Thursday, 12 May 2016

happy campers? Well, you won't be after this!

We are The Happy Campers and that was our welcome to this year's E2C.

I promised an update on the endurance race so here it is!

We left our hotel on an overcast morning and made our way to registration at a nearby fire hall. Once there, I kept overhearing the volunteers utter the same word - mud. I love the great outdoors so the idea of getting dirty doesn't faze me, but I wasn't sure that all day in the mud was all that appealing. It didn't put a damper on my excitement though, so we grabbed our t-shirts, maps, and directions to the Start and off we went!

Side note: my excitement looks much like my every day RBF. Internally it's all ferris wheels and lollipops, but little makes it to my outer expression.

The course was on active logging territory and the clay-clogged, bumpy, slow, 10 km ride down a dirt road showed us what we were in for - mud, mud, bogs, standing open water, windfall, long stretches of road, and trips through beautiful moss carpeting. I wasn't feeling overly optimistic about the "no bug" dance I had done that morning.

The E2C has a very energetic, supportive vibe, much like other races. Walking to the start area reminded me how invigorating it is to be surrounded by like-minded people. Waterproof hikers, gaiters, poles, gloves - everyone was geared to have a fun, filthy day. We dressed Abbey in her high vis vest and she was making friends at every parked car we passed. Vehicle hoods were covered in maps and compasses. Teams who had already done the gear check were huddled around their maps plotting their routes while we were busy talking serious snack strategies.

Because snacks matter.

If you didn't read my last post, we were two teams: Nancy, Abbey, and I were our own troupe, and two adult friends and their 10-year old kids were our accompanying gang. Super fun group. We made our way to the equipment check and showed that we all had the necessary items - compass, watch, matches, knife, whistle, and water. The volunteers were on the ball and made sure we had snacks for the dog if we'd go anywhere without scooby snacks.

We had twenty minutes or so to wait for opening announcements. I am happy to report that unlike the last time we did this race, I wasn't attacked by mosquitoes and black flies. We took a quick look at the map so we could head to a cluster of controls and maximize our chances of early success. A quick "have fun, don't go near active logging" speech later and we were issued our punch cards and waiting for the horn. In the meantime, someone launched a drone. Now, you may or may not know my dog, but let me tell you, she ain't a fan of flying, buzzing things and the drone was no exception. Nothing like 10 minutes of straight barking at the sky to get things underway! Good times.

Then we were off! The crowd thinned pretty quickly and we slowed to make a more detailed plan and unhook Abbey. She's a great little hiker and leaving her on leash for eight hours was not an option. The only problem was that in the excitement, she ran around the side of a parked car and disappeared. We fanned out. Nancy went down one road. I went down another. Nothing. No Abbey. She has impeccable recall, but wherever she had wandered, she either didn't hear us or was too confused to find her way back.

Let's talk about panic for a minute. I have full on panicked very few times in life. Once in an MRI machine. Once when trapped behind a mattress moving it up a stairwell. Once when I thought someone stole my dog from the car. I could feel the beating, thrashing monster of panic trying to break free from its cage again. My dog is my constant companion. Yelling her name and not seeing her smiling face appear DOES. NOT. HAPPEN.

After a few minutes standing around yelling her name, whistling, and asking people if they had seen the dog, we agreed that our little team would stay handy and the others would get moving down the closest road to head to the first control point. We started off in another direction to see if she had skipped behind us unseen. My gut told me to stop and stay still, though, and after a few very long minutes, our friend Katie hollered that they had found her. Races are very exciting - what is a dog to do? Lots of people. Lots of noise. A drone overhead to get you all worked up. Next thing you know, you're unleashed and following the closest set of legs into the woods. She was sticking with a team of women and they must have heard one of us yelling because they asked our friends if we were missing a dog. She had been running up and down a path once she realized she was with Others.

The monster in my chest settled down and we were on our way to our first flag. Not the start I had envisioned.

The kids did all the punch card work and made the day that much better. I would totally do this event with children again. We didn't fill out the full 8 hours, but we covered a lot of ground and called it quits when our quiet group got even quieter.

I won't go into every detail here, but will give you the highlights and observations:

  • No bugs = way better time
  • There are a lot of snakes in windfall areas. My wife is deathly afraid of snakes. There was a lot of "don't come this way - go around!"
  • Sometimes children ask "are we lost" a lot. We weren't. Mostly.
  • Finding three flags in the first hour when you have littles and a dog is pretty amazing!
  • Covering 18km with two littles is way impressive.
  • Leapfrogging saves time. Backtracking does not,but provides opportunity to take a photo of those frog eggs you noticed on the way in.
  • Frog eggs sometimes glow blue
  • Having children on the team enhances the event. Their smiles when we'd find a flag were huge. Their stories were entertaining. Highly recommended.
  • Raspberry bushes and wild rose saplings like to grab ankles.
  • Sometimes half a kilometre feels like way more.
  • Sometimes half a kilometre feels like way less.
  • My daily 8 km walks made this event breezy. Even the high stepping didn't cause my hip flexors complaint.
  • MS sucks. In case you had forgotten.
On the MS side of things, things went much better than last time. The sun popped out for 40 minutes or so and I did get weird in my head during that time, but it was manageable. Frustrating, but manageable. Nance kept the water handy and friends checked in on me when I was lagging. I appreciate that people are aware of how heat affects me and think to ask how I'm doing.

I did crash hard when wifey and I got back to the hotel. Something MS-y hit me and I was shaky and finding it hard to speak. It didn't last long, but I opted to stay in for the evening to give my body what it was asking for.

Nance rounded out the day with a trip to see her sister and famjam. The kids and moms hit Toys R Us and the pool. I sat on the couch/bed and gave doggins a massage as she slept. All in all, a great day!

Other notes from this road trip: 
Marshmallow guns are hilarious and I have to buy some for camping trips this summer.
Nance conjures the sea glass gods on every outing and finds amazing pieces.
My favourite beach is still my favourite.
Pills sometimes stick to ceilings. Don't ask.
I miss Saint John.


Oh, and that woman was wrong. We will always be happy campers.

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