This year’s Multisport Canada/Somersault K-Town long course triathlon was to be held at a new venue, Canadian Forces Base Kingston, instead of Confederation Park downtown. The change was made in part to maximize safety on the course – athletes would have a more protected swim and wouldn’t have to bike across the metal grate bridge.
Prior to the race I finally got to meet Cory, an athlete I follow on Instagram but who I hadn’t yet managed to see in person. Thanks again Cory for introducing yourself!
The new swim course was in the Great Cataraqui River north of Highway 2 (from HMCS Cataraqui) instead of in the St. Lawrence River (open to Lake Ontario) south of Highway 2. We were told it would be calmer. Alasdair and I were to start in the same wave, which meant we should see each other more during the race.
We got into the water from a dock, but this meant (for me at least) that once I was in for my quick warm-up, I wasn’t getting out again (too hard to get out). I didn’t want to get in too early because I’d have to tread water until the start, but I didn’t want to wait to the last second either.
The 10 second countdown started and we were off, with me right behind Cory. Sadly, I only got to draft off of him for a couple of swim strokes, because then he was gone! We swam shore side of a buoyed boat lane. For this race we had to keep the buoys to our right, swimming about 1 km north east along the shore, 25 m across, then back even closer to the shore.
With about 500 metres to go, the swim course got very weedy. It was also at this point that I noticed a current in my favour, however, my motion-sickness never likes it when things don’t align, so my swim strokes at a different speed than the waving weeds was not pleasant. My hands were non-stop hitting weeds and I had them sticking to my head too, wrapped around my face. At one point I hit rocks (or something!) with my left hand. I later heard from athletes who cut their hands and feet during the swim.
With only a couple hundred metres to go, some swimmers ahead of me seemed confused – they were swimming at a strange angle away from shore. Maybe they were looking for deeper water to get away from the weeds?
Overall, my swim was fairly straight, and I passed at least one person (but most passed me as usual). As I approached the swim exit I could see that the blowup swim arch was off to the side, and had fallen over. There was a very slippery mat at the swim but volunteers warned us and helped us out if needed. Then I set out in bare feet running about 200 m or so on pavement back to transition!
While getting myself ready to bike, I ate half a homemade muffin. The bike route was only slightly different than the previous course, which meant lots of hills, with more downhill on the way out (never a good sign!). I passed around 3 people, and played leapfrog with one woman (I overtook her on the downhills, she caught me on the uphills). I saw 3 dead skunks, forced down 2 homemade energy bites, and stopped at the bottle exchange to fill my own bottle with F2C. There was a nice downhill to finish the bike course. I saw Alasdair just before the turnaround in Gananoque.
Before even starting the run, I knew the heat was going to be my enemy! Thankfully, there was a light breeze coming off the lake. The run course crosses highway 2 via stairs and a pedestrian bridge, then does a loop through the Royal Military College (RMC). The course was mostly flat, with one very big exception, the long climb up the Fort Henry Hill (because forts are always built up high!). When I reached the first aid station, I was super disappointed to discover that it had run out of drinks. This meant I didn’t get one until 4k into the run, after having conquered the Fort Henry hill (with a run/walk combination). I was pleasantly surprised to see my friend Lisa at the aid station! The run down the hill was the best part of the run course.
The 15k course included 3 loops at RMC, which meant that I saw Alasdair multiple times. At each aid station I poured water on my head and drank F2C and/or water. I ran the entire 15k, other than the steepest parts of the Fort Henry hill, and as I went through the aid stations. There was great support from cheering spectators at RMC.
Alasdair was waiting for me just before the finish.
I enjoyed some post race pizza and my first ginger ale in years (I’m not a pop drinker but felt like something sweet). We watched the end of the awards, and then we soaked our heads with a hose before heading out!
Time: 4:55:09 (7/8 women 45-49, 39/64 women, 146/218 athletes)
After a 2-year (Covid-19) hiatus, the Paris to Ancaster Bike Race was back! For the first time I would be racing P2A with my adventure racing partner Rebecca, and my Bruce Trail running buddy Kris. We opted for the 70k race, my third time at this distance (Rebecca’s first, and Kris’ first time doing a bike race). There were also 20k, 45k, and 100k options this year (the 100k was new).
Rebecca and I paid for the pre-race shuttle. We parked one car at Ancaster High School across the road from the finish line at the Ancaster Community Centre, and then drove with our bikes 3k over to Walmart, where we put them on a truck and ourselves on a bus. While waiting for the bus to leave, we noticed a bike on the road ahead – a slight mishap with the driver having attempted to drive under a steel barrier with their bike on the roof of the car… the bus driver said it was the second bike she had seen on the ground. Hopefully they were still able to race!
Our driver let us out right at the start line at Waynco Aggregates in North Dumfries Township, where we waited for our bikes to come out of the back of the truck.
We were surprised to see only 3 portapotties for hundreds of riders… but we later learned there were additional ones in the parking lot (where our bus driver was supposed to let us out).
The weather forecast for race day was an incredible 20+ degrees Celsius, unseasonably warm (and dry!) for this race. I wasn’t alone wearing shorts, and many people were in short sleeves.
