Trip report: 1st time staying in a yurt, at Algonquin Provincial Park in February 2018

Until this year, my winter camping experiences had all involved a tent, with no heat other than a hot water bottle at bedtime! But last fall I decided to book a yurt at Algonquin Provincial Park – Mew Lake – for a weekend of fat biking and snowshoe running!

I’m now sold on yurts for winter camping. It wasn’t even that cold while we were at Algonquin (-5C to -10C), but it was so nice to be able to get out of the cold, to be warm at night (I was actually too warm in my -20C sleeping bag), and to be able to hang my clothes up and dry them overnight!

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Yurt on site 54.

The yurts at Algonquin have an electric heater (you can’t control the temperature), and sleep 6, with 2 bunk beds each sleeping 1 on top and 2 on the bottom. There is also a small table and 6 chairs, a shelf over the table, and 1 electrical outlet (well, 2 plugs but one is used by the fluorescent light).

There were 3 of us in the yurt, so we had plenty of room for all of our stuff.

On Friday night, my friend Rebecca and I took the fat bikes we had borrowed from Algonquin Outfitters out for a test ride. Our plan was to ride part of the Old Railway Bike Trail, but we had trouble getting any traction in the snow (despite fat bikes being made for snow!). When we reached the Old Railway Bike Trail, it was time to turn back – the sun would be setting soon. We were treated to an amazing sunset as we rode through the old Mew Lake airfield.

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Mew Lake airfield at sunset.

The only other time I had ridden a fat bike was last summer, also at Algonquin.

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Mew Lake airfield at sunset.

When we got back to the yurt, our friend Kristin told us that our traction problem was the result of having too much air in our tires! The next morning, we let a whole bunch of air out of the tires, and she was right – we were able to ride!

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Well-fed turkey (not by us) at our campsite.

We headed for Huntsville and the Muskoka Winter Bike Festival fat bike race (which I wrote about here – so much fun!).

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Bikes ready for the fat bike race.

After the race, we headed back to Algonquin and our yurt. I went out for a short snowshoe run, and was treated to a very pretty, quiet, calm forest. I didn’t see a soul – just animal footprints.

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On our last morning, the 3 of us headed out for a bike ride on the Old Railway Bike Trail. This time, we made it to the trail quite quickly, and actually got to ride the trail. We headed west toward Cache Lake.

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Old Railway Bike Trail.

Once again, we saw no one, but did see animal tracks of all kinds. It was quite fun to ride the same trail that I had ridden last summer in the winter.

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Old Railway Bike Trail.

Sadly, after our ride it was time to head home.

I won’t be giving up tenting in the winter, but I’ll definitely stay in a yurt again!

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Race report: Muskoka Winter Bike Festival fat bike race (my first!)

Less than a week before heading to Algonquin Provincial Park to stay in a yurt with 2 friends so that we could spend the weekend fat biking and snowshoeing, I stumbled upon the Muskoka Winter Bike Festival 11k fat bike race, and decided to register! Who cares that I had never ridden a fat bike in the winter, or that my only experience fat biking was last summer at Algonquin? I would have Friday to try out fat biking in the snow before Saturday’s race!

My friend Rebecca and I took the bikes that we had borrowed from Algonquin Outfitters out for a test spin on Friday night at Algonquin, and spin we did! We had some serious issues getting any traction, and spent 90 frustrating minutes not going very far. We later learned from our friend Kristin that we had too much air in our fat bike tires! We let a whole bunch of air out, and Saturday morning did another test spin – success! We would be able to ride the bikes after all.

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We headed for Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, found the race site and registration table, picked up our race bibs and hand warmers, and after attaching the race bibs to our bikes, we were ready to go. Since there was no building nearby and lots of time before the 2 PM start, we headed back for the main building to relax until just before the race was to begin. I did catch the 1 PM race start for the experienced racers, because I had forgotten my water bottle in my vehicle at the race location and had gone back for it. It was then that I heard that the “newbie” race would be quite a bit shorter than 11k. The race organizers made the executive decision to ensure that us newbies had a fun race experience. In fact, part of the 11k course that we weren’t going to ride had a hill so steep that only 1 of the experienced riders made it up (and won a prize for doing so).

