A week exploring Vancouver Island, British Columbia

This post is Part 2 of our cross-Canada trip from Ontario to British Columbia. Part 1 covers our first 17 days, in which we drove across the country and camped as we went. Coming soon: highlights of all the vegan restaurants we tried on our travels!

Day 17: Goldstream Provincial Park to Nanaimo (99 km / 1.25 hours)

After leaving Goldstream Provincial Park – and our last campsite of the trip – we headed north for Nanaimo.

We found a great little park along the harbour in Nanaimo to have a picnic lunch, Maffeo Sutton Park. We were pleasantly surprised to discover some beautiful purple star fish! The park has walking paths, fantastic playgrounds for kids, and a small (rocky) beach area.

Star fish

We also explored a used bookstore in town, coming away with a few books.

Next we headed to the small town of Parksville to swim at Parksville beach (along the Straight of Georgia, an arm of the Salish Sea), at the recommendation of my cousin Julie. We were a little surprised to discover that it was a rocky beach rather than a sandy one, but we had fun swimming, checking out all the snails and looking for fish. There’s a playground and splash pad for kids, a skate park and lots of beach volleyball courts too.

Day 18: Nanaimo

In hopes of seeing some marine wildlife, like sea lions, seals or whales, we headed to the Cable Bay Nature Trail (also on the Straight of Georgia) to go for a walk along the water. We spent some time at Dodd Narrows, having read that seals could often be seen playing in the rapids. We never did see any sea creatures, just a Great blue heron at the water’s edge. I also spotted what turned out to be a Pacific banana slug on the hiking trail, as well as a few woodpeckers in trees.

Pacific banana slug

We’ll remember Dodd Narrows for the logging tug boat (the “David J”) that seemingly did a super fast 180 degree turn for our benefit as it went through this narrow space, and for the man in a tiny fishing boat who needed help from people on the far shore to rescue what looked like a wayward seat cushion floating away. We spotted it before we saw him zooming around the corner, and then he clearly caught sight of it! We watched – fascinated – as he approached the cushion, but it was circling in an eddy by then, unreachable to him in his little boat, so he yelled instructions to a couple of girls on shore who were only too happy to throw it out to him… he chased it, grabbed it, pulled it into his boat and the 8 people who witnessed the feat – including us – cheered (for the cushion? for the man? for a happy ending!)!

The David J.

We hiked back to our car, and then went for a very late vegan lunch at Eve Olive. When we noticed Nanaimo bars on the dessert menu, we knew we had to have one! When in Nanaimo… It was good, but not nearly as good as my homemade ones! And for me, sprinkles definitely do not belong!

We had so much fun swimming the day before that we headed back to Parksville Beach. It was then we realized we had been there at high tide the day before – the water was way out this time, so there was lots of sand (and shallow water a long way out)! We kept our eyes on our towels though, because the tide was coming in and we didn’t want them to get soaked.

The most natural of all necklaces.

Day 19: Nanaimo to Port Alberni

We had been told by multiple people that we had to visit the old growth forest at Cathedral Grove, so on our way from Nanaimo to Port Alberni we stopped to check it out. The trees were indeed impressive – 800 year old Douglas-fir trees, as well as old Western red cedars, and Big leaf maples. The biggest Douglas-fir there is over 76 m tall with a circumference of 9 m. We did the short walking trails on both sides of the highway.

Ailish at 5’7″ for comparison!

We had hoped to have a picnic lunch in Port Alberni somewhere we could swim, but the only park we found on the water didn’t have great swimming options. We debated driving 40 minutes south to Qualicum Beach, which wouldn’t be quite as far as going all the way back to Parksville Beach, but then we decided to just drive 2 hours to Tofino instead! We already had plans to spend the next day in Tofino, but we figured why not go twice (unfortunately, we weren’t able to find accommodations in Tofino by the time our trip was finalized – Port Alberni was the closest we could get).

