Race report: Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race Long Course 2019

“Let the waters of Georgian Bay be calm.” In the months, days and weeks leading up to the Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race, my longest solo race to date, this was my biggest hope for race morning. I knew that if I could get through the 16k kayak, I should be able to complete the rest of the race (a 32k mountain bike ride, 8k trail run, 24k mountain bike ride, and then 16k trail run) within the 12 hour time limit. It wouldn’t be easy, but I thought it was doable (after doing some math with the time cut-offs), even though this would be my first time racing the long course (I did the short course in 2017 and 2018 in a team of 2 females). I might be chasing the time cut-offs, but I was hopeful that I could do it. This was my main goal for the day – finish within the 12 hour time limit.

The 2018 edition of the long course race saw many kayaks flipping in choppy waters. And while I did get kayak training in before the race, none of it involved big waves. Given that I used to whitewater kayak, big waves shouldn’t really scare me, but I wasn’t quite sure how well I’d do climbing back into a kayak in the middle of Georgian Bay!

Friday night race check-in and gear drop

Here I am front right with my bike checking in with 2 volunteers.

On the Friday night, I went through the check-in process at the Wiarton arena, picking up my race kit in the process (which included a race buff, a pair of compression socks, and race stickers to put on various stuff). I verified with volunteers that I had the mandatory gear, left my bike to be loaded onto a truck, and left the kayak I would be using (which belonged to the friend of a friend) and most paddling gear to be transported to the race start.

First time camping right on the Bruce Trail! See the white blazes on the tree. That’s Georgian Bay in the background.

Saturday – race day!

My race day 4 AM alarm was a rude awakening after a very short sleep in my tent. Loud non-racing neighbours at the Bluewater Park Campground in Wiarton (where the race would end) kept me awake, despite me wearing earplugs. Lesson learned. My 5 minute walk to the arena and busses didn’t make up for my lack of sleep!

Just before 5 AM – and before the sun was up – I boarded a school bus with my kayak paddle and lots of other racers!

Once at the race site, I was relieved to see that the water didn’t look too bad at all! No whitecaps! I was feeling better about the paddle segment already.

Sun rising on Georgian Bay.

I found a bush to pee in, and then got in a lineup for the sole portapotty when I learned there was one (it was still dark when we arrived and I didn’t see it). I was in the line when race organizers told us to start unloading the kayaks from the trailers. I didn’t leave the line! Later I found my kayak at the water’s edge, got everything organized, put my PFD on, and then listened to the pre-race briefing. We were told – in no uncertain terms – that we could face bears, snakes, and steep cliffs during the race, and that no one was making us do the race! We could skip the paddle and hop on our bikes when the first racers started biking. We could quit the race at any time.

16k kayak

When it was time to get into the kayaks, racer #41 helped me by holding the kayak while I got in, and then pushing me out into deeper water. Thank you again!

I’m on the far left.

I chatted with other racers while we waited for the race to start. Somehow I ended up waiting near the front of all the racers, which wasn’t where I wanted to be! I knew I wouldn’t be one of the faster paddlers. Thankfully, I managed to drop back a bit before the race began.

I’m on far left on the bottom.

On the count of “3, 2, 1, risk!” (no kidding), the race began, and I managed to avoid the bumper boats going on around me. Apparently one boat did flip, but I didn’t know that until I saw a picture after the race.

The kayak leg started with a 3k paddle to a volunteer standing on a dock where we had to call out our bib #. Next we paddled another 5k to the turnaround point.

Love this pic of me paddling as the sun was rising!

At times on the 1st half of the paddle I had trouble keeping the boat straight, having to continually paddle only on one side. When I made the turn at the half-way point (after around 1 hour 2 minutes), I thought, “Wow! It’s easier going this way.” But it didn’t take long to realize I was wrong. While the kayak tracked better on the way back, I was actually paddling into the wind. I was tiring and my butt fell asleep, so the 2nd half of the paddle was actually harder! I was also so thirsty, but didn’t want to stop paddling to take a sip from my water bottle. I did drink eventually. At times there were pretty big waves coming from multiple directions at once. I tried to straighten my legs and shift around, but nothing could fix my numb butt!

