Race report: Subaru Milton sprint triathlon 2018

In the past, I’ve always looked at triathletes who rode their bikes to and from races with equal parts respect and incredulity. This time, it was our turn! Alasdair and I wanted to get a long ride in as training for Ironman Syracuse 70.3, which was just 2 weeks after the Subaru Milton sprint triathlon, and I for one didn’t want to do it the day before the season-opener. So, we decided to do it the fun way.

We got up super early and rode 30k to the race site, carrying backpacks with our wetsuits, running shoes, and other small miscellaneous stuff like goggles, gels, socks and race belts (well, someone had to buy their 5th one at the race site because they forgot to pack one). It felt rather odd to be carrying a backpack, and it made the hills tougher, but it was okay.


Arrived at the race site after 30k early morning ride.

We arrived in plenty of time to register and get all of our gear organized. I also forced myself to eat shortly after getting there, because even though I wasn’t hungry yet, I knew I wouldn’t want to eat too close to the race start, and I would be starving during the race without sufficient food intake!

Two of the runners Alasdair coaches in high school cross country and track were racing in their very first triathlons at Milton (in the try-a-tri), so we got to cheer them on before our own race began.

We would be starting in the same wave, which I like. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to draft off of Alasdair in the swim (but couldn’t have held on anyway).


750m Swim

I have not been swimming as much as I should be, but far more than Alasdair, who hadn’t done a swim workout since the Barrelman 1/2 ironman in September. My goal for this swim was simple, to swim as straight as possible, therefore as short a distance as possible. I was successful! Overall, I felt that my swim went well. It was also my first time testing out my new 2XU wetsuit (my first wetsuit – a Nineteen wetsuit – lasted 8 years and more than 50 triathlons!). The swim was quite congested in places, and I was swum over once, but bumps and whacks don’t bother me much anymore – more than anything they are just annoying. I had to swim wider around someone when they kept cutting me off (didn’t they know I was trying to swim in a straight line?!), but otherwise the swim was mostly unremarkable. When I turned for the 2nd last time, I was heading into the sun and could not for the life of me see the next buoy. It’s possible that my goggles were also fogged up. So, I just followed the mass of people ahead of me, and hoped they could see. When I stood up and walked out of the water, my watch said 17 something, so I was pleasantly surprised. I’m not a fast swimmer, and I half expected to see 20 on my watch!

My new wetsuit came off super easily, which was another nice surprise! I put on my socks, shoes, sunglasses and helmet, and off I went.

Time:18:04.6 (2:24/100m; 12/18 women 40-44)

30k Bike

Having already ridden 30k pre-race, I wasn’t sure what my legs would feel like. They were fine. I made it up the super steep 6th Line hill (albeit slowly), and felt like I did much better on the rolling hills of this bike course than last year. There was hardly any wind, which helped. The most fun part of this course is the ride down the 6th Line hill, but I was braking while other riders were still pedalling. I’m not sure what my speed was, but I have no interest in riding as fast as possible down that hill! From there, it was just a few more kilometres to the end.

Time: 1:03:17.2 (28.44 km/h; 5/18 women 40-44)

7k Run

After switching my helmet for my hat, and my running shoes for my cycling shoes, I put my race bib on (new this year – it’s only needed on the run), and took off. This run course is hilly, but I was prepared. About 1k into the run I spotted Alasdair running towards me, and later I saw him again. I like this run course for that reason – the 2 out and back sections mean you get to see people multiple times. I felt pretty good on the run, but dealt with bilateral side stitches for a while. I ran all the hills, and only walked a couple of times while drinking cups of water. The weather was fantastic for running – it wasn’t too hot and was overcast. We lucked out for sure.

Time: 43:48.1 (6:15 min/km; 6th/18 women 40-44)

In the end, I crossed the finish line in 2:08:40, a surprising 6th out of 18 women aged 40-44. I’ve never finished that well before (except in a try-a-tri). A great start to the triathlon season! (And Alasdair’s “no practice” swim technique got him a swim PB!)

After watching the awards presentation, we rode 35k home, for a grand total of 95k on the bike that day. Clearly I should ride to races more often!

Race stats:

  • Time: 2:08:40
  • Women 40-44: 6/18
  • All women: 60/109
  • All athletes: 334/458

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Race report: Storm the Trent Trek Long Course Race 2018

Some people might think we’re crazy, but minutes before the Storm the Trent Trek Long Course Race was to begin was the first time my racing partner Rebecca and I had been in a canoe since last August, a full 9 months earlier! Suffice it to say our canoe prep was minimal. We fared much better on the mountain biking, trail running, and orienteering prep side of things.

This was to be our first time participating in Storm the Trent, and only our second adventure race of this kind, after last August’s Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race, a canoeing/mountain biking/trail running race that did not involve any orienteering. We chose the middle distance race, which would entail approximately 7k of canoeing, 39k of mountain biking and 9k of trekking. This was the first year for the race to be held in Haliburton.

