According to organizer Forest Pearson, the W.A.R. (Whitehorse Adventure Run) is like a mix between orienteering and a mini adventure race. But this year’s W.A.R. did have one detail that definitively separated it from orienteering: a canoe. One canoe.
Along the roughly 20-kilometre race in which teams of two navigated from checkpoint to checkpoint through the use of maps and compasses, participants came across a canoe locked up at the side of a lake. To gain access to the craft, teams could search for a bonus checkpoint hidden in the woods to access the combination to the lock.
Once unlocked, the canoe could be used to cross the lake and cut about 1.5 kilometres off the route. However, with just one canoe, only the first team to unlock the boat could take the short cut.
For the eventual winning team, The WARinteerers, made up of Brent Langbakk and Katherine Scheck, access to the canoe gave them the advantage they needed.
“That was really a decisive point. (A team was) ahead of us at that point, but when we got the canoe, we could cut across and saved time in the long run,” said Langbakk, who believes the canoe helped shave six or seven minutes off his team’s final time.
“It’s was decisive for two reasons. We had a bit of a lead, but it also meant we weren’t together, so the other team didn’t have the option of following us.
“Other than that, I think the teams were fairly well matched.”
A total of 10 teams took part in the sixth annual W.A.R., held Sunday in Whitehorse. Featuring two “laps,” teams started at Robert Service Campground, crossed the Millennium Trail Bridge, ran along Schwatka Lake, around Hidden Lakes – where the canoe was located – back to the campground for their second map. From there, teams went back towards Riverdale, completing a loop around the subdivision.
However, between the two sections, organizers introduced a quick jaunt called “Rapid Attack,” inspired by youth orienteering. A member of each team had to complete a very short course through a section of forest, following a length of string, hitting 15 checkpoints in about a minute. Much like trying to break par in golf, organizers determined a good course time was 52 seconds, which if beaten, would eliminate a minute off the team’s final time for every second the time was surpassed.
However, only the eventual second place team, “J2”, featuring Darren Holcombe and Jonathan Kerr, managed to beat the organizers’ time, completing the Rapid Attack in 50 seconds.
Back again this year was the Chilkoot Climb, sponsored by the Yukon Brewing Company. Between a pair of checkpoints featuring steep climbs, the three teams with the fastest times were awarded a case of beer at the end of the day.
Although no doubt thirsty by that point of the race, Langbakk and Scheck decided keep their eyes on the long-term goal of winning, instead of taking home a free two-four.
“We were really quite tired at that point and we knew we were leading,” said Langbakk. “So we decided to just take it easy and not change our pace to do the fastest time on that, but to go for the overall victory.
“It was quite a steep climb, so we ended up walking up sections of it.”
A play on words that Leo Tolstoy would appreciate, the W.A.R. also included an event called “Peace,” a recreational class, individual race that only five of nine competitors managed to complete.
“It’s a simpler, lighter-weight version of the adventure run, with nine competitors,” said Pearson. “It was pretty challenging for a few folks.”
Taking home top-honours was Leif Austad, coming in a full half-hour ahead of second place finisher Nicole Hulstein, who was just three second ahead of Deb Kiemele.
No newcomer to orienteering, Langbakk has joined Team Canada to represent the nation at five World Orienteering Championships.
Scheck, a former Team Canada junior orienteerer, competed at the Junior World Championships and at the senior World Championships while still a junior.
“She hasn’t done that much in the last years, but she’s been training again and she’s really fit,” said Langbakk. “So she’s a great partner.”
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