Race report: Raid the Hammer 2019

This year’s Don’t Get Lost Raid the Hammer was to be my first time doing the “full” Raid – in previous years, I have always done the “half”. It was also the first time that Rebecca and I would race with Heidi (in preparation for Wilderness Traverse 2020). However, Rebecca was sick on race morning, so our team of 3 became a team of 2, which meant we weren’t able to do the full Raid and be included in the official results. We had two options: 1) full Raid (unranked), or 2) half Raid (ranked). We chose #1!

We picked up our race maps at St. Ann Catholic Elementary School in Hamilton (3 of 4 maps – one would be given out during the race), and planned our route. Given that I ran the Happy Trails The Beav 25k trail race the day before, we planned to run as smart a race as we could, nailing the navigation to make up for my tired legs!

Pre-race with Heidi.

Map 1

Matrix

When the race began, Heidi and I took off in different directions. In the Matrix, teammates could stick together or split up to find the 10 checkpoints (A to I). This section could be done at the beginning of the race, at the end of the race, or a mix of the two. We planned to do it at the beginning. We decided that Heidi would do the 4 controls north of Wilson Street, and I would do the 6 to the south, with slightly less running. At these checkpoints, we had to answer a question about the feature that was there (e.g. number on hydro pole, name of person on bench). With the exception of the first one, where I ended up on the wrong side of the creek to start with, I found all of these easily. No compass was required. I was hoping to beat Heidi to our meeting point so that I could rest briefly, but she beat me by less than a minute!

After running along the Bruce Trail over Highway 403, we were onto map 2.

Maps 1 and 2 (of 4).

Map 2

Game of Thorns (CP1 to CP2)

In this section, we needed our compass, and an ability to scour a forest for “a distinct tree”. We found the controls, but none of the trees jumped out at us!

Blackout (CP3 to CP8)

In this section, trails were removed from the map, but we were able to use some anyway to find the controls. Our navigation continued to be bang on!

Maps 3 and 4 (of 4).

Map 3

Gnarly Run and Photo Shoot (CP9)

It was a 3k run along the Bruce Trail to Sherman Falls, where we would be photographed with our teammates (instead of inserting our SI stick into an SI reader).

A very springy bridge, which felt super wonky when 2 people ran on it at the same time!
At Sherman Falls.

Dundas Valley Traverse I (CP10 to CP11)

From here we headed into the Dundas Valley Conservation Area, where we found CP10 and then CP11 (the aid station). We each had to show that we were carrying a whistle and an emergency blanket, and then we were given map 4. We grabbed some of the snacks at the aid station, and then studied the map briefly to decide which 5 of the 7 controls we wanted to get.

Map 4

Scramble (CP12 to CP 18)

We opted for 18 and then 15, which were just off a main trail down steep hills. From there we ran along trails for a short while before crossing a log over a creek. While we managed to stay dry, we found out after the race that at least one person went for an unintentional swim here!

We climbed yet another steep hill to find 14 – in fact, this entire map involved lots of ups and downs. My tired legs were slow on the uphills!

From the time we hit 17 until almost the end of the race, we kept running into the same team at the controls, though we would choose different routes and yet still arrive almost at the same time.

After control 12 we looked for the least steep part of the hill to climb down to the creek, and then climbed up the hills on the other side. We then followed a trail all the way back to the aid station. We handed in our hand-punched map, ate some more aid station goodies, and then went back to map 3.

Map 3 (continued)

Dundas Valley Traverse II (CP20 to 24)

To get to CP 20, we opted to run a longer distance along trails, because bushwhacking directly there would have involved significant ups and downs, and more potential to get lost. From there, we again set out on trails, but planned to bushwhack a couple of times on our way to CP 21, down a steep hill, through a creek, up the steep bank on the other side, and then later, following a contour line and keeping a creek in sight. It worked!

Then it was a trail run to the “brawn” or “brain” section, where we had to choose which CP22 to do (climb all the way up the hill for an easy to find control, or half way up for a harder to find one). We chose the latter.

At this point, we knew that we had just 2 more controls to find before a 2k run to the finish line.

After CP23, we spotted the race photographer at CP24, and then it was a final push to the finish line!

Heidi making sure I’m still with her!
At this point, I had covered 51k in about the last 28 hours.
Just a 2k run left!

Unfortunately, the 2k run back was a net uphill. My legs were pretty tired at this point, 26k into the race, so I had to take some walking breaks!

But after 5 hours, 2 minutes and 55 seconds, Heidi and I crossed the finish line! We had covered 28k, and 1400m of elevation gain.

Post-race!

We worked really well together, and our navigation was near perfect! It was super fun! I’m looking forward to racing with Heidi again. And look out Tree Huggers, we’re coming for you!!

Our race route – 28k through Ancaster.

After the race, it was time for some well deserved food! Yum!

Delicious post-race food from Johnny Blonde food truck.

Race results:

  • Time: 5:02:55
  • Placing: Unranked, since we were a team of 2, but had we been a team of 3 females, we would have been 2nd! Woot!

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Wilderness Traverse: adventure racing from a volunteer’s perspective

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a 24-hour adventure race, volunteer at race headquarters (HQ) all weekend and you’ll see the good, the bad, and the ugly, not to mention the hilarious, inspiring, and satisfying! I had the pleasure of doing just that at Wilderness Traverse in 2018, a race which saw teams of 3 or 4 cover 150k of terrain by trekking, biking, and canoeing. Some teams chose to swim on the trek section, and at least one racer in as little clothing as possible (he wore only the race bib – on the bottom!).

While I was at race HQ all weekend, I was able to follow along with the racers by “watching the dots” on the computer screen (each team had a GPS tracker), and by getting news from volunteers around the course (50 volunteers in total, and 48 teams racing), which included pictures of teams as they passed by.

Pre-race planning by an unknown team.

Along with a few other savvy ladies, we provided race assistance and play by play commentary and updates as the race progressed, keeping friends and loved ones at home (and in some cases around the race course) up to date on what was happening. It was exhausting but super fun. 

With Ashleigh and Barb.

It was fascinating to see the logistics of a race like this, which is described on the website as “one of the toughest team-based endurance challenges around and simply reaching the finish line is a massive achievement”. 

Race Director Bob Miller has a whole team of volunteers helping to make this race a reality.

I love volunteering at races (see my post on why you, too should volunteer), and I figured that spending time at Wilderness Traverse would be a great way to prepare for my own eventual attempt at racing it!

I decided to do it again in 2019, this time manning a remote checkpoint in the Haliburton Highlands Water Trails, which the teams would arrive at by foot.

My friend and future Wilderness Traverse teammate Heidi agreed to come with me. On the Friday night, we volunteered at race registration.

At race registration.

I took team photos, and Heidi gathered interesting tidbits from each team. We slept in our tent in a park across the road from the Dorset Recreation Centre (race HQ), and after breakfast on race morning, we watched the 8 AM start of the race.

Bumper boats at the race start!

Then we set out for our remote campsite (Checkpoint/CP 16) on Upper Crane Lake, with one little stop on the way to set out CP 15 (anyone remember CP 15?!).

Just one of the race maps.

We parked my van at an old logging road, took a compass bearing and headed south-east towards Three Brothers Lake. For some reason, it never occurred to me to pack trail running shoes for the weekend, so I bushwhacked in the only shoes I had with me – my sandals! It took us far longer than we expected it to, and we did it during broad daylight. Most teams would do this trekking section in the dark. We were hot, and despite having put bug repellent on, we were getting eating alive!!

We eventually found the blue ribbon that Bob had said would mark the spot where the checkpoint should go… but it was on the ground, not attached to a tree! Luckily, it hadn’t blown away. We hung the flag and SI reader and then headed back to the van.

We drove to the Bentshoe Lake access point, carried the canoe and all our gear across the road, loaded up the boat, and set out! This was Heidi’s very first backcountry canoe trip. We had 4 big packs with us, way more than I would normally take on a canoe trip – but we were carrying lots and lots of treats for the racers! We counted this as our first Wilderness Traverse training session together – Heidi portaged a canoe for the first time!

Based on Bob’s estimates, we knew that the lead team wouldn’t reach our checkpoint until at least 10 PM, and that teams would continue to arrive until 8 AM! Of course, this meant that we too would be staying up all night! We decided not to bring a tent with us – we wouldn’t have time to sleep! We did bring our sleeping bags in case we got cold.

We paddled to the portage into Lower Crane Lake, and then after a short portage, paddled through that lake into Upper Crane Lake and to our campsite. We had our lunch, swam, and gathered tons of wood so that we could keep a fire going all night long.

At some point, another volunteer paddled by in his canoe. I can’t remember now where he was stationed during the race.

Wood and treats ready to go!

We had great cell service at our campsite, so we were able to use the race apps to follow the progress of all the teams, and to communicate with race HQ. We had dinner, and were treated to the most gorgeous sunset!

We decided to try to have a nap. We had set up our thermarests and sleeping bags and settled in! I set an alarm so that we weren’t asleep when the racers arrived! When my alarm went off (I hadn’t fallen asleep), I checked where the teams were, and re-set my alarm. At some point, I did fall asleep, because my alarm woke me up, and when I checked where the teams were, I thought, “Oh no!” I got up quickly and woke Heidi up. She had been out cold and started speaking to me in German (I don’t speak German!). I thought the first team would be there any minute, but it actually took quite a while. We lit our campfire, set out all the goodies (cookies, candies, and s’mores fixings!), and waited with baited breath! Well, we might have also eaten our fair share of the treats as a matter of quality control while we waited.

We heard many owls calling to one another while we waited for teams to arrive.

At one point, we freaked ourselves out when we saw a bright light through the woods in a direction that no team should be arriving at our checkpoint from. We wondered who was in the woods behind our campsite. We couldn’t hear anything. It was unnerving. Eventually, the light got bigger, and higher, and we realized it was… the moon!!!

Eventually (after midnight!), we heard voices and spotted headlamps coming down a hill across the lake from us. And then we made out French accents. As they got closer, we heard them discussing whether they were going to swim. They did. It was incredibly cool (and exciting!) to see them swimming across the lake, a distance of probably 25m or so. They made their way through the woods to us, inserted their SI stick into the SI reader, and took off! No idle chatter or food for them. We were a little disappointed but we understood. They were on a mission! The next team wouldn’t arrive for more than an hour.

Speaking of disappointment, when we learned that only the teams on the full course would reach our checkpoint, we wished that our checkpoint was earlier on in the race course. While there were 45 teams registered, we knew that the majority of teams would be pushed onto short courses (due to not making certain time cut-offs).

The next team arrived more than an hour later. And then, as the hours passed, the teams ate more and spent slightly more time at our checkpoint. It was really interesting to see their route choices. Some came to us from the south, and some from the north. Some chose to swim, but the majority didn’t. At least one team overshot our campsite, and then eventually returned.

We made sure that for each team’s approach, we had a good fire going, so that if they were wet and cold, they could warm up.

There were a few teams in particular that I hoped to see, because I knew people on them. Before the race started I had heard Kelly from Spinning out of Control say that she’d love a coffee on course. And then I found out that Heidi had packed a bit of instant coffee. When we discovered that Sunday was Kelly’s birthday (the race started on Saturday), I knew we had to have a coffee ready for her arrival! I had been watching their dot all day and night, with my friend John also on the team. And then we saw on the race Facebook page that they had been redirected to a short course (and wouldn’t reach our checkpoint after all). I was so disappointed! But then we saw their dot move… and it continued to come closer to us. And then, around 6 AM, they got close, and we could hear John’s laugh.

When they arrived at our site, not only did we get to wish Kelly a happy birthday, but we got to give her a mug of hot coffee! She was very appreciative.

The birthday girl and her cup of coffee.

After munching on some snacks, they headed out. We wished them well and hoped they would make it to the finish line (they did!).

The sun came up and teams were still arriving at CP 16. Over the course of the night we heard how much trouble some teams had finding CP 15, the one we set out (and the one they visited before coming to us). We weren’t surprised!

We had so much food that we encouraged teams to take some with them, more so as the last few teams came through. One was completely out of food, so they were very grateful.

We did make s’mores for some teams, and one racer even made one for himself. I hand fed another racer whose hands were too dirty (you’re welcome Chris L!).

In the end, I think we had 12 teams come through our checkpoint.

Planning how to get to CP 17.

When the last team left our campsite, we packed up our things, and waited until we were told by race HQ that we could leave. We set out for CP 15 to collect the flag and SI reader, this time by canoe. We had trouble finding the place we intended to leave the canoe, trouble finding the path we wanted, and after a while of seemingly getting nowhere (or getting nowhere fast!) , we wondered whether it would have been better to just park at the logging road and get to CP 15 the same way we had originally put it out. But it was too late by then. It seemed to take forever, with us having to add distance to avoid climbing and descending super steep hills. We made it there, eventually! And then we headed back to the canoe, paddled to the takeout, and loaded up the van.

We went back to race HQ, dropped off the flags and SI readers, had some post-race food, and drove home!

We had so much fun at CP 16.

In 2020, Heidi, Rebecca and I will be at the start line to take on Wilderness Traverse ourselves!

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Race report: Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race Long Course 2019

“Let the waters of Georgian Bay be calm.” In the months, days and weeks leading up to the Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race, my longest solo race to date, this was my biggest hope for race morning. I knew that if I could get through the 16k kayak, I should be able to complete the rest of the race (a 32k mountain bike ride, 8k trail run, 24k mountain bike ride, and then 16k trail run) within the 12 hour time limit. It wouldn’t be easy, but I thought it was doable (after doing some math with the time cut-offs), even though this would be my first time racing the long course (I did the short course in 2017 and 2018 in a team of 2 females). I might be chasing the time cut-offs, but I was hopeful that I could do it. This was my main goal for the day – finish within the 12 hour time limit.

The 2018 edition of the long course race saw many kayaks flipping in choppy waters. And while I did get kayak training in before the race, none of it involved big waves. Given that I used to whitewater kayak, big waves shouldn’t really scare me, but I wasn’t quite sure how well I’d do climbing back into a kayak in the middle of Georgian Bay!

Friday night race check-in and gear drop

Here I am front right with my bike checking in with 2 volunteers.

On the Friday night, I went through the check-in process at the Wiarton arena, picking up my race kit in the process (which included a race buff, a pair of compression socks, and race stickers to put on various stuff). I verified with volunteers that I had the mandatory gear, left my bike to be loaded onto a truck, and left the kayak I would be using (which belonged to the friend of a friend) and most paddling gear to be transported to the race start.

First time camping right on the Bruce Trail! See the white blazes on the tree. That’s Georgian Bay in the background.

Saturday – race day!

My race day 4 AM alarm was a rude awakening after a very short sleep in my tent. Loud non-racing neighbours at the Bluewater Park Campground in Wiarton (where the race would end) kept me awake, despite me wearing earplugs. Lesson learned. My 5 minute walk to the arena and busses didn’t make up for my lack of sleep!

Just before 5 AM – and before the sun was up – I boarded a school bus with my kayak paddle and lots of other racers!

Once at the race site, I was relieved to see that the water didn’t look too bad at all! No whitecaps! I was feeling better about the paddle segment already.

Sun rising on Georgian Bay.

I found a bush to pee in, and then got in a lineup for the sole portapotty when I learned there was one (it was still dark when we arrived and I didn’t see it). I was in the line when race organizers told us to start unloading the kayaks from the trailers. I didn’t leave the line! Later I found my kayak at the water’s edge, got everything organized, put my PFD on, and then listened to the pre-race briefing. We were told – in no uncertain terms – that we could face bears, snakes, and steep cliffs during the race, and that no one was making us do the race! We could skip the paddle and hop on our bikes when the first racers started biking. We could quit the race at any time.

16k kayak

When it was time to get into the kayaks, racer #41 helped me by holding the kayak while I got in, and then pushing me out into deeper water. Thank you again!

I’m on the far left.

I chatted with other racers while we waited for the race to start. Somehow I ended up waiting near the front of all the racers, which wasn’t where I wanted to be! I knew I wouldn’t be one of the faster paddlers. Thankfully, I managed to drop back a bit before the race began.

I’m on far left on the bottom.

On the count of “3, 2, 1, risk!” (no kidding), the race began, and I managed to avoid the bumper boats going on around me. Apparently one boat did flip, but I didn’t know that until I saw a picture after the race.

The kayak leg started with a 3k paddle to a volunteer standing on a dock where we had to call out our bib #. Next we paddled another 5k to the turnaround point.

Love this pic of me paddling as the sun was rising!

At times on the 1st half of the paddle I had trouble keeping the boat straight, having to continually paddle only on one side. When I made the turn at the half-way point (after around 1 hour 2 minutes), I thought, “Wow! It’s easier going this way.” But it didn’t take long to realize I was wrong. While the kayak tracked better on the way back, I was actually paddling into the wind. I was tiring and my butt fell asleep, so the 2nd half of the paddle was actually harder! I was also so thirsty, but didn’t want to stop paddling to take a sip from my water bottle. I did drink eventually. At times there were pretty big waves coming from multiple directions at once. I tried to straighten my legs and shift around, but nothing could fix my numb butt!

There were 10 or so kayaks behind me, including at least one tandem. I paddled back to the volunteer on the dock, and then with 3k to go, I headed for the take-out. This part seemed to take forever. I was so ready to be done the paddle. By this time, I also really had to pee!

After a total of around 2 hours and 25 minutes, I was done the paddle. The awesome volunteers held the boat while I got out, then took it away, making sure I had whatever I needed from it (I had to grab my mandatory gear, which included my first aid kit).

Getting gear out of the kayak while a volunteer holds it.

In transition I used the portapotty, ate, put my bike shoes and helmet on, put my paddling gear in “Bag A” (which would be transported to the finish line), grabbed food from Bag A and put it in my bike frame bag, and set out for my first ride of the day!

32k mountain bike leg

The bike started out okay, on a country road. But before long, we turned into a trail. From there the ride was a mix of road (paved and gravel) and trail, with the most technical riding I’ve ever done. There were rocks, roots, logs, mud, steep hills, and combinations of these things all at once. Not too far into the ride I realized I was carrying too much water in my camelbak (too heavy!), so I stopped and dumped some out. Much better. For most of this leg, I felt like I was riding alone. At times I could see someone ahead of me or behind me, which was reassuring when I wasn’t sure I was going the right way and I spotted another racer ahead (or someone followed me).

At one point, I noticed that the quick release on my rear tire was loose, so I tightened it. Later, on the last, steepest descent, which I was walking my bike down, I heard a noise, and noticed that my rear wheel wasn’t turning. I lifted the back of my bike up, and the wheel fell off!! Thankfully, it happened while I was walking my bike. I tried to get the wheel back into place but wasn’t having any luck. Thankfully, another racer appeared at the top of the hill, and very graciously stopped to help me (THANK YOU AGAIN!!!). Two others stopped and helped too, racer #57 and someone I knew, Anne. I was very lucky to have help.

After we all started moving again, the other woman (not Anne) said that she didn’t think we would meet the cut-off to be able to do the first run segment. I was surprised, because it felt like I had been doing really well. But the technical nature of the ride meant that it had taken me a while to do it – around 2 hours and 25 minutes!

I reached the transition area before the cut-off, but one of the race organizers told me that to maximize my chance of completing the entire course, he recommended that I shorten the first run from 8k to 4k (or to whatever I wanted). He said that the time cut-offs get more and more aggressive as the race goes on. I understood that the second ride was more technical, so I decided that it would be better to put any extra time I had into the ride rather than into an 8k run.

Before setting out on the run, I ate food from my Bag B, drank gatorade set up at a little table, and topped up the water bottle on my bike (which I added a Nuun tablet to).

