Location: Fort Coulonge, Quebec
Date: July 11-12, 1998
Format: 36 hour maximum covering 150km non-stop
Disciplines: trekking (32 km), canoeing (25 km), mountain biking (78 km), tyrolean traverse, whitewater rafting (15 km)
Participation: 34 teams of 4 (mixed gender) plus support crew of 1 or 2 members came from across North America
Results: A total of 15 teams completed the entire course within the alotted 36 hours with Team Rip'n'Hammer from Toronto, Canada crossing first in 25 hours, 26 minutes.
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Right after CP1, teams had the choice of dropping directly into the river or attempting the thick bush to the south. The majority decided to drop in right away. It was certainly faster traveling in the river as the bush was very bad. Checkpoint 2 was roughly 4 km down river from CP1. Although mildly better on the west shore, the bush was not pleasant. Some teams floated/swam the entire distance. Using a combination of river travel/swimming and struggling along the shore turned out to be the fastest strategy. Routefinding played an important role here as it would for the next section. Team Mountain Quest were the first to check in at CP2 with Team B.E.A.R. and Team Rip'n'Hammer (#31). Team Tribe and Team F.I.T. dropped back a little but were still in hot pursuit.From CP2 teams would have to navigate through some dense bush and swamp areas to find CP3, roughly 7 km west. Although there were a few 4X4 bike tracks, most of the section was quite raw and slow going. When we test ran this section it was rampant with hyperactive deer flies. When they let up the mosquitoes would move in for whatever was left. Unbeknownst to us the deer flies and most of the mosquitoes had the weekend off. The racers got off easy.
Team Nomad (#6) proved the importance of routefinding here as they made up more than an hour on other teams to go from 10th place to first place at CP3. They stuck to the swampy areas and avoided most of the bush. Wow, a team of first time racers storms past the veterans and increases the intensity for the rest of the race. The standings actually changed quite a bit through CP3 as many teams found the navigation challenging. Team B.E.A.R., Team Quest for Adventure (#32) and Team Rip'n'Hammer were all still within 1 hour.
Not much changed from CP3 to CP4 as the route followed fairly easy logging roads. Team Mountain Quest and Team Contour (#35) both took advantage of the easy travel and other teams resting and managed to gain a couple of positions each. CP4 marked the end of the trekking section, for many, the toughest section of the race. Several teams told us afterward that they were on the brink of quitting when they felt hopelessly lost. They persevered, however, and found CP3 eventually. Teams were quite spread out by this point as there as there was almost 7 hours between the first and the last team to reach CP4.The end of the trekking meant the start of the canoeing, although it was not a transition area so teams had to carry their life jackets and personal paddles from the start line.The canoe section (from CP4 to CP8) covered about 25 km along the Black River. It was all downstream and only a few portages to contend with. For many this was an enjoyable paddle, for the first couple of hours anyway. Team Nomad maintained their lead throughout reaching CP8 at 8:34pm on Saturday but Team Rip'n'Hammer managed to move into second place and close the gap to only 11 minutes. For most teams, the majority of the paddling was done at night through the peaceful wilderness. As one team described, in a different setting the full moon would have made it quite a romantic paddle.
The first mountain biking section (from CP8 to Cp13) would cover roughly 60 km of old 4X4 roads and newer logging roads. The trail started just behind the old hunt lodge on the other side of the river and headed up an old rough 4X4 track for about 15 km to CP9. A raft was put in place to ferry teams across the river to reach the hunt lodge.
The trail was quite overgrown and there were many rocky hills to climb. From CP9 the trail continued along an old washed out road for about 7 km. Again, Mother Nature went easy. We might as well have used a canoe on our test runs of CP9 to CP10. Miraculously the river diminished to only one short section of 'pedaling' through knee deep water.
