the support crew, Dan, was giving directions that had turned out to be "the scenic route". We were all alternately cursing and laughing about our predicament.
The OxFam Trailwalker is a 100km walk/run that takes place every year at multiple locations around the world. Teams must raise $2,500 for OxFam in order to participate in the event. The four team members walk and run together for the entire distance (i.e. it's not a relay), inside the time limit of 48 hours.
By four past nine, Team Ocho Legs Of Anti-Faminists had signed in, gotten our photo taken at the start line, and, aided by a nervous excitement and "oh my god we're late" adrenalin, running twice as fast as our planned pace for the first leg. By half-way through the 11km section, we had passed all 76 teams and were in first place.
During that time, the route took us onto the sandy shoreline of Wasaga Beach and it was then that we passed some veteran women running a slower and perhaps wiser pace. We traded friendly shots with them about each others' pace, but their "we'll scrape you off the concrete when we pass you later in the race" won that round.
Our first checkpoint was bound to be a little exciting, especially given our rushed departure from the start and the fact that we were arriving an hour ahead of schedule, but performed admirably and had us off again in just a few minutes.
The next section was through a beautiful marshland, but all the wildlife was hidden from view as we sweatily jogged by. Approaching the second checkpoint, Noah had his first cramp of the day - apparently his food poisoning from two days earlier was going to be a factor. Nevertheless, we got in, had another reasonably quick turnaround, and all jogged out of there soon after.
Now we were in to the meat of the run - 25km already run and the midday sun beating down on us. Noah suffered cramp after cramp, but stoically pressed on each time after a brief walk. Memorable moments included belting out wordless renditions of Indiana Jones, Superman and Star Wars theme songs, and reaching the T-intersection of the route that indicated checkpoint 5 left (and just a short way to the top of the hill) and rest-stop 1 right (a soul-crushingly long downhill we knew we would later have to ascend).
Despite marking half-way, our break at the rest-stop (complete with food and water but not accessible by support crews) was one of the shortest; we all felt the common sentiment of, why dally when there's no one there to pamper you? Then it was a quick march through some bogs and up to Horseshoe Ski Resort and checkpoint 4. NOW we felt it was time to relax!
And did we ever relax. Fresh burgers, massages, clean clothes...
Did I mentioned how amazing our support crew was? By the time we left, we were still all smiles and the next team had yet to arrive.
We stayed many times longer than any other stop. It seemed to do the trick for Noah, who locked in a solid pace from then on, whereas Jesse fared less well. Once on the trail, my intestines started gurgling. I grabbed a couple of toilet-paper-sized leaves and rubbed them on my arm to check for reactions, but hoped to reach the end of this section anyway. This was one of the tougher points for me: the bugs had come out in force as we passed through the bog section again, and, well, that was not the only bog I had to contend with.
Back through the rest-stop, and back up the long hill. The section after the rest-stop was supposed to be 7km, however our GPS said otherwise. I think the organizers slated this one for the mental games: we saw our first "half way there" sign on this section, about 5km before the end, and our first "2km to go" sign after over 7km.
Noah, to his credit, was laying down a solid pace as darkness fell. We descended what felt like a very steep gravel road on Mount St Louis Moonstone, and met our support crew at the checkpoint at the base of the ski hill with 73km under our belts.
Shortly thereafter it all came undone. Jesse changed shoes but declared his feet unable to carry on. We stayed for an hour in the hopes that he would feel better, but eventually decided to press on. By that time Noah had started shivering, and could barely manage to walk. We didn't make it more than 200 metres out before deciding it best he not continue.
The rules dictate that for safety, teams must be travel with another team if they have fewer than 3: should someone get injured, one person can stay with them while another goes for help. We had the option of travelling with another team, but by this point, we felt that finishing without half the team was not what we'd come to do, and retired from the race.
We later found out the veteran ladies we'd talked with earlier had a couple of withdrawals as well, and had only one team member finish. The team we'd overtaken to move into first place, all those hours ago, was next to arrive at the checkpoint, but stayed the night and finished fourth, while the team with the shortest time overall wouldn't arrive at our checkpoint for 4 hours, and finished 5 hours after that! Overall, the organizers really put together an amazing event, and that course...well, hopefully Geoff, Noah, Jesse and I will be back to take care of unfinished business!!