Team Stories – Hammerheads

April 19, 2002

Hammerheads (T.Davis, R.Heimpel)
4400 points
8/12 teams in PC-24

To start, we both would like to thank the HRSAR and the volunteers who organized and put this race on. Hats off to the volunteers, especially the lonely water station in the south end of the watershed.

Saturday 27 April arrived and it was a beautiful day for being in the woods – overcast, +7C, slight breeze and, being late April, no black flies. We arrived at 10:30 AM at the community center to sign our waivers and receive our map. We took a few minutes to look it over and decided to head into the southern loop of Pockwock despite the fact that the northern route had more points of greater value. Our logic was that the southern points required more bushwhacking and that it would be better to get the unfamiliar area done during the first day while we were fresh and alert.

The pre-race brief was given and when the bell sounded at 12:00 sharp, we were off in a mass start. The first point on our chosen route would be common to both the outward trek and the return leg. When we arrived at the CP 190 after a 1.5 km trek north on a gravel path, we decided to continue to the next CP to avoid the cluster from so many teams arriving at the same time. We headed west on a fairly decent trail towards our second point, stepping carefully as the trail was rocky and had sections that were overlaid by small cut-down trees. One other team was a short distance in front of us. We arrived at the CP (191, 100 pts) at the trail end and punched our passport, and set our compasses to shoot a bearing through the bush towards our next CP 192.

The bush was not very thick but our progress was slowed initially as the ground comprised of moss covered boulders. We cleared past the boulders and happened upon a sort of path that was wet and marshy in spots. It was aligned with our bearing so away we went, making good progress. By now we were aware that a team was close behind and this was to be expected, as we were so close to the mass start. A few minutes later we headed into the woods off this quazzy path to maintain our bearing, and saw the team behind us, recognizing them as Team Red Rock Raiders, Pat Chan’s team. Progress was fine with decent footing through moderate bush over undulating hills but we were no longer being followed, perhaps they were headed elsewhere. We cleared the bush at a stream and figured we should be very close to the stream junction CP (192) and so we headed north to look for a stream junction. We saw Team IRONBOUND who were headed south, and after a quick hello they were gone. Moments later we saw the stream junction, but the CP marker was nowhere to be seen. We had bushwhacked well as we were only about 10 meters off of the junction when we came out of the bush, but where was the CP marker?? The search was on, and we were a bit frustrated at the delay in finding it. It was eventually found (CP 192, 200 pts) but it was quite a distance from the stream junction.

The sun came out and the combined heat of the sunshine and being ticked at the location of the CP required us to stop and shed a layer of clothing. We saw another team and we were both headed in the same southerly direction, they more in the woods while we were hugging the stream. We were using the stream as a handrail to the next CP that was indicated on the map as being where the stream and a trail met. The progress was decent and having located the CP (196, 200 pts) at the stream/trail junction, we headed off down a good trail towards the next CP.

Our plan was stick to the trail and when it intersected with the power lines, do a time appreciation. If we were on schedule, we would head along the powerline for the next CP 229. We were progressing well and when decision time arrived we chose to go along the powerline. It was marshy in spots but survivable, although I was not happy with my new socks as now my right foot was feeling quite wet. My partner was still warm, dry and toasty. We arrived close to the CP (CP 229, 200 pts) and had a brief chat with another team that was taking a break. One of them was on a cell phone. I had to ask if they were ordering pizza and advised them that no pizza place would guarantee delivery out here. A quick chuckle and we parted ways.

Back to the trail that was more like a secondary road and we were off. Moving at a good speed we were surprised to see the same team we had met earlier along the creek crossing the road following a stream. We said hello, they moved on. We checked our location using a nearby lake as reference and, seeing as how the bush was fairly light here, decided to follow the stream heading south in the same manner as the other team had. We didn’t mutually decide this but my partner presented a good argument and I agreed to follow. I had wanted to stick to the trail and then take a more eastern course direct towards the CP 224. We always try to minimize bushwhacking as it much slower than along a trail, but this seemed to be a good area, so off we went. The real key here is that we had trained/raced together before and didn’t get into a heated discussion. Turns out we located the CP (CP 224, 200 pts) very quickly although we did have to use a fallen tree to cross the steam as we had naturally chosen the wrong side of the stream to follow.

Okay, taking our new bearing, off we went towards the next CP 220. The map indicated that we should intersect a trail so we set our course to minimize bushwhacking and hopefully the trail would actually be evident. The plan was to then to follow the trail and then make a direct route towards the location of the next CP. There was minimal risk here since the next CP 220 was located along Wrights Lake, a fair sized lake with easily recognizable features to confirm location. If we missed the trail we would simply head along the shoreline until we saw the CP. We meandered along and in a short time picked up the trail. Heading south, we were about to make our turn off the path towards the lake and Iw as scouting for a good place to turn off. I was less attentive to my footing then I should have been and I tripped and fell over a log/root and whacked my head very hard on a rock. This was a bad spot in the race for us, especially for me as I saw stars and had a headache. I was quite fortunate the rock wasn’t a sharp one as the blow was along my temple and ear, the weakest part of the skull. This could have been a disaster. Fortunately after a few minutes of recovery we were set to go again. We were crossing what has to be the worst terrain I know of, the downed trees that we refer to as clearcut. It is like walking on roller bearings and progress is slow as you never know if the footing will hold the weight. It is almost inevitable that we come across this type of terrain and we try to avoid it if at all possible as it really slows any progress. We finally cleared it and were now in thick bush and then it opened up significantly. We came out on the shoreline about 20 meters from CP 220. Two other teams were there, taking a snack break probably because the cove was protected from the wind and was warm.

We proceeded along the shore line and were looking for a outcrop on the other side of the lake. We were going to proceed until this landmark was at a bearing of 120 degrees and then shoot a reverse track back up to the trail. This would reduce the bushwhacking as the shoreline was stone and fairly easy to progress along. We made the move back towards the trail and again encountered into more clearcut. Cresting a knoll we spotted the trail and moved as best as we could towards it. Okay now we were on a trail that was a good road and making great time. We progressed and saw a road/trail bearing to our left. We were uncertain if it was leading to our next CP. We decided to move forward and the road will either come to a T and there will be a water-stop or we will see a better road to our left. We can always pick up the CP on our way back as we are now headed to the southern most pints in Pockwock and then will return along this same road. We stop and replenish our water and take a 15 minute meal break, and have a nice conversation with the volunteer at the water-stop who was telling us how he will be having a steak for supper and potatoes. I tell him that I prefer cold beans and a dry bagel, steak and potatoes are okay if you like warm food. A quick laugh and we are off, heading south. We see the road on the left that leads to the CP we just were discussing and decide to grab it on the return. Away we go down the road, and we see the base of the Rafter Lake and the Dam. We look for the CP and after 5 minutes with no joy, we move on. It is about 5 minutes later that we realize we were not looking in the right area, and quickly make our way to the proper place. It must be the lack of caffeine. Logic takes over to confirm our initial mistake as our pace and the short time it took to get there didn’t make sense. Oh well, regardless, we grab our points (CP 202, 400 pts) we are now heading up the road on the west side of the lake, a long way to go to get these next two CPs.

My feet have a few hot-spots and I am attributing them to the wetness which makes them tender. Oh well, off we go up some decent hills. We get our two CPs (CP 200, 300 pts and CP 201, 300 pts) and have run into a few teams, seeing Red Rock Raiders on the way up the road (they are heading opposite direction, at least 45 minutes ahead of us) and some other teams.

We decide to gamble on the way back and see if it is possible to cross the dam. This would save us a few kms. Nope, a failed gamble, but we do drop down to the stream below the dam and then scale over the wooden waterline, which saves us a bit of time. Off we go, by now my shoulders are starting to feel the pack a little bit. Back on the road heading towards the missed CP and the waterstop we see one team without packs strolling along in the opposite direction. My partner and I have quite a lengthy discussion about teams dropping their packs, and we see their packs in the ditch a few minutes later. I can’t recall if it is this event or the Adventure Racing rules that forbid the dropping of packs. It is a good idea if you are doing an out and back or loop but it seems unfair. I think I am whining because my shoulders are getting a bit sore. It really doesn’t matter that much and we don’t hide their packs or any such foolishness as that. I guess as long as you have your mandatory gear with you it is within the rules. It is funny when you start getting a bit tired how you focus in on some pretty trivial stuff. I am also missing coffee by this time, badly. Okay, so we pick up our missing CP (CP 204, 200 pts) that lies at a stream/lake junction. Again we have chosen the wrong side of the stream to follow from the road, naturally.

As we are heading head back towards the water-stop, it is 5:30 PM. I tell my partner I want to change socks earlier than planned as my feet are becoming tender. We agree to wait until our scheduled 8PM meal break, but 10 minutes later I call a halt. I pull of the shoes and drenched socks, and my right foot looks like I just stepped out of a 2 hour bath, all pruned. This is not good and as I slap the Vaseline to it and put on dry socks, we realize this could be trouble later on. My shoes are soaked and the prospect of the dry socks staying dry very long with the bushwhacking involved is not good. We are looking at options and the map, as I have better boots and dry socks back at the event center in my truck, originally planning to change after the event. We are not very close to the center but if we head back there and let the feet dry and change boots, we may be able to keep going. We are off and head past the water-stop towards the point where we will have to bushwhack towards the next CP. It turns out to be locked in a boggy section at the south end of a lake. Okay, any dryness attained by changing socks has been lost, points gathered (CP 215, 200 pts).

Doubling-back to the road, there is no reprieve as we merely cross the road and head into another bushwhack for a CP worth big points. As we get into heavy bush, followed by clearcut and then more bush, we see why there are so many points associated with this CP. We saw a couple of teams on our way in. We get it, (CP 209, 500 pts) and head back towards the road on the shortest track possible. We stop and decide to try another pair of socks and use plastic bags as a liner over and under the socks. This seems to work but it is very cool as we stop. We saw a team just as we were leaving the CP and another team when we stopped to change socks. Dark is almost upon us and out come the head lamps.

We walk along with the rough idea to head towards the event center. The next CP 225 is another bushwhack. Unable to determine exactly when to turn off the road into the bush, Trevor takes a gamble that the map is accurate and waits for the road to be oriented on a due north bearing. We head off through easy bush and arrive at the lake. We are looking at the shore line and estimate the CP should be very close. As we turn around the CP is only 5 feet away. Looks like Trevor’s gamble worked, although normally we mistrust the maps a wee bit. We see the headlights of another team coming along the shoreline, we stop and chat with them. They are the same team we have seen several times through the day, and we find out they are from New Brunswick, cool.

Off we go, through the bush towards the road. We hit the road and head north, spirits not as high as usual. We continue and make a veer back towards the lake and veer into the bush after we crest a hill on the road . It is okay through the bush and it is light around the lake shore. Oh-oh, the marker should be here. This is where the race is annoying, frustrating. Insisting that we get this point, we make a huge mistake and head along the lake shore south, figuring we must be too far north. The clue is south end of cove but the high water level, in hindsight, made the marsh seem like a continuation of the cove. A significant amount of time is blown here and no joy. Okay, back we go to where we initially hit the lake, let’s get out of here. My partner takes one last look along the shore and there is the marker, a mere 10 meters from where we had initially hit the shore line.

Back up to the road and this is probably where a cup of coffee would have put us in a better mood. We’ve been going now for over 10 hours and I am focused far too much on my tender feet. Always looking at what could be lost if I trash the feet, we discuss the fact that we are headed up to Cape Breton in three weeks to run the Cabot Trail Relay race. I decide it is best if we finish early and my partner offers little resistance. We grab CP 181, 300 points and have made a conscious decision to skip CP 182.

This is it, the first point on our planned route where we diverge from the plan. We stop at the next CP (CP 185, 100 pts). There is a water-stop and a fire. There are many teams here and we can’t get close to the fire as there are so many people, so we have a quick bite and decide to get going. It is cooling down significantly, and we head off towards the event center via some trails. We pick up another CP later on (CP 186, 100 pts) and then make the last walk towards the event center on the main road around Pockwock lake.

On the way back we get the original CP (CP 190, 100 pts) on our route that we had skipped earlier. My partner warns me that next week I may regret the decision to finish early, but this is early in our season and I don’t want to create an injury that will prevent participation throughout the year.

I am happy with the results of the day even if we did only takedown 18 of the 40 CPs. We hand in our card worth 4400 pts and make a joke about wanting to be certain to get the bonus for finishing early. One fellow asks us if we are heading to our vehicle for a sleep. Is this allowed? I guess we aren’t quite in synch with what we were allowed to do, our plan was always travel light and freeze at night (Hey, mission accomplished on the freezing part). We’ll be back.

I would offer the suggestion that the organizers return to the system of providing the grid coordinates and leave a few unmarked on the map. We were unhappy with the CP at the stream junction (CP 192), easy if you approached from the north but not easy the way we chose. We did get confused on the lake that would normally have the south end as marsh in the summer, and when we returned to our original point of meeting the lake, found the CP 10 meters from where we first started looking. I guess the lesson learned was the feet. 2 days later my feet were fine, no blisters or damage. The lesson learned that is that they (the feet) could have taken more pounding despite being soft from the wetness. Thanks again to everyone involved in organizing and conducting this race.

ROUTE – CPS 191, 192, 196, 229, 224, 220, 202, 200, 201, 204, 215, 209, 225, 178, 181, 185, 186, 190

Points – 4400 + 300 early finish bonus.
Finish Time 0400 AM