Kris eventually arrived at the start, and after watching the elite race begin (slightly delayed for some reason), we headed to the back of wave 4, the last wave.
It was there that I spotted Erik, who I had met at the race in 2018 through a mutual friend, and who I saw again at the 2019 race.
As usual, I knew we were going to encounter paved roads, gravel roads, rail trails, farm lanes and fields, single track, and lots of mud. New this year was being overtaken by the 100k riders… and the chaos that ensued!
The race started and it wasn’t too long before the couple hundred riders in our wave spread out. Kris and I rode mountain bikes, and Rebecca a gravel bike. Before we had reached 14k, we saw a sign that said 44k to go. We were confused, because we were supposed to be riding 70k. The three of us rode together for a while, but after one section where we ended up in a very long line of people walking their bikes, Kris left us behind (we had told her that she didn’t have to stick with us). In this stretch there was a huge downed tree on the single track, but other than that it’s not clear why we were all walking. There was mud, but it shouldn’t have caused such a back-up. I ended up chatting with the people around me while we walked, and stood still, including another triathlete. For the first 15-16k (before we hit this section) we had been making good time!
After this section, we never saw Kris again! She was doing an amazing job riding through the mud. I was more tentative this year than in the past, because I’m still healing from my Superman dive while skating this winter, and really didn’t want to fall.
We reached the aid station in Harrisburg at around 20k, which confused me further, because it was supposed to be at the 35k mark. We realized that for whatever reason, our race must have been shortened (this can happen due to poor conditions on course – for example, a section through private land that could be damaged if a thousand bikes ride through). We didn’t mind the shortened course, though I would have liked to know before the race started (no announcement was made). I found Erik here too, just like in 2019.
When a dozen or more 100k riders caught us, we were riding through a farm, on a series of hills that had mud pits at the bottom. They passed us at a high rate of speed, on the left, and on the right, weaving in and out of riders. It was pretty crazy. And it was incredible to see the speed and confidence with which they hit the mud pits! They just blasted straight though them. In this section I was trying to squeeze around the left side of Rebecca, but I clipped her with my bike and over I went! I fell onto my left (injured!) side, but was no worse for wear. Thankfully it was a soft landing. Rebecca’s shoe had a minor malfunction at this point but once she forced it back together we were on our way again!
Once we hit the Hamilton to Brantford rail trail around the 40k mark I was in familiar territory, having included this section in many of my training rides. Unfortunately I suffered some abdominal pains for the last 20k of the race – not GI, not a side stitch – which made my pace slow. I’ve had them before, on both my road and mountain bikes, and only ever on long rides. I haven’t figured out what causes them!
At the end of the Mineral Springs mud chute (through which I mostly pushed my bike, though I did ride a bit at the start of the mud) my dad, husband, and daughter were waiting for me! Alasdair had brought tools with him to help people clean mud and debris from their bikes. It was here that I caught up to Rebecca, who had gotten a short distance ahead of me.
Less than 2k later, I reached the Powerline mud chute, which I once again mostly pushed my bike through. Thankfully both mud chutes were downhill!
And then before I knew it, I was at the start of Martin Road, which ends with the 20% grade hill and then a short straightaway to the finish line. The hill was more congested for me this year than it was previously, so I was worried that someone would stop right in front of me and I too would have to stop. But I got lucky, and managed to power my way to the top! This section had great spectators on both sides of the road cheering for the riders, which helped push me up it. And then just like that, after 56.8k of riding, pushing and lifting my bike, I was at the finish line and Steve Fleck was announcing my name!
I found Kris, then Erik and finally Rebecca. After a veggie chili (thank you for the vegetarian option!), Rebecca and I drove back to Walmart to pick up her car, and I headed to Booster Juice for a drink – I was craving juice, and the only drinks at the finish were beer (which I grabbed for my dad), and water.
Getting to the start line of The Flurry 8k Snowshoe Race was a victory in itself, given my Superman dive while skating just a month before. I did a short test run three days before the race and didn’t feel the injured muscles near my ribs, and while my legs were tight the next couple of days for lack of run practice, I declared myself ready to race! This would be my first time on snowshoes this winter, my first snowshoe race in two years, and just my second run in a month – what could go wrong?! Oh, and it was predicted to feel like -19 degrees Celsius with the wind. My goals were to make it to the finish line and to have fun in the process.
I arrived at the race site at Marydale Park in Mount Hope (Hamilton) to discover that one of the Happy Trails volunteers lives on my street – small world! I picked up my race kit (a big, awesome mug, a buff, and my race bib) and went back to my car to get organized. I immediately realized that I was under-dressed (unusual for me!), but thankfully I had a Happy Trails hoodie with me for after the race that I decided to wear while racing. I got my snowshoes on and wondered where everyone was, since there were only a few people outside. Turns out they were inside for the pre-race briefing, which I almost missed.
We were incredibly fortunate that a recent snowfall had blanketed the race course with the perfect amount of snow – not too little, and not too much! We would be running 2 laps of a 4k course, which included a loop and an out and back section.
I tried to position myself well back of the start line, but people kept lining up behind me. Oh well, they would soon find out that they would have to pass me! With a very laid-back 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 countdown, we were off!
Almost immediately I was doubting my ability to run 8k on snowshoes! After running a loop around a field, we hit the full force of the wind and blowing snow head-on! Wow! While I felt like I should be running faster through the windy sections to get out of them sooner, I ended up slowing down and sometimes walking. In fact the entire race was a run/walk combo for me.
Before the race began, I wondered how visible the course flags would be given the blowing snow. I need not have worried. I could easily spot the flags, and in fact the easiest thing to do was to follow the people who had gone before me and the tracks they left behind! I entered the forest – so pretty – and felt that I was slowing people down. I told the runners behind me to let me know if they wanted to pass. It didn’t take long before I had to pull over anyway – snow was clumping under my snowshoes. Unfortunately, over the course of the race I had to stop and kick my snowshoes against trees between 10 and 20 times! Please send your tips my way. I used ski wax on my snowshoes before the race, but it seemed to have no effect. I didn’t notice anyone stopping as often as I did.
It was really nice to see some familiar faces at the race (Lisa, Mauro, Steve), and to be able to cheer for one another too. Trail runners are a friendly bunch!
During the out and back section of the course I stepped into the deeper snow to the side of the tramped down path to allow faster people running towards me to pass. In fact the race winner finished before I finished my first loop!
By the second loop runners were much more spread out, though I did run parts with two women named Mary and Andrée (nice to meet you!). Having run the first lap I knew I could run it again. I counted down the kilometres and looked for owls as I ran. Of course.
There were a few non-racers walking on the trail, but none of them wanted to take my place! At the out and back turnaround I spotted a car in the ditch with a police car nearby. The winds were quite ferocious and snow drifts fast accumulating with blowing snow. Thankfully there was protection from the wind in the forest.
The 4k race was set to start 1 hour after the 8k race, and I wondered if I would be passed by a 4k runner before I finished – I was.
At the finish line (I made it!) I was presented with a giant-sized medal! Then I went inside for some hot soup and hot chocolate. Happy Trails is very eco-conscious, encouraging runners to use re-usable cups and bowls, and providing compostable options as well. I used my awesome new mug for soup, then rinsed it out so I could have hot chocolate before heading home.
It was a challenging race, but I’m glad I healed in time to be able to do it!
Time: 1:17:09 (9:39 min/km)
Placing women 45-49: 2/4
Placing all women: 14/24
Placing all runners: 35/46
Thank you Happy Trails for another great race, and Sue Sitki for your amazing photos!
Why do one triathlon on a Saturday when you can do two? It wasn’t my idea (really!), but it didn’t take long for me to agree to end the 2021 triathlon season with a bang by doing back to back races in Welland. The International Flatwater Centre is a fantastic venue, and Multisport Canada puts on great races in the Rose City. Covid-19 precautions were in effect, with masks in transition and at registration, a covid check, and races spread over 3 days with less athletes in each race.
When we received an email with our individual starts times a few days before the race, we realized that we would have less than an hour between races, and race kit pickup for the give-it-a-tri would start – and end – while we were doing the sprint race. But on race morning Alasdair got it all sorted out – the race crew knew that two crazy people would be coming to register late!
When we first arrived at the venue we accidentally racked our bikes on the give-it-a-tri rack, but we hadn’t set our things up, so when we realized our mistake it was easy to switch to the sprint racks. I left my bike, went through registration, and then got my things organized. I put on my wetsuit and headed down the stairs to the water. I had lots of time before my race, so I watched other people start, found some shade to wait in, then eventually found a random athlete to zip me up! I did a short warm up swim, found Alasdair, and waited for athlete #86 to be called to the start line!
750 m swim
For this race, we were seeded based on our predicted finish times (of the swim? or the entire race? I can’t remember). This meant that the fastest athletes would start first, and the slowest last. One swimmer would start every 30 seconds. The swim start was incredibly well organized. There was a 2-sided digital clock so the race crew and the athletes in the water warming up could read it. My start time was 11:42:30, so a couple of minutes before that I was called up, and went into the water from the dock. I treaded water until my start time, then when the clock hit 11:42:30, I started. Alasdair must have forgotten to seed himself when he registered, because he was placed nearly at the back of the pack 20 minutes after me!
If you’ve been following my triathlon adventures this summer, you will know that I’ve had mini panic attacks on the swim for each of my races so far, the Barrie sprint, Gravenhurst sprint, and Gravenhurst Olympic. Well I’m not sure if it was the solo start, but I had the most relaxed swim of any triathlon yet this summer! My only issue was a bit of water in my goggles, which I quickly tipped out. I was so relieved to have a good swim!
I made my way up the stairs to transition, took the rest of my wetsuit off at my bike, put on my helmet, sunglasses, socks, shoes, and race bib and headed out with my bike. It was quite a long run to the bike mount line.
The bike was 5 loops of a closed road course which is relatively flat. There are two 180 degree turns per lap (and two 90 degree turns) – it’s a backwards L shape. As I started my 3rd loop, Alasdair started his 1st. He passed me and then I chased him for the remainder of the ride. Athletes had to count their own laps, or use a bike computer or watch, or use the Sportstats clock on the race course (hard to read when you’re riding fast!). Thankfully, I didn’t lose track! After my 5th lap it was a long run back into transition. I racked my bike, removed my helmet, put on my hat, changed my shoes, and headed out the run exit.
The run was 2 loops on a path along the recreational waterway. It was while running that I really started thinking how crazy it was to be doing another race after this one. I even considered not doing it, and just cheering for Alasdair! Speaking of Alasdair, as I was starting my 2nd loop, he passed me on his 1st. One thing I’ve missed this year is seeing the age of other athletes on their legs (no body marking this year) – it helps to know if you should actually try to catch someone or keep ahead of them if you know that they’re in your age category! Of course, I might not have had any fight in me anyway!
I was grateful to cross the finish line, but didn’t have time to relax! I grabbed a mask, put it on, and went back to registration, where I confused the volunteers who looked at me funny trying to register while already wearing a race bib! We sorted things out quickly and off I went. I grabbed a juice box, downed that, and headed back to transition to move my bike and all my stuff to the give-it-a-tri rack. I organized my things again, forced myself to eat half a muffin so I wouldn’t be starving during the give-it-a-tri, and then at some point I found Alasdair. It was already time to go down to the water.
Swim: 21:04 (2:48 min/100m)
Bike: 45:17 (27.82 km/h)
Run: 33:19 (6:39 min/km)
Women 45-49: 3/5
All women: 33/51
All athletes: 94/132
My start time for the give-it-a-tri was 2:02:00, with Alasdair 40 seconds behind me. I knew this meant that he would pass me during the swim. The swim course looked so short compared to the sprint course – I was so glad to have done the longer race first. When athlete #210 was called up, I headed for the start line. I had another relaxed swim (!), and before I knew it I was heading back to transition. Sure enough Alasdair beat me there, but he only headed out with his bike a few seconds before me.
I was so disappointed when I found out that we had to do 3 laps of the bike course (12k), and not 2 (10k). I was mentally prepared for only 2! Thankfully, another 2k wasn’t a big deal. When I started biking I felt that my legs were definitely more tired than they were at the beginning of the sprint! I chased Alasdair the entire race, but it was a losing battle – he was pulling just slightly further ahead with each loop.
I spotted Alasdair heading out of transition on foot as I was running back in with my bike. The run was 1 loop of the course we ran in the morning. At this point, I was really glad that I was only doing it one more time! Alasdair passed me when I had between 500m and 1k to go. And then not a moment too soon I too crossed the finish line, for the second time that day!
Swim: 12:09 (3:02 min/100m)
Bike: 29:08 (25.95 km/h)
Run: 17:11 (6:52 min/km)
Women 45-49: 3/5
All women: 16/51
All athletes: 43/101
After the second race we were finally able to relax! We chatted with Race Director Jason Vurma, then headed for the water to cool off before heading home.
Thank you Multisport Canada for adapting and putting on races this summer! We were so thankful to be back racing. See you in 2022!
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If you think starting a triathlon by yelling “Cannonball!!!” and jumping off a boat is a great idea, then the Multisport Canada Gravenhurst race may be the one for you!
Alasdair and I decided to once again do both the sprint and Olympic races, with the sprint on the Saturday and the longer Olympic on the Sunday. We were very lucky to be spending the weekend nearby at our friends’ cottage.
Driving to the race site in the pouring rain, I wondered what the weather would have in store for us! However, the rain pretty much stopped as we arrived. Walking our bikes into transition, we passed 2 members of the race crew sweeping water off the road where we would be running our bikes out of and back in to transition.
As part of the Covid-19 protocol, we had to wear masks in the transition zone and at registration, and we had to show that we had done the Covid screening. I set my stuff up in transition and was ready to go (that’s Alasdair racked beside me)…
… or so I thought! Good thing I realized a few minutes later that I hadn’t taken my helmet out of my big triathlon bag!
There was one boat that would ferry athletes to the swim start, in 3 separate groups. Alasdair and I were lucky enough to be on the same boat and starting in the same swim wave (i.e. at the same time). I always like to be one of the first to jump off the ship in my wave so I have more time to swim over to the start line and relax for a couple of minutes before the race starts. Before jumping off I heard the announcer say that someone had done a back flip off the boat. I was the 2nd to jump off in our wave, with Alasdair right behind me.
When the horn sounded, I started swimming, but it wasn’t long before I had a mini panic attack, just like in Barrie a few weeks before (prior to this year, it had only happened once – during my first triathlon in 2010)! I did breast stroke, then front crawl with right side only breathing, then got my bilateral breathing back and all was good. The rest of the swim was fine!
I reached the ladders at the dock, looked at my watch and saw 20-something minutes. I climbed the ladder, and started running to transition. I unzipped my wetsuit, removed my arms from the sleeves, and then took off my swim cap and goggles. I crossed the road, and did the long run around and into transition, where I caught up to Alasdair, who was getting ready to ride.
I removed the rest of my wetsuit, put on my helmet, sunglasses, socks, shoes, and race belt, and took off (before Alasdair). “See you when you pass me!” I said.
It didn’t take long before Alasdair passed me, after which I was pelted with very hard rain! Thankfully it didn’t last long. At the turnaround point (it was a hilly out and back course) he was less than 3 km ahead of me.
I felt strong on the bike leg and was happy with how it went.
Back in transition I racked my bike, removed my helmet, put on my hat, changed from cycling shoes to running shoes and took off.
Near the beginning of the run, which starts on a gravel path, someone cheered for me by name but I didn’t see who it was (I found out the next day it was Carley!). For once this run was not hot and humid! Normally the race is in July when it always seems to be uncomfortably hot! Instead the temperature was ideal. At some point before the turnaround, Alasdair and I passed each other. I felt strong during the run, and ran the entire hilly 5k, with the exception of a few steps when I walked while drinking from a cup.
Near the end of the run I spotted Alasdair waiting (and cheering) for me. As I neared the finish line I heard the announcer Steve Fleck say my name and call me the other half of the Paterson duo. I was glad to be done, and wondered how the next day’s race would go!
After the race we headed to Boston Pizza’s patio for our first meal at a restaurant in more than a year! The last time we ate at a restaurant was when we biked 30k for breakfast on a patio and then biked home.
Swim: 22:52.5 (3:02/100 m)
Bike: 42:20.1 (28.35 km/h)
Run: 33:15.9 (6:39/km)
Women 45-49: 5/6
All women: 57/97
All athletes: 184/280
Once again, Alasdair and I were in the same swim wave, but this time, I was 1st to jump off. Then it was Alasdair. As he resurfaced, he said, “I lost my goggles! I forgot they were on my head!” He had forgotten to put them on his eyes before he jumped. Thankfully, there was a lifeguard right there on a floaty thing, and she ducked under the water and came up with them as they were on their way to the bottom of Lake Muskoka! “I love you!” Alasdair said. Crisis averted.
The race started and I felt that my breathing was good and I’d be fine this time – but then, sure enough, another mini panic attack! I completely lost my breathing rhythm. This time I did breast stroke longer, then did front crawl with right side only breathing for probably 100m. I figured I would calm down and start front crawl again. And it worked. I decided then that if it happened again, I would immediately switch to just breathing on the right.
Because I did the breaststroke for so long, and because there weren’t many swimmers in each wave, it wasn’t long before everyone was long gone and I felt completely on my own. By this time my breathing was fine, but I couldn’t see a soul, not even a lifeguard. “Am I alone out here?” I thought. “Are the lifeguards with the pack of swimmers ahead?” It was a slightly disconcerting feeling. I focussed on swimming in the right direction, because I didn’t want to end up in the wrong bay like I did once before!
Sometime after the 1000m mark (my watch beeps every 500m on the swim), I saw another swimmer!! I immediately thought that they had passed me, but then realized that was impossible – we were the last wave to jump off the ship, and the next wave had to be picked up at the dock and brought out to the start, meaning a 40 min gap between waves. I wasn’t that slow! I soon figured out that the silver swim cap meant the person actually started ahead of me, so I had caught someone. However, I knew I was swimming slowly when I got close to a lifeguard towards the end of the swim and she cheered for me, telling me that I was doing awesome and I was almost there! I told her I was having trouble seeing (my goggles kept fogging up). By the time I got to transition, Alasdair was long gone.
Not only did the Olympic race double the length of the ride, but it also very likely doubled the number of hills! My legs were definitely more tired than for the sprint race, so I was biking more slowly.
However, my legs felt better than expected when I started the run. Once again, the extra distance on the run added a lot more hills! But like the day before, I ran the entire course except 2 times when I stopped to drink from a cup at an aid station. I find that if I give myself permission to walk, it’s the beginning of the end and I start walking more and more! At around the 3 1/2 k mark I spotted Alasdair running towards me. At the run turnaround one of the race crew, who clearly had seen me racing the day before, said “Two times?? Two times??” I was thankful to finally reach the last 1k of the run course, which meant the uphill sections were all done! Once again, Alasdair was waiting near the end of the run, ready to cheer me on. I was glad to be done! Overall, my pace was slightly slower than the day before, totally reasonable given that I didn’t start with fresh legs!
Swim: 45:24 (3:01 min/100m)
Bike: 1:30:39.2 (26.47 km/h)
Run: 1:09:05 (6:54 min/km)
Women 45-49: 5/6
All women: 51/62
All athletes: 220/269
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I’m not sure anyone was quite as excited to be back at a triathlon start line as one particular athlete in my wave at the Barrie triathlon – she whooped it up and let everyone know how much she loves the sport. I’ve never heard anything like it! She was pumped (and the rest of us couldn’t help but smile and laugh)!
It wasn’t too long ago that I was pretty resigned to the fact that there would be no race season at all for a second year in a row… and then Multisport Canada announced that races were on! Woot! We knew it wouldn’t be the usual triathlon racing experience, but we didn’t care – we were happy for the opportunity to get back out there. After a mountain bike crash in June (tire slipped on a wet root and I fell hard on my back) and a long recovery period, I was just relieved to be back swimming, biking and running 10 weeks later. Never mind I had only been swimming 2 times since the fall of 2019!
Our return to racing – and our first time doing the Barrie race (taken over by Multisport Canada this year) – would also be my friend Kris’ very first triathlon! Since we spent the night before the race at her place, she had 2 in-house triathlon coaches to ask for advice. And ask she did!
On race morning we didn’t arrive at the race site as early as we normally do, so by the time we set our stuff up in transition and got our wetsuits on, we had less than 15 minutes to go before we were to race! This added to the pre-race nerves. After a very quick warm up swim (just a few strokes!), I was ready to go.
Alasdair and I were lucky enough to be starting in the same swim wave, with Kris a couple of waves behind us.
I can’t tell you how great it was to hear familiar voices (like Steve Fleck at the microphone), see familiar faces, and to simply be back in the triathlon community again. I didn’t have any time goals for this race – getting to the start and finish lines would be enough for me this time!
The horn sounded and off I went, wondering if my shoulder was going to give me any trouble (seems I upset it playing disc golf recently). Thankfully, my physiotherapist ensured that it didn’t! My swim started okay but it didn’t take long for me to have a mini panic attack after losing my breathing rhythm. I switched to the breaststroke, then front crawl with single-sided breathing on the left, then single-sided breathing on the right, then eventually I got my rhythm back, and by the time I hit the first turning buoy, it was all good. I figured I was swimming much slower than usual (since I hadn’t been practising!) and might see 30 minutes on my watch when I stood up, so I was pleasantly surprised to see 21 – still slower than usual, but not as slow as I expected. Then it was a long run into transition (I spotted Alasdair heading out with his bike as I was running in), peeling off the wetsuit, putting on my sunglasses, helmet, socks, shoes, and race bib, grabbing my bike and heading for the transition exit… but on the way there, I thought “Oh no! I forgot my race bib!” So I dropped my bike and ran back towards my stuff, but before I got there, I realized I was wearing it! So I ran back to my bike and off I went. Clearly this was a first race in nearly two years!
The bike course was 4 loops with a slight uphill on the way out and a slight downhill on the way back. Unlike someone I know, I already knew how many loops to do – I didn’t have to do math to figure it out. I actually liked the looped course, which I’ve only done once before (at Welland). It meant I got to see Alasdair on every loop, and Kris twice when I was on my 3rd and 4th loops. The road was a little rough in some places, but otherwise, the ride was unremarkable. I will say though that not enough people said “On your left!” as they passed.
I ran my bike into transition, racked it, took my helmet off, changed shoes, put my hat on, had a quick drink of water, and headed out for the run. Sadly I had to stop to pee (at the portapotty just outside the transition zone). Remember that slight uphill on the bike? It felt more than slight on the run. The run course was 2 loops along a waterfront trail. On my 2nd loop I got chatting with a guy who told me about a latin phrase he knew that essentially meant “One foot in front of the other, ferociously!” I’m sure it will continue to come in handy in future races!
And then I heard the voice of the athlete who was so excited to be back – turns out her name is Shannon. I spotted Alasdair on both loops, and heard Steve Fleck give him the most awesome welcome to the finish line: “Alasdaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaair Paterson!” I’m not sure where I was on the run course at that point, but think it was not long after the turnaround – clearly the sound travels at the waterfront! I spotted Alasdair again waiting for me as I neared the finish line.
I was glad to be done, and to be honest, found the race harder than a sprint would normally be. I’m out of race practice and still building back up from my MTB crash! It’s a short triathlon season this year, but it’s so good to be back!
There was none of the usual post race food, awards, or socializing with other athletes (except for the ones packing up their stuff when we were), which we really missed – that’s part of the fun! Instead, we were encouraged to get the heck out of transition as fast as possible. We did, but we stuck around to cheer for my friend Kris, and for other athletes still finishing.
It was so fun to have a triathlon newbie with us! Who is next?!
Time: 1:43:38.8 (10/11 women 45-49; 64/86 women; 199/245 athletes)
In a year when most races were cancelled due to COVID-19, it was exciting that Don’t Get Lost was still able to go ahead with Raid the Hammer.
The weather even cooperated with a forecasted temperature of 20 degrees Celsius – in November! This meant that teams were able to comfortably sit outside (some brought lawn chairs, others blankets!) to plan their routes. Normally, there would be an indoor venue, but not this year. Instead, we got the great outdoors and some portapotties.
At race registration masks were required, and only one teammate picked up race maps and handed over “declaration of health” forms for each teammate.
There was map 1, map 2, map 3, race instructions and a map bag for each teammate. The race instructions provided more details for each control (e.g. stream junction, ruin, ditch, tunnel entrance, vegetation boundary, fence end, thicket), and whether we were looking for a traditional orienteering flag, a ribbon, a feature (e.g. a sign) or a virtual control.
Heidi, Rebecca and I would be racing together for the first time. We sat on a blanket wearing masks and planned our race route, slightly overwhelmed at the sheer number of controls to find (44)! For each control, we talked about options for going from one to the next – e.g. follow a trail, or take a bearing and bushwhack. Heidi is our chief navigator (and fitness “machine”, as Rebecca put it)!
The race started at Bernie Arbour Memorial Stadium in East Hamilton, on top of the escarpment. But looking at the race maps, we knew we would be climbing down, and up, and down, and up some more before returning to the finish.
This race featured staggered start times to reduce the number of people at the start, and the number of people teams would meet at controls (it worked!). In addition, instead of hand touching a flag or ribbon at a control, we used a free app called Map Run F, which based on GPS location knew that we had found a control.
