While I start every triathlon hoping for an uneventful swim in which I also manage to swim straight, this year’s K-Town Long Course Triathlon was anything but!
Once again, Alasdair and I stayed at a Queens University residence the night before the race and biked 2k to the race site. Things were a little different this year, with Multisport Canada partnering with Somersault to put on the triathlon – body marking was different, and we had to show our race bib to even get into transition.
We got ourselves set up, and prepared to get into the water. I would be starting 8 minutes ahead of Alasdair.
For some reason, I often find this swim course difficult to sight.
My race began and right off the bat I had trouble seeing the buoys. I got kicked or whacked in the eye, my goggles were too tight, I had to pee, I was swimming to the wrong buoy at one point (I was not alone), and I had to swim around a patch of weeds about 3 feet wide! For at least the last 750m I felt pukey (despite the waves not being very big), but just had to keep swimming to get out of the water. Basically it was an awful swim. Given how it went I was expecting to see 50 minutes on my watch… and then I saw 54 – yikes! Unsurprisingly, Alasdair had beat me out of the water. While swimming I actually considered pulling out of the race, but I felt much better on dry land.
With such a bad swim (I was just so glad to be done!), I knew things could only get better from there.
Because my swim was so slow, there were very few people starting the bike after me. This meant that for most of the bike I felt like I was riding mostly on my own. I did pass a few people, and a few men passed me too. Overall the bike went okay. It was hilly, but the wind wasn’t too bad.
I set out on the run, which for once (at this race) wasn’t a hot one!! There were lots of people cheering for me as they waited for other athletes to finish either the sprint course or long course. Unfortunately I got side stitches after about 2k, which felt like sore abs from a lack of swimming lately. I didn’t stop at the first aid station, but at every other one I grabbed water and/or electrolyte as I went through. Once the side stitches were gone (it took a few km’s) the run was okay. I saw Alasdair when I was at around the 7k mark (I had gained on him, because he was having calf/Achilles issues). I was lucky to get lots of cheers when I finished too.
I crossed the finish line feeling that I could have run further.
After the race we rode back to Queens and went for a dip in Lake Ontario at the Gord Downie Pier at Breakwater Park. So refreshing!
When I first heard about the Gong Show at the Happy Trails Tally in the Valley trail races at Dundas Valley Conservation Area, I thought it was a pretty neat concept – run a 7k loop at the sound of the gong, and continue to run the same 7k loop every hour on the hour as long as you can complete the loop within the hour. The last one still running after 24 hours wins – or if there is more than 1 runner to start the final loop after 23 hours, the first runner to complete the final loop will be the winner. Essentially, run for 23 hours and then sprint the last loop – crazy!
My plan was to get a long training run in, and to hopefully run 4 loops within the time limit. This was also the goal of Rebecca and her friend Victoria.
I had never run this 7k loop before , so all I knew was that it was hilly, and that 2k would be a slight downhill along the Brantford to Hamilton rail trail. This made it a little hard to estimate a pace that I could comfortably run it, while having time to rest between loops and not tiring my legs out too quickly. I should also mention that it was a very hot and humid day!
At the same time as the Gong Show, other races would be going on – a 7k race, and 6, 12 and 24 hour races!
The race began, and about 40 people in the Gong Show and many others in the other races started running. There was congestion right away as we climbed a hill, but then runners spread out over the next kilometre or so.
I walked the steep hills, and ran the rest. It was definitely hilly and hot, but thankfully there weren’t any bugs biting. I finished that 1st loop with 12 minutes to spare. I had a freezie, water and electrolyte, used the portapotty, tried to wash salt out of my eyes and then waited in the tent where Gong Show runners had to be when the gong was struck – or you’re out!
The gong sounded, and we were off again! This time, it was obvious who was doing the Gong Show, since we all started running together. There was even a guy wearing a rhinoceros costume (raising money for conservation). Did I mention it was hot out!?
On the 2nd loop, I appreciated the few cooler areas of the forest much more, as the day’s temperature continued to climb. I finished the 2nd loop with 11 minutes to spare, spending my time as I had after the 1st loop, and eating some watermelon and energy balls from the aid tent. The freezies were the best!
During the race I met Chantal Demers, who I learned is the current record holder for the Fastest Known Time for covering the entire Bruce Trail (for women): 12 days, 15 hours and 14 minutes (which she did in 2017)!!! Amazing! She would go on to win the Gong Show.
On the 3rd loop, I slowed slightly, finishing with about 8 minutes to spare. I knew that I had just one more loop to go. I couldn’t imagine doing that for 24 hours! I enjoyed yet another freezie, downed water and electroyte, and relaxed for a couple of minutes before heading out again.
I started the 4th loop knowing that I could complete 7k, even if I had to walk! It had been several weeks since I had run more than 21k, but I knew I could run 28. The hills seemed steeper and longer on this last loop. In the end, I finished the 4th loop with just under 5 minutes to spare. Had I been running longer distances lately (and not been worried about hurting myself before some upcoming big races), I know I could have done another loop within the hour.
But 28k was enough for me that day! After the race I had my 4th freezie of the day (!), as well as a few salty treats from the aid station. I guzzled water and after sitting in the shade for a while to cool off, I headed out. Both Rebecca and Victoria completed 4 laps too.
Kudos to the runners who made it much further than me, and to those who won!!
Heading up to the Haliburton area for RockstAR Adventure Race, I wondered whether we were making the long drive for nothing, given the next day’s forecast for a risk of strong thunderstorms all day and temperatures of 45C+ with the humidity! However, I was hopeful that the thunderstorms wouldn’t materialize, and that Rebecca and I could compete in the 8-hour version of this race for the first time (last year we did the 4-hour version).
We stayed at the Bark Lake Conference Centre the night before the race, and paid for the yummy hot and cold breakfast. We ate while looking at the race map, beginning to plan our route. This is a “choose your own adventure” style race, where you can do as few or as many of the checkpoints as you wish, after a mandatory paddle section for the 8-hour racers.
Just like last year, we decided to prioritize the “fun” checkpoints (which would not be open until 3 hours into the race), which this year were:
Search for the stars checkpoint (CP)
Inner tube CP
Paddle board CP
But first, we had to decide what we would do immediately after the mandatory paddle stage.
Our plan was to stay in the canoe to reach two more floating CPs (that we couldn’t do during the mandatory paddle stage). The other big decision – knowing we wouldn’t have enough time to clear the course (find all the CPs) – was whether we would head north (by canoe or by bike) to tackle 4 CPs in the woods that looked to have some navigational challenges (limited trails and in at least one case no clear features to navigate to), or go south and do a long bike leg to 3 CPs that would be easier to find but result in less points. We opted for the biking. We planned to do a few more CPs on trails near Bark Lake, then some on foot, and finally all the fun CPs.
Because we could return to race headquarters as often as we wanted during the race, and we could have gear bins waiting for us there, we stashed ice cold drinks and snacks, and planned to drop by frequently. This meant we wouldn’t have to carry as much food or water with us.
Mandatory paddle stage
The race began, and we started to paddle. Given that we wouldn’t be the strongest paddlers, we just followed the canoes in front of us! There was some crazy congestion near the beginning, forcing us to stop paddling, change direction slightly, and get away from other canoes. With so many canoes paddling hard, there was some serious wave action to deal with! We did a counterclockwise loop around the lake, paddling around 4k, and punching CPA with the SI stick at the end (volunteers had the SI readers on 8 foot poles and held them out to us in the boats).
Floating CPs (CP60 and CP61)
It took us just a few minutes to reach the other 2 floating CPs, with Rebecca punching the SI stick as we hit each one. We headed back to the beach and onto the next stage.
Bike leg to CP80, CP120, and CP130
We had been racing for about an hour when we headed out on our bikes. We rode on gravel and paved roads, and trekked on foot into the woods to find the CPs. We got confused on the road on the way to CP120, not sure that we had turned onto the correct road, and wondering if we were on a road that was out of bounds. A couple of other teams stopped at the same time, and together we tried to figure it out. Another team passed us. Eventually, we decided to continue on to see if around the next corner we would be able to figure out if we were on the right track. That worked. All was good.
A little later, after lots of hills on the bike, we turned onto a trail, left our bikes and headed with another team deeper into the woods for CP120, using a compass bearing to take us there. It was further than we expected it to be, but I eventually spotted it! Our navigation was good, there was no sign of thunderstorms, and the bugs weren’t too bad! But it was hot and humid! We got back on our bikes, rode a trail for while before again leaving our bikes to head into the woods, this time looking for CP130 in between two bodies of water. Success. We got back on our bikes, but instead of turning around and heading back the way we came, we opted to ride further along the trail to give ourselves more road (rather than trail) to ride to head back to transition. I think it saved us time (that was at least the plan!).
After this long bike leg, we had intended to continue biking to CP50 and CP72, drop our bikes and trek to CP90, CP91, and CP71 before doing some of the fun checkpoints on our way to CP30, CP31 and our waiting bikes, but we scrapped that plan once we got back onto the Bark Lake road. Rebecca and I were so hot, and both experienced “chills” as we were riding – not a good sign! So we decided to change our plan to jump into the lake as soon as possible! We had been on the bike leg for 3 hours.
CP41 (Under water CP)
While Rebecca searched the bottom of the roped-in swim area for a CD lying on the bottom (the underwater CP), I relaxed while cooling off in the water! The awesome volunteers at this CP also gave us a cold bottle of electrolyte drink to share, and a bag of chips. It felt so good to cool down!
CP50, CP72, CP31, CP30
Soaking wet but cooler, we again headed out on our bikes, this time on the Lakota trail, heading for CP50 and CP72. The “clue” for CP50 was ‘rocky point’, but there were multiple spots that might have passed as a rocky point. It was further off the trail than we expected it to be (this became a theme!) but we found it. It was in this section that we really noticed the bugs (the deer flies!) but they were bothering Rebecca more than me. Either they liked her more, or I was immune, after my recent canoe trip at Algonquin and the ridiculous bugs there!
At CP72 we had planned to leave our bikes and trek to a few CPs, but once we got there and looked at the map again, we decided it was too far to trek, and we really weren’t keen on having to backtrack later to get our bikes again! Plus, we wanted to make sure we were able to do as many of the fun CPs as possible. So we changed our plan again, finding CP31 (oh boy, another ‘rocky point’!) and CP30 (hung by a man for sure – so high!) on our way back to our transition spot and our bin and cooler. We also checked into CPB, a mandatory stop between 4 and 6 PM (the race started at 11 AM) to tell them which CPs we still intended to do (before the race, we had to hand in a planned route). CPB also had lots of treats and drinks for racers.
Next we headed by bike to the inner tube CP, where I swam to an island to punch the checkpoint. It was quite the leg workout!
We continued on our bikes along a gravel road then trail, until we reached a creek with a CP hanging on a wire half way across the waist-deep creek. I ignored the leech potential, waded in, and punched the CP!
At the next CP, we walked into the water in our bike shoes, and pretended to be rock stars on a giant floating trampoline! Jumping in bike shoes while attempting to play guitar was… challenging! So fun.
From there we headed for the Slingshot CP, which we didn’t try last year. We each had 3 chances to hit a target with a small rock. I didn’t have much confidence in my slingshot abilities, and sure enough, I failed! So did Rebecca. We had to sit a 10 minute penalty on the spot. But a woman and her partner showed up – she took one shot, hit the target, and walked away! I asked if she hit it on the first shot. Yup. “All that target practice with the Glock!” Clearly I’m in the wrong profession.
Cleared by volunteers to start racing again (neither of us minded the forced rest!), we rode to the Roxy CP, where we had the choice of a shot of beer or a shot of root beer. We posed for a picture, and headed out!
We set out by bike to the paddle board CP, which Rebecca was going to do this year (I did it last year). But we couldn’t find the trail we wanted, so we ended up taking a longer, wilder, up and down trail, which we kept hoping would end up at the beach! Finally, I heard voices and sure enough, we made it to the beach. On our way on foot to the paddle boards, another team came by with their bikes, headed for the trail we were supposed to follow! At least we knew which way to go back.
Unfortunately for Rebecca, the wind had picked up and the water was choppy! Paddling around on her knees did the trick. She spotted the 3 symbols in the water (spread out in the roped off area), told the volunteer what she saw, and we got the points for the CP.
We had hoped to be able to do CP48 (an audio CP, which you have to find by listening for music in the woods), and CP40 (where we would be given a separate map to find three “stars”), but given the amount of time left, we figured we’d finish after the 8 hour cut-off if we attempted even the audio CP (losing 10 points per minute). So we biked/trekked the shorter path to the finish line, arriving after 7 hours 22 minutes and 55 seconds of racing!
Despite the ridiculous heat and humidity, we got lucky that the thunderstorms never materialized! We ended up with 1210 points, and covered around 55k. Hearing the stories of those who ventured north instead of south, we were glad that we had made the decision to do the bike leg and skip the other trekking section. Navigation was tough up there!
After getting clean, dry, and loading up our bikes and the canoe, we enjoyed a delicious hot meal with other racers. There was a band playing live music, and eventually, the awards began (delayed due to a medical emergency on the course and a helicopter rescue of a race participant from a remote trail by search and rescue experts – apparently the man was released from hospital).
It turns out that Rebecca and I won the 8-hour female team of 2 category!
Jumping off a steamship is so fun we decided to do it twice in one weekend! Alasdair and I headed to the Gravenhurst area to stay at our friends’ cottage the night before the Multisport Canada Gravenhurst Olympic triathlon. With a midnight arrival and our alarms set for 5 AM on race day, it was going to be a short night!
Saturday: Olympic triathlon
We have done this race quite a few times before, but this year, there was only one steamship ferrying athletes out to the swim start, and we would be on different “runs” of the boat. I would start 50 minutes before Alasdair.
We went through registration, got ourselves organized, and headed for the boat. Alasdair and I said our goodbyes, and I joined the pink cap wave on the boat. We would be the 3rd wave to jump off the ship, which would then return to pick up waves 4 and 5.
I was one of the first to jump off in my wave, swimming over to the start line and treading water for a few minutes while waiting for the horn to sound. Once we were all off the boat, it headed back for shore, which caused one man to yell, “No! Don’t leave us here!” And then, “I guess we’re in now.” Everyone laughed.
The race began and we headed for shore. My swim was pretty uneventful (how I like it!), and I was pleasantly surprised by my time. I ran along the dock, crossed the street, ran all the way around transition, and headed into transition and straight for the portapotty!
I ran out of transition with my bike, getting caught up behind slower riders in a narrow no passing lane at the beginning of the ride. Eventually, I passed them and took off. This race course has rolling hills, and is a straight out and back. It too was pretty uneventful, although it did start to rain in the last 5k. This is also where I saw Alasdair for the first time, as he was starting out on his ride. The worst part of the ride was at the very end, where traffic was backed up because of cyclists, and we had to ride along a narrow shoulder in between the vehicles and the edge of the pavement. In that narrow space someone came flying by and passed. It was a pretty dangerous section but thankfully everyone around me made it through unscathed.
After another quick portapotty break, I headed out for the run, which is always hot, humid and hilly! But not this year! Instead, it rained, there were puddles, and I loved it. No heat and humidity! I was pretty thirsty though, and wondered if I was drinking too much at the aid stations – at one point I was on the verge of getting a side stitch, but I’m not sure if it was related. I think I saw Alasdair when I was at 7k. I remembered this run route as being downhill at the end (it’s an out and back) but it took forever to reach the last downhill! A final run through the park and I was done!
There was pizza, oranges, pretzels, Martin’s apple chips and juice/pop after the race.
We headed out in search of a bit of relaxation before doing it all again the next day.
Swim: 36:47 (2:27/100m)
Bike: 1:25:28 (28.08 km/h)
Run: 1:04:13.5 (6:25 min/km)
Women 45-49: 9/15
All athletes: 212/355
Sunday: sprint triathlon
The next morning, we headed back to the race site for round #2! My calves were tight, and I wasn’t sure how they were going to respond to racing again. Time would tell!
Alasdair and I were in the same wave for the sprint, which hardly ever happens! This meant that we got to go on the boat together, and jump off the boat one after the other! Because of the wind, the boat was having trouble holding in place, so for our wave, they turned the bow of the boat toward the start line and had people jump off both sides of the boat. This got everyone off the boat faster.
While we were treading water waiting for our race to start, the megaphone being held by the lifeguard in the kayak at the start line stopped working. She tried to yell, but it was really hard to hear. However, athletes who heard her say “2 minutes to go!” yelled to everyone else. After an inaudible 10 second countdown, the race began and I lost sight of Alasdair, who started just to my left. I felt like I was swimming pretty straight, and as soon as I realized that I was swimming the same speed as someone doing the breaststroke beside me, I stuck behind and to the left of her so that I could draft, knowing that she was looking up and knew where she was going, so that I had to sight far less often. For the second day in a row, I was pleased with my swim time. As I got close to my bike in transition, I could see Alasdair sitting on the ground getting himself ready to bike. I took my wetsuit off as fast as I could, grabbed my socks, shoes, sunglasses, helmet, and race bib, struggling to clip it together. I took off, dashing around athletes who were running too slowly for me – I wanted to catch Alasdair, who was just ahead of me (20 seconds?).
At the beginning of the ride, I could see Alasdair, but then I lost sight of him. I pushed as hard as I could on the bike, and found that my calves weren’t a problem. Within approximately 250m of the turnaround, I spotted Alasdair coming towards me, so I yelled to him (because he had his head down). I hadn’t lost much time to him so far. I continued to chase him, but didn’t see him again on the ride.
I approached the end of the bike route, which was way better than the day before – there were hardly any cars and it was easy to ride by. I reached my spot in transition, and headed out on the run as quickly as I could.
I hoped to be able to run at a slightly faster pace than in the Olympic race, knowing that I only had to run half as far. It was a hotter run, but it felt like it was going well. I had no side stitches, and only grabbed a drink once or twice at an aid station. Just before I hit the turnaround, I spotted Alasdair. I figured he was still about 500m ahead of me. This was unusual, though he was being careful not to run too fast because of a lingering Achilles issue.
My pace actually sped up toward the end, even before the last big downhill. In the end I crossed the finish line in 1:34:43.1, about 5 minutes behind Alasdair. It turns out I was slightly faster on the swim, bike and run compared to the Olympic the day before!
I was amazed to discover that I had finished 5/25 women 45-49! And I was in the top 1/4 of all women. I don’t usually place that high!
Clearly I should do back to back triathlons more often!!
Swim: 17:55.2 (2:23 min/100m)
Bike: 42:35.5 (28.18 km/h)
Run: 28:59.7 (5:47 min/km)
Women 45-49: 5/25
All athletes: 136/382
If you’re looking for a unique triathlon to try, this is a great option. We’ll be back!
Canoe trip planning presented a new challenge for me this year – for the first time ever, I was unable to read the paddling and portaging distances on my map! Thankfully, it was nothing my optometrist couldn’t easily fix.
Day 1: Rock Lake access point to Pen Lake to Clydegale Lake
Somewhere around 1 PM we pushed off the dock at the Rock Lake access point, with me in the stern and Jen in the bow. We headed for the portage into Pen Lake. I carried the canoe and Jen’s barrel, while she carried the big canoe pack, paddles and other miscellaneous (annoying) things. After that first portage, we changed things up slightly, adding more weight to the barrel, and allowing Jen to carry only the paddles in her hands. And just like that, our portaging system was set!
Pen Lake was completely new to me, and looking at it on my map (Jeffsmap – waiting patiently for the new Unlostify Algonquin map to come out!), it looked like a relatively big lake with little moose viewing potential. Was I ever wrong! Jen and I rounded a corner to see a young moose feeding in the water. We watched him for a while, and then continued on. We rounded the next corner, and spotted a second moose, a large female.
We left her, rounded the next corner, and you guessed, a third moose, this time at the Galipo River and portage to Welcome Lake! We were pretty amazed at our luck. Finally, we left this young guy and headed for the short portage into Clydegale Lake. We knew that all of the sites on the lake weren’t booked, so we knew there would be a site for us, but we didn’t want to paddle too far only to have to return if the sites were taken. We did end up having to packpaddle a bit, but we ended up with a great site not far from the portage back into Pen Lake.
We set up camp – our tent, bug shelter, and bear rope over a tree branch – and then jumped into the lake to cool off. It was quite a hot day! There was a cute little garter snake at our site, and a very pretty sunset. Jen cooked us foil dinners over the fire (potatoes, other veggies and cheese, with sausage in hers as well), and then very yummy apple crisp!!
We went to bed pretty tired, but we both had a terrible night’s sleep!!
Day 1 distance paddled: 15k (all distances approximate)
Day 1 distance portaged: 375m + 275m
Day 2: Clydegale Lake to Pen Lake to Welcome Lake to Harry Lake
We disassembled our tent, and boiled water for oatmeal, packing up the bug shelter and the rest of our things as we finished using them.
Did I mention the bugs? Oh my god. Mosquitos, horse or deer flies, and even blackflies! Despite bug spray with deet, over the course of our trip we were absolutely covered in bites, bumps and red dots. Even though we would re-apply bug spray for the portages (because that’s when they were the worst – often at the start/end) we were sweating profusely (well, I should speak for myself here!) and the bug spray was sweated away! I did wear my bug jacket around camp, but there’s no way I could portage with that thing on – way too hot even though it is only made of mesh! But the moose moments make the portaging and bug challenges worth it!
We set out from our campsite, with just a short paddle over to the portage into Pen Lake.
We had a short portage and a long portage (2170m) on our way to Harry Lake. On the long one we encountered a big group of teenage campers doing multiple trips back and forth with their canoes and gear. Each and every one who passed me asked if I knew how much longer it was to the end. “8 minutes at my pace!” was my first answer. The only time I asked one of the kids how much longer I had to go, the answer was, “It’s a LONG way!” so I never asked again. Too demoralizing. At one point, two boys helped me to get the canoe back up after I had taken a much needed break!
Once into Welcome Lake, we were able to paddle right into Harry Lake without another portage, as they are connected by a creek. It was in the creek between Welcome Lake and Harry Lake that we saw another moose. I spotted the ears long before we got close.
By the time we got to Harry Lake, a poor night’s sleep, heat, and physical exhaustion caught up with Jen and she wasn’t feeling great. Once we chose our campsite, we set up the tent and she lay down for a while.
Dinner was awesome pizzas on the campfire. I think we were in the tent ready to sleep before it got dark!
Day 2 distance paddled: 10k
Day 2 distance portaged: 275m + 275m + 2170m
Day 3: Harry Lake to Rence Lake to Frank Lake to Florence Lake to Lake Louisa
On day 3, Jen woke up feeling refreshed and awesome! Yay! Before leaving our campsite in the morning, I spotted what looked like a shoelace on the ground, but when I got closer, I realized it was a snake! Turns out it was a Northern ring-necked snake, one I had never seen before (the ring around its neck is not visible in this pic). We also had a loon family just off our site. I love loons and the varied noises they make, but 2 AM is not my preferred time to listen to them! One night we had very vocal loons calling back and forth to each other – one of whom sounded like it was right outside our tent door.
We paddled from Harry Lake into Rence Lake, and then did a short portage into Frank’s Lake, which continued on to Florence Lake. From Florence Lake we arrived at the portage into Lake Louisa, and boy was it ever muddy! Lots of evidence of people slip-sliding their way from the water onto the drier ground inland. Our sandals and feet were completely mud covered, and I went into the mud part-way up my calf. Thankfully, I didn’t fall. We carried the canoe together onto drier ground before beginning our portage.
Once into Lake Louisa, we knew that the hardest part of the day was behind us – now we just had to paddle to find a campsite. Jen had read some reviews of sites, so we scoped out various ones as we paddled by. We had heard that the lake can get pretty windy in bad weather, so we planned to get as close to the portage into Rock Lake as we could while still choosing an awesome site. We hadn’t seen a single person (other than each other!) all day long, and that continued on Lake Louisa. We pulled up to a campsite to swim, have our lunch, and relax a bit before finding a campsite for the night. I heard a man and saw evidence of people at one site, but never did spot anyone.
As we paddled along, I spotted something very dark against the green of the shoreline. “Jen, is that a moose?” I asked. She was impressed with my eyesight (thank you Dr. Ruhl – not only could I read the map but I could still see way into the distance)! We decided to go have a look, and sure enough, it was a big bull moose!! And just like that, we picked our campsite, the one 400m from the moose.
We sat and watched him for a while, then headed over to our campsite. While setting up, we continued to sneak glances of him.
After setting up, we jumped into the lake for a swim, still watching the moose!
For dinner we rehydrated some veggie soup that I had prepared, and Jen made bannock using my MSR Dragonfly stove. Yum. Then I made chocolate pudding which we added goodies to (peanuts, M&Ms etc.).
This was our first night not making a campfire, but honestly it was way too hot to sit by a fire. In fact, the first two nights when Jen cooked by campfire it was rather unpleasant being near it!
Day 3 distance paddled: 8k
Day 3 distance portaged: 320m + 1725m
Day 4: Louisa Lake to Rock Lake
The next morning I spotted a snapping turtle laying eggs on our campsite. She was there the entire time we packed up our campsite. As we paddled away, she swam by!
We had a very short paddle over to the portage into Rock Lake. This one had an outhouse on the Lake Louisa side (it even had toilet paper!).
It was time for our last portage of the trip, a 3000m portage into Rock Lake. We planned to take 3 breaks, with me stopping when I needed to relieve my shoulders and back, and Jen stopping when she reached me. We had read that this portage wasn’t too difficult technically (not a lot of rocks and roots and ups and downs); rather, it was just plain long. So, we set off! When we emerged from the woods onto an old logging road, I spotted a weasel of some sort. A couple hundred metres later, I saw it again running along the trail. By 800m I was ready for a break but forced myself to continue to 1k. Jen caught me, but we didn’t stop for long, because the bugs were horrendous! We did adjust the stuff attached to the outside of the barrel though, transferring something (water?) to Jen’s pack, because it was swinging wildly on my back for some reason and yanking my back.
Another 800m later, I needed to put the boat down and take the pack off. But then I walked 1.2k without a break, and the portage was done! There were lots of bugs, but also tons of butterflies (White Admirals, apparently)!
We got back in the boat as fast as we could to get away from the bugs, and then paddled over to a campsite where we had a quick swim and snack before heading back to the Rock Lake access point.
Being a Friday, we saw lots of people paddling on Rock Lake as we were heading out. Over the course of the 4 days, we were lucky enough to see wildlife galore: 5 moose, 2 beavers (including one dragging a very leafy branch), loons, herons, a weasel, dragonflies, butterflies, woodpeckers, lots and lots of toads on portages and frogs in the marshy areas, turtles (3 or more), snakes, and a few too many biting bugs!
Day 4 distance paddled: 10k
Day 4 distance portaged: 3000m
It was another great canoe trip at Algonquin Provincial Park!!
In May of 2018, Canadian Simon Whitfield, winner of the very first Olympic gold medal in triathlon at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, drew my name in a Triathlon Canada contest – I won a trisuit designed by Indigenous artist Carey Newman (or Hayalthkin’geme)! Unfortunately, the trisuit didn’t arrive before I managed to compete in 11 triathlons in 2018! But this meant that I got to start the 2019 season with a new look.
Little did I know what people would think of me in that suit…
Alasdair and I arrived at the Welland International Flatwater Centre with lots of time to go through registration, prep our stuff in transition, and head for the water. Since this race has a closed bike course which we had to ride 5 times, swim waves were very spread out to avoid congestion on the bike course. This meant that I started 50 minutes after Alasdair. Because of this, we wouldn’t see each other out on the race course at all (at least not while we were both racing).
I was the first person to rack a bike in the 258 to 278 bib number range, so I decided to pick the prime spot – closest to the bike out so I had to run as little as possible with my bike. I usually avoid that spot because it’s where the most competitive athletes go. Pretty sure my bike doesn’t look like it belongs!
The next person to arrive said to me, “Are you going to Lausanne?” At least I knew that this was the site of the 2019 triathlon world championships. “OMG no!” I replied. “I just won this suit!” In case you hadn’t noticed, it says PATERSON and CAN on the front and back. Later, I was asked at which race I had qualified. Clearly I can no longer blend into the crowd! The suit is a conversation starter.
Given that I have barely been swimming, and am a slow swimmer to start with, I wasn’t expecting too much of the swim. It was pretty congested at the start, and later I had to twice stop briefly to adjust my goggles, but then things settled down. On the last stretch of the swim I was able to follow the guy lines for the rowing markers, not needing to lift my head to sight.
The key for this bike course would be to not lose count of the number of laps I had done. Five was the magic number! Each lap would have two 180 degree turns. I was happy with how my ride was going, passing quite a few riders as I went along. I played leapfrog with another woman for much of the race, eventually leaving her behind. My watch was telling me that I was averaging over 30 km/h. The long run to start and end the bike segment, as well as a disparity in the distance (I had over 20k on my watch) dropped me below that. In any case, it was a great ride! Since Alasdair was done the race by the time I finished my bike, he was able to get some pictures of me racing.
I headed out on the 2 loop run course, which is on a paved path. I was pleasantly surprised with my legs, because even though they were still recovering from my 14 hour adventure race a week before, they let me run at a pretty good pace!
And just like that, my first triathlon of 2019 was done!
750m Swim: 19:02 (2:32 min/100m)
20k Bike: 41:39.5 (28.81 km/h)
5k Run: 26:43.5 (5:20 min/km)
Placing women 45-49: 11/23
Placing all women: 84/216
Placing all athletes: 250/477
As we were leaving to go home, a woman in the transition zone mentioned to Alasdair and I that she had lost her keys. “I found them!” I told her. I explained that while running my bike to the mount line during the race, I ran past a set of keys. I yelled at a spectator, who ignored me. I saw a volunteer further along and told him – he quickly ran towards them. She was so relieved, and wondered what the chances were of her mentioning it to us, and of me having found them! In any case, we left knowing that she would be able to find her way home.
Race for 12-14 hours by canoe, mountain bike and on foot with a 4 AM in-the-dark race start? Why not?! I’m not sure how my race partner Rebecca and I learned about the South Coast Adventure Race (SCAR) in Amherstburg, Ontario, but when I heard that this year’s race was going to be a longer, 12-14 hour championship edition, I was even more intrigued. We are hoping to compete in the 24 hour Wilderness Traverse adventure race in 2020, and thought this would be a perfect step up to that race from the shorter (4 to 6+ hour) races that we’ve done so far. So, we registered!
Race weekend arrived, and we headed for Holiday Beach in Amherstburg where we would be camping the night before, and the night after, the race. We were the first to set up our campsite. We organized all of our race clothes, gear and food. Then while cooking our dinner, another female team of 2 arrived and set up camp next to us. They would feature heavily in our race!
Next we headed to Mettawas Parks in Kingsville, where we dropped off our mountain bikes and my canoe.
We picked up our race kits, posed for pre-race photos, and headed for the mandatory pre-race briefing at the Kingsville arena.
We soon learned that there were 6 race maps – one huge main map (no way we could carry that around with us as is!), and 5 additional maps. Before we left the arena, we had planned our route for the race, and set it out on each of the maps using highlighters. Some of the race course would be a mandatory route, and other parts we could decide for ourselves – starting in the dark was a factor in our planning, because it would still be dark when we reached the first trekking section (the race was to start on bicycles). We headed back to our campsite, where we set about trimming the huge map with the tiny scissors from our mandatory first aid kit. We thought it would be easier to fold the map to fit it into our map bag if it was as small as possible! Thankfully we noticed that we had cut the map scale off, so we wrote it onto the map.
With our alarms set for 2 AM (!), we headed straight for bed. Sadly, I had trouble falling asleep, and in the end had less than an hour of sleep before my alarm went off. We got dressed for the race, ate our breakfast in my van, and then headed for the Essex Region Conservation Area Demonstration Farm next to Holiday Beach, where we would board busses to take us to the start line. We left our kayak paddles and transition area gear bin too, which had paddling gear and extra food. We would visit the transition area 3 times during the early parts of the race.
Before the race could even start we had a little adventure. We were on the 3rd and last school bus, which was following the ones in front of it. When the first one made a wrong turn, all three busses ended up having to back up and turn a sharp corner backwards – in the dark. Rebecca and I were in the very back row, so had front row seats to the many point turn. Where exactly were the wheel wells, and would we fall into the ditch? Our new friends sitting in the row ahead of us yelled directions to the driver (who asked for help). Quite the start to the day! The bus eventually made the turn, and we made it to the race start, albeit slightly later than expected! The race actually started around 4:30 AM, not 4 as planned.
Note: all distances are approximate. CP 1/2, 3, 4/6, 5 and CP I were manned (with volunteers) and also had SI readers. The others simply had SI readers to insert our SI cards into.
Bike leg #1: start to CP 1 (8k)
The race began in the dark, so with flashing lights on the front and backs of our bikes, and headlamps on our heads, we set out on the Chrysler Canada Greenway, a gravel trail that was pretty flat, heading for transition area 1 where we would drop our bikes and start the first trekking leg. We didn’t need to do any navigation, because we just followed the riders in front of us. When Rebecca and I weren’t riding side by side, we would call back to each other to make sure we were still close. It wasn’t too long before we reached CP 1 at Camp Cedarwin, a Scout camp.
Run leg #1: CP A-H (14k)
We dropped our bikes, changed into our running shoes, and headed north through the Scout camp and back onto the Chrysler Canada Greenway. From here, teams could decide the order in which they collected the 8 mandatory checkpoints. We decided to go in a counter-clockwise route, heading first for the ones that we thought would be easier to find in the dark. We left the ones in the swampy area (where the navigation looked trickier) until later, when the sun would have risen!
We found CP H at the end of a laneway, then headed into the woods. We ran into friends on 2 different teams looking for CP F, and together, we found it. We followed the creek to the East to find CP G, then turned back and followed the same creek past CP F, through thorns that grabbed us, and all the way to CP E. It was somewhere in this section that I rolled my ankle, but thankfully I was able to continue! Also in this part of the race, the sun came up and we turned our headlamps off.
Following the creek towards the road, we caught up with a couple of other teams, and bushwhacked our way through together. At one point, I detached another racer’s sock from a fence. After a short road section, we were back into the woods, and facing the first real test of our navigation skills. Our plan was to avoid crossing the marshy areas as much as possible, because we thought these crossings would be slow and difficult. Our plan was to follow the creek as much as we could. We took a bearing and set off. It was at this point that we first noticed the “helmet guys”. They were doing the trek while still wearing their bicycle helmets, possibly because their headlamps were affixed to them. In any case, we worked with these 2 guys to find CP C and CP D, crossing the creek, bushwhacking and being stung by stinging nettles with them. Someone from another team whipped out vinegar, saying it took the sting away. We soldiered on. Just before reaching CP D, someone on another team said to me in an Australian accent, “You’ve got a mozzie on your forehead!” I had heard the the term mozzie before, but never had someone said that to me in real life.
After CP D the helmet guys headed a different way, so we continued alone to find CP A. I started doubting our plan when I wasn’t sure we’d be able to figure out exactly where we needed to cut down the hill toward the checkpoint. We debated backtracking and tackling it a different way, but in the end decided to continue. It was here that we then met the helmet guys again. With them we reached a creek that we needed to cross (about 6 feet wide?), but it wasn’t clear how deep it was. I went down the steep bank first, quickly discovering that it was much deeper than we thought. The water went up to my chest, but it was cool and refreshing! The others followed me across, one of the helmet guys falling in up to his neck. Once on the other side, it didn’t take long to find the checkpoint.
Rebecca and I headed back the same way, and heard another team saying that they wanted to stay dry. CP B was a quick, easy find, after which we made our way back to the transition area at the Scout camp. I think it was here that we found out we were now in 20th place overall. We had passed a couple of teams.
Paddle #1: CP I + CP 2 (9k)
We put on our lifejackets, had a snack, grabbed our paddles, knee pads, bailer/rope and walked a couple hundred metres to the canoe start (the race crew had moved the canoes from Mettawas Park to the Scout camp).
With a small craft advisory in place for Lake Erie due to high wind and water levels, the paddle course was changed in the week leading up to the race. Instead of paddling on Lake Erie, we paddled from the Scout camp along Cedar Creek towards Lake Erie. There was quite a bit of wind on the way out to CP I, so much so that at times Rebecca and I both paddled only on the right side, with her doing wide sweeps at the bow to keep the canoe straight.
We got to see some of our friends on the paddle, as they made their way back from CP I. Thankfully, the return paddle wasn’t as tough. Near the end, we encountered a couple of teams of very inexperienced paddlers. One team couldn’t keep the canoe straight, both of the paddlers switching their canoe paddles from the left side to the right and back again (randomly). We wondered how they would manage once they hit the wind. A racer on another team didn’t know how to hold the canoe paddle, so I told him to put one hand on top – he thanked me!
When we reached the end of the paddle, we were amazed that we didn’t even have to do anything with my canoe – volunteers took it away for us! We were pleasantly surprised to hear that we were 22/57 teams coming out of the water.
Bike leg #2: CP 3 (23k) + CP J-K bike drop (21k)
We jumped back on our bikes and headed for CP 3, which we found easily by following the Chrysler Canada Greenway and then various roads. We were way ahead of the 2 PM cutoff (if you didn’t make it there in time, you were put onto a shorter course, skipping some sections of the full course). We were told by volunteers checking teams off a list that we were the 2nd female team of 2. What?! The 3rd place team arrived just after us.
But this is where things fell apart! We rode along an old abandoned rail line, which was very rocky but rideable, but when we left it, the roads didn’t make sense, and eventually, we had no idea where we were (not all roads on the race maps were labelled). We weren’t the only ones! It took a while, but we eventually found ourselves back on our planned route – phew. At the time, it felt like we added a lot of distance and time, but looking at the map after the race, it looks like we only added about 3k.
Run leg #2: CP J-K (3k)
We left our bikes at the bike drop, and headed off on our 2nd trek section. We ran along a path until we hit a culvert, took a bearing and headed into the woods for CP K. It was closer than we expected. We followed the creek to CP J, then I took another bearing and we headed back to the first trail we were running on. Our navigation was good in this section, and we were back on track. Phew!
Bike leg #3: CP 4 (11k) + CP L (11 1/2k) + CP 5 (3 1/2k)
We hopped back on our bikes and headed along roads to CP4, which we had to reach by the 2 PM cut-off (we were there with lots of time to spare). We had a quick chat with the volunteer here, a Masters student who gave up her whole day to be there for us. Thank you to all the amazing volunteers! Then we rode the Rotary Centennial Trail (around a huge cemetery) and then a paved trail along the Herb Gray Parkway. We ran into friends on this trail too, making their way from CP 5 to CP 6. They were flying! These were great paths to ride on. We opted to go for CP L on our way to CP 5 (you could do it after if you wanted to), so we left the trail and took a dirt path into the woods behind some houses and quickly found the control. We made our way onto the paved trail again, and arrived at CP 5 at Malden Park. Here we would have two completely different activities to complete: 1) a trek relay, and 2) a bike time trial.
Run leg #3 (relay): CP N (2k) + CP M (2k) + CP O (2k)
The relay legs had to be done one at a time. We decided that I would do two legs, so I set off along a paved trail for CP M. I passed the trail I had intended to take, not believing it was the right one (it was essentially a mowed grass path). But when I reached a paved trail, I knew I had gone too far. So I took that trail, and decided to get CP N instead. I ran back to Rebecca (the shorter way), and got to relax for a few minutes and eat while she ran to CP O. I even got to use a proper bathroom with flushing toilets and a sink.
When she returned, I headed out again, this time taking a shorter way to CP M. I met a man who was nowhere near where he thought he was, so I told him he could follow me back to CP 5 if he wanted to so that he could start again. He did. This was where we saw the lead female team of 2 head for CP 6.
Bike leg #4: time trial (5k) + CP6 (14k) + bike drop (13k)
I had never done a bike time trial before (essentially, a race against the clock with one team starting at a time), let alone one after we had already been racing for 10 hours!! Before we started I asked how long it took the fastest team so far, and found out it was 11 minutes. This was somewhat comforting, knowing that we wouldn’t be doing a 1 hour time trial! We followed the painted arrows on the ground, over gravel, dirt, grass, up and down hills, around tight corners, through long grass, and right past a deer and lots of bunnies. We weren’t exactly racing! I found this section fun (it was as close to “real” mountain biking as we got that day), but was relieved to be done it 17 minutes later.
We made our way to CP 6, which was also CP 4 (the one with the Masters student). She confirmed that we were still the 2nd place female team of 2.
Run leg #4: N/A
Given the time, it was looking unlikely that we would make it through the run leg and be able to bike to finish by the 6 PM cutoff. In fact, when we reached the bike drop for the last trek section, we were told that we should bike straight to the finish. I asked how long it was taking teams to do the trek, and the volunteer said on average about 30 minutes, and that many teams weren’t finding all of the controls.
I was disappointed not to be able to do the trek section, but relieved to know that we would be done sooner!
Bike leg #5: to finish line (15k)
We continued on our bikes, 15k that seemed to take forever. By this point, my back had gotten tight and my knee was complaining. Rebecca was having her own issues. A female team of 2 went whizzing by, and we thought, what the heck?! Where did they come from and how can they have so much energy? We talked to them later, when they told us it was their first (and probably last) race like this – that they had missed lots of checkpoints.
We finally reached Holiday Beach and made our way to the finish line. We finished in 13 hours and 46 minutes, just 14 minutes under the 14 hour time cut-off. We had paddled around 9k, run 21k and biked 125k!
It was definitely the hardest race I’ve ever done. Amazing though what one can do on less than an hour of sleep!
In the end, Rebecca and I ended up winning the team of 2 females category, because the team that was ahead of us was overtime. So even though they found all of the checkpoints (including the ones on the last trek that we didn’t do), we finished ahead of them. It feels a bit strange, but that’s apparently how adventure racing works.
SCAR was very well organized and the volunteers were great. There was lots of post-race food, and even vegetarian options.
Canoes and paddling gear/transition bins and bags were waiting for us at the race finish, having been transported there by race volunteers. I even got a race shuttle to where my van was parked. Rebecca and I had had visions of having to get back on our bikes and ride to get the van.
I’ve now completed 4 sections of the Bruce Trail (there are 9)!
What’s the Bruce Trail? According to the Bruce Trail Conservancy website, the Bruce Trail is “Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath. Running along the Niagara Escarpment in southern Ontario from Niagara to Tobermory, the Bruce Trail spans more than 890 km of main Trail and over 400 km of associated side trails.”
April 22, 2019 – Silver Creek Conservation Area to Forks of the Credit – 22.9k (solo)
May 12, 2019 – Forks of the Credit to Finnerty Sideroad – 22.7k
May 18, 2019 – Finnerty Sideroad to Hockley Road – 27.3k (solo)
June 3, 2019 – Hockley Road to Highway 89 – 25k (solo)
# runs: 4
# solo runs: 3
# runs with my husband Alasdair: 0 (but we did leapfrog each other on the trail!)
# runs with friends: 1 (Laura!)
shortest run: 22.7k
longest run: 27.3k
average length of run: 24.5k
Spring flowers: In this section I first saw spring flowers on the trail.
Most hilly: My run from Finnerty Sideroad to Hockley Road was most definitely the hilliest part! Lots of stairs too.
Scariest moment: The few seconds it took me to fall hard on both knees. And then I had to run another 10k!
Wildlife sightings: Scarlet Tanager, Great Crested Flycatcher, porcupine, hairy coo!
Favourite run: My run from just south of Hockley Valley to just south of Boyne Valley Provincial Park – the ground was almost completely dry, there were no bugs, the sun was shining, the wind was blowing, and the temperature was a comfortable 15C or so. I scared 4 turkey vultures out of the woods, and couldn’t identify a large animal that ran off the trail into the woods later – maybe a turkey. I saw a Great Crested Flycatcher (had never heard of one before that day), and then finished the Caledon section of the trail!
Most memorable encounter with other hikers/runners: I met Christopher L from the Bruce Trail Facebook group, who is also working on completing the entire trail from south to north. I had seen his posts on the group, then he recognized me one day on the trail just south of Hockley Valley. Plus we randomly colour coordinated outfits, so there’s that too.
Neat finds: Cheltenham Badlands – represents geological processes that have occurred over the last 450 million years
Roads: The Caledon section of the trail had a lot of road running. I’d rather be in the woods, but the road made for easier running.
Green: This section brought the end of snow and the beginnings of new growth in the forest!
Reading the course description for the 5 Peaks Rattlesnake Point Enduro Course (12.7k), I had visions of non-stop rocks, roots and hills. Thankfully, it didn’t turn out quite like that!
After arriving at Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area in Milton and picking up my race kit, I sat in my van and read for a little bit. But I was so tired, I decided to nap in the back! I’ve never done that pre-race before. I was afraid that I would sleep through my 2 alarms, but thankfully I didn’t. However, when I woke up, there were no fewer than 40 people in line for the portapotties! In fact, by the time I got through the line-up (the 2nd time), I had missed the wave 4 start I was planning to join. It didn’t matter – the race organizers were trying to spread people out to avoid bottlenecks on the trail, so I just started in the next wave (we were supposed to choose a wave based on our 5k time).
The race began and we set out on the grass, then on a trail which turned into a rocky, root-covered disaster waiting to happen. You definitely had to pay attention to every step. Runners were clumped up for a while, but eventually everyone spread out.
Having given blood 5 days prior to the race, I wasn’t expecting too much of my cardio. My plan was to just “run” rather than “race”. I was tempted a few times to stop and take pictures of the pretty views, but opted not to.
I enjoyed the variety of the route, which included boardwalk, single-track, hills, and of course plenty of rocks and roots. I only kicked one, so I fared well. There were sections that were quite steep, and some that were too rocky to run up (in my opinion!).
At one point, after power-walking my way up a steep, very rocky section, I caught another runner and passed him, at which point he said, “What, did you take an escalator up or something?!”
For a while I ran and chatted with another runner, but eventually passed her. There were a couple of aid stations on the course, but I was carrying my own water so I didn’t need to stop. The 5 Peaks series is now cup free, so you have to carry something if you want water at the aid stations. Some runners carried very small reusable cups.
In the end, I finished the 12.4k course (according to my Garmin) in a time of 1:34:37, or 7:27 min/km.
In the line-up for food, I heard a runner ask the volunteers if they had any mustard. “For your orange?” one asked? Nope – he said it was good for lactic acid build-up and he just eats it on his own! That was a new one for me!
Time: 1:34:37 (7:27 min/km)
Women 40-49: 29/64
All women: 64/165
All runners: 196/324
This was a really well organized and run race – I’ll be back!
After a great first experience doing Storm the Trent Trek in Haliburton in 2018, my race partner Rebecca and I decided to do Storm the Trent Trek Elite this year – i.e. the long version!
On race morning we dropped our bikes off at Glebe Park, my canoe off at Head Lake Park downtown Haliburton, and then we headed for A.J. LaRue Arena to check in.
We signed waivers, got our race maps and race instructions, grabbed a couple of chairs, and set about planning our route.
There were 19 checkpoints, which we would find by canoeing, running, biking, and then running again. Some of the checkpoints would have volunteers at them, and other would be un-manned. At all of them, we would have to check in with our SI stick. Some of the course would be a marked route or mandatory route, and for the rest of it we had to make our own route.
After reading through the instructions and figuring out how the race would play out, we had time to chat with other racers, eat, and head upstairs for the pre-race briefing.
Then it was time to walk a few blocks to Head Lake Park for the start of the race! We hit the water and waited with everyone else for a few minutes until the race began.
We knew that we wouldn’t be the fastest boat out there, and that we would be able to follow the other canoes and kayaks – and that’s just what we did. About 15 minutes after the race started, it began to rain… and then pour! Thankfully, it wasn’t very windy so the paddling wasn’t difficult! We reached the floating checkpoint 1 (CP1) in about 35 minutes, with just a few boats arriving after us. In addition to using the SI stick, we had to yell our team number to volunteers on shore so they could check us off their list. Rebecca was the keeper of the SI stick for this race.
Then we headed back for Head Lake Park! We actually made it back in less time than it took us to get there – a negative split! Woot!
Canoe time: 1:08:53 (according to my watch)for 8k
Back out of the water I had to keep taking breaks carrying the canoe with Rebecca. I figured out later that my paddling gloves were the problem – I had no grip!
We left the canoe in the transition area, checked in at CP2, made a portapotty pitstop, and headed on foot to Glebe Park. Rebecca was very cold at the start of the run (we were soaked)! We ran 2-3k to the park, checked in at CP3, and then headed into the woods to look for CP22, 23, 24, and 25. For this section, we had to switch maps from the main race map to Supplemental Map #1. This section is where things went haywire! Right away we got confused with the trails we saw in front of us and the trails on the map – we couldn’t match them up. We were looking for a snowmobile trail, which we thought would be wider and obvious, but it most definitely wasn’t! We actually scrapped our plan to find CP23, 24, and 25 first on a looped trail, and instead followed people to what we eventually figured out would be CP22 – we knew there must be something there if they were going that way! It was once we reached CP22 that we knew for sure where we were.
Unfortunately, this didn’t really help! We bushwhacked through the forest and across 2 trails, thinking we knew where we were. But things still didn’t make sense to us, and we eventually ended up pretty much back at our starting place at Glebe Park. We headed out – again – and finally got ourselves onto the loop where we would find CP23, 24, and 25. It was incredibly muddy on parts of the trek section.
Once we found these 3 checkpoints, we headed back for Glebe Park, thinking we were retracing our route. But we encountered a rope across the trail and knew right away that we hadn’t been there before. However, we weren’t alone, running into another team doing the same race as us, and a couple of guys doing the shorter Trek race solo.
Turns out our route back was more efficient. Comparing our actual route versus the course map and our highlighted intended route, I can totally see now that we went straight through the red rectangular PRIVATE PROPERTY out of bounds section. Yikes. That was not our intent. Clearly, we were confused!! And analyzing our route now, I can see that our return route was on the snowmobile trail that we were so desperately seeking at the beginning of the trek! We ran much further than we needed to.
Run time: 2:23:44 for 13.6k
We checked back in at CP3, and then headed for our bikes. We ate while getting ourselves organized, putting our bike shoes, gloves and helmets on, and strapping our trail shoes to our camelbaks.
Then we headed out for the first part of the bike course, an out and back in search of CP30, 31, and 4. Just after CP30 we encountered the first flooded dirt road, but this year, we decided to ride straight through it. It was scary and exhilarating at the same time. I couldn’t see beneath the water’s surface, so I was taken down by a rock that knocked me off balance.
Not too much further along, an even deeper section of flooded road awaited us! Picture a fairly narrow, gravel, pot-holed, small and big rock-strewn road with a couple of feet of water on it. Now imagine trying to ride your bike through it. The trick for me was to ride as steadily as I could in my granny gear and not slow down. But it was a bumpy, unpredictable ride and once again, I fell over! Another racer caught up to Rebecca and I shortly after this section and asked, “Which of you swam?” Me, me, that was all me. I may also have yelped. On the bright side, the water cleaned my bike.
We continued on to a hydrocut, which we had to ride along (or push our bikes along due to mud), up, down, and up again. We headed back to the main trail and rode it a short distance to CP4.
We rode back to Glebe Park, through the “lakes” (I stayed upright! It was easier to see under the water on the way back – at least somewhat!), and back to CP3.
Then we hit the road section of the bike course, which had no shortage of hills! It was in this section that we started to pick off other teams (we are road riders after all!).
Eventually, we reached the ATV trail where we would find CP50. This is where we slowed to a snail’s pace, as the incredible amount of mud forced us to walk and push our bikes through it. At one point, I sunk into the mud half-way up my calf! We pushed our bikes for kilometres! The crazy mud sections were separated by some rideable trail and later gravel road sections.
We reached CP5, where a volunteer assured us that we had seen the worst of the mud, and that the road would be way better. Sadly, she was wrong. I started looking at my watch and realizing for the first time that we may not reach CP6 in time to meet the cut-off to be allowed to do the final trek section at Sir Sam’s Ski Resort.
Riding along a gravel road, it seemed to be taking forever to reach CP32. At two separate points I got cold on the bike – it was pouring rain, and on the (very few!) big downhills, the breeze chilled me to the bone! Eventually, we reached the intersection where I thought the checkpoint would be, but there was a woman off her bike who had apparently “almost crashed” (she had no brakes left), and when I mentioned the checkpoint she and her partner said it wasn’t at that intersection. We continued on our bikes, but we should not have listened to them! Again, it seemed to be taking forever to find the checkpoint. Eventually, we reached an intersection marked on the map (Bushwolf and Angel) and it was at that point I realized that we had missed it. It was at the earlier intersection!
We continued on in search of CP33, which would be somewhere along a MTB trail at Sir Sam’s, but we would have to ride the trail to find it. We ended up “riding” it with 2 girls in the shorter Trek course… if you can call it riding. Once again, it was incredibly muddy. Had it been dry, it would have been very fun to ride – it was twisty, turny, and full of little ups and down. Instead, we could ride for a few pedal strokes and then we had to walk again! We found the checkpoint, and then headed for CP6, reaching it about 15 minutes over the cut-off, so we were directed to run to the finish line rather than do the last trek section. Had we done the trek, we would have drawn the location of CP40, 41, 42 and 43 on our Supplemental Map #2 (from a master map at CP6), then climbed and descended the ski hill to find them.
I was disappointed not to make the cut-off, but relieved at the same time to be done!
Bike time: 4:29:52 for 44.2k
In the end, we crossed the finish line in 8:15:24, in 2nd place out of 2 teams of 2 females. The other team found all the checkpoints and finished in 8:37.
I had a great time – despite the mud – and look forward to taking on the race again!!