What a relief to arrive on site race morning to find the waters of Georgian Bay calm for the 2022 edition of the Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race! At the same time, it was going to be a scorcher of a day, with a high of 29C feeling like 40C with the humidity.
I arrived just after race registration started at 5:30 AM, so I had plenty of time to get organized (apparently in the most inefficient way possible, as I covered more than 4,000 steps in doing so!).
The race would be a 16k paddle from Colpoys Bay at Bluewater Park in Wiarton, a 35k bike to a remote transition area on Kemble Road, a 15k run, a 21k bike back to Bluewater Park, and a 6k run to finish the race.
With the race stickers provided, I put my race number on my gear (kayak paddle, PFD, helmet, drop bag, bike).
In the transition zone I set my stuff up for biking and for the final run, but could not for the life of me find the electrolytes that I had packed. I remembered putting them somewhere clever…
I left a small backpack in a race vehicle for transport to the remote transition area, where I would need my running shoes, more food, sunscreen, and anti-chafing cream for the 2nd bike leg.
I also found my rental kayak, set the foot pedals to my liking, put a sticker on the boat, and then had just a few minutes before I needed to put my PFD on and get ready to race.
With just 10 minutes to go before the 7:30 AM start, I was surprised that no one was getting into their boats yet (most people paddled kayaks, but there were a few canoes, and apparently in the shorter race that happened later in the morning, a SUP!). Then I remembered that there would be a quick pre-race briefing before we got into the water.
Once on the water, another racer put my rudder down, and I paddled over to the start line. I’m used to paddling my whitewater kayaks, so attempting to turn this sea kayak with a rudder was interesting! I noticed right away that the boat wanted to go right (what is to the right? WHY?). We had a 2 minute warning, and then after a short countdown, the race began!
There was a little bit of chop at the start with all the boats feverishly trying to get going, but things settled down as the racers spread out. I settled into a pace that felt comfortable and that I thought I could maintain. I didn’t look at my watch for quite a while, because I didn’t want to be disappointed. There were several buoys along the route that we needed to navigate around, but we stayed pretty close to shore for the 8k out and then 8k back.
I knew I wasn’t pulling up the rear, but I also knew there weren’t too many boats behind me. Nevermind, I knew I could finish within the 2 1/2 hour time limit in these conditions.
Remember that weather forecast? My face was dripping with sweat on the way out, but once racers started coming the other way, we heard that it was cooler on the paddle back, and that we just needed to get to the turnaround to find the A/C! Turns out they were right – the headwind on the way back provided some relief!
I chatted with other racers a little as we went by one another, and we all marvelled at the crystal clear water! I didn’t catch sight of any shipwrecks, but I knew they were nearby. At times we had some bigger waves to deal with, but only very briefly after a motorboat passed by. It was near the turnaround when I started paddling with a racer named Patrick. We chatted the entire way – which really helped to pass the time – until the final few 100 metres when he took off!
I saw one boat flip at the turnaround, and as soon as the racer’s head popped up I let her know that a safety boat was right there (I also waved to it), and another racer assured her that she would be okay and that she should swim the boat to shore. Hopefully she was able to continue.
In the last couple of kilometres of the paddle my right hand started cramping and my lower back was getting a bit tight, but overall this segment of the race went very well! A volunteer helped me carry the boat to the grass where I left it for the rental company.
I quickly used the portapotty, and forced down 1/4 of a bagel with peanut butter and jam while I reapplied sunscreen and got my socks, cycling shoes, and helmet on. I headed for the mount line, but even me, the seasoned triathlete, was about to mount my bike in the transition zone before a volunteer reminded me I had to walk it to the mount line – oops!
The majority of this bike leg was on rural roads with rolling hills, but there was also a section on an ATV trail. Early on in the bike route I reached a fork in the road – do I go left, or do I go right? I already couldn’t remember if I was supposed to be following ORANGE or PINK signs. Thankfully, I spotted small writing on the signs and on closer inspection, learned that I should be following ORANGE (we were told in the race briefing, but that was nearly 3 hours before).
I made the race extra challenging for myself by getting confused at the point where the bike course met the run course on the ATV trail. I saw a sign that said WRONG WAY – GO BACK and while I stopped and looked around with a puzzled look on my face no doubt, leaving the ATV trail for the Bruce Trail side trail (with pink flags on it) didn’t make sense. I knew there was no single track trail on this bike route, and yet… I turned off the ATV trail, and quickly discovered that this single track trail was beyond my riding abilities. No worries, I’ll walk it, I thought! So I walked, and walked, and whacked my shins on my pedals, and thought – again – this can’t be right. I figured the flags MUST be for the run – but where were the runners? So eventually (after way too long) I turned back and retraced my steps, picking the route back up on the ATV trail. I’m not sure how much time I lost, or how many people passed me as I went for a solo adventure in the woods.
