As mentioned the week leading up to my departure for RTNX was pretty much the craziest week of the year for me. At 1am the night before I left I was still moving boxes to my new abode. I managed about 4hr sleep before getting up at 5:30am on Friday morning and proceeded to move the remaining furniture I had left in my house into my driveway for someone off of Craig's List who said he would come by and claim the stuff.
I was five minutes late leaving Squamish, 6:05am. I was then stopped three times along highway 99, when there were no scheduled stops for contsruction on the Sea To Sky Highway. I ended up having to significantly speed at every straight stretch of road I could find and pulled into the airport with just minutes to spare for my 8am flight. I ran up to the counter only to be told that I would have to wait until noon the following day to board a flight to Prince Rupert...we were already cutting it close by flying up on Friday morning! I pleading, begged, swore and eventually cried my way onto the flight...but I was told my luggage (all of my race gear, including my bike) would not make it for another 36hrs! Honestly I was just happy to have made the flight at that point in time.
I settled in with my teammates Todd and Megan being on the same flight and enjoyed the 2hr trip as the plane was full of racers from across Canada and the U.S.
I hardly slept my first night in Prince Rupert, all I could think about was my luggage not making it at all. I actually had a dream that my Mother showed up, told me everything was going to be alright and then went about verbally abusing everyone in sight until she straightened things out for me...that was followed up by dreaming about a trivia contest, that would influence the outcome of our race, and it was all based on Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant...what the hell did I eat that night!?
I was already exhausted on Saturday and we weren't even through gear check yet. Thankfully my bags did arrive at 8pm and we were able to get through everything with time to spare.
On Sunday we caught a ferry to Haida Gwaii (The Queen Charlotte Islands), in preparation for our 6am race start on Monday. On the ferry ride across, while reviewing our maps, it became evident that a set of kayak wheels could be of great advantage to a team in this race. There were numerous sections where it appeared that you could portage via land, faster then actually paddling the water sections. This is what adventure racing is all about, strategy.
I knew that a friend of mine owned a kayak operation in The Queen Charlotte's, but I had not actually spoken with him in five years, nor did I know which island he was on, what the name of his business was, or even if he was still alive. I started calling random kayak operations and asking for him by name. The second shop I contacted told me that although he was not currently on the islands, he was in fact on the ferry ride to them as we spoke...
"How many ferries are there?"
"Huh, then I guess I'll go find him right now!"
I paged my friend and he arrived to the 'Purser's Office' in a huff,
"Yeah you paged me!"
"You have a visitor sir."
Now keep in mind that there were only three of us in the immediate vicinity at this point in time and my 'good friend' was effectively looking right through me.
"F$%k Steve, it's me!"
He explained that his wife is now pregnant with their second child and when he was paged he was thinking he might be boarding a flight back to Canmore, Alberta within the hour! It took him a second to regain his composure.
Steve was nice enough to take the time to go over the maps with us and offer any local advice on possible routes, what might be completely overgrown and what he thought would be passable. We then contacted some of his friends in The Queen Charlotte's and tried to organize a set of wheels for ourselves.
Mark Campbell, of The Yeti snowshoe series is now a big dawg with Helly Hansen and he was on board the ferry as well. Mark was all about helping us out with finding wheels and as soon as the ferry docked he sped off to come up with his own solution.
All the racers were able to camp outside the new Haida Gwaii Tourist Centre, a 28 million dollar investment that is not yet complete. We were the honorable first guests of this incredible facility. The local Haida Gwaii put on a wonderful show for us, of interpretive song and dance. In their culture you are either an Eagle or a Raven, in fact I had already seen half a dozen Bald Eagles within my first few hours on the islands, along with nearly as many deer. It is a spectacular location and we were all very fortunate to be able to race through such a diverse landscape.
At 9:45pm we could see that three of the top teams had already organized wheels for themselves. Sole, SupplierPipeline, and Yukon Wild had all modified baby joggers to carry to deflated kayaks. We had no way to contact Mark and were starting to worry that he might not come through, so Megan and I decided to take matters into our own hands. At 10pm (it is light out until 11pm), Megs and I biked into town (2km away). We started sizing up houses and found one that looked right. We dropped our bikes and knocked on the front door,
We had awakened the lady who answered the door,
"Umm, yes, hi there, how are you tonight...umm, I don't know if you've heard of this race that's going through the area this week?"
"Umm, anyways, yeah, so we are in that race and as it turns out it looks like it might be beneficial for us to have a baby stroller/jogger with us for this race."
She closed the door in our face without saying a word
Me to Megs,
"She's going to get her gun."
"No it looks like she's coming back..."
The lady had put on her gumboots, opened the door, pushed past us and walked into her garage. She pointed to three different strollers hanging from the roof,
In complete monotone she said,
"Take what you want, I'm going back to bed."
"Well we brought money with us, at least let us buy one from you!"
"Take what you want, I am going back to bed!"
We could not believe what had just transpired...the first house we knocked on and here we had options!!
I told Megan to jump on them and started pushing her around. The kayaks we were using for this race were inflatables, weighing in at about 60 pounds per, so I figured all 100 pounds of Megan should be a fair assessment of our set up. We ended up taking the newer set of wheels, I threw them over my back and we biked back to our camp site, having been gone less then 30 minutes!
Our teammate Chris, who had called the entire thing ludicrous looked at as (we hid the wheels as we got close to camp to prevent other teams from attempting similar) and said,
"No luck eh!"
"Dude we had three freaking choices!!"
About that time Mark Campbell showed up in the Helly Hansen Cruiser, his face lit up with amusement...
"Lookie what I got!"
Mark had found a local with some aluminum, a set of wheels and a ton of free time and had paid this guy to construct a very specific, light weight, five piece packable set of kayak towing wheels!!
We immediately forgot about our baby carriage, threw a boat onto the wheels and I was absolutely amazed that I could effectively run while towing the boat behind me with virtually Zero resistance! It was perfect and more then one team looked on in envy of our setup. Even the top teams with their baby jogger set ups seemed impressed with the whole device.
We crawled into our tents just before midnight. We would be up at 4:30am to ensure that we were all fully prepared for the 6am race start. It is pretty much mandatory that by the time you reach the starting line of any expedition race, you must already be completely exhausted. In fact we were amongst the first teams to make it to bed that night.
More to come soon,