Lost in the Rocks and Trees is actually three separate races: 30km, 62km and 112km. The race is held just outside of the town of Mattawa, located between Deep River and North Bay. The course is a mix of logging road, dirt road and a lot of quad track. The race itself has been around for 16 years. This year's edition took place Saturday July 14.
Noah and I had discussed participating in this race for some time; we had tried the 112km race before and wanted to give the 62km race a try. At least I did. Noah was initially set on the 112km, but eventually came to his senses and decided on the 62km. Apart from Noah almost missing the only turn on the trip (his navigation skills leave much to be desired), the drive to Mattawa was an uneventful three and half hours. I regaled Noah with my vast repertoire of bird calls and Shakeperean soliloquies while he explained his research on deviant sexual behaviours within the albino sloth population of East Westmoreland.
Our arrival at the race venue was met by swarms of mosquitoes, deer flies and horseflies clearly eager to feast on our delicate, latte-laden urban blood. With a fire ban in effect, we had no recourse (or bug spray) against the bugs. It was then that we decided to head into the nearest bar for a ‘strategy session’. At our strategy session (in an empty Mattawa bar), we discussed how we would try to stay near the front as long as possible and see how things went after that.
The judges awarded our synchronized drinking routine a 4.9 for artistic impression, but only a 4.7 for technical merit.
Photo: Nature’s Harmony
Saturday was hot. At 10am, when the race started, the temperature was closing in on 28oC, and was well on the way to a high of 34 oC. The high temperatures of the week preceding the race had made the sandy parts of the course extremely soft. On the bright side, the heat kept the bugs down. After choking back a sickening combination of sweetened granola and vanilla soy milk (at least it tastes the same coming up) we headed to the start line.
We jumped in front off the start and managed to break away with two others. Our four-man break remained intact until we reached the biggest climb on the course, a long, steep pitch covered in loose, fist-sized rocks. We rode as much of it as we could, but lost touch with one rider when we had to walk. I took off after him and spent the next two hours chasing. As the race wore on I realized that I did not have enough water and that I would have to ration what I had and stop at one of the checkpoints to reload. I also forgot to eat.
I finally made contact with the leader as he was leaving the second-last check point and I was arriving. I filled my water bottle as quickly as I could and set off after him. I passed Noah on his way into the checkpoint; he seemed to be in good form and was holding third place with a decent lead. After twenty minutes of riding, I realized that my tank was dangerously close to empty and that I had over extended myself. Fortunately, I was nearly at the last checkpoint. Unfortunately, there were still 15km to go. I scarfed back some orange slices and a banana and set off once again. With about 8km to go I realized that I was not going to catch anyone and that I was getting weaker. I choked back my gel pack and hoped for the best. Looking back on it, my total food intake for the race was: one bowl of granola, half an apple, one Lara bar, a banana, some orange slices and a gel pack. Noah caught me with about 3km to go. At this point I was barely able to turn my pedals over and my speech was even more incoherent than usual. Noah, ever the gentleman, offered to pull me, but I was in no mood for a handjob. We rode together for the last couple of kilometres and he finished just before me.
This race is a fantastic experience that I would recommend to any mountain biker. The terrain was varied, but not very technical. It was a course that rewarded fitness and persistence rather than skill. We were surprised by the range in ages, abilities and bicycles that finished. The race organizers and participants were very friendly and welcoming. We were also pleasantly surprised to see several other riders from Ottawa as well as OGC Über-rep, Dave Shirley. Dave was there on behalf of the race’s main sponsor, Opus bikes.
Thanks to the organizers, Nick Green in particular, and to the kind folks at Nature’s Harmony (an off-grid eco-lodge), who played hosts to the race. Finally, congratulations to all those who finished and to James Horner, who won the 62km. We’ll see you again next year.