Shortly after this error there was a steep downhill on a very rocky trail. I slowly picked my way down, but a couple of guys went flying past me! I was being careful because I couldn’t afford to fall and get hurt.
The last 100 metres or so of the bike route was straight up a ridiculous rocky hill that was like the Martin Road hill in the Paris to Ancaster race – on steroids! I pushed my bike up it. Suffice it to say I was relieved when I reached the remote transition area on Kemble Road!
A helpful volunteer (they were all amazing!) showed me which rack to put my bike on, and pointed my backpack out to me. I pulled my running shoes out and there in one shoe was my packet of electrolytes! Not so helpful for the first bike leg! I filled my water bottle with cold water and added gatorade powder provided by the volunteers, and guzzled that while I got ready to run.
I was absolutely not looking forward to running in the heat and humidity. The first part of the run was on the Bruce Trail, a section I ran in June (in the opposite direction). As I ran (and walked) I thought, “I just did this, can’t that count?!” The trail was very technical in places, meaning that you really had to be careful of your footing. There were rocks and roots and holes to avoid. Some parts – in my opinion – were unrunnable, so I walked. In fact I walked more than I would have liked on this entire run. While we had shade in the woods, it was still hot, and when we got out onto the road part of the run, it was in the full sun. Did I mention it was hot?
And then, in a measure of cruel and unusual punishment, we had to climb back up that hill on steroids to the transition area. Another racer was struggling, so when I reached the top I found her relay partner to suggest she encourage her partner up the hill – so a group of people did. She wasn’t sure she would be able to do the final run.
After guzzling more gatorade and pouring water on my head, I got ready to bike once again. I was having trouble forcing myself to eat. Absolutely nothing appealed.
Just before heading out I heard that there was a 3 PM cutoff to continue on the bike. I asked what time it was. “3:08” the guy said. Someone asked if that meant we were done, but he assured us we could continue if we got out of transition before the race sweeps. We also learned that the cutoff to be able to start the final run was 5 pm. I wasn’t sure I would make it – or even if I wanted to run again!
Once again, there was lots of road on this bike segment, but also some ATV trail. It reminded me of parts of the Paris to Ancaster course where there were mud pits and fallen trees and narrow channels to ride through. There was also a lot of wet rock that looked slippery and terrifying to me. After my crash in June 2021 I lost most of my confidence on the bike (now that I know the consequences of a simple fall). I did a lot of walking through this section, because as I was getting more tired, I felt like I would make poor decisions and crash. And then I fell. I fell on my left elbow and knee, but I was able to continue. At the base of a steep rocky hill I spotted another racer lying on his back on a big rock – he said he was taking a break, but that he was okay. I continued (Dianne had warned me about this hill, and I had walked it in June when I ran this section of the Bruce Trail). Eventually, I reached the road, and I knew it would be clear sailing from this point!
The 21k ride was actually a 22k ride, but I eventually reached Bluewater Park! I dismounted before the line, and said, “I quit!” While I beat the time cut-off to do the final run, I knew it would be a hot, humid, torturous death march (in other words, a 6k walk!) and I had no interest in doing that. I handed over my timing chip and didn’t regret my decision for a minute.
In 9 hours and 10 minutes of racing, I only managed to eat 1/4 of a bagel with peanut butter and jam, 1 banana, 1 granola bar, 2 graham wafers, 2 pretzels, and a few pieces of mango. I’m sure the heat and humidity were the cause of my disgust for every type of food I was carrying!
I packed up my stuff, and then enjoyed a veggie burger and fries from Dockside Willie’s (provided to athletes). I was happy to see that the relay racer who didn’t think she’d be able to do the final run was crossing the finish line! I went over to congratulate her and her teammate.
And then I made the long drive home.
I will be back!
- Time: 9:10:14.5
- 16k paddle: 2:24:04
- T1: 5:38.4
- 35k bike: 2:12:09.3
- T2: 10:52
- 15k run: 2:30:24
- T3: 13:19
- 22k bike: 1:33:46.8
- 41 athletes finished
- 10 athletes did not finish (DNF) – including me
- 4/6 solo women finished
This race is superbly well organized, and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a challenge!
Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete
Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego
Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego