Team Stories – Remote Controls
June 04, 2011
REMOTE CONTROLS (1280 Points – 2nd Place / 8 Hour Recreational)
Three years ago, we were just learning how to read a map and use a compass. It definitely showed on our first E2C attempt as a team in 2009 when we were ‘extracted’ from the course. 2010 proved better with an 8th place finish in PC, and this year (thanks to a little more intentional preparation) we bumped up to 2nd in Rec and 5th overall. The point is (the parallel to ‘The Biggest Loser’ being appropriate) if we can do it, you can do it. Seriously.
Here’s a brief recap of our E2C 2011 adventure…
After a good night of rest (and a hearty feed of pasta), we arrived to registration by 6:45am. A quick look at the map revealed that this was not a runner’s course, as we had hoped. Instead, it seemed like there was only one route choice jam-packed with‘exciting’ bushwhacking opportunities. Time to roll with the punches… The inclusion of the aerial photo inset, distance bearing, and grid references added to the enjoyment of pre-race preparations.
Arrived at the course check-in around 8:45am. Tried to gauge the temperatures to decide what to wear knowing that we wanted to be as light as possible. Looked like it was going to be a perfect weather day. Went lean on food and water, too, hoping that we would make it to the East Safety early enough to top up our water supply. Picked up the aerial map at ~9:40am after the mandatory rule speeches and were encouraged to see that there were no surprises. Synced our watches with the official clock and waited for the 10 o’clock whistle.
Route Markers (point values):
241 (20) –Thankfully, we paid more attention to the trail bends on the map than the gravel pit markers since the pits were slightly inland. Followed a gut instinct and cut into the right while others kept on. Among the first ones to punch this one. Only worth 20, but a good confidence boost to start the day.
240 (70) – Stayed close with team Straight Ahead (friends of ours). Determined that we would cut left and take our chances crossing the river to 240. Woods were easy to navigate – soft footing and downhill. River was wider, deeper, and faster flowing than we had expected, but we knew we were going to be getting wet at some point. Time to take the plunge! Probably hesitated too long trying to find a good crossing point, but still managed to make good time. Straight Ahead (admittedly much faster than us) crossed and were off. What initially seemed easy turned out to be one of the most difficult finds of the day. We ended up searching for a good 15 minutes with three other teams nearby. We were just about to give up on this one, but starting again at the river and attacking it from a different angle led to success.
235 (90) – Once we found our way to the road, we followed our plan – jog flats and down hills and walk uphill. That meant that we walked most of the way to 235, located at the top of a steep hill. Travelled there with four or five other teams in close proximity. Started to sense that the difference on this day would be consistency and endurance, knowing that most teams had a similar route strategy.
237 – Distance Bearing (100) – Prior to the race, we picked up a couple of small watchband compasses for $2 each. These proved very helpful as we relied on them rather than our bulky compasses 90% of the day. They allowed us to travel downhill through the mossy woods with speed, assisting us in arriving at the corner of the lake relatively easily.
221 – Aerial (100) – Crossed the stream as indicated on the map and made our way through thicker terrain to the road leading to the clear cut adjacent to 229. We travelled to the end of that road and knew that we were close. Navigating the clear cut was easy and with a quick climb and search we were able to find the control. To our surprise, Straight Ahead came up right behind us, reporting that they had made an unfortunate navigational error.
228 – Aerial (100) – Travelled quickly downhill together until we met the stream. Followed it directly to the next marker. Wet, but very simple.
227 – Aerial (100) – Straight Ahead was off again, but we did see them briefly one last time as they were coming out of the ‘Boneyard’ adjacent to 227 (a clear cut laden with dry, old white sticks) while we were heading in. Once we found the right entrance (we knew we were close because a patrol truck with a photographerwas ‘on duty’ there) the marker was not hard to find, but the hill climb to the control did not go unnoticed by tired legs.
225 – Aerial (100) – The tip of Connor Lake made it easy to identify where we were in relation to 225. The entrance trail on the aerial map existed, but was not distinct. Two other teams were tracking this one down at the same time, so we knew that we were OK. The watch compasses proved their worth again and led us close enough to see the control by the edge of Cellarhole Lake. Back at the main road, we met up with several teams heading in both directions.
226 – Aerial (100) – The next attack point was just down the road. Took our time taking a bearing at the tri-junction, knowing that poor judgment could get us lost in a hurry. Thankfully, we judged right and followed the course description to the top of the hill. This control was low hanging, but fairly easy to locate. Took a minute to catch our breath and refuel. Another team was coming, so we quickly moved away from the control.
250 (80) – Continued north to the clear cut. Thankfully, we could see the trail ahead from a good 200 meters away. We chose to hit it and go west to the main road (black line) instead of continuing north through the clearing to the road leading to 224, the last aerial control. In retrospect, this was a coin flip, but I was pleased that we attacked 250 from the west in spite of there being no clear entrance point. Again, it was soft and downhill to 250 and would have harder to approach and locate from the east.
224 – Aerial (100)- Heading west to the red road was brutal, possible the worst woods of the day for us. We were four hours into the race when we hit the road. Hated to backtrack to 224, but didn’t want to pass up the easy 100 points. Several teams were heading in and out of the area just north of 224. There was no set path in, so we decided to enter the way other teams were exiting. A rough and tough up and down hike, but the map clearly indicated where the control was. This seemed to be the compromise of the entire course – tough terrain but fairly easy finds.
223 (90) – We were getting really getting thirsty at this point. Ideally, we had hoped to make it to the safety in four hours, but we were a good hour off in our planning. Make that two as we made a major blunder. The northern (red) road towards 223 was a tough uphill climb. At the top of the hill, we started to head cross-country to 223, but soon decided that the slog was not worth the effort. We went back to the road that headed north and completely missed the entrance to the narrow path heading west to 223. We failed to watch our bearings and we travelled almost to the end of that same road to where the thin line path crossed again. Thinking that we had found the proper entrance, we failed to check our compasses, veering left thinking we were heading west when, in fact, we were travelling east! The only thing that saved us at all was a sign that read “Rees Lake”. We then (sadly) realized that we had walked to the very edge of the main map. Our spirits sank and we thought we were completely done. All we could do was follow that same path back to 223. We determined that we lost more than 50 minutes because of this mistake. This trail was downhill, but full of water and mud. Another team was sitting at the edge of the trail entrance to the control (which also seemed unclear). Finally (and thankfully),we arrived.
222 (60) – A wet and boggy uphill slog. We were never so glad to see Scout tents and drink warm water. But after six hours, we had no time to rest if we were even going to get back to the start before 6 o’clock. Traversed a wet, rocky downhill to quick flowing river. Heard some cries in the distance. We followed them and realized that the outbursts were reactions to cold water on skin. Another river crossing! This time there was no hesitation, especially since we could see the control hanging on the opposite side. We quickly crossed and punched.
122 (70) – Time (or lack of it) forced us to change plans. Our hope was to go north to 219, but we had to salvage our remaining opportunities and head for 122. We didn’t get to the clear cut surrounding the red line road directly, but we did get there. Once there, we found the road fairly quickly and did some mental math to figure out whether we could go for both 122 and 218. Not a chance. We were going to bail on both knowing that arriving after 6pm would be considered a personal failure, but we took our chance on 122 and won. It was definitely a climb, but well worth it. I think that we’re getting the hang of ‘spurs’. 218 (worth 80 points) was so close, and seemed so easy where it was a copse, but it just wasn’t meant to be found by us today.
124 – Grid (100) – What a gift to end the day! We had misplaced our original map and had forgotten that there was a grid reference worth 100 on the main road back. It was literally flapping in the wind in such a way that we could not have missed it, besides the fact that another team just ahead of us was coming back to the road from punching it. Walked 10 seconds off of the road to the place that it was ‘hidden’ behind the boulder. With almost ~3km to go and ~30 minutes remaining, we smiled and jogged, hobbled, and walked our way back to the finish with four minutes to spare.
Reflection – Amazing to us is the fact that with one more control (in the 50+ minutes we lost) we might have placed third overall behind two amazing teams, one being our good friends on Straight Ahead who inspired us to start this trek in the first place. It just goes to show that lost people can find their way when they trust in what never changes. As men of faith, the analogy rings especially true for us.
Thanks to everyone who prepared a wonderful supper. An extra special thanks to Jim Blanchard and the rest of the E2C team who helped the event run so smoothly. Looking forward to E2C 2012!
Shawn Veinot(Kentville) & Mark Sypher (New Minas)
PS – We would love to read your story and learn from your experience. (Past stories really helped us get ready for this year.) So please post on the E2C site or send your route marker list and other strategies directly to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. A different perspective is always helpful…