So, off to Tofino we went! We were fortunate to see a Steller jay when we arrived – a first for us.

Silly us, we thought we’d be able to swim in the Pacific Ocean at Pacific Rim National Park. But as we drove there, we watched the thermometer drop, and drop, and drop. By the time we arrived it was less than 15 degrees C, and oh boy was the water ever cold!

Pacific Rim National Park

But Alasdair and I were determined to swim. The waves were pretty big, and the water so cold that we weren’t sure we’d actually submerse ourselves. Everyone else in the water – a dozen or so surfers – were all wearing neoprene wetsuits. Someone called Alasdair brave. We ended up playing in the waves, riding them in, but we didn’t really “swim” and we didn’t last too long! It was fun though!

Alasdair and Ailish built a small shelter out of driftwood so we could spend time on the beach protected from the wind and blowing sand. And then we headed back to Port Alberni.

Day 20: Tofino

In the morning we headed back to Tofino. We stopped at Pacific Rim National Park again to explore the shoreline at a couple of different beaches, and in doing so found some cool things, like shells, Sea anemones, and Tidepool sculpins (fish)!

Spot the fox’s head!

We had reserved rental bikes at Tofino Bike Co, so we headed there next.

The “Cruisers” were not like bikes we are used to – on these single speed bikes you sit in a very upright position, and you brake with your feet (like when we were kids). They took some getting used to. We rode a paved path into Tofino, and then cruised around town a bit. We locked our bikes together and followed a path to Tonquin beach, where we had a picnic lunch.

Stairs to Tonquin beach

From there we got onto the Tonquin Trail Network, and then headed to Mackenzie beach before it was time to return our bikes.

Bears! Cougars! Wolves! Good thing I took a picture of this sign instead of reading it.
Pretty scenic cycling spot – Mackenzie beach, Tofino.

After returning our bikes, we headed to Bravocados for a delicious vegan dinner!

Day 21: Port Alberni to Victoria

We left Port Alberni and headed south for Victoria, where we would spend our last few days. We stopped in Ladysmith for an amazing vegan lunch at Plantitude. This quickly became my favourite vegan restaurant, with a cute patio and delicious food.

Flatbread with pesto, red onions, cashew cheese, arugula and a maple balsamic glaze.

We settled into our last Airbnb, this one in Saanich, quite close to Mount Douglas Park, and not far from the University of Victoria, the reason we set off for British Columbia in the first place!

Just a White-tailed deer hanging out, as they do in Victoria.

Day 22: Victoria

This would be our last full day with Ailish before the big move! We headed downtown Victoria to wander around. We talked to a man with an emotional support cat – that sadly had no interest in us. Eventually we ended up at Virtuous Pie for a vegan lunch with Alasdair’s former student Connor, now a PhD student at UBC, and his girlfriend. We gave them our leftover MSR fuel, since we couldn’t fly home with it!

We did some last minute shopping for university supplies, and final packing for the move. I was incredibly relieved that none of Ailish’s things had been stolen from the car as we crossed the country. It made me nervous to leave all her prized possessions in the vehicle (except her electronic devices, which we always had with us except when we were swimming). I was most worried when we were camping, because when we stayed in Airbnbs we took everything out of the vehicle.

We went for one last walk to a beach.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Day 23: Victoria

After a vegan pancake breakfast at Fern Cafe and Bakery, we moved Ailish’s stuff into UVic, had lunch with her on campus, and then after helping unpack most of her things, we walked away! Probably because we left her with a friend, there were no tears. But after being in such close quarters for 23 days, it was weird, very weird!

Home, sweet home.

Alasdair and I went to return the car to the rental place, and decided to walk the 8k back to our Airbnb. Once we got there, we changed and headed out for runs. We both ran at Mount Douglas Park, but I chose to stay on easier trails and to make one last stop at the ocean’s edge. Alasdair ran toward the peak.

