Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race Long Course

What a relief to arrive on site race morning to find the waters of Georgian Bay calm for the 2022 edition of the Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race! At the same time, it was going to be a scorcher of a day, with a high of 29C feeling like 40C with the humidity.

I arrived just after race registration started at 5:30 AM, so I had plenty of time to get organized (apparently in the most inefficient way possible, as I covered more than 4,000 steps in doing so!).

The race would be a 16k paddle from Colpoys Bay at Bluewater Park in Wiarton, a 35k bike to a remote transition area on Kemble Road, a 15k run, a 21k bike back to Bluewater Park, and a 6k run to finish the race.

With the race stickers provided, I put my race number on my gear (kayak paddle, PFD, helmet, drop bag, bike).

In the transition zone I set my stuff up for biking and for the final run, but could not for the life of me find the electrolytes that I had packed. I remembered putting them somewhere clever…

I left a small backpack in a race vehicle for transport to the remote transition area, where I would need my running shoes, more food, sunscreen, and anti-chafing cream for the 2nd bike leg.

I also found my rental kayak, set the foot pedals to my liking, put a sticker on the boat, and then had just a few minutes before I needed to put my PFD on and get ready to race.

16k paddle

With just 10 minutes to go before the 7:30 AM start, I was surprised that no one was getting into their boats yet (most people paddled kayaks, but there were a few canoes, and apparently in the shorter race that happened later in the morning, a SUP!). Then I remembered that there would be a quick pre-race briefing before we got into the water.

I’m in the yellow shirt almost dead centre. [Official race photo]

Once on the water, another racer put my rudder down, and I paddled over to the start line. I’m used to paddling my whitewater kayaks, so attempting to turn this sea kayak with a rudder was interesting! I noticed right away that the boat wanted to go right (what is to the right? WHY?). We had a 2 minute warning, and then after a short countdown, the race began!

There was a little bit of chop at the start with all the boats feverishly trying to get going, but things settled down as the racers spread out. I settled into a pace that felt comfortable and that I thought I could maintain. I didn’t look at my watch for quite a while, because I didn’t want to be disappointed. There were several buoys along the route that we needed to navigate around, but we stayed pretty close to shore for the 8k out and then 8k back.

[Official race photo]

I knew I wasn’t pulling up the rear, but I also knew there weren’t too many boats behind me. Nevermind, I knew I could finish within the 2 1/2 hour time limit in these conditions.

Remember that weather forecast? My face was dripping with sweat on the way out, but once racers started coming the other way, we heard that it was cooler on the paddle back, and that we just needed to get to the turnaround to find the A/C! Turns out they were right – the headwind on the way back provided some relief!

I chatted with other racers a little as we went by one another, and we all marvelled at the crystal clear water! I didn’t catch sight of any shipwrecks, but I knew they were nearby. At times we had some bigger waves to deal with, but only very briefly after a motorboat passed by. It was near the turnaround when I started paddling with a racer named Patrick. We chatted the entire way – which really helped to pass the time – until the final few 100 metres when he took off!

I saw one boat flip at the turnaround, and as soon as the racer’s head popped up I let her know that a safety boat was right there (I also waved to it), and another racer assured her that she would be okay and that she should swim the boat to shore. Hopefully she was able to continue.

[Official race photo]

In the last couple of kilometres of the paddle my right hand started cramping and my lower back was getting a bit tight, but overall this segment of the race went very well! A volunteer helped me carry the boat to the grass where I left it for the rental company.

35k bike

I quickly used the portapotty, and forced down 1/4 of a bagel with peanut butter and jam while I reapplied sunscreen and got my socks, cycling shoes, and helmet on. I headed for the mount line, but even me, the seasoned triathlete, was about to mount my bike in the transition zone before a volunteer reminded me I had to walk it to the mount line – oops!

The majority of this bike leg was on rural roads with rolling hills, but there was also a section on an ATV trail. Early on in the bike route I reached a fork in the road – do I go left, or do I go right? I already couldn’t remember if I was supposed to be following ORANGE or PINK signs. Thankfully, I spotted small writing on the signs and on closer inspection, learned that I should be following ORANGE (we were told in the race briefing, but that was nearly 3 hours before).

I made the race extra challenging for myself by getting confused at the point where the bike course met the run course on the ATV trail. I saw a sign that said WRONG WAY – GO BACK and while I stopped and looked around with a puzzled look on my face no doubt, leaving the ATV trail for the Bruce Trail side trail (with pink flags on it) didn’t make sense. I knew there was no single track trail on this bike route, and yet… I turned off the ATV trail, and quickly discovered that this single track trail was beyond my riding abilities. No worries, I’ll walk it, I thought! So I walked, and walked, and whacked my shins on my pedals, and thought – again – this can’t be right. I figured the flags MUST be for the run – but where were the runners? So eventually (after way too long) I turned back and retraced my steps, picking the route back up on the ATV trail. I’m not sure how much time I lost, or how many people passed me as I went for a solo adventure in the woods.

Shortly after this error there was a steep downhill on a very rocky trail. I slowly picked my way down, but a couple of guys went flying past me! I was being careful because I couldn’t afford to fall and get hurt.

This is not a happy Xs and Os picture. The O shows the hidden RED bike track (where I should NOT have gone) under the more visible BLUE run track (from later in the course). Sigh.

The last 100 metres or so of the bike route was straight up a ridiculous rocky hill that was like the Martin Road hill in the Paris to Ancaster race – on steroids! I pushed my bike up it. Suffice it to say I was relieved when I reached the remote transition area on Kemble Road!

15k run

A helpful volunteer (they were all amazing!) showed me which rack to put my bike on, and pointed my backpack out to me. I pulled my running shoes out and there in one shoe was my packet of electrolytes! Not so helpful for the first bike leg! I filled my water bottle with cold water and added gatorade powder provided by the volunteers, and guzzled that while I got ready to run.

I was absolutely not looking forward to running in the heat and humidity. The first part of the run was on the Bruce Trail, a section I ran in June (in the opposite direction). As I ran (and walked) I thought, “I just did this, can’t that count?!” The trail was very technical in places, meaning that you really had to be careful of your footing. There were rocks and roots and holes to avoid. Some parts – in my opinion – were unrunnable, so I walked. In fact I walked more than I would have liked on this entire run. While we had shade in the woods, it was still hot, and when we got out onto the road part of the run, it was in the full sun. Did I mention it was hot?

Me with Dianne, who it turns out I corresponded with a couple of years ago about this race. We commiserated together as we walked under the beating sun.

And then, in a measure of cruel and unusual punishment, we had to climb back up that hill on steroids to the transition area. Another racer was struggling, so when I reached the top I found her relay partner to suggest she encourage her partner up the hill – so a group of people did. She wasn’t sure she would be able to do the final run.

After guzzling more gatorade and pouring water on my head, I got ready to bike once again. I was having trouble forcing myself to eat. Absolutely nothing appealed.

21k bike

Just before heading out I heard that there was a 3 PM cutoff to continue on the bike. I asked what time it was. “3:08” the guy said. Someone asked if that meant we were done, but he assured us we could continue if we got out of transition before the race sweeps. We also learned that the cutoff to be able to start the final run was 5 pm. I wasn’t sure I would make it – or even if I wanted to run again!

[Official race photo]

Once again, there was lots of road on this bike segment, but also some ATV trail. It reminded me of parts of the Paris to Ancaster course where there were mud pits and fallen trees and narrow channels to ride through. There was also a lot of wet rock that looked slippery and terrifying to me. After my crash in June 2021 I lost most of my confidence on the bike (now that I know the consequences of a simple fall). I did a lot of walking through this section, because as I was getting more tired, I felt like I would make poor decisions and crash. And then I fell. I fell on my left elbow and knee, but I was able to continue. At the base of a steep rocky hill I spotted another racer lying on his back on a big rock – he said he was taking a break, but that he was okay. I continued (Dianne had warned me about this hill, and I had walked it in June when I ran this section of the Bruce Trail). Eventually, I reached the road, and I knew it would be clear sailing from this point!