Going into the race, we had no idea what order the events would be in, or even how many times we would be doing each event. Would we start in the canoes or running? Given that our bikes were a few kilometres away, it was clear we wouldn’t be riding to start!

On race morning we drove to Glebe Park where we got plates for our bikes, and left our bikes on a rack, with our helmets, bike shoes, and water bottles.


Pre-race bike drop-off at Glebe Park. [Photo credit: Kim]

Next we dropped our canoe off at Head Lake Park.


Pre-race canoe drop-off. Love my Swift Keewaydin.

Then we went to AJ LaRue Arena to register, picking up our race instructions, 3 race maps, pinnies, and buffs. We also had to show our PFDs and other items from the mandatory gear list. We headed back to the canoe to leave our PFDs, then sat at the arena reading the race instructions and planning our route. The goal was to find all 14 checkpoints as quickly as possible. Three would be in the water on floating buoys, and the rest found while mountain biking or running. We learned that the order of events would be canoe/run/bike/run/bike/run/bike.


Planning our route with the 3 race maps.

After the pre-race briefing, during which we learned that at one point on the bike course we would go through water above our knees (depending how tall we were), we all headed to the water and our boats. Solo athletes were in kayaks, and teams in canoes.

Canoe leg (around 7k)

On the water we found our friend Kristin, chatted with other racers, and then the race began! It was a mass start, with some bumper boat action and jostling to get away from other boats.


And we’re off! We’re in the bright yellow boat at the top right, wearing white ball caps. I’m in the stern. [Photo credit: Storm the Trent]

For the 3 checkpoints on the water (CP1a, CP1b, and CP1c), we only had to get close enough to read the clue on them – for example, one told us that checkpoint 31 would be at a trail junction. We didn’t insert our SI sticks into card readers at these checkpoints. I wondered how well it would work for everyone to make a sharp left hand turn after the first checkpoint, but it went pretty smoothly – pretty polite Canadian paddlers are around us! All three of these checkpoints were easy to find, except that the last one was spinning in the wind and as we got closer we feared we would have to paddle up behind it to read it, but it spun again and phew – no need! In the last couple of kilometres my forearms were getting awfully tired and tight! We reached the shore between 57 and 58 minutes into the race.

Run leg 1 (around 2k)

After quickly removing our pinnies and PFDs, putting our pinnies back on and putting on our camelbaks, we were on our way, stopping first at CP1 to insert the SI stick (Rebecca was wearing it on a lanyard around her neck), and then running a couple of kilometres to our bikes.

Bike leg 1 (around 14k)

I ran for the portapotty, then once we changed our shoes and put on our helmets, we stopped at CP2 on our way out of the park, and we headed straight up a steep hill. It would be the first of many over the course of the race. The bike routes were all marked, so it was easy to know where to go. After a little while on a road, the route turned into the woods, where we met faster athletes coming back from CP3. This section was challenging, not only for the off-road nature, but because of the 2-way traffic. At times the trail was too narrow for riders to go in both directions when rocks or roots or big puddles of mud were in the way. Riding down a hill I was faced with riders coming up (and vice versa), but everyone was very respectful of the other riders. I didn’t hear anyone get angry when someone stopped dead in front of them.

It was between CP3 and CP4 that we encountered the deep water! I walked my bike through the deepest part, worried about falling over and getting my phone wet (which was in my camelbak, but not in a waterproof bag). The water was higher than my knee. Some people rode right through it, but one guy fell forward onto his face (he was fine!).


This deep water section (above my knee when standing in it) was worthy of a photo! Kristin shows us how it’s done.

After the trail section ended we found CP4, then headed on the road back to Glebe Park and CP5 (which was also CP2).

Run leg 2 (around 3k)

At this point, we found Kristin at her bike and set off into the woods with her, agreeing on our route and heading in a counterclockwise direction to find CP30, CP31, CP33 and CP34. Three of these checkpoints were the ones that we found clues for while canoeing. None of these were hard to find, though we did walk some of the hills instead of running them. It was hot and humid and the break from running was welcome. We checked in at CP5 again, and this time when we headed off on our bikes, we took our running shoes with us, since we wouldn’t be returning to Glebe Park.

Bike leg 2 (around 14k)

It was on this 2nd bike leg that I was feeling very low energy overall. This section was mostly flat, and much of it along a rail trail, but I was having trouble staying with Rebecca. She was getting further and further away. I was drinking gatorade, had eaten some gels and an energy bar, but just couldn’t muster up any more power. I’m not sure what was going on. Maybe the heat?


Somewhere out on the bike course! [Photo credit: Storm the Trent]

This part of the course was pretty, and where I spotted 2 painted turtles sitting on a log in the water along the rail trail. Eventually, we made our way to CP6 at Camp Wanakita (where I camped 2 summers as a kid). Here race officials did another gear check, asking to see our 2 whistles and emergency blanket.

Run leg 3 (around 4k)

It was at this spot that we ran into our friend John, who was doing the longer Elite course (crazy as he is). And once again, we met up with Kristin (who probably arrived so far ahead of us that she napped while we caught up to her), and after a quick shoe change and water re-fill, we headed into the woods to find CP44, CP45, CP43, and CP40. Despite the race organizers saying that there would be no water on the course, there were big jugs that we were able to use to add about a bottle’s worth to our water bottles or camelbaks (I suspect they changed their minds due to the high temperature and humidity). I added water to my camelbak, which I started the race filled with 2L of water.

I blindly followed Kristin and Rebecca, but before too long, we weren’t sure where the path was we were looking for, nor where exactly we were on the map. We weren’t the only ones confused at this spot. We probably wasted 15 minutes here, but eventually, when we saw other racers coming out of the woods, we decided it must be the way to go, despite us earlier heading that way and coming out again confused. From that point on it was smooth sailing.

Despite a weather forecast for the day that called for a risk of thunderstorms, the potentially disastrous weather never did arrive. We heard distant thunder on this run leg, but there was no rain, and the thunder stayed far away.

After finding the 4 checkpoints, we stopped again at CP6, then jumped on our bikes for the ride to the finish line.

Bike leg 3 (around 13k)

In case there was any doubt, Haliburton is hilly. Very hilly. On this last bike leg, which started up a steep hill and continued up many more, it seemed we couldn’t catch a break. Sure, there were a couple of good downhills (whee!), but for the most part it felt like we were climbing dirt road after dirt road. A few times I yelled to Rebecca that I needed to stop at the top of a hill to catch my breath, but when we stopped, the black flies swarmed! I didn’t care – I needed a breather! My back was also tightening up (likely from my posture). The most cruel hill may have been the very last one, which was steep and long! We ended up walking parts of the last few hills. At CP50, the race officially ended – our time was stopped, and we could take post-race pictures. We finished the race in just under 6 hours and 40 minutes, and covered about 57 km!


At CP50, where the race officially ended. [Photo credit: Storm the Trent]

However, we still had to make our way down a steep hill to the finish line. It was a dirt  switchback path, which was fun to ride, though I could see why the race organizers didn’t want people racing down it to the finish line – it was steep! At the bottom we made our way to the finishing arch, and then rode back down to the water where our vehicle was parked. I dove into the lake and felt so much better afterwards! Then we headed to the arena for the post-race food and the award ceremony.

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Post-race after swimming in the lake! [Photo credit: John]

We had no idea how we had placed, though we knew we weren’t 1st, 2nd or 3rd! It turns out we were 8th out of 17 team of 2 women. Not bad for two athletes who hadn’t been in a canoe in 9 months and who only just started mountain biking (me in the fall and Rebecca this spring)!

I will definitely do this race again. It was superbly well organized, with excellent volunteers. Thank you Storm Racing!

If you’d like a chuckle, check out the race results for no other reason than to read the funny team names that people came up with (Rebecca and I are “Define Lost”). There are some great ones, like “Lost but making good time”, “4 Guys & an Alternate Named Steve”, and “That’s not on the map”.

 Race results

  • Time: 6:38:23
  • Points: 14 (maximum 14)
  • Placing (female teams): 8/17

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Race report: 5 Peaks Kelso trail 1/2 marathon

The night before the 5 Peaks Kelso trail 1/2 marathon, a wicked wind storm blew through the area with winds over 100 km/h, making me wonder whether we would be racing at all! Halton Parks had closed all of their parks during the storm, including Kelso, and I wasn’t sure they would be open in time for the race. But on race morning, it seemed that it was all systems go!

I arrived at Kelso with lots of time to pick up my race kit (including very nice 5 Peaks winter toque) and get myself organized.


Pre-race with John.

There was a short pre-race briefing, where we found out that the course had been changed slightly due to downed trees, and that others had been removed, while still more may require us to climb over them.

There were just over 100 runners in the 1/2 marathon, and when the race began, we all started at once (no waves). This was my first trail 1/2, and just my second trail race (I did the Sulphur Springs 10k last May). With my legs still tired from the Paris to Ancaster 73k race just 6 days prior to the Kelso race, I wasn’t quite sure how they would do!

The race starts with a climb up a ski hill, which also included the most mud we’d see on the course. I ran the beginning, but on the steepest parts, many of us walked.

Once at the top, the route followed many of the mountain biking trails through the woods, dirt covered, with some more technical rock and root covered sections. While the pre-race briefing included the statement that the trails are “mostly flat” on top, my legs would disagree!

The course was quite pretty, and well marked with tiny flags. At one point, I very briefly went off course, but quickly realized my error – I hadn’t been watching the flags! At the beginning of the race, I was in a small pack of runners, but as time went on, I lost the pack and ran near just a few runners. This was a “no waste event”, so runners needed to carry their own cups or water bottles. Aid stations had water to fill them up, as well as some cookies and gummy-type chews.

Near the 4k mark I kicked something and went flying, falling on my butt, but thankfully I wasn’t injured. Because of downed trees, there were sections where we really did have to climb over big tree trunks.