Mount Douglas Beach, Mount Douglas Park

We packed all our stuff, including our camping gear, into 4 duffle bags. We offered our leftover food, matches and a few odds and ends to our Airbnb hosts, who were happy to keep everything out of the compost and landfill.

Day 24: Victoria to Hamilton, Ontario

On our last day we got our steps in by walking back and forth on the sidewalk outside our Airbnb while waiting for our taxi to arrive (our host came out to comment on how active we were!). Once we arrived at the Victoria airport we checked our luggage and then went for a walk outside, where we had fun trying to photograph some very shy birds (protective of all the babies) – turns out they were California quail.

And then before we knew it, we were home… to a very quiet house!

Vancouver Island, we will be back!

Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego

Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego

Cross-Canada camping trip from Ontario to British Columbia

Excitement (and nervousness) was in the air when we set out mid-August for an epic road trip and the start of a new phase in our lives! This would be a car camping trip like no other, spanning 5 provinces, using scaled back camping gear and relying on a rental car to bring my husband, daughter and I, our camping essentials and many prized possessions to Vancouver Island, with just 2 of us flying home. It would also be our inaugural vegetarian camping trip (vegan for one of us). For Ailish it would be her first time west of Ontario, while Alasdair and I hadn’t been that way since our honeymoon to Banff in 2001!

Part 2: A week touring Vancouver Island (while staying in Airbnbs).

Part 3 (Coming soon): A review of all the vegan restaurants we tried as we crossed the country (there were many gems!).

Sunset at Agawa Bay, Lake Superior Provincial Park

A few notes:

  • Booking provincial park campsites: All campsites were booked on the first allowable booking date for all provincial parks in all provinces. I was already familiar with the Ontario booking system (and the 5 months to the day booking in advance), but I had to create accounts and learn the booking systems for Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. They each had their own booking timeframes. While we hoped to get waterfront, non-electrical sites where possible, we only really cared about Lake Superior – you can’t beat the waterfront sites and Agawa Bay sunsets. As it turned out, I didn’t manage to snag one, but I did get one a month later when a booking was cancelled (I checked the Ontario Parks website frequently!). We booked a few electrical sites when this was the only option, and did have a power bar with us to charge our devices. Mostly we charged phones, an iPad and headphones using chargers/adapters in the car, as well as with a small solar charger.
  • Booking national park campsites: Our plans for the trip hadn’t been finalized when the booking window opened, but we got lucky and I managed to grab the last site at the very small Glacier National Park. There were still many options at Banff National Park.
  • Car rental: We booked the car 9 months in advance, long before our trip was confirmed, because we wanted a larger vehicle and we knew there was a shortage of rentals. My biggest fear about the trip was that there would be no rental car for us on pick-up day!
  • Minimalist camping: Given that we would be flying our camping gear home, we scaled back what we would normally have with us when car camping. We did not bring a dining tent, our canoe or kayaks, our paddling gear, our bikes, an axe, a big pot or frying pan, or a hard-topped cooler. We brought our backcountry camping kitchen gear (including tarps) and a soft-sided cooler bag, which worked out great. We ended up buying a shallow bin for the cooler bag because when the ice melted, the bag leaked!
  • Food: Usually when we car camp I pack a Rubbermaid bin and a big cooler of food. For this trip we knew we’d be on the road most days, and therefore able to stop in grocery stores along the way. We often had picnic lunches after stopping at grocery stores for frest fruits and veggies, but we cooked our breakfasts and dinners. And then of course sometimes we ate in vegan restaurants!

Day 1: Hamilton, Ontario to Lake Superior Provincial Park (Agawa Bay Campground), Agawa Bay, Ontario (865 km / 9 hours)

Despite the super long day, when we visit Lake Superior Provincial Park we always drive the entire way on the first day of our trip. Doing so gives us more time at the park! We have visited times and I have written several blog posts about Lake Superior:

As is custom, we stopped for lunch in Sudbury, but this time we had lunch on the patio at Tucos Taco Lounge, dessert at Flurple’s, and grabbed treats to go from Beard’s Coffee Bar and Bakery (all vegan!)! Needless to say we did not need to stop for dinner in Sault Ste. Marie as we normally do!

We arrived at our waterfront campsite at the tail end of the sunset, and ended up putting our two new lightweight tents up in the dark – not ideal, when I had only put them up once before by myself months ago in the backyard! Nevertheless, they went up quickly and no fights ensued. We couldn’t wait to spend two full days in the park before continuing westward.

Day 2: Agawa Bay, Lake Superior Provincial Park

There are many great hiking trails in the park. On this day we chose to hike the Pinguisibi Trail along the Sand River. Ailish sat at the river’s edge and sketched the waterfall in front of her. Later in the afternoon, we swam at Katherine Cove – unlike the rocky beach, quick drop off and freezing water at Agawa Bay, Katherine Cove has a sandy beach, is shallow quite a ways out, and is therefore a tiny bit warmer (this is Lake Superior, after all, with an average temperature of 2 degrees Celsius or 36 degrees Fahrenheit)! We also visited the Visitor Centre gift shop and interactive displays. I always love looking at the book with recent animal sightings listed!

Day 3: Agawa Bay, Lake Superior Provincial Park

On our second full day at Lake Superior, Alasdair and I each went for a run – our goal was to run at least once in each province. In my case, I planned to do 5k runs. Ontario run done! We also went back to swim at Katherine Cove, and enjoyed our last Lake Superior sunset, not knowing when we would be back!

Day 4: Lake Superior Provincial Park to Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, Kakabeka Falls, Ontario (589 km / 6.25 hours)

After breakfast we set out for Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, which we had previously stopped at briefly to see the falls, but not to camp. At one point along Highway 17 the traffic slowed – we expected construction or an accident – but as we got closer we saw a small airplane that had landed on the road! It didn’t look damaged. We wondered how it would be removed given its not insignificant wingspan! We stopped at the Terry Fox Monument just outside Thunder Bay.

Terry Fox Monument, Highway 17 near Thunder Bay, Ontario

Usually when we car camp we cook over the campfire, but for this trip we used both the campfire and my MSR Dragonfly backcountry stove. Ailish and I had our share of vegan s’mores over the course of the trip!

Day 5: Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park to Whiteshell Provincial Park (Falcon Lakeshore Campground), Falcon Beach, Manitoba (549 km / 6 hours)

It was a rainy morning, but before leaving the park we had to get a good look at the waterfall!

At some point in the morning we crossed the 90 degree longitude mark and entered the Central Time Zone, setting our clocks back one hour. And then shortly afterwards we reached the Ontario/Manitoba border! The sign marking the spot was the nicest of the provincial signs we saw on our trip.

When we arrived at our campsite at Whiteshell Provincial Park (Falcon Lakeshore Campground), we initially thought that someone was mistakenly set up in our site. But no, our site was essentially shared with another group. We were shocked. It was tiny, and because the majority of the site was gravel (a harbinger of things to come), we had to set up one of our tents right beside our neighbour’s tent. Unfortunately they were also smokers. Suffice it to say this was our least favourite site of the trip. Alasdair and I each went for a run, and then we all went for a swim at the beach. Manitoba run done! With thunderstorms in the forecast along with lots of rain, and zero desire to spend another full day at that campsite, we decided to change our plans and stay at an Airbnb in Winnipeg the next night. Unfortunately our neighbours at the campsite across the road were incredibly loud, playing music at a volume I will never understand. We did eventually fall asleep.

Day 6: Whiteshell Provincial Park to Airbnb in Winnipeg, Manitoba (130 km / 1.5 hours)

When Alasdair and I woke to the sound of thunder early in the morning, we made the decision to pack up immediately and try to get out of there before the heavy rain started. We succeeded! As we were heading to Winnipeg, I caught site of a big sign out of the corner of my eye. I quickly made the decision to exit the highway, and we discovered we were at the longitudinal centre of Canada! A lucky find!

In Winnipeg we checked out The Forks (located at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers), but it was raining so we decided to return the next day. We also had a delicious lunch at Roughage Eatery (vegan), and then we visited my Tante Claire and Uncle Alan, who we hadn’t seen in about 17 years! We had a really nice visit with them in their lovely backyard. That night we were fortunate to be able to do laundry at our Airbnb!

Day 7: Winnipeg, Manitoba to Rivers Provincial Park, Rivers, Manitoba (244 km / 2.75 hours)

We went back to The Forks – this time in the sun – where Ailish got out her guitar and she and Alasdair geeked out on physics and sound waves in a dome area of the skate park (to be fair, it was pretty cool). We were shocked by the flood marker pole nearby and couldn’t imagine the water level ever reaching those levels!

We went into The Forks Market to grab food for lunch, which we ate on the super cute patio area. We headed for Rivers Provincial Park, where the mosquitoes reminded us that we were still in Manitoba! They were horrendous!

We had heard on the radio that conditions were good to see the Northern Lights that night, so at Rivers Provincial Park we went for a walk in the dark away from campsites and lights and did some sky gazing. We got to giggling – apparently loudly – attracting the attention of someone who turned out to be a park warden, coming with his big flashlight to make sure we weren’t up to no good (apparently they had issues with people stealing wood)! We did see the Northern Lights, but they weren’t very colourful. We did, however, see lots of shooting stars! (This wasn’t the only night we star gazed… it was just the most memorable one!)

Day 8: Rivers Provincial Park to Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park, Stewart Valley, Saskatchewan (650 km / 6.5 hours)

Not pictured: our 3 camping chairs and the fire pit.

We headed out after breakfast, entering into Saskatchewan (a first for all of us).

We stopped in Regina for a picnic lunch, and couldn’t believe our luck when we spotted several seemingly tame hares!

Gorgeous hare!

Alasdair and I went for runs, and then swam in the lake. Saskatchewan run done! We went star gazing again, this time climbing a steep hill to get as far away from lights as we could. We discovered on our way up that there were cacti in the park!

Unfortunately there was a very large group of extremely loud people near our campsite (it was ridiculous), so sometime late that night or early the next morning after struggling to fall asleep Alasdair went and asked them if they could be quieter – thankfully they agreed to settle down.

Day 9: Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park to Dinosaur Provincial Park, Brooks, Alberta (394 km / 4 hours)

On our drive to Dinosaur Provincial Park we were amazed at the number of hawks we saw on hydro poles along the highway. There were dozens and dozens of them! We crossed into Alberta and into the Mountain Time Zone, setting our clocks back one hour. The truck carrying jumbo wheels seemed like a fitting welcome to the province.

We stopped at the Visitor Centre in Medicine Hat (where I bought some Saskatoon berries for me, and some Saskatoon berries and Saskatoon berry jam for my dad – they were a hit). We checked out the nearby Saasmis Teepee, the world’s tallest teepee, which includes some beautiful Indigenous art. We couldn’t stay in the area long because we had a tour booked at Dinosaur Provincial Park and we didn’t want to miss it! We arrived in time for our “Bare Bones Bus Tour”, and got to see “a fully articulated duck-billed dinosaur fossilized skeleton left virtually where it was discovered by the park’s first Park Ranger and excavated by one of the eminent palaeontologists of his time, Charles Sternberg”. Our guide was fantastic and sitting in the front seat I was nominated to be her assistant (passing information cards around the bus). The tour allowed us to go in an area that we wouldn’t have otherwise been permitted to. I highly recommend booking a tour.

On the bus tour at Dinosaur Provincial Park

The ground was so rocky in the campground that we had to get creative to peg our tent out, using food containers and lots of rocks! In fact, from Manitoba westward we camped in rocky campsites!

After dinner we joined a fun trivia program for families and learned more about dinosaurs and the park. Later, I decided to grab my camera and run after a couple of girls who themselves were running with a camera (this might sound weirder than it was). Ailish and then Alasdair joined me down by the river, and while it was hard in the fading light to figure out what we were seeing, we (and the family we were with) were convinced they were black bears (not beavers as someone else told us!). Later that night Ailish and I were spooked by eyes in the dark as we headed to the bathroom. We warned people coming our way, then went back with them and their big flashlight to discover the scary creatures were deer. But you might understand our uneasiness if you knew there are bobcats living there (and deadly spiders!). Thankfully we made it back to our tents unscathed.

Day 10: Dinosaur Provincial Park to Banff National Park (Johnston Canyon Campground), Banff, Alberta (353 km / 3.75 hours)

We had an early morning visitor to our campsite – magpies! We don’t have these birds in Ontario, so it was a nice surprise. After breakfast and packing up, we intended to park by the Visitor Centre and do some hiking. But when I tried to turn the car on, this is when our trip went haywire. To make a long story short, I will just say that we didn’t get to hike, and I drove for 2 1/2 hours to Calgary without knowing my speed, and after 5+ hours of stress in the city trying to find a replacement car (remember how I booked the big car 9 months in advance?), we were in a new rental van and on our way to Banff. Sadly we missed our lunch date with our friend Jordan, who initially introduced Alasdair to me at a soccer tournament in 2000 (I was recruited to play on their co-ed team). We had a very late lunch at a cute little vegan restaurant called Pachamama Soul, a great spot to unwind and de-stress. I loved my spicy chickpea wrap and ginger beet smoothie!

Chickpea buffalo wrap and ginger beet smoothie at Pachamama Soul, Calgary, Alberta

We arrived at Johnston Canyon campground at Banff National Park in the pouring rain! We set up our tents in the rain, and joined other campers eating dinner in a picnic shelter very close to our site. We were disappointed that there was a fire ban at the park, but we wouldn’t have had a fire in the pouring rain anyway.

Day 11: Banff National Park

In the morning as we drove into the town of Banff we were excited to see an elk! We took a Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain and enjoyed the spectacular views.

View from the top of Sulphur Mountain, Banff National Park

We explored the town, and bought a new card game called Forbidden Island (we love to play cards and board games when we camp, and this trip was no exception).

On the way back to our campsite we stopped and went for a hike at Johnston Canyon. Unfortunately the trail past the lower falls was closed, but what we saw was very pretty. When we got back to our campsite we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the fire ban had been lifted (park staff were dumping wood out of a pick-up truck into a big pile). Alasdair and I went for runs, with me turning mine into a cross-training exercise. I did loops past the wood pile (we had paid for a fire permit), taking a couple of pieces at a time and running with them back to our site. Alberta run done.

Day 12: Banff National Park

Not only did our friend Jordan offer to shuttle us wherever we needed to go during our rental car fiasco, and offer to let us stay with him and his family for as long as needed, but he also drove nearly 2 hours to join us for breakfast in Banff so we could still meet up. It had been way too long since we had seen him!

After our 3 hour breakfast, we headed for the Lake Louise Ski Resort, where we would catch a shuttle bus to Moraine Lake. There’s limited parking at Moraine Lake, so we’re glad Jordan suggested the shuttle. We hiked the Rockpile trail and the Moraine Lake Lakeshore trail. While hiking the former, we stopped to have a snack, and spotted this wee one, a Golden-mantled ground squirrel. We did not feed it, but clearly people do.

Golden-mantled ground squirrel, Moraine Lake, Banff National Park

We also watched part of a very small wedding at this same spot. From Moraine Lake we took the shuttle to Lake Louise, but it was raining when we got there, so we decided to just take a quick look and then take the shuttle back to our car.

I cooked a pizza over the campfire, using pizza dough that I made from scratch – it was delicious and the crust browned perfectly! (Making pizza dough from scratch is nothing new for me, but I’d never done it while camping before. Usually we use tortillas or naan bread.)

