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: 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: Paris to Ancaster 70k (2019)

This was to be my 2nd time riding the Paris to Ancaster 70k race (2018 edition here), in weather that a few days beforehand promised a little bit of everything, from rain and snow to wind. But on race day the clouds cleared and the forecast was a high of 11C with not a lot of wind. Perfect for a spring bike race!

After parking my vehicle at Ancaster High School, I made a last minute decision to ditch my thicker gloves, then rode my bike across the street to the Morgan Firestone Arena, where I handed it over to volunteers loading bikes onto trucks for transportation to the start line. I walked away from the truck and immediately realized that I probably shouldn’t have left my race nutrition in the crossbar pouch, because it has a habit of opening up and emptying… but I optimistically decided that I would be fine, because even if I lost that food, I had more in my hand to eat before the race, and there would be food on course.

I found a seat on the school bus around 7:30 AM, then felt a tap on my shoulder – it was Erik, who I met last year at the Steaming Nostril 65k. He invited me to sit with him, which meant that I had someone to pass the time with before our 10:30 AM race start!

It was a little chilly at Green Lane Sports Complex in Paris while we passed the time, but once the clouds lifted, it warmed up a bit! I was dressed to ride, not stand around. I was relieved to find that my race nutrition stayed put during the drive to Paris.

We made a new friend – Kevin – who was riding the 70k for the first time (years ago he did the race when it was 60k).

Finally, it was time to head to the start line!

We were in the 4th and final wave, also affectionately known as the party wave. When the gun sounded, we took off! The actual race route varies slightly each year depending on weather, land permissions, and the condition of the roads, and the 70k distance is approximate!

What follows is a general description of my race, including the type of terrain ridden and very approximate distances (looking at my Garmin map data, which marks every 5k of distance). Some of the race course is on private land, so please do not ride this course without knowing which parts are which!

KM 0-10 – Green Lane Sports Complex to the Cambridge to Paris Trail

I’m not used to riding in packs, so I was careful at the beginning not to get caught up in tight traffic. There was a crash off to the left just 100-200m into the race, with several riders going down. Hopefully they were uninjured and able to continue!

A short ride on gravel roads led to the double track Cambridge to Paris Trail, which runs along the Grand River. Because it is so early in the race, it can be quite congested with lots of passing going on. I found that people were pretty good about signalling their intent to pass (with hand gestures or verbal cues), and even polite about letting others pass. I rode on the right hand side of the path, road or trail for the entire race except when I was passing. I found it quite frustrating at times when people rode on the left or side by side preventing passing. In any case, this was a pretty part of the course.

First farm lane after the first trail. [Photo by Apex Photography]

KM 10-24 – Road, with a short farm lane section (I think)

Leaving the trail was the first time I saw people getting off their bikes and walking. I rode up the loose gravel hill and continued along a farm laneway.

Around 15k I had an Endurance Tap gel.

KM 24-25 – Muddy farm

At this point we turned off the road into a farm, and through a farmer’s field. “You’re going to like this!” is what I heard. This was the first real section of mud, and my strategy was to follow the rider in front of me – she seemed to be handling the mud just fine, so I figured if she could do it, I could too. And then she unclipped and starting walking, but I continued. I got pretty hot in this section, thinking I was overdressed!

KM 25-27 – Road

I can’t remember anything remarkable about this section.

Whee! There I go! [Photo by Apex Photography]

KM 27-29 – Muddy lane

As soon as I turned onto this muddy lane I remembered it from last year, and was determined to ride straight through the inevitable mud again this year! Many people were walking, but I put my bike into the granny gear and pedalled as hard as I could. Slow down too much and I knew I would lose traction and topple over! I had a death grip on my handlebars, and I kept yelling again, “Coming through!” so those walking didn’t block me by stepping in front of me. A woman behind me started cheering for me, saying “spin! spin!” and “go! go! go!” and I don’t remember what else. At one point I asked her if I should spin as fast as possible and she said “yes!” and “as straight as possible!” It was exhausting pushing hard through that mud, but super rewarding to make it all the way through! Once we got onto the road I thanked her for cheering me on and she said that she was cheering as much for herself as for me!

KM 29-32 – Road to Harrisburg aid station

I pulled into the Harrisburg aid station after 1 hour 30 minutes, which was 10 minutes faster than last year. I quickly used a portapotty, topped up my water bottle, ran into Erik (who beat me there), ate a cookie and a banana, and got back on my bike.

KM 32 – 35 – A rail trail (including alternate route)

Erik reminded me that shortly after leaving the aid station, we would hit a backlog of riders on a rail trail type path, because the course leaves the trail and heads down a steep hill to the road. As I got close to this spot, sure enough, people were bunched up and walking. Another rider that I know from adventure racing (Anne) came up behind me and was clearly wanting to ride it (“I have a mountain bike” she said.). Then I saw a sign that said ALTERNATE ROUTE, and something about having to ride down the steep hill or walk down the hill on the other side of the bridge (I don’t think the sign actually said all that!). Anne went for the steep, muddy, curvy downhill ride and so did I! We got ahead of quite a few (walking) riders by doing that. I had to unclip at the very bottom when I reached a couple of huge boulders, but then I was on my way again!

KM 35 – 40 – Road

It was in this road section that another rider pointed out to me that my key was falling out of my back pocket! What a disaster that would have been! So thankful that he noticed it and told me!

Entire P2A 70k route.

KM 40 – 41 – Muddy lane

I found this next muddy lane more rideable this year, but I nearly took another rider down when a rut in the thick gooey mud swung me right and nearly into the path of another rider. I yelled “sorry! sorry! sorry!” but he was thankfully able to avoid me and we both stayed upright. PHEW! I also had to unclip quickly at one point when a rider fell right in front of me – I thought I too was going down!

KM 41 – 56 – Road (with a 1k section of rail trail)

The next section was quite boring, but I was still feeling good! I think it was in this section that I discovered I had lost two gels from my crossbar pouch. I had another one.

KM 56 – 64 – Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail

Once I turned onto the rail trail, I felt like I was in home territory. The majority of my pre-race training rides included this part of the rail trail.

At 58k I reached another aid station (on the trail), which I considered riding straight past but decided to stop for. I ate a cookie and some super yummy oranges slices, then headed out once again. I felt like I got a 2nd wind and felt strong heading into the last part of the race.

KM 64 – 65 – Road

Once I left the rail trail, there was a short road section until we reached Highway 52, where I had to wait with other riders for a couple of minutes (less than 5) before the police stopped the traffic for us. This was the only time during the race where I had to wait for traffic. At this point I heard someone say that there were 1.6 km to go, which I knew was wrong, so I told him and others that based on what the people at the last aid station said, we had about 8k to go!

KM 65 – 66 – Mineral Springs Mud Chute

I don’t think it’s quite possible to understand the two mud chutes in this race until you try to ride them. I’m sure the riders at the very front of the pack can make their way through them, but by the time 2,500 or more riders go through before me, they are quite unrideable! The vast majority of people around me walked down the mud chute, though some – like me – made a valiant attempt at the start. I managed to go for a short ways before I fell over onto my left side. And then I walked. Many people carried their bikes to keep them out of the worst of the mud, but my bike is far too heavy to do that. So I tried to keep it as far to the side of the mud chute as I could.

Through the Mineral Springs mud chute. [Photo by my dad]

I knew that my parents would be waiting for me at the bottom, and sure enough, they were! However, I came through so much earlier than expected that they nearly missed me.

There was no lineup at the power wash station, so a volunteer did a quick clean of my bike and I was on my way again.

Quick power wash! [Photo by my dad]
Thought this was going to be Gatorade. Nope. Water! [Photo by my dad]

KM 66 – 67.5 – Road and jujube

On Powerline Road there were a few volunteers handing out jujubes, so I grabbed a couple and in trying to chew the first one cracked my jaw something fierce!

KM 67.5 – 68 – Powerline Road Mud Chute

And then it was time for the second of the mud chutes. This one I didn’t even attempt to ride. What a mess! Thick, goopy mud!

KM 68 – 70 – Trail and Mineral Springs Road

I cleaned some mud and debris off my bike, and as soon as I could, I got back on my bike and started to ride. I think this section was a little different this year, because I don’t remember riding Mineral Springs Road around the hairpin turns last year. I may be wrong!

KM 70 – 71.7 – Martin Road and the Martin Road hill

And then, I reached Martin Road, which would take me to the finish line. I was determined to make it up the steepest part of the hill just before the finish, but I did unclip near the beginning to avoid wiping out in a big puddle, and then again when going up a very steep short section – people were walking and I was afraid I wouldn’t have the speed or traction to get up it.

I hit the Martin Road hill, and while almost everyone around me was walking, there was one woman riding ahead of me, so I focussed on making it to the top without colliding with her!

Tackling the Martin Road hill! [Photo by Apex Photography]

We got lots of cheers (she had her own cheering section), and amazingly, I didn’t find it as hard as I expected (reaching it after more than 71k of cycling!), and when I hit that finish line, I felt like I could have kept going. Woot!

I finished the race a whopping 42 minutes faster than last year. Yes, I rode 73k last year versus 71.7 km this year, but I was still way faster!!

I’m really happy with how my race went!

After putting my super muddy bike back into my vehicle, I stood in the longest line ever for post-race food, but it moved surprisingly quickly! I took the food to my parents’ place, and after refueling, I soaked in their hot tub. Lucky me!

What a race!

Race stats:

  • Time: 3:54:20 (18.3 km/h)
  • Women 40-49: 22/36
  • Women: 108/150
  • All riders: 1299/1561

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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: 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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Race report: Steaming Nostril 65k Bike Race

In the days leading up to the Steaming Nostril 65k bike race, put on by Cycle Waterloo, I obsessively checked the weather forecast, but never once imagined what the weather might actually do to my bike…

I hadn’t heard of this race until February, when my friend Kristin posted about it on Facebook. I figured the timing and distance were perfect for a “test” race 3 weeks before the Paris to Ancaster 70k race, which I would be participating in for the very first time. If I couldn’t finish the Steaming Nostril, forget about the P2A!

In preparation for this race, I started riding outdoors earlier in the year than I ever have before, knowing that I needed to gradually build up my endurance – I did rides of 20k, 35k, 50k, 55k and 60k on a combination of gravel roads, paved roads, and rail trail in the weeks leading up to the race, each time jumping in my parents’ hot tub after the ride. You know you’re dedicated, committed, or just plain crazy when you have to take time off work to fit a long ride in. Just before my last training ride, I got clipless pedals put on my bike (make no mistake, I would be fully clipped in!). Nothing like an added challenge for race day.

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I arrived at the Waterloo Rod and Gun Club in St. Jacob’s, Ontario just as a horse and buggy passed under the big archway. There are many Old Order Mennonites in the area, and this wouldn’t be the last horse and buggy I saw that day.

After signing a waiver and picking up my bike number plate, I got my bike ready, and briefly chatted with another rider who mentioned that she was going to put her foot warmers on. Why hadn’t I thought of that? After all, the forecast was for -2C feeling like -8 with the windchill (23 km/h winds gusting to 35). I thought she meant shoe covers, but when I found out she meant disposable foot warmers, and she had extras, I gladly accepted! Later when I went to put them on my socks, I discovered that the package only had one in it – so I put it on my left foot, and decided I’d do a highly scientific experiment to see whether it made a difference (I didn’t graduate with multiple degrees for nothing!).

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[Photo by Kristin]

Eventually we headed for the start line, but cowered from the wind behind a large shed nearby. Kristin and I, as well as her friends Erik and Leslie, would be starting in wave 2 (i.e. the wave you don’t need to justify your participation in!).

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[Photo by Kristin]

KM 0-2 (It’s only looking back now at the RunKeeper data on my phone that I can distinguish the various sections of the race course)

With about a minute to go, we made our way to the start line, and after a very long 30 second warning, the race began… straight up a grassy/snowy hill! Unfortunately, I struggled to clip my right shoe in, and somehow managed to climb the short but steep hill unclipped. I kept trying to clip in, to no avail. Kristin waited while I stopped and sorted myself out – by then, all the other riders had passed us, as had the VeloFix support vehicle and another support vehicle. What a way to start!

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Start line for wave 2

We caught the back of the pack, which is where I expected to be in this race anyway based on last year’s results.

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KM 2-4

This part of the race was probably the prettiest, along the Mill Race Trail which runs beside a creek, complete with ducks.

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[Official race photo by Lauren Daniells]
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[Official race photo by Lauren Daniells]

KM 4-22

I don’t really remember this section. My gloved hands were warm and my energy level good. But there was wind. In fact, I felt like I internally complained about the wind for the entire race. At some point, another rider told me that someone told him that we would have a tailwind for the second half of the race. I’m not sure if that actually happened though. I tried to draft off of other riders but couldn’t hang on to them (Kristin included). I also noticed early on in the race that my left shoe was probably done up a little too tightly – it was mildly numb (maybe it was the hand warmer [not foot warmer])!

KM 22-30

When I did my training rides and the Hamilton to Brantford rail trail got mushy, muddy and sluggish, I got off the trail and hit the gravel roads. During the race though, I was forced to ride about 8 km along a very mushy, sloppy, muddy, slippery, rutted rail trail where carefully picking your path was important! Being on a mountain bike, I fared better than some people around me on skinnier tires. In this section, I started to feel a pain in my stomach that I couldn’t figure out, have had a few times before (only when riding), and thankfully it eventually goes away on its own. I remember saying to another rider in this section that I wasn’t sure whether I preferred hard ground, hills and wind or soft muddy ground sheltered from the wind! The jury is still out.

KM 30-35

As soon as I got out of the rail trail section and hit the road again, I had a problem – I couldn’t shift my chain out of the small chain ring at the front. This meant that I couldn’t take advantage of the downhills (I couldn’t pedal!) and I had a top speed that was slow! It was frustrating, but I figured that the sloppy mess I had ridden through had frozen onto my bike. My left knee started to complain in this section, and I was feeling cold! Maybe it was the direction of the wind, but my upper body was cold and my poor feet were freezing! They must have gotten soaked by the slush. I grabbed a granola bar from my crossbar bag, but as I did so another one hit the ground. I wasn’t stopping. Another rider kindly offered me extra gels if I needed any. I was worried that my gatorade bottle would freeze, and it did, but never so much that I couldn’t suck the icy slush out of it!

I think it was in this section that police at an intersection stopped 3 horse and buggies so that I could cross the road! I saw many others during the race.

KM 35-40

In this section my upper body warmed up, but my feet were still frozen. The insides of my ski gloves were wet from sweat, and my fingers now cold. I had in my head that the aid station was at the 40k mark, but mostly during the race I had no idea how far I had ridden, because I don’t have a bike computer. I did ask other riders a few times, and was relieved when I heard that we were at 39k! I figured there would be mechanical support at the aid station and I might be able to get help for my bike.

KM 40-45

This section seemed long, because my fingers and toes were cold, and I wondered if the aid station had been packed up already! And then finally, there it was! I stopped for a quick portapotty visit and then asked about my bike, but the VeloFix guy confirmed that it was frozen and that there was nothing I could do. And apparently I wasn’t the first one with that problem! I grabbed a banana from a volunteer, and off I went.

KM 45-58

In this section all I remember is stopping to change my gloves, and then moaning and groaning aloud over and over and over again because my new gloves (thin ones under MTBing gloves under fleece gloves) weren’t warming up my frozen fingers. I started doubting that they would ever warm up again, and that I might get frostbite! I moved my fingers around, squeezed the handlebars, tried putting one hand between my thighs – nothing!

KM 58-59

Just after the 58 km mark, the course turns off road and onto a farmer’s field. While a couple of riders ahead of me were walking their bikes, I managed to stay upright, riding far left, as far from the thick gooey mud as possible and as close to the vegetative matter and wooden logs that made up a fence of sorts. I thought I might hit my pedals on the wood, but managed to avoid it. Sometimes I got pulled in the mud ruts, but was pleased to stay upright!

KM 59-61

This section would have been my kind of riding had I simply been going out for a ride on my bike. And maybe it still is. But after a short ride along a farmer’s laneway (belonging to the Martin family, apparently), we had to ride down a steep, muddy, rutted grassy hill that we were assured at the top was rideable. “For what skill level?”, I was thinking. Yet again, I stayed upright and breathed a sigh of relief at the bottom! Then the twisty single track-like riding began, where in a few places I doubted my new clipped in feet and my ability to get around tight, muddy, root covered corners. I walked around a couple, fell at one corner, and fell again later at another. I wasn’t injured, so it was all good! This section was marked well with caution tape, so it was easy to know where to go. I wasn’t the only one walking parts of this bit, including across a wooden bridge that I feared would take me down. And then I reached a mini aid station, where 2 awesome volunteers took sticks to the thick mud/vegetative matter stuck to my bike, and provided shots of pure maple syrup produced by the Martin family. Yum! A racing first for me. I have had Endurance Tap a couple of times, but this was thicker (partly frozen no doubt!) and oh so good. We were assured that it would help us get up the hill.

There was a big sign at the base of the hill “Hard but short” and “Easier but longer”. But “That doesn’t mean it’s easy!” one of the volunteers yelled. I went the easier route, but he was right, pushing my bike up that hill was anything but easy! At the top I met 2 riders who went the harder way, and who were walking towards me instead of away from me. I heard a volunteer yell, “You’re going the wrong way. Go left!” They turned around and I followed them. I figured at this point we probably had 10-15k to go. Imagine my surprise and excitement when I heard from one of the guys that the volunteers said that at the top of the hill there were only 6k left! Woohoo. “We can do this!” I said to my new riding buddy Andy from Burlington. We pretty much rode the last part of the race together. It passed the time and made it more fun. By this time my fingers had warmed up!

KM 61-65

The last bit was easy riding along dirt roads and then a farmer’s laneway. We weren’t sure exactly where the finish line was, but then realized as we got closer that we had to ride down the steep grassy hill that we started the race riding up. Kristin yelled my name as I approached the hill. I hoped that it wouldn’t be icy! It wasn’t, and just like that, the race was done!

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Sadly my phone died after the race, so I wasn’t able to get close up shots of all the mud and debris on my bike! I paid $5 for volunteers to hose it down. Best $5 I’ve spent in a while.

The post-race hot meal of chili (including meat or vegetarian), wraps, cookies and hot chocolate hit the spot! I enjoyed chatting with other riders after the race and comparing stories.

What an adventure! Some bits of the race were decidedly un-fun, like the frozen fingers and toes, stomach pains, and sore knee, but overall, it was a great experience. I survived my first road bike race! My first bike race was a mountain bike orienteering race last fall, and my second a fat bike race this winter. Given that I gave blood 5 days before the race, I’m kind of amazed at my performance. The timing wasn’t great, but as I said to the Canadian Blood Services staff, the lives of other people are far more important than my performance in this race, which I was doing for fun! It’s In You To Give!

Bring on the P2A!

I found this race to be really well organized, and the volunteers excellent!

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[Photo by Kristin]

And as for that little shoe experiment? My toes were equally frozen in both shoes, so the little hand warmer had no effect. Statistically significant result, for sure!

Race results

  • Time: 4:01:30 (16 km/h)
  • Women 40-49: 8/8
  • Women: 21/21
  • All riders: 247/256

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

Less than a week before heading to Algonquin Provincial Park to stay in a yurt with 2 friends so that we could spend the weekend fat biking and snowshoeing, I stumbled upon the Muskoka Winter Bike Festival 11k fat bike race, and decided to register! Who cares that I had never ridden a fat bike in the winter, or that my only experience fat biking was last summer at Algonquin? I would have Friday to try out fat biking in the snow before Saturday’s race! My friend Rebecca and I took the bikes that we had borrowed from Algonquin Outfitters out for a test spin on Friday night at Algonquin, and spin we did! We had some serious issues getting any traction, and spent 90 frustrating minutes not going very far. We later learned from our friend Kristin that we had too much air in our fat bike tires! We let a whole bunch of air out, and Saturday morning did another test spin – success! We would be able to ride the bikes after all. DSC08304 We headed for Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, found the race site and registration table, picked up our race bibs and hand warmers, and after attaching the race bibs to our bikes, we were ready to go. Since there was no building nearby and lots of time before the 2 PM start, we headed back for the main building to relax until just before the race was to begin. I did catch the 1 PM race start for the experienced racers, because I had forgotten my water bottle in my vehicle at the race location and had gone back for it. It was then that I heard that the “newbie” race would be quite a bit shorter than 11k. The race organizers made the executive decision to ensure that us newbies had a fun race experience. In fact, part of the 11k course that we weren’t going to ride had a hill so steep that only 1 of the experienced riders made it up (and won a prize for doing so).
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Algonquin Outfitters was one of the event sponsors.
Our race course was to be 3 laps of a heart-shaped course. Just before the race began, we had a very short pre-race meeting while everyone was lined up at the start line. There appeared to be about 20-30 people in the race – men, women, and a couple of kids.
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My ride!
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Kristin and I before the race.
And then, the race began! Kristin, Rebecca and I had lined up near the back of the pack, so there was some congestion at the start.
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At the start of the race. [Photo credit: Andy Zeltkalns]
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[Photo credit: Andy Zeltkalns]
As I discovered on the first lap, there were hills on this course! I managed to ride up them without stopping, though I did wonder whether I would spin out on the steepest bits (I didn’t). There was one sloped spot (higher on the left, lower on the right) that I approached from the right on the first lap, but that resulted in me sliding into deep snow and having to put my foot down. On the second lap, I intended to ride it further to the left (higher up) but there was another rider beside me so I couldn’t, and again I had to restart. It took my 3rd and final lap to perfect that spot, to ride far left (high) and be able to pass through the section without sliding down or crashing as others did!
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[Photo credit: Andy Zeltkalns]
I was chasing another woman on the first lap, and passed her toward the end of the second lap. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to hold her off for the third lap. I figured I was probably slowing down, but she may have been as well. With less than 100m to go on the last lap, I passed another woman. I wasn’t sure if any others had been ahead of me. It’s hard to tell when you’re riding multiple laps. I was surprised to see that the big inflatable arch was gone – I thought that it was the finish line. So I stopped (rather than ride into the spectators), confused, and wondered if maybe I had to go back onto the course to finish somewhere else. I asked someone, who clarified that no, I was done, and that they had written my bib number down (they were checking us off as we finished each lap – it was a race with manual timing, not timing chips). According to my watch it took around 28 minutes. The race was hard work but super fun!
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Rebecca and I after the race.
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Rebecca, Kristin and I after the race.
After the race, we were treated to some delicious chili – with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and bacon as toppings! There was also hot chocolate with chocolate bits and whip cream to add on top. Yum! And for others, there was beer. During the awards ceremony I won a $50 gift certificate for Algonquin Outfitters, but I don’t know if it was a random draw prize, or because I did well in the race. I was congratulated on a great race for a new racer when I got my prize. There are no results posted on the race website, so who knows? I did follow up with the race organizers, and apparently I was 9th out of 31 newbie racers, but I’m not sure how I placed compared to the women in the race. In any case, it was a fun race and I hope to be back next year! 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: STAR Tracks Mountain Bike Adventure (orienteering race)

When I first discovered that mountain bike orienteering existed, I knew that I wanted to try a race – the problem was that I didn’t own a mountain bike! But this summer, I won one at the Subaru Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race. Problem solved! I signed up for the “novice” course of the STAR Tracks Mountain Bike Adventure, organized by the STARS Orienteering Club and held at Albion Hills Conservation Area in Caledon.

As a fairly new mountain biker, I thought that the 30-60 minute race option, intended for those who have basic trail riding and trail map navigation skills, would be best for me. But Barb, the event director, suggested that I check out the Albion Hills trails, and if I wanted to, I could switch into the “open” course, intended for intermediate to strong bikers and navigators. I headed to Albion Hills with a friend, had a blast on the single and double track trails, and decided to switch to the open course.

On race morning, I arrived so early that only Barb was there. I helped carry some things to the chalet, and helped set up the tent for protection from what we all knew may arrive during the race – wild winds and heavy rain. Once everything was organized, I checked in, signed a waiver, cleared and checked my SI (timing) stick and got my race map.

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Preparing my route pre-race. [Photo by Ilona Dobos]
There were 15 checkpoints that had to be found in order within the 2 hour limit, with all of them found on the trails (no bushwhacking required), some of them single track, one way trails. When planning my route, I had to be careful to note which trails ran in which direction, or risk adding extra distance when I reached the trail and was faced with a “no entry” sign.

Albion Hills

There was a short pre-race briefing, during which we were warned that with the rains overnight, the clay and roots may be very slippery. We were instructed to start the race when we were ready, and to verify control #s before inserting our SI sticks, because there would be controls from both the novice and open courses out there, and if you punch the wrong control, you get a “mispunch” (and no official finish). The map above shows what numbers we were actually looking for in the forest (e.g. control 1 would read 150). I spent 5-10 minutes planning my route, then lined up to start.

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Lined up and ready to go. [Photo by Ilona Dobos]
Racers were started in 30 second intervals. When instructed to go, I inserted my SI stick into the start control, then headed out. I had tucked my map (in a plastic sleeve) into the left leg of my shorts, knowing that I would have to continually take it out to look at it. I tried to memorize what I would have to do at the next couple of junctions (e.g. left, left, right) to reduce the number of times I had to stop and look at the map.

Because I started just 30 seconds after the two people ahead of me (who were working together), I caught them quickly, and several of us arrived at the first checkpoint together.

The trails were a mixture of double track and single track, flat and very hilly, straight and very curvy with tight turns.

At some point, I started working with a racer name Kevin, and later, we picked up another racer named John. Each time I join forces with others I remember how much more fun it is to orienteer in a team. I love the challenge of doing it by myself, but facing trials and tribulations and celebrating successes is fun with others!

I felt good on the trails, and only fell once – from a standstill, at a control, right in front of the race photographer Ilona Dobos! I had inadvertently put my foot down in a ditch.

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Looks like we’re chuckling over my tumble. [Photo by Ilona Dobos]
Keeping my map in my shorts worked out okay, but at times I also held the map between my teeth when I knew I would need to look at it frequently. It wasn’t so easy to see when it opened up in my face. “How’s that working for you?” I heard at one point! I resorted to holding it in my left hand at times while I rode. Some people used handlebar mounted map holders, while several others used dollar store chip bag clips – I think I’ll try that next time! The advantage of the bike mounted map holder is that it rotates, so that you can easily turn the map so that it is facing the correct way as you turn corners.

Most of the controls were easy to find, but a few took a little longer than they should have because of poor route choices or missed trails. At one point, Kevin and I did a loop only to find ourselves where we started – we had missed a turn. I think it was around this point that he loaned allen keys to another racer whose handlebars kept dropping.

We had been told in the pre-race briefing that if we weren’t at control #7 within 1 hour of starting, then we should skip 8, 9, 10, and 11, and go straight to 12. We were heading to #7 at around 51 minutes for me (a little longer for Kevin, who started before me). I was hopeful that I could finish within the time allotted, and Kevin just wanted to find all the controls (which he hadn’t managed to do on his previous attempts at this race).

At one point during the race it rained, but it was very short lived. The temperature was fantastic, and higher than expected for a day in mid October.

Near the end of the race my legs were getting tired! I had to walk up a couple of steep grassy hills. I figured I’d walk it just as fast as I’d ride it at that point.

As I got closer and closer to control 15, I realized that it was still possible for me to finish within the 2 hours. Coming out of the forest and onto the grass near the chalet, there were lots of cheers for me and the others finishing ahead of me and behind me.

In the end, I found all controls and finished in a time of 1:52:01! I had so much fun. The single track trails are by far my favourite.

There was fruit and cookies outside the chalet, where racers compared route choices with others.

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Done! [Photo by Ilona Dobos]
It turns out that I finished 2nd out of 8 women in the open course. You can see all the splits here. There were also masters and junior age groups as well.

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You can’t see here how muddy I got! [Photo by John]
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With my new racing buddies, John and Kevin. [Photo by Ilona Dobos]
 Thanks to the STARS Orienteering Club for such a great race. Can’t wait for the next one!

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Race report: Subaru Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race (paddle/bike/run)

It was this past winter at a snowshoe orienteering race that I first heard about the Subaru Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race. It sounded really fun – and more importantly, doable – even for a non-mountain biker like me. My friend Rebecca was interested too, so we signed up as a female team of two canoeists (team DEFINE “LOST”). The race was to take place in and around Wiarton, Ontario, where we would paddle 4k in Georgian Bay, mountain bike 16k and trail run 6k, all the while staying within 10m of one another. It would be our first time racing in a canoe (or any boat, for that matter), but the 7th year for this race, put on by the Peninsula Adventure Sports Association. This year, it was sold out for the first time. In addition to the paddle/bike/run course that we did (the “Suntrail” or short course), there were many other options, from a paddle/bike/paddle to run/bike/run, to the Buff long course race,  which in 2016 involved a 16k kayak/32k bike/16k run/30k bike/6k run.

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Friday (Race Kit Pick-Up)

Because Rebecca and I did not own mountain bikes, we arranged through the race to rent bikes from Jolleys Alternative Wheels in Owen Sound. The very cheap rental fee actually allowed us to use the bikes for the week leading up to the race as well. We weren’t in the area so we couldn’t take advantage of this offer, but the day before the race we stopped into Jolleys to see if we could get our bikes. We wanted to check out the shifting mechanisms and ride them briefly if possible before race day! They had already been loaded onto a truck to be brought to the race site, so we just left them (even though we could have taken them), but did buy spare tubes and cartridges in case of flats. We were warned that the course was quite rocky in places and that flats were not uncommon. We also noticed that our bikes didn’t have cages on them to put drinks, but the Jolleys guy offered to add them for us!

