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

My friend Cheryl and I headed to Killarney Provincial Park at the end of September with high hopes for our 8-day canoe trip starting at the George Lake access point, where we would paddle a route that included many new-to-me lakes. Cheryl and I had previously started a trip at this access point, but that was our 8-day, 90k hike of the entire La Cloche Silhouette Trail – we had never paddled in George Lake! Day 1: George Lake to Freeland Lake to Killarney Lake We were on the water by 2:30 PM, on a day that was rainy, foggy, and cool (high of 15C?). Nevertheless, the scenery was beautiful. We started out with Cheryl in the stern of her canoe, and me in the bow, but we would change that up over the course of the trip, sharing the power and steering responsibilities. We also shared the navigation, with me using my new Unlostify map, and Cheryl using the official park map.
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Starting at the George Lake access point. [Photo by Cheryl]
Our first portage of the trip was a very short 50m into Freeland Lake, so we decided to carry the packs, and then go back for the canoe. However, our goal for the trip was to single carry (i.e. carry everything at once) all portages except for the tiniest ones, something we had never managed to do on a trip together before. In fact, I had never single carried on any canoe trip, but with a 3km portage on this one, it was a necessity!! We paddled through Freeland Lake and then portaged 430m into Killarney Lake, where we would stay the night. We didn’t have our eyes on a specific site, but we hoped to be fairly close to the portage to Threenarrows Lake, which we would tackle the next morning. As it turned out, we passed 2 unoccupied sites and then several occupied ones, which made us wonder whether we should backtrack to one of the empty ones we had seen, or go further and hope that there was a site available and we wouldn’t have to paddle all the way back later. We pushed on, paddling against the wind, and were relieved to find that site #24 was free! Phew. It had been raining all day long, and our wildlife sightings for the day included only a single frog!
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It was a rainy, foggy, and cool start to the trip. [Photo by Cheryl]
We set up our campsite, putting up a 2-man tent, a small tarp for a dining shelter, and throwing a rope over a tree branch for our bear bag. This would be our routine when we reached each campsite. Then we boiled water for hot chocolate, added Baileys to it, and enjoyed a yummy energy square alongside it. Later we ate “Thanksgiving on the Trail” (essentially dehydrated chicken, with stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries and gravy) before climbing into the tent for the night. Overnight, there were thunderstorms for more than 4 hours, but we were fortunate in that the thunder and lightning never came close (though the rain did!).
  • Distance paddled: 7.96 km
  • Distance portaged: 50m + 430m
  • Campsite: #24
Day 2: Killarney Lake to Threenarrows Lake After a cup of gatorade, mug of tea, and bowl of hot cereal, we packed up our campsite and set off for the 3k portage to Threenarrows Lake. We had no idea how eventful our day would be!
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Cloudy start to the day. [Photo by Cheryl]
It was a short 700m paddle to get to the portage. According to the time estimates on my Unlostify map, the portage would take us 2 hours if we single carried (we assumed that we were “typical” paddlers, not “relaxing” or “speedy” ones). This would mean that the person carrying the canoe would take the lighter pack, and the other person would take the heavier one (an uncomfortable, non-ergonomic canoe pack) plus the paddles and my camelbak. Cheryl took the canoe and her backpack, knowing that I was willing to switch part way if need be. We had already decided before we started walking that we would definitely be taking a few breaks along the way! This portage starts with a steep uphill, but then isn’t too bad really. It had streams, rocks, hills, slippery sections, creek crossings and tree obstacles to navigate. And there was rain at times. And thunder. We stopped two times for a few minutes to free ourselves from the packs and boat, and then continued on our way. At one point, Cheryl slipped and fell on a wet rock, but thankfully, she was not injured (she even managed to hold onto the boat). At the end of the portage, there is a short paddle across a small lake before another 430m portage! But once we were done the second one, we were into Killarney Lake…and facing a paddle into the wind…and whitecaps! At this point, I was in the stern. We approached a narrowing of the lake and felt the wind increase in strength. The waves were big, and the wind was pushing the bow to the right. We had hoped to go through the channel and head left. We paddled as hard as we could, but we could not turn the bow dead straight or to the left. The waves were hitting us broadside and the canoe was rocking. I briefly considered letting us get blown to the right shore where there was a bit of an eddy, and trying again to go through the channel. Instead, we allowed ourselves to float backwards, and decided to paddle hard (from a spot with less wind/waves) back to the left and into an eddy there, where we could regroup and decide on our next steps. We did not want to flip!! One idea was to make the little peninsula our campsite for the night (we wondered if it might even be the campsite we were looking for). Cheryl got out of the boat and scouted out the peninsula. She proposed that we portage our stuff over it to the other side, where there was a calm area for us to get back into the canoe and paddle around the left corner to the campsite (she had found it – but it wasn’t on the peninsula). We agreed that if we couldn’t paddle around the corner to the left (into the wind), we would instead turn the boat and ride the waves to another campsite on the other side (a different part of the lake).