Near 12k, I was passed by the leaders, who were just 2k from the finish line. The course wasn’t a 2-loop course, but we did run some sections twice. I continued to get passed as I descended the “Snakes and Ladders” trail, stepping off the trail briefly to let the speedsters pass (the trail would be super fun on a mountain bike!). After descending the ski hill, I had to climb it again! My legs were most definitely tired! At times I wondered how I would run 21k.

Somewhere in the last 5k I stopped briefly at an aid station, really hoping they had oranges – they didn’t, but they did have an orange flavoured chew. I ate it, though I hate anything orange flavour other than oranges!

I passed an injured runner who had 2 other runners with him. I asked if someone had gone for help, and they replied that help was on the way.


Crossing the finish line. [Photo credit: John]

In the last several kilometres I walked more of the uphills than I did earlier in the course. I hit the finish line and was very glad to be done! What a tough course. I’d like to try it again on rested legs.

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Note the contour lines!

Post-race I got the oranges I was craving! There were also bagels, bananas, cookies, and maybe more. This race was really well organized and run. I will definitely try another 5 Peaks race.

Race results

  • Time: 3:03:50 (8:59 min/km)
  • 8/10 women 40-44
  • 33/49 women
  • 82/104 all runners

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Race report: My very 1st Paris to Ancaster 70k bike race (25th edition – 2018)

Having cheered on riders of the Paris to Ancaster 70k bike race many times in the past, I was well aware of the potential variability of late April race day weather – from sunny skies to rain, snow, wind and mud – and lots of it. But I never quite appreciated the mud chute at Mineral Springs Road in Ancaster – my usual spot for watching – until I did the race myself!

After winning my mountain bike last summer, I bit the bullet and signed up for the 25th anniversary of this race. After successfully completing the Steaming Nostril 65k bike race on April 8th, I was confident that I could finish the P2A.

According to the race website, “The 70km course consists of 24km of gravel and dirt roads, 5km of farm lanes, 19km of rail trail, 14km of single track (1-3km sections) and 8km of paved road.”

I paid $20 for the bus shuttle, so that I could get a bus to the start line (with my bike going by truck) and have my car waiting for me at the finish. On race morning I looked at the weather forecast (below zero at the start), and added layers to my original clothing plan. I scrapped the idea of wearing shorts and went with long pants. I also added a headband and my jacket, which I had hoped to do without.

With more than 2 hours to kill at Green Lane Sports Park in Paris before wave 4 was to start at 10:30 AM, I chatted with other riders, and made multiple trips to the portapotties. As the start time neared, I realized that I was overdressed.


At the start line of the 25th anniversary edition of the P2A – wave 4.

With the bang of multiple guns shot by people in period costumes, the race began! When the announcer (Steve Fleck) became inaudible after the gunshot, people joked that the speakers had been shot.

After the first few of the 600 riders in our wave began (the biggest P2A wave ever), other riders had the inflatable starting arch fall onto them as they rode under it. It was quickly righted and I didn’t hear about any injuries (just one damaged bike – hopefully a minor issue and they were able to race!). After a short section of gravel road, the route followed the Grand River along the Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail.

From there, we rode a combination of gravel and paved roads, off-road sections including dry rail trail, wet and muddy trail, gravel farm laneway, single track dirt trails (some incredibly muddy), and wider dirt trails with varying degrees of mud. Overall, it was a less hilly route than I expected. Since I don’t have an odometer on my bike, I had no idea how far I had gone. My phone was tracking my progress, but it wasn’t accessible. I asked a few riders during the race, but I also knew that the aid station at the 35k mark would be the one sure sign of my progress.

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One of the few kilometres of paved road. [Photo credit: Apex Photography]

There were several sections of the course that were memorable!

Ditch and then 1st real mountain biking off road section (at 15k)

Just after the 15k mark, I was riding along the edge of a road when I encountered congestion as everyone got off their bikes and walked. It was soon clear why. I needed to take 5-10 steps down into a ditch, and then up the other side. With wooden skids at the bottom and tons of mud, it was completely unrideable.

Then after getting on my way again, I entered the first real mountain biking off road section, a single track bit through the woods. I loved this section, but this is where I totally understood a conversation I had overheard before the race about “avoiding other riders”. In this section, which was a little less than a kilometre, I likely would have been able to ride through it completely (or nearly!) had there not been people all around me. Partly I was very conscious of not wanting to get in people’s way, and partly I didn’t want to end up falling. At times I had to unclip and walk, because it was very muddy and other riders would stop dead in front of me when their bikes got stuck. Granted I did the same thing at times. In any case, this was a fun section of curvy trail through the woods.

Muddy trail more like a rail trail (at 29k)

I’m not sure quite how to describe this trail, other than to say it was wide enough for at least 2 riders to travel side by side, but it was dirt, straight, and very very muddy. It presented me with the deepest, thickest mud I have ever biked through before. Many people were walking, but I decided to take full advantage of being clipped into my bike (still very new for me on my MTB!), and to push hard through this section. I was by no means going quickly, but I was pushing as hard as I could to stay upright! At times my tires would get sucked into ruts and I was sure I was going over, but somehow I managed to lean or push harder and continue. I had to announce my presence a few times to make sure the walkers knew I was coming through. I had one guy following right behind me, and when we emerged from the mud (which had to be close to reaching my pedals!) he said to me, “Nicely ridden!” That felt awesome.

Harrisburg aid station (35k)

I hit the Harrisburg aid station sooner than expected (1 hr 40 minutes on my watch). My legs were feeling good, my energy was good, and the race was so far easier than I expected it to be. I texted my husband and parents to give them a heads up that I might be coming through sooner than expected. Ha!

I had a quick pee break, then stopped to add water to my gatorade, but the container was empty and the next one looked like nuun, so I scrapped that plan (I still had lots) and headed off.

Stomach pain (40k)

Yet again, I suffered an unknown stomach pain that comes out of nowhere. It’s rare that I feel it on my rides, and it’s only ever when biking, but it hurts like crazy and makes bumps unbearable. It feels more like a muscle cramp than a GI issue, but it’s frustrating because not knowing what’s causing it makes it hard to prevent it! I sometimes wonder if it’s a posture thing, but I’m affected on both my road bike and MTB bike. I suffered until about the 65k mark, though it eased off gradually so it wasn’t super intense the whole time. It did make me slow down in this section though.

Heading West instead of East at the 403 (47k)

Just before the 47k mark, we started heading West instead of East – this was slightly hard psychologically because it made it feel as though I wasn’t as close to the finish as I thought I was. We crossed under Highway 403 and headed East again.

Crossing Highway 52 (65k)

At all other intersections on the race route, police held up traffic and I just sailed through. But Highway 52 is a busy road, and so I waited for 5-10 minutes to be allowed to cross. There was a group of 20 or so riders by the time we crossed.

Mud chute at Mineral Springs Road (66k)

This section runs from Highway 52 to Slote Road, and while the beginning part is rideable (there are houses and it is driveable), the later part is not. This part of the road is blocked off with big cement blocks, and is overgrown with trees and bushes. I’m sure you could ride this section if you were one of the very first people passing through. But by the time I got there the mud was way too thick to ride. As I pushed my bike along, mostly downhill, it accumulated so much mud and vegetative matter that my front wheel wouldn’t even turn. My bike is not light, so carrying it was not an option, though I did have to keep lifting it slightly to change angles. It was tough slogging!! I heard my husband cheering for riders (walkers?) then saw him, my parents and my daughter. My mom had been waiting patiently for me with a little container of pure maple syrup – but I had no interest in it, despite having given it to her to bring to the race!


End of the mud chute at Mineral Springs Road. [Photo credit: Neil]

I spotted a lineup of riders waiting for their bikes to be hosed down – yes, during the race! We weren’t at the finish yet. I decided to wait, because I had no idea how I’d be able to ride my bike otherwise. While waiting 10 minutes or so for my turn, I picked out as much of the sticks and mud as I could. My dad said that next year, they will be there wearing gloves prepared to help people clean out their bikes! I’ve seen muddy bikes coming out of that section before, but this was crazy!


Bike wash at the end of the mud chute at Mineral Springs Road [Photo credit: Ailish]

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Attempting to clip in after the bike wash [Photo credit: Alasdair]


I said goodbye to my family and headed up the Slote Road hill. In my training I’d done all the gravel roads in this area quite a few times, so I knew what to expect until I reached the Powerline Road mud chute.

Powerline Road mud chute

The top part of this hill was rideable, but then… forget it! Another super thick muddy section that I walked down. I attempted to keep my bike out of the mud as much as possible. Didn’t I just get my bike washed 1-2k ago?!

Powerline Mudslide

Mud chute on Powerline. [Photo credit: Apex Photography]

The fall

My only fall in this race was on Martin Road before the final hill, on another very small hill that was super muddy. I fell – in slow motion – into a thick pile of very cushioning mud. As I started pushing my bike up to a more level spot, another rider fell in front of me, with his bike landing on top of him – he was still clipped in. I asked him if he needed any help extricating himself from his bike, which resulted in laughter around me. He was fine.

Martin Road hill to the finish line

I had 2 goals for this race: 1) to finish! and 2) to successfully climb up the Martin Road hill, which is how this race ends. Part of this dirt hill is a 17% grade. I rode the hill in training, after about 30k on area roads, and wondered how I would manage it after riding 70k. In fact, it went better than expected! I knew the hill, and knew that once I did the steepest part, the rest would be easy. I never felt that I was in danger of losing momentum and falling over or having to unclip. And since almost everyone around me was walking, I got great cheers from the crowd, and from one enthusiast spectator in particular – thank you random stranger! It helped get me up the hill!

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Woohoo! I made it all the way up the Martin Road hill (17% grade at one point)! [Photo credit: Apex Photography]

From there it was a very short ride to the finish line (at the 73k mark!), which was rather anticlimactic. I asked a woman to take my picture, then I decided not to get a bike wash given that I had somewhere I had to be later that afternoon, and after getting into the food line-up, I scrapped that idea too because there had to be 100 people in front of me. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that they were handing out P2A medals inside, and I missed out. I’ve never been in a race where you had to go elsewhere for a medal.