4k trail run

So I set out to run 2k in and 2k out. It was on the Bruce Trail, which had ups and downs and twists and turns. I walked the steepest hills, and arrived back at the transition area well before the cut-off for the next mountain bike leg (the run took me around 46 minutes). I packed by Bag B into a van, so that it would be waiting for me at the next transition area.

24k mountain bike leg

I was a little concerned about this second bike leg, given that it was supposedly going to be even more technical! However, it didn’t turn out like that at all. Plus, I rode more aggressively and got off my bike less. I’m still not experienced (or confident!) enough on my mountain bike to know what it can handle, and what I can handle! But I tried to stay clipped in as much as I possibly could. On one of the trail sections that had lots of small rocks that I had to manoeuvre around, I made a tight turn and to my horror spotted a garter snake right in my path. Unfortunately, I rode right over it. “Oh, buddy!” I said. I hope he survived, but I couldn’t turn back to look or I’d crash my bike!

Somewhere near the end I was sure I had gone the wrong way. I hadn’t seen race markers for a while (the course was very well marked), though I didn’t want to turn around because I would have to go back up a steep hill… I wanted to be sure I was off course. Then I spotted 2 volunteers and was so relieved!! I have to say that the race volunteers, from those at race registration to those on the course were amazing!! Thank you everyone!!

In this bike leg, I passed 2 dogs off leash – thankfully they left me alone, but one racer wasn’t so lucky. I heard at the next transition that one of the dogs had bitten his tire! Once again, I arrived with lots of time to spare before the cut-off. I had some more food, applied more sunscreen, and set out for the finish line! This bike leg took me around 1 hour 50 minutes.

16k trail run leg

I was not familiar with the first 9k of this run segment, but had run the final 7k twice before as part of the short course race. I asked one of the organizers at the transition area what to expect, and he gave me a run-down. It turns out the 16k was a mix of Bruce Trail and side trail, road, farmer’s field, and circular stairs. Much of it runs along the edge of the escarpment overlooking Georgian Bay. There was a net downhill, but lots of little ups and downs. It was also in the last few km’s along the Bruce Trail that I encountered the most non-racers I saw all day.

My 16k “run” was a run/walk mix.

Unfortunately, for the last 30 minutes or more of the run, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had to pee, despite stopping to pee several times! It was rather annoying.

It turns out my fastest km on this run segment was the last (it was on a paved road and then a path past my tent in Bluewater Park). My legs felt good – my cardio was the limiting factor. This run leg took me nearly 2 1/2 hours.

After 10 hours 20 minutes and 43.3 seconds, I crossed the finish line!

Done!

I was relieved to be done, and so happy with how my race went. I didn’t care that I ran 4k less than I was supposed to, and that officially I would be disqualified from the race. I felt that I had made the right decision in the moment, to shorten the run to make sure I wasn’t stopped later in the course and not permitted to continue. Maybe if I had run the 8k I would have made the cut-offs, but who knows?

It was a tough race, but I’ll be back. I’m looking forward to completing the full course.

Thanks Kelly for the pic!

After a veggie burger and chocolate milk, I watched the rest of the awards (they had started before I finished the race), and then headed over to the arena to get my gear, which had been transported from various points on the race course. I had initially planned to camp again that night, but given my horrible sleep pre-race, I decided to drive home where I knew I would be undisturbed.

Thank you Peninsula Adventure Sports Association for an awesome race!!

Race results

The winner finished in 6 hours and 32 minutes. The winning female finished in 8 hours and 5 minutes. Only 5 of 11 women finished the full course. See below for more stats!

  • # racers who started the race: 67
  • # racers who finished the race: 54
  • # racers who were disqualified (including me): 11
  • # racers who did not finish: 2
  • # women who started the race: 11
  • # women who finished the race: 5
  • # women who were disqualified (including me): 6

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Race report: RockstAR Adventure Race

Heading up to the Haliburton area for RockstAR Adventure Race, I wondered whether we were making the long drive for nothing, given the next day’s forecast for a risk of strong thunderstorms all day and temperatures of 45C+ with the humidity! However, I was hopeful that the thunderstorms wouldn’t materialize, and that Rebecca and I could compete in the 8-hour version of this race for the first time (last year we did the 4-hour version).

We stayed at the Bark Lake Conference Centre the night before the race, and paid for the yummy hot and cold breakfast. We ate while looking at the race map, beginning to plan our route. This is a “choose your own adventure” style race, where you can do as few or as many of the checkpoints as you wish, after a mandatory paddle section for the 8-hour racers.

Pre-race [Photo by Brad Jennings]

Just like last year, we decided to prioritize the “fun” checkpoints (which would not be open until 3 hours into the race), which this year were:

  • Search for the stars checkpoint (CP)
  • Inner tube CP
  • Photobomb CP
  • Slingshot CP
  • Paddle board CP
  • Roxy CP
  • Audio CP

But first, we had to decide what we would do immediately after the mandatory paddle stage.

Our plan was to stay in the canoe to reach two more floating CPs (that we couldn’t do during the mandatory paddle stage). The other big decision – knowing we wouldn’t have enough time to clear the course (find all the CPs) – was whether we would head north (by canoe or by bike) to tackle 4 CPs in the woods that looked to have some navigational challenges (limited trails and in at least one case no clear features to navigate to), or go south and do a long bike leg to 3 CPs that would be easier to find but result in less points. We opted for the biking. We planned to do a few more CPs on trails near Bark Lake, then some on foot, and finally all the fun CPs.

Pre-race planning done!

Because we could return to race headquarters as often as we wanted during the race, and we could have gear bins waiting for us there, we stashed ice cold drinks and snacks, and planned to drop by frequently. This meant we wouldn’t have to carry as much food or water with us.

Mandatory paddle stage

The race began, and we started to paddle. Given that we wouldn’t be the strongest paddlers, we just followed the canoes in front of us! There was some crazy congestion near the beginning, forcing us to stop paddling, change direction slightly, and get away from other canoes. With so many canoes paddling hard, there was some serious wave action to deal with! We did a counterclockwise loop around the lake, paddling around 4k, and punching CPA with the SI stick at the end (volunteers had the SI readers on 8 foot poles and held them out to us in the boats).

Pre-race performance of We Will Rock You by “Freddie Mercury”. Spot my canoe on the right side.
[Photo by Petra Uu]

Floating CPs (CP60 and CP61)

It took us just a few minutes to reach the other 2 floating CPs, with Rebecca punching the SI stick as we hit each one. We headed back to the beach and onto the next stage.

Paddle done! Just out of shot to the left of this picture is another team of 2 females, who had loaded their bikes into their canoe. [Photo by Brad Jennings]

Bike leg to CP80, CP120, and CP130

We had been racing for about an hour when we headed out on our bikes. We rode on gravel and paved roads, and trekked on foot into the woods to find the CPs. We got confused on the road on the way to CP120, not sure that we had turned onto the correct road, and wondering if we were on a road that was out of bounds. A couple of other teams stopped at the same time, and together we tried to figure it out. Another team passed us. Eventually, we decided to continue on to see if around the next corner we would be able to figure out if we were on the right track. That worked. All was good.

A little later, after lots of hills on the bike, we turned onto a trail, left our bikes and headed with another team deeper into the woods for CP120, using a compass bearing to take us there. It was further than we expected it to be, but I eventually spotted it! Our navigation was good, there was no sign of thunderstorms, and the bugs weren’t too bad! But it was hot and humid! We got back on our bikes, rode a trail for while before again leaving our bikes to head into the woods, this time looking for CP130 in between two bodies of water. Success. We got back on our bikes, but instead of turning around and heading back the way we came, we opted to ride further along the trail to give ourselves more road (rather than trail) to ride to head back to transition. I think it saved us time (that was at least the plan!).

After this long bike leg, we had intended to continue biking to CP50 and CP72, drop our bikes and trek to CP90, CP91, and CP71 before doing some of the fun checkpoints on our way to CP30, CP31 and our waiting bikes, but we scrapped that plan once we got back onto the Bark Lake road. Rebecca and I were so hot, and both experienced “chills” as we were riding – not a good sign! So we decided to change our plan to jump into the lake as soon as possible! We had been on the bike leg for 3 hours.

CP41 (Under water CP)

While Rebecca searched the bottom of the roped-in swim area for a CD lying on the bottom (the underwater CP), I relaxed while cooling off in the water! The awesome volunteers at this CP also gave us a cold bottle of electrolyte drink to share, and a bag of chips. It felt so good to cool down!

CP50, CP72, CP31, CP30

Soaking wet but cooler, we again headed out on our bikes, this time on the Lakota trail, heading for CP50 and CP72. The “clue” for CP50 was ‘rocky point’, but there were multiple spots that might have passed as a rocky point. It was further off the trail than we expected it to be (this became a theme!) but we found it. It was in this section that we really noticed the bugs (the deer flies!) but they were bothering Rebecca more than me. Either they liked her more, or I was immune, after my recent canoe trip at Algonquin and the ridiculous bugs there!

One of the remote checkpoints.
So pretty!

At CP72 we had planned to leave our bikes and trek to a few CPs, but once we got there and looked at the map again, we decided it was too far to trek, and we really weren’t keen on having to backtrack later to get our bikes again! Plus, we wanted to make sure we were able to do as many of the fun CPs as possible. So we changed our plan again, finding CP31 (oh boy, another ‘rocky point’!) and CP30 (hung by a man for sure – so high!) on our way back to our transition spot and our bin and cooler. We also checked into CPB, a mandatory stop between 4 and 6 PM (the race started at 11 AM) to tell them which CPs we still intended to do (before the race, we had to hand in a planned route). CPB also had lots of treats and drinks for racers.

This checkpoint was hung by a man!

Inner tube CP (CP42), Middle of creek CP (CP49), Photobomb CP (CP43), Slingshot CP (CP44), Roxy CP (CP46), Paddle board CP (CP45)

Next we headed by bike to the inner tube CP, where I swam to an island to punch the checkpoint. It was quite the leg workout!

[Photo by Rebecca]

We continued on our bikes along a gravel road then trail, until we reached a creek with a CP hanging on a wire half way across the waist-deep creek. I ignored the leech potential, waded in, and punched the CP!

At the next CP, we walked into the water in our bike shoes, and pretended to be rock stars on a giant floating trampoline! Jumping in bike shoes while attempting to play guitar was… challenging! So fun.

[Photo by Petra Uu]

From there we headed for the Slingshot CP, which we didn’t try last year. We each had 3 chances to hit a target with a small rock. I didn’t have much confidence in my slingshot abilities, and sure enough, I failed! So did Rebecca. We had to sit a 10 minute penalty on the spot. But a woman and her partner showed up – she took one shot, hit the target, and walked away! I asked if she hit it on the first shot. Yup. “All that target practice with the Glock!” Clearly I’m in the wrong profession.

How hard could it be?

Cleared by volunteers to start racing again (neither of us minded the forced rest!), we rode to the Roxy CP, where we had the choice of a shot of beer or a shot of root beer. We posed for a picture, and headed out!

We set out by bike to the paddle board CP, which Rebecca was going to do this year (I did it last year). But we couldn’t find the trail we wanted, so we ended up taking a longer, wilder, up and down trail, which we kept hoping would end up at the beach! Finally, I heard voices and sure enough, we made it to the beach. On our way on foot to the paddle boards, another team came by with their bikes, headed for the trail we were supposed to follow! At least we knew which way to go back.

Unfortunately for Rebecca, the wind had picked up and the water was choppy! Paddling around on her knees did the trick. She spotted the 3 symbols in the water (spread out in the roped off area), told the volunteer what she saw, and we got the points for the CP.

Finish

We had hoped to be able to do CP48 (an audio CP, which you have to find by listening for music in the woods), and CP40 (where we would be given a separate map to find three “stars”), but given the amount of time left, we figured we’d finish after the 8 hour cut-off if we attempted even the audio CP (losing 10 points per minute). So we biked/trekked the shorter path to the finish line, arriving after 7 hours 22 minutes and 55 seconds of racing!

Despite the ridiculous heat and humidity, we got lucky that the thunderstorms never materialized! We ended up with 1210 points, and covered around 55k. Hearing the stories of those who ventured north instead of south, we were glad that we had made the decision to do the bike leg and skip the other trekking section. Navigation was tough up there!

Done! [Official race photo]

After getting clean, dry, and loading up our bikes and the canoe, we enjoyed a delicious hot meal with other racers. There was a band playing live music, and eventually, the awards began (delayed due to a medical emergency on the course and a helicopter rescue of a race participant from a remote trail by search and rescue experts – apparently the man was released from hospital).

It turns out that Rebecca and I won the 8-hour female team of 2 category!

Woot! #1! [Official race photo]

Such a fun race. Thank you Storm Racing! We’ll be back.

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Race report: SCAR Championship 2019

Race for 12-14 hours by canoe, mountain bike and on foot with a 4 AM in-the-dark race start? Why not?! I’m not sure how my race partner Rebecca and I learned about the South Coast Adventure Race (SCAR) in Amherstburg, Ontario, but when I heard that this year’s race was going to be a longer, 12-14 hour championship edition, I was even more intrigued. We are hoping to compete in the 24 hour Wilderness Traverse adventure race in 2020, and thought this would be a perfect step up to that race from the shorter (4 to 6+ hour) races that we’ve done so far. So, we registered!

Race weekend arrived, and we headed for Holiday Beach in Amherstburg where we would be camping the night before, and the night after, the race. We were the first to set up our campsite. We organized all of our race clothes, gear and food. Then while cooking our dinner, another female team of 2 arrived and set up camp next to us. They would feature heavily in our race!

Next we headed to Mettawas Parks in Kingsville, where we dropped off our mountain bikes and my canoe.

We picked up our race kits, posed for pre-race photos, and headed for the mandatory pre-race briefing at the Kingsville arena.

Sometimes adventure racing looks like this.

We soon learned that there were 6 race maps – one huge main map (no way we could carry that around with us as is!), and 5 additional maps. Before we left the arena, we had planned our route for the race, and set it out on each of the maps using highlighters. Some of the race course would be a mandatory route, and other parts we could decide for ourselves – starting in the dark was a factor in our planning, because it would still be dark when we reached the first trekking section (the race was to start on bicycles). We headed back to our campsite, where we set about trimming the huge map with the tiny scissors from our mandatory first aid kit. We thought it would be easier to fold the map to fit it into our map bag if it was as small as possible! Thankfully we noticed that we had cut the map scale off, so we wrote it onto the map.

With our alarms set for 2 AM (!), we headed straight for bed. Sadly, I had trouble falling asleep, and in the end had less than an hour of sleep before my alarm went off. We got dressed for the race, ate our breakfast in my van, and then headed for the Essex Region Conservation Area Demonstration Farm next to Holiday Beach, where we would board busses to take us to the start line. We left our kayak paddles and transition area gear bin too, which had paddling gear and extra food. We would visit the transition area 3 times during the early parts of the race.

Before the race could even start we had a little adventure. We were on the 3rd and last school bus, which was following the ones in front of it. When the first one made a wrong turn, all three busses ended up having to back up and turn a sharp corner backwards – in the dark. Rebecca and I were in the very back row, so had front row seats to the many point turn. Where exactly were the wheel wells, and would we fall into the ditch? Our new friends sitting in the row ahead of us yelled directions to the driver (who asked for help). Quite the start to the day! The bus eventually made the turn, and we made it to the race start, albeit slightly later than expected! The race actually started around 4:30 AM, not 4 as planned.

Note: all distances are approximate. CP 1/2, 3, 4/6, 5 and CP I were manned (with volunteers) and also had SI readers. The others simply had SI readers to insert our SI cards into.

Bike leg #1: start to CP 1 (8k)

The race began in the dark, so with flashing lights on the front and backs of our bikes, and headlamps on our heads, we set out on the Chrysler Canada Greenway, a gravel trail that was pretty flat, heading for transition area 1 where we would drop our bikes and start the first trekking leg. We didn’t need to do any navigation, because we just followed the riders in front of us. When Rebecca and I weren’t riding side by side, we would call back to each other to make sure we were still close. It wasn’t too long before we reached CP 1 at Camp Cedarwin, a Scout camp.

Run leg #1: CP A-H (14k)

We dropped our bikes, changed into our running shoes, and headed north through the Scout camp and back onto the Chrysler Canada Greenway. From here, teams could decide the order in which they collected the 8 mandatory checkpoints. We decided to go in a counter-clockwise route, heading first for the ones that we thought would be easier to find in the dark. We left the ones in the swampy area (where the navigation looked trickier) until later, when the sun would have risen!

We found CP H at the end of a laneway, then headed into the woods. We ran into friends on 2 different teams looking for CP F, and together, we found it. We followed the creek to the East to find CP G, then turned back and followed the same creek past CP F, through thorns that grabbed us, and all the way to CP E. It was somewhere in this section that I rolled my ankle, but thankfully I was able to continue! Also in this part of the race, the sun came up and we turned our headlamps off.

Following the creek towards the road, we caught up with a couple of other teams, and bushwhacked our way through together. At one point, I detached another racer’s sock from a fence. After a short road section, we were back into the woods, and facing the first real test of our navigation skills. Our plan was to avoid crossing the marshy areas as much as possible, because we thought these crossings would be slow and difficult. Our plan was to follow the creek as much as we could. We took a bearing and set off. It was at this point that we first noticed the “helmet guys”. They were doing the trek while still wearing their bicycle helmets, possibly because their headlamps were affixed to them. In any case, we worked with these 2 guys to find CP C and CP D, crossing the creek, bushwhacking and being stung by stinging nettles with them. Someone from another team whipped out vinegar, saying it took the sting away. We soldiered on. Just before reaching CP D, someone on another team said to me in an Australian accent, “You’ve got a mozzie on your forehead!” I had heard the the term mozzie before, but never had someone said that to me in real life.

After CP D the helmet guys headed a different way, so we continued alone to find CP A. I started doubting our plan when I wasn’t sure we’d be able to figure out exactly where we needed to cut down the hill toward the checkpoint. We debated backtracking and tackling it a different way, but in the end decided to continue. It was here that we then met the helmet guys again. With them we reached a creek that we needed to cross (about 6 feet wide?), but it wasn’t clear how deep it was. I went down the steep bank first, quickly discovering that it was much deeper than we thought. The water went up to my chest, but it was cool and refreshing! The others followed me across, one of the helmet guys falling in up to his neck. Once on the other side, it didn’t take long to find the checkpoint.

Rebecca and I headed back the same way, and heard another team saying that they wanted to stay dry. CP B was a quick, easy find, after which we made our way back to the transition area at the Scout camp. I think it was here that we found out we were now in 20th place overall. We had passed a couple of teams.

Paddle #1: CP I + CP 2 (9k)

We put on our lifejackets, had a snack, grabbed our paddles, knee pads, bailer/rope and walked a couple hundred metres to the canoe start (the race crew had moved the canoes from Mettawas Park to the Scout camp).

My canoe is the yellow one in front. [Official race photo]

With a small craft advisory in place for Lake Erie due to high wind and water levels, the paddle course was changed in the week leading up to the race. Instead of paddling on Lake Erie, we paddled from the Scout camp along Cedar Creek towards Lake Erie. There was quite a bit of wind on the way out to CP I, so much so that at times Rebecca and I both paddled only on the right side, with her doing wide sweeps at the bow to keep the canoe straight.

Rebecca in the bow.

We got to see some of our friends on the paddle, as they made their way back from CP I. Thankfully, the return paddle wasn’t as tough. Near the end, we encountered a couple of teams of very inexperienced paddlers. One team couldn’t keep the canoe straight, both of the paddlers switching their canoe paddles from the left side to the right and back again (randomly). We wondered how they would manage once they hit the wind. A racer on another team didn’t know how to hold the canoe paddle, so I told him to put one hand on top – he thanked me!

When we reached the end of the paddle, we were amazed that we didn’t even have to do anything with my canoe – volunteers took it away for us! We were pleasantly surprised to hear that we were 22/57 teams coming out of the water.

Paddle done.

Bike leg #2: CP 3 (23k) + CP J-K bike drop (21k)

We jumped back on our bikes and headed for CP 3, which we found easily by following the Chrysler Canada Greenway and then various roads. We were way ahead of the 2 PM cutoff (if you didn’t make it there in time, you were put onto a shorter course, skipping some sections of the full course). We were told by volunteers checking teams off a list that we were the 2nd female team of 2. What?! The 3rd place team arrived just after us.

But this is where things fell apart! We rode along an old abandoned rail line, which was very rocky but rideable, but when we left it, the roads didn’t make sense, and eventually, we had no idea where we were (not all roads on the race maps were labelled). We weren’t the only ones! It took a while, but we eventually found ourselves back on our planned route – phew. At the time, it felt like we added a lot of distance and time, but looking at the map after the race, it looks like we only added about 3k.

Run leg #2: CP J-K (3k)

We left our bikes at the bike drop, and headed off on our 2nd trek section. We ran along a path until we hit a culvert, took a bearing and headed into the woods for CP K. It was closer than we expected. We followed the creek to CP J, then I took another bearing and we headed back to the first trail we were running on. Our navigation was good in this section, and we were back on track. Phew!

Bike leg #3: CP 4 (11k) + CP L (11 1/2k) + CP 5 (3 1/2k)

We hopped back on our bikes and headed along roads to CP4, which we had to reach by the 2 PM cut-off (we were there with lots of time to spare). We had a quick chat with the volunteer here, a Masters student who gave up her whole day to be there for us. Thank you to all the amazing volunteers! Then we rode the Rotary Centennial Trail (around a huge cemetery) and then a paved trail along the Herb Gray Parkway. We ran into friends on this trail too, making their way from CP 5 to CP 6. They were flying! These were great paths to ride on. We opted to go for CP L on our way to CP 5 (you could do it after if you wanted to), so we left the trail and took a dirt path into the woods behind some houses and quickly found the control. We made our way onto the paved trail again, and arrived at CP 5 at Malden Park. Here we would have two completely different activities to complete: 1) a trek relay, and 2) a bike time trial.

Run leg #3 (relay): CP N (2k) + CP M (2k) + CP O (2k)

The relay legs had to be done one at a time. We decided that I would do two legs, so I set off along a paved trail for CP M. I passed the trail I had intended to take, not believing it was the right one (it was essentially a mowed grass path). But when I reached a paved trail, I knew I had gone too far. So I took that trail, and decided to get CP N instead. I ran back to Rebecca (the shorter way), and got to relax for a few minutes and eat while she ran to CP O. I even got to use a proper bathroom with flushing toilets and a sink.

Enjoying the short break!

When she returned, I headed out again, this time taking a shorter way to CP M. I met a man who was nowhere near where he thought he was, so I told him he could follow me back to CP 5 if he wanted to so that he could start again. He did. This was where we saw the lead female team of 2 head for CP 6.

Bike leg #4: time trial (5k) + CP6 (14k) + bike drop (13k)

I had never done a bike time trial before (essentially, a race against the clock with one team starting at a time), let alone one after we had already been racing for 10 hours!! Before we started I asked how long it took the fastest team so far, and found out it was 11 minutes. This was somewhat comforting, knowing that we wouldn’t be doing a 1 hour time trial! We followed the painted arrows on the ground, over gravel, dirt, grass, up and down hills, around tight corners, through long grass, and right past a deer and lots of bunnies. We weren’t exactly racing! I found this section fun (it was as close to “real” mountain biking as we got that day), but was relieved to be done it 17 minutes later.

We made our way to CP 6, which was also CP 4 (the one with the Masters student). She confirmed that we were still the 2nd place female team of 2.

Run leg #4: N/A

Given the time, it was looking unlikely that we would make it through the run leg and be able to bike to finish by the 6 PM cutoff. In fact, when we reached the bike drop for the last trek section, we were told that we should bike straight to the finish. I asked how long it was taking teams to do the trek, and the volunteer said on average about 30 minutes, and that many teams weren’t finding all of the controls.

I was disappointed not to be able to do the trek section, but relieved to know that we would be done sooner!

Bike leg #5: to finish line (15k)

We continued on our bikes, 15k that seemed to take forever. By this point, my back had gotten tight and my knee was complaining. Rebecca was having her own issues. A female team of 2 went whizzing by, and we thought, what the heck?! Where did they come from and how can they have so much energy? We talked to them later, when they told us it was their first (and probably last) race like this – that they had missed lots of checkpoints.

We finally reached Holiday Beach and made our way to the finish line. We finished in 13 hours and 46 minutes, just 14 minutes under the 14 hour time cut-off. We had paddled around 9k, run 21k and biked 125k!

It was definitely the hardest race I’ve ever done. Amazing though what one can do on less than an hour of sleep!

In the end, Rebecca and I ended up winning the team of 2 females category, because the team that was ahead of us was overtime. So even though they found all of the checkpoints (including the ones on the last trek that we didn’t do), we finished ahead of them. It feels a bit strange, but that’s apparently how adventure racing works.

SCAR was very well organized and the volunteers were great. There was lots of post-race food, and even vegetarian options.

Canoes and paddling gear/transition bins and bags were waiting for us at the race finish, having been transported there by race volunteers. I even got a race shuttle to where my van was parked. Rebecca and I had had visions of having to get back on our bikes and ride to get the van.

Thank you for a great race! We’ll be back.

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Race report: Storm the Trent Trek Elite 2019

After a great first experience doing Storm the Trent Trek in Haliburton in 2018, my race partner Rebecca and I decided to do Storm the Trent Trek Elite this year – i.e. the long version!

On race morning we dropped our bikes off at Glebe Park, my canoe off at Head Lake Park downtown Haliburton, and then we headed for A.J. LaRue Arena to check in.

We signed waivers, got our race maps and race instructions, grabbed a couple of chairs, and set about planning our route.

There were 19 checkpoints, which we would find by canoeing, running, biking, and then running again. Some of the checkpoints would have volunteers at them, and other would be un-manned. At all of them, we would have to check in with our SI stick. Some of the course would be a marked route or mandatory route, and for the rest of it we had to make our own route.

Canoe and paddle gear ready to go – as the sun rises.

After reading through the instructions and figuring out how the race would play out, we had time to chat with other racers, eat, and head upstairs for the pre-race briefing.

Race planning done.

Then it was time to walk a few blocks to Head Lake Park for the start of the race! We hit the water and waited with everyone else for a few minutes until the race began.

Just about go time!

We knew that we wouldn’t be the fastest boat out there, and that we would be able to follow the other canoes and kayaks – and that’s just what we did. About 15 minutes after the race started, it began to rain… and then pour! Thankfully, it wasn’t very windy so the paddling wasn’t difficult! We reached the floating checkpoint 1 (CP1) in about 35 minutes, with just a few boats arriving after us. In addition to using the SI stick, we had to yell our team number to volunteers on shore so they could check us off their list. Rebecca was the keeper of the SI stick for this race.

Then we headed back for Head Lake Park! We actually made it back in less time than it took us to get there – a negative split! Woot!

Canoe time: 1:08:53 (according to my watch) for 8k

Back out of the water I had to keep taking breaks carrying the canoe with Rebecca. I figured out later that my paddling gloves were the problem – I had no grip!

We left the canoe in the transition area, checked in at CP2, made a portapotty pitstop, and headed on foot to Glebe Park. Rebecca was very cold at the start of the run (we were soaked)! We ran 2-3k to the park, checked in at CP3, and then headed into the woods to look for CP22, 23, 24, and 25. For this section, we had to switch maps from the main race map to Supplemental Map #1. This section is where things went haywire! Right away we got confused with the trails we saw in front of us and the trails on the map – we couldn’t match them up. We were looking for a snowmobile trail, which we thought would be wider and obvious, but it most definitely wasn’t! We actually scrapped our plan to find CP23, 24, and 25 first on a looped trail, and instead followed people to what we eventually figured out would be CP22 – we knew there must be something there if they were going that way! It was once we reached CP22 that we knew for sure where we were.

Unfortunately, this didn’t really help! We bushwhacked through the forest and across 2 trails, thinking we knew where we were. But things still didn’t make sense to us, and we eventually ended up pretty much back at our starting place at Glebe Park. We headed out – again – and finally got ourselves onto the loop where we would find CP23, 24, and 25. It was incredibly muddy on parts of the trek section.

Once we found these 3 checkpoints, we headed back for Glebe Park, thinking we were retracing our route. But we encountered a rope across the trail and knew right away that we hadn’t been there before. However, we weren’t alone, running into another team doing the same race as us, and a couple of guys doing the shorter Trek race solo.

Intended route in orange highlighting. Note the big red OUT OF BOUNDS areas…
Now note our path straight through the OUT OF BOUNDS area (the upside down U-shape in the middle of the picture).

Turns out our route back was more efficient. Comparing our actual route versus the course map and our highlighted intended route, I can totally see now that we went straight through the red rectangular PRIVATE PROPERTY out of bounds section. Yikes. That was not our intent. Clearly, we were confused!! And analyzing our route now, I can see that our return route was on the snowmobile trail that we were so desperately seeking at the beginning of the trek! We ran much further than we needed to.

Run time: 2:23:44 for 13.6k

We checked back in at CP3, and then headed for our bikes. We ate while getting ourselves organized, putting our bike shoes, gloves and helmets on, and strapping our trail shoes to our camelbaks.

Then we headed out for the first part of the bike course, an out and back in search of CP30, 31, and 4. Just after CP30 we encountered the first flooded dirt road, but this year, we decided to ride straight through it. It was scary and exhilarating at the same time. I couldn’t see beneath the water’s surface, so I was taken down by a rock that knocked me off balance.

Not too much further along, an even deeper section of flooded road awaited us! Picture a fairly narrow, gravel, pot-holed, small and big rock-strewn road with a couple of feet of water on it. Now imagine trying to ride your bike through it. The trick for me was to ride as steadily as I could in my granny gear and not slow down. But it was a bumpy, unpredictable ride and once again, I fell over! Another racer caught up to Rebecca and I shortly after this section and asked, “Which of you swam?” Me, me, that was all me. I may also have yelped. On the bright side, the water cleaned my bike.

We continued on to a hydrocut, which we had to ride along (or push our bikes along due to mud), up, down, and up again. We headed back to the main trail and rode it a short distance to CP4.

Riding into checkpoint 4. [Official race photo]
Checking into checkpoint 4. [Official race photo]

We rode back to Glebe Park, through the “lakes” (I stayed upright! It was easier to see under the water on the way back – at least somewhat!), and back to CP3.

Then we hit the road section of the bike course, which had no shortage of hills! It was in this section that we started to pick off other teams (we are road riders after all!).

Eventually, we reached the ATV trail where we would find CP50. This is where we slowed to a snail’s pace, as the incredible amount of mud forced us to walk and push our bikes through it. At one point, I sunk into the mud half-way up my calf! We pushed our bikes for kilometres! The crazy mud sections were separated by some rideable trail and later gravel road sections.

We reached CP5, where a volunteer assured us that we had seen the worst of the mud, and that the road would be way better. Sadly, she was wrong. I started looking at my watch and realizing for the first time that we may not reach CP6 in time to meet the cut-off to be allowed to do the final trek section at Sir Sam’s Ski Resort.

Riding along a gravel road, it seemed to be taking forever to reach CP32. At two separate points I got cold on the bike – it was pouring rain, and on the (very few!) big downhills, the breeze chilled me to the bone! Eventually, we reached the intersection where I thought the checkpoint would be, but there was a woman off her bike who had apparently “almost crashed” (she had no brakes left), and when I mentioned the checkpoint she and her partner said it wasn’t at that intersection. We continued on our bikes, but we should not have listened to them! Again, it seemed to be taking forever to find the checkpoint. Eventually, we reached an intersection marked on the map (Bushwolf and Angel) and it was at that point I realized that we had missed it. It was at the earlier intersection!

We continued on in search of CP33, which would be somewhere along a MTB trail at Sir Sam’s, but we would have to ride the trail to find it. We ended up “riding” it with 2 girls in the shorter Trek course… if you can call it riding. Once again, it was incredibly muddy. Had it been dry, it would have been very fun to ride – it was twisty, turny, and full of little ups and down. Instead, we could ride for a few pedal strokes and then we had to walk again! We found the checkpoint, and then headed for CP6, reaching it about 15 minutes over the cut-off, so we were directed to run to the finish line rather than do the last trek section. Had we done the trek, we would have drawn the location of CP40, 41, 42 and 43 on our Supplemental Map #2 (from a master map at CP6), then climbed and descended the ski hill to find them.

I was disappointed not to make the cut-off, but relieved at the same time to be done!

Bike time: 4:29:52 for 44.2k

Done!

In the end, we crossed the finish line in 8:15:24, in 2nd place out of 2 teams of 2 females. The other team found all the checkpoints and finished in 8:37.

I had a great time – despite the mud – and look forward to taking on the race again!!

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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. IMG_7536 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: Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race Suntrail Course 2018 (canoe/MTB/trail run)

My teammate Rebecca and I had so much fun at last year‘s Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race that we knew we wanted to do it again. We signed up to tackle the Suntrail course for a 2nd time, which is a 4k paddle, 16k mountain bike leg, and 6k trail run. On Friday night we registered at the arena, filled out waivers, put stickers on our gear, and left our bikes and bags with bike gear (helmet, shoes, food) with volunteers. We stopped at the bike draw table to be sure we had a chance to win (even though I won last year!). The check-in process was well organized. This year, we decided to camp at race central, Bluewater Park in Wiarton, Ontario. We checked in at the office and headed for our campsite, one of just 10 or so tent sites in the park (the rest are for trailers or are for seasonal trailer campers). We were more than a little shocked to discover the size of our site – it was tiny! It was clearly marked as being between 2 trees that had to be about 8 feet apart (see picture). It was a rectangle, with enough room for my vehicle (parked over the fire pit), a picnic table, and tent. On the other side of the hedge was the road. A nice man named Dave from Winnipeg was camped to our right – he would be doing the Buff long course. Unfortunately, our neighbours to the left arrived around 10:30 PM, immediately started a fire (with a big POOF! and a “Did you see that?”), set up their tent, ordered pizza delivery, and then proceeded to keep me awake until 1:30 AM when they eventually called it a night. Lesson learned: ear cancelling headphones or super duper earplugs!
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Our tiny campsite at the Bluewater Park Campground – between the 2 trees from the hedge to the back of my vehicle.
Despite the rough night, it was awesome to be able to just pack up our sleeping stuff and tent and drive for 2 minutes to get to the race site. We brought the canoe and paddling gear to the water, and then had lots of time to relax before the race started. Having done the race before, I had almost no pre-race nerves (there’s always the worry of mechanical failure – especially on the bike!). I got to meet a woman named Kris and her race partner, who were racing for the first time, inspired by my blog post of last year’s race (how cool is that?!).
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Colpoy’s Bay was calm in the early morning.
After the pre-race briefing, where participants were told that it was never too late to decide that the race, or any part of it, was beyond their abilities, Rebecca and I got ready for our 10:20 AM start. We would begin after the solo kayak men and solo kayak women.
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Ready to race!
Because we were in the water 20 minutes or so before the race started, we were getting blown by the wind away from the starting area and had to keep correcting and paddling back. We were amazed that one man was doing the race in a row boat! One team jokingly asked us if we wanted to switch paddles (we had kayak paddles while theirs were canoe paddles). 4k Canoe The race began and off we went! We were hoping that the bow seat (and Rebecca!) stayed put this time. For Storm the Trent the tightening mechanism wasn’t working, and I forgot to do anything about it before RockstAR. My husband helped and we thought we had the problem solved… and, as it turns out, we did! There was quite a bit of congestion for the first section of the paddle, where we headed perpendicular to our main route of travel. One boat in particular kept coming quite close, as they seemed to be having trouble steering. Once we turned around the buoy near the marina we headed for a big white building in the distance, and things spread out. We counted only 6-8 boats in front of us, which was an improvement from last year! From that point on, no one passed us, and we eventually passed one canoe. My biggest problem was continually sliding off my seat. I was kneeling, with my butt just on the edge of my seat. But far too frequently I had to stop paddling to shift back onto my seat. Towards the end of the paddle I decided to sit, and had no more issues. Rebecca noted that I seemed to have more power while sitting too. At times the wind made it a bit hard to stay on course, but we never got off course too much. As we got closer to the end of the paddle, we passed a few of the solo kayak women who started 10 minutes before us. One poor woman thought I was telling her to move over when I was only telling Rebecca to paddle on one side – oops! We apologized! We jumped out of the canoe at the shore, and very quickly volunteers grabbed the canoe and carried it away for us. We left our lifejackets and all our gear in it, and started running for the transition zone where we would find our bikes. 16k Bike I popped into the portapotty, then met Rebecca at our bikes. They were really easy to find, because volunteers told each racer or team exactly which rack to go to. I had an energy bar, put my helmet and cycling shoes on, and we headed out.
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Rebecca doesn’t look too happy, but I promise we didn’t just have a fight. This is us starting the ride. [Official race photo]
Having ridden this course once before, we were much more confident this year. Not only were we riding our own bikes (last year we rode rentals), but we had more experience mountain biking. The course is a mixture of double track trails, single track trails, grassy field, and gravel road. We passed quite a few people at the beginning, with Rebecca in front and me in behind the entire way. Riding through a few sections of the course, we remembered walking them last year! There were only 2 spots that we briefly unclipped and walked, either around a tight corner or up a hill (where we had lost speed and the ground was very rocky). The ride definitely seemed easier. Last year, while riding on the single track section that has lots of tight twists, turns, ups and downs, a team passed us and we said that we couldn’t imagine being clipped in. One rider said, “I can’t imagine not being clipped in!” And this year? We were clipped in! My goal for the ride was to drink my entire bottle of gatorade, but I had to carefully time my sips – there was no way I was riding one-handed through rocky, hilly, twisty or turny sections! I managed to do it – it was a hot day and I didn’t want to get dehydrated. We noticed that no female teams passed us on the bike. 6k Run Back in the transition zone we left our bikes, helmets and bike shoes, and put on our running shoes and hats. I made a quick trip to the portapotty, and we headed out on the run. The run course is a mixture of pavement, Bruce Trail, and paved park path at the end. The Bruce Trail in this section includes dirt path, very rocky path, weedy field, stiles to climb over, and steep circular stairs to descend. I was fighting a side stitch for part of the run, but managed to keep it in check. I had a gel just after we started running, and one in the last 3km. We were wearing camelbaks so we had lots of water. Again, we noticed that no teams of females passed us on the run. We passed solo female racers and some solo males and male teams. At one point, a couple of guys were following us, and we took a wrong turn – we missed the trail going to the right, but didn’t get very far (10m?). After we got back on the trail, Rebecca said to me that the guys didn’t know the name of the team they were following (Define “Lost”)! There were a couple of aid stations on the run – at the last one, which was just before the descent down the steep stairs, I grabbed 2 cups of water and poured them on my head. Felt so good! Rebecca tried to get me to speed up once we hit the pavement, but I wasn’t having much success! We reached the park, passed our campsite, and 2:31:22 after starting, we crossed the finish line! We weren’t sure how we had placed, but we felt that the race had gone better than the year before (turns out we were about 11 minutes faster). We were pretty sure that we were faster on the canoe and biking sections (we were).
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Done!
I downed several cups of water, then heard someone call my name. I looked up and didn’t recognize the guy at all. Turns out he and his race partner (John and Amy from Ireland) had read my blog post about last year’s race 3 times on the way to the race, and learned everything they needed to know. Thanks for saying hi!! Rebecca and I went for a dip in the lake, changed into dry clothes, had a free massage courtesy of Bayshore Physical Therapy in Owen Sound, and had awesome lamb burgers from the farm providing post-race food for racers. We watched other racers finish (and while standing there had a non-fish sushi roll with wasabi and ginger offered by a friend of a friend – so yummy and my first ever post-race sushi!), then drove over to the arena a block or so away and loaded our bikes and paddling gear into my vehicle, and the canoe on top. We walked to Northern Confections for a drink – I had a deliciously sweet Chaisicle (iced drink). We headed back to the race site to watch more racers finish. We looked up the race stats, and found that we had finished in 3rd place out of 10 female teams. Woohoo! We chatted with other racers until the awards ceremony, including our new friend Dave from the campground. And we heard about the crazy waves in the long course race – a few people flipped their boats, some more than once! And one guy from the long course race apparently forgot to pack his running shoes into his bag to be transported to the transition zone. No worries – he ran 8k in socks along the Bruce Trail until volunteers could get him his shoes. And yes, he was on the podium! As 3rd place winners, Rebecca and I received a bag of coffee each from Northern Convections, and were able to choose a prize from the prize table. I chose a bottle of Nikwak (the wash-in fabric waterproofer), likely donated by Suntrail Source for Adventure. We had our picture taken on the podium, and then stuck around until the bike draw. IMG_6681 On the podium in 3rd place! [Photo by Dave] Winners for other prizes were called by team number and then name, so when the draw was made for the bike (courtesy of Bikeface Cycling in Owen Sound), they called 208 – our team number! And then, Rebecca! Yes! I won last year, and Rebecca this year. A Devinci Jackson mountain bike. Crazy! Our friend John said to me, “I want to be on YOUR team next year!” Once again, we had a super fun time participating in this race. We’ll be back next year!! Thank you Peninsula Adventure Sports Association! Stats (all times approximate except for total time – I was a little slow hitting my watch button sometimes!): Screen Shot 2018-08-14 at 7.13.13 PM 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: RockstAR Adventure Race (or, finding checkpoints by SUP, inner tube, and more!)

Having heard great things about Storm Racing’s RockstAR Adventure Race, my teammate Rebecca and I were keen to try it! We would have 4 hours to find as many checkpoints as we could, using bikes, canoes, and our own two (four) feet. We would decide which checkpoints to go for, and how we would get there. In addition to the usual locations such as at a trail junction, or on a rocky ledge, there would be “fun” checkpoints that required you to do an activity before you got the points. But I’m getting ahead of myself here… Rebecca and I chose to stay in the accommodations at Bark Lake Conference Centre in the Haliburton area, which was the location for the race. We had a room with 2 beds and a bathroom, just a couple of hundred metres from race central. It wasn’t cheap, but super convenient! On race morning, we registered, picked up our number plates and buffs, and then added the number plates to our bikes and canoe, which we had put on a bike rack and down by the water, respectively. Then we headed back to the building we were staying in to plan our route in one of the meeting rooms.
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Bikes ready to go!
We opted for fun over points, meaning that while we hoped to get as many points as we could, we wanted to do as many of the “fun” checkpoints as possible. We went through many route options, but finally settled on canoeing first to 4 checkpoints in the water or at the shore, then using a combination of biking and running to get to the rest. But we also wondered how fun it would be to bike (and possibly run, depending on trail conditions) in our PFDs to a couple of the checkpoints that required them. We decided to try it anyway, and change our plan if need be. Some checkpoints were worth more points than others depending on their distance away from the start, and their difficulty. Before the race started we had to submit our proposed route plan to the race director, but 5 minutes before the race started (and our plan was in!), we changed our route. We decided to go to the stand up paddleboard (SUP) and inner tube checkpoints by canoe, instead of by bike/running. In any case, we had a general plan but decided that we would wing it!
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Ready to go!
After the pre-race briefing, everyone headed to the beach for the race start.
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Pre-race photo. [Photo credit: Storm Racing]
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One last pre-race pic.
We grabbed our canoe and put it right at the shore, as did 4 other teams. When the race began, we grabbed our canoe, got into the water, into the canoe, and off we went!
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And we’re off! [Photo credit: Storm Racing]
SUP checkpoint We were the second team to arrive at the SUP checkpoint, so there was no wait (some checkpoints had a maximum number of people who could do them at any one time). It was a good thing that I had tried a SUP for the first time one week prior to the race!
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Grid searching.
In order to get the points for this checkpoint, I had to travel by SUP through a buoyed-off swimming area to find (and memorize) words under the water. I went fairly slowly, given that I was a SUP newbie! I found all 3 words after searching in a grid-like pattern.
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SUPing like a pro.
Rock on rockstars! Back at the shore I said those 3 words and earned the points! Creek crossing checkpoint We left the SUP and canoe and ran through the woods to find the next checkpoint, then with a family who was running at our speed headed off to the next one, which we would find by listening for music in the woods. Sound checkpoint With 5 of us trying to find it, we had to all stop at the same time to listen, otherwise you couldn’t hear the music over the sounds of crunching branches on the ground. But we managed to find it together without too much difficulty. Floating buoy checkpoint We ran back to the beach and jumped in the canoe, heading for the floating checkpoint. It was pretty windy, with not-insignificant waves making paddling challenging. We reached the checkpoint without too much trouble, but when Rebecca grabbed the manual punch attached to it, it tipped onto its side after she punched our punch card. We thought it would right itself, but it actually flipped upside down! That would have made it much more difficult for other teams to find. One team had to wait while a motor boat with race volunteers righted it. Oops! Rebecca felt really bad! Rocky point checkpoint Our next checkpoint was at a rocky point, but we landed the canoe and it wasn’t where we thought it would be. Again we were with the dad with two boys, and while the dad sent the boys to scout the trail West of our landing point, when they came back we were no more certain where we were. There were many canoes on shore, which we figured may be the 8-hour racers. Finally I spotted a trail leading perpendicular to the water, which immediately told us where we were! We had overshot the checkpoint, and had to run quite a ways to it. Another oops! Point checkpoint At this point, we set out in the canoe for the next checkpoint along shore, but the wind and waves were making us question whether we should abandon the next two and head back for our bikes. We eventually decided to do one more in the canoe, and then head back. We were paddling hard and thought we could make better progress (and earn more points!) on shore. Roxy (beer/root beer checkpoint) After returning to the race start/finish area in the canoe, we put it on shore and ran to the Roxy checkpoint, which was inside a little building. This was one of the most fun checkpoints, with Rebecca chugging beer and me root beer. It was ice cold and so refreshing! There was music playing and a strobe light adding special effects. Plus a big couch to sit on!
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Cheers!
Swim dock checkpoint We headed right next door to the swimming area, where I borrowed a pair of goggles and swam to the bottom of the lake to get a CD, which earned us points for this checkpoint. The only thing I didn’t like was that the goggles also had a nose piece, so that I couldn’t breathe through my nose just before diving down. Next time, I’d bring my own goggles! Inner tube checkpoint We grabbed our bikes, and headed along a road and then trail until we thought we were close to the inner tube checkpoint. Turns out we could have gone closer with our bikes, and ended up bushwhacking longer than we needed to. Rebecca grabbed an inner tube and paddled her way across the lake to a little island, where the checkpoint was.
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Rebecca paddles back from the island.
Creek crossing checkpoint We jumped on our bikes and headed further into the woods to the creek crossing checkpoint. When we got there, we saw that it was actually in the middle of the creek, up above on a rope – you had to cross to the middle of the creek to get the checkpoint. Before we got in, another racer commented on the huge leech he saw! Rebecca did not want to get anywhere near the leech, so I volunteered to go in! I had to jump to grab the rope while on shore, and then used it to guide me to the checkpoint. The water was up to my waist by the time I got there. Another team grabbed a canoe that was on shore and went to it that way. When we realized that we had to be on the other shore to get to the next checkpoint, Rebecca resigned herself to walking through the leech creek! Rocky ledge checkpoint We set off for the next checkpoint on foot, and soon came across another team, who said that yet another team told them they could easily bushwhack to it, but that the path would eventually go to it (the long way around we figured). We decided not to bushwhack because we didn’t know exactly where we were on the map. We should have taken a bearing when we left leech creek, but didn’t! And then we should have pace counted, but didn’t! So we ended up at a spot that didn’t make sense, seemed to have lost the trail, and weren’t sure whether we should bushwhack or backtrack and forget about the control. We were looking for a beaver dam, so I headed to the water and saw what I thought was one, and people – always a good sign! We followed the shore and found the checkpoint. We took a bearing and headed back as directly as possible to leech creek, but before long, we came across the team of women who were going to bushwhack – they seemed relieved to have found people! They hadn’t yet found the checkpoint! We all found some very sharp thorns (Rebecca’s leg was proof), and after we left them, we took a straight line back until we hit a trail, which we then followed. We later decided that this checkpoint wasn’t worth the time it took for us to find it! We should have gone for other higher point ones by bike. Lesson learned. Climbing wall checkpoint Back at leech creek we realized that there was a way to get across without getting wet, so we walked across big concrete blocks to get back to our bikes. We headed back to the start/finish and continued on to the climbing wall checkpoint. This was Rebecca’s very first time climbing, and after getting suited up into a harness and having a short lesson, she very quickly climbed her way to the top of the climbing wall where the checkpoint was! IMG_6467 Low ropes course checkpoint Our last checkpoint was at the end of a short low ropes course, which I did, while leaning on Rebecca’s head or shoulder at times (this was allowed). It was a fun way to end our race. From there we biked back to the racks and ran to the finish line. Our time was 3:47:39 – our goal was to not be late, because there was a 10 point penalty for every minute you were late over the 4 hours. We ended up with 580 points.
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Enter a caption [Photo credit: Storm Racing]
There were lots of food choices at the finish, from cookies and chips to ice cream bars, drinks and fruit! In fact, you could eat this stuff during the race too (but we didn’t). We loaded our bikes and canoe onto the car, went back to our room for showers and clean/dry clothes, then headed for dinner – it was an awesome dinner! Lasagna, broccoli, garlic bread, salad bar, and an ice cream sundae bar for dessert! There was even a live band after the awards ceremony. Turns out we were 5/10 female pairs teams, with the teams just ahead of us beating us by only a few points. Other fun checkpoints that we didn’t do were a slingshot checkpoint (if you missed the target, you had to sit for a 10 minute penalty before getting the points), and a trail clearing checkpoint, where you were given tools and had to clear a 15 foot by 3 foot section of trail (we figured it would take too long, but found out from others that it was worth it!). There were also a few other checkpoints that we had hoped to bike to but ran out of time. This race was super fun and I highly recommend it! I will definitely be back. 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: Storm the Trent Trek Long Course Race 2018

Some people might think we’re crazy, but minutes before the Storm the Trent Trek Long Course Race was to begin was the first time my racing partner Rebecca and I had been in a canoe since last August, a full 9 months earlier! Suffice it to say our canoe prep was minimal. We fared much better on the mountain biking, trail running, and orienteering prep side of things.

This was to be our first time participating in Storm the Trent, and only our second adventure race of this kind, after last August’s Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race, a canoeing/mountain biking/trail running race that did not involve any orienteering. We chose the middle distance race, which would entail approximately 7k of canoeing, 39k of mountain biking and 9k of trekking. This was the first year for the race to be held in Haliburton.

Going into the race, we had no idea what order the events would be in, or even how many times we would be doing each event. Would we start in the canoes or running? Given that our bikes were a few kilometres away, it was clear we wouldn’t be riding to start!

On race morning we drove to Glebe Park where we got plates for our bikes, and left our bikes on a rack, with our helmets, bike shoes, and water bottles.

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Pre-race bike drop-off at Glebe Park. [Photo credit: Kim]

Next we dropped our canoe off at Head Lake Park.

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Pre-race canoe drop-off. Love my Swift Keewaydin.

Then we went to AJ LaRue Arena to register, picking up our race instructions, 3 race maps, pinnies, and buffs. We also had to show our PFDs and other items from the mandatory gear list. We headed back to the canoe to leave our PFDs, then sat at the arena reading the race instructions and planning our route. The goal was to find all 14 checkpoints as quickly as possible. Three would be in the water on floating buoys, and the rest found while mountain biking or running. We learned that the order of events would be canoe/run/bike/run/bike/run/bike.

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Planning our route with the 3 race maps.

After the pre-race briefing, during which we learned that at one point on the bike course we would go through water above our knees (depending how tall we were), we all headed to the water and our boats. Solo athletes were in kayaks, and teams in canoes.

Canoe leg (around 7k)

On the water we found our friend Kristin, chatted with other racers, and then the race began! It was a mass start, with some bumper boat action and jostling to get away from other boats.

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And we’re off! We’re in the bright yellow boat at the top right, wearing white ball caps. I’m in the stern. [Photo credit: Storm the Trent]

For the 3 checkpoints on the water (CP1a, CP1b, and CP1c), we only had to get close enough to read the clue on them – for example, one told us that checkpoint 31 would be at a trail junction. We didn’t insert our SI sticks into card readers at these checkpoints. I wondered how well it would work for everyone to make a sharp left hand turn after the first checkpoint, but it went pretty smoothly – pretty polite Canadian paddlers are around us! All three of these checkpoints were easy to find, except that the last one was spinning in the wind and as we got closer we feared we would have to paddle up behind it to read it, but it spun again and phew – no need! In the last couple of kilometres my forearms were getting awfully tired and tight! We reached the shore between 57 and 58 minutes into the race.

Run leg 1 (around 2k)

After quickly removing our pinnies and PFDs, putting our pinnies back on and putting on our camelbaks, we were on our way, stopping first at CP1 to insert the SI stick (Rebecca was wearing it on a lanyard around her neck), and then running a couple of kilometres to our bikes.

Bike leg 1 (around 14k)

I ran for the portapotty, then once we changed our shoes and put on our helmets, we stopped at CP2 on our way out of the park, and we headed straight up a steep hill. It would be the first of many over the course of the race. The bike routes were all marked, so it was easy to know where to go. After a little while on a road, the route turned into the woods, where we met faster athletes coming back from CP3. This section was challenging, not only for the off-road nature, but because of the 2-way traffic. At times the trail was too narrow for riders to go in both directions when rocks or roots or big puddles of mud were in the way. Riding down a hill I was faced with riders coming up (and vice versa), but everyone was very respectful of the other riders. I didn’t hear anyone get angry when someone stopped dead in front of them.

It was between CP3 and CP4 that we encountered the deep water! I walked my bike through the deepest part, worried about falling over and getting my phone wet (which was in my camelbak, but not in a waterproof bag). The water was higher than my knee. Some people rode right through it, but one guy fell forward onto his face (he was fine!).

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This deep water section (above my knee when standing in it) was worthy of a photo! Kristin shows us how it’s done.

After the trail section ended we found CP4, then headed on the road back to Glebe Park and CP5 (which was also CP2).

Run leg 2 (around 3k)

At this point, we found Kristin at her bike and set off into the woods with her, agreeing on our route and heading in a counterclockwise direction to find CP30, CP31, CP33 and CP34. Three of these checkpoints were the ones that we found clues for while canoeing. None of these were hard to find, though we did walk some of the hills instead of running them. It was hot and humid and the break from running was welcome. We checked in at CP5 again, and this time when we headed off on our bikes, we took our running shoes with us, since we wouldn’t be returning to Glebe Park.

Bike leg 2 (around 14k)

It was on this 2nd bike leg that I was feeling very low energy overall. This section was mostly flat, and much of it along a rail trail, but I was having trouble staying with Rebecca. She was getting further and further away. I was drinking gatorade, had eaten some gels and an energy bar, but just couldn’t muster up any more power. I’m not sure what was going on. Maybe the heat?

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Somewhere out on the bike course! [Photo credit: Storm the Trent]

This part of the course was pretty, and where I spotted 2 painted turtles sitting on a log in the water along the rail trail. Eventually, we made our way to CP6 at Camp Wanakita (where I camped 2 summers as a kid). Here race officials did another gear check, asking to see our 2 whistles and emergency blanket.

Run leg 3 (around 4k)

It was at this spot that we ran into our friend John, who was doing the longer Elite course (crazy as he is). And once again, we met up with Kristin (who probably arrived so far ahead of us that she napped while we caught up to her), and after a quick shoe change and water re-fill, we headed into the woods to find CP44, CP45, CP43, and CP40. Despite the race organizers saying that there would be no water on the course, there were big jugs that we were able to use to add about a bottle’s worth to our water bottles or camelbaks (I suspect they changed their minds due to the high temperature and humidity). I added water to my camelbak, which I started the race filled with 2L of water.

I blindly followed Kristin and Rebecca, but before too long, we weren’t sure where the path was we were looking for, nor where exactly we were on the map. We weren’t the only ones confused at this spot. We probably wasted 15 minutes here, but eventually, when we saw other racers coming out of the woods, we decided it must be the way to go, despite us earlier heading that way and coming out again confused. From that point on it was smooth sailing.

Despite a weather forecast for the day that called for a risk of thunderstorms, the potentially disastrous weather never did arrive. We heard distant thunder on this run leg, but there was no rain, and the thunder stayed far away.

After finding the 4 checkpoints, we stopped again at CP6, then jumped on our bikes for the ride to the finish line.

Bike leg 3 (around 13k)

In case there was any doubt, Haliburton is hilly. Very hilly. On this last bike leg, which started up a steep hill and continued up many more, it seemed we couldn’t catch a break. Sure, there were a couple of good downhills (whee!), but for the most part it felt like we were climbing dirt road after dirt road. A few times I yelled to Rebecca that I needed to stop at the top of a hill to catch my breath, but when we stopped, the black flies swarmed! I didn’t care – I needed a breather! My back was also tightening up (likely from my posture). The most cruel hill may have been the very last one, which was steep and long! We ended up walking parts of the last few hills. At CP50, the race officially ended – our time was stopped, and we could take post-race pictures. We finished the race in just under 6 hours and 40 minutes, and covered about 57 km!

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At CP50, where the race officially ended. [Photo credit: Storm the Trent]

However, we still had to make our way down a steep hill to the finish line. It was a dirt  switchback path, which was fun to ride, though I could see why the race organizers didn’t want people racing down it to the finish line – it was steep! At the bottom we made our way to the finishing arch, and then rode back down to the water where our vehicle was parked. I dove into the lake and felt so much better afterwards! Then we headed to the arena for the post-race food and the award ceremony.

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Post-race after swimming in the lake! [Photo credit: John]

We had no idea how we had placed, though we knew we weren’t 1st, 2nd or 3rd! It turns out we were 8th out of 17 team of 2 women. Not bad for two athletes who hadn’t been in a canoe in 9 months and who only just started mountain biking (me in the fall and Rebecca this spring)!

I will definitely do this race again. It was superbly well organized, with excellent volunteers. Thank you Storm Racing!

If you’d like a chuckle, check out the race results for no other reason than to read the funny team names that people came up with (Rebecca and I are “Define Lost”). There are some great ones, like “Lost but making good time”, “4 Guys & an Alternate Named Steve”, and “That’s not on the map”.

 Race results

  • Time: 6:38:23
  • Points: 14 (maximum 14)
  • Placing (female teams): 8/17

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