Race report: Raid the Hammer Half Raid 2018

In the days leading up to this race, I had no idea I’d be criss-crossing a half-pipe multiple times with a chilly creek crossing in the middle! But how would I? The race location is top secret until race day (though I did try my best to piece together the picture teasers as they were posted on Facebook).

A last minute change meant that our team of 3 became a team of 2 for this year’s Don’t Get Lost Raid the Hammer Adventure Race. This would be our 3rd time doing the race, and on home soil to boot!

At registration we were each given 2 maps and a sheet of race instructions, which set out everything we needed to know about the race. We would pick up a 3rd map out on the race course.

This was a point to point race with 3 distinct sections:

  1. a matrix, where team members could split up to find the 6 checkpoints faster, which could be found in any order;
  2. 12 mandatory checkpoints found in order from 1 to 12; and
  3. a matrix, where team members could again split up to find the 4 checkpoints, and in any order.

As this race was held on Remembrance Day, we had a moment of silence before boarding busses to the start line. From the Veterans Affairs Canada website:

Every year on November 11, Canadians pause in a silent moment of remembrance for the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace. We honour those who fought for Canada in the First World War (1914-1918), the Second World War (1939-1945), and the Korean War (1950-1953), as well as those who have served since then. More than 2.3 million Canadians have served our country in this way, and more than 118,000 have died. They gave their lives and their futures so that we may live in peace.

The race began at Hidden Valley Park in Burlington, a small park with a couple of playgrounds and some trails in the woods. Earlier this fall, I saw salmon swimming upstream in the creek that runs through the park.

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Pre-race.

On Patrick’s countdown, the race began! Rebecca and I had decided to split up in the matrix, with her doing a little more running for 3 checkpoints that we thought would be easier to find (D, E, F). It turns out they were all pretty easy, partly because we were never the only ones searching for them, but also because the park is so small and the navigation just wasn’t too difficult.

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I found my 3, then ran to a pavilion to wait for Rebecca so we could show our punched maps to Patrick, proving that we had been to each checkpoint. We punched checkpoint 1 (at the pavilion), then headed for the road that would take us onto the second map.

This next part of the race course required us to cross Grindstone Creek in between each checkpoint. Between checkpoints 1 and 2 we used a bridge, but after that, we bit the bullet and got wet feet. And boy was the water ever cold!!! We learned that indecision after a creek crossing was a bad thing – that’s when our feet froze. As long as we kept moving, they warmed up pretty quickly!

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The thick blue line is the creek, and the thin brown lines are contour lines showing elevation gain. The closer they are together, the steeper the terrain. The thick pink lines show the shortest distance between 2 checkpoints.

Also in this section were hills, hills and more hills! From a checkpoint high on a hill, we would descend, cross the creek, then climb a hill on the other side.

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One of many icy cold creek crossings.

At checkpoint 6 there was an aid station with sweet and salty goodies, and a gear check, where we had to show that we were carrying an emergency blanket.

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Along Grindstone Creek – heading for the aid station/gear check.

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Descending once again, heading for checkpoint 7.

After checkpoint 9 there were no more creek crossings. At checkpoint 10, which was just before we crossed the railroad tracks and entered Black’s Forest (the trails south of Walmart and Grindstone Way in Waterdown), we received the 3rd map, which we needed to get back to the high school.

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The only checkpoint we arrived at with no one else around.

There are tons of trails in this area, but they don’t necessarily go the way you want to go. We did a lot of trail hopping to get from 10 to 11, 11 to 12, and then 12 to 13. After this point, we could split up again and find the 4 remaining checkpoints. I know this part of Waterdown very well, so I only needed to look once on the map to see where the checkpoints were, then didn’t need to look again (I knew the spots).

These checkpoints had questions that we had to answer, rather than inserting our SI card into a chip reader. For example, one asked for the last name of Charlotte, whose name was on a park bench. When I reached my 2nd and last control in this section, I encountered another woman at the same hydro pole trying to answer the same question. “Final digit on the power pole (5485)” shouldn’t be that hard. But it was a multiple choice question, and the number we saw on the pole wasn’t an option on the sheet. We figured it was a typo, and headed back to the high school. Sadly, we later found out that we were looking at the wrong pole! We had been looking at 54856, when we should have been looking at the pole across the street, 54855! This meant a 15 minute time penalty for our team.

Rebecca had no trouble with her checkpoints, and was waiting for me at the high school. We punched the finish line checkpoint, and headed inside to download our results onto the Don’t Get Lost computer. In 3:31:53 we covered a little over 17k, and found all of the checkpoints.

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Post-race: I’m trying to show the burrs and twig in my hair.

We enjoyed a hot lunch from a food truck, included in our race entry fee.

Despite my mess up on the last checkpoint, we had a great race! My legs were slightly tired from my 25k race the day before (!) but held up better than I expected!

We’ll be back – next year, the full Raid!

Race results for team Define Lost:

  • Time: 3:31:53 (25:45 behind race winners)
  • Placing: 4/6 teams of 2 females

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Race report: The Beav 25k trail race

As a friend said to me the other day, “Do too many trail and adventure races and you will never go back to the road”. I’m most definitely hooked. I did my very first pure trail race in the spring of 2017, the Sulphur Springs 10k (as opposed to an adventure race with a trail running component, or an orienteering race in the woods). Then this spring I stepped it up and did the 5 Peaks Kelso trail half marathon. So when I searched for a fall trail race, The Beav 25k trail race at Hilton Falls Conservation Area put on by Happy Trails Racing looked enticing! Good thing I registered when I did, because this brand new race sold out long before race day!

I hadn’t been to Hilton Falls in years, so I did a couple of my training runs there. The rest were on the Bruce Trail in the Dundas to Burlington area – varied terrain, but lots of hills and challenging rocky uneven ground. I figured it would be great training for Hilton Falls.

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Pre-race. First snow this fall. [Photo by Zindine S, who also volunteered at the start/finish]

On race morning there was snow and ice on the ground, and a temperature of -13C with the windchill. I worried that if I had to stop and walk I would freeze dressed as I normally would for running at that temperature, so I added another layer.

I knew 5-10 people running the race, so I was pretty sure I would see some friendly faces as I ran.

At 9:30 AM the race began. It wasn’t too long before I was on a single track trail, going the pace of the person directly in front of me. It was a slow pace, no faster than a walk at times, and I heard one woman comment, “I could do this pace!” This big pack of runners continued pretty much until we climbed the steepest part of the course, and then things spread out. At this point, I was already overheating so I took my extra layer off. I should have dressed as I always do in that temperature! I ran for a couple of km’s with triathlon friends, then continued on my own.

I was careful as I ran over rocks and bridges, because icy conditions had “wipe-out” written all over the place. Amazingly I stayed upright and only kicked one root or rock the entire race!

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One of the more rocky sections of the course. [Photo by Sue Sitki]

I hit the first aid station at 4.5k, and the second just before 8k. They were well stocked with cookies and salty goodies of all kinds. I loved the reusable cups for water, which I made use of to wash down my Endurance Tap. I grabbed a small handful of M&Ms and learned the hard way that they are a bit hard to get through without water – I felt like I had chocolate and candy coating stuck in my teeth for a while! At this point, runners headed off for 9k of trails before returning to the same aid station.

Photos by Chris L, fan extraordinaire:

During some parts of the race, there was 2-way traffic, so I got to see many of the people I knew in the race, and many other familiar faces that I have seen at other races. I’ve never been in a race where so many people said, “way to go!”, “great job!”, “nice work!” etc. Trail runners are very friendly and encouraging people! I even got a mid-race high five from a random runner.

At times I was running completely alone – I couldn’t see a soul ahead of me, or hear anyone behind me. It was very peaceful and pretty in the forest.

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One of the easier parts of the course.

Just before I hit the aid station after the 9k loop (and after about 17k of running), I had another Endurance Tap, and washed it down with water. I decided to try my first ever mid-race pickle. I grabbed a few chips, chatted with a volunteer and Jeff one of the race directors, who told us that the “worst was behind us” (except for what was in front of us).  I headed out, running for a few km’s with a man whose name I didn’t get.

I liked that the race felt like it was split into different segments. Mentally it was easier to deal with 25k this way.

After I left the aid station, I knew I would reach another one in just a few more km’s. At 20k my stomach was very unhappy for a short time, so sadly when I reached the last aid station, I opted out of eating a s’more prepared by the awesome volunteers at a fire near the falls. I continued running after grabbing some water, and it wasn’t long before my stomach was fine again.

My hamstrings and calves were starting to feel a little bit tight, but I wasn’t concerned.

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Somewhere in the last few km’s of the race – still smiling! [Photo by Sue Sitki]

At around 24k or so, I had to climb a stile (ladder over a fence). I played it safe by descending it backwards on the other side of the fence! Then I ran the final few hundred metres to the finish line, crossing in a time of 3:15:13.

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Done!

I had a great first 25k trail race experience. I even ran a little faster than I expected to. The race was super well organized, the course was very well marked, and the volunteers (standing around in the cold for us) were fantastic!

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Check out the race hoodie! So comfy!

Thank you Happy Trails Racing. I’ll be back!

Race stats:

  • Time: 3:15:13 (7:48 min/km)
  • Placing women 40-59: 19/66
  • Placing all women: 33/88
  • Placing all runners: 85/156
  • Elevation gain: 322m

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Trip report: Killarney 6-day fall canoe trip from George Lake access point

My friend Cheryl and I headed to Killarney Provincial Park at the end of September with high hopes for our 8-day canoe trip starting at the George Lake access point, where we would paddle a route that included many new-to-me lakes. Cheryl and I had previously started a trip at this access point, but that was our 8-day, 90k hike of the entire La Cloche Silhouette Trail – we had never paddled in George Lake!

Day 1: George Lake to Freeland Lake to Killarney Lake

We were on the water by 2:30 PM, on a day that was rainy, foggy, and cool (high of 15C?). Nevertheless, the scenery was beautiful. We started out with Cheryl in the stern of her canoe, and me in the bow, but we would change that up over the course of the trip, sharing the power and steering responsibilities. We also shared the navigation, with me using my new Unlostify map, and Cheryl using the official park map.

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Starting at the George Lake access point. [Photo by Cheryl]

Our first portage of the trip was a very short 50m into Freeland Lake, so we decided to carry the packs, and then go back for the canoe. However, our goal for the trip was to single carry (i.e. carry everything at once) all portages except for the tiniest ones, something we had never managed to do on a trip together before. In fact, I had never single carried on any canoe trip, but with a 3km portage on this one, it was a necessity!!

We paddled through Freeland Lake and then portaged 430m into Killarney Lake, where we would stay the night. We didn’t have our eyes on a specific site, but we hoped to be fairly close to the portage to Threenarrows Lake, which we would tackle the next morning. As it turned out, we passed 2 unoccupied sites and then several occupied ones, which made us wonder whether we should backtrack to one of the empty ones we had seen, or go further and hope that there was a site available and we wouldn’t have to paddle all the way back later. We pushed on, paddling against the wind, and were relieved to find that site #24 was free! Phew. It had been raining all day long, and our wildlife sightings for the day included only a single frog!

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It was a rainy, foggy, and cool start to the trip. [Photo by Cheryl]

We set up our campsite, putting up a 2-man tent, a small tarp for a dining shelter, and throwing a rope over a tree branch for our bear bag. This would be our routine when we reached each campsite. Then we boiled water for hot chocolate, added Baileys to it, and enjoyed a yummy energy square alongside it. Later we ate “Thanksgiving on the Trail” (essentially dehydrated chicken, with stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries and gravy) before climbing into the tent for the night.

Overnight, there were thunderstorms for more than 4 hours, but we were fortunate in that the thunder and lightning never came close (though the rain did!).

  • Distance paddled: 7.96 km
  • Distance portaged: 50m + 430m
  • Campsite: #24

Day 2: Killarney Lake to Threenarrows Lake

After a cup of gatorade, mug of tea, and bowl of hot cereal, we packed up our campsite and set off for the 3k portage to Threenarrows Lake. We had no idea how eventful our day would be!

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Cloudy start to the day. [Photo by Cheryl]

It was a short 700m paddle to get to the portage. According to the time estimates on my Unlostify map, the portage would take us 2 hours if we single carried (we assumed that we were “typical” paddlers, not “relaxing” or “speedy” ones). This would mean that the person carrying the canoe would take the lighter pack, and the other person would take the heavier one (an uncomfortable, non-ergonomic canoe pack) plus the paddles and my camelbak.

Cheryl took the canoe and her backpack, knowing that I was willing to switch part way if need be. We had already decided before we started walking that we would definitely be taking a few breaks along the way! This portage starts with a steep uphill, but then isn’t too bad really. It had streams, rocks, hills, slippery sections, creek crossings and tree obstacles to navigate. And there was rain at times. And thunder. We stopped two times for a few minutes to free ourselves from the packs and boat, and then continued on our way. At one point, Cheryl slipped and fell on a wet rock, but thankfully, she was not injured (she even managed to hold onto the boat). At the end of the portage, there is a short paddle across a small lake before another 430m portage! But once we were done the second one, we were into Killarney Lake…and facing a paddle into the wind…and whitecaps!

At this point, I was in the stern. We approached a narrowing of the lake and felt the wind increase in strength. The waves were big, and the wind was pushing the bow to the right. We had hoped to go through the channel and head left. We paddled as hard as we could, but we could not turn the bow dead straight or to the left. The waves were hitting us broadside and the canoe was rocking. I briefly considered letting us get blown to the right shore where there was a bit of an eddy, and trying again to go through the channel. Instead, we allowed ourselves to float backwards, and decided to paddle hard (from a spot with less wind/waves) back to the left and into an eddy there, where we could regroup and decide on our next steps. We did not want to flip!! One idea was to make the little peninsula our campsite for the night (we wondered if it might even be the campsite we were looking for). Cheryl got out of the boat and scouted out the peninsula. She proposed that we portage our stuff over it to the other side, where there was a calm area for us to get back into the canoe and paddle around the left corner to the campsite (she had found it – but it wasn’t on the peninsula). We agreed that if we couldn’t paddle around the corner to the left (into the wind), we would instead turn the boat and ride the waves to another campsite on the other side (a different part of the lake).

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Maybe a goose egg? We found this while portaging across the peninsula.

Thankfully, we had no trouble paddling around the point (we weren’t trying to fight our way through a narrow channel), and so we landed the canoe at the campsite and were grateful to be done paddling for the day. I’ve never been defeated by wind and waves before! We later saw three guys in a canoe make it through the channel, none of them wearing lifejackets!

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A very windy day.

After setting up our campsite and hanging some things to dry, we sat down to have a snack, and were amazed at all the little bits of vegetation that were being pelted at us by the wind! Small boughs were flying, as were little bits like twigs. The wind was something else! We kept our eyes peeled for trees about to fall. Thankfully, none did at our site. Later in the trip, we saw many huge trees freshly fallen, both on campsites and on portages. It wasn’t until our trip was done and we were back at the George Lake office that we heard from a Park Ranger about a tornado in Ottawa that same day!!

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Different kinds of fungi all over the place.

We “swam” to feel somewhat clean again, but the water was cold and air temperature not really conducive to warming up post-swim, so we just went in part way and splashed ourselves!

The first time I opened the thunderbox lid, a salamander ran across the seat and fell inside! I apologized and hoped I wasn’t peeing on it.

At some point, Cheryl spotted a glove sticking up from the ground, and was very relieved to not find a body with it!

  • Distance paddled: 1.35 km
  • Distance portaged: 3110m + 400m
  • Campsite: 43

Day 3: Threenarrows Lake

We had planned to stay 3 nights on Threenarrows Lake, but hadn’t decided before the trip began whether we would change campsites every night, or stay put. Based on weather forecasts from my Garmin InReach (which communicates using satellites – no cell signal required), it looked like Day 3 would be a better weather day than Day 4, so we decided to travel on Day 3 to a different campsite – and get ourselves closer to the west end of the lake, so that we would have less distance to travel when we started moving again. This turned out to be our sunniest day of the whole trip.

We slept in, and weren’t on the water until 11:30 AM. We headed west for site 45, then paddled in an upside down U shape, finally reaching site 46, which we briefly considered taking. But we decided to continue paddling against the wind (the majority of the trip, we paddled against the wind!), and to hopefully be able to stay on site 47 or 48. We were in luck! Both were empty, so we took site 48, the closest one to “the Pig” – the steepest portage in the park, which we would tackle on Day 5. We decided that Day 4 would be a “stay put” day.

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When your feet get cold on a fall canoe trip and the sun comes out, you modify your paddling stroke. [Photo by Cheryl]

But before we reached our campsite for the night, we had an interesting encounter with a float plane! We were in the water near site H21 (a backpacking site) having a snack when Cheryl noted that a float plane seemed to be coming straight for us. In fact it did land in the lake, and proceeded to zoom past us through a narrow channel that we would soon be paddling in. Once we got around the corner, we saw that it was at a cabin – it had either dropped people or stuff (or both) off. We watched it take off again (safely out of its way) before we started paddling.

Before setting up our campsite, we ate lunch on the rocks by the shore, and tried to warm our feet in the sun at the same time! Then we set the campsite up, and gathered wood for a fire.

I used my stick stove to boil water for hot chocolate, and then we built a fire to make pizzas. They were delicious, with pepperoni, bacon, cheese, pineapple, peppers, broccoli, mushrooms and onions. YUM!

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We saw a beaver swim by our site while we were sitting at the water’s edge, but didn’t see any people all day long!

After getting ready for bed, I climbed into the tent. Cheryl was part-way to the thunderbox when I heard a screech,  a howl, and then the unmistakeable sound of a Barred Owl. I yelled to Cheryl, “You okay out there?” She was. We still don’t know what happened – had it been me, I would not have continued on to the bathroom on my own! We heard Barred Owls again multiple times that evening and overnight, but it never sounded as close as it did the first time.

  • Distance paddled: 8.73 km
  • Distance portaged: 0 km
  • Campsite: 48

Day 4: Threenarrows Lake

Since we weren’t changing campsites on Day 4, and it was quite cool out (down to 3C with the windchill according to my InReach!), we decided to go for a walk after breakfast to stay warm. We stuck close to the shore and headed in the direction of the Pig. We picked a path through the woods, climbing over branches, under tree limbs, around bushes etc. for about a kilometre. Then we turned back. Just before reaching our campsite I spotted a jaw bone on the forest floor. I’m not sure what animal it belonged to.

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Jaw found on the forest floor.

We had a snack, then started a fire to try to warm up. It was too cold to just stand around. Unfortunately, it was too windy to get much heat from the fire. We couldn’t sit too close to it for fear of embers burning our clothes – unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to me. I felt something burning my leg, and brushed the ember off my rain pants, but not before a small hole was burned into them. My pants underneath didn’t get burned, but now sport a small white patch.

We had mugs of hot water to drink (I was rationing the hot chocolate, and didn’t feel like tea), and then went into the woods to have lunch, where it was a little more sheltered from the wind. We sat against big trees for backrests, facing the thunderbox just a few metres away. Not exactly scenic.

We then climbed into the tent to try to get warm. Despite being inside my sleeping bag and wearing a winter hat and gloves, I was still cold! I wondered if I would be cold in the night (I had packed my summer sleeping bag, not realizing the temperature was going to drop so much).

It was in the tent that we first started talking about the possibility of shortening our trip, because the weather forecast looked bleak – 80% chance of heavy rain for the last couple of days of our trip, and continuing cool temperatures. We studied our maps and tried to figure out how we could change our route. We didn’t want to stay on lakes that we hadn’t reserved, because that may mean someone with a reservation wouldn’t be able to find a site. This is more of a problem on small lakes – on large lakes, provincial parks often leave a few sites unreserved. Thankfully, I had my InReach, so what ensued was a 4 hour+ confusing text conversation with my husband, to see if he could change our route. Messages were being sent or received out of order, so it was funny at times (and frustrating). I learned my lesson: start each text with a time stamp! The Ontario Parks reservation line told Alasdair that once we started our trip we couldn’t change our route, but when he called the park directly, the Park Ranger was very helpful and got us the lakes we wanted!

At some point during this conversation we forced ourselves out of the tent to make dinner (as Cheryl would say, the answer to the question, “Should we go in the tent?” is always no… because if you do go in, you never want to leave!). After dinner, we climbed back into the tent for the night! Once we knew that our reservation had been changed, we could go to sleep!

  • Distance portaged: 0 km
  • Distance hiked: 1.95 km
  • Campsite: 48

Day 5: Threenarrows Lake to Artist Lake to Muriel Lake to O.S.A. Lake

After packing up our campsite, we set out for the Pig, a short paddle away. We had walked this portage before, when we hiked the full length of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail, but I’m pretty sure at that time we were glad we weren’t carrying a canoe!

We decided that I would wear Cheryl’s pack and carry the canoe, but as soon as I got the canoe up, I realized there was a problem – I couldn’t tilt the canoe back, which meant I could only see the ground immediately in front of my feet. I walked for a short time like that, then realized it just wouldn’t work! Turns out with our slight height difference, or maybe just how the pack sits on me, it was too high, preventing the canoe from pivoting. Cheryl removed everything from the top of the pack, put it into hers, and bingo! I could walk and tilt the canoe and see in front of me! Kind of important if you don’t want to walk into big rocks, trees (!) or people.

When walking this portage, you essentially climb the first half, then descend the second half. The ground is rocky – small and large rocks – uneven, wet in places, and very steep! The pictures don’t quite do it justice. I took a break part-way down, and then stopped again before reaching the end and turning to start the 650m portage to Artist Lake!

We paddled through Artist Lake, where we reached a small waterfall at the other end. We decided to carry the packs first (140m), then return for the canoe. But we didn’t walk far before we realized that we couldn’t possibly be on the portage, despite having walked on a well worn path. It ended, and we were forced to cross the creek. We continued along the other bank, but it too seemed like a very weird portage. And the end was a steep climb up a bank. We wondered how we’d manage with the canoe. We realized that we must have missed the portage, and in fact, we did. We found the portage sign at the end and it directed us a different way. We hadn’t seen a portage sign when we arrived at the waterfall, but we weren’t surprised – not all portages seemed to be marked.