Done! [Photo credit: random stranger]

I really enjoyed this race, except for the part when my stomach was hurting. Thankfully, the wind wasn’t too bad, and I wasn’t too warm despite being overdressed. Despite thinking at the half way point that I might possibly finish under 4 hours, this was most definitely not the case. Next year! Because yes, I’ll be back!

Thank you P2A for a great race, and to the landowners who allowed us to tear through their properties – I thanked every person I saw who looked like they might own the land I was riding on, including the farmer on his front porch!


  • Distance: 73k
  • Time: 4:36:37 (15.8 km/h)
  • Placing women 40-49: 35/45
  • Placing all women: 129/150
  • Placing all riders: 1482/1623
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The state of my bike after the race.

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Posted in Biking race report | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Race report: Cambridge Urban Adventure Race

The Cambridge Urban Adventure Race put on by the Stars Orienteering Club is a great example of a race that almost anyone could do, even families with kids! It was set in Hespeler, part of Cambridge, and no compass was required (I carried one, but never used it). Have map, will travel! Teams of 2 could choose their own route, finding as many – or as few – of the controls as they wanted to. Each control was worth 1 point. But every minute late teams were over the 2 hours, they lost 1 point (steep penalty!). Our plan was to do whatever we could to avoid being late!


Ready to go.

The controls were found on city streets, in urban parks, on pathways, and some a very short distance off trails in the woods. None were too difficult to find.


Attempting to answer a skill testing question. That skill would be reading. Fail. [Photo credit: Illona Dobos]

6 of the 18 controls required teams to write down answers to questions, some of historical significance (e.g. What are the three names that Hespeler has had throughout its history?). Get the answer wrong, lose the point (speaking from experience here)!


[Photo credit: Ilona Dobos]

Rebecca and I decided to head further away to start with, leaving controls closer to the finish if we had time. We did decide during the race not to go for 2 of the controls that we thought we would get, which were quite far from the others, and, we feared, would make us late.


Pretty scenery on the race course. [Photo credit: Ilona Dobos]

In the end, Rebecca and I finished with just over 8 minutes to spare, probably not enough to have found either of the 2 controls we decided to leave. We found 16 of the 18, but only got credit for 15, since in my head I didn’t make the distinction between a levee and a dam, and didn’t read closely enough to spot our error.


At the finish.

We ran about 14k. It was a fun race! Thank you Stars!

Race results:

  • Time: 1:51:54
  • Points: 15
  • Placing: 4/14 adult female teams

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Race report: Steaming Nostril 65k Bike Race

In the days leading up to the Steaming Nostril 65k bike race, put on by Cycle Waterloo, I obsessively checked the weather forecast, but never once imagined what the weather might actually do to my bike…

I hadn’t heard of this race until February, when my friend Kristin posted about it on Facebook. I figured the timing and distance were perfect for a “test” race 3 weeks before the Paris to Ancaster 70k race, which I would be participating in for the very first time. If I couldn’t finish the Steaming Nostril, forget about the P2A!

In preparation for this race, I started riding outdoors earlier in the year than I ever have before, knowing that I needed to gradually build up my endurance – I did rides of 20k, 35k, 50k, 55k and 60k on a combination of gravel roads, paved roads, and rail trail in the weeks leading up to the race, each time jumping in my parents’ hot tub after the ride. You know you’re dedicated, committed, or just plain crazy when you have to take time off work to fit a long ride in. Just before my last training ride, I got clipless pedals put on my bike (make no mistake, I would be fully clipped in!). Nothing like an added challenge for race day.


I arrived at the Waterloo Rod and Gun Club in St. Jacob’s, Ontario just as a horse and buggy passed under the big archway. There are many Old Order Mennonites in the area, and this wouldn’t be the last horse and buggy I saw that day.

After signing a waiver and picking up my bike number plate, I got my bike ready, and briefly chatted with another rider who mentioned that she was going to put her foot warmers on. Why hadn’t I thought of that? After all, the forecast was for -2C feeling like -8 with the windchill (23 km/h winds gusting to 35). I thought she meant shoe covers, but when I found out she meant disposable foot warmers, and she had extras, I gladly accepted! Later when I went to put them on my socks, I discovered that the package only had one in it – so I put it on my left foot, and decided I’d do a highly scientific experiment to see whether it made a difference (I didn’t graduate with multiple degrees for nothing!).


[Photo by Kristin]

Eventually we headed for the start line, but cowered from the wind behind a large shed nearby. Kristin and I, as well as her friends Erik and Leslie, would be starting in wave 2 (i.e. the wave you don’t need to justify your participation in!).