Team Rip'n'Hammer continued to apply the pressure and their strong mountain biking put them ahead of Team Nomad coming into CP10. Experience might also have played a key role as Team Rip'n'Hammer worked efficiently as a team by physically pushing each other up hills to balance the pace between all four members. Team Mountain Quest, Team B.E.A.R. and Team Contour were also moving in fast.At CP11 teams loaded into another raft and crossed the Coulonge River. From here they would have to pick their way through the bush with their bikes to find the start of the trail 2km down the river shore. Team
Nomad lost a little time heading through here and to CP12 allowing Team Mountain Quest, Team B.E.A.R. and Team Contour to move ahead. Team Rip'n'Hammer held on to a slim lead CP12 to CP13/TA2 followed a fairly well traveled (for this area) gravel road. Team Rip'n'Hammer took advantage and extended their lead to 32 minutes over Team Mountain Quest. They arrived at 5:31am and 6:03am respectively. Feeling the competitive pressure and the fast approaching end of the race each of the top 4 teams spent no more than 10 minutes at the transition and continued their march to the tyrolean traverse. Team Contour was there for only 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, back at CP8/TA1, the last few teams had not yet headed out onto their bikes. The non-stop element of adventure racing was taking its toll. The majority of teams were heading for CP10 at this point and were certainly happy to have the benefit of sunlight to speed up their mountain biking. Their praise of the sun wouldn't last long, however, as the temperature quickly climbed and heat exhaustion became a very legitimate concern. A short 2km run took the lead teams down to the edge of the Chutes Coulonge, a waterfall leading into an impressive gorge. They quickly clipped in and slid across the 300 ft. of rope over the waterfall. Our highly skilled guides made this an extremely fast section for many who were able to cross the tyrolean and hike the short distance out of the gorge in under 30 minutes.There was one last obstacle first, though. Somehow we did not include accurate directions in the written description on how to get from CP15 to CP16. We apologize profusely for this, it was not intentional. Fortunately, all teams had maps that were very accurate and all teams were faced with the same situation. Our sympathy only goes so far for those that didn't check their map and use their own judgment. Besides, no adventure race would be complete without a little adversity.
Once out of the gorge, teams met up with their support crews again to get back on their bikes for the final 20 km ride. This section was primarily on roads as teams raced to reach the final stage, the whitewater rafting down the mighty Ottawa River.
At CP17/TA4, the raft put-in, there was only 20 minutes separating Team Rip'n'Hammer and Team Mountain Quest, an easy gap to overcome if Team Rip'n'Hammer were to let up at all. Team Contour had now moved into third place overtaking Team B.E.A.R who took a wrong turn or two between CP16 and CP17. Team Nomad also capitalized on Team B.E.A.R.'s misfortune and moved into 4th place.
The rafting section turned out to be no challenge for Team Rip'n'Hammer as they held on to their lead to take first place in Contour's Raid the North 1998. They reached the finish line at 10:36am on Sunday, July 12, for a total time of 25 hours and 26 minutes. Only 16 minutes later, Team Mountain Quest came across the finish line to claim second, followed by Team Contour a little more than an hour later in 3rd place. Team Nomad put in an outstanding performance for their first ever adventure race taking 4th place. In a sport where experience plays a huge role in performance (the remaining 4 teams in the top 5 all had Eco-Challenge experience), this was truly an amazing accomplishment. This will be a team to watch in the future. Rounding out the top 5 was Team B.E.A.R.
While the first teams across the line caught up on some eating and sleeping, the rest of the teams continued to battle the increasing temperature. Team F.I.T., Team Very Radical and Team Quest for Adventure spent the last 3 hours of the race trading places in their battle for 6th place. Team Very Radical had come from far behind on the biking section but used their road biking prowess to close the gap once out of the woods. In the end, Team F.I.T. managed to regain and hold onto 6th place. They were closely followed by Team Very Radical in 7th place and Team Quest for Adventure in 8th. In total, 15 of the 34 teams officially crossed the finish line with the last team, Team Pure Endurance, crossing at 9:20pm. They beat the cut-off time at the rafting section by only 1 minute.
As usual, the teams finishing the race only tells half of the story. Much of what adventure racing is about what happens with the teams that do not reach the finish line. Adventure racing is an opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone and test your limits. It is also an incredible lesson in how to function as a team to overcome adversity. You do not have to finish the race to experience this, you just need to push yourself. Congratulations to all of those that took the opportunity to go beyond what they thought was possible. All told, this year's course covered 150 km of trekking, canoeing, mountain biking, whitewater rafting and a tyrolean traverse. There were 34 teams at the start line and 15 of them officially made it to the finish line.
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