At the Wiarton arena we signed waivers and picked up our race kits, which included lots of numbered stickers to identify our gear, and a very cool looking head buff for each of us.

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We got our rental bikes, adjusted the seat heights, and tried them out for a spin up the street. We put stickers on them, I added a bottle of gatorade to mine, then we gave them to volunteers, who loaded them onto trucks for delivery to the bike start. Since the canoe segment takes you away from the start/finish line, and you mountain bike a loop after you paddle, we had to leave all of our bike gear (helmet, shoes, any food or drinks we wanted) and run gear (shoes, hats, food) with the volunteers in a bag, because it too would be transported to the bike start/finish. The run would be a point to point, from the end of the bike to Bluewater Park in Wiarton where the race began.

We had been pretty confused – even after reading the race website – as to where we would paddle, where the transition zones were etc., but we eventually figured it out.

Later we labelled the rest of our gear, including my Swift Keewaydin 17 foot canoe, 2 whitewater kayak paddles (we were told these would be faster than canoe paddles), spare canoe paddle, bailer, throw rope, PFDs and knee pads. The paddling stuff we would bring to the race start on race morning. We also planned to wear Camelbaks for easy water access. I tucked my spare tube and CO2 canister in it.

Saturday (Race Day!)

We arrived at Bluewater Park long before the 9:30 AM pre-race briefing, and brought the canoe and all our paddling gear to the little beach. I wondered how we would all start at the same time, given there were more boats than could fit on the shore at a time, but of course we wouldn’t be starting on shore and jumping into boats! Imagine the chaos that would ensue (and stressed people falling into the water).

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Rebecca and I pre-race, with my canoe in the background.

We chatted with other athletes, including one woman named Becky who introduced herself as a reader of my blog (thanks again for saying hi!). I also found my friend Lisa, who I met while orienteering last fall. She would be participating in the kayak/paddle/run event, also on a rented mountain bike.

We talked to a spectator from the area who watches every year, and who had binoculars that Rebecca borrowed to scope out the paddle course!

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Rebecca scoping out the course.

At the pre-race briefing, the risk of injury, snake bites, bear attacks, and DEATH was repeated multiple times. Someone asked if it was too late to get their money back! Actually, the entire briefing was pretty funny. It was explained to us that the kayak men would go first, then 5 minutes later the kayak women, then 5 minutes later all tandem boats (canoe or kayak). We were also told to get to shore if we saw lightning or heard thunder while paddling.

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Lisa and I pre-race.

The 4k Paddle

I gave Lisa a gentle push to get her into the water, and then Rebecca and I got into the canoe. I was wearing my sandals so that I could get wet feet. Rebecca was wearing her running shoes so we attempted to keep her feet dry.

A horn sounded and the race began! We watched the men leave from the pier, heading to an orange buoy by the marina, then turning and heading north, “within swimming distance of shore”. We lost sight of them but they then headed straight across the water toward a grassy farmer’s field. We didn’t know exactly what the take-out spot would look like.

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Waiting for the horn to sound. [Photo by Tammy Cruickshank]
Just after the 2 minute warning for our race, a canoe to the left of us tipped over and the occupants fell out! A rescue boat was called, but our race began. I’m not sure if they raced or not.

Rebecca was in the bow and me in the stern. The horn sounded and off we went, Rebecca using my whitewater paddle, and me using Kev’s!

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And we’re off! [Photo by Tammy Cruickshank]
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Heading for the marina. [Photo by Tammy Cruickshank]
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Heading for a small orange buoy. [Photo by Tammy Cruickshank]
Having never raced a canoe before, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. We practised once canoeing with kayak paddles, but not paddling quickly! In any case, it went well. The boats spread out after a short time, with just a little bit of congestion at the first (and only) turning point at the orange buoy. We both kept sliding off our seats while kneeling, having to adjust quickly to not lose too much power. I switched it up a bit and paddled while sitting, but went back to my knees for additional power. Sometimes I whacked the gunnel with my paddle. When Rebecca’s watch beeped that we’d reached the 1k mark, we were almost 15 minutes in. I wasn’t sure I could keep that pace up for another 45 minutes! We caught up to a few kayaks, and were only passed by one canoe once the main straightaway paddle was underway. I couldn’t imagine paddling 16k like the long course racers did earlier that morning!! At some point, it started to rain, but it didn’t last long. I was doubting Rebecca’s watch, because it seemed we had paddled more than 2k, but it hadn’t beeped again.

We knew to head for a white building, but didn’t know exactly where we were going. We just followed the boats in front of us, and eventually saw people on shore. Thankfully, the watch was wrong and we had gone further than it thought! As we got close, we saw that all we had to do was jump out of the boat, and volunteers would carry it away with all our gear in it! One of the volunteers was happy to be lifting a light canoe! We followed the boat and threw our PFDs into it, then put our race bibs and Camelbaks on and started the 300m run (uphill!) to the bike start. The paddle took us 39 minutes.

The 16k Mountain Bike Ride

As inexperienced mountain bikers, we weren’t quite sure what we were getting into on the bike course, but the people who originally told us about this race said that anyone could do it. Before we reached our bikes, I made a pitstop at a portapotty. Throughout the race volunteers recorded our times as we reached certain points. I was wearing a timing chip (for our team) but we didn’t cross any timing mats until the finish line. We were relieved to find our bikes and our gear bags waiting for us. I put on knee length socks (recommended by the race organizers), trail running shoes, and my helmet, and we headed out. I forgot to eat the blueberry banana bread I had in my gear bag!

The course started out in a grassy field, but quickly became rocky – very rocky! So rocky that you couldn’t avoid the rocks, though we tried our best. The path was wide enough to allow for passing of slower riders, but we had to be careful in the first section because the lead cyclists could be coming the other way (we never saw any). Over the course of the ride we also rode through farmer’s fields, along a gravel road (when I took the opportunity to have a really yummy salted caramel gel), over grass and dirt, and through a very neat section of single track small rolling hills (1 to 2 feet drops), which also curved tightly around trees and rocks. This was my favourite bit of the whole race. So fun, but we had to be careful not to hit rocks or trees with our pedals. A few times over the ride we had to get off our bikes and walk them, the first time when we encountered a log across the path (others could have jumped it, but I wasn’t willing to try it). I managed to drink most of my gatorade during the ride, but had to carefully time my drinking, so as not to crash while taking a hand off the handlebars!! The bike took us about an hour.

The 6k Trail Run

We racked our bikes, removed our helmets, put on hats, and took off. The run would take us partly on the Bruce Trail, and back to the finish line. Some of the trail was quite rocky, so we walked a few times. We also stepped carefully over the many gaps in between rocks (mini chasms), which could have been deadly if not seen! It was near the beginning of the run that I saw lightning in the distance and heard thunder (turns out the people doing the short course paddle/bike/paddle had to run back instead of do a 2nd paddle). The run was also quite muddy in places, but very peaceful. We didn’t see any other runners until the last couple of kilometres when we caught a few. At two different spots we had to climb up and over stiles between fields. And at one point, we had to descend a long, narrow, tight, circular steel staircase descending the Niagara Escarpment. This was followed immediately by a rocky/wet descent in which you had to hold a wet, steel railing and try not to fall! At this point we thought we had about 2k to go, but volunteers said we had 3k to go. We passed a few runners in the last couple of kilometres, and while Rebecca tried to get me to run faster, I wasn’t quite able to pick up the pace. The run took us 46 minutes. We crossed the finish line in 2:42:04.5.

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At the finish line! [Photo by Tammy Cruickshank]

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Rebecca, Lisa and I post-race.

After a quick dip in Georgian Bay to feel refreshed, we enjoyed a lamb burger and then a free massage! We headed to Tim’s for a drink, and then went to the arena to see if our stuff was back yet. It wasn’t, so we walked back to the finish area and watched as other athletes finished. Rebecca checked the results page and discovered that we had finished 2nd out of 8 teams of female canoeists! We had already planned to stay for the awards, but as Rebecca said, we really had to stay now! We also wanted to stay for the draw for the 2 mountain bikes – one for a male participant, and one for a female.

Race stats:

  • Total time: 2:42:04.5 (2nd/8)
  • 4k paddle: 39:27.2 (2nd/8)
  • Run to transition (including removing Camelbak, race bib, lifejacket, putting race bib and Camelbak back on): 5:00.2 (4th/8)
  • T1 (including pee break): 2:33.4 (4th)
  • 16k bike: 1:07:08.7 (3rd/8)
  • T2 (including pee break): 1:18.1 (1st/8)
  • 6k (closer to 7k) run: 46:36.6 (3rd/8)

Eventually all our stuff was back at the arena, so we loaded it into and onto our vehicle. I have to say that while we had a little trouble finding the information we needed on the website, the race was superbly well organized and the volunteers were fantastic!!

Finally the awards began. We were called up and stood on the tree stump podiums for a picture. In addition, we each received a prize from the prize table. I chose a $20 gift certificate for Suntrail Source for Adventure in Hepworth, an outdoors store that I’m looking forward to visiting soon!

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After the short course awards, it was time for the long course awards. We stayed, because in order to win the bike, you had to be there if your name was drawn. The first name was drawn, and the man said something along the lines of “I wonder how many Lauras are in the crowd.” He read the last name and no one claimed the bike. He drew another name and said, “Kyra. Is there a Kyra in the crowd?” I put my hand up. I was pretty sure I’d be the only one! He read my last name, and I headed up to claim my prize! Woohoo!! I was the proud new owner of a DeVinci Jack S WF mountain bike, donated by Bikeface Cycling in Owen Sound. What’s weird is that I really felt that I was going to win it!

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Rebecca and I had a blast doing this race! I will definitely be back!! Thank you Peninsula Adventure Sports Association for such a fun day!

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