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Pretty waterfall.

From here we paddled a very short distance to another short portage, which would take us into Muriel Lake.

We paddled through Muriel Lake, did yet another portage, and then found ourselves on the shore of O.S.A. Lake – the sun had come out, but so had the wind! And you guessed it, we would be paddling against the wind as we tried to find a campsite. There were 4 campsites on the west side of the lake (where we were), and only 1 on the east side. We wanted to stay at the east side if we could, because then we’d have less distance to travel the next day, but we also didn’t want to paddle the entire way across the lake only to find that the site was taken! We stopped at one of the island sites and almost decided to stay – there were whitecaps on the lake and we were pretty much done with fighting wind for the day. But, we checked the weather, and the winds were expected to be the same in the morning, plus rain, so we decided to go for it and hope that the site across the lake was empty! As we paddled across, the whitecaps continued and a couple of times the waves broke over the bow of the boat. As we got closer to the site, we saw something that looked like a canoe… we hoped that it wasn’t. Eventually, we could see that it was a rock. Phew. We arrived at the site, couldn’t see a canoe, tent, or person, and said, “Hello?” No response. We had a site!

This was our most scenic site of the trip, with a view of the mountains across the lake. It also had 2 private beaches, one on either side of the site. After setting up I made us some Baileys hot chocolate, and then we sat on the rocks at the shore planning future Killarney canoe trips! We made really yummy egg wraps for dinner, which also had tons of veggies, bacon, cheese, and salsa. As we were eating, the wind was blowing dark clouds in, so we made sure we were ready for the oncoming rain. We had already made ourselves an awesome kitchen shelter, complete with backrests!

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Our kitchen shelter ready for the coming rain.

It turns out we were in the tent for the night before the rain came.

  • Distance paddled: 6.17 km
  • Distance portaged: 1280m + 650m + 140m + 170m + 590m
  • Campsite: 28

Day 6: O.S.A. Lake to Killarney Lake to Freeland Lake to George Lake

We awoke to more rain on our last day. We cooked our breakfast and ate it under our kitchen shelter, then packed as much as we could under the tarp. Then it was time to finish packing the tent and tarp, and set out for the last time.

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Wet, windy, cool end to the trip. [Photo by Cheryl]

We had two options for portaging into Killarney Lake, and we chose the one with a shorter portage plus a beaver dam lift-over (rather than the one with the longer portage).

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Huge trees down at campsites and along portages like this one. [Photo by Cheryl]

We encountered a few canoes as we headed out, and then a large group of about 10 canoes of students near the end. We had two portages to tackle on our last day, one into Freeland Lake and then one into George Lake. We were travelling at a similar pace of two men that we had met a few days earlier, so we chatted with them for a bit at one of the portages. They made me want to go paddle in Alaska! While we had very few wildlife encounters this trip, they saw 2 wolves, a bear, moose, otters and some kind of weasel! They highly recommended that we paddle the more northerly parts of the park.

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Back at the George Lake access point.

It rained off and on while we paddled, but when we arrived at the George Lake access point, it had stopped. It wasn’t the weather or trip we had hoped for, but we still enjoyed ourselves!

After the canoe was back on the vehicle and all our stuff was packed away, we headed to the park office to get a refund for the nights we wouldn’t stay at Killarney. That’s when we heard about the crazy wind storm that blew through the campground the same day we were being pelted in the face with tree bits. Apparently the campground and office lost power for 60 hours, and downed trees in campsites meant that park staff had to cut them so that cars could be freed from campsites.

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Mike Ranta at Herberts Fisheries in the town of Killarney. [Photo by Cheryl]

Once we left the park, we headed to the town of Killarney for fish and chips at Herberts Fisheries. I had never been to the town, but Cheryl had. We walked into the building and who did we see but Mike Ranta, a modern day canoe explorer (he has paddled across the country by canoe – with his dog Spitzy). He plans to do it again to raise awareness for Canadian vets. We enjoyed our fish and chips, then headed home.

Killarney, we’ll be back!

  • Distance paddled: 7.58 km
  • Distance portaged: 130m + 430m + 50m

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Race report: Barrelman 1/2 Ironman 2018

The 2018 edition of the Barrelman 1/2 Ironman was to be the 5th running of this race, and my 5th year participating (last year I did the swim/bike due to a foot injury).

Alasdair and I arrived at T1 in Welland at the International Flatwater Centre in time for the 12 PM pre-race briefing, then registered and left our bikes, and headed to Niagara Falls, where we would spend the night.

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With the Canadian falls behind us.

We arranged all our gear, and set our alarms for 5 AM!

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We wandered around Niagara Falls a bit, had yummy pizza for dinner, and called it a night!

On race morning, we caught the race shuttle bus from Niagara Falls to Welland, leaving our car close to the finish line. We arrived at T1 with lots of time to set our things up and chat with other athletes.

2k Swim

Alasdair and I were in the same wave, and while I would have loved to draft off of him the whole way, I knew that I wasn’t fast enough to do so! He started near the front, and me further behind. I didn’t know when I would see him again on the race course.

The swim start was quite congested, and not too far into the swim, I was kicked in the face. Thankfully, my goggles stayed on. I let the fast people go by, and then I swam over to the guy wire (that holds the rowing buoys in place), and used that to swim straight. It meant that I didn’t have to look up to sight, at least not until I got closer to the halfway point, when I had to swim off the guy wire to the green turning buoy. By this point, I really had to pee, but instead of doing so in the water, I suffered until the transition zone! (I did pause a few times, but would have had to swim out of the way so as not to have people swim into me. I have not yet mastered the skill of peeing while swimming!)

I wasn’t surprised to see 50+ minutes when I stood up at the end of the swim.

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At my spot in the transition zone, I packed up my swim stuff, put my cycling things on, slathered more sunscreen all over myself, and took off for the mount line.

90k Bike

This year there were changes to the bike course due to road construction. It meant for the addition of a pretty section before we reached Lake Erie. It was in this newer section that I came upon a cyclist down in the middle of the road. Other athletes were helping him, and I confirmed with them that an athlete riding the opposite way was going for help, then continued on my way.

During the ride I managed to eat a piece of homemade chocolate chip banana bread and 2 gels (I had to force the second one down), and to drink 1 bottle of gatorade and 2 full bottles of water.

Turtle count on Feeder Road this year = only 2! At one point along Feeder Road I was cruising along at 34 km/h, which meant just one thing – I would encounter a headwind when I turned toward the East!

At the first bike aid station, I stopped quickly to use the portapotty (“You almost done in there?” a man asked. “I’m peeing as fast as I can!” I replied.) I threw my empty gatorade bottle, grabbed a water bottle, and then tried to grab an Endurance Tap gel from a volunteer but the transfer didn’t work and it fell. Another volunteer ran to try to catch me, but I told him not to worry! At 60k I threw my water bottle and got another one, but forgot to grab another Endurance Tap gel.

Around the 75k mark, I started to have stomach issues, but I managed to keep riding without having to drop my speed too much. From just after 75k to the end the course goes along the Niagara River Parkway, making the ride quite scenic!

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What year is this again? I never noticed the old car – clearly I was looking at the water!

Once I reached the transition zone (T2), volunteers told me where to find my bike (though I had looked at the map pre-race and knew where to go). I switched into running gear, slathered more sunscreen on myself, used the portapotty quickly, and headed onto the run course.

21.1k Run

Unfortunately my stomach was still bothering me, so I started the run by walking… but it wasn’t too long before I could start running. I carried an Endurance Tap with me, and had it just before the first aid station. It felt like 35C with the humidity, so my run quickly became a run/walk combo. I stopped at every aid station to drink water, get ice, occasionally have F2C (electrolyte drink), and pour water on my head. My legs were fine – it was just so darn hot. I chatted with a couple of other women for a while as we walked and encouraged one another.

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Pouring water on my head while running past Niagara Falls!

I spotted Alasdair, who was having hip issues and had to do a run/walk combo too.

On the second loop, there was slightly more cloud cover, which was a huge relief! I had a couple of gels during the run, as well as pretzels at one point (but I needed water to wash them down – my mouth was too dry to chew and swallow them!). Overall the run was quite disappointing, but given the heat and humidity, I was not surprised – I’ve been through this before!

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Running to the finish line (that’s not my sponge, though the colour is quite the match!).

In the end, I crossed the finish line in 7:12:01.1, slower than I would have liked, but that’s how things go! I spotted Alasdair, and shortly afterward headed for the splash pad where I soaked myself – what a great end!

Race results

  • Time: 7:12:01.1
  • Placing women 40-44: 28/34
  • Placing all women: 136/271
  • Placing all athletes: 425/685
  • Swim: 50:52.2 (2:32/100m)
  • T1: 4:20
  • Bike: 3:13:26.6 (27.9km/h)
  • T2: 6:40
  • Run: 2:56:44.3 (8:24 min/km)

That’s a wrap on the 2018 triathlon season for me! 11 races, 2 podium finishes, and a whole lot of fun!

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Race report: Lakesprint sprint triathon relay (team Triathalasaurus)

While Alasdair and I have done a few sprint triathlon relays before, this was our first with our daughter, who is finally old enough to do one leg of a sprint distance race.

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Pinning the race bib on – “You’re going to poke me!”

Team Triathalasaurus was ready: Alasdair would swim 750m, I would bike 20k, and Ailish would run 5k. Never mind the fact that she was sick with a cold, and had only done one training run. She’s a fit kid with a summer of soccer behind her.

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Team Triathalasaurus ready to go!

After a late arrival at the race site and somewhat frantic pre-race preparations, the horn sounded and Alasdair took off in wave #1 with the young’uns!

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Ailish and I waited in the transition zone, and waved him down as he entered, since he didn’t get a chance before the race to see where my bike was racked. I struggled to get the timing chip off his ankle, but eventually succeeded, running my bike to the mount line, being cheered as I ran by at least one of the other relay teams.

I reached the mount line and a volunteer yelled, “Great job!” to which I replied, “Thanks! I haven’t done anything yet!” This was my first time biking with people in the first wave of a triathlon, so it was definitely weird. The first few people who passed me just zoomed past – whoosh! I was actually a little worried that I would get in the way of people at corners, since I brake slightly before turning! I needn’t have worried – much.

After rough road at the start, the course turned straight into the wind and hills, which immediately dashed my hope of maintaining 30 km/h, but I was still going to try. When I reached the turnaround, there were 33 riders ahead of me, when normally there would be hundreds and I couldn’t possibly keep track.

I was a little surprised to have someone say “On your left!” as I was doing a 180 degree turn around the pylon at the turnaround point. I’m not sure if he actually intended to pass me at that point (crazy), or whether he was just giving me advance warning that as soon as I came out of my turn, he was going to pass me (reasonable!). In any case, we both made it around the cone safely.

The last 5-7k were my favourite, because I had the wind behind me and it was a net downhill. Just before the end I spotted my friend Irina, who was taking official race photos.

I finished the 20k ride in 40:28.5, for an average speed of 29.65 km/h. Not the 30 I was hoping for, but oh so close!

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Thanks for the pic Irina!

I racked my bike, and then Alasdair grabbed the timing chip off my ankle and put it onto to Ailish’s. She took off for her 5k run.

Alasdair and I went out to the road to cheer for other runners while we waited for Ailish. We weren’t sure exactly how long she would be. Alasdair eventually walked further along the road, while I waited near the finishing chute. And then there she was! She turned it up for the last 100m and sprinted to the finish (later telling me that this made her feel like she was going to puke). She did great!

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Good thing I have dozens of race shirts, since she steals mine all the time.

We really enjoyed racing together as Team Triathalasaurus!

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And Ailish is thinking she might do a try a tri next summer…

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We stayed for the awards, and then headed out.

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Swimming for 16 minutes is exhausting you know!

I’m looking forward to doing another relay – such fun!

Stats:

  • Placing: 7/13 relay teams
  • Swim: 16:05.6 (2:08 min/100m)
  • T1: 0:44
  • Bike: 40:28.5 (29.65 km/h)
  • T2: 0:31
  • Run: 29:12.8 (5:50 min/km)

 

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Race report: Guelph Lake II sprint triathlon (with a 46k bike ride warm-up)

A 46k net uphill ride to the race site is not exactly the best strategy for getting oneself onto the podium; however, if you know me at all, you’ll know that that isn’t what motivates me to compete!

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Early morning ride, because, why not?

And so it was that Alasdair and I set out in the pitch dark at 5:15 AM for the Guelph Lake Conservation Area, where we would compete in the Subaru Guelph Lake II sprint triathlon, a 750m swim, 30k ride, and 7k run. It was the perfect opportunity to get in a good training day in preparation for the Barrelman half ironman later this month while still racing and having fun. We even arrived before race registration started.

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Arrived at Guelph Lake in the daylight.

After changing into my triathlon clothes, I went through registration and then set my stuff up in the transition zone. I had a banana and a piece of homemade zucchini bread to replace some of the calories I had burned biking.

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Ready to go!

I tentatively walked in bare feet on the gravel of the parking lot transition zone as I headed down to the lake. I wondered how I would manage to run on it during the race! There were carpets down the main “aisles” but nothing down the individual rows.

I did a super short warm-up swim and discovered how rocky the water was – big rocks that would hurt your feet if you ran into them. I resolved to walk until I could swim (this was not an “in water” start). Some of us removed rocks and threw them to the side of where we would be swimming.

750m swim

I was struck by how short the swim course looked! After doing a couple of longer swims in races recently, this short swim course was a welcome sight!

Alasdair was in the 4th wave, and me in the 5th. When my race started, I walked into the water as planned, not wanting to cut my feet open! I had a pretty uneventful swim. The water was the yuckiest we’ve been in this season, with goose feathers and other floating detritus. Not exactly appealing. For the most part, my sighting went well, and I was relatively pleased to see 17:07 when I stood up. I had swum until my hands started to hit the sand, but many others starting walking long before me – the water was quite shallow until the first/last buoys. I ran up the hill to the transition zone

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750m swim done.

30k bike

After a quick change into cycling gear, I set out for the bike mount line, wondering how my legs would do after already having ridden 46k! It was definitely different starting the bike ride with somewhat tired legs. I wanted to push the bike pace as much as I could, while still remembering that I had to ride 46k home after the race! I found myself in much more bike traffic than I have been in lately. I passed a lot of riders, sometimes several one after the other.

At one point, I saw another athlete in front of me crash. I’m not sure what caused it, but he fell in the gravel shoulder and appeared to hit his head. By the time I got there, he was sitting up, wiping blood from his arm I think. I asked him if he was okay, and he said that he was. I said “Are you sure? I think you hit your head.” “A little bit,” he replied. A couple of other people asked if he was okay as they passed us. I asked him again if he was okay, and he indicated that he was going to continue. I left him, but less than a kilometre down the road I slowed almost to a stop and informed the police officer at the intersection that a rider fell in front of me and hit his head, gave the bib number, general description, and said I wasn’t so sure about him continuing but he said he was going to. Now I can’t remember his bib number so I’m not sure if he completed the race or not.

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Fog but no rain for the 30k ride.

I spotted Alasdair a couple of kilometres from the bike turnaround, pretty much where I expected to see him.

I had forgotten the awful condition of the road for the first and last 5k of the bike course – so rough and bumpy! I was glad to be done the rough stuff at the end. I wasn’t able to ride as fast as I would have on a normal race day, but I’m pretty happy with my 27.6 km average given the circumstances.

7k run

I stopped at a portapotty just after leaving the transition zone, then headed out for the run. It had been a few years since I’d done this race, and I had forgotten how hilly the beginning and end of the course are. However, my legs felt surprisingly good after all that biking! I didn’t run as fast as I have in my last few races, but I think that was understandable. I think I was close to the 2k mark when I spotted Alasdair running toward me. In the last kilometre I started to get hungry, so it was a good thing my race was nearly done.

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Finishing the 7k run.

In the end I finished the race in 2:12:56.4, good for 9/18 in my age group.

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Enjoying my non-alcoholic beer just past the finish line.

After the race, we packed up all of our stuff and headed for the awards presentation, where I promptly dropped my bike (specifically, the pointy party of my bike seat) onto my calf – ouch! We grabbed our post-race food and settled in for the awards.

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Snow cone hit the spot!

Just before getting dressed back into my cycling clothes and heading home, I enjoyed a very refreshing snow cone! Then it was time to hit the road and cycle another 46k… we hit the first hill, and wondered how we were going to make it there! Thankfully though, my legs warmed up (or resigned themselves to torture) and things got better. We stopped after 10k for a quick snack at Tim Hortons, around 20k for a 5 minute rest in the shade on someone’s front lawn, and around 35k for a quick bathroom break at the library before finally reaching home! 123k of cycling in a day is my new record high. What a day!

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Home! 123k of cycling for the day.

Race stats:

  • Time: 2:12:56.4
  • Women 40-44: 9/18
  • Women: 54/159
  • All athletes: 255/463
  • 750m Swim: 19:08.9 (2:33 min/100m)
  • T1: 2:18
  • 30k Bike: 1:05:04.9 (27.66 km/h)
  • T2: 1:38
  • 7k Run: 44:47.3 (6:23 min/km)

 

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Race report: Wasaga Beach Olympic triathlon 2018

I was very relieved to see the calm water in Georgian Bay at the Multisport Canada Wasaga Beach Olympic triathlon on race morning! In previous years, waves had been so bad that they made me feel pukey and even throw up. Not this year.

With an airbnb 20 minutes away in nearby Stayner (our first), we were able to get up at a reasonable hour on race morning. We parked our car at a nearby lot, remembered to pay this year, and headed for the race site. After registering and setting up, we were able to cheer on athletes in the sprint triathlon and duathlon while we waited for our race to start.

Before the race, Alasdair picked up his new GoFor Cover hoodie, which he’s already sold on (one of its selling points is the ability to get changed under it in a crowded place!).

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GoFor Cover fleece oversized hoodie.

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Kristin was racing but not at all enthusiastic about that fact. She warned me that I might find her sitting on the ground in transition during the race. Of course I didn’t. And of course she had a great race!

1500m swim

The horn sounded for wave 4, and I started to swim. After a very short time, people started walking again (sand bars), and then swimming for good. I was getting sandwiched between 2 women and having trouble getting out. Eventually one of them moved away, and I tried to pass the other one, but she was swimming crookedly, so there I was trying to pass her on the left, then on the right before I finally got past her! With brand new goggles this race (after having my last pair stepped on just before the Toronto Island sprint triathlon), I could see! After the first turn buoy, I was swimming parallel to shore. It was at this point that the wave behind me caught me – there were fast people everywhere! At the next and last turning buoy, I think I encountered a visually impaired triathlete named John, who was tethered to his guide. From there it was a straight swim back to shore, and for once, I had no sighting issues at this race! I kept my sights set just left of the yellow roofed building, which worked perfectly. It also helped that it was overcast, so there was no glare from the sun. I swam as far as I could, but many people stood up early and walked. I was pleasantly surprised to see 33+ minutes on my watch – far faster than I have been swimming lately.

40k bike

After a quick change of gear and pee break in transition, I was heading for the bike mount line. The ride was pretty uneventful, other than an impatient woman near the start who yelled at a rider who was passing me – instead of waiting so that she could pass her, she yelled that she’s supposed to ride on the right (yes, unless you’re passing), and then passed between the two of us (unsafe). And then later, I encountered a poor rider pedalling with only one leg just before the half way point (looked like the other pedal had fallen off). I said, “That doesn’t look fun! Are you going to continue?” to which he replied, “We’ll see.”

Somewhere on the back half of the bike course my speed dropped dramatically when I hit a headwind and hills, but overall, I was happy with my ride! In the last km, there was a burst of heavy rain, but then it stopped.

10k run

As I prepared to leave transition to start my run (with a stop at the portapotty on my way out), a race official suggested to another woman that she might want to take her helmet off – 10k would be a long run with a helmet on. She threw it towards her bike, but the official made her go back and put it down neatly by her stuff. Understandable – otherwise, people’s stuff would be all over the place and it would be hard to get around. She wasn’t impressed.

This year the run course changed slightly to remove most of the 2-way traffic along a narrow coned lane at the side of Mosley St. I liked the new course – it had us running on a paved path and then along a quieter side street. It was still 2 loops of a 5k course, which is kind of nice because you get to see other athletes more. I did spot both Alasdair and Kristin twice, though Kristin was in another world the second time!

As usual, my 2nd loop was slower than my first (30 minutes for the first 5k, and 33 1/2 for the 2nd). I had a side stitch that forced me to walk for a short time. I managed to get rid of it though, and sped up in the last 500m.

I crossed the finish line in 3:04:28.8, less than a minute slower than last year. However, my swim was 4 minutes faster, so that was a big surprise. My bike was just a few seconds slower, and my run 5 minutes slower.

After the race, Alasdair and I chatted briefly with our friend Irina (who was taking race pictures for Zoom photo – thanks for the great shots Irina!!), and Cody Beals, who made his Ironman debut the week before at Mont Tremblant, where he not only won the race but set a bike and course record! He was at Wasaga representing Martin’s Apple Chips. I asked him if apple chips were the key to his success, and he replied, “breakfast, lunch and dinner!” At least I know what I’ve been doing wrong!

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Trying out the F2C strawberry and vanilla flavours.

Race stats:

  • Time: 3:04:28.8
  • Women 40-44: 15/20
  • All women: 62/112
  • All athletes: 231/348
  • Swim: 35:12 (2:20/100m)
  • T1: 1:52
  • Bike: 1:21:19.8 (29.51 km/h)
  • T2: 2:29
  • Run: 1:03:38.0 (6:21 min/km)
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Before the rain returned and the crowd dispersed.

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