[Photo by Kristin]

KM 0-2 (It’s only looking back now at the RunKeeper data on my phone that I can distinguish the various sections of the race course)

With about a minute to go, we made our way to the start line, and after a very long 30 second warning, the race began… straight up a grassy/snowy hill! Unfortunately, I struggled to clip my right shoe in, and somehow managed to climb the short but steep hill unclipped. I kept trying to clip in, to no avail. Kristin waited while I stopped and sorted myself out – by then, all the other riders had passed us, as had the VeloFix support vehicle and another support vehicle. What a way to start!


Start line for wave 2

We caught the back of the pack, which is where I expected to be in this race anyway based on last year’s results.


KM 2-4

This part of the race was probably the prettiest, along the Mill Race Trail which runs beside a creek, complete with ducks.


[Official race photo by Lauren Daniells]


[Official race photo by Lauren Daniells]

KM 4-22

I don’t really remember this section. My gloved hands were warm and my energy level good. But there was wind. In fact, I felt like I internally complained about the wind for the entire race. At some point, another rider told me that someone told him that we would have a tailwind for the second half of the race. I’m not sure if that actually happened though. I tried to draft off of other riders but couldn’t hang on to them (Kristin included). I also noticed early on in the race that my left shoe was probably done up a little too tightly – it was mildly numb (maybe it was the hand warmer [not foot warmer])!

KM 22-30

When I did my training rides and the Hamilton to Brantford rail trail got mushy, muddy and sluggish, I got off the trail and hit the gravel roads. During the race though, I was forced to ride about 8 km along a very mushy, sloppy, muddy, slippery, rutted rail trail where carefully picking your path was important! Being on a mountain bike, I fared better than some people around me on skinnier tires. In this section, I started to feel a pain in my stomach that I couldn’t figure out, have had a few times before (only when riding), and thankfully it eventually goes away on its own. I remember saying to another rider in this section that I wasn’t sure whether I preferred hard ground, hills and wind or soft muddy ground sheltered from the wind! The jury is still out.

KM 30-35

As soon as I got out of the rail trail section and hit the road again, I had a problem – I couldn’t shift my chain out of the small chain ring at the front. This meant that I couldn’t take advantage of the downhills (I couldn’t pedal!) and I had a top speed that was slow! It was frustrating, but I figured that the sloppy mess I had ridden through had frozen onto my bike. My left knee started to complain in this section, and I was feeling cold! Maybe it was the direction of the wind, but my upper body was cold and my poor feet were freezing! They must have gotten soaked by the slush. I grabbed a granola bar from my crossbar bag, but as I did so another one hit the ground. I wasn’t stopping. Another rider kindly offered me extra gels if I needed any. I was worried that my gatorade bottle would freeze, and it did, but never so much that I couldn’t suck the icy slush out of it!

I think it was in this section that police at an intersection stopped 3 horse and buggies so that I could cross the road! I saw many others during the race.

KM 35-40

In this section my upper body warmed up, but my feet were still frozen. The insides of my ski gloves were wet from sweat, and my fingers now cold. I had in my head that the aid station was at the 40k mark, but mostly during the race I had no idea how far I had ridden, because I don’t have a bike computer. I did ask other riders a few times, and was relieved when I heard that we were at 39k! I figured there would be mechanical support at the aid station and I might be able to get help for my bike.

KM 40-45

This section seemed long, because my fingers and toes were cold, and I wondered if the aid station had been packed up already! And then finally, there it was! I stopped for a quick portapotty visit and then asked about my bike, but the VeloFix guy confirmed that it was frozen and that there was nothing I could do. And apparently I wasn’t the first one with that problem! I grabbed a banana from a volunteer, and off I went.

KM 45-58

In this section all I remember is stopping to change my gloves, and then moaning and groaning aloud over and over and over again because my new gloves (thin ones under MTBing gloves under fleece gloves) weren’t warming up my frozen fingers. I started doubting that they would ever warm up again, and that I might get frostbite! I moved my fingers around, squeezed the handlebars, tried putting one hand between my thighs – nothing!

KM 58-59

Just after the 58 km mark, the course turns off road and onto a farmer’s field. While a couple of riders ahead of me were walking their bikes, I managed to stay upright, riding far left, as far from the thick gooey mud as possible and as close to the vegetative matter and wooden logs that made up a fence of sorts. I thought I might hit my pedals on the wood, but managed to avoid it. Sometimes I got pulled in the mud ruts, but was pleased to stay upright!

KM 59-61

This section would have been my kind of riding had I simply been going out for a ride on my bike. And maybe it still is. But after a short ride along a farmer’s laneway (belonging to the Martin family, apparently), we had to ride down a steep, muddy, rutted grassy hill that we were assured at the top was rideable. “For what skill level?”, I was thinking. Yet again, I stayed upright and breathed a sigh of relief at the bottom! Then the twisty single track-like riding began, where in a few places I doubted my new clipped in feet and my ability to get around tight, muddy, root covered corners. I walked around a couple, fell at one corner, and fell again later at another. I wasn’t injured, so it was all good! This section was marked well with caution tape, so it was easy to know where to go. I wasn’t the only one walking parts of this bit, including across a wooden bridge that I feared would take me down. And then I reached a mini aid station, where 2 awesome volunteers took sticks to the thick mud/vegetative matter stuck to my bike, and provided shots of pure maple syrup produced by the Martin family. Yum! A racing first for me. I have had Endurance Tap a couple of times, but this was thicker (partly frozen no doubt!) and oh so good. We were assured that it would help us get up the hill.

