Monday, 8 July 2013

Part 4 - The Party

So we arrived in at 14.24pm - we have the certificates to prove it

After the finish we showered - boy was that good.  Esther got a nap and I did laundry as I was leaving the following day.  The Ramsay's had booked a table for dinner at 7pm and all too soon it was time to get ready and head to the Drunken Goat for great Greek food.  It seemed odd to be sitting at a table eating a whole plate of food again.

Next stop was the Downtown Saloon for sourtoe shots.  You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips have gotta touch the toe.  You really do have a drink with a human toe in it (no longer attached to the human).  The toe isn't bad but the sweetened rye that it's in is pretty terrible.

11.30pm and it's still as light as day and we are heading to Diamond Tooth Gerties.  They have dancing girls and a rather odd casino,

 almost dark.

1.30 am and its bright as day again and we call it a day as tomorrow we have the finishers dinner and my flight home!  In the morning I discover that the hotel don't actually have a shuttle to the airport (as they told me in an email) and they unhelpfully do not assist in working out how I will get to the airport - Don't stay at the Westmark Inn - they lie, don't care and then don't have the decency to respond to your complaint.  Thank you to Husky Bus for selling me a ticket for the floor of the bus (and even having a bus big enough for me to have a seat).

Its worth a couple of pictures of Dawson airport - its a single room airport with a gravel strip and 1/2 the plane was taken up with Questers going home.

All too soon I was home with just the memories and war stories to tell my colleagues at work.  Would I do it again - if you asked me immediately I'd say no but I am already in the process of talking Dan round.

Esther is still somewhere in Canada and I'm sure has had many more amazing adventures (not all of it with her luggage).

All Esther's photies:

All Sarah's photies:

Sunday, 7 July 2013

the race - Part 3 - Kirkman Creek to Dawson!

Kirkman Creek is a mosquito ridden site on the side of the river - we got barely any sleep.  We left again with Head First ready to pick our way through the Islands that hang around the White and Stewart River confluences.

As soon as we got past the Stewart River confluence the speed of the river increased, a lot.  Suddenly we were in a maze of Islands with log jams in the middle of the river coming at you very quickly.   They made me quite nervous as avoiding them was high on the list of priorities and speedy hard paddling was needed to avoid them.

By this time we were both hurting - Esther had hurt her elbow paddling hard to avoid a log jam and my wrist had been painful on every right hand stroke for about the last 12 hours (and even as I write this it's still painful).

After hours of following the current round islands, Esther falling asleep at the paddle (as I had done the day before) and the water seeming to flow downriver and slanting to the left we reached the 60 mile checkpoint.  A break was very much needed and we agreed for a wake up call after an hour at the checkpoint.  We also discovered that Super Maryo was asleep in her tent here too - reunited maybe?

Unfortunately the checkpoint crew were feeling kind and left us to sleep over - when I woke up I then had difficulty waking Esther (who hasn't forgiven me for not shaking her awake).  After coffee and an offer of a bacon sandwich we were back on the river for the last few hours.  It seems like only a few hours but was actually five.

More island dodging and following the current and we were again caught up with Super Maryo and another male tandem team.  The rain was so hard you could just make out masses of land that were islands and we grouped together to pick a safe path through.

I had taken my glasses off so that I could at least make out the shape of land.  At this stage the river alone was doing over 16kph.

As we were coming closer to Dawson we saw some landslides from the steep river sides, where the ground was so water saturated that whole trees were coming off the cliff face and crashing into the water.  I was very glad that we were not underneath the cliffs when that happened.

As we went through the terrible weather we were singing Row, Row, Row Your Boat and Three Blind Mice in rounds to keep spirits up.

Gradually the weather improved and we were on the run into Dawson.  The cloud clears gradually and the moose hide slide came into view (it's called that because it looks like a moose hide).  Unfortunately it didn't clear well enough for us to get a decent picture.

As we paddled closer we were catching up with other boats, including the other ladies team who had helped us when we capsised.

We crossed the line in a row of 3 with the boats that we had found our way through the bad weather with, all in line and 2 minutes behind the other ladies team.

We were met by Deb and Steve, a tandem couple from the UK who had withdrawn at Carmacks (they need to come back again) and Karla, Steve, Brooke, Lisa and Jason.

 The atmosphere at the finish was great and we really felt that we had achieved something.   They were soon sorting our boat out, packing our stuff into the van and carting us to the hotel.  Karla and Steve had finished 1st in the mixed tanden class around 12 hours before us.  On top of sorting us out and getting us to the hotel they had also booked the table for dinner!  Fantastic people.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

the race - Part two - Carmacks to Kirkman Creek

We were woken an hour before our fixed set off time at 23.50 and it was light and hot.  We got ready for the next stretch and were 20 minutes late leaving due to general faff.  Back in a clean boat with fresh water and all restocked on food.

I don't think I have ever started a days paddling at 23,50 but we set off knowing that we would shortly come to the notorious five finger rapids.

 We had decided to follow pre race advice given by Joe which was to not follow the main tongue of water down to the chunky standing waves but instead to stay to the left of them and then head right.  As we were lining up at the top to have a look we got a little too far right and were caught in a VERY nasty recirculating eddy that we had not noticed.  We were extremely lucky not to flip and once out of the eddy we headed down but didn't go quite as far right at the end and so we ploughed through a couple of the standing waves.  This wasn't a problem and we were on our way to the next obstacle - Rink Rapids.

 We hit rink about 1/2 hour later and again followed the advice we had been given which was to stick to the right hand bank - again it worked and we were through nicely.  On the approach we had seen that the rapid itself was big and bumpy but with no rocks it would probably just have been a bumpy ride.

On down the river we were island skipping to pick the shortest route and getting smart picking our way through as the river picked up speed.  Too smart.  We caught an eddy line at the wrong angle, lost our balance and were unable to keep the boat upright and so it was swimming time.  Esther quickly took the bowline and after blowing her whistle, started swiming for the mid river islands with me pushing the boat.  Boat 50 who we had just overtaken were soon with us and we had the boat upright and were bailing the water out of it.  Boat 66 (the remaining ladies double canoe) also came to help steady us as we both got back in and continued bailing.  Boat 50 then stayed with us whilst we got to a shore to do a full change of the boat and they wanted to check we were paddling ok.  We had stayed incredibly warm despite our swim but the weather was about to turn against us.

Thunder, fork lightening and rain - we were soon soaked (again),  We even saw snow!

We decided that we would go in at Minto where there was a monitoring point to have a good sort of the boat - when we got to Minto there was no manned point only the barge ramp but we got off there in any event for a warm drink and to have a sort of the boat.

Back on the water we pressed on to Fort Selkirk, a former trading post.  They had a warming room and we headed in for a 1/2 hour stop and warm up.  Half an hour was soon up though and we were off again towards Kirkman Creek.  It took forever to get there and we finished the day off with team Head First - the final stretch into Kirkman Creek took forever as the rock formations seemed to keep on repeating themselves.

Ar Kirkman Creek it was time for a 3 hours mandatory stop, soup and a sandwich and the worst ever toilet. A pit toilet that needed a step to get to the seat, a seat that was loose and a smell that meant once you had used it you would opt for the woods next time.

Friday, 5 July 2013

The race..... part one Whitehorse to Carmacks

Sitting in Vancouver airport its difficult to remember it all.  It was long, hot, cold, dry, wet - everything.

On the day of the start (Wednesday 26 June) we were at the park early to get the boat kitted out with everything we needed and gad our final gear check.  The only issue was we had packed thermals and it was bikini weather.   Ingrid was pleased that we had socks.

The race starts with a 300 metre run and we had agreed to walk.  We didn't - we did a jog to the boats and were soon away down the familiar stretch that had been covered on training runs.

Onto the lake and we had been warned of the extreme conditions this could have.  It was glassy but extremely hot and we were drinking and dipping our caps into the water to try and stay cool.  The lake is over 30 miles and goes on and on and on and on.  We spent a fair bit of the lake with Super Maryo who we had been with on training paddles and as the end of the race evidences we were pretty evenly paced.

As we went past a lake checkpoint we saw Paul and Sue out on the side and understood that they were dropping out due to illness.

When the lake finally ended we stopped at the end of lake checkpoint for a necessary bush visit and to pop on warm clothes for the night.  Volunteers man the checkpoints and keep fires and hot water going throughout and just keep a general eye on the racers.  Seasoned veterans know the "best" checkpoints to stop at.

So its approximately 11pm and we head into the 30 miles stretch of the river which immediately wakes you up with some very decent size riffles - Esther only got water in her lap a couple of times.  We are both comfortable with this type of water so there was no issue and we pressed on.

We pressed on to Big Salmon where we stopped for another necessity break (next time we need a better bathroom solution as the buckets we had planned didn't work with the room we had}.  Time would have been saved if we could have easily peed in the boat.  Onto Little Salmon (a premier checkpoint with a hot chocolate supply) we ran into one of the other female tandem canoes who had decided to scratch as they were feeling unwell.

The next section was the long hike into Carmacks and where I misjudged our placement on the map by about 2 hours paddling - thinking we were much closer than we actually were.  Not unsurprising given that we had been going for almost 29 hours with only quick stops.

The dock at Carmacks was a welcome sight - we arrived in on Thursday at 16.50 which meant that we were allowed to leave at 23.50. Getting out of the boat was a relief as it had been a long slog.  We were hot and tired and the support crew that we had signed up for at Carmacks took the boat off our hands to clean and tidy it (what stars).  Another lady whose name I can't remember showed us to a tent that they had pitched for us and where they had put our bags and made sure we knew where to get food from and even gave us the coins that we needed for the showers.

 After a shower I obtained the best burger and fries ever tasted all washed down with a root beer.  Took them to the tent but lay outside to eat as it was hot and literally lay down in the dirt.   I woke up a little later to  find a foam matress next to me, rolled onto it and continued sleeping.  All of this with food right next to me in a campsite which warned of bears - at least there were plenty of others being equally irresponsible with food etc.  I would say we got a max of 5 hours sleep but probably a fair bit less.

We were woken an hour before our fixed set off time at 23.50 and it was light and hot.  We got ready for the next stretch and were probably 15 minutes late leaving due to general faff

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

the checking

Sarah's stamped arm
It's the day before the race.  This morning we had registration where you collected a stamp on your arm as each piece of the process was completed:

 The grass by the visitors area was where all of the boats and kit had to be laid out and then checked by the people in fluorescent jackets.  We passed with no pieces missing but were told by Ingrid that even though it was warm we must still take socks.

There was a lot of kit laid out on display and it was interesting seeing what everyone was taking.

Here we are done and through kit check sporting our official jumpers 

 So after the fun of kit check it was time to return to the Beez Knees (which is amazing) to take over the kitchen for a mass cook up.
On the menu for the first section of the race is Chicken, new potatoes, raw carrots and cherry tomatoes; macaroni cheese and meatballs in sauce.   For dessert various cliff and luna bars along with apple puree At Carmacks we will restock with tuna splat , more mac cheese, pepperoni and boiled eggs.

This is the last post we'll be able to do before Dawson - there is wifi at Carmacks (more than 24 hours in) but I don't expect to be in a fit state to use this then.  We have had a lot of fun getting ready for this and now its time to slink off to bed ready to be down at the dock for 8.30 am for another round of kit check!

Tell you all about it on Saturday/Sunday


Tuesday, 25 June 2013

the welcoming

It's busy here in Whitehorse.  There is no room at the inn and people are arriving.  Not many places left to put them.  Nancy here at the Beez Kneez is run off her feet and does amazing things to try and find rooms for people.

Yesterday was a relaxing day.  We started off by packing everything into dry bags and then into the boat that was sitting in our back garden.  I then walked out to the DIY store for pipe insulation for the gunnels of the boat and also to lag the pipes of our water systems to keep the water cool (a tip from Joe).

On the way back from the DIY store I went to the Real Canadian Superstore and bought children's sandcastle buckets - we now have pots to P*** in.  I then swang past Kanoe People to pick up the spraydeck and into Coast and Mountain (again) for a small dry bag.

That afternoon we even had visitors, Karla, Steve and Jason (from team Currently Confused...Still) popped in to say hello  - it's great to have friendly faces around.

Monday morning we had another test run and instead of walking the boat all of the way back into town we walked it across the road and got it all set up with the deck on.
Then we were off on another pesky practice run  - only 20km this time and there were more people about.
 t took us a while to find our rhythm - we were rocking a fair bit and it just didn't feel right.
 The scenery was still good though.
 As we reached the end we had hit our pace again and were happy with how the paddling was feeling.

There would be a very lovely photo of Sarah here but E's camera is too old to work with the notebook!!!!
We pulled in to the take out at The Takhini river and unfortunately there was no space in the mini bus leaving so we got to hang around in the sunshine, getting bitten by mosquitos for a while as the other paddlers came in to fill up the bus.

We were soon back in Whitehorse and in to shower, change and out again for the food shop from hell.

The Tower Hamlets Canoe Club contingent at the YRQ Meet & Greet
 Monday evening was the YRQ meet and greet where we got to meet up with some people we didn't already know and some that we did.  On the way we popped to Coast & Mountain (yes again) for Sarah to get a space bivvy bag.
One chocolate and one vanilla moose coming up (for our hallucinations!)

I think all of the racers got the message that if your spot device had not already sent a signal from Whitehorse you were in BIG trouble.
As close to bears as we want to get