The 21k ride was actually a 22k ride, but I eventually reached Bluewater Park! I dismounted before the line, and said, “I quit!” While I beat the time cut-off to do the final run, I knew it would be a hot, humid, torturous death march (in other words, a 6k walk!) and I had no interest in doing that. I handed over my timing chip and didn’t regret my decision for a minute.

In 9 hours and 10 minutes of racing, I only managed to eat 1/4 of a bagel with peanut butter and jam, 1 banana, 1 granola bar, 2 graham wafers, 2 pretzels, and a few pieces of mango. I’m sure the heat and humidity were the cause of my disgust for every type of food I was carrying!

I packed up my stuff, and then enjoyed a veggie burger and fries from Dockside Willie’s (provided to athletes). I was happy to see that the relay racer who didn’t think she’d be able to do the final run was crossing the finish line! I went over to congratulate her and her teammate.

And then I made the long drive home.

I will be back!

Race stats:

  • Time: 9:10:14.5
  • 16k paddle: 2:24:04
  • T1: 5:38.4
  • 35k bike: 2:12:09.3
  • T2: 10:52
  • 15k run: 2:30:24
  • T3: 13:19
  • 22k bike: 1:33:46.8

Overall stats:

  • 41 athletes finished
  • 10 athletes did not finish (DNF) – including me
  • 4/6 solo women finished
Fantastic race swag for BPMR, including a buff, compression socks, and a trail running belt (bib holder).

This race is superbly well organized, and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a challenge!

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Race report: K-Town long course triathlon

This year’s Multisport Canada/Somersault K-Town long course triathlon was to be held at a new venue, Canadian Forces Base Kingston, instead of Confederation Park downtown. The change was made in part to maximize safety on the course – athletes would have a more protected swim and wouldn’t have to bike across the metal grate bridge.

Prior to the race I finally got to meet Cory, an athlete I follow on Instagram but who I hadn’t yet managed to see in person. Thanks again Cory for introducing yourself!

2k swim

The new swim course was in the Great Cataraqui River north of Highway 2 (from HMCS Cataraqui) instead of in the St. Lawrence River (open to Lake Ontario) south of Highway 2. We were told it would be calmer. Alasdair and I were to start in the same wave, which meant we should see each other more during the race.

We got into the water from a dock, but this meant (for me at least) that once I was in for my quick warm-up, I wasn’t getting out again (too hard to get out). I didn’t want to get in too early because I’d have to tread water until the start, but I didn’t want to wait to the last second either.

The 10 second countdown started and we were off, with me right behind Cory. Sadly, I only got to draft off of him for a couple of swim strokes, because then he was gone! We swam shore side of a buoyed boat lane. For this race we had to keep the buoys to our right, swimming about 1 km north east along the shore, 25 m across, then back even closer to the shore.

With about 500 metres to go, the swim course got very weedy. It was also at this point that I noticed a current in my favour, however, my motion-sickness never likes it when things don’t align, so my swim strokes at a different speed than the waving weeds was not pleasant. My hands were non-stop hitting weeds and I had them sticking to my head too, wrapped around my face. At one point I hit rocks (or something!) with my left hand. I later heard from athletes who cut their hands and feet during the swim.

With only a couple hundred metres to go, some swimmers ahead of me seemed confused – they were swimming at a strange angle away from shore. Maybe they were looking for deeper water to get away from the weeds?

Overall, my swim was fairly straight, and I passed at least one person (but most passed me as usual). As I approached the swim exit I could see that the blowup swim arch was off to the side, and had fallen over. There was a very slippery mat at the swim but volunteers warned us and helped us out if needed. Then I set out in bare feet running about 200 m or so on pavement back to transition!

55k bike

While getting myself ready to bike, I ate half a homemade muffin. The bike route was only slightly different than the previous course, which meant lots of hills, with more downhill on the way out (never a good sign!). I passed around 3 people, and played leapfrog with one woman (I overtook her on the downhills, she caught me on the uphills). I saw 3 dead skunks, forced down 2 homemade energy bites, and stopped at the bottle exchange to fill my own bottle with F2C. There was a nice downhill to finish the bike course. I saw Alasdair just before the turnaround in Gananoque.

15k run

Before even starting the run, I knew the heat was going to be my enemy! Thankfully, there was a light breeze coming off the lake. The run course crosses highway 2 via stairs and a pedestrian bridge, then does a loop through the Royal Military College (RMC). The course was mostly flat, with one very big exception, the long climb up the Fort Henry Hill (because forts are always built up high!). When I reached the first aid station, I was super disappointed to discover that it had run out of drinks. This meant I didn’t get one until 4k into the run, after having conquered the Fort Henry hill (with a run/walk combination). I was pleasantly surprised to see my friend Lisa at the aid station! The run down the hill was the best part of the run course.

Picture by Lisa

The 15k course included 3 loops at RMC, which meant that I saw Alasdair multiple times. At each aid station I poured water on my head and drank F2C and/or water. I ran the entire 15k, other than the steepest parts of the Fort Henry hill, and as I went through the aid stations. There was great support from cheering spectators at RMC.

Alasdair was waiting for me just before the finish.

I enjoyed some post race pizza and my first ginger ale in years (I’m not a pop drinker but felt like something sweet). We watched the end of the awards, and then we soaked our heads with a hose before heading out!

Race stats:

  • Time: 4:55:09 (7/8 women 45-49, 39/64 women, 146/218 athletes)
  • Swim: 57:05 (2:51 min/100m)
  • Bike: 2:06:22 (25.9 km/h)
  • Run: 1:47:13 (7:08 km/h)

Bracebridge Olympic and sprint triathlon double header

It was my first time racing in Bracebridge and I decided to make it a triathlon double header! Thankfully, the longer Olympic race would be on the Saturday, and the shorter sprint on the Sunday.

Saturday Olympic

We were very fortunate to be able to stay at our friends’ cottage in the Gravenhurst area, meaning just a 45 minute drive on race morning. Nevertheless, we had a way-too-early 4:45 alarm wake-up, with a 5:30 AM departure time to make sure we got one of the limited on-site parking spots at Annie Williams Park.

I pumped my tires up, and as I removed the pump, the tip of my tube broke off. Uh oh. I knew I wouldn’t be able to pump that tire up again, but I wasn’t sure whether it would keep the air in for the race… so I headed over to Vélofix (one of the Multisport Canada race series sponsors on site) and Sean assured me that it would be fine, but that I should swing by after the race so they could change my tube. Thankfully, once the race started I completely forgot about it!

Race ready

1500m swim

For this race athletes started in 5 second increments, seeded based on predicted finishing time (for the entire race). My start time was 8:15:50, with Alasdair 10 minutes ahead of me. There was a race clock at the swim start, which people were supposed to use to make sure they were ready to start at their assigned time – this is when their official race time would start. But some people either weren’t paying attention or were very confused. It didn’t take long before things went sideways. I heard someone say loudly, “They are running behind.” I took this to mean that they were still going in order (I was bib #192) and they would get to me eventually. However, I stayed close so I could hear what was going on. Then I heard one of the volunteers (?) say that a bunch of people would have to start at the end because they missed their time. I was in the water along the dock, in a line getting closer to the start when I heard the Race Director call “194”. I said, “I’m 192! Coming!” So I skipped past a bunch of people and started about 10 seconds after my assigned time. From there, the swim was pretty straightforward, down the right side of the river, across, and back the other side then across. I had no issues on the swim, but could have been a little straighter.

I got myself ready to bike and ran out of transition and up a gravel hill to the pavement.

40k bike

Alasdair had warned me that this was a hilly bike course, but I didn’t realize I’d have to get up out of the saddle multiple times to get up hills. It was a 2 lap course, so the steep hill we climbed in both directions had to be done twice. In between the laps there was a short loop through the park, which confused me because I wasn’t aware of it before the race and said to the volunteer “But I’m not done yet!” because I thought he was sending me to the finish. He assured me it was all good, and it was. The road was rough in some places with construction underway. However, the rough spots were obvious and it was possible to avoid any issues. The rough road did mean that I had to be careful about when I chose to eat and drink on the bike. Because it was a hot day I wanted to be sure to hydrate, and I managed to drink a full bottle of Nuun while riding. I saw Alasdair 3 times on the bike, with him slowly increasing his lead on me. Because there weren’t any portapotties in transition, I stopped at one just outside transition.

10k run

At the start of the run I was relieved that it didn’t feel as hot as I thought it would, but that changed over the course of the race. The route was hillier than I expected it to be, though the only steep hill was the first one out of the park. I saw Alasdair when I was at the 3k mark (and he was at 7k). I essentially ran aid station to aid station, walking through each one while pouring a cup of water on my head and neck and drinking another one. I found it hard to force myself to run faster/more.

When I was running down the final hill to the finish line a woman joked to another athlete about tucking and rolling down the hill – instead, she did a cartwheel and then ran to the finish line!

We stayed to cheer on the last finishers, and then for $10 (the cost of the tube) Vélofix changed my front tube.

Race stats:

  • Time: 3:32:05 (7/9 women 45-49, 35/61 women, 117/187 all athletes)
  • 1500m swim: 42:40 (2:50 min/100m)
  • 40k bike: 1:32:25 (25.97 km/h)
  • 10k run: 1:12:46 (7:16 min/km)

Sunday sprint

Once again we had an early start to the day, but this time weather was on our minds – there was a thunderstorm watch for most of the day. I hoped the thunderstorms would stay away! There were lots of bats flying around the cottage as we were heading out, and then we spotted a small fox on the way to the race.

Rain protection for my gear

My start time was 8:19:30, with Alasdair 12 minutes ahead this time.

750m swim

The start was way better organized for the sprint, with the race staff loudly announcing bib numbers to keep things under control! I began the swim under overcast skies. My swim felt stronger and straighter, and while I had no issues on the swim, I did encounter much more congestion than during the Olympic race. It was lightly raining when I exited the water.

20k bike

Having done the Olympic race the day before, I knew what was in store for me for the sprint race – one lap of the same course. This time though they moved the run up the gravel to the side so we ran up grass instead – way better! I didn’t notice any rain on the bike. I pushed harder, including up the hills. On the first big hill I passed at least 5 people who were walking up it. At some point I saw Alasdair as he went by the other way.

5k run

With a lower temperature and a shorter race overall, my goal was to push harder on the run and not walk at all. In fact I decided not to stop at any of the aid stations for water, and to just keep running! I saw Alasdair before the 1k point (4k for him). I cheered for many runners – those passing me and those behind.

And just like that, the sprint was done! I was happy with how my race went. I was 1 1/2 km/h faster on the bike and a full minute per km faster on the run than in the Olympic race the day before.

I eventually checked the race results, and was shocked to see that I had finished 3/8 women in my age group! I’ve never been on the podium for a triathlon other than a couple of try a tris!

Race stats:

  • Time: 1:40:05
  • 750m swim: 21:24 (2:51 min/km)
  • 20k bike: 43:31 (27.58 km/h)
  • 5k run: 31:23 (6:16 min/km)

After the sprint Alasdair did the try a tri for a 3 triathlon weekend!

We stayed to cheer on the very last finisher of the try a tri, and then headed for home!

Bracebridge, we’ll be back!

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Race report: Welland long course triathlon

While we’ve raced at Welland many times, this was to be our first time doing the long course here (2k swim, 50k bike, 15k run). It was a super early morning, with a 4:45 AM alarm and 5:30 AM departure to get there in time. Alasdair was to start at 8:18 and me at 8:24 (we were seeded based on our predicted finishing times).

Pre-race and ready to go.

It always amazes me how much space some athletes take up in transition. I’m a minimalist (I put the 2nd water bottle on my bike after I took the picture).

All set up.

My Twitter friend Christine was racked next to me.

2k swim

Due to some construction at the Welland International Flatwater Centre, the swim start had to move a little from its normal location (this time further away from the building). I did a very short warm up swim, then waited onshore with Alasdair. I went into the water just after him, staying near the shore until it was my wave’s start. For the first time ever I wore a black swim cap! Not ideal, as it is not very visible if you’re trying to keep your eye on athletes in the water. Apparently they were supposed to be silver. I thought it odd that the black caps went to the slowest athletes (I was in the last wave – only the swim/bike athletes started after us).

The countdown from 10 started and the race began! Thankfully, I had a pretty uneventful swim! Absolutely no breathing issues, I swam fairly straight, and I had my fastest swim race pace this year. I did not say fast – I said fastest!

We swam down the recreational waterway (a long way!), turned right at a green buoy, crossed the waterway (took me a few seconds to spot the green buoy on the other side because we were swimming into the light and it was in the shade), turned right, swam back towards the building, turned right at the last green buoy and headed diagonally to the swim exit. The volunteers were great there helping people out of the water (on rocky ground). The run to transition was also different (no stairs this year) because of the construction, but it was a longer run to get to our bikes. I ate a homemade apple muffin while I got ready to ride, then ran out of transition with my bike.

50k bike

What should have been a 56k ride became a 50k ride, again due to construction. Instead of riding down to Lake Erie, which is beautiful (but windy!), we did a route with one section of it that we had to ride twice. It meant that Alasdair and I got to see each other multiple times! The first time I spotted him he was about 4km ahead of me (I was 2k from a turnaround).

While normally bike courses are completely on roads, for this race we rode a few hundred metres on a bike path (again because of construction). This was fine, but getting from the path onto the road wasn’t fun – there was gravel that I wasn’t thrilled to ride on. Thankfully, I stayed upright and my tires were fine.

I can’t be sure, but I was likely the only athlete scouring a creek along the road for turtles – I saw 5 on one log. I also saw a mamma duck on a log with at least 4 babies standing closely around her.

At around 30k I caught Christine, but sadly she wasn’t feeling well after the bike so she called it a day.

I did a great job (for me) drinking lots on the bike – one bottle of Nuun, and about 2/3 of another one with water. Unfortunately, I put the Nuun in the wrong cage, so just after starting the ride I had to grab the water bottle, hold it super tight in my teeth (I thought I was going to drop it for sure!), put the Nuun in the more accessible cage and put the water one back. Success! I forced down a super dry granola bar, but had to wash it down with water!

With about 15k to go my right glute started giving me trouble, tightening up on me. I figure it was a result of my 39k Bruce Trail run the weekend before the race. I had to frequently get up out of the saddle to relax it. My pace started to slow. Let’s just say I was happy to be done the bike! I wasn’t sure I would be able to run… I took two bites of a banana and then headed out. It was kind of demoralizing to hear people finishing the race while I was just starting the run!

15k run

After a slow transition (had to pee and reapply sunscreen), I headed out on the run course, an Endurance Tap gel in my shirt (I was a little worried about not having eaten enough). At this point, I should mention that it was 32 degrees Celsius, feels like 35 with the humidity. It was ridiculously hot. Thankfully, I quickly realized that my glute wasn’t going to be an issue on the run! I hadn’t reached 1k when I saw Alasdair for the first time. Because we would be running 2 loops of the course, I got to see him multiple times. My plan was to run from aid station to aid station, stopping at each one to grab electrolytes and water, to walk while drinking them, and to also pour water on my head! As soon as I saw small blue towels at an aid station, I grabbed one, soaked it in an ice cold bucket, and stuck it down my shirt! I then continued soaking my towel at each aid station. Looking forward to the next aid station was a good way to break the 15k down into manageable chunks. I passed 8 of them, so I didn’t have to wait too long each time to cool myself down. I felt pretty good, all things considered. At times we had a very slight breeze, which felt amazing. I never did have the gel. I cheered for and encouraged other athletes as I ran, some who were further along the course than me, and others further behind. We were suffering together!

At the start of the run it was hard to imagine running in that heat for 15k, but somehow, I did it.

And the best part of the race? Getting soaked just past the finish line with a garden hose by one of the awesome volunteers (thanks André!!). All things considered I’m pretty happy with my race.

Post-race!

Thanks Multisport Canada for another great race!

Race stats

  • Time: 4:46:17 (13/14 women 45-49, 51/74 women, 170/228 all athletes)
  • Swim: 56:04 (2:48 min/km)
  • T1: 2:54 (includes pee break)
  • Bike: 1:50:35 (27.1 km/h)
  • T2: 4:01 (includes pee break and sunscreen reapplication)
  • Run: 1:52:43 (7:30 min/km)

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Running the Bruce Trail End to End: Sydenham Section

I’ve now completed 8 sections of the Bruce Trail (there are 9)!

