For the Raid the North Stoneham race, we used a
GPS Tracking system. Although there are still some bugs we are
working out, the results are quite impressive. You can see how many
of the teams did, what routes they took and how long it took them.
To look at the GPS Tracking results, please visit the Competitio
Black Flies, Black Skies
Raid the North Stoneham competitors disembarked into wilderness from the air-conditioned comfort of a large passenger van under the dim light of a quarter moon sky. More obvious than the entomologist’s paradise of all things flying, buzzing and biting, was the oppressive heat and humidity. It didn’t feel like just north of Quebec City, it felt like just north of the equator. The terrain was certainly green enough to create this impression – a verdant mix of both deciduous and coniferous trees, with thick, squat and burly bushes intermixed at waist level, a bushwhacker's dream and a trail runner’s nightmare. Racers were going to have to adapt to this place, to fight it would wear you out so fast…
We were north of Stoneham Mountain Resort, itself just outside of Quebec City, and the countryside and topography of the place was almost surreal, like something from a children’s story or a legend. The air had to it weight and vibrancy, it was kinetic – one could practically feel the building energy of the coming thunderstorms as positive ions smashed into negative ions all around your ears. Coupled with this power was an almost oppressive sense of wilderness. This place was vast, beautiful, and perfect for adventure racing. Around every bend and copse of shrubs there seemed to be a patient pond or a rushing network of water, and all cut through with rolling hills and bands of tree populated cliffs, the race course options here were limitless and designer Lawrence Foster of team Schick Xtreme 3 – Salomon had planned a few surprises for teams, including a white water rafting section that would charge adrenaline back through burnt out bodies as teams hit the class three and four water after 20 hours of blood, sweat and gears.
In order to ensure that the rafting and canoeing sections took place as close as possible to optimum light, Raid the North Stoneham got underway at 4:00am instead of the traditional 12:00 midnight start time. Way out deep in the Quebec wilderness was a parked convoy of support vehicles and competitor buses, with racers rushing around making last minute checks to gear and maps as FAR Inc.’s Dave Zeitsma motivated teams to get it together and get to the start line, a huge, inflatable arch provided by Salomon Canada that looked out of place in the bush, but so right with all those teams clustered underneath it with their headlamps flickering on, one by one. Racers representing 4 provinces and 5 states took off into the trees at GO!, heading south on the run for the first CP. The first team to arrive at the checkpoint and move off to the second CP, and first transition to bikes, was team Ukatak from Pointe Claire and Montreal at a time of 5 hours and 53 minutes, only two minutes ahead of the fleet footed team Running Free, out of Toronto. The third team to arrive was team Star Choice, within two minutes.
Teams filtered through every few minutes or so, the last being Extreme Dream, from Caledonia, ON, the youngest group to ever race a Raid the North event and doing so to benefit the
Canadian Diabetes Association in order to raise funds for research, advocacy and assistance programs. Extreme Dream, although the last team through, was doing well for their first race – still within half an hour of the main bunch and only just behind the experienced racers of Mandatory Gear, Eco Challenge veterans, also a little wayward early on.
Raid the North Stoneham remained a tight race, with only minutes between leaders team Star Choice from the next four teams. Running Free, Ukatak, and Raidpulse.com/Basecamp were all through the second CP and onto their bikes in just under 8 hours, just behind Running Free. With the mountain bike sections a mix of wet swampy ground, loose sand and firm hard-pack, tire selection was an important factor and teams could only hope that their personal choices would get them through the variable terrain the fastest.
The intricate network of logging roads and trails in the Quebec backwoods made bike navigation interesting as teams sought the routes through to the 5th CP, trekking and bushwhacking from there, and then again when they threw a leg over their top tube at CP6 –heading for a succession of advanced sections or opting to stay on the regular course and head straight to CP7. Teams that elected for the advanced section would face challenging navigation, route finding and additional mountain biking and overland trekking prior to settling into canoes at the 7th CP to paddle their way onward. A series of rapids required teams to portage around them, huffing each canoe up a steep incline and back down again each time.
The 7th CP saw advanced teams, Running Free, Wachovia Securities / Island Traders, Ukatak, Star Choice, Raidpulse.com/Camp de Base, TnT and Inertia occupy the front rankings, with the leaders coming in around 24 hours total – one full day of non-stop racing and still 8 more checkpoints, including rappelling and the white-water, to go. Due to fluctuations in the water depth because of heavy rain, the canoeing section at CP7 was closed for some of the lead teams and they continued through on bikes.
The highlight of the race for many teams was the white water rafting section at CP12. After trekking, mountain biking, and canoeing for over 30 hours straight for some, the chance to enjoy a wild ride under the steerage and control of experts guides would’ve seemed like a chance to relax and little and recoup before the final push to the finish line. Not a chance. The guides were members of the Canadian National White Water Team and, as intense competitors themselves, they were not going to just coast down the rapids, yelling and encouraging the weary Raid the North athletes to push hard and attack the section with renewed life and energy. Every team through just gave it, including the teens of Extreme Dream having had to skip some sections of the race prior but not wanting to miss out on this! Extreme Dream had made some navigational errors approaching the third CP and ended up hiking almost twice the distance of the lead teams, losing a lot of energy because of the mistake, once Extreme Dream has a couple more races under their belts and some more ‘live’ experience with that compass and map – look out!
The smiles coming off of the white-water told the whole story, were these people that had been pushing themselves non-stop for over a full day? It certainly didn’t seem like it, racers laughing and high-fiveing each other as they came up onto the tiny secluded beach of CP13. At this point in Raid the North Stoneham teams were transitioning to their bikes again, a logistical puzzle for organizers as some team’s bikes were back at CP7 and others were at CP12, due to closing of the canoe section for a portion of the race for safety reasons. But with help from some super volunteers and with support crews like team Raidpulse/Basecamp’s, going out of their way and shuttling other teams bikes ahead so they would not have to wait longer for them, the race was largely unaffected, some teams receiving time credits for the wait they encountered and all of this factoring into the final results.
The first teams into the white water and off were the race leaders from early on, the group of teams Simon River Sports, Running Free and Wachovia Securities / Island Traders. The pack hit the rapids at 5:30 Sunday morning, after some 30 hours of racing, and after blasting through the water, most were off and pushing gears towards the rappel at CP14 by 6:20. Simon River Sports and Running Free had the fastest times, and came out just ahead of the next two teams, Ukatak, and Ice Cap Adventure, an experienced, Montreal based team that surged late in the race, and although on the regular course and not contesting for the same placings, made up 4 hours on the lead teams. Other advanced teams chasing Simon River Sports and Running Free were Star Choice, Raidpulse.com/Base Camp, TnT, and Inertia, all off of the rapids and onto bikes by early afternoon.
The final push towards the rap took teams up and through a windy, steep section of paved road. Heartbreak occurred for team Steam just after leaving the rafting, the Montreal team was motivated and pushing hard to finish the race before the cut off time for official finishes. Jumping on her bike and taking off after a team mate that was well up the road, Sara Simard was brought to a sudden, lurching stop after four pedal strokes as her tow system got caught in her rear derailleur and cogset. The chain was wrapped around the rear hub just inside the rear cassette and was impossible to free, leaving the team’s options few. But somehow they managed to push, pull and run their four bikes through to the rappel and make it into the finish, just outside the official cut off time but jubilant at having persevered.
At the end it was team Simon River Sports, crossing the finish line after 33 hours and 7 minutes on course. With time adjustments their final, official time came to 23 hours and 43 minutes. For their speed and effort in Raid the North Stoneham, Simon River Sports received the first place prize of $1000.00 cash, a Suunto altimeter and compass watch, and the opportunity to compete against the other winners of the Raid the an entry into the Raid the North Championships, to take place in Mattawa, ON, in September.
The second place team, Running Free, came in with an official time of 27 hours on the nose. They received a prize package of $500.00 cash, Salomon AR packs and gear, and a 50% off entry into the Raid the North Championship race. Third place team, Wachovia Securities / Island Traders crossed the finish line at the resort after 28 hours and 34 minutes of racing, for their effort they received 25% off the Raid the North Championship entry fee and Salomon Azimuth 100 AR packs to help them move light and fast in that Champs race!
Teams Ukatak and Star Choice rounded out the top five, these teams winning 15% and 10% off the Raid the North Championship entry and prize packages including Salomon AR shorts, Seal Skinz totally waterproof gloves and socks as well as subscriptions from explore magazine, Canada’s source for great outdoors, travel and gear news.
The Princeton Tec Longest Burn award went to team Go Play Outside, the team that spent the most time on the course and still finished, while the most appropriately named team, All Over the Map, who twice got turned around after leaving CP6 and twice returned to the checkpoint to take a bearing, received prizing from Seal Skinz.
Frontier Adventure Racing would like to thank all of the competitors and especially the volunteers that came out and made Raid the North Stoneham a memorable event, the staff of Stoneham Mountain Resort for helping out and bending over backwards to accommodate the events as well as our sponsors Salomon Canada, Land Rover Canada, Motrin IB, Suunto, Seal Skinz, Fast Fuel natural energy bars, Princeton Tec light systems, Pristine water purification, Adventure Sports magazine and explore magazine.
The next Raid the North event will take place in Kimberley Alpine Resort on July 26th, check into our website for photos and coverage!
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