ESAR – Emergency Services Adventure Race

A couple of weeks ago, Tim, Juliette and I decided to run in the Emergency Services adventure race in Barrie. Tim hadn’t done an adventure race yet, so we thought this would be a great opportunity to wet his feet before the 24 hour Odyssey race we are doing in July.

The race started on the Notawassaga river in canoes. With 97 teams and a strong current at the start, it was a chaotic first leg with canoes ramming and bouncing off of each other, several teams tipping and desperate jockeying for position. We needed better kayak paddles and more practice working together, but we still managed to come out of the water in the top ten.

We promptly turned around and dove back into the river to swim across in the strong current. I’d forgotten that Tim isn’t a strong swimmer, especially with a pack and shoes on. I was only reminded when I looked back to see his head barely staying above the surface and water spurting from his mouth. It would have been comical if I wasn’t so worried that the next time he went under he wouldn’t come up again.

Somehow we got to the other side, pulled ourselves up the steep banks and started the long trek through swamp and marsh. I ran at the front on a compass bearing as we all slogged through the mud and worked our way through and over the fallen trees and brush. Eventually we came out to what was supposed to be a trail. It was really just a cut line without trees, but deeper mud. Several kilometers of this threatened our humour and nearly stole our shoes on several occasions.

Finally we got out of the swamp and arrived at what we thought was checkpoint 3. The person staffing it said that we didn’t have to stop there, it was only for the Lite race, so we raced on to checkpoint 4. What we didn’t realize (nor did any team) was that the real checkpoint 3 was a hundred meters in the bush, so we turned around and headed back to find it!

Checkpoint 4 was a transition area. It was so good to get off our feet and onto our bikes. As always, mountain biking was our strength and we started passing teams. We road down roads, swampy trails, great single track and even some rail trail before bombing down a fire road to the base of Snow Valley ski club where we exchanged our bikes for our muddy shoes. We left the biking stage in sixth place and after a quick team challenge started an orienteering course up and down the ski hills.

By some lucky navigation, we were in fourth place overall at the last orienteering point with the three leading teams strung out a hundred meters in front of us. We all raced for the finish line, but nobody was giving up their place. A short climbing wall, a stretcher carry and then an obstacle course and then we crossed the finish line. We managed a respectable fourth place overall and second in the co-ed category less than one minute behind the first place team.

It was a fast, fun and painful race. I tend to not do as well in the shorter, faster races, so I am really proud of how well we did. Tim and Juliette were great to race with. They are both great team-mates and made it a great race! I can’t wait for the next one.

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