Homemade pizza

Day 13: Banff National Park to Glacier National Park, Columbia-Shuswap, British Columbia (120 km / 1.5 hours)

We set out for Glacier National Park, and it wasn’t long before we reached the Alberta/British Columbia border and the province of our ultimate destination! We entered the Pacific Time Zone, setting our clocks back one hour.

Alasdair suggested that we take a short detour to visit Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park, which we had seen on our honeymoon. The road there had quite a switch back at one point. The falls are beautiful, and there are many hikes accessible from this spot.

Takakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

We continued on to Loop Brook campground at Glacier National Park, a tiny campground with a gorgeous view. We hiked the 1.8 km Loop Brook Trail, an interpretive trail that provides information about the history of the rail line and the local area.

Loop Brook, Glacier National Park

We had yummy wraps for dinner, as well as baked potatoes (a first time for us while camping) and homemade brownies from scratch.

Day 14: Glacier National Park to Sasquatch Provincial Park, Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia (508 km / 5.5 hours)

On our way to Sasquatch Provincial Park we stopped in Revelstoke for an outdoor visit with Alasdair’s university friend Lisa and her family. Sometime during our trip I learned that my friend Tim and his family would coincidentally be camping at the same provincial park as us at the same time. I met Tim at a youth hostel in Montreal during university while he was travelling with a friend from England and I was travelling with my friend Anne – I hadn’t seen him since. Unfortunately a rainy weekend forecast scuttled their plans and we didn’t get to meet up after all. Next time!

We arrived in the dark and had some trouble finding our campsite, but we eventually found it. As it turned out we set our tents up in the rain, but then the rain stopped long enough for us to have dinner. We even saw a friendly local – a skunk! We learned that there was still a fire ban in the province – the reason it was lifted in Banff and Glacier was that the national parks are under different rules (they make their own risk assessments).

Day 15: Sasquatch Provincial Park to Goldstream Provincial Park, Langford, British Columbia (227 km / 4.25 hours)

We packed up and set out for Vancouver, where we had plans to have a vegan lunch with my cousin Julie, who I hadn’t seen in a very, very long time (pre-kids!). First though, we went for a walk along the water near Science World, and then we went to Catfé, which would turn out to be one of the highlights of our trip! Catfé: “Cat lovers mewnite. Catfe offers up catpuccinos, cat-themed treats, cat supplies and meowchandise, all in the company of adoptable rescue cats.” It was so nice to be able to pet and play with many adorable cats. Note: reservations highly recommended!

Ailish sketches Guppy. A cat is in the cubby above “MEOW MEOW MEOW”.

From here we met Julie at Chickpea, where we had an amazing meal on the patio and enjoyed catching up. We headed for the Tsawwassen ferry to Victoria (Swartz Bay), which we had booked ahead of time. Alasdair and I spent a lot of the 1 1/2 hour ferry ride doing laps around the ship! There was a bit of wind.

I kept moving in the open air and didn’t feel sea sick.

Once we arrived on Vancouver Island we headed for Goldstream Provincial Park, the last stop on the camping part of our trip. Our campsite was in a beautiful forest with some huge trees (big diameter and very tall). We were also very close to a fantastic looking playground for kids, which included a bike pump track and trails.

Day 16: Goldstream Provincial Park

First thing in the morning we spotted a very cute raccoon in one of the trees on our campsite. We were lucky enough to see it again that night.

“Why, hello there!”

Alasdair and I went for runs, but there was no lake in the park to jump into afterwards, so showers it was. British Columbia run done! We hadn’t been at a campground with a lake since we were in Saskatchewan! We also did some short hikes in the park, including a trail in the campground to Goldstream Falls.

Goldstream Falls, Goldstream Provincial Park, British Columbia

We headed into Victoria, since we were just 25 minutes away. We visited Beacon Hill Park, including the Terry Fox monument. We went for dinner at Virtuous Pie, an awesome vegan pizza place with a great patio.

