Ever since our last effort in 2002, Kris and I have toyed with the idea of entering the Eco-Endurance Challenge (E2C) again. Last time, we had a group of four (Matt, Peter, Kris and I) and had quite a bit of fun hiking all day and night. For those that aren't aware of it, the E2C is an orienteering race, where 'control points' (essentially flags) are placed in locations around a large 10km X 20km area in the woods. Each are assigned points. If a control point is difficult to reach, it is worth more. Points near a path are worth less. This year, t here were 60 control points in total. There are several teams that compete with compass only or GPS and compass, whether in the daytime (8 hr competition) or overnight in the 24 hour competition. Each team must use a special 'punch' found at each control to fill your scorecard.
This year, Kris and I decided to re-enter the 24hr GPS/Compass (Rec) competition. There were 8 other teams in our group, which is small compared to the 50+ teams in the other compass-only races. The maps and location of the race are kept secret until the race day, so we weren't sure what to expect! We met in Halifax last Friday night and pondered our strategy most into Saturday. Our strategy seemed to follow ones of our past races — strategies such as, 'we'll just get all of them', at the time fueled mostly by our 20 something enthusiasm and a combination of woods conditioning and/or stupidity. It had worked, while we managed to come in 2nd in our division that year. This time however, there was not much preparation as we gave ourselves about a week and a half notice. 🙂
After receiving our maps, Kris and I headed for a local restaurant to plan a bit. Again, we resorted to the old addages. 11 years on though, I realized that E2C had changed slightly — having become a first-stop for the yearly adventure race season in Nova Scotia. Arriving at the start line, I couldn't help but notice all the well prepared competitors (spandex and all). Sans spandex, we were prepared to spend 24 hrs in the woods, with slightly heavier backpacks laden with clothing and food for a night that may dip into the minus digits.
With the start of the race, we hiked to the east to complete a few 'easier' points which were off trail. We'd thought about travelling the eastern sections of the map as they had most of the higher valued points and seemed to have a good amount of them as well. The trick was, once you entered that area — it would be a lot of time wasted to turn around, so we planned to head through and into the night, hoping to be out the deep woods by dusk.
To our surprise, as we continued to pursue our plan, we found that many of the points involved heavy bushwacking and a seemingly endless steeple chase of log over log crossings (left over deadfalls from Hurricane Juan 2003). It was a challenge mentally and physically going from point to point, realizing our times were slowly getting longer to reach each control. At one point after not finding one control after spending almost an hour trying to find it, we realized that we were far into the woods and would not be out of the heavy stuff until early morning. Throughout the day, I couldn't help but realize how well some groups were doing, passing around us with ease at a jog. As well, 11 years had changed a few things — including the ease of
technology — with Kris intially tweeting our progress live during our
hike. Matt even had a few comments for us from Toronto as we were going along. I'm not quite sure I had a digital camera in 2002, but was now
marveling at how live photos and video that could be posted on the internet mid-bushwack.
Nevertheless to the difficulty, Kris and I decided to plod on and reach controls along the way to our exit from the bushwacking. This decision was made around 8pm. After getting used to navigating in the dark with a flashlight and compass (normally something we would avoid at all costs!), we began to make our way around the geography of lakes, hills, heavy bush, rocks, deadfalls, steep inclines, thickets and the like. And after reducing ourselves to puliverized meat, we finally reached a road and safety camp at 1 am! With a bit of a rest and a change of my wet clothes, we decided to make the 2 hour trek back to the finish line and turn in our punch card. We did reach the end at 2:45am, gladly limping back to the car for our warm-up of a ride home.
The next day, we found in the results that we (Ex-Pierceys Adventure League) had placed 5th in our division with 16 controls. There were teams with double that amount — and even a competative team only missing out on 6 out of the 60 controls available! Despite the challenge of it all, we did have fun — and I have even started strategizing for next year.
Thanks to Kris for some of these photos. See his report on the day here: