5 years... Wow... who woulda thunk it!
While the idea for the Swamp Donkey Adventure Race had humble beginnings, when we first began this, we had no idea it would become what it has in... you guessed it... 5 years!
Firstly we would like to thank each and everyone of our families, friends, racers, volunteers and sponsors for supporting our passion for the last... 5 years. Many of you (and you know who you are) have been there for every event that we have put on. The Swamps, the Snow, the Ice... anything that ends in "Donkey" basically,(& don't forget Pain In The... Uhmm you know!). It has been our honor to organize and share this great sport and community with all of you. Swamp Donkey 2011 was the culmination of "5 years" (10 races!) and a tremendous amount of work.
While some racers think Rick and I sit around like "Dr. Evil" in our evil lair, plotting what next diabolical area around Falcon Lake to send them through... (MUUUHUUHAAHAA!!!), we really have fun and enjoy building each and every course. From the genuine thanks and gratitude we get after the event we know that despite the hardship each team faced on race day, they enjoyed our "evil plan".
This year, had challenges but no one believed we wouldn't be able to go in the back country until September long weekend! While the Swamp Donkey organizers started to think of "Plan B" and then "Plan C", mother nature treated Manitoba to a dry... hot... and dry summer. Thankfully the week before the back country travel ban was put in place, the team was tearing around in the bush setting the 2011 course.
While the advantages of being able to organize this event for "5 years" in the |Falcon Lake are many, it comes with a disadvantage... Now we have to enter the area in stealth mode (usually under the cover of darkness) because we literally have racers and locals "looking" for our arrival in hopes of getting a hint of a secret location for the coming course. "Have you seen them yet"??? local shop keepers are asked on a regular basis. Or on other occasions if we happen across someone on a trail or area off the beaten path, "Oh we're just out for a little hike, nice out here isn't it!..."
2011 was a year of "thrills'... "spills"... and who can forget the... "HILLS"!!! ("good thing I brought my bike along for this hike"!! was overheard by a few teams)
The weather gods smiled once again on the Falcon Trails Resort and Whiteshell just as it has for ‘5 years" (there seems to be a theme here) as the racers began arriving Friday afternoon and into the wee hours of the night. Registration at the Falcon Nest in the townsite was buzzing with activity as were the two equipment "drop zones" until the last racers arrived, cleared nav-check and were off for a restless sleep while anticipating what lay ahead.
"Sleep is so overrated" was the mantra of the race crew and organizers as they burned the candle at both ends putting the finishing touches on the course and meeting to discuss the logistics of managing almost 300 racers (and gear) on Saturday. Team meetings were followed by a few hours of shut eye to recharge after spending the last 2 days eating, sleeping, thinking about "The Donkey" and reminiscing about "5 years" of fun!
The pre-race meeting was a sight to behold as nervous racers got their first look at the directions and locations of the check points they would visit (hopefully) en route to the finish line. Teams attention was turned to the last few instructions given by Race Directors Rick and John to make sure most would complete their journey.
Familiar faces and many new friends gathered at the start location under the glorious start/ finish banner that on one side displayed the Swamp Donkey Adventure Race logo and what teams would see as they finished the course in bold letters... "I GOT MY A** KICKED AT SWAMP DONKEY". While some laughed it off others thought... hmmmm ‘maybe I should have trained more". John began roll call of team names to ensure all were in attendance and on several occasions highlight ahhem.... A few lets say, creative names... (I'll get you back Dave)
The countdown started and in an instant the 2011 "running of the donkeys" was underway. As the "5th year" of adventure racing in Manitoba was underway with cheers and shouts of jubilant participants and well wishers celebrated what was to come.
An awesome bush section that navigated around Falcon Lake and took teams into some of the best terrain our province has to offer kicked off what would be a long 9 hours for some. Emerging from the first bush crash, front runners began to "bag" the CP's in order and punch their passports along the way.
As the morning progressed teams transitioned from foot to canoe in the West Hawk Lake region of the Whitshell. attempting to be in time for the first of two mandatory time cut-offs in order to be ranked at the front of the pack. From boats to bikes and on to one of the "best kept secrets" of the year, an all new bike trail that rivals other "mecca" rides read in biking magazines, teams hammered hard.
The final stretch had participants cycling into the Falcon Lake townsite and past the "Checkpoint Fairies" complete with wands and pink tutus. From there with everything that they could muster, racers continued back to Falcon Trails Resort for the finish area. However first they would have to do one final climb via a flagged trail that would lead them to the top of the ski hill.
Cheers, tears and for some... beers followed after dismounting and handing in their passports. Team photos and congratulations, high fives and sighs of relief that their journey was complete. Everyone that came through the finish had the feeling of accomplishment for taking on "The Donkey" and all agreed "Swamp Donkey Kicked They're A**!!!
Then came a feast fit for a bull moose and several celebratory beverages before the highly anticipated prize ceremony for top finishers and draw give-aways. As the night wound down weary participants and volunteers retired off to awaiting cabins however as usual, the ones that stick around for the "after...after party always have the best stories to tell! It was a blast this year and normally the night of the race those who aren't completely drained from the day continue on into the wee hours. It was hilarious & the teams and volunteers that stuck around were entertained by "the a one Man show".
John and Rick as well as the entire Swamp Donkey Crew would like to thank everyone for such a great day! A special thank you goes out to our great volunteers and race staff that worked so hard leading up to the race and all weekend long!! As well, thanks to everyone who has been there for "5 years" and we will continue to work hard for (one last time...) the next 5 years!
See you all in 2012!