222 participants, 74 teams, 60 volunteers, 54 flags, 34 fish, 2 walls – and it all came down to one word….HILLS!
ECCO-ESAR 2006 was not meant to maim, kill or otherwise render your quads useless for the next three days – but the hills and the escarpment got the better of many teams. This was the first year ESAR had started on bikes; for those with mountain bike experience it was a chance to get away from the pack – for those a little newer to the sport this was a hairy section ripe with chance to eat some dirt.
ECCO-ESAR staff observed a few spills along the 6km ride through Albion Hills – notably some of the best mountain biking in Ontario, and host of the largest 24 mountain biking event in North America. Once again, racer comments ranged from, “that was the best biking in an adventure race” to “holy crap, do they think we are pro mountain bike racers?”.
After a quick ride to Palgrave Conservation area, teams dropped their bikes and set off on the first of two orienteering sections. With detailed orienteering maps teams had the option of shooting a bearing to get to the cp or taking any of the various trails and then a quick bearing overland to find the checkpoint. Based on our observation of teams’ socks and shoes – we feel that many teams opted for taking a bearing and staying the course, through mud, bog and icky stuff.
In the past ESAR has often had to go in search of teams that had not made the trekking cp’s….this year no one got lost. Many teams got turned around but we are proud to say that everyone made it through the orienteering section before the cut off. This “O” section challenged teams’ finite navigation as well as their swamp walking ability.
Back on the bikes and headed to Glen Haffy – teams had only just started to get a feel for the hills. (Although some of you told us – you were done after Albion!). Fast and furious, lead teams managed the 11 km ride in 23 minutes while trailing teams took up to one hour to reach Glen Haffy. If you made it to Glen Haffy then you made it into the history books!
This was the first ever fishing event in an adventure race. A special thanks to Bass Pro Shops for supplying the fishing rods and the coolers for this section of the race! The goal: Catch a fish as fast as you can and move on. Teams caught fish in less then one minute while other teams waited patiently to feel the tug on the line with no luck. Team Termites managed to catch one of the tagged fish and for their angling abilities they received a team rod and reel combo set from Bass Pro shops. The largest fish caught was 16 inches and the smallest was a minnow approximately 2 inches in length!
From Glen Haffy teams road to the second special task. The evidence box located at CP 10 was meant to see if teams could use their collective abilities to count the flags and move on as quickly as possible. 21 teams received penalties – perhaps their powers of observation were affected by the severe amount of lactic acid in their brains from all the hills?
(For those 21 penalized teams there were 54 flags) One of the riders commented “ My legs locked up and they were cramping so bad, I think it hurt worse than the Taser!”
From special task #2 teams continued to Island Lake (better know to locals as the Orangeville Reservoir) and into the canoe section. Water navigation always looks easy on the map, but many teams paddled around the wrong island before finding the volunteers waiting on the larger more northerly island. With only a few boats taking a swim – the water cp’s were a relief compared to getting back on the bikes!
More biking to the entrance of the Goodyear Memorial Scout Camp. 34 teams made it to the advanced section of the race. Here teams had to find the highest point in camp –another hill – and then proceed to the finish line. Teams racing though the camp were greeted by over 600 scouts wondering if this is what happens to scouts when they get old?
If teams didn’t go on the advanced section – they continued on their bikes to the bike drop area and then to the final special tasks before the finish line.
On the last trek section in towards the finish line some teams came across cows in a farmers field that blocked their path. David Smith team captain of Shoeless Joes commented “ We had to run faster than the blue police teams, because we were 760 lbs of red jerseys running past those bulls in the field!” Ah the joys of adventure racing!
It was only one minute that separated the two lead teams. Families and friends greeted teams at the host site while teams climbed the eight foot walls and then proceeded to finish with the trademark ESAR stretcher carry. Treehuggers made it over the wall and through the stretcher carry 60 seconds ahead of co-ed team Children’s Wish Foundation – captained by Glen Edwards and his fire crew from Markham fire.
Teams proceeded to the patio that overlooked the finish line area where they enjoyed a frosty bevy and dined on a buffet Directed by Executive Chef, Tim Mullin, a certified Chef de Cuisine and the culinary team at Hockley Highlands.
Friends and family lined the finish line to welcome home all of the teams after a hard day of racing and another ECCO-ESAR![/img]