There were 10 or so kayaks behind me, including at least one tandem. I paddled back to the volunteer on the dock, and then with 3k to go, I headed for the take-out. This part seemed to take forever. I was so ready to be done the paddle. By this time, I also really had to pee!

After a total of around 2 hours and 25 minutes, I was done the paddle. The awesome volunteers held the boat while I got out, then took it away, making sure I had whatever I needed from it (I had to grab my mandatory gear, which included my first aid kit).

Getting gear out of the kayak while a volunteer holds it.

In transition I used the portapotty, ate, put my bike shoes and helmet on, put my paddling gear in “Bag A” (which would be transported to the finish line), grabbed food from Bag A and put it in my bike frame bag, and set out for my first ride of the day!

32k mountain bike leg

The bike started out okay, on a country road. But before long, we turned into a trail. From there the ride was a mix of road (paved and gravel) and trail, with the most technical riding I’ve ever done. There were rocks, roots, logs, mud, steep hills, and combinations of these things all at once. Not too far into the ride I realized I was carrying too much water in my camelbak (too heavy!), so I stopped and dumped some out. Much better. For most of this leg, I felt like I was riding alone. At times I could see someone ahead of me or behind me, which was reassuring when I wasn’t sure I was going the right way and I spotted another racer ahead (or someone followed me).

At one point, I noticed that the quick release on my rear tire was loose, so I tightened it. Later, on the last, steepest descent, which I was walking my bike down, I heard a noise, and noticed that my rear wheel wasn’t turning. I lifted the back of my bike up, and the wheel fell off!! Thankfully, it happened while I was walking my bike. I tried to get the wheel back into place but wasn’t having any luck. Thankfully, another racer appeared at the top of the hill, and very graciously stopped to help me (THANK YOU AGAIN!!!). Two others stopped and helped too, racer #57 and someone I knew, Anne. I was very lucky to have help.

After we all started moving again, the other woman (not Anne) said that she didn’t think we would meet the cut-off to be able to do the first run segment. I was surprised, because it felt like I had been doing really well. But the technical nature of the ride meant that it had taken me a while to do it – around 2 hours and 25 minutes!

I reached the transition area before the cut-off, but one of the race organizers told me that to maximize my chance of completing the entire course, he recommended that I shorten the first run from 8k to 4k (or to whatever I wanted). He said that the time cut-offs get more and more aggressive as the race goes on. I understood that the second ride was more technical, so I decided that it would be better to put any extra time I had into the ride rather than into an 8k run.

Before setting out on the run, I ate food from my Bag B, drank gatorade set up at a little table, and topped up the water bottle on my bike (which I added a Nuun tablet to).

4k trail run

So I set out to run 2k in and 2k out. It was on the Bruce Trail, which had ups and downs and twists and turns. I walked the steepest hills, and arrived back at the transition area well before the cut-off for the next mountain bike leg (the run took me around 46 minutes). I packed by Bag B into a van, so that it would be waiting for me at the next transition area.

24k mountain bike leg

I was a little concerned about this second bike leg, given that it was supposedly going to be even more technical! However, it didn’t turn out like that at all. Plus, I rode more aggressively and got off my bike less. I’m still not experienced (or confident!) enough on my mountain bike to know what it can handle, and what I can handle! But I tried to stay clipped in as much as I possibly could. On one of the trail sections that had lots of small rocks that I had to manoeuvre around, I made a tight turn and to my horror spotted a garter snake right in my path. Unfortunately, I rode right over it. “Oh, buddy!” I said. I hope he survived, but I couldn’t turn back to look or I’d crash my bike!

Somewhere near the end I was sure I had gone the wrong way. I hadn’t seen race markers for a while (the course was very well marked), though I didn’t want to turn around because I would have to go back up a steep hill… I wanted to be sure I was off course. Then I spotted 2 volunteers and was so relieved!! I have to say that the race volunteers, from those at race registration to those on the course were amazing!! Thank you everyone!!

In this bike leg, I passed 2 dogs off leash – thankfully they left me alone, but one racer wasn’t so lucky. I heard at the next transition that one of the dogs had bitten his tire! Once again, I arrived with lots of time to spare before the cut-off. I had some more food, applied more sunscreen, and set out for the finish line! This bike leg took me around 1 hour 50 minutes.

16k trail run leg

I was not familiar with the first 9k of this run segment, but had run the final 7k twice before as part of the short course race. I asked one of the organizers at the transition area what to expect, and he gave me a run-down. It turns out the 16k was a mix of Bruce Trail and side trail, road, farmer’s field, and circular stairs. Much of it runs along the edge of the escarpment overlooking Georgian Bay. There was a net downhill, but lots of little ups and downs. It was also in the last few km’s along the Bruce Trail that I encountered the most non-racers I saw all day.

My 16k “run” was a run/walk mix.

Unfortunately, for the last 30 minutes or more of the run, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had to pee, despite stopping to pee several times! It was rather annoying.

It turns out my fastest km on this run segment was the last (it was on a paved road and then a path past my tent in Bluewater Park). My legs felt good – my cardio was the limiting factor. This run leg took me nearly 2 1/2 hours.

After 10 hours 20 minutes and 43.3 seconds, I crossed the finish line!

Done!

I was relieved to be done, and so happy with how my race went. I didn’t care that I ran 4k less than I was supposed to, and that officially I would be disqualified from the race. I felt that I had made the right decision in the moment, to shorten the run to make sure I wasn’t stopped later in the course and not permitted to continue. Maybe if I had run the 8k I would have made the cut-offs, but who knows?

It was a tough race, but I’ll be back. I’m looking forward to completing the full course.

Thanks Kelly for the pic!

After a veggie burger and chocolate milk, I watched the rest of the awards (they had started before I finished the race), and then headed over to the arena to get my gear, which had been transported from various points on the race course. I had initially planned to camp again that night, but given my horrible sleep pre-race, I decided to drive home where I knew I would be undisturbed.

Thank you Peninsula Adventure Sports Association for an awesome race!!

Race results

The winner finished in 6 hours and 32 minutes. The winning female finished in 8 hours and 5 minutes. Only 5 of 11 women finished the full course. See below for more stats!

  • # racers who started the race: 67
  • # racers who finished the race: 54
  • # racers who were disqualified (including me): 11
  • # racers who did not finish: 2
  • # women who started the race: 11
  • # women who finished the race: 5
  • # women who were disqualified (including me): 6

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Race report: Lakeside sprint triathlon 2019

It may have been the last triathlon of my 10th year of triathlon, but the Multisport Canada Lakeside sprint triathlon saw me do something I’ve never done before!

This year, Alasdair and I set out for Lakeside with lots of time to spare, because last year it took forever to get into the farm parking lot near the race site, and we were all stressed out before the race began. This time we were all set up and ready to go when an announcement was made that the race was being delayed by 15 minutes because of the number of people still trying to park.

Pre-race with Sunova Lake behind us.

It was chilly out, so I stayed in my fleece top for as long as possible! While I was standing at my bike before the race, another competitor sprayed talcum powder in his shoes, which blew onto my shoes, socks, and into my goggles! He was very apologetic, and when I told him that if my husband beat me in the race I could use the talcum powder as an excuse, he said to just tell him some jerk in transition sprayed talcum powder all over my stuff.

750m swim

Alasdair was to start in wave #3, and me in wave #5. I usually swim a tiny bit before the race begins, but I opted not to, with the air feeling cooler than the water.

The horn sounded, I started my watch, and I began to swim. Almost immediately I had water gathering in my left goggle lens. I had to adjust my goggles 3 times in the first 100m before they felt fine! After that, my swim was pretty uneventful. I encountered a woman doing the backstroke, who apologized to me (maybe because I had to go around her?). I was predictably slow but I think I swam pretty straight.

20k bike

I decided to push my bike pace and see what I could do. It was a new course this year due to construction on the usual route, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but we were told that there were rolling hills. I passed a lot of people on the bike, and I spotted Alasdair somewhere between 5k and the 10k turnaround. I felt like my ride was going well, but my watch wasn’t cooperating so I had to do the math every 5k to estimate my pace. Turns out I rode my fastest race pace this season.

5k run

I know this run course well, and once again decided to push the pace and see what I could do. I knew if I got side stitches I would have to slow down. My watch wasn’t sure which sport I was doing, but after pressing a few buttons, I managed to see my run pace. It’s an out and back course, and at one point, I was running faster than a car, which didn’t have room to manoeuvre around all the athletes. I said to the woman in the passenger seat that I’m not used to passing cars while running, and she said it must make me feel like a goddess!

With about 1km to go, I noticed that a woman who passed me was in my age group, and her name was Caroline. I was pretty sure that someone named Caroline always beats me. I decided that I would do what I could to not let that happen this time. Normally, I would have just let her go, and not even tried to keep up. I’m not really sure what was different this time. I picked up the pace and overtook her, hoping to increase the distance between us. When I heard her coming, I sped up again. I’m pretty sure she caught me again at one point, as I seem to remember running just behind her, wondering if I could stay with her and then make my move just as we hit the finishing chute. That last km was my fastest one of the day. With just a couple hundred metres to go, two other women in my age group passed me, and maybe Caroline too. In any case, I picked up the pace yet again, running at 5:15 min/km, faster than I ever run, and attempted to stay with them or pass them. I wondered how hard I could run before I would feel like throwing up! Looking back now I’m amazed I didn’t get any side stitches. I managed to stay ahead of 2 of the 3 women, with only Maja getting away. When I looked at the results later, it turns out only Caroline was in my age group! In fact I think one of them was in the duathlon. In any case, it was my very first time jostling for position, and it was hard work, but super satisfying!

In the end, I finished the race in 1 hour 30 minutes and 23 seconds, which was pretty much the “best case scenario” when I was doing the math on my bike and trying to figure out what my finish time might be.

It wasn’t my fastest run pace of the season, but it was my fastest sprint this year (of 3 races).

I was thankful for my fleece after the race! We got into the longest triathlon food line ever, stayed for the awards, and then headed home! Looking forward to the 2020 season already!

Race results

  • Time: 1:30:23
  • Swim: 19:47.1 (2:38/100m)
  • Bike: 39:59.1 (30.01 km/h)
  • Run: 27:59.4 (5:35 min/km)
  • Placing women 45-49: 8/26
  • Placing all women: 61/204
  • Placing all racers: 203/456

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Race report: K-Town Long Course Triathlon 2019

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!

Lake Ontario the night before the race.

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.

Pre-race [Photo by Zoom Photo].

We got ourselves set up, and prepared to get into the water. I would be starting 8 minutes ahead of Alasdair.

Almost ready to go!

For some reason, I often find this swim course difficult to sight.

I’m in here somewhere in a pink cap. [Photo by Zoom Photo]

2k Swim

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.

56k Bike

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.

15k Run

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!

Kingston, we’ll be back!

Race stats:

  • 2k swim: 54:35 (2:43/100m)
  • 56k bike: 1:59:12 (27.43 km/h)
  • 15k run: 1:34:56 (6:19 min/km)
  • Time: 4:35:20 (9/13 women 45-49)

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Race report: Happy Trails Tally in the Valley Gong Show trail race

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!

The gong [Photo by Sue Sitki Photography]

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.

Pre-race with the gong

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!?

[Photo by Sue Sitki Photography]

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.

[Photo by Sue Sitki Photography]

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!!

Neat race. I’ll be back!

Race splits

  • 47:44
  • 48:42
  • 51:42
  • 55:06
Race swag! Awesome tiny whistle, buff, and t-shirt.

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Race report: RockstAR Adventure Race

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.

Pre-race [Photo by Brad Jennings]

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
  • Photobomb CP
  • Slingshot CP
  • Paddle board CP
  • Roxy CP
  • Audio 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.

Pre-race planning done!

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).

Pre-race performance of We Will Rock You by “Freddie Mercury”. Spot my canoe on the right side.
[Photo by Petra Uu]

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.