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Maybe a goose egg? We found this while portaging across the peninsula.
Thankfully, we had no trouble paddling around the point (we weren’t trying to fight our way through a narrow channel), and so we landed the canoe at the campsite and were grateful to be done paddling for the day. I’ve never been defeated by wind and waves before! We later saw three guys in a canoe make it through the channel, none of them wearing lifejackets!
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A very windy day.
After setting up our campsite and hanging some things to dry, we sat down to have a snack, and were amazed at all the little bits of vegetation that were being pelted at us by the wind! Small boughs were flying, as were little bits like twigs. The wind was something else! We kept our eyes peeled for trees about to fall. Thankfully, none did at our site. Later in the trip, we saw many huge trees freshly fallen, both on campsites and on portages. It wasn’t until our trip was done and we were back at the George Lake office that we heard from a Park Ranger about a tornado in Ottawa that same day!!
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Different kinds of fungi all over the place.
We “swam” to feel somewhat clean again, but the water was cold and air temperature not really conducive to warming up post-swim, so we just went in part way and splashed ourselves! The first time I opened the thunderbox lid, a salamander ran across the seat and fell inside! I apologized and hoped I wasn’t peeing on it. At some point, Cheryl spotted a glove sticking up from the ground, and was very relieved to not find a body with it!
  • Distance paddled: 1.35 km
  • Distance portaged: 3110m + 400m
  • Campsite: 43
Day 3: Threenarrows Lake We had planned to stay 3 nights on Threenarrows Lake, but hadn’t decided before the trip began whether we would change campsites every night, or stay put. Based on weather forecasts from my Garmin InReach (which communicates using satellites – no cell signal required), it looked like Day 3 would be a better weather day than Day 4, so we decided to travel on Day 3 to a different campsite – and get ourselves closer to the west end of the lake, so that we would have less distance to travel when we started moving again. This turned out to be our sunniest day of the whole trip. We slept in, and weren’t on the water until 11:30 AM. We headed west for site 45, then paddled in an upside down U shape, finally reaching site 46, which we briefly considered taking. But we decided to continue paddling against the wind (the majority of the trip, we paddled against the wind!), and to hopefully be able to stay on site 47 or 48. We were in luck! Both were empty, so we took site 48, the closest one to “the Pig” – the steepest portage in the park, which we would tackle on Day 5. We decided that Day 4 would be a “stay put” day.
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When your feet get cold on a fall canoe trip and the sun comes out, you modify your paddling stroke. [Photo by Cheryl]
But before we reached our campsite for the night, we had an interesting encounter with a float plane! We were in the water near site H21 (a backpacking site) having a snack when Cheryl noted that a float plane seemed to be coming straight for us. In fact it did land in the lake, and proceeded to zoom past us through a narrow channel that we would soon be paddling in. Once we got around the corner, we saw that it was at a cabin – it had either dropped people or stuff (or both) off. We watched it take off again (safely out of its way) before we started paddling. Before setting up our campsite, we ate lunch on the rocks by the shore, and tried to warm our feet in the sun at the same time! Then we set the campsite up, and gathered wood for a fire. I used my stick stove to boil water for hot chocolate, and then we built a fire to make pizzas. They were delicious, with pepperoni, bacon, cheese, pineapple, peppers, broccoli, mushrooms and onions. YUM! DSC09184 We saw a beaver swim by our site while we were sitting at the water’s edge, but didn’t see any people all day long! After getting ready for bed, I climbed into the tent. Cheryl was part-way to the thunderbox when I heard a screech,  a howl, and then the unmistakeable sound of a Barred Owl. I yelled to Cheryl, “You okay out there?” She was. We still don’t know what happened – had it been me, I would not have continued on to the bathroom on my own! We heard Barred Owls again multiple times that evening and overnight, but it never sounded as close as it did the first time.
  • Distance paddled: 8.73 km
  • Distance portaged: 0 km
  • Campsite: 48
Day 4: Threenarrows Lake Since we weren’t changing campsites on Day 4, and it was quite cool out (down to 3C with the windchill according to my InReach!), we decided to go for a walk after breakfast to stay warm. We stuck close to the shore and headed in the direction of the Pig. We picked a path through the woods, climbing over branches, under tree limbs, around bushes etc. for about a kilometre. Then we turned back. Just before reaching our campsite I spotted a jaw bone on the forest floor. I’m not sure what animal it belonged to.
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Jaw found on the forest floor.
We had a snack, then started a fire to try to warm up. It was too cold to just stand around. Unfortunately, it was too windy to get much heat from the fire. We couldn’t sit too close to it for fear of embers burning our clothes – unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to me. I felt something burning my leg, and brushed the ember off my rain pants, but not before a small hole was burned into them. My pants underneath didn’t get burned, but now sport a small white patch. We had mugs of hot water to drink (I was rationing the hot chocolate, and didn’t feel like tea), and then went into the woods to have lunch, where it was a little more sheltered from the wind. We sat against big trees for backrests, facing the thunderbox just a few metres away. Not exactly scenic. We then climbed into the tent to try to get warm. Despite being inside my sleeping bag and wearing a winter hat and gloves, I was still cold! I wondered if I would be cold in the night (I had packed my summer sleeping bag, not realizing the temperature was going to drop so much). It was in the tent that we first started talking about the possibility of shortening our trip, because the weather forecast looked bleak – 80% chance of heavy rain for the last couple of days of our trip, and continuing cool temperatures. We studied our maps and tried to figure out how we could change our route. We didn’t want to stay on lakes that we hadn’t reserved, because that may mean someone with a reservation wouldn’t be able to find a site. This is more of a problem on small lakes – on large lakes, provincial parks often leave a few sites unreserved. Thankfully, I had my InReach, so what ensued was a 4 hour+ confusing text conversation with my husband, to see if he could change our route. Messages were being sent or received out of order, so it was funny at times (and frustrating). I learned my lesson: start each text with a time stamp! The Ontario Parks reservation line told Alasdair that once we started our trip we couldn’t change our route, but when he called the park directly, the Park Ranger was very helpful and got us the lakes we wanted! At some point during this conversation we forced ourselves out of the tent to make dinner (as Cheryl would say, the answer to the question, “Should we go in the tent?” is always no… because if you do go in, you never want to leave!). After dinner, we climbed back into the tent for the night! Once we knew that our reservation had been changed, we could go to sleep!
  • Distance portaged: 0 km
  • Distance hiked: 1.95 km
  • Campsite: 48
Day 5: Threenarrows Lake to Artist Lake to Muriel Lake to O.S.A. Lake After packing up our campsite, we set out for the Pig, a short paddle away. We had walked this portage before, when we hiked the full length of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail, but I’m pretty sure at that time we were glad we weren’t carrying a canoe! We decided that I would wear Cheryl’s pack and carry the canoe, but as soon as I got the canoe up, I realized there was a problem – I couldn’t tilt the canoe back, which meant I could only see the ground immediately in front of my feet. I walked for a short time like that, then realized it just wouldn’t work! Turns out with our slight height difference, or maybe just how the pack sits on me, it was too high, preventing the canoe from pivoting. Cheryl removed everything from the top of the pack, put it into hers, and bingo! I could walk and tilt the canoe and see in front of me! Kind of important if you don’t want to walk into big rocks, trees (!) or people. When walking this portage, you essentially climb the first half, then descend the second half. The ground is rocky – small and large rocks – uneven, wet in places, and very steep! The pictures don’t quite do it justice. I took a break part-way down, and then stopped again before reaching the end and turning to start the 650m portage to Artist Lake! We paddled through Artist Lake, where we reached a small waterfall at the other end. We decided to carry the packs first (140m), then return for the canoe. But we didn’t walk far before we realized that we couldn’t possibly be on the portage, despite having walked on a well worn path. It ended, and we were forced to cross the creek. We continued along the other bank, but it too seemed like a very weird portage. And the end was a steep climb up a bank. We wondered how we’d manage with the canoe. We realized that we must have missed the portage, and in fact, we did. We found the portage sign at the end and it directed us a different way. We hadn’t seen a portage sign when we arrived at the waterfall, but we weren’t surprised – not all portages seemed to be marked.
