Eco-Endurance Challenge 2002
Team Tree Amigos
Greg Pemberton, Sean Gaultois, and Bruce Murphy
Wherever free food is offered, we will be there,
Whenever nature calls, we will answer
Wherever injustice threatens, call 911.
To begin at the beginning, Sean and Bruce raced in this event in 2001 and tweaked my interest in participating in 2002. After a few well-placed bribes I was on the team. Although we had several focus groups set up and a survey ready to be sent out, little thought actually went into the naming of the team. Tree Amigos simply evoked enough of a chuckle that it stuck (although we would forever be explaining that it was Tree NOT Three Amigos).
Bruce had organized a strict training regimen but we jogged with him anyway. By race day we had shaped ourselves into orienteering machines (slightly rusted ones that were definitely overdue for a checkup and possibly missing a few parts). Arriving at the community centre from different directions we had each made the pilgrimage to Timmies before registering. Charged with double-doubles, we looked over the map, roughed out a strategy, grabbed a bagel from the kitchen, and headed down to the starting line to watch the beginning of the 8-hour events. We chatted with some of the participants (some of the Gonzos were in this category) and once they took off, we went back to the community centre to putter around with our gear.
Our starting pack weights probably ranged from 20-25lbs. We had tried to pare down the weight to a minimum but since we were camping out in style, that meant stoves, sleeping bags and a tarp plus our food and water. We brought filter pumps but in the end never needed them.
The Game is Afoot
The peal of a bell marked the start and the herd trundled forward, gaining momentum and separating out as it went. Control 190 was our first stop, an easy 100 points to break the ice. From here the pack really began to sort itself out. With Navitrak behind and Ex-Piercey's in front, we hiked NNE for a while before stopping to make adjustments, re-laced our boots and shuffled some gear. The going was moderately hilly, generally climbing ever since the bridge at the start. Conditions could not have been better, especially after hearing all the stories of snow and high water from the previous year's competition. Generally overcast skies combined with a variable stiff wind kept the temperature cool and pleasant for the most part.
The going was probably too good at the start as we blew past a control point (198) without realizing it and then decided to push on to next rather than backtrack so early in the game. But pride goeth before the fall. We also didn't realize that it had been a 300-pointer that we really could have used in the end. It was on our way to the next checkpoint that we realized that we weren't exactly sure of our location. We finally took bearings on an intersection and got back on track (if we only learned from our mistakes…). Our early pace was approximately 13-15 minutes/km, a little slow, but we were hauling packs and wearing boots not running shoes.
Into the Thick of It
We picked up a couple of more controls as we headed NE and the going was good along the roads. The pack must have spread out quite a bit, as we didn't meet up with many other teams throughout the afternoon. We were getting bold and decided to take one of the controls as the crow flies. This was the battle we will remember in the war we lost, slogging through the bush and coming out within sight of the flag. We pushed west after that, only getting a little lost and only realizing it when the road we were on came to an end but the one on the map kept going. REMEMBER: always take your bearings when you have a good intersection at hand… if only we would listen to our own advice. This bit of wisdom is second only to always listen to Sean. So on we went another control, a break for coffee and then the hike south to the Ventures camp. We bagged the control at the crossroads, set up camp and then took 199 on the hilltop nearby. This one should have been easier if we had actually paid attention to the description of HILLTOP for where the control was located. We walked past the thing a few times before finding it right where it should have been, at the highest point along the cut line running over the top of the hill. We kicked ourselves back to camp.
Free Spaghetti, Toasty Toes, and a Starry Night
Ah, dehydrated food pouches, nutribars and hot chocolate. The Ventures graciously offered up their extra pasta. We sat around chatting with groups who stopped by on their way to race through the night, all of us hopelessly trying to dodge the smoke from the fire. After toasting my feet at the fire and watching the steam rising off the tips of my toes, it was time to call it a night. It was a clear, cold, beautiful evening for sleeping out. Sean was hanging in the trees (in his hammock of course) and Bruce and I were set up under a tarp. I just lay on my back watching the stars. I also watched all the other teams as they tramped through the campsite searching for 185, hoping that no one would accidentally take a whiz on us since we were set low in a hollow just inside the tree line.
Frozen Socks and a Bright Full Moon
Wakeup was unofficially 5:00am but we collectively hit the snooze bar and came out of hibernation at 6:00am. My Saturday socks were rock solid from the cold and it took a little time near the fire before I could properly tighten up my boots. The full moon was just hitting the horizon while we broke camp. After a good oatmeal and coffee breakfast, we were on our way.
We caught 181 at the bridge. Found 145 at the end of a lake and went overland through some old clearcuts to 149.
The Final Push
We were running out of gas and slowing down on the way out. Sean's boots were giving him grief. There were no flags to shoot for that were worth missing the early-finish bonus, so we headed straight for the finish line. Mike was wandering in getting some photos of the last of the competitors. We hiked with him for a while and then decided we had enough time to grab 191 near the end. From there it was clear sailing to the finish (10:50 am)
Lessons Learned and More Free Food
Since dead last is never a good place to finish, be it resolved that we don't intend to be there next year. So in that spirit we pledge to pack lighter, push through the night, and try picking up the pace a bit. We all had a great time regardless of where we placed.
Back at the community center/ refugee camp, people were catching up on lost sleep, scarfing down a tonne of good, hot food, and exchanging war stories.
He had bought a large map representing the sea,
Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.
`What's the good of Mercator's North Poles and Equators,
Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?'
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply
`They are merely conventional signs!
`Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!
But we've got our brave Captain to thank'
(So the crew would protest) `that he's bought us the best--
A perfect and absolute blank!'
Excerpt from The Bellman's Speech in the Hunting of the Snark - Lewis Carroll