What’s the Bruce Trail? According to the Bruce Trail Conservancy website, the Bruce Trail is “Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath. Running along the Niagara Escarpment in southern Ontario from Niagara to Tobermory, the Bruce Trail spans more than 890 km of main Trail and over 400 km of associated side trails.”

SYDENHAM SECTION

Started the Sydenham section: October 31, 2020

Finished the Sydenham section: June 17, 2022

Run details

October 31, 2020 – Webwood Falls Nature Reserve to Walter’s Falls side trail – 24k (with Kris)

November 14, 2020 – Walter’s Falls side trail to Woodford – 29k (with Kris)

November 26, 2020 – Woodford to Sideroad 22 at Concession 8 – 30k (with Kris)

May 13, 2022 – Sideroad 22 at Concession 8 to Young’s Drive – 29k (with Kris)

May 27, 2022 – Young’s Drive to Lundy Road – 30k (with Kris)

June 17, 2022 – Lundy Road to Bluewater Park – 39k (with Kris)

Run stats

  • # runs: 6
  • # solo runs: 0
  • # runs with my husband Alasdair: 0
  • # runs with friends: 5 (Kris!)
  • shortest run: 24k
  • longest run: 39k
  • average length of run: 30.2k

Run highlights

Best unexpected waterfall: We loved discovering these hidden gems, which we almost always had completely to ourselves!

Another pretty waterfall

Prettiest flowers: Spring on the trail meant bright colours everywhere.

Luckiest re-route: Because of a logging closure of the main trail we had to run along a side trail through the Bognor Marsh, which meant we saw things we wouldn’t otherwise have seen, including a hand-dug well, remains of an 1860’s homestead, and a nearby 1970 plane wreck (sadly 4 people lost their lives).

Best natural cooling device: While running through the forest on a hot May day, we came upon high rock walls with a narrow channel through it, complete with ice on the ground! The cool air felt amazing.

Rock walls

Most unexpected re-route: One day while running a 30k route we came upon a gaping hole in the road (that the trail ran along), and a work crew fixing the hole. We had to run through a farmer’s field at the edge of the road to get through. This closure was not posted on the Bruce Trail website.

Yikes!

Longest grass: Through the Wiarton airport!

Running through grassy field

Highest creek crossing: we did a double-take – are we really crossing here?

Creek crossing

Most photogenic wildlife: an adorable frog! We saw lots of wildlife in this section, including 2 Sandhill Cranes, Snapping Turtles, frogs, slugs, Garter Snakes, Eastern Kingbirds, Yellow Warblers, a Great Blue Heron, Chickadees, woodpeckers, grouse and a Bobolink (a first for me). We heard so many Eastern Wood-Pewees that I started talking about “our friend” who was covering the trail with us!

One adorable frog

Most turtles in one day: We saw 3 Snapping Turtles on our 39k run, 2 within the first 200m of the run, and one in a puddle on a flooded gravel road.

Biggest waterfall: Inglis Falls in Owen Sound.

Inglis Falls in Owen Sound

Most welcome puddles ever: On another hot day, I loved these unavoidable puddles, which cooled our feet (and us overall) as we passed through them! This is also where we unexpectedly ran into a friend’s father (one of only a few people I know living on the Bruce Peninsula!).

First end of run swim: After covering 39k of the trail one day and looking forward to cooling off in Colpoy’s Bay (Georgian Bay) at Bluewater Park all run long, I was determined to swim no matter what, but the water was SO COLD it was painful! I did “swim” (read: I soaked my entire body in shallow water), apparently making other people looking on cold in the process!

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Race report: Gravenhurst Olympic and sprint triathlons

Doing back to back triathlons in Gravenhurst has become a thing for Alasdair and I. Thankfully, the longer Olympic race was on Saturday this year, and the sprint on Sunday. New for 2022 were assigned start times based on predicted finishing times. Theoretically this should reduce passing on the swim, bike and run. Unfortunately, this also meant that Alasdair and I were to start more than 40 minutes apart (on different boat runs), and would only see each other once over the course of the two races.

Saturday Olympic triathlon

Pre-race with gear ready to go.

1500m swim

With Alasdair on the earlier run of the boat, I walked to the docking area on my own, listening to two loons calling in Lake Muskoka. I was in the 1st of 3 waves on my boat. The boat arrived at the location where we would jump off super early, so everyone waited on the boat until about 8 minutes to go. When they told us to start jumping in, I was one of the first (plugging my nose with one hand, and making sure my goggles stayed on my head with the other!). As I resurfaced I did bit of a gasp due to the cold water. My ears and face were chilly, but I knew I would warm up quickly once I started swimming. Waiting at the start line I barely had to tread water, because my wet suit helped me to float.

This year the swim course changed very slightly at the request of the boat operator, who wanted to let us out in deeper water. So we swam away from shore, then made a sharp turn back towards shore and basically swam a straight line to the swim ladders at the dock. I happened to swim pretty much the entire way to the left of a woman in a bright orange wetsuit (99% of triathlon wetsuits are black), which really helped me in sighting! I knew that she was doing the breaststroke when sighting, so I was confident she knew where she was going. I had to sight less often. I was grateful to not have breathing issues on the swim this time (something new to all 3 of my races in 2021), and I was able to see very well with my new goggles! At last year’s Gravenhurst Olympic distance race I think I had to adjust them 4 times! I chatted briefly with the orange wetsuit lady along the dock, and it turns out I helped her swim straighter too!

40k bike

Having done this course many times, I knew to expect lots of rolling hills. What I was surprised to see were 2 dead snakes and a dead muskrat! At 10k I met Alasdair, but then didn’t see him the rest of the race. Shortly after this point I tried to shift into my big chain ring and my chain fell off. Thankfully, it was a pretty quick fix, but my fingers were then covered in chain oil! My stomach wasn’t happy in the last 10k, so I was glad to get off my bike. I had a granola bar in transition as I got my helmet, socks, shoes, sunglasses and race bib on, then headed out for the run.

10k run

My stomach was still not happy when I started running, and I really hoped it would feel better soon, because 10k of hills would be awful! After about 2-3k it was back to normal. I was thankful for the cooler temperatures – traditionally this race has been in July, when it can feel like 40C with the humidity. Instead, it was about 20C. Unfortunately I had very annoying bugs following me for most of the race – I was actually stung or bitten by two, one on my leg, and one on my back! I stopped very briefly at each of the aid stations for a quick drink of electrolytes, then was on my way again. I think my favourite part of this run course is the last km, because it’s downhill or flat! Alasdair was there to cheer for me in the last few hundred metres, and just like that, I crossed the finish line!

Lucky me, I won a pair of leg warmers as a draw prize.

Race stats

  • Time: 3:26:39 (5/7 women 45-49, 41/86 women, 227/340 athletes)
  • 1500m swim: 43:01 (2:52/100m)
  • T1: 2:26
  • 40k bike: 1:29:06 (26.9 km/h)
  • T2: 2
  • 10k run: 1:10:06 (7 min/km)

Sunday sprint triathlon

We helped this Snapping Turtle off the road on the way to the race.

We arrived at the race site in the rain, and heard our favourite announcer Steve Fleck saying that because of possible thunderstorms a decision would be made just prior to the departure time for the first boat as to whether the swim portion would go ahead (or whether we would all be competing in a duathlon – run/bike/run). I prepared as if the swim would go ahead, but didn’t put my wetsuit on. Thankfully, the decision was made to go ahead with the swim (the storms stayed away!), so I put my wetsuit on. Leaving transition and heading for the boat, I didn’t get too far before I realized that I hadn’t gotten my helmet out (it was tucked in my bag away from my bike). I got it out, then headed back to the water.

750m swim

I headed for the boat and was really really early, but so were 3 other athletes. We had a good chat! Once again Alasdair was on a different boat, but this time, I wouldn’t see him at all during the race! I was in the 2nd of 3 waves on my boat. Much to my disappointment, I had some breathing challenges early on, so I immediately switched to right side only breathing until I calmed down. And then all was good! No orange suit guide this time, but I swam pretty straight again.

20k bike

I was just about ready to grab my bike and head for the mount line when I realized my water bottle was in my backpack! I ran to get it, ducking under 2 bike racks as I went (and again on the way back) – bags must be tucked around the edges of the transition zone so they are not tripping hazards. After finishing the Olympic distance bike course in my big chain ring, I forgot to change gears so it was ready for the sprint race! Somehow I couldn’t figure out why I was having trouble at the start line. I ended up biking the first 5k in the big chain ring (I never do that!) before I figured it out. I decided to push harder for this race, and ended up riding faster than the day before. It was a good ride, and I didn’t have any stomach issues.

5k run

I was grateful to be running under cloudy skies – no rain, just the threat of it. I decided not to stop at any of the aid stations, and even convinced myself to run all the hills (including a pretty steep one). I felt good on the run, and amazingly, my pace was quickening as I went. Normally I start at a pace I can’t maintain and slowly lose steam. For whatever reason, I actually negative split this run (faster 2nd half than 1st).

Me expressing disbelief to Alasdair near the end as I was negative splitting the run.

In any case, it was a great way to finish the race!

And then I won another draw prize, this time a merino wool base layer (top). Yay!

Race stats

  • Time: 1:43:31 (4/6 women 45-49, 58/110 women, 179/325 athletes)
  • 750m swim: 23:35 (3:08/100m)
  • T1: 2:39
  • 20k bike: 43:16 (27.7 km/h)
  • T2: 1:44
  • 5k run: 32:17 (6:27 min/km)

Gravenhurst, we’ll be back!

A big thank you to our friends Emma and Brian for the best race accommodations out there!

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Happy Trails Rugged Raccoon 25k Night Trail Race

It had been 3 years since the last running of the Happy Trails Rugged Raccoon 25k Night Trail Race, but when I parked my car at Wildwood Conservation Area and headed over to pick up my race kit right next to Wildwood Lake, I remembered how beautiful the race venue was. At 7:30 pm, my friend Kris and I would be running clockwise around the lake, starting in daylight and ending in the dark.

Pre-race picture with Kris while there was still light!

The race began and we set off together. Unfortunately it didn’t take long for me to get a side stitch, which bothered me for a couple of kilometres. I told Kris not to let me slow her down – she had a spring in her step – so she got further and further ahead of me.

Kris and I near the start.

I hit the first aid station at around 4.5k, but I didn’t stop. Shortly after this point my side stitches were gone.

At the pre-race briefing we learned that the course was less muddy than in 2019 (phew!), and that there was less mud in the 2nd half of the course. As I ran I remembered bits of the route, but I had only been to the conservation area once before, so much of it felt new to me.

I was on the lookout for owls, but never did see or hear one. I did hear lots of spring peepers though, as well as a woodpecker, and Kris saw deer.

At the 2nd aid station around 9k I grabbed a cookie and kept running. At this point the course follows a road for a short time before going back into the forest on the far side of the lake. I remembered having to put my headlamp on at this point in 2019, but this time there was still lots of light left. I also remembered in 2019 that I could see headlamps on the far side of the lake – not this time! I made it my goal to try to get to 15k before turning my headlamp on. At the 3rd aid station around 14k, I grabbed another cookie and kept running. The light was starting to fade but I was still able to see.

And then just before 15k I noticed headlamps in the forest ahead of me. I finally turned mine on at 15k, and within 200-300 metres I kicked a root and fell into a mud puddle! Ha! It was a soft landing and I was not hurt, so I got up and kept going!

I found that I ran much of the race alone, even more so during the 2nd half when runners were more spaced out.

Approaching the 4th and final aid station I knew there would be hot cheese quesadillas, but I wasn’t quite sure I would feel like one when I got there! It’s not something I would normally eat when running. But I decided to have a piece, it was delicious, and my stomach didn’t complain!

It was at the nearly 22k mark that I started wondering whether I had gone off course. I wasn’t sure which way the trail went through the forest. The route had been very well marked with pin flags up until this point, but I realized I hadn’t seen any in a while. I knew not to run more than 100m without seeing a flag… so I turned around in the dark forest, and ran back the way I had come from… I texted Kris, who I hadn’t seen for quite some time.

I ran back and forth. It didn’t make sense. I ran back and forth again. And then I spotted a pin flag, flat on the ground! It must have been trampled by runners. I was still on course – yay!

I felt much better knowing that I wasn’t lost! And I thought it was pretty funny that *I* was texting *Kris* with navigational issues, as she’s the one who tends to take wrong turns! In any case, I made it to the finish line, where Kris was waiting for me. Jeff Rowthorn, Race Director, said, “Had a fall?” (I was covered in mud!) and then offered me a bar of soap!

I was glad to be done! Thanks Happy Trails for another great race.

Race stats:

  • Time: 3:17:53 (chip time)
  • Women 45-49: 7/9
  • Women: 33/48
  • All runners: 102/122
All this was in the race kit, except the bar of soap – you may need to roll in mud to get one of those! Happy Trails puts other race kits to shame. I love the whistle!

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Paris to Ancaster 70k – 2022 Edition

Rebecca and I at the start line.

Welcome back P2A

After a 2-year (Covid-19) hiatus, the Paris to Ancaster Bike Race was back! For the first time I would be racing P2A with my adventure racing partner Rebecca, and my Bruce Trail running buddy Kris. We opted for the 70k race, my third time at this distance (Rebecca’s first, and Kris’ first time doing a bike race). There were also 20k, 45k, and 100k options this year (the 100k was new).

Pre-race

Rebecca and I paid for the pre-race shuttle. We parked one car at Ancaster High School across the road from the finish line at the Ancaster Community Centre, and then drove with our bikes 3k over to Walmart, where we put them on a truck and ourselves on a bus. While waiting for the bus to leave, we noticed a bike on the road ahead – a slight mishap with the driver having attempted to drive under a steel barrier with their bike on the roof of the car… the bus driver said it was the second bike she had seen on the ground. Hopefully they were still able to race!

Our driver let us out right at the start line at Waynco Aggregates in North Dumfries Township, where we waited for our bikes to come out of the back of the truck.

We were surprised to see only 3 portapotties for hundreds of riders… but we later learned there were additional ones in the parking lot (where our bus driver was supposed to let us out).

The weather forecast for race day was an incredible 20+ degrees Celsius, unseasonably warm (and dry!) for this race. I wasn’t alone wearing shorts, and many people were in short sleeves.

Kris eventually arrived at the start, and after watching the elite race begin (slightly delayed for some reason), we headed to the back of wave 4, the last wave.

Kris and I at the start line.

It was there that I spotted Erik, who I had met at the race in 2018 through a mutual friend, and who I saw again at the 2019 race.

With Kris, Erik and Rebecca just before the start.

The Race

As usual, I knew we were going to encounter paved roads, gravel roads, rail trails, farm lanes and fields, single track, and lots of mud. New this year was being overtaken by the 100k riders… and the chaos that ensued!

The race started and it wasn’t too long before the couple hundred riders in our wave spread out. Kris and I rode mountain bikes, and Rebecca a gravel bike. Before we had reached 14k, we saw a sign that said 44k to go. We were confused, because we were supposed to be riding 70k. The three of us rode together for a while, but after one section where we ended up in a very long line of people walking their bikes, Kris left us behind (we had told her that she didn’t have to stick with us). In this stretch there was a huge downed tree on the single track, but other than that it’s not clear why we were all walking. There was mud, but it shouldn’t have caused such a back-up. I ended up chatting with the people around me while we walked, and stood still, including another triathlete. For the first 15-16k (before we hit this section) we had been making good time!

This year’s route. Red = faster. Blue = slower. DO NOT RIDE THE COURSE EXCEPT ON RACE DAY (some parts are private property).

After this section, we never saw Kris again! She was doing an amazing job riding through the mud. I was more tentative this year than in the past, because I’m still healing from my Superman dive while skating this winter, and really didn’t want to fall.

We reached the aid station in Harrisburg at around 20k, which confused me further, because it was supposed to be at the 35k mark. We realized that for whatever reason, our race must have been shortened (this can happen due to poor conditions on course – for example, a section through private land that could be damaged if a thousand bikes ride through). We didn’t mind the shortened course, though I would have liked to know before the race started (no announcement was made). I found Erik here too, just like in 2019.

When a dozen or more 100k riders caught us, we were riding through a farm, on a series of hills that had mud pits at the bottom. They passed us at a high rate of speed, on the left, and on the right, weaving in and out of riders. It was pretty crazy. And it was incredible to see the speed and confidence with which they hit the mud pits! They just blasted straight though them. In this section I was trying to squeeze around the left side of Rebecca, but I clipped her with my bike and over I went! I fell onto my left (injured!) side, but was no worse for wear. Thankfully it was a soft landing. Rebecca’s shoe had a minor malfunction at this point but once she forced it back together we were on our way again!

Once we hit the Hamilton to Brantford rail trail around the 40k mark I was in familiar territory, having included this section in many of my training rides. Unfortunately I suffered some abdominal pains for the last 20k of the race – not GI, not a side stitch – which made my pace slow. I’ve had them before, on both my road and mountain bikes, and only ever on long rides. I haven’t figured out what causes them!

At the end of the Mineral Springs mud chute (through which I mostly pushed my bike, though I did ride a bit at the start of the mud) my dad, husband, and daughter were waiting for me! Alasdair had brought tools with him to help people clean mud and debris from their bikes. It was here that I caught up to Rebecca, who had gotten a short distance ahead of me.

Emerging from the Mineral Springs mud chute [picture by my dad].

Less than 2k later, I reached the Powerline mud chute, which I once again mostly pushed my bike through. Thankfully both mud chutes were downhill!

And then before I knew it, I was at the start of Martin Road, which ends with the 20% grade hill and then a short straightaway to the finish line. The hill was more congested for me this year than it was previously, so I was worried that someone would stop right in front of me and I too would have to stop. But I got lucky, and managed to power my way to the top! This section had great spectators on both sides of the road cheering for the riders, which helped push me up it. And then just like that, after 56.8k of riding, pushing and lifting my bike, I was at the finish line and Steve Fleck was announcing my name!

I found Kris, then Erik and finally Rebecca. After a veggie chili (thank you for the vegetarian option!), Rebecca and I drove back to Walmart to pick up her car, and I headed to Booster Juice for a drink – I was craving juice, and the only drinks at the finish were beer (which I grabbed for my dad), and water.

Thanks P2A for another great race!

Race stats:

  • Time: 3:33:21 (15.9 km/h)
  • Women 40-49: 30/31
  • Women: 125/135
  • All riders: 1145/1218

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The Flurry 8k Snowshoe Race

Getting to the start line of The Flurry 8k Snowshoe Race was a victory in itself, given my Superman dive while skating just a month before. I did a short test run three days before the race and didn’t feel the injured muscles near my ribs, and while my legs were tight the next couple of days for lack of run practice, I declared myself ready to race! This would be my first time on snowshoes this winter, my first snowshoe race in two years, and just my second run in a month – what could go wrong?! Oh, and it was predicted to feel like -19 degrees Celsius with the wind. My goals were to make it to the finish line and to have fun in the process.

I arrived at the race site at Marydale Park in Mount Hope (Hamilton) to discover that one of the Happy Trails volunteers lives on my street – small world! I picked up my race kit (a big, awesome mug, a buff, and my race bib) and went back to my car to get organized. I immediately realized that I was under-dressed (unusual for me!), but thankfully I had a Happy Trails hoodie with me for after the race that I decided to wear while racing. I got my snowshoes on and wondered where everyone was, since there were only a few people outside. Turns out they were inside for the pre-race briefing, which I almost missed.

The race

[Photo credit: Sue Sitki]

We were incredibly fortunate that a recent snowfall had blanketed the race course with the perfect amount of snow – not too little, and not too much! We would be running 2 laps of a 4k course, which included a loop and an out and back section.

I tried to position myself well back of the start line, but people kept lining up behind me. Oh well, they would soon find out that they would have to pass me! With a very laid-back 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 countdown, we were off!

Almost immediately I was doubting my ability to run 8k on snowshoes! After running a loop around a field, we hit the full force of the wind and blowing snow head-on! Wow! While I felt like I should be running faster through the windy sections to get out of them sooner, I ended up slowing down and sometimes walking. In fact the entire race was a run/walk combo for me.

[Photo credit: Sue Sitki]

Before the race began, I wondered how visible the course flags would be given the blowing snow. I need not have worried. I could easily spot the flags, and in fact the easiest thing to do was to follow the people who had gone before me and the tracks they left behind! I entered the forest – so pretty – and felt that I was slowing people down. I told the runners behind me to let me know if they wanted to pass. It didn’t take long before I had to pull over anyway – snow was clumping under my snowshoes. Unfortunately, over the course of the race I had to stop and kick my snowshoes against trees between 10 and 20 times! Please send your tips my way. I used ski wax on my snowshoes before the race, but it seemed to have no effect. I didn’t notice anyone stopping as often as I did.

It was really nice to see some familiar faces at the race (Lisa, Mauro, Steve), and to be able to cheer for one another too. Trail runners are a friendly bunch!

[Photo credit: Sue Sitki]

During the out and back section of the course I stepped into the deeper snow to the side of the tramped down path to allow faster people running towards me to pass. In fact the race winner finished before I finished my first loop!

By the second loop runners were much more spread out, though I did run parts with two women named Mary and Andrée (nice to meet you!). Having run the first lap I knew I could run it again. I counted down the kilometres and looked for owls as I ran. Of course.

There were a few non-racers walking on the trail, but none of them wanted to take my place! At the out and back turnaround I spotted a car in the ditch with a police car nearby. The winds were quite ferocious and snow drifts fast accumulating with blowing snow. Thankfully there was protection from the wind in the forest.

The 4k race was set to start 1 hour after the 8k race, and I wondered if I would be passed by a 4k runner before I finished – I was.

At the finish line (I made it!) I was presented with a giant-sized medal! Then I went inside for some hot soup and hot chocolate. Happy Trails is very eco-conscious, encouraging runners to use re-usable cups and bowls, and providing compostable options as well. I used my awesome new mug for soup, then rinsed it out so I could have hot chocolate before heading home.

It was a challenging race, but I’m glad I healed in time to be able to do it!

Actual size of the race medal!

Race stats

  • Time: 1:17:09 (9:39 min/km)
  • Placing women 45-49: 2/4
  • Placing all women: 14/24
  • Placing all runners: 35/46

Thank you Happy Trails for another great race, and Sue Sitki for your amazing photos!

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Thru-hike of the 80 km La Cloche Silhouette Trail at Killarney Provincial Park (without sleeping)

“Which campsite are you staying at tonight?” a fellow backpacker asked us as we hiked along the trail. When told that we were going all the way to George Lake, he replied, “No seriously, which campsite?” “Seriously,” Rebecca replied. And then the next morning, more than 24 hours into our hike, a woman in a group of four backpackers asked us, “So what campsite did you come from?” “Well, we started hiking at 6:38 yesterday morning and we’re going all the way to the end without stopping.” They looked at us incredulously. We wished each other well and parted ways.

View from The Crack.

The idea of hiking the entire 80 km La Cloche Silhouette Trail at Killarney Provincial Park without stopping to sleep came to me as I considered different ways to train for Wilderness Traverse, a 24-hour adventure race. I have friends who had done the hike in one go before, and knew that it would provide an opportunity to practice exercising for a long period of time, to work out nutrition strategies, and to see how our team dynamics fared. We chose early October for our hike, and set about planning what we would carry with us, including food. I also got tips from my equally crazy friends, which helped us to settle on a counter-clockwise route (easier ending). I knew what kind of terrain to expect because I had previously hiked the entire trail (in 8 days going clockwise). The Friends of Killarney Park’s La Cloche Silhouette Trail Guide is a great resource, as is the park’s Backcountry Hiking and Canoe Route Map.

While my friend and adventure racing teammate Rebecca and I would be hiking (we are team “Define Lost”), our friend and support crew Jen would stay at base camp at George Lake. I would be carrying my Garmin InReach (satellite communicator) to allow our friends and family to follow our progress, and to get help if needed.

The Hike

We decided to start hiking approximately one hour before sunrise. Our alarms went off at 5 AM, and after oatmeal for breakfast and final preparations, we grabbed the last few snacks from the cooler and at 6:38 AM with headlamps on, we started walking! It was Tuesday, October 5. The temperature was supposed to reach around 17 degrees Celsius, and fall to around 12 C feeling like 11 C overnight. There was no rain in the forecast, and it hadn’t rained since we arrived on the Sunday. We were fortunate to have dry, cool conditions! The trail can be treacherous when wet.

Go time!

Killarney Ridge Section

Right off the bat we had to climb a hill – of course! The La Cloche Silhouette Trail goes up and down and up and down and up some more! We opted to wear our trail running shoes and to use hiking poles – I can’t imagine doing the trail without them. We carried 40 litre packs with 3 litre water bladders, plus a 600 ml squishable water bottle each with a filter that we used to refill our bladders. We had intended to use water purifying droplets but didn’t use them in the end. See below for a full packing list.

Our goal was to eat approximately 150-200 calories every hour. I had packed all of my snacks into individual portions, some sweet, some salty, and some other things. See below for a spreadsheet showing all the food I brought, and for info on what I ate – and didn’t! After hiking for hours and hours, some things became less and less appealing. We were reasonably successful at eating on schedule – at least earlier in the hike!

We learned early in the hike that our friends and family were not able to see our progress on the map as intended, however the update messages I sent were automatically accompanied by our location, so Jen was able to follow along with her Killarney map. In addition, each time I sent a message I noted how far we had walked and where we were (e.g. campsite number). It wasn’t until I came home that I realized my error – I had set my account to only share map data after November 1 instead of October 1! Lesson learned.

Beautiful fall colours.

The last part of this first section of the trail is the climb up The Crack, probably the most technically challenging part of the trail, as you have to scramble up rocks, including big boulders with no easy steps. We encountered a few people in this area. By the time we reached the top, we had covered 9.5 km. Unfortunately we had to walk through cigarette smoke as we crested the top, but then we were rewarded with beautiful views.

The next time we checked the InReach to see how far we had gone, it was only 12.5 km, which was rather demoralizing. We realized then that our loose goal of 30 hours was likely unattainable. From that point on we checked the InReach infrequently, so as not to be disappointed too frequently (but enough to share our progress with friends and family).

Using the data from my InReach, you will see that I was able to piece together a comprehensive picture of our progress along the trail.

Killarney Ridge Section Summary:

  • 6:38 AM – Left George Lake campsite #53
  • 6:53 AM – Eastern terminus of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail/Started Killarney Ridge Section
  • 7:02 AM – Sign to H54 (A. Y. Jackson Lake)
  • 7:13 AM – H53 (Little Sheguiandah Lake)
  • 7:36 AM – Sunrise
  • 7:44 AM – H52/H51 (Wagon Road Lake)
  • 8:32 AM – H50 (Sealey Lake)
  • 9:32 AM – The Crack

Silver Peak Section

Along the trail we saw an incredible variety of fungi. I didn’t want to slow us down by continually stopping to take pictures, but I did take a few. There was one kind of mushroom in particular that looked as if it had been coated with shellac – it was so shiny!

We saw a few people as we approached the trail to Silver Peak, but we had already planned to skip this climb (and the gorgeous views).

We knew that before too long we would be hiking in the dark. Mentally, it was hard to see tents set up at H38 and to know that we had to keep walking. Oh how nice it would have been to curl up in a cozy sleeping bag!

Silver Peak Section Summary:

  • 10:52 AM – Started Silver Peak Section
  • 11:32 AM – Sign to H49 (Little Superior Lake)/H48 (Proulx Lake)
  • 1:18 PM – H47 (Heaven Lake)
  • 2:04 PM – Sign to H46/H45 (Bunnyrabbit Lake)
  • 3:55 PM – Sign to H38/H37 (Silver Lake)
  • 4:55 PM – Intersection with trail to Silver Peak

Hansen Township Section

As darkness approached and we prepared to climb and then walk up high along the ridge for a while, we made sure to stop for water at David Lake so that we didn’t run out without access to more. I don’t remember how many times we filled our bladders during the hike, but I do know that we used lakes and fast-flowing creeks to do so. Our water stops were slightly longer than our other stops. When we didn’t need water, we stopped for 10-15 minutes to go to the bathroom, get more food from our packs to put into the accessible pockets at our hips, look at the map, rest our backs, and ask – again – why we ever thought this was a good idea.

After we left David Lake, we walked in anticipation of climbing and coming upon a long section of exposed quartzite rock. This is clearly what I was remembering from my previous hike along this part of the trail. In the darkness, navigation became more challenging. Our goal for hiking overnight was to make as much forward progress as possible and to not get lost! We followed the blue trail markers (only a few were reflective) and the rock cairns. A few times, we lost the trail and had to backtrack, but never very far! At one point in the night the trail started to seem less like a trail, and then there was a tree right in front of me that I had to push through to continue. At this point, despite being tired from lack of sleep, we realized we must have missed a turn and retraced our steps. Sure enough, we went down at one point instead of up. What were we thinking – of course we should have CLIMBED again!

Rock cairn marking the trail.

We walked and walked and walked, and it seemed like we would never reach the quartzite ridge that I was expecting. We walked on quartzite, but then we went into the forest again, and then out onto the rock, and then into the forest – and repeat. It wasn’t as I remembered it. We kept walking. We didn’t check the map frequently in this section. At one point, we stopped for a quick break, looked at the map, and were overjoyed to discover that we had finished the Hansen Township Section! This called for high fives!! We were further along than we expected, and we got a massive mental boost!

At one point overnight I got cold during a rest break, so I dug out my blue puffy jacket, which did the trick! Otherwise I wore just a t-shirt and shorts for the entire hike, except for the very beginning when I had pant legs on as well.

Hansen Township Section Summary:

  • 4:55 PM – Started Hansen Township Section
  • 6:16 PM – David Lake water stop
  • 6:26 PM – Signs to H35 (Boundary Lake)/H34 (David Lake)
  • 6:56 PM – Sunset
  • 9:06 PM – Sign to H33 (Little Mountain Lake)
  • 10:16 PM – Sign to H32/H31 (Shigaug Lake)

Threenarrows Section

Sadly, the high from discovering that we were further along than expected didn’t last too long! It seemed we had been walking for quite some time, so long that I was sure we must have just missed the sign to H21. So when we eventually reached a campsite, we looked at the sign with trepidation… only to discover it said H21. So disheartening!

While I thought it might be scary to walk for 12 hours in the pitch dark, imagining all the creatures big and small that we might encounter, in fact I didn’t find it scary at all! And we saw some pretty cool creatures in the night. Low to the ground I kept seeing very small lights, which I knew weren’t fireflies. I wondered if they were just water droplets, and then I got close to one – it was a spider! Actually, it was the spider’s eyes that were reflecting the light from our headlamps! Once I knew what they were, I saw them everywhere!! One small plant had 3 spiders within a very small space. In the night we also saw 2 salamanders within a foot of each other right on the trail, as well as toads and a mouse. During the day, we saw (and heard!) countless ruffed grouse (one scared the heck out of me!), a pileated woodpecker, a bird that was likely an owl, a frog, lots of chipmunks and squirrels, nuthatches and a dragonfly. I also walked through many cobwebs! The only bear we saw was very close to the George Lake campground office the day before we started our hike!

At one of our overnight rest stops, we turned off our headlamps and looked up at the stars – wow! What a view! Not too much later, both of our headlamps gave warning flashes that the batteries were dying. We put new ones in and were back in business!

At one point, we had to descend a waterfall in the dark. The step down was too big for either of us to actually be able to take a step, so we had to bum scoot down. I thought my footing was solid, but my foot slipped on the wet rock, and I ended up on my butt in the water! Thankfully, it didn’t take too long for my shorts and underwear to dry!

It’s hard to describe what it was like to walk for 12 hours in the dark. It was long. It was tiring. I was counting down the hours until the sun would rise!

I was hoping that the sunrise would give us a big mental boost, but after the initial joy of seeing the sun coming up, it became overcast and there wasn’t much sun to celebrate!

Sunrise on the trail.

However, the sun was up and I was grateful! Our new goal was to finish before it set again (really!).

Threenarrows Section Summary:

  • 12:36 AM – Started Threenarrows Section
  • 12:43 AM – Sign to H23 (no lake)
  • 1:18 AM – Sign to H22 (unnamed lake)
  • 2:13 AM – Waterfall descent
  • 3:41 AM – Sign to H21 (Threenarrows Lake)
  • 5:12 AM – Signs to H20 (unnamed Lake) and H59 (Bodina Lake)
  • 6:47 AM – Sign to H19 (Threenarrows Lake)
  • 7:02 AM – Sign to H18 (Threenarrows Lake)
  • 7:38 AM – Sunrise
  • 8:02 AM – Sign to H17 (Threenarrows Lake)
  • 10:02 AM – H16 (Threenarrows Lake)/water stop
  • 11:06 AM – Sign to H8 (Threenarrows Lake)/start of long walk around the dam

Baie Fine Section

I mentioned the hills – the neverending hills – but I haven’t yet mentioned the mud! We each carried with us a 2nd pair of trail running shoes, with the intent that we would keep one pair dry. Before starting our hike, I envisioned changing into my spare pair for any necessary water crossings. However, within the first few km of the trail, our feet were already wet. There were so many creek crossings, and so many unavoidable puddles, that we never changed our shoes, and instead had wet feet the entire time. This, as you can imagine, is not ideal. But in case we got stuck on the trail for much longer than expected (e.g. if one of us got injured), I wanted to have dry shoes!

Rebecca tackling yet another creek crossing.

At some point, Rebecca started getting hot spots on her feet, which she treated with blister stuff. For me, the last 20 km were excruciating on my feet as I had developed blisters on the outsides of my baby toes. Downhills were the worst. I tried treating them (at which point Rebecca very briefly fell asleep while laying on her back with her backpack on!) but given that my feet were sweating and I continued to step in puddles and mud, nothing stuck!

Another thing that we both experienced during this hike was hearing and seeing things that weren’t there. So many times Rebecca or I would think we heard people talking. At one point (during the day, once we had hiked past the dam), I thought I saw someone in an orange jacket sitting along the shore in a chair. I looked again and only saw leaves. Just before we reached the Pig, I pointed out a backpack to Rebecca, which was sitting on the trail with no person in sight. But as we got closer, I realized it was a fallen tree. Other times I saw bear-like shapes (in bark, in trees). The mind sure does play tricks in times of sleep deprivation!

While the Baie Fine section of the trail was the flattest, it seemed to stretch forever!

A sinking bridge.

We kept thinking that we were getting close to George Lake and the bridge that marks the end of the trail (“Look! A clearing in the forest!”), but the trail just kept on going. And then finally, unbelievably, we saw the bridge! We stopped for a quick picture, then headed up the hill to the park road. Once we hit the road, wow! We had the strangest feeling in our feet. First, the road felt like it was moving, and second, the road was so incredibly hard on our feet!

We made our way to our campsite, where Jen was jumping up and down excitedly! It was so awesome to have a support crew waiting for us! She had cooked homemade macaroni and cheese for us, chopped up a whack load of vegetables, and offered to do anything we needed – get dry shoes and socks, get cold drinks, get clothes, anything! We plunked ourselves down in our chairs for a few minutes and had cold drinks. We removed our shoes, and hobbled to the comfort station for showers (me wearing Jen’s flip flops because I couldn’t tolerate shoes anymore on my blisters)! I even used a hair dryer (for the first time ever while camping), since I didn’t want to go to bed with wet hair. We sat at the roaring campfire for a few minutes telling Jen about our adventures before sleep called our names! Shoutout to Killarney Outfitters for having dry firewood! We bought lots after a disappointing campfire our first night in the park trying to get the wet park wood to burn!

Thank you Jen for being the best ever support crew, and Rebecca for always being up for an adventure, no matter how ridiculous.

DONE!

Baie Fine Section Summary:

  • 1:06 PM – Started Baie Fine Section
  • 1:16 PM – The Pig (steepest portage in the park)
  • 2:57 PM – Sign to H6 (Cave Lake)
  • 3:02 PM – Sign to H5 (Cave Lake)
  • 4:27 PM – Signs to H4/H3 (Acid Lake)
  • 4:57 PM – Sign to H2 (Lumsden Lake)
  • 5:17 PM – Sign to H1 (Lumsden Lake)
  • 6:15 PM – Western terminus of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail/Finished Baie Fine Section
  • 6:24 PM – Arrived at George Lake campsite (35 hours and 46 minutes after starting)

As my friend Heidi said, “You are so ready for this but don’t underestimate the challenge.” She was right! While the trail is physically demanding, the hardest part for sure was the mental battle. The further we got into our hike, the more frequent our short breaks became, and the harder it was to get going again (physically and mentally)!

I wouldn’t recommend a thru-hike as a way to see the sights and appreciate the beauty of the trail, but it definitely gave us experience exercising for a long period of time, and taught us what foods we do – and don’t! – want to face after hours and hours of exercise. We also got a chance to test out our team dynamics over a much longer period of time than our longest race to date so far – approximately 14 hours.

What an experience!!

Food

In planning our hike, we estimated that it would take us approximately 30 hours (a pace of 2.7 km/h). However, we wanted to bring extra food in case it took longer. Based on previous experiences racing, plus research we had done (including advice from friends who had done this before), we planned to eat 150-200 calories per hour. I brought 37 different snacks with me, a total of 41 servings. Near the beginning of the hike, I suggested that we play a game and try to remember the order in which we ate our snacks. I thought it might help keep us awake during the long night! But after eggs, bar, muffin, something, I stopped trying!

I ate the eggs first since they were not going to stay cold for long. My favourite snacks were the pickle, olives, moon cheese and dill chips! I also loved the lemon square. The further and further we got into our hike, the dryer and dryer I found some of the foods to be – for example, I had to wash down chickpeas, my PB&honey sandwich, and the Pro bar PB chocolate chip with water to be able to swallow them. And as we spent more and more time on the trail, sweet things appealed less and less to me. I could never face the chocolate bar, boiled sweet potatoes, Endurance Tap, and most of my homemade bars and energy balls.

While in the end I had too much food, I don’t regret bringing all of it. If one of us had been injured and we had been forced to stop on the trail, we would have needed it! I did learn, however, that I need more salty snacks and less sweet snacks.

At the suggestion of my friend Barb, Rebecca and I had each packed “mystery” snacks, to pull out when we deemed appropriate! Mine was so sweet that by the time we talked about it, neither of us wanted one! Rebecca had brought Goldschläger (Swiss cinnamon schnapps), which she thought could be helpful in the night if we were cold! We didn’t have that either.

Packing list

Note: I am not sponsored by any companies. I bought all of the items that I used.

Worn:

  • Gregory Zulu 40 litre backpack
  • Topo Athletic Mtn Racer Trail Running Shoes 6
  • T-shirt, pants with lots of pockets and detachable legs, underwear, bra, compression socks

Carried:

  • Tubbs hiking poles
  • Garmin InReach
  • Map in waterproof pouch
  • Compass
  • Bear spray (Rebecca also carried a horn)
  • Bear bell
  • 3 litre water bladder
  • Katadyn BeFree Microfilter with Hydrapak 0.6 litre flask
  • Water treatment tablets
  • Sun screen
  • First aid kit
  • Petzl Actik core headlamp
  • AAA batteries
  • Lightweight emergency bivy bag
  • Sunglasses
  • Cell phone
  • Flint and fire starter
  • Swiss army knife
  • Contact lenses and solution
  • Toilet paper
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Camera
  • Altra Lone Peak 5 trail running shoes
  • Running socks (2 pairs)
  • Hat – lightweight/squishy baseball
  • Hat – lightweight running
  • Hat – winter
  • Running gloves
  • Long john pants and long sleeve top
  • Blue puffy compressible jacket
  • Rain coat and pants
  • Food!

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