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Pretty waterfall.
From here we paddled a very short distance to another short portage, which would take us into Muriel Lake. We paddled through Muriel Lake, did yet another portage, and then found ourselves on the shore of O.S.A. Lake – the sun had come out, but so had the wind! And you guessed it, we would be paddling against the wind as we tried to find a campsite. There were 4 campsites on the west side of the lake (where we were), and only 1 on the east side. We wanted to stay at the east side if we could, because then we’d have less distance to travel the next day, but we also didn’t want to paddle the entire way across the lake only to find that the site was taken! We stopped at one of the island sites and almost decided to stay – there were whitecaps on the lake and we were pretty much done with fighting wind for the day. But, we checked the weather, and the winds were expected to be the same in the morning, plus rain, so we decided to go for it and hope that the site across the lake was empty! As we paddled across, the whitecaps continued and a couple of times the waves broke over the bow of the boat. As we got closer to the site, we saw something that looked like a canoe… we hoped that it wasn’t. Eventually, we could see that it was a rock. Phew. We arrived at the site, couldn’t see a canoe, tent, or person, and said, “Hello?” No response. We had a site! This was our most scenic site of the trip, with a view of the mountains across the lake. It also had 2 private beaches, one on either side of the site. After setting up I made us some Baileys hot chocolate, and then we sat on the rocks at the shore planning future Killarney canoe trips! We made really yummy egg wraps for dinner, which also had tons of veggies, bacon, cheese, and salsa. As we were eating, the wind was blowing dark clouds in, so we made sure we were ready for the oncoming rain. We had already made ourselves an awesome kitchen shelter, complete with backrests!
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Our kitchen shelter ready for the coming rain.
It turns out we were in the tent for the night before the rain came.
  • Distance paddled: 6.17 km
  • Distance portaged: 1280m + 650m + 140m + 170m + 590m
  • Campsite: 28
Day 6: O.S.A. Lake to Killarney Lake to Freeland Lake to George Lake We awoke to more rain on our last day. We cooked our breakfast and ate it under our kitchen shelter, then packed as much as we could under the tarp. Then it was time to finish packing the tent and tarp, and set out for the last time.
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Wet, windy, cool end to the trip. [Photo by Cheryl]
We had two options for portaging into Killarney Lake, and we chose the one with a shorter portage plus a beaver dam lift-over (rather than the one with the longer portage).
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Huge trees down at campsites and along portages like this one. [Photo by Cheryl]
We encountered a few canoes as we headed out, and then a large group of about 10 canoes of students near the end. We had two portages to tackle on our last day, one into Freeland Lake and then one into George Lake. We were travelling at a similar pace of two men that we had met a few days earlier, so we chatted with them for a bit at one of the portages. They made me want to go paddle in Alaska! While we had very few wildlife encounters this trip, they saw 2 wolves, a bear, moose, otters and some kind of weasel! They highly recommended that we paddle the more northerly parts of the park.
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Back at the George Lake access point.
It rained off and on while we paddled, but when we arrived at the George Lake access point, it had stopped. It wasn’t the weather or trip we had hoped for, but we still enjoyed ourselves! After the canoe was back on the vehicle and all our stuff was packed away, we headed to the park office to get a refund for the nights we wouldn’t stay at Killarney. That’s when we heard about the crazy wind storm that blew through the campground the same day we were being pelted in the face with tree bits. Apparently the campground and office lost power for 60 hours, and downed trees in campsites meant that park staff had to cut them so that cars could be freed from campsites.
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Mike Ranta at Herberts Fisheries in the town of Killarney. [Photo by Cheryl]
Once we left the park, we headed to the town of Killarney for fish and chips at Herberts Fisheries. I had never been to the town, but Cheryl had. We walked into the building and who did we see but Mike Ranta, a modern day canoe explorer (he has paddled across the country by canoe – with his dog Spitzy). He plans to do it again to raise awareness for Canadian vets. We enjoyed our fish and chips, then headed home. Killarney, we’ll be back!
  • Distance paddled: 7.58 km
  • Distance portaged: 130m + 430m + 50m
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Race report: 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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