I suffer like a dog (where does that saying come from?) in hot, humid weather so I had been anxiously watching the forecast leading up to the race. It initially looked pretty good but the forecast temps kept creeping up over the course of the week, with some increasing humidity, as I assumed it would. We had just come off a week-long stretch of crisp dry weather and cool clear nights, but I should know that race days will never fall on those kind of days.
|So much suffering...|
This trekking loop ended back at the HVNC. Concerningly, I had gone through > 1L of water on this 7.5 mi trek despite cooler morning temps. We refilled some water and headed out on the first bike leg which took us on trails out of HVNC and north onto some Maine back roads 17.5 mi to another trekking loop in the Southern Garcelon. This was a large patch of forest featuring typical New England fare of marshes, little hills and rocky doubletrack trails (ATV/snowmobile - type). After transitioning back to foot mode we headed out. We got off to a pretty solid start, checking off the first 7 CPs over the course of 5 miles of on- and off-trail hiking/jogging.
|Wellman Pond. An oasis in a hot mosquito hellhole.|
Following this, I was really looking forward to getting back on the bikes, where there aren't any mosquitoes. We soon passed the 2-man GOALS team who were roadside having tire/tube sidewall issues, and donated a tube to their cause. The bike leg took us back to small roads and was nice for a while but, having run out of water hours ago and eating minimally, I was soon falling off Rob's mercifully conservative pace and getting dropped on every hill. We kept our eyes open and soon spied a couple guys outside at a house who hospitably obliged water bladder refills at the hose. After the usual "what exactly is it that are you doing" conversation we were back on quiet roads and, soon, onto some snowmobile-type trails to get 3 on-trail CPs through unremarkable terrain. Wildlife sighting: Rob flushing a roadside hawk with chipmunk in talons; it couldn't outrun Rob's bike so it had to drop the chipmunk, who scurried away.
Next was another short road ride into the state capital Augusta, which is actually a fairly small town. Despite the recent water refill, I was still in bonk mode and urgently directed us to a McDonalds just off the route where we sacrificed some time to get some additional hydration and substantial calories. Side note: sometime during the last 12-15 years, McDonalds milkshakes became sickly sweet - we had to throw it away.
|Looking rough pre-calorie rally.|
We whipped downhill to the river and then onto the Kennebec rail trail for some speedy southern riding, picking up a couple CPs on the way to the next TA. We visited a couple nice-looking riverside towns, including Hallowell, which had a hopping bar scene happening on a warm Saturday midnight and then into Gardiner, where we left our bikes for a quick 5CP urban-O on foot around the sleeping town. This included an interesting rail trestle bridge crossing (inactive, so no Stand By Me moments).
Following the town-O, we boarded canoes for an 11-mile paddle down the flat Kennebec River in the middle of the night. With the McDonalds, pleasant town-O and cool nighttime temps, I was feeling good again and generally enjoyed the calm quiet paddle. Quiet, that is, except for the occasional giant splash from jumping Atlantic Sturgeon (fun facts here). We passed a number of teams along the way and hit the 2 CPs along the way without issue. As we neared the take-out TA site in Richmond, a lovely sunrise was in full effect, reflecting orange, yellows and purples off the placid river.
After a riverside check-in in Richmond, we paddled 2 minutes out to Swan Island, an ~ 1x4 mile island in the Kennebec. There were about 20 CPs to be found here. The island was forested but had seen extensive logging recently and also had a lot of scratchy invasive undergrowth. Fortunately the bugs were only at the "annoying" level in the early morning hours. We had to closely watch our time on the island because there was still a 15 mile ride to finish that we needed to allow for. We did fairly well here, grabbing another 7 CPs before running back to the canoe. Wildlife sighting: fawn scooting across the trail in front of us.
|High tide at CP 34|
|Early morning beaver pond|
The food at the finish line was fantastic: blueberry pancakes, local maple syrup, sausages and fresh fruit hit the spot. The top finish went to the surging Rootstock Racing team, with Untamed New England as a close second. We did not have a good race, but are certainly grateful for the work put in by the organizers and volunteers. I'm sure we'll be back.