Paddle done! Just out of shot to the left of this picture is another team of 2 females, who had loaded their bikes into their canoe. [Photo by Brad Jennings]

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!

One of the remote checkpoints.
So pretty!

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.

This checkpoint was hung by a man!

Inner tube CP (CP42), Middle of creek CP (CP49), Photobomb CP (CP43), Slingshot CP (CP44), Roxy CP (CP46), Paddle board CP (CP45)

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!

[Photo by Rebecca]

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.

[Photo by Petra Uu]

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.

How hard could it be?

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.

Finish

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!

Done! [Official race photo]

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!

Woot! #1! [Official race photo]

Such a fun race. Thank you Storm Racing! We’ll be back.

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Race report: Gravenhurst Olympic and sprint triathlon double header 2019

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.

1500m swim

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!

40k bike

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.

10k run

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.

Race results:

  • Time: 3:13:43
  • 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
  • Women: 58/126
  • All athletes: 212/355

Sunday: sprint triathlon

Our morning view.

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.

Ready to head to the boat.

750m swim

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?).

20k bike

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.

5k run

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!!

Race results:

  • Time: 1:34:43.1
  • 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
  • Women: 40/184
  • All athletes: 136/382

If you’re looking for a unique triathlon to try, this is a great option. We’ll be back!

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Trip report: 4 day Algonquin canoe trip from Rock Lake to Clydegale, Harry, Lake Louisa and back to Rock

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.

My friend Jen and I decided on a route that would have us camping on lakes neither of us had camped on before. We planned to cover a little less distance than last year’s first trip together, when we did a 5-day canoe trip at Algonquin from the Magnetawan Lake access point to Misty/White Trout/McIntosh/Daisy Lakes. Our plan this year was to single carry every portage if possible, and in particular, the super long ones (2k-3k!).

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!

About to set out from the Rock Lake access point.

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.

I love her eyelashes!

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.

Apple crisp.

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.

Oh, the places you’ll go!

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.

Spot the moose ears as we paddle away!

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!

Dinner view.
  • 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.

That’s one big bull 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!

Spot the moose in between the tall trees on our campsite – this was the view from inside the tent.

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!

Snapping turtle laying eggs on our campsite.

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!

We made it!
  • Day 4 distance paddled: 10k
  • Day 4 distance portaged: 3000m

It was another great canoe trip at Algonquin Provincial Park!!

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Race report: Welland sprint triathlon 2019

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.

Wearing my new trisuit for the first time.

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.

750m Swim

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.

20k Bike

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!

Race results:

  • Time: 1:30:44
  • 750m Swim: 19:02 (2:32 min/100m)
  • T1: 1:46
  • 20k Bike: 41:39.5 (28.81 km/h)
  • T2: 1:34
  • 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.

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Race report: SCAR Championship 2019

Race for 12-14 hours by canoe, mountain bike and on foot with a 4 AM in-the-dark race start? Why not?! I’m not sure how my race partner Rebecca and I learned about the South Coast Adventure Race (SCAR) in Amherstburg, Ontario, but when I heard that this year’s race was going to be a longer, 12-14 hour championship edition, I was even more intrigued. We are hoping to compete in the 24 hour Wilderness Traverse adventure race in 2020, and thought this would be a perfect step up to that race from the shorter (4 to 6+ hour) races that we’ve done so far. So, we registered!

Race weekend arrived, and we headed for Holiday Beach in Amherstburg where we would be camping the night before, and the night after, the race. We were the first to set up our campsite. We organized all of our race clothes, gear and food. Then while cooking our dinner, another female team of 2 arrived and set up camp next to us. They would feature heavily in our race!

Next we headed to Mettawas Parks in Kingsville, where we dropped off our mountain bikes and my canoe.

We picked up our race kits, posed for pre-race photos, and headed for the mandatory pre-race briefing at the Kingsville arena.

Sometimes adventure racing looks like this.

We soon learned that there were 6 race maps – one huge main map (no way we could carry that around with us as is!), and 5 additional maps. Before we left the arena, we had planned our route for the race, and set it out on each of the maps using highlighters. Some of the race course would be a mandatory route, and other parts we could decide for ourselves – starting in the dark was a factor in our planning, because it would still be dark when we reached the first trekking section (the race was to start on bicycles). We headed back to our campsite, where we set about trimming the huge map with the tiny scissors from our mandatory first aid kit. We thought it would be easier to fold the map to fit it into our map bag if it was as small as possible! Thankfully we noticed that we had cut the map scale off, so we wrote it onto the map.

With our alarms set for 2 AM (!), we headed straight for bed. Sadly, I had trouble falling asleep, and in the end had less than an hour of sleep before my alarm went off. We got dressed for the race, ate our breakfast in my van, and then headed for the Essex Region Conservation Area Demonstration Farm next to Holiday Beach, where we would board busses to take us to the start line. We left our kayak paddles and transition area gear bin too, which had paddling gear and extra food. We would visit the transition area 3 times during the early parts of the race.

Before the race could even start we had a little adventure. We were on the 3rd and last school bus, which was following the ones in front of it. When the first one made a wrong turn, all three busses ended up having to back up and turn a sharp corner backwards – in the dark. Rebecca and I were in the very back row, so had front row seats to the many point turn. Where exactly were the wheel wells, and would we fall into the ditch? Our new friends sitting in the row ahead of us yelled directions to the driver (who asked for help). Quite the start to the day! The bus eventually made the turn, and we made it to the race start, albeit slightly later than expected! The race actually started around 4:30 AM, not 4 as planned.

Note: all distances are approximate. CP 1/2, 3, 4/6, 5 and CP I were manned (with volunteers) and also had SI readers. The others simply had SI readers to insert our SI cards into.

Bike leg #1: start to CP 1 (8k)

The race began in the dark, so with flashing lights on the front and backs of our bikes, and headlamps on our heads, we set out on the Chrysler Canada Greenway, a gravel trail that was pretty flat, heading for transition area 1 where we would drop our bikes and start the first trekking leg. We didn’t need to do any navigation, because we just followed the riders in front of us. When Rebecca and I weren’t riding side by side, we would call back to each other to make sure we were still close. It wasn’t too long before we reached CP 1 at Camp Cedarwin, a Scout camp.

Run leg #1: CP A-H (14k)

We dropped our bikes, changed into our running shoes, and headed north through the Scout camp and back onto the Chrysler Canada Greenway. From here, teams could decide the order in which they collected the 8 mandatory checkpoints. We decided to go in a counter-clockwise route, heading first for the ones that we thought would be easier to find in the dark. We left the ones in the swampy area (where the navigation looked trickier) until later, when the sun would have risen!

We found CP H at the end of a laneway, then headed into the woods. We ran into friends on 2 different teams looking for CP F, and together, we found it. We followed the creek to the East to find CP G, then turned back and followed the same creek past CP F, through thorns that grabbed us, and all the way to CP E. It was somewhere in this section that I rolled my ankle, but thankfully I was able to continue! Also in this part of the race, the sun came up and we turned our headlamps off.

Following the creek towards the road, we caught up with a couple of other teams, and bushwhacked our way through together. At one point, I detached another racer’s sock from a fence. After a short road section, we were back into the woods, and facing the first real test of our navigation skills. Our plan was to avoid crossing the marshy areas as much as possible, because we thought these crossings would be slow and difficult. Our plan was to follow the creek as much as we could. We took a bearing and set off. It was at this point that we first noticed the “helmet guys”. They were doing the trek while still wearing their bicycle helmets, possibly because their headlamps were affixed to them. In any case, we worked with these 2 guys to find CP C and CP D, crossing the creek, bushwhacking and being stung by stinging nettles with them. Someone from another team whipped out vinegar, saying it took the sting away. We soldiered on. Just before reaching CP D, someone on another team said to me in an Australian accent, “You’ve got a mozzie on your forehead!” I had heard the the term mozzie before, but never had someone said that to me in real life.

After CP D the helmet guys headed a different way, so we continued alone to find CP A. I started doubting our plan when I wasn’t sure we’d be able to figure out exactly where we needed to cut down the hill toward the checkpoint. We debated backtracking and tackling it a different way, but in the end decided to continue. It was here that we then met the helmet guys again. With them we reached a creek that we needed to cross (about 6 feet wide?), but it wasn’t clear how deep it was. I went down the steep bank first, quickly discovering that it was much deeper than we thought. The water went up to my chest, but it was cool and refreshing! The others followed me across, one of the helmet guys falling in up to his neck. Once on the other side, it didn’t take long to find the checkpoint.

Rebecca and I headed back the same way, and heard another team saying that they wanted to stay dry. CP B was a quick, easy find, after which we made our way back to the transition area at the Scout camp. I think it was here that we found out we were now in 20th place overall. We had passed a couple of teams.

Paddle #1: CP I + CP 2 (9k)

We put on our lifejackets, had a snack, grabbed our paddles, knee pads, bailer/rope and walked a couple hundred metres to the canoe start (the race crew had moved the canoes from Mettawas Park to the Scout camp).

My canoe is the yellow one in front. [Official race photo]

With a small craft advisory in place for Lake Erie due to high wind and water levels, the paddle course was changed in the week leading up to the race. Instead of paddling on Lake Erie, we paddled from the Scout camp along Cedar Creek towards Lake Erie. There was quite a bit of wind on the way out to CP I, so much so that at times Rebecca and I both paddled only on the right side, with her doing wide sweeps at the bow to keep the canoe straight.

Rebecca in the bow.

We got to see some of our friends on the paddle, as they made their way back from CP I. Thankfully, the return paddle wasn’t as tough. Near the end, we encountered a couple of teams of very inexperienced paddlers. One team couldn’t keep the canoe straight, both of the paddlers switching their canoe paddles from the left side to the right and back again (randomly). We wondered how they would manage once they hit the wind. A racer on another team didn’t know how to hold the canoe paddle, so I told him to put one hand on top – he thanked me!

When we reached the end of the paddle, we were amazed that we didn’t even have to do anything with my canoe – volunteers took it away for us! We were pleasantly surprised to hear that we were 22/57 teams coming out of the water.

Paddle done.

Bike leg #2: CP 3 (23k) + CP J-K bike drop (21k)

We jumped back on our bikes and headed for CP 3, which we found easily by following the Chrysler Canada Greenway and then various roads. We were way ahead of the 2 PM cutoff (if you didn’t make it there in time, you were put onto a shorter course, skipping some sections of the full course). We were told by volunteers checking teams off a list that we were the 2nd female team of 2. What?! The 3rd place team arrived just after us.

But this is where things fell apart! We rode along an old abandoned rail line, which was very rocky but rideable, but when we left it, the roads didn’t make sense, and eventually, we had no idea where we were (not all roads on the race maps were labelled). We weren’t the only ones! It took a while, but we eventually found ourselves back on our planned route – phew. At the time, it felt like we added a lot of distance and time, but looking at the map after the race, it looks like we only added about 3k.

Run leg #2: CP J-K (3k)

We left our bikes at the bike drop, and headed off on our 2nd trek section. We ran along a path until we hit a culvert, took a bearing and headed into the woods for CP K. It was closer than we expected. We followed the creek to CP J, then I took another bearing and we headed back to the first trail we were running on. Our navigation was good in this section, and we were back on track. Phew!

Bike leg #3: CP 4 (11k) + CP L (11 1/2k) + CP 5 (3 1/2k)

We hopped back on our bikes and headed along roads to CP4, which we had to reach by the 2 PM cut-off (we were there with lots of time to spare). We had a quick chat with the volunteer here, a Masters student who gave up her whole day to be there for us. Thank you to all the amazing volunteers! Then we rode the Rotary Centennial Trail (around a huge cemetery) and then a paved trail along the Herb Gray Parkway. We ran into friends on this trail too, making their way from CP 5 to CP 6. They were flying! These were great paths to ride on. We opted to go for CP L on our way to CP 5 (you could do it after if you wanted to), so we left the trail and took a dirt path into the woods behind some houses and quickly found the control. We made our way onto the paved trail again, and arrived at CP 5 at Malden Park. Here we would have two completely different activities to complete: 1) a trek relay, and 2) a bike time trial.

Run leg #3 (relay): CP N (2k) + CP M (2k) + CP O (2k)

The relay legs had to be done one at a time. We decided that I would do two legs, so I set off along a paved trail for CP M. I passed the trail I had intended to take, not believing it was the right one (it was essentially a mowed grass path). But when I reached a paved trail, I knew I had gone too far. So I took that trail, and decided to get CP N instead. I ran back to Rebecca (the shorter way), and got to relax for a few minutes and eat while she ran to CP O. I even got to use a proper bathroom with flushing toilets and a sink.

Enjoying the short break!

When she returned, I headed out again, this time taking a shorter way to CP M. I met a man who was nowhere near where he thought he was, so I told him he could follow me back to CP 5 if he wanted to so that he could start again. He did. This was where we saw the lead female team of 2 head for CP 6.

Bike leg #4: time trial (5k) + CP6 (14k) + bike drop (13k)

I had never done a bike time trial before (essentially, a race against the clock with one team starting at a time), let alone one after we had already been racing for 10 hours!! Before we started I asked how long it took the fastest team so far, and found out it was 11 minutes. This was somewhat comforting, knowing that we wouldn’t be doing a 1 hour time trial! We followed the painted arrows on the ground, over gravel, dirt, grass, up and down hills, around tight corners, through long grass, and right past a deer and lots of bunnies. We weren’t exactly racing! I found this section fun (it was as close to “real” mountain biking as we got that day), but was relieved to be done it 17 minutes later.

We made our way to CP 6, which was also CP 4 (the one with the Masters student). She confirmed that we were still the 2nd place female team of 2.

Run leg #4: N/A

Given the time, it was looking unlikely that we would make it through the run leg and be able to bike to finish by the 6 PM cutoff. In fact, when we reached the bike drop for the last trek section, we were told that we should bike straight to the finish. I asked how long it was taking teams to do the trek, and the volunteer said on average about 30 minutes, and that many teams weren’t finding all of the controls.

I was disappointed not to be able to do the trek section, but relieved to know that we would be done sooner!

Bike leg #5: to finish line (15k)

We continued on our bikes, 15k that seemed to take forever. By this point, my back had gotten tight and my knee was complaining. Rebecca was having her own issues. A female team of 2 went whizzing by, and we thought, what the heck?! Where did they come from and how can they have so much energy? We talked to them later, when they told us it was their first (and probably last) race like this – that they had missed lots of checkpoints.

We finally reached Holiday Beach and made our way to the finish line. We finished in 13 hours and 46 minutes, just 14 minutes under the 14 hour time cut-off. We had paddled around 9k, run 21k and biked 125k!

It was definitely the hardest race I’ve ever done. Amazing though what one can do on less than an hour of sleep!

In the end, Rebecca and I ended up winning the team of 2 females category, because the team that was ahead of us was overtime. So even though they found all of the checkpoints (including the ones on the last trek that we didn’t do), we finished ahead of them. It feels a bit strange, but that’s apparently how adventure racing works.

SCAR was very well organized and the volunteers were great. There was lots of post-race food, and even vegetarian options.

Canoes and paddling gear/transition bins and bags were waiting for us at the race finish, having been transported there by race volunteers. I even got a race shuttle to where my van was parked. Rebecca and I had had visions of having to get back on our bikes and ride to get the van.

Thank you for a great race! We’ll be back.

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Running the Bruce Trail End to End: Caledon Section

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.”

Taking a well-deserved snack break on a stile.

CALEDON SECTION

Started the Caledon section: April 22, 2019

Finished the Caledon section: June 3, 2019

Run details

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)

Run stats

  • # 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
With Laura!

Run highlights

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!

Great Crested Flycatcher (a new bird for me!)

Wildlife sightings: Scarlet Tanager, Great Crested Flycatcher, porcupine, hairy coo!

Porcupine – my first on the trail!

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.

Christopher L!

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!

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