We were ready to start our race around 9 AM, so with our watches and phones ready to go, we headed for the start control.
Map 1: controls 1 to 6
This part of the course had us descend the escarpment, run through King’s Forest Golf Course, and climb the escarpment again, at one point searching for a control in an area of the map that the trails had been removed from (for the added challenge). I had my first fall of the race early on (those darn tripping hazards hidden under leaves!). In this section we encountered a group of mountain bikers, who we then saw again a couple more times later in the race – as they noted, we went the “direct route”!
Map 2: controls 6 to 14
Moving onto map 2 we felt like we were making progress! In this section of the race, we ran on the Bruce Trail for a while towards Felker’s Falls. We left control 7 at around the same time as a team of 3 guys, and while they were running faster, we arrived at control 8 sooner – it’s not all about speed! We made the better route decision (which they acknowledged!). We didn’t change our planned route much during the race, but we did follow a different vegetation boundary from 9 to 10 (the northern one) and cut some distance off that way. We were looking in the wrong thicket for 10 but didn’t waste too much time before we figured that out. Just before control 14 I wiped out again, falling hard! After control 14 it was time to move to map 3!
Map 3: controls 14 to 25
We missed a small, leaf-covered trail to control 15, and once we saw how close we were getting to Albion Falls, we confirmed that we had indeed run too far. We had to backtrack a bit and climb up the escarpment, then down again. In fact the course planner suspected many people would make this exact error. Part of this map also involved a section called “run the line”, in which we had to follow the route outlined through a residential area to find controls that were not indicated on the map (“virtual controls”). Two involved sets of stairs (because, why not climb some more?!). We were getting close to being done with map 3 for good! We just had to find a couple of controls at Battlefield Park (including a monument at the top of – you guessed it – a set of stairs) and then a couple more along trails before we went back to map 2. My watch, which was running Map Run G – the app for Garmin watches that connects with the Map Run F phone app, went crazy when we passed control 14 again and then quickly reached 25. It started buzzing over and over again, registering that we kept finding 14 and 25. The app clearly thought I was running back and forth between the controls:
25, 25, 14, 14, 14, 25, 14, 25, 14, 25, 14, 25
Thankfully, as long as you visit the controls in the right order (13, 14, 15… 25…) it’s okay if you visit them again.
Map 2 (again): controls 25 to 37
We were relieved to be done with map 3, because it meant we were getting closer to the finish line! Control 27 was a manned checkpoint, where each team was checked off a list (it would help in the case of a team not being finished by the course cut-off time). In this section of the race, we had the option to travel through a tunnel, or climb up and over the road. We chose the tunnel route. Heidi slipped on wet concrete getting down to the tunnel (but did not fall), yelled, and the sound and echo in the tunnel was crazy!
Then after control 33, we had to climb a metal fence to get onto a sidewalk.
After a few more controls that we accessed via trails, we switched back to map 1 and left map 2 for good!
Map 1 (again): controls 37 to the 44 and the finish
After control 37, we were back at King’s Forest Golf Course. Part of this section involved a couple of controls in the section of the map that had the trails removed. Despite there being no trails on the map, we were partly able to use trails in real life to find the controls. From there we had to climb the escarpment again, do a little more compass work, and then from control 44, head to the finish line!
It’s safe to say we were all relieved to be done! It was super fun, but exhausting. We covered 27.5 km in 5 hours and 9 minutes. The three of us worked well together, and our navigation was nearly spot on!
This year’s Don’t Get Lost Raid the Hammer was to be my first time doing the “full” Raid – in previous years, I have always done the “half”. It was also the first time that Rebecca and I would race with Heidi (in preparation for Wilderness Traverse 2020). However, Rebecca was sick on race morning, so our team of 3 became a team of 2, which meant we weren’t able to do the full Raid and be included in the official results. We had two options: 1) full Raid (unranked), or 2) half Raid (ranked). We chose #1!
We picked up our race maps at St. Ann Catholic Elementary School in Hamilton (3 of 4 maps – one would be given out during the race), and planned our route. Given that I ran the Happy Trails The Beav 25k trail race the day before, we planned to run as smart a race as we could, nailing the navigation to make up for my tired legs!
When the race began, Heidi and I took off in different directions. In the Matrix, teammates could stick together or split up to find the 10 checkpoints (A to I). This section could be done at the beginning of the race, at the end of the race, or a mix of the two. We planned to do it at the beginning. We decided that Heidi would do the 4 controls north of Wilson Street, and I would do the 6 to the south, with slightly less running. At these checkpoints, we had to answer a question about the feature that was there (e.g. number on hydro pole, name of person on bench). With the exception of the first one, where I ended up on the wrong side of the creek to start with, I found all of these easily. No compass was required. I was hoping to beat Heidi to our meeting point so that I could rest briefly, but she beat me by less than a minute!
After running along the Bruce Trail over Highway 403, we were onto map 2.
Game of Thorns (CP1 to CP2)
In this section, we needed our compass, and an ability to scour a forest for “a distinct tree”. We found the controls, but none of the trees jumped out at us!
Blackout (CP3 to CP8)
In this section, trails were removed from the map, but we were able to use some anyway to find the controls. Our navigation continued to be bang on!
Gnarly Run and Photo Shoot (CP9)
It was a 3k run along the Bruce Trail to Sherman Falls, where we would be photographed with our teammates (instead of inserting our SI stick into an SI reader).
Dundas Valley Traverse I (CP10 to CP11)
From here we headed into the Dundas Valley Conservation Area, where we found CP10 and then CP11 (the aid station). We each had to show that we were carrying a whistle and an emergency blanket, and then we were given map 4. We grabbed some of the snacks at the aid station, and then studied the map briefly to decide which 5 of the 7 controls we wanted to get.
Scramble (CP12 to CP 18)
We opted for 18 and then 15, which were just off a main trail down steep hills. From there we ran along trails for a short while before crossing a log over a creek. While we managed to stay dry, we found out after the race that at least one person went for an unintentional swim here!
We climbed yet another steep hill to find 14 – in fact, this entire map involved lots of ups and downs. My tired legs were slow on the uphills!
From the time we hit 17 until almost the end of the race, we kept running into the same team at the controls, though we would choose different routes and yet still arrive almost at the same time.
After control 12 we looked for the least steep part of the hill to climb down to the creek, and then climbed up the hills on the other side. We then followed a trail all the way back to the aid station. We handed in our hand-punched map, ate some more aid station goodies, and then went back to map 3.
Map 3 (continued)
Dundas Valley Traverse II (CP20 to 24)
To get to CP 20, we opted to run a longer distance along trails, because bushwhacking directly there would have involved significant ups and downs, and more potential to get lost. From there, we again set out on trails, but planned to bushwhack a couple of times on our way to CP 21, down a steep hill, through a creek, up the steep bank on the other side, and then later, following a contour line and keeping a creek in sight. It worked!
Then it was a trail run to the “brawn” or “brain” section, where we had to choose which CP22 to do (climb all the way up the hill for an easy to find control, or half way up for a harder to find one). We chose the latter.
At this point, we knew that we had just 2 more controls to find before a 2k run to the finish line.
After CP23, we spotted the race photographer at CP24, and then it was a final push to the finish line!
Unfortunately, the 2k run back was a net uphill. My legs were pretty tired at this point, 26k into the race, so I had to take some walking breaks!
But after 5 hours, 2 minutes and 55 seconds, Heidi and I crossed the finish line! We had covered 28k, and 1400m of elevation gain.
We worked really well together, and our navigation was near perfect! It was super fun! I’m looking forward to racing with Heidi again. And look out Tree Huggers, we’re coming for you!!
After the race, it was time for some well deserved food! Yum!
Placing: Unranked, since we were a team of 2, but had we been a team of 3 females, we would have been 2nd! Woot!
To avoid my right knee acting up (which I’ve been doing physio for since the Falling Water marathon), I set a blanket down in the gravel parking lot and rolled my quad out, then used a massage ball on my IT band.
This race starts and ends at Hilton Falls Conservation Area in Milton. It’s a mixture of Bruce Trail, Bruce Trail side trails, and other trails just outside the conservation area. There is single track trail, double track, mud, and very technical rocky terrain, with potentially lethal drop-offs (not quite as dramatic as that sounds)!
In fact, this year’s race occurred during the legal bow hunt and shotgun hunt, so pre-race we were warned that if we were wearing a hat with antlers on it, we might want to remove it!
Rebecca and I decided to run the race together. Neither of us wanted to go too hard knowing that we had another race the next day!
After a bit of a conga line at the start of the race (climbing the biggest hill of the entire course), runners spread out quite quickly, and Rebecca and I were running alone at times. At 4.5k we hit the first aid station, and at 8k the second. There were lots of sweet and salty snacks, water, Skratch, and other drinks. From here we set out on a 9k loop on the Beaver Dam trail.
Such a pretty forest! The fallen leaves made rocks and roots hard to spot, but we managed to stay upright.
Somewhere around 10k, Rebecca began pulling away from me. It was getting harder and harder to keep up. I could see her ahead for quite a while, but eventually, I lost her.
One of my favourite parts of the course is the single track section in this loop, which looks like it would be super fun to ride!
When I returned to the aid station at the end of the 9k loop (and 17k into the race), Rebecca was there waiting for me.
At some point I accidentally kicked a rock and my calf very briefly cramped.
We ran the rest of the race together. At the final aid station (also the 4.5k aid station), volunteers were making s’mores on a campfire for runners, but at that point I just wanted to keep running. I would have loved one after the race though!
As one runner said near the end of the race, “hardest 3k ever”. It’s amazing how far one kilometre can seem when your legs are tired and you just want to be done! In this section, my right calf started cramping off and on.
In the last 500m of the race, we climbed a stile.
We were so close to the finish line! My left calf decided to start cramping too, but my right calf went crazy in the last 200-300m. I managed to continue running and hit the finish line in 3:13:55, a little more than a minute faster than the 2018 race.
The post-race cup of noodle soup went down nicely!
I was relieved to not have knee issues during the race. I felt it briefly at 14k, and that was pretty much it!
“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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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!!
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!