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Algonquin Outfitters was one of the event sponsors.

Our race course was to be 3 laps of a heart-shaped course. Just before the race began, we had a very short pre-race meeting while everyone was lined up at the start line. There appeared to be about 20-30 people in the race – men, women, and a couple of kids.

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My ride!

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Kristin and I before the race.

And then, the race began! Kristin, Rebecca and I had lined up near the back of the pack, so there was some congestion at the start.

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At the start of the race. [Photo credit: Andy Zeltkalns]

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[Photo credit: Andy Zeltkalns]

As I discovered on the first lap, there were hills on this course! I managed to ride up them without stopping, though I did wonder whether I would spin out on the steepest bits (I didn’t). There was one sloped spot (higher on the left, lower on the right) that I approached from the right on the first lap, but that resulted in me sliding into deep snow and having to put my foot down. On the second lap, I intended to ride it further to the left (higher up) but there was another rider beside me so I couldn’t, and again I had to restart. It took my 3rd and final lap to perfect that spot, to ride far left (high) and be able to pass through the section without sliding down or crashing as others did!

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[Photo credit: Andy Zeltkalns]

I was chasing another woman on the first lap, and passed her toward the end of the second lap. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to hold her off for the third lap. I figured I was probably slowing down, but she may have been as well. With less than 100m to go on the last lap, I passed another woman. I wasn’t sure if any others had been ahead of me. It’s hard to tell when you’re riding multiple laps. I was surprised to see that the big inflatable arch was gone – I thought that it was the finish line.

So I stopped (rather than ride into the spectators), confused, and wondered if maybe I had to go back onto the course to finish somewhere else. I asked someone, who clarified that no, I was done, and that they had written my bib number down (they were checking us off as we finished each lap – it was a race with manual timing, not timing chips). According to my watch it took around 28 minutes.

The race was hard work but super fun!

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Rebecca and I after the race.

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Rebecca, Kristin and I after the race.

After the race, we were treated to some delicious chili – with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and bacon as toppings! There was also hot chocolate with chocolate bits and whip cream to add on top. Yum! And for others, there was beer.

During the awards ceremony I won a $50 gift certificate for Algonquin Outfitters, but I don’t know if it was a random draw prize, or because I did well in the race. I was congratulated on a great race for a new racer when I got my prize. There are no results posted on the race website, so who knows? I did follow up with the race organizers, and apparently I was 9th out of 31 newbie racers, but I’m not sure how I placed compared to the women in the race.

In any case, it was a fun race and I hope to be back next year!

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Posted in fat biking, mountain biking, winter | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Race report: Stars W.A.R. (Winter Adventure Race) – snowshoe orienteering race

Picture this: You’re standing in the forest with a steep downhill in front of you, the ground is snow-covered, there are trees all over the place, you are wearing snowshoes, and you need to get to the bottom of the hill – the faster, the better. Do you carefully pick your way down the slope, bracing yourself against trees as you go, or do you throw caution to the wind and slide down the hill on your butt?

This is just one of the scenarios I faced in this year’s Stars W.A.R. (Winter Adventure Race), held at Wasaga Beach Provincial Park. Last year’s race was super fun, so I was looking forward to the 2018 edition.

With snow in the forecast, Anne and I left early, but the drive wasn’t bad and we arrived a few minutes before registration was to begin. A pre-race email from the Stars Orienteering Club told us that the course would be challenging and we would need time to plan our route. At registration we received a map, an instruction sheet, and a pair of socks!

Anne and I sat down to plan our strategy. Because the map covered a large area, and there were 30 controls, we had to decide which part of the map to focus on. We decided that we would definitely try to get the controls that would get us bonus points (“dog bones” – get specific ones one after the other with no other controls in between and receive a bonus of 40 points). There were 3 sets of these, so that would mean 120 bonus points.

Controls ranged in value: 20, 30, 40, or 50 points depending on their difficulty.

There were many trails on the map, but we had no idea if they would be visible, given the amount of snow in the area. It made pre-race planning a little tough. We knew that the snowmobile trails would be easy to find, but we weren’t allow to run on them – we could only cross them. However, they would help us to figure out where we were.

We highlighted our tentative route on the map, including controls that we might have time for but wouldn’t know for sure until we were racing. We knew that we may turn back before hitting a couple of the controls, but we might be able to pick up a few more on our way back to the finish. It would all depend on how well we were doing, and how much time it was taking us.

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Ready to go!

This would be Anne’s first time running on snowshoes, so we went outside a few minutes early to get her set up.

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Tools of the trade.

I wondered if I was overdressed for the -2 or -3C weather, but only time would tell.

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At the start line (and the finish control).

At 10:30 AM, the race began, with Anne and I chasing the leaders to the approved road crossing spot. Our plan was to go for controls 45, 44, 37, 132/131 (bonus), 41/42 (bonus), 31/32 (bonus), 140, potentially 33, and then 34, potential 147 and 148, then head back toward the finishing, getting 134 and others in that section of the map if we had time (this never happens).

You would think that it would be hard to get lost going to the very first control, which was just over 100m from the road, but that’s exactly what happened. We were following people, but also following our compass bearing. We reached the steep hill that I previously mentioned, but when we didn’t find the control as soon as we expected to, we stopped (along with other teams!), re-evaluated, tried to figure out if we had gone too far left or too far right, and then eventually decided to backtrack a bit and head further west. We found it!

After the first control, things got a lot better. Because many trails were not visible under the snow cover, we found ourselves using contour lines a lot to figure out where we were. It was excellent practice! Anne and I made a great team. With her super eyesight she spotted some of the controls way away – I would never have seen them that far away without her pointing them out. Oh to be 15!

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[Photo credit: Stars Orienteering Club]

We found every control we looked for, and did end up adding 33, but after 34, we realized that we would not have time to get 147 and 148, so we headed back for the permitted road crossing spot, running in the woods parallel to the road (we weren’t supposed to run along the road) until we were able to cross over. Anne was getting tired, and needed to take more and more walking breaks. My legs were tired from the 6.7k snowshoe race I had done the day before. Running on snowshoes is exhausting! We did pick up 2 more controls on our way back, both relatively easy to find. By this point in the race, other racers has beaten down tracks to the control, so once we were pointed in the right direction, it was pretty easy to just follow the tracks and find the control! We hit the finish line after 2:32:44, receiving a penalty of -30 points for being late.

We were treated to a yummy box of pizza per team, plus cold drinks, cookies, and hot chocolate.

Anne and I were both surprised to hear that we had placed 2nd out of 7 female teams!

I had a great time racing and will definitely be back! Thanks Stars!

Race results

  • Time: 2:32:44
  • Points: 550 (after losing 30 for being almost 3 minutes late)
  • Women’s teams: 2/7
  • Overall teams: 12/27

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Race Report: Dion Winter Goose Chase Snowshoe Race

I had such fun at my very first snowshoe race last year, a 4k snowshoe run followed by a 4k road run, that I was eager to do another one. The Dion Winter Goose Chase Snowshoe Race is part of a series of races put on by Spafford Health and Adventure. The rest of the races are in Eastern Ontario, but this one is held at Shades Mills Conservation Area in Cambridge, Ontario.

Participants were warned that the venue would be almost entirely an outdoor venue, with race kit pick-up (and washrooms) in a small building. I arrived with plenty of time to register and chat with other racers, staying warm in the last few minutes before the race inside a friend’s car (not everyone could fit in the building, and it was -8 C or so out, colder with the wind).

 

 

This race was advertised as 7 km, but during the pre-race briefing at the (frozen) water’s edge it was announced that the course was approximately 6.7 km. The guy beside me swore when he heard that – he thought it was only 5k!

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During the briefing, we were introduced to the Goose and Gander, the female and male racers who we would be chasing. The idea is that last year’s winners become this year’s targets.