There was a big sign at the base of the hill “Hard but short” and “Easier but longer”. But “That doesn’t mean it’s easy!” one of the volunteers yelled. I went the easier route, but he was right, pushing my bike up that hill was anything but easy! At the top I met 2 riders who went the harder way, and who were walking towards me instead of away from me. I heard a volunteer yell, “You’re going the wrong way. Go left!” They turned around and I followed them. I figured at this point we probably had 10-15k to go. Imagine my surprise and excitement when I heard from one of the guys that the volunteers said that at the top of the hill there were only 6k left! Woohoo. “We can do this!” I said to my new riding buddy Andy from Burlington. We pretty much rode the last part of the race together. It passed the time and made it more fun. By this time my fingers had warmed up!

KM 61-65

The last bit was easy riding along dirt roads and then a farmer’s laneway. We weren’t sure exactly where the finish line was, but then realized as we got closer that we had to ride down the steep grassy hill that we started the race riding up. Kristin yelled my name as I approached the hill. I hoped that it wouldn’t be icy! It wasn’t, and just like that, the race was done!

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 6.45.53 PM

Sadly my phone died after the race, so I wasn’t able to get close up shots of all the mud and debris on my bike! I paid $5 for volunteers to hose it down. Best $5 I’ve spent in a while.

The post-race hot meal of chili (including meat or vegetarian), wraps, cookies and hot chocolate hit the spot! I enjoyed chatting with other riders after the race and comparing stories.

What an adventure! Some bits of the race were decidedly un-fun, like the frozen fingers and toes, stomach pains, and sore knee, but overall, it was a great experience. I survived my first road bike race! My first bike race was a mountain bike orienteering race last fall, and my second a fat bike race this winter. Given that I gave blood 5 days before the race, I’m kind of amazed at my performance. The timing wasn’t great, but as I said to the Canadian Blood Services staff, the lives of other people are far more important than my performance in this race, which I was doing for fun! It’s In You To Give!

Bring on the P2A!

I found this race to be really well organized, and the volunteers excellent!


[Photo by Kristin]

And as for that little shoe experiment? My toes were equally frozen in both shoes, so the little hand warmer had no effect. Statistically significant result, for sure!

Race results

  • Time: 4:01:30 (16 km/h)
  • Women 40-49: 8/8
  • Women: 21/21
  • All riders: 247/256

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Posted in Biking race report, mountain biking | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Race report: Good Friday Road Race 10k

Traipsing around the woods for 44 minutes the night before the 10k Good Friday Road Race searching for orienteering controls was perhaps not the wisest pre-race prep! As soon as the race started, my legs felt tired, but I didn’t regret anything.


Ready to race!

This race starts just up the road from Aldershot High School in Burlington, and finishes right outside the school. Alasdair and I had run it before, and knew from experience that it isn’t a “flat and fast” 10k – the hills on Northshore Boulevard add some challenge to the course.


Pre-race with Kristin and her friend Cathy.

After quite a bit of congestion at the start, I ended up leading a small pack of runners for a good part of the first 5k loop. There was quite a gap between us and the runners ahead, so far that I couldn’t use them to pace myself. I always find it harder to pace myself when I’m running alone during a race. We were passing 5k runners, but other 10k runners didn’t seem to be within sight.

I hit the 5k mark in around 28:03, and figured that my very loose goal of sub 60 minutes was still possible.

When we hit the first hill on Northshore Boulevard on the 2nd loop, the few runners with me passed me, and they became my pacers. I picked up the pace in the last couple of kilometres once the hills were done, but they had pulled away a bit and I couldn’t catch them.

I crossed the finish line in 56:34.7, good for 15/25 women 40-49, and a minute faster than the last time I ran this race, in 2016.


Done! [Photo by Jim, who I paced for the 1st 5k, and chased for the 2nd!]

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 11.50.56 AM

[Photo by Jim]

Back inside the school, a runner thanked me for being his pacer for the entire race. I had no idea – I didn’t recognize him at all! He must have been just behind me all the time.

After the race I also ran into Carolyn, who I met during the 2017 Sulphur Springs 10k, my very first trail race. We ended up running much of the race together, wondering whether we had gone off course and were actually running the 25k/50k course! Running with Carolyn passed the time and we eventually found the finish line! I hadn’t seen her since, so it was great to spot her at this race!


With my 2017 Sulphur Springs 10k running buddy Carolyn – so great to run into her again!

Burlington Runners do a great job putting on this race. I’ll be back!

Race stats:

  • Time: 56:34.7 (5:39 min/km)
  • Women 40-49: 15/25
  • Women: 28/62
  • All runners: 74/127

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Posted in Running race reports | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments