Race report: Ontario Women’s Triathlon 2018

I don’t know about you, but getting up at 4 AM for a sprint triathlon seems a little crazy to me! I registered for the Ontario Women’s Triathlon before I even looked at the logistics of the race, so when I later realized that it started at 8 AM, I remembered that there was a reason we’d never raced on Toronto Island before.

We were out the door at 5 AM, registering beside the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal just after 6, and on the ferry by 6:30. I chatted with a woman named Sue who was doing her very first triathlon. There were many others like her at this race, and I found myself answering questions from racers on the boat and in the transition zone.

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On the ferry from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal to Hanlan’s Point.

We reached the transition zone with plenty of time for me to set up and do a short warm-up swim.

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Pre-race warm up.

500m swim

Just before my wave started at 8:15 AM, another athlete ran between several of us in the water and gave us high fives. With many new triathletes at this race, it seemed that no one wanted to be at the front of the swim start. I didn’t mind, although I knew that many of them would pass me. My swim was pretty uneventful. I felt that I was swimming relatively straight. I was expecting to see 14 minutes + on my watch at the end, but saw 12 something, so I was pleased. I pulled my wetsuit off to my waist as I made the run up the sandy beach and path to the grass and then into the transition zone. There were lots of bikes still on the rack, which is not usually the case for me.

20k bike

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Zoom!

The bike course is 2 loops of a 10k course, which was slightly uphill on the way out, and slightly downhill on the way back. Somehow I messed up my watch so I wasn’t sure of my speed on the bike for much of the time – I just knew my elapsed race time. I passed a lot of riders, and was not passed once… until the very end when one rider overtook me. Darn! With heavy rains the night before, the roadway was still wet in places, with puddles to avoid in quite a few places, and at at least one point, to just ride straight through. The ride felt good.

5k run

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Finishing the run.

My legs felt a bit tired at the start, so I wondered how the run would go, but I quickly settled into a good pace. This run involves an out section, 4 laps of a loop, and a back section. On the loop section, we ran over a timing mat and a screen popped up the number of laps runners had done (in case you forgot!). I didn’t suffer from any side stitches, and I was holding a 5:50 min/km pace, faster than I have run lately during triathlons. The run felt good. There were a couple of aid stations but I didn’t stop at all. I spotted Sue from the ferry and cheered her on, but didn’t recognize anyone else. Alasdair was cheering for me at the start/end of the run loop, so I saw him many times.

I crossed the finish line in 1:25:06.2.

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With the CN Tower in the background.

And then, this happened!

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I was amazed! Granted, there were lots of newbies at this race, but still, it was a great race for me, and an awesome result!

Race stats:

  • Time: 1:25:06.2
  • Placing women 40-44: 2/22
  • Placing all women: 36/170
  • Swim: 14:50.6 (includes 400m run to transition)
  • T1: 1:32
  • Bike: 38:14.9 (29.96 km/h)
  • T2: 1:34
  • Run: 28:55.2 (5:47 min/km)

We stayed for the awards and draw prizes (I won more Stoked Oats!), and then headed back for the ferry. We would be doing it all again the next day, with both Alasdair and I racing in the Toronto Island Triathlon. I wasn’t sure how my legs would do…

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Race report: Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race Suntrail Course 2018 (canoe/MTB/trail run)

My teammate Rebecca and I had so much fun at last year‘s Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race that we knew we wanted to do it again. We signed up to tackle the Suntrail course for a 2nd time, which is a 4k paddle, 16k mountain bike leg, and 6k trail run.

On Friday night we registered at the arena, filled out waivers, put stickers on our gear, and left our bikes and bags with bike gear (helmet, shoes, food) with volunteers. We stopped at the bike draw table to be sure we had a chance to win (even though I won last year!). The check-in process was well organized.

This year, we decided to camp at race central, Bluewater Park in Wiarton, Ontario. We checked in at the office and headed for our campsite, one of just 10 or so tent sites in the park (the rest are for trailers or are for seasonal trailer campers). We were more than a little shocked to discover the size of our site – it was tiny! It was clearly marked as being between 2 trees that had to be about 8 feet apart (see picture). It was a rectangle, with enough room for my vehicle (parked over the fire pit), a picnic table, and tent. On the other side of the hedge was the road. A nice man named Dave from Winnipeg was camped to our right – he would be doing the Buff long course. Unfortunately, our neighbours to the left arrived around 10:30 PM, immediately started a fire (with a big POOF! and a “Did you see that?”), set up their tent, ordered pizza delivery, and then proceeded to keep me awake until 1:30 AM when they eventually called it a night. Lesson learned: ear cancelling headphones or super duper earplugs!

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Our tiny campsite at the Bluewater Park Campground – between the 2 trees from the hedge to the back of my vehicle.

Despite the rough night, it was awesome to be able to just pack up our sleeping stuff and tent and drive for 2 minutes to get to the race site. We brought the canoe and paddling gear to the water, and then had lots of time to relax before the race started. Having done the race before, I had almost no pre-race nerves (there’s always the worry of mechanical failure – especially on the bike!). I got to meet a woman named Kris and her race partner, who were racing for the first time, inspired by my blog post of last year’s race (how cool is that?!).

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Colpoy’s Bay was calm in the early morning.

After the pre-race briefing, where participants were told that it was never too late to decide that the race, or any part of it, was beyond their abilities, Rebecca and I got ready for our 10:20 AM start. We would begin after the solo kayak men and solo kayak women.

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Ready to race!

Because we were in the water 20 minutes or so before the race started, we were getting blown by the wind away from the starting area and had to keep correcting and paddling back. We were amazed that one man was doing the race in a row boat! One team jokingly asked us if we wanted to switch paddles (we had kayak paddles while theirs were canoe paddles).

4k Canoe

The race began and off we went! We were hoping that the bow seat (and Rebecca!) stayed put this time. For Storm the Trent the tightening mechanism wasn’t working, and I forgot to do anything about it before RockstAR. My husband helped and we thought we had the problem solved… and, as it turns out, we did! There was quite a bit of congestion for the first section of the paddle, where we headed perpendicular to our main route of travel. One boat in particular kept coming quite close, as they seemed to be having trouble steering. Once we turned around the buoy near the marina we headed for a big white building in the distance, and things spread out. We counted only 6-8 boats in front of us, which was an improvement from last year! From that point on, no one passed us, and we eventually passed one canoe. My biggest problem was continually sliding off my seat. I was kneeling, with my butt just on the edge of my seat. But far too frequently I had to stop paddling to shift back onto my seat. Towards the end of the paddle I decided to sit, and had no more issues. Rebecca noted that I seemed to have more power while sitting too. At times the wind made it a bit hard to stay on course, but we never got off course too much. As we got closer to the end of the paddle, we passed a few of the solo kayak women who started 10 minutes before us. One poor woman thought I was telling her to move over when I was only telling Rebecca to paddle on one side – oops! We apologized! We jumped out of the canoe at the shore, and very quickly volunteers grabbed the canoe and carried it away for us. We left our lifejackets and all our gear in it, and started running for the transition zone where we would find our bikes.

16k Bike

I popped into the portapotty, then met Rebecca at our bikes. They were really easy to find, because volunteers told each racer or team exactly which rack to go to. I had an energy bar, put my helmet and cycling shoes on, and we headed out.

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Rebecca doesn’t look too happy, but I promise we didn’t just have a fight. This is us starting the ride. [Official race photo]

Having ridden this course once before, we were much more confident this year. Not only were we riding our own bikes (last year we rode rentals), but we had more experience mountain biking. The course is a mixture of double track trails, single track trails, grassy field, and gravel road. We passed quite a few people at the beginning, with Rebecca in front and me in behind the entire way. Riding through a few sections of the course, we remembered walking them last year! There were only 2 spots that we briefly unclipped and walked, either around a tight corner or up a hill (where we had lost speed and the ground was very rocky). The ride definitely seemed easier. Last year, while riding on the single track section that has lots of tight twists, turns, ups and downs, a team passed us and we said that we couldn’t imagine being clipped in. One rider said, “I can’t imagine not being clipped in!” And this year? We were clipped in! My goal for the ride was to drink my entire bottle of gatorade, but I had to carefully time my sips – there was no way I was riding one-handed through rocky, hilly, twisty or turny sections! I managed to do it – it was a hot day and I didn’t want to get dehydrated. We noticed that no female teams passed us on the bike.

6k Run

Back in the transition zone we left our bikes, helmets and bike shoes, and put on our running shoes and hats. I made a quick trip to the portapotty, and we headed out on the run. The run course is a mixture of pavement, Bruce Trail, and paved park path at the end. The Bruce Trail in this section includes dirt path, very rocky path, weedy field, stiles to climb over, and steep circular stairs to descend. I was fighting a side stitch for part of the run, but managed to keep it in check. I had a gel just after we started running, and one in the last 3km. We were wearing camelbaks so we had lots of water.

Again, we noticed that no teams of females passed us on the run. We passed solo female racers and some solo males and male teams. At one point, a couple of guys were following us, and we took a wrong turn – we missed the trail going to the right, but didn’t get very far (10m?). After we got back on the trail, Rebecca said to me that the guys didn’t know the name of the team they were following (Define “Lost”)!

There were a couple of aid stations on the run – at the last one, which was just before the descent down the steep stairs, I grabbed 2 cups of water and poured them on my head. Felt so good! Rebecca tried to get me to speed up once we hit the pavement, but I wasn’t having much success!

We reached the park, passed our campsite, and 2:31:22 after starting, we crossed the finish line! We weren’t sure how we had placed, but we felt that the race had gone better than the year before (turns out we were about 11 minutes faster). We were pretty sure that we were faster on the canoe and biking sections (we were).

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Done!

I downed several cups of water, then heard someone call my name. I looked up and didn’t recognize the guy at all. Turns out he and his race partner (John and Amy from Ireland) had read my blog post about last year’s race 3 times on the way to the race, and learned everything they needed to know. Thanks for saying hi!!

Rebecca and I went for a dip in the lake, changed into dry clothes, had a free massage courtesy of Bayshore Physical Therapy in Owen Sound, and had awesome lamb burgers from the farm providing post-race food for racers. We watched other racers finish (and while standing there had a non-fish sushi roll with wasabi and ginger offered by a friend of a friend – so yummy and my first ever post-race sushi!), then drove over to the arena a block or so away and loaded our bikes and paddling gear into my vehicle, and the canoe on top. We walked to Northern Confections for a drink – I had a deliciously sweet Chaisicle (iced drink). We headed back to the race site to watch more racers finish.

We looked up the race stats, and found that we had finished in 3rd place out of 10 female teams. Woohoo! We chatted with other racers until the awards ceremony, including our new friend Dave from the campground. And we heard about the crazy waves in the long course race – a few people flipped their boats, some more than once! And one guy from the long course race apparently forgot to pack his running shoes into his bag to be transported to the transition zone. No worries – he ran 8k in socks along the Bruce Trail until volunteers could get him his shoes. And yes, he was on the podium!

As 3rd place winners, Rebecca and I received a bag of coffee each from Northern Convections, and were able to choose a prize from the prize table. I chose a bottle of Nikwak (the wash-in fabric waterproofer), likely donated by Suntrail Source for Adventure. We had our picture taken on the podium, and then stuck around until the bike draw.

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On the podium in 3rd place! [Photo by Dave]

Winners for other prizes were called by team number and then name, so when the draw was made for the bike (courtesy of Bikeface Cycling in Owen Sound), they called 208 – our team number! And then, Rebecca! Yes! I won last year, and Rebecca this year. A Devinci Jackson mountain bike. Crazy! Our friend John said to me, “I want to be on YOUR team next year!”

Once again, we had a super fun time participating in this race. We’ll be back next year!! Thank you Peninsula Adventure Sports Association!

Stats (all times approximate except for total time – I was a little slow hitting my watch button sometimes!):

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Race report: K-Town long course triathlon 2018

With the K-Town long course triathlon held on the August long weekend each summer, my husband Alasdair and I have celebrated our wedding anniversary in Kingston since we first started doing the race in 2014, with the exception of last year when I was competing in the Canadian Orienteering Championships instead. This year, we celebrated 17 years!

We arrived in Kingston in time for the Saturday afternoon race kit pick-up, a walk around downtown and through the market, dinner at Wooden Heads (super yummy pizza) and a walk along the water back to our accommodations at Queen’s University.

 

On race morning, we rode our bikes 2k to the race site, and having arrived so early we were rewarded with a pretty sunrise at Confederation Park.

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Walking into the transition area, we were greeted by automatic sprinklers soaking the ground and everything around, including the bikes and gear of the few people who had already set up! The sprinklers were turning on from West to East, so I decided not to set my stuff up yet in case the ones right by my bike were going to turn on. Some people tied plastic bags over the sprinklers (partially successful), and one clever guy cut the bottom off a plastic bottle and capped the sprinkler. It wasn’t long before someone else thought to cover them all with traffic cones. Problem solved!

After setting up, Alasdair and I were ready to race.

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2k Swim

I was in the last wave, with Alasdair in the one before me. I jumped into the water from the dock and swam closer to the starting line, where others were treading water for the wave ahead of me. Once my wave started, I took off like a shot (ha!) and had another swim with almost no contact with other swimmers. Partly this was due to me being left behind, and swimming much of the 2k on my own! I had a very uneventful swim, other than having to deal with a bit of sun and some waves. When I turned and started heading for the final turn to shore, and realized that the waves were coming from behind me, I couldn’t figure out why other swimmers seemed to be benefitting from them and getting ahead of me, while I didn’t seem to be swimming any faster! Surely I should have been riding the waves too?

When I reached the dock, I had a very ungraceful exit from the water. I put my hands out and expected to be helped/pulled out by the 2 volunteers, but one was less successful than the other (he apologized!) and I struggled to get my legs up and out of the water (without being able to use my arms). It must have looked ridiculous!

I stood up and another volunteer reached for my hand so that I wouldn’t slip, then I was passed to the next volunteer who did the same. They were super helpful!

It was a very short run to the transition zone, where I saw only a few bikes left (so disappointing!), got ready for the ride and had a quick pee break.

56 km Bike

The bike course is mostly an out and back to Gananoque, with a short little loop near the end. I was not happy to realize that we had a tailwind at the beginning, which would mean that as we returned towards Kingston in the second half of the ride, we would have the wind against us as we would be climbing hill after hill after hill!! This was definitely not my finest K-Town bike leg. I spotted Alasdair when I was about 3k from the turnaround. At one point, I frantically brushed my chest several times to get a wasp or hornet or something like it off me!

After quickly swapping my bike gear for running gear and making a quick pee stop, I headed out for my run.

15 km Run 

On this hot day, I was grateful for each and every aid station, where I got ice to put down my top, splash water on myself, and drink water and/or electrolytes. The volunteers were fantastic. At the 1k mark, I got a side stitch, and spent about half of the run fighting it. While I ran the entire course – with the exception of the aid stations and the last real uphill outside the Kingston Penitentiary – I wasn’t running very fast. I was hot, and I just didn’t have it in me! I spotted Alasdair when I was about 2 1/2k from the turnaround. As I approached the finish line, I got lots of cheers from spectators and athletes who had already finished – it was great!

In the end, I finished in 4:48:56.6, my slowest K-Town yet!

After post-race food and awards, I won a bag of Stoked Oats as a draw prize. Then we packed up and rode 2k back to our car, stopping just before we got there at the awesome Gord Downie Pier at Breakwater Park. What a fantastic place to jump into the water and feel refreshed!

Race stats:

  • Time: 4:48:56.6 (7/9 women 40-44, 53/60 women, 151/185 athletes)
  • Swim: 51:43.2 (2:35/100m) (8/9 women 40-44)
  • T1: 2:11
  • Bike: 2:07:12.3 (26.51 km/h) (8/9 women 40-44)
  • T2: 3:10
  • Run: 1:44:41.4 (6:58 min/km) (7/9 women 40-44)

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Race report: Raid the City 2018 (brand new urban orienteering race)

This year Don’t Get Lost added a new race to their calendar, Raid the City, a 3-hour urban orienteering race with a twist in the city of Hamilton! Here’s how it differed from other orienteering races:Screen Shot 2018-08-06 at 4.04.58 PM

Just like in other races, checkpoints varied in point value depending on their difficulty (in general, checkpoints that are further away or harder to access are worth more points).

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Two maps, and one apple to keep them from blowing away.

It was completely up to individual teams to decide which checkpoints they wanted to go for. After registering and getting our two maps, Alasdair and I made our plan. We decided to go for all of the black (difficult) and double black (expert) checkpoints, as well as all the blue (intermediate) ones if we had time. We didn’t think we’d go for any green (easy) ones, except our first checkpoint on the way to our first blue.

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Ready to go!

After a short pre-race meeting, we were off!

While checkpoints were marked on the two race maps, the Goose Chase app had additional information about each one (e.g. plaque about X, or Gate 1 at Tim Horton field). There was also a picture of the spot we were looking for – which was also what our own pictures should look like, with at least one team member (with race bib visible) in it!

We quickly found our first checkpoint – a plaque in a park – but I didn’t realize until we got to our second checkpoint that taking a picture isn’t enough – you actually have to submit it as well!

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Second checkpoint we found, but first one where I successfully submitted a picture as proof! [Fail on the “race bib visible”.]

The rest of the race saw us visiting checkpoints at Tim Horton Field, Gage Park, the Chedoke Radial Trail, Auchmar Mansion, another historical plaque, a park at the top of the Jolley Cut, the Bruce Trail, and the Dundurn Stairs. We did really well on the navigation, only backtracking once when we overshot a wood wall along the Chedoke Radial Trail.

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“Oskee wee wee!” When we reached this checkpoint just after Craig and his teammate from Get Out There Magazine, we watched them videotape themselves doing the Ticat cheer!

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Along the Chedoke Radial Trail.

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Top of the Jolley Cut on Hamilton mountain.

To get up the Hamilton Mountain, we climbed the 500 step Wentworth Stairs. What a climb!

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That white squiggly on the rock to my right was key to this checkpoint.

It was after the checkpoint along the Bruce Trail on top of the escarpment that Alasdair and I didn’t agree on where we should go next. My running pace was slowing, I had been fighting a side stitch, and I knew that if we went to the final double black diamond checkpoint at the top of the Dundurn Stairs (which was to the West, while the finish was to the South-East), we would be late and would lose points (20 points per minute late). Alasdair was sure I could make it, and even if we went over the 3 hours, it would still be worth it to get the 150 points. I was convinced that we would lose those points and then some, but agreed to try.

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No more stair climbing! Luckily, we were descending at this point, down the Dundurn Stairs.

At the base of the Dundurn Stairs, we only had time to head straight back to the finish. My side stitch got worse, so we had to take some walk breaks. Alasdair underestimated the distance from the base of the stairs to the finish – it was nearly 6km of straight running!

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Heading for the finish line.

We ended up being 20 minutes late, meaning that we lost 400 of our 1,040 points, finishing in 23rd place out of 32 teams with just 640 points – we ran 22.15 km! Instead of earning 150 points for that last checkpoint, we lost 400. Had we not gone for it, we may have been able to find other ones on our way back to the finish line.

At the finish line, Patrick (one of the race organizers) asked us how it went. “We’re still married!” was Alasdair’s response.

During the race, I checked a couple of times how we were doing relative to the other teams. At one point, we were in 11th place. For a while, we were in 7th place. It was fun to see how we were doing. Of course, the app didn’t know we were going to be so late…

Turns out only one team finished after we did!

This race was super fun, and I highly recommend it. It’s great for those who are new to orienteering, because you don’t need to know how to use a compass. You can look for checkpoints that are close to the start/finish, and run (or walk!) only as far or as long as you want to. You definitely don’t need to cover 22k!

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Race report: RockstAR Adventure Race (or, finding checkpoints by SUP, inner tube, and more!)

Having heard great things about Storm Racing’s RockstAR Adventure Race, my teammate Rebecca and I were keen to try it! We would have 4 hours to find as many checkpoints as we could, using bikes, canoes, and our own two (four) feet. We would decide which checkpoints to go for, and how we would get there. In addition to the usual locations such as at a trail junction, or on a rocky ledge, there would be “fun” checkpoints that required you to do an activity before you got the points. But I’m getting ahead of myself here…

Rebecca and I chose to stay in the accommodations at Bark Lake Conference Centre in the Haliburton area, which was the location for the race. We had a room with 2 beds and a bathroom, just a couple of hundred metres from race central. It wasn’t cheap, but super convenient!

On race morning, we registered, picked up our number plates and buffs, and then added the number plates to our bikes and canoe, which we had put on a bike rack and down by the water, respectively. Then we headed back to the building we were staying in to plan our route in one of the meeting rooms.

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Bikes ready to go!

We opted for fun over points, meaning that while we hoped to get as many points as we could, we wanted to do as many of the “fun” checkpoints as possible. We went through many route options, but finally settled on canoeing first to 4 checkpoints in the water or at the shore, then using a combination of biking and running to get to the rest. But we also wondered how fun it would be to bike (and possibly run, depending on trail conditions) in our PFDs to a couple of the checkpoints that required them. We decided to try it anyway, and change our plan if need be.

Some checkpoints were worth more points than others depending on their distance away from the start, and their difficulty. Before the race started we had to submit our proposed route plan to the race director, but 5 minutes before the race started (and our plan was in!), we changed our route. We decided to go to the stand up paddleboard (SUP) and inner tube checkpoints by canoe, instead of by bike/running. In any case, we had a general plan but decided that we would wing it!

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Ready to go!

After the pre-race briefing, everyone headed to the beach for the race start.

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Pre-race photo. [Photo credit: Storm Racing]

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One last pre-race pic.

We grabbed our canoe and put it right at the shore, as did 4 other teams. When the race began, we grabbed our canoe, got into the water, into the canoe, and off we went!

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And we’re off! [Photo credit: Storm Racing]

SUP checkpoint

We were the second team to arrive at the SUP checkpoint, so there was no wait (some checkpoints had a maximum number of people who could do them at any one time). It was a good thing that I had tried a SUP for the first time one week prior to the race!

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Grid searching.

In order to get the points for this checkpoint, I had to travel by SUP through a buoyed-off swimming area to find (and memorize) words under the water. I went fairly slowly, given that I was a SUP newbie! I found all 3 words after searching in a grid-like pattern.

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SUPing like a pro.

Rock on rockstars! Back at the shore I said those 3 words and earned the points!

Creek crossing checkpoint

We left the SUP and canoe and ran through the woods to find the next checkpoint, then with a family who was running at our speed headed off to the next one, which we would find by listening for music in the woods.

Sound checkpoint

With 5 of us trying to find it, we had to all stop at the same time to listen, otherwise you couldn’t hear the music over the sounds of crunching branches on the ground. But we managed to find it together without too much difficulty.

Floating buoy checkpoint

We ran back to the beach and jumped in the canoe, heading for the floating checkpoint. It was pretty windy, with not-insignificant waves making paddling challenging. We reached the checkpoint without too much trouble, but when Rebecca grabbed the manual punch attached to it, it tipped onto its side after she punched our punch card. We thought it would right itself, but it actually flipped upside down! That would have made it much more difficult for other teams to find. One team had to wait while a motor boat with race volunteers righted it. Oops! Rebecca felt really bad!

Rocky point checkpoint

Our next checkpoint was at a rocky point, but we landed the canoe and it wasn’t where we thought it would be. Again we were with the dad with two boys, and while the dad sent the boys to scout the trail West of our landing point, when they came back we were no more certain where we were. There were many canoes on shore, which we figured may be the 8-hour racers. Finally I spotted a trail leading perpendicular to the water, which immediately told us where we were! We had overshot the checkpoint, and had to run quite a ways to it. Another oops!

Point checkpoint

At this point, we set out in the canoe for the next checkpoint along shore, but the wind and waves were making us question whether we should abandon the next two and head back for our bikes. We eventually decided to do one more in the canoe, and then head back. We were paddling hard and thought we could make better progress (and earn more points!) on shore.

Roxy (beer/root beer checkpoint)

After returning to the race start/finish area in the canoe, we put it on shore and ran to the Roxy checkpoint, which was inside a little building. This was one of the most fun checkpoints, with Rebecca chugging beer and me root beer. It was ice cold and so refreshing! There was music playing and a strobe light adding special effects. Plus a big couch to sit on!

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Cheers!

Swim dock checkpoint

We headed right next door to the swimming area, where I borrowed a pair of goggles and swam to the bottom of the lake to get a CD, which earned us points for this checkpoint. The only thing I didn’t like was that the goggles also had a nose piece, so that I couldn’t breathe through my nose just before diving down. Next time, I’d bring my own goggles!

Inner tube checkpoint

We grabbed our bikes, and headed along a road and then trail until we thought we were close to the inner tube checkpoint. Turns out we could have gone closer with our bikes, and ended up bushwhacking longer than we needed to. Rebecca grabbed an inner tube and paddled her way across the lake to a little island, where the checkpoint was.

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Rebecca paddles back from the island.

Creek crossing checkpoint

We jumped on our bikes and headed further into the woods to the creek crossing checkpoint. When we got there, we saw that it was actually in the middle of the creek, up above on a rope – you had to cross to the middle of the creek to get the checkpoint. Before we got in, another racer commented on the huge leech he saw! Rebecca did not want to get anywhere near the leech, so I volunteered to go in! I had to jump to grab the rope while on shore, and then used it to guide me to the checkpoint. The water was up to my waist by the time I got there. Another team grabbed a canoe that was on shore and went to it that way. When we realized that we had to be on the other shore to get to the next checkpoint, Rebecca resigned herself to walking through the leech creek!

Rocky ledge checkpoint

We set off for the next checkpoint on foot, and soon came across another team, who said that yet another team told them they could easily bushwhack to it, but that the path would eventually go to it (the long way around we figured). We decided not to bushwhack because we didn’t know exactly where we were on the map. We should have taken a bearing when we left leech creek, but didn’t! And then we should have pace counted, but didn’t! So we ended up at a spot that didn’t make sense, seemed to have lost the trail, and weren’t sure whether we should bushwhack or backtrack and forget about the control. We were looking for a beaver dam, so I headed to the water and saw what I thought was one, and people – always a good sign! We followed the shore and found the checkpoint. We took a bearing and headed back as directly as possible to leech creek, but before long, we came across the team of women who were going to bushwhack – they seemed relieved to have found people! They hadn’t yet found the checkpoint! We all found some very sharp thorns (Rebecca’s leg was proof), and after we left them, we took a straight line back until we hit a trail, which we then followed. We later decided that this checkpoint wasn’t worth the time it took for us to find it! We should have gone for other higher point ones by bike. Lesson learned.

Climbing wall checkpoint

Back at leech creek we realized that there was a way to get across without getting wet, so we walked across big concrete blocks to get back to our bikes. We headed back to the start/finish and continued on to the climbing wall checkpoint. This was Rebecca’s very first time climbing, and after getting suited up into a harness and having a short lesson, she very quickly climbed her way to the top of the climbing wall where the checkpoint was!

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Low ropes course checkpoint

Our last checkpoint was at the end of a short low ropes course, which I did, while leaning on Rebecca’s head or shoulder at times (this was allowed). It was a fun way to end our race. From there we biked back to the racks and ran to the finish line. Our time was 3:47:39 – our goal was to not be late, because there was a 10 point penalty for every minute you were late over the 4 hours. We ended up with 580 points.

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Enter a caption [Photo credit: Storm Racing]

There were lots of food choices at the finish, from cookies and chips to ice cream bars, drinks and fruit! In fact, you could eat this stuff during the race too (but we didn’t).

We loaded our bikes and canoe onto the car, went back to our room for showers and clean/dry clothes, then headed for dinner – it was an awesome dinner! Lasagna, broccoli, garlic bread, salad bar, and an ice cream sundae bar for dessert! There was even a live band after the awards ceremony.

Turns out we were 5/10 female pairs teams, with the teams just ahead of us beating us by only a few points.

Other fun checkpoints that we didn’t do were a slingshot checkpoint (if you missed the target, you had to sit for a 10 minute penalty before getting the points), and a trail clearing checkpoint, where you were given tools and had to clear a 15 foot by 3 foot section of trail (we figured it would take too long, but found out from others that it was worth it!). There were also a few other checkpoints that we had hoped to bike to but ran out of time.

This race was super fun and I highly recommend it! I will definitely be back.

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Race report: Gravenhurst sprint triathlon (Jump. Swim. Bike. Run.)

One of the biggest draws for the Gravenhurst triathlon is the initial jump off a steamship and swim to the start line, but I headed to the race not knowing if I’d get a spot on the boat, or whether I’d be stuck doing the duathlon (with apologies to duathletes everywhere!). When we originally registered for the Olympic, our Saturday was clear, but when we later had to change our race plans, the Sunday sprint was full. However, Multisport Canada switched us to the sprint duathlon and told us to just show up on race day prepared for the triathlon, because there are always no-shows and there was a good likelihood that we’d get in.

So on race morning, we went through registration, and while a separate registration error meant that Alasdair was in, I was told not to rack my bike, and to return at 9:15 to see if I was in. Looking at my watch, and doing the math, I realized that this would give me less than 15 minutes to get all set up and down to the dock if I found out at that point that I had gotten into the triathlon (yes, it’s a sprint race, not much to set up, but I prefer not to rush and then forget something). So instead, I decided to rack my bike according to my tentative new (sprint triathlon) bib number anyway, and if I didn’t get in, at 9:15 I’d move my stuff to the duathlon rack. I wasn’t the only one who did this.

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Look at all the space around my bike on the rack! That’s because I was on an “overflow” type rack for people switching from the duathlon to the triathlon.

I got the news I wanted – I was in! Already wearing my wetsuit up to my waist, I quickly added my new race bib to my race belt, and headed down to the dock with Alasdair.

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Pre-race and ready to go!

We were lucky this year to be on the same boat (there are 2), though Alasdair would start in the wave ahead of me. Once on the boat, I made sure to be one of the first in my wave to jump off, so that I’d have time to relax in the water slightly before the race started (I learned this the hard way my first year, when I jumped off and heard them counting down 10, 9, 8, 7…) and I wasn’t even at the start line!

Turns out I jumped first with another athlete beside me. And the last one to jump off? The poor lady was struggling – tried to jump, backed off, tried again, backed off. Someone grabbed her hand but she didn’t want to jump with them. Finally all the athletes in the water seemed to notice, and everyone started to encourage her. And then, she jumped, and everyone cheered!

750m Swim

The swim was very uneventful! I tried to swim as straight as possible, and to draft whenever I could. I had almost no contact with other swimmers at all, right from the get-go! It was great. I reached the dock, climbed up the steps, took a peek at my watch and – look at that – my normal predictable pace. I pulled my wetsuit to my waist as I ran, and headed along the dock, across the road (avoiding cyclists crossing my path) and around the transition zone into the back entrance. Took my wetsuit off, put my socks, shoes, helmet, and sunglasses on, and headed out for the bike course.

20k Bike

I don’t love the crossover of swimmers and cyclists, but as long as everyone is paying attention, it’s manageable. There is a coned lane at the start of the bike, so I just followed the person ahead of me (slowly), and as soon as I was out of the coned lane, passed him and took off. My plan was to push the bike as much as I could. The course has many rolling hills, but nothing too steep. At first it felt like I was doing a lot of descending, meaning the 2nd half would be more uphill, but I eventually realized that this wasn’t the case, and the end of the ride should actually be easier. Phew. Alasdair passed me going the other way a couple of kilometres before the turnaround. As I reached the end of the bike and another coned lane, my watch said 30 km/h, but by the time I ran over the timing mat, I was down to just under 30 km/h. Darn! Happy with the ride in any case.

5k Run

This run always seems to be so hot! Thankfully, like the bike segment, the 2nd half is more downhill, so at least the hardest stuff doesn’t come last. I couldn’t manage as fast a pace as I would have liked, but I did run all the hills, even the steeper ones. I grabbed water a couple of times from aid stations, and at some point before the turnaround, spotted Alasdair heading my way.

I reached the finish line in a time of 1:37:06.9.
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The volunteers at the food tent were amazing, bringing us food and drinks while we waited in line for our Stoked Oats (the oats were slowing things down a bit). We stayed to watch the awards, and were so impressed by the 77 and 81 year old men called up for 1st and 2nd place in the 75+ category. And then Steve Fleck, the announcer, decided to give the 81 year old 1st place in the 80+ category – he deserved it! The two men stood on the 1st place podium together for a picture.

Later during the draw prizes, I won a gift certificate for a(nother) pair of Rudy Sunglasses! Woohoo!

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I highly recommend this race, but if you want to do it, you need to register early – it sells out quickly!

Race stats:

  • Time: 1:37:06.9
  • Swim: 19:12.3 (2:33/100m)
  • Bike: 40:20.6 (29.74 km/h)
  • Run: 31:52.4 (6:22 min/km)
  • Women 40-44: 11/25
  • All women: 54/165
  • All athletes: 139/334

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Trip report: 5-day canoe trip at Algonquin Provincial Park – Magnetawan Lake access point/Misty/White Trout/McIntosh/Daisy Lakes

It doesn’t seem to matter how much planning and preparation goes into my backcountry camping trips – something always seems to happen that I hadn’t foreseen!

This 5-day canoe trip at Algonquin Provincial Park (Magnetawan Lake access point on the West side of the park) was to be my 1st canoe trip since the fall of 2016, when I did a trip along the Tim River, also at Algonquin. And this time, I’d be paddling with my new(ish) friend Jen, who I met through social media connections. I was slightly paranoid while prepping food, as Jen is Celiac, so I had to be extra careful in my choice of ingredients. Lists made and prep done, it was time to start the trip! The forecast looked great, though we would be starting at the tail end of a heat wave. Drinking lots of water would be key.

Day 1: Magnetawan Lake access point to Misty Lake, through Hambone Lake, Acme Lake, Daisy Lake, the Petawawa River and Little Misty Lake

We picked up our backcountry permit at the Kearney office, and set out for the Magnetawan Lake access point.

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Ready to push off the dock at the Magnetawan Lake access point!

In terms of gear, we had 1 canoe pack, 1 big backpack, a waterproof bag of food, a small backpack with water and stuff (Jen), and a camelbak with water and stuff (me). And of course a canoe, 3 paddles, a bailer, throw rope, painter, and 2 PFDs (worn at all times in the canoe). We knew that we wouldn’t be able to single-carry everything on the portages, so instead we would walk each portage 3 times (1st time with canoe and gear, 2nd time empty-handed, 3rd time with the remainder of the gear).

We pushed off the dock and headed for the first portage, about 500m away. Starting our trip on a Tuesday meant that there weren’t many other canoes around. We paddled through Hambone Lake toward the portage to Acme Lake, and thankfully the water was high enough that we could keep paddling and skip the portage. It was on the portage from Acme Lake to Daisy Lake that I had my first adventure.

Jen carried the canoe, and me my big backpack. We put the canoe down on the dock, but after Jen headed back to get the rest of our gear, I decided to put it into the water, since the dock wasn’t too big and I didn’t want to block anyone who needed to use it. I lifted the canoe into the water, stepped away from the dock, and no… the canoe did not float away. I grabbed my backpack, stepped into the water to load it into the canoe, and sunk down with my right leg up to my waist in muck!! My backpack ended up in the water, but everything inside it was in waterproof bags, so nothing got wet or damaged. Just my ego, as this entire ordeal was witnessed by a couple in their canoe! Thankfully I was not injured, and I was able to extricate my foot (and sandal!) from the muck. What a start to the trip!

We paddled through Daisy Lake and along the Petawawa River, which was twisty and narrow and my kind of paddling (except for the deer and horse flies). We continued through Misty Lake and Misty Forks, where we encountered our first moose of the trip! He was a young one, and was exactly where we needed to paddle in the river. We sat and watched him for a while, and then eventually he headed into the woods.

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First moose sighting, a young male.

The first few sites on Misty Lake were taken, but we managed to find a great one. We set up Jen’s 3-man tent, her bug shelter (a welcome refuge from the mosquitos, deer and horse flies), threw a rope over a tree branch to hoist our bear bag and safely store our food, boiled water to rehydrate quinoa spinach soup in Jen’s Kelly Kettle (so cool!), and cooked bannock using Jen’s Trangia stove, and then made apple crumble for dessert. We also cooled off in the lake!

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Delicious quinoa spinach soup and freshly baked bannock for dinner.

We were exhausted, but for some reason, neither of us could fall asleep! It may have been the bullfrogs calling loudly all night long, it may have been the loons calling for slightly less time, or it may have been that we were overly tired. Who knows, but I do know this – I slept less than 4 hours that first night! I love the sound of bullfrogs and loons, but not in the middle of the night!

  • Distance paddled: 15.7 km (Note: all distances for paddling and portaging are approximate, based on Jeffsmap Algonquin map and my Inreach data.)
  • Distance portaged: 6.3 km
  • Wildlife highlights: moose, snapping turtle, muskrat, frogs galore in the water, and toads galore on the portages

Day 2: Misty Lake to White Trout Lake, through Misty Forks, Petawawa River, and Grassy Bay

We woke up a little less rested than desired, but we were keen to get moving and see what kind of adventures the day would bring us. We ate hot cereal for breakfast, and laughed at ourselves for packing tea. It was so hot out that tea was the last thing I needed! While sitting on the shore eating our breakfast, a snapping turtle swam by. A good start to the day!

We packed everything up, and headed out. Just a few minutes after paddling away from our site, I spotted a moose on the far shore of Misty Forks, and quickly realized there was a little one as well – a mama and baby. How lucky were we?! The baby was small – definitely born this year. It was the smallest moose I had ever seen in the wild. We eventually continued paddling and after our first portage of the day, continued along the Petawawa River. There was the most amazing looking grass in the river – and so many frogs just sitting on top of it at the surface of the water.

It was so hot that the deer flies and horse flies were out in abundance! We used bug spray with Deet, but it was only marginally effective. We were sweating profusely, so we were likely just sweating it off!

I tried hard to drink water frequently so that I didn’t get dehydrated. The portages were more challenging in the heat and humidity, and the bugs didn’t help! It’s so frustrating to be portaging the canoe and to be unable to reach a spot that the bugs are attacking!

We ate our lunch while sitting in the canoe once we found a spot where we weren’t being swarmed by bugs.

Before we got to White Trout Lake, we spotted yet another moose (#4!). On White Trout Lake, we headed for the campsites on the East side. Randy from Algonquin Outfitters helped Jen and I to choose our route, and made some campsite suggestions too. Based on his advice, we found a great site!

By Day 2, we had our routine set – arrive at the campsite, pull everything onto shore, jump into the lake to cool off and feel somewhat clean again, and set the campsite up.

Thankfully, we both slept much better the second night! Before falling asleep, I heard a Barred Owl.

  • Distance paddled: 15.1 km
  • Distance portaged: 3.9 km
  • Wildlife highlights: snapping turtle, mama and baby moose, other moose

Day 3: White Trout Lake to McIntosh Lake, through Grassy Bay, and McIntosh Marsh 

When I got up in the morning, I decided to pull out my bug jacket – I should have done it earlier on the trip! While the bugs still buzzed all around me, they couldn’t get me. Visiting the privy was much more bearable!!

Jen cooked us a delicious breakfast of pancakes, bacon, and copious amounts of maple syrup.

We started paddling back the way we had come the day before, but eventually headed further West into McIntosh Marsh. It was here that we spotted a loon with 2 babies. As we approached, the mama loon lifted her wing and one baby scooted underneath. At one point, one baby was by her side, and the other on her back. So cute!

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Photo credit: Jen

We checked out a few campsites on McIntosh Lake before we settled on one. The things we wanted most in a campsite were good swimming (not weedy/leechy), and West facing for direct evening sun and potentially awesome sunsets!

The sky was clouding over, and eventually we heard thunder, but it was to the South and East of us, and we never got rain. However, the temperature dropped and the humidity disappeared, and with it, the majority of the deer and horse flies!

While making dinner, I discovered that the dehydrated salsa I had to add to our egg, veggie, bacon and cheese wraps was actually dehydrated tomato sauce! Oops – I guess I mixed it up with the food for my September trip at Killarney. At least it was a tomato base and went well with the wraps.

After dinner each night, I would add contact lens solution to my case, which I would then put in my pocket and keep there until bedtime, so that I didn’t forget to get solution out before hanging the food and our toiletries (I learned the hard way). But this time, I accidentally took my contact lens out. It was windy, and after the first few attempts at putting it back in my eye failed, I asked Jen for help, worried that the lens would blow away. But before I could finish my sentence, you guessed it – the lens blew off my finger! I saw it fall, and while we spent at least 10 minutes looking for it (including shining a headlamp at the general area we were in), we never did find it. Thankfully, I always travel with spares! I learned a valuable lesson – always put my contacts in and take them out inside the tent!

After the contact lens incident, we had a fire so that Jen could bake a birthday cake on her reflector oven to celebrate Algonquin Park’s 125th birthday. While it baked, we roasted tiny marshmallows – a first for me! I’ll definitely do the mini ones again – the same fun with less sugar overload! Plus the outer part gets crunchy and while you expect a soft middle, there’s nothing there. Try it. At one point, Jen attempted to rotate the cake, but tipped it into the campfire by accident! We lost half the cake (it was still more liquid than solid at that point), but it didn’t matter! We still enjoyed a delicious birthday cake.

  • Distance paddled: 11.6 km
  • Distance portaged: 3.9 km
  • Wildlife highlights: mama loon and 2 babies

Day 4: McIntosh Lake to Daisy Lake, through Timberwolf Lake, Misty Lake, Little Misty Lake and the Petawawa River

On Day 4, we paddled a short distance from our campsite to the portage to Timberwolf Lake, where we spotted yet another moose! This one was on shore, but then started swimming toward the portage as we were paddling toward it. We waited in the canoe until she was gone, then paddled the last bit to shore. We were careful on the portage, knowing that she was near, and not wanting to get in her way.

On the portage from Timberwolf to Misty Lake, I had to climb through and over downed trees. At one point, I stood there holding the canoe over my head, with just trees and branches ahead of me. I asked Jen if I had maybe not paid attention and lost the trail, but nope, she said the trail ended at the downed tree. So I climbed through it! Later, I had to sit on a big downed tree in order to get over it.

When we arrived at Daisy Lake, we found that site after site was already occupied. It was Friday night, and we knew we were competing with people just starting their trip, and those ending it the next day. However, we had booked a site on the lake and knew there would be one for us. In the end there were 3 empty, and we chose a big one with a great spot for swimming.

We cooked pizzas in tinfoil on the campfire, and then homemade pudding, also on the campfire (with yummy toppings of peanuts and M&Ms).

This campsite had a few resident chipmunks who were brave and very interested in our food! It also featured garbage strewn all about, from toilet paper piles to plastic bags, contact lens cases and tampons! So sad and disgusting.

We settled into the tent for our last sleep of the trip.

  • Distance paddled: 14.8 km
  • Distance portaged: 4.5 km
  • Wildlife highlights: moose, mergansers (ducks)

Day 5: Daisy Lake to Magnetawan Lake, through Acme Lake and Hambone Lake

Our last day would be our shortest travel day. After a little photo shoot at our campsite, we set out for our last few lakes and portages.

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Remember the muck I stepped into at the end of the portage from Acme Lake to Daisy Lake? Well, when we reached the portage at the end of Daisy Lake, we spotted the infamous dock, and once we got close, but before we could give a warning, a paddler stepped into the muck on the other side of the dock, and sunk down deep! Unfortunately for him, he was also carrying the canoe above his head! “Are you okay? Let me know if you need help.” I said. He said he was fine – he just needed to get his foot out!

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See that dock behind me? It’s there for a reason.

At the other end of the portage we met a Park Ranger, who along with what was probably a student, was headed to Daisy Lake to do maintenance at the campsites. He asked if any portages needed work, and we told him what we had found. I also told him the story of my fall into the muck, and the guy we just saw do the same thing. He said, “Always test the ground with your paddle.” Lesson learned!

We met the fall-into-the-muck-paddler at the next and last portage, where he told us that his family was disappointed that they had missed his fall. He was nice enough to take a few pictures of us, including the one below!

And just like that, we arrived back at the Magnetawan Lake access point, our trip over.

  • Distance paddled: 3.2 km
  • Distance portaged: 0.6 km

One thing we loved about the route we did was the variety of areas we paddled through: little lakes, big lakes, winding rivers, lily pads, gorgeous grasses, beaver dams requiring us to lift over them, rocks in shallow waters requiring us to walk and pull the canoe alongside us, dead calm water, wind and whitecaps (well, I wouldn’t ask for this!).

We were surprised one day to find that we had cell signals on McIntosh Lake! The rest of the time, Jen and I used our Garmin InReach devices to communicate with our families and friends to let them know that we were okay.

I highly recommend this route, but be prepared for lots of portaging!

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