With a countdown of 3-2-1 the race was on! Thankfully, it had snowed in the days leading up to the race just enough to make it a snowshoe race and not a trail run. The week before the race, an email from the race organizers warned us that the trails were all icy and spikes may be required on our shoes. It certainly wasn’t tough slogging in deep snow on race day, but it was a snowshoe race – yay!

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[Photo credit: Jason Mota]

The course was really well marked with little flags, arrows, and volunteers (from the Cambridge Harriers Running Club) at key intersections. At the beginning, things were rather congested, but it didn’t take long for racers to spread out. I never did see the Goose or Gander. For a while I was chasing a little guy named Seth, who was being encouraged by his dad running ahead of him. At one point I told him that he couldn’t slow down, he was my pacer!

This was a fairly hilly course (I’d love to see the elevation profile), with the most significant climb being the very last climb of the race! This was the only one that I partially walked. I forced myself to run all the hills before then, because once I start walking hills, I give myself permission to walk all of them and give up on running them!

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I stopped during the race to take one picture.

For a good part of the race, I was running on my own, just barely able to see people in the distance ahead of me. It was very peaceful in the forest. I had no idea how far I had run, because I don’t have a GPS watch, and gauging my speed when running on snowshoes is tough. I estimated that I was running 8 minute kilometres.

I started to hear cheering from the finish line, so I knew that I couldn’t be too far away. Eventually I reached the second last turn before the finish and was told that I was almost there.

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Picture by Kristin

With just a hundred metres or so to go, I spotted Kristin and John and heard them cheering for me. I crossed the finish line in 53:47, a pace of 8:02 min/km if the course was 6.7 km, and 7:55 min/km if the course was 6.8 km as the results show. It’s pretty exhausting running on snowshoes! I’m happy with how my race went.

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Afterwards, we were treated to a super delicious pancake breakfast! The pancakes were accompanied by fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, a berry sauce, chocolate chips, Nutella, whip cream, maple syrup and maybe more! Yum. There was also coffee.

After eating I went out to the bonfire and enjoyed the heat for a few minutes before changing into dry clothes. I stayed for the awards (Seth my early race pace setter won snowshoes as a draw prize – he was pretty excited!) and then headed home.

It was a great morning! (I even got to meet Deirdre, who I connected with on Twitter quite a while ago but had yet to meet. Hi Deirdre!)

Thanks for the fantastic race!

Race results

  • Time: 53:47
  • Women 40-49: 10/23
  • Placing: 40/85 overall

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Race report: Robbie Burns 8k 2018

This year’s Robbie Burns 8k would be my third attempt at the distance. I wasn’t aiming for a PB – in fact, I was planning to just “run” it, not “race” it. But it’s hard not to get swept up in the enthusiasm and optimism of other runners at the starting line of a race!

Alasdair and I arrived at Burlington Central High School in plenty of time to get our race bibs, visit the washroom multiple times, and listen to the Halton Police pipe and drum band play some songs.

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Pre-race

At this race, the band stands on either side of the hallway and runners walk through them to go outside to the start line.

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Halton Police pipe and drum band

Before going outside, I overheard two women talking about a dream one of them had had the night before: during the race her friend was driving her along the race route, and when she told him that she was cheating, he replied, “It’s not cheating if I’m driving your race pace!”

Once we got outside, Alasdair went for a short warm up run, and I stretched my calves. We lined up at the start line, but I decided to drop back so as not to get in the way of faster runners. Ed Whitlock‘s son Clive gave the countdown in his honour, and the race began! As soon as I heard that Canadian Olympic marathoner Krista Duchene would be racing, I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t win – but only because I would be racing in a kilt (I was pretty sure she wouldn’t be)!

As soon as I started running, I realized that my legs were already tired – from moving lots of boxes and doing far too many squats in the process the day before! Good thing I planned to treat this race as a training run.

I was expecting to run 7 minute kilometres, because I am still recovering from plantar fasciitis in my left foot, and was at the tail end of a cold. When – right off the bat – I felt like I was working hard, I decided I’d be happy to finish in 56 minutes.

And then I reached the 1 km marker, looked at my watch, and saw 5:41 – no wonder the effort felt high! I hadn’t run that pace since August or earlier. My foot felt fine, but my cardio and legs were feeling it.

According to RunKeeper on my phone, my pace continued as follows:

  • 2nd kilometre: 5:33
  • 3rd kilometre: 5:39
  • 4th kilometre: 5:46
  • 5th kilometre: 5:42

I wasn’t looking at my phone as I ran, but I did check my watch at every kilometre marker. I was surprised that I was managing to hold that pace. It was after 5k (which I reached around 28 minutes) that I started to slow down a bit. It was also in this section that there seemed to be some noticeable inclines (but really, the race is quite flat).

Near the end I was hoping that I could finish in under 46 minutes, but my “sprint” to the finish had me cross the line at 46:02 according to the race clock. I was slightly disappointed. Later when I saw my official time, I realized that of course I finished in less time than that, because that was the “gun” time, not the time I actually crossed the starting line. As expected, I did not win the race. Krista Duchene won my age category, while Victoria Coates, reigning Canadian 10,000m champion, was the first female finisher (in a time of 27:31).

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Done! [Photo credit: Robbie Burns 8k official photo]

In the last few hundred metres I heard a few people cheer for me by name, including Alasdair (what I heard was “Way to go bud!” but I’m certain that’s not what he said).

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Post-race

After the race, I found Alasdair, and we went inside to grab our things (there was a baggage check) and some post-race food, including a bowl of hot oatmeal. Yum. We stayed for the awards, and while we didn’t participate in the costume contest this year, we did participate in the “voting by applause” for those who got up on stage.

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This guy was one of 4 costume winners.

If you’re ever in need of fitness motivation, go watch a running race (or a triathlon), and stay for the awards. Watch the athletes in the oldest age groups be recognized for their accomplishments. At this year’s race, there were 2 incredible men in the 80+ category, one of whom beat me! They helped each other up the stairs and onto the stage!

Thank you Burlington Runners for another great race!

Stats:

  • Time: 45:47 (5:43 min/km)
  • Women 40-44: 21/53
  • All women: 185/393
  • All 8k runners: 449/775

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Race report: O-Cup at the University of Toronto Erindale Campus (orienteering race)

When I set out for the Erindale Campus of the University of Toronto for an O-Cup race, I had no idea that I may head for home potentially needing a haircut!

This race, hosted by the Toronto Orienteering Club, was the 3rd of 6 O-Cup races for 2017-2018 under the umbrella of the Orienteering Ontario Association.

O-Cup races are organized such that everyone starts at the same time, uses the same map, and searches for the same mandatory controls, but depending on your age, you have the option of skipping 1 or more of the optional controls. For example, women 35-44 have a handicap of 3, meaning that of the 7 optional controls in a box set out on the map (not a box in real life!), I could skip 3 of them. In other words, I had to find 4 of them – any 4 of my choice.

At this race, there were actually 2 boxes, the first with controls A to G, and the second with controls a to g. I got to skip 3 controls in each of the 2 boxes, but if I skipped “A” in the first box, I didn’t have to skip “a” in the second box. You can see the handicap system here.

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It was a gorgeous day for a run – a high of +4C and lots of sun, with just a little snow on the ground.

With about 10 minutes to go before the race start, we were given the maps, and were able to plan our routes. The race would start with the 1st box, so right away, people started running in multiple directions, since we didn’t all have to find the same controls, and could do these in any order. I decided to head for the bridge across the creek first, figuring that it would be easy to find. The navigation itself wasn’t hard, but actually getting there was a little dicey! We had to descend a steep, icy slope. I decided to slide down the steepest part on my backside! By the time I reached the bottom, my gloved hands were covered in burrs. I didn’t bother trying to get them off, because I would have had to take my gloves off to do so, and I was wearing a compass on my left thumb and my SI (timing) stick on my right middle finger.

I quickly found control C, and then headed for D, which wasn’t too far away. It was during this section that I realized I wasn’t able to turn my head! My ponytail was a mass of burrs, and was stuck to my running jacket! I showed another racer as he ran by, and he told me that he had scissors in his pocket! Ha! From then on I had to lift my ponytail off my coat when it got stuck.

After finding D, I crossed the bridge again, figuring it would be easy to hug the shore to find B, and then A. It was – and no compass required.

Next, everyone had to find controls 1 to 7. This section was urban orienteering – controls were close to buildings, and were easy to find. Suffering from a cold, I was rather lacking in the cardio department – running was harder than usual!

After control 7, we entered the 2nd box. I didn’t have a firm plan for this section, other than aiming to find the easiest controls possible! I decided to start with b, and saw a deer running across a field in the process. Next I climbed down a steep hill to find a, cleverly hidden so that you couldn’t see it until you got quite close. At this point, I decided to do c because it wasn’t too far away, and the contour lines weren’t very close together, meaning that the hill I had to climb wouldn’t be too steep! This was the only point in the race where I actually used my compass. I re-climbed the hill to a, and ran along a path and roadway until I cut behind a building and easily found g.

From there, I had to find 8, which I had seen earlier but completely forgot about – it would have been faster to find the second time had I remembered exactly where I had seen it! Control 9 is the only one that gave me trouble. I overshot it, and had to backtrack. Almost as soon as I left 9 I could see 10, so that one was probably the easiest to find! From there it was a “sprint” to the finish line. I felt like I was running quickly (based only on my cardio… or lack thereof) but I’m sure I wasn’t going very fast at all! I reached the finish in 58:07, covering around 6.7 km.

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Race done… and before I got lost inside the building trying to find the room we registered in.

 

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Race stats:

  • Time: 58:07
  • Placing: 28/42

Thankfully, conditioner made burr-extraction much easier than I had anticipated! No haircut required.

Thanks Toronto Orienteering Club for a great race!

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Race report: Don’t Get Lost Snowshoe Raid (orienteering race) 2018

With an 80 cm base of snow in the Blue Mountain area a few days before the Don’t Get Lost Snowshoe Raid was set to be held, it looked like we were in store for perfect snowshoeing conditions! And then, just two days before the race a serious thaw had many of us wondering whether there would be any snow left at all! The night before the race, an email from the race organizers clarified things: snowshoes recommended! Phew.

On race morning, we awoke to a temperature of -24C with the windchill. I didn’t want to be cold (in particular at higher, exposed elevations), but didn’t want to be overdressed either (in lower forested areas). I settled on 3 layers on the bottom (plus gaiters), 4 on the top, a balaclava, a toque, gloves and shells. I debated wearing ski goggles! I also carried an extra pair of socks, extra pair of gloves, a fleece sweater, and toe warmers, just in case!

I arrived at Blue Mountain with my friend and teammate Rebecca (team “Define Lost”), to find another friend (Kim) very happy to see me. Her teammate and son was sick and unable to race, and since you can’t race alone in the Snowshoe Raid, she asked to join our team. With the blessing of the race organizers, we became a team of 3.

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Kim, Rebecca and I planning our race strategy. 

We were to be bussed to the start line at Pretty River Valley Provincial Park, and then would have 3 hours to find as many of the controls as possible. There were no mandatory controls, but if you went into the “matrix” and found controls in this part of the map, you had to go to the aid station to prove that you found them (by showing the holes punched on your map – there were manual hole punches at these controls). The controls were scored as follows: 25 points for green, 50 for blue, 75 for black, 100 for double black, and 150 for you’re crazy and no way am I going there!

We used highlighters to mark our intended route, and decided that at checkpoint 50 we would do a time check and see what we still had time to do. After the pre-race briefing and a last pitstop, we headed to the busses, dropping a bag off so that it would be waiting for us at the race finish (warm layers, if needed).

The bus ride lasted around 20 minutes. It was very shortly after we arrived (I was debating whether I would pee on the side of the road as many of the guys were doing!) when there was an announcement: the race would be starting in 4 minutes! I didn’t even have my snowshoes on. I quickly got myself organized, and the race began!

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At first it was a snowshoe walk, as we all had to follow the same trail for a while. Eventually, people spread out and we could run.

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Me on the far left.

Our plan was to go for controls 52, 53, 54, 55, 44, 50, 42, 40 (if it looked like we could cross the creek, which we were warned pre-race was a flowing creek because of the thaw), and then if we had time, we would enter the matrix, doing 33, 32, the aid station, 39 and then the finish.

We weren’t sure how much we would be able to run, and how much walking we would do. At times, the snow didn’t hold our weight and we sunk down a foot or more. In these sections I ran less, worried that I would hurt myself. On packed down trails it was easy to run.

We found 52 (green) quite easily, but struggled to find 53 (double black) and ended up overshooting it. Our bearing must have been off. When we hadn’t found it where we expected to, we kept going (maybe over the next hill!), but we really were’t sure whether we had gone too far left of it, or too far right. When we reached a snowmobile trail, we realized what we had done (we had gone too far right), and instead went for 54 (blue). Knowing exactly where we were then, and planning to head back toward 53 anyway en route to 55, we tried again, and found it (just before we got there, we were heading up a hill when down the hill comes Barb, who very often wins her age category – “that’s a good sign!” we said, and we were right!). There is such satisfaction in finding something that you have struggled to find! I hate giving up on controls.

One thing that’s interesting about snowshoe orienteering is that you can see which way other people went… but they may have been just as lost as you, or walking randomly in hopes of finding something that matches the map. And the trails… oh, the trails… what would be easy to find in the summer may be impossible to spot in the winter! If no one has walked on a trail recently, you may have no idea where it is. At Pretty River Valley Provincial Park, the snowmobile trail was easy to spot, but the tiny trails? Not so much.

Since we couldn’t rely on the trails being visible, we used pace counting to figure out how far we had gone.

Next up was control 55 (blue), which we found easily. At 44 (black diamond), the sun was peeking through the forest making it very pretty!

It was when I started ascending the hill to 50 (blue) that I realized I had a problem! I was walking on two big mounds of ice built up under the metal grips of my snowshoes (the toe crampons). I couldn’t grip the ground, and was just sliding down the hill. It was a very steep climb. I whacked my snowshoe against a tree many times before I dislodged the ice, but had trouble with the second. Eventually, I got it. Given the temperature (cold!) I wasn’t expecting ice build-up.

We descended the hill, and checking the time, knew that we wouldn’t have time to do the controls in the matrix. 39 (green) wasn’t in the matrix, but from the road, it would involve a significant climb – it was “green” only if you were in the matrix and following a trail – so we skipped it. We headed for 42 (blue), which was easy to find because all we had to do was run along the road looking for a creek – since it was flowing, it was quite obvious! We followed the creek uphill until we found the control.

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We were doubtful that we had time to go for control 40, but I figured we should try it. Rebecca had in her head that we still had 3k to run to the finish, when in fact it was 1.5. When she realized her error, she agreed that we had time to go for it. Kim decided to head to the finish, so Rebecca and I headed into the woods. We got about 10 metres in when we found the wide (6 feet?) flowing creek, and knew there was no way we were crossing it. We didn’t have time to run up and down the creek looking for a safe crossing spot (a guy there said they had tried to find a spot), so instead we headed for the finish!

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Rebecca and I approaching the finish line.

We crossed the finish line in 2:52:11, with a total of 400 points. Had we been over the allotted 3 hours, we would have lost 30 points per minute.

After grabbing some hot chocolate and ginger cookies, and grabbing my backpack with extra clothes (which I didn’t need at that point), I made my way to the busses for the ride back to Blue Mountain, where a hot lunch was waiting for us.

I was relieved that my clothing choices worked out well – I had chilly fingers at the very start, but otherwise I was comfy!

I had fun racing with Rebecca and Kim. With the exception of control 53, we didn’t have trouble finding anything.

The race was super well organized. I highly recommend it!

Results

  • Time: 2:52:11
  • Points: 400
  • Placing out of all teams: 58/101
  • Placing out of female teams: 11/19

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