Before climbing into our tents for the last sleep of our trip, we gave our camping chairs – well loved but still life in them – to a family at the campsite across from us, as we were not going to fly them home with us. We gave our leftover MSR fuel to one of Alasdair’s former students, who we met near the end of our trip.

Day 17: Goldstream Provincial Park to Nanaimo, British Columbia (99 km / 1.25 hours)

The morning of our 17th day marked the end of the camping part of our trip. Overall we got lucky with the weather – it rained far less than I expected it to. We had a few cold nights in the tent, in particular (and surprisingly!) at Lake Superior Provincial Park, and then again in Banff. We were incredibly fortunate to be able to drive across the prairies and through the Rocky Mountains. The change in landscape as we crossed the country was incredible. I highly recommend it.

From here on out we would sleep at Airbnbs and be able to do laundry again! We pulled out of our campsite, left the park, and headed for Nanaimo, the next stop of our exploration of Vancouver Island!

Don’t forget to come back to read about the next part of our journey, as well as a review of the vegan restaurants we tried.

Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego

Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego

Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race Long Course

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16k paddle

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

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

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

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

[Official race photo]

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

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

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

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

[Official race photo]

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

35k bike

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

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

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

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

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

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

15k run

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

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

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

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

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

21k bike

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

[Official race photo]

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

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

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

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

And then I made the long drive home.

I will be back!

Race stats:

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

Overall stats:

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

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

Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego

Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego

Race report: K-Town long course triathlon

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

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

2k swim

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

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

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

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

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

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

55k bike

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

15k run

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

Picture by Lisa

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

Alasdair was waiting for me just before the finish.

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

Race stats:

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

Bracebridge Olympic and sprint triathlon double header

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

Saturday Olympic

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

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

Race ready

1500m swim

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

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

40k bike

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

10k run

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

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

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

Race stats:

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

Sunday sprint

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

Rain protection for my gear

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

750m swim

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

20k bike

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

5k run

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

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

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

Race stats:

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

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

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

Bracebridge, we’ll be back!

Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego

Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego

Race report: Welland long course triathlon

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

Pre-race and ready to go.

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

All set up.

My Twitter friend Christine was racked next to me.

2k swim

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

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

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

50k bike

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

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

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

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

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

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

15k run

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

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

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

Post-race!

Thanks Multisport Canada for another great race!

Race stats

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

Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego

Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego

Running the Bruce Trail End to End: Sydenham Section

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

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

SYDENHAM SECTION

Started the Sydenham section: October 31, 2020

Finished the Sydenham section: June 17, 2022

Run details

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

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

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

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

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

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

Run stats

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

Run highlights

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

Another pretty waterfall

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

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

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

Rock walls

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

Yikes!

Longest grass: Through the Wiarton airport!

Running through grassy field

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

Creek crossing

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

One adorable frog

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

Biggest waterfall: Inglis Falls in Owen Sound.

Inglis Falls in Owen Sound

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

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

Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego

Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego

Race report: Gravenhurst Olympic and sprint triathlons

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

Saturday Olympic triathlon

Pre-race with gear ready to go.

1500m swim

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

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

40k bike

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

10k run

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

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

Race stats

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

Sunday sprint triathlon

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

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

750m swim

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

20k bike

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

5k run

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

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

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

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

Race stats

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

Gravenhurst, we’ll be back!

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

Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego

Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego

Happy Trails Rugged Raccoon 25k Night Trail Race

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

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

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

Kris and I near the start.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race stats:

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

Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego

Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego

Paris to Ancaster 70k – 2022 Edition

Rebecca and I at the start line.

Welcome back P2A

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

Pre-race

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

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

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

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

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

Kris and I at the start line.

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

With Kris, Erik and Rebecca just before the start.

The Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks P2A for another great race!

Race stats:

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

Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego

Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego