Storm the Trent Trek Elite Race 2021

Lack of race specific training be damned, I was grateful to make it to the start line of my first multi-sport race with an orienteering component since 2019! With Covid-19 precautions in place, this year’s Storm the Trent races (Trek Elite, Trek and Hike) would be spread over 3 days, with each team arriving no sooner than 1 hour before their assigned start time, and with no post race award celebrations or hot meals.

Instead, there was a pre-recorded race briefing to watch at home, and race maps were provided days in advance, reducing time spent at race headquarters and the usual gathering of athletes pre-race to plan out routes.

With a start time of 7:40 AM, my teammate Rebecca and I arrived at 6:40 AM, unloaded my canoe and our paddles, PFDs, bailer and rope, picked up our maps (one main map plus two supplementary maps), had our temperatures checked by a nurse and answered Covid-19 screening questions again, dropped off our bikes, helmets, and bike shoes, and used the portapotties. I was a bit scattered, forgetting to drop my helmet off (leaving it on my head), then almost forgetting my gloves (for paddling and biking). The weather was overcast with a predicted high of 15C, so I was a little conflicted about what to wear. In the end I chose cycling shorts, long pants, and a t-shirt, which worked well. I carried extra clothes in my backpack along with food, water, and the rest of the mandatory gear. When I thought I would be paddling in my raincoat I tucked my compass in the pocket. Good thing I stuffed my coat into my backpack. We portaged our paddling stuff down to the water, me the canoe and Rebecca the paddles, PFDs, bailer and rope.

When it was almost go time, I realized I was wearing my backpack but not my PFD!

Foreshadowing course conditions?

Paddle to CP 20, 21, 22

Four teams were assigned each 10 minute starting time slot, but we weren’t the only ones running a little late. One hour wasn’t quite enough to do everything we needed to do. In any case, around 7:50 AM Rebecca punched the start clock with our SI card and we pushed off from shore.

Teams could visit the 3 checkpoints in any order, so we decided to go counter-clockwise. The checkpoints were floating signs, with words on them that we needed to memorize or write down. “See you at” “the finish line” “go get it” (or something like that!).

Save for a very short paddle in summer 2020 to test whether my hand injury was healed, I hadn’t been in a canoe since the summer of 2019. Rebecca was in a similar boat. Other than slightly overshooting the entrance to a narrow passage that we needed to take to another lake, the paddle went well. My hands cramped at times but otherwise I felt fine (my still-recovering rib injury from my MTB crash in June didn’t cause me any trouble). The 9k took us about 1 hour 25 minutes.

It was super fun to see so many familiar faces out on the water, people I hadn’t seen in ages because of Covid!

While the floating checkpoints were not manned by volunteers, the single digit checkpoints were. We had to check in with the (awesome!) volunteers at these ones so they could have a general idea of where each team was out on the course.

Bike to CP 2

After portaging the canoe 800m back to race headquarters (up a steep hill from the waterfront), we chowed down on homemade lemon squares (yum!) while getting into our bike shoes and putting our helmets on. I briefly joined a FaceTime call of another team yet to start (hi random stranger!), and then we headed out on our bikes. The rolling hills started quickly and didn’t let up all day! The ride to CP 2 was on a gravel road.

Run to CP 30, 31

At CP 2 we left our bikes and headed on foot in search of CP 30 and 31. Again we went in a counter-clockwise direction. These checkpoints were on trail and other than slightly overshooting “The Pass” trail, this section was pretty straightforward. Again, these checkpoints could be done in any order.

Bike to CP 3, CP 4, CP 5

Back at CP 2 we grabbed our bikes and headed to CP 3. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a great way to carry the map. In the past I had tucked the maps in a waterproof bag up the leg of my shorts, but I was wearing long pants. I used bungees to attach it to my handlebars, but it was a time consuming process and not very secure. I had to continually attach and detach the map bag from my bike as we switched between biking to trekking and back again. Next time I’ll use carabiners and rope and hang it around my neck. (I used a new map case too, and it leaked! Our maps got soaked and ripped when we had to flip them. Not sure if the case is poorly designed or I didn’t close it properly!)

Until this point, the bike course route was marked – we had to follow signs and not choose our own route. But at CP 3, this changed. We left the road and followed a trail that had some “big ups!” as one guy yelled coming back the other way. I wasn’t sure at that moment if he meant “big ups” as in “push hard” and you’ll get there… but it later became clear he simply meant that there were multiple big hills to climb! I think this is the first section where we had to get off our bikes and push them up a steep hill. Getting close to CP 4, someone told us this was the last uphill before the checkpoint. Of course that would have been true had we not overshot the right turn heading to the CP… instead, we ended up riding down a huge downhill, hitting a main paved road and realizing our mistake. This meant we had to climb back up the massive hill. Sigh. We found our missed turn and reached CP 4. Rebecca asked if we could go back through the field (rather than along the road) and the volunteer said that that’s what most people were doing. So, we followed the path made by other teams through bushes and over rocks and pushed our bikes uphill… not sure it was any easier than the road would have been! All that uphill from CP 3 to 4 meant we had lots of downhill back to CP 3 (poor course conditions removed about 15k of the bike course, sending us back to CP 3 and then to CP 5, skipping CPs 32 and 33). We were not for a second disappointed that part of the bike course was cut out!

The “ride” from CP 3 to CP 5 was crazy – so much mud! We did a lot of pushing our bikes through mud pits in this section.

Run to CP 40, 42, 43

Back at CP 5 we left our bikes and headed on foot to CP 40, 42, and 43. As we started out we heard someone say that it was bad… and got worse. Once again, we were following a trail, and when we planned out our route, we were optimistic. How hard could the navigation be? Once again, we chose a counter-clockwise direction. In hindsight, this was a mistake. We found CP 40 without difficulty, as well as the very scenic CP 42 (at a fast-flowing creek), and then CP 43 up a very steep hill (we decided to follow the trail rather than bushwhack). This is where things went haywire.

From a trail junction (we knew exactly where we were), I took a bearing with my compass, but it made no sense. There was an air bubble in it, so I figured the compass was toast. I asked Rebecca for hers, and took the bearing again. The direction made sense. We would head for The Outlook trail, and when we hit it, we would continue along it until we reached an intersection, at which point we would turn right and head along that trail back to CP 5. However, the trail we were looking for was running the same direction as we would be walking – see the problem? With even a small error in the bearing, we would miss the trail completely. However, we knew that even if we missed it, we would eventually reach the trail that would take us out. Rebecca was counting steps (to measure our distance), and I was following the bearing. We didn’t find the trail we were looking for, and Rebecca said “as long as we don’t find the lake”… and then we noticed a clearing… which turned out to be a marshy area that wasn’t so easy to cross. We skirted the outside (finding an area where large animals had bedded down in the process), and eventually got back into the woods. The map didn’t have a marsh on it (near where we thought we were), so we weren’t sure exactly where we were. We continued following the bearing, in the process seeing tons of cool mushrooms. We also heard a Barred Owl! I think I heard a Ruffed Grouse in this area too. And then finally, we hit the trail! We turned right, and after walking for longer than we expected to, Rebecca said that if we hit the intersection with The Outlook trail she was going to cry… and then we hit just that. Sigh. We had gone too far left, adding distance to our trek. We should have listened to a guy way earlier in the trek leg who tried to tell us to go the other way on that trail… it would have been much easier to bushwhack the other way.

Blue = original planned route (until we saw cliff at 40 on our counter-clockwise way around the loop and wondered if it might be impassible), green = new route, and red = what actually happened on our way from CP 43 to CP 5. Hello marsh!

By the time we reached the trail it was raining and the ground was super slick with mud. Rebecca and I both fell going down hills. How could I forget to mention the hills? At one point I heard 2 athletes coming towards us, one saying that the Race Director was “evil”. I couldn’t disagree! Shortly before reaching CP 5 a team came out of the woods onto the trail, and asked us if we were looking for CP 5. They too had had an interesting bushwhacking leg!

Still smiling after our off-trail adventures. Thanks Heather for the great pic!

Bike to CP 6 and 7

We jumped onto our bikes and headed for CPs 6 and 7, back on the gravel road and up and down the never ending hills.

Whee! A downhill!

A few times in this section we had to ride through water that had crested the road. At least once our feet were submerged in the “puddle” (AKA lake!) as we rode through it. Fun!

Photo courtesy of Storm Racing.

CP 7 Optional advanced section

At CP 7 there was an optional advanced trekking section. We opted out, figuring we were expert enough already with no need to test our skills (that, or we were beat and had had enough. Plus we might have missed the 5 pm cut-off to start this section anyway)!

Bike to CP 53

Instead, we checked in and out of CP 7 and headed for CP 53 and the finish line! After more road riding, we turned onto a mostly dry trail. We were looking for CP 53, which I assumed would be right off the trail (i.e. we couldn’t miss it). But riders coming towards us asked if we had found it. When we said no, they said that it was behind us – we had missed it, as had they. They had reached the finish line and turned around to find it. It was further off the trail than we expected, but once we spotted it, Rebecca put our SI stick into the card reader, and then we turned and headed for the finish!

Bike to finish

And just like that (9 hours 29 minutes and 10 seconds later), we were done!

Done!

We hosed off our muddy bikes, got changed, packed up our stuff, and headed home.

Our route!

Thank you Storm Racing for another fantastic race. Such a beautiful setting at the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve. See you next year!

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Race report: Welland Rose City triathlon double header (sprint and give-it-a-tri)

Why do one triathlon on a Saturday when you can do two? It wasn’t my idea (really!), but it didn’t take long for me to agree to end the 2021 triathlon season with a bang by doing back to back races in Welland. The International Flatwater Centre is a fantastic venue, and Multisport Canada puts on great races in the Rose City. Covid-19 precautions were in effect, with masks in transition and at registration, a covid check, and races spread over 3 days with less athletes in each race.

When we received an email with our individual starts times a few days before the race, we realized that we would have less than an hour between races, and race kit pickup for the give-it-a-tri would start – and end – while we were doing the sprint race. But on race morning Alasdair got it all sorted out – the race crew knew that two crazy people would be coming to register late!

When we first arrived at the venue we accidentally racked our bikes on the give-it-a-tri rack, but we hadn’t set our things up, so when we realized our mistake it was easy to switch to the sprint racks. I left my bike, went through registration, and then got my things organized. I put on my wetsuit and headed down the stairs to the water. I had lots of time before my race, so I watched other people start, found some shade to wait in, then eventually found a random athlete to zip me up! I did a short warm up swim, found Alasdair, and waited for athlete #86 to be called to the start line!

Sprint triathlon

750 m swim

Almost ready to go!

For this race, we were seeded based on our predicted finish times (of the swim? or the entire race? I can’t remember). This meant that the fastest athletes would start first, and the slowest last. One swimmer would start every 30 seconds. The swim start was incredibly well organized. There was a 2-sided digital clock so the race crew and the athletes in the water warming up could read it. My start time was 11:42:30, so a couple of minutes before that I was called up, and went into the water from the dock. I treaded water until my start time, then when the clock hit 11:42:30, I started. Alasdair must have forgotten to seed himself when he registered, because he was placed nearly at the back of the pack 20 minutes after me!

If you’ve been following my triathlon adventures this summer, you will know that I’ve had mini panic attacks on the swim for each of my races so far, the Barrie sprint, Gravenhurst sprint, and Gravenhurst Olympic. Well I’m not sure if it was the solo start, but I had the most relaxed swim of any triathlon yet this summer! My only issue was a bit of water in my goggles, which I quickly tipped out. I was so relieved to have a good swim!

I made my way up the stairs to transition, took the rest of my wetsuit off at my bike, put on my helmet, sunglasses, socks, shoes, and race bib and headed out with my bike. It was quite a long run to the bike mount line.

20k bike

The bike was 5 loops of a closed road course which is relatively flat. There are two 180 degree turns per lap (and two 90 degree turns) – it’s a backwards L shape. As I started my 3rd loop, Alasdair started his 1st. He passed me and then I chased him for the remainder of the ride. Athletes had to count their own laps, or use a bike computer or watch, or use the Sportstats clock on the race course (hard to read when you’re riding fast!). Thankfully, I didn’t lose track! After my 5th lap it was a long run back into transition. I racked my bike, removed my helmet, put on my hat, changed my shoes, and headed out the run exit.

5k run

The run was 2 loops on a path along the recreational waterway. It was while running that I really started thinking how crazy it was to be doing another race after this one. I even considered not doing it, and just cheering for Alasdair! Speaking of Alasdair, as I was starting my 2nd loop, he passed me on his 1st. One thing I’ve missed this year is seeing the age of other athletes on their legs (no body marking this year) – it helps to know if you should actually try to catch someone or keep ahead of them if you know that they’re in your age category! Of course, I might not have had any fight in me anyway!

I was grateful to cross the finish line, but didn’t have time to relax! I grabbed a mask, put it on, and went back to registration, where I confused the volunteers who looked at me funny trying to register while already wearing a race bib! We sorted things out quickly and off I went. I grabbed a juice box, downed that, and headed back to transition to move my bike and all my stuff to the give-it-a-tri rack. I organized my things again, forced myself to eat half a muffin so I wouldn’t be starving during the give-it-a-tri, and then at some point I found Alasdair. It was already time to go down to the water.

Race stats

  • Time: 1:42:56
  • Swim: 21:04 (2:48 min/100m)
  • T1: 1:58
  • Bike: 45:17 (27.82 km/h)
  • T2: 1:18
  • Run: 33:19 (6:39 min/km)
  • Women 45-49: 3/5
  • All women: 33/51
  • All athletes: 94/132

Give-it-a-try

400m swim

My start time for the give-it-a-tri was 2:02:00, with Alasdair 40 seconds behind me. I knew this meant that he would pass me during the swim. The swim course looked so short compared to the sprint course – I was so glad to have done the longer race first. When athlete #210 was called up, I headed for the start line. I had another relaxed swim (!), and before I knew it I was heading back to transition. Sure enough Alasdair beat me there, but he only headed out with his bike a few seconds before me.

12k bike

I was so disappointed when I found out that we had to do 3 laps of the bike course (12k), and not 2 (10k). I was mentally prepared for only 2! Thankfully, another 2k wasn’t a big deal. When I started biking I felt that my legs were definitely more tired than they were at the beginning of the sprint! I chased Alasdair the entire race, but it was a losing battle – he was pulling just slightly further ahead with each loop.

2.5k run

I spotted Alasdair heading out of transition on foot as I was running back in with my bike. The run was 1 loop of the course we ran in the morning. At this point, I was really glad that I was only doing it one more time! Alasdair passed me when I had between 500m and 1k to go. And then not a moment too soon I too crossed the finish line, for the second time that day!

Race stats

  • Time: 1:02:25
  • Swim: 12:09 (3:02 min/100m)
  • T1: 2:26
  • Bike: 29:08 (25.95 km/h)
  • T2: 1:31
  • Run: 17:11 (6:52 min/km)
  • Women 45-49: 3/5
  • All women: 16/51
  • All athletes: 43/101

After the second race we were finally able to relax! We chatted with Race Director Jason Vurma, then headed for the water to cool off before heading home.

With Race Director Jason Vurma

Thank you Multisport Canada for adapting and putting on races this summer! We were so thankful to be back racing. See you in 2022!

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Race report: Gravenhurst sprint and Olympic triathlon double header weekend 2021

If you think starting a triathlon by yelling “Cannonball!!!” and jumping off a boat is a great idea, then the Multisport Canada Gravenhurst race may be the one for you!

Alasdair and I decided to once again do both the sprint and Olympic races, with the sprint on the Saturday and the longer Olympic on the Sunday. We were very lucky to be spending the weekend nearby at our friends’ cottage.

Saturday sprint

Driving to the race site in the pouring rain, I wondered what the weather would have in store for us! However, the rain pretty much stopped as we arrived. Walking our bikes into transition, we passed 2 members of the race crew sweeping water off the road where we would be running our bikes out of and back in to transition.

As part of the Covid-19 protocol, we had to wear masks in the transition zone and at registration, and we had to show that we had done the Covid screening. I set my stuff up in transition and was ready to go (that’s Alasdair racked beside me)…

Using a bag to keep shoes dry.

… or so I thought! Good thing I realized a few minutes later that I hadn’t taken my helmet out of my big triathlon bag!

750m swim

There was one boat that would ferry athletes to the swim start, in 3 separate groups. Alasdair and I were lucky enough to be on the same boat and starting in the same swim wave (i.e. at the same time). I always like to be one of the first to jump off the ship in my wave so I have more time to swim over to the start line and relax for a couple of minutes before the race starts. Before jumping off I heard the announcer say that someone had done a back flip off the boat. I was the 2nd to jump off in our wave, with Alasdair right behind me.

When the horn sounded, I started swimming, but it wasn’t long before I had a mini panic attack, just like in Barrie a few weeks before (prior to this year, it had only happened once – during my first triathlon in 2010)! I did breast stroke, then front crawl with right side only breathing, then got my bilateral breathing back and all was good. The rest of the swim was fine!

I reached the ladders at the dock, looked at my watch and saw 20-something minutes. I climbed the ladder, and started running to transition. I unzipped my wetsuit, removed my arms from the sleeves, and then took off my swim cap and goggles. I crossed the road, and did the long run around and into transition, where I caught up to Alasdair, who was getting ready to ride.

I removed the rest of my wetsuit, put on my helmet, sunglasses, socks, shoes, and race belt, and took off (before Alasdair). “See you when you pass me!” I said.

20k bike

It didn’t take long before Alasdair passed me, after which I was pelted with very hard rain! Thankfully it didn’t last long. At the turnaround point (it was a hilly out and back course) he was less than 3 km ahead of me.

I felt strong on the bike leg and was happy with how it went.

Back in transition I racked my bike, removed my helmet, put on my hat, changed from cycling shoes to running shoes and took off.

5k run

Near the beginning of the run, which starts on a gravel path, someone cheered for me by name but I didn’t see who it was (I found out the next day it was Carley!). For once this run was not hot and humid! Normally the race is in July when it always seems to be uncomfortably hot! Instead the temperature was ideal. At some point before the turnaround, Alasdair and I passed each other. I felt strong during the run, and ran the entire hilly 5k, with the exception of a few steps when I walked while drinking from a cup.

Near the end of the run I spotted Alasdair waiting (and cheering) for me. As I neared the finish line I heard the announcer Steve Fleck say my name and call me the other half of the Paterson duo. I was glad to be done, and wondered how the next day’s race would go!

Unusual race spectator! Apparently its owners were also racing!

After the race we headed to Boston Pizza’s patio for our first meal at a restaurant in more than a year! The last time we ate at a restaurant was when we biked 30k for breakfast on a patio and then biked home.

Race stats:

  • Time: 1:41:29.8
  • Swim: 22:52.5 (3:02/100 m)
  • T1: 1:54
  • Bike: 42:20.1 (28.35 km/h)
  • T2: 1:09
  • Run: 33:15.9 (6:39/km)
  • Women 45-49: 5/6
  • All women: 57/97
  • All athletes: 184/280
Very cool t-shirt design!

Sunday Olympic

1500m swim

Once again, Alasdair and I were in the same swim wave, but this time, I was 1st to jump off. Then it was Alasdair. As he resurfaced, he said, “I lost my goggles! I forgot they were on my head!” He had forgotten to put them on his eyes before he jumped. Thankfully, there was a lifeguard right there on a floaty thing, and she ducked under the water and came up with them as they were on their way to the bottom of Lake Muskoka! “I love you!” Alasdair said. Crisis averted.

The race started and I felt that my breathing was good and I’d be fine this time – but then, sure enough, another mini panic attack! I completely lost my breathing rhythm. This time I did breast stroke longer, then did front crawl with right side only breathing for probably 100m. I figured I would calm down and start front crawl again. And it worked. I decided then that if it happened again, I would immediately switch to just breathing on the right.

Because I did the breaststroke for so long, and because there weren’t many swimmers in each wave, it wasn’t long before everyone was long gone and I felt completely on my own. By this time my breathing was fine, but I couldn’t see a soul, not even a lifeguard. “Am I alone out here?” I thought. “Are the lifeguards with the pack of swimmers ahead?” It was a slightly disconcerting feeling. I focussed on swimming in the right direction, because I didn’t want to end up in the wrong bay like I did once before!

Sometime after the 1000m mark (my watch beeps every 500m on the swim), I saw another swimmer!! I immediately thought that they had passed me, but then realized that was impossible – we were the last wave to jump off the ship, and the next wave had to be picked up at the dock and brought out to the start, meaning a 40 min gap between waves. I wasn’t that slow! I soon figured out that the silver swim cap meant the person actually started ahead of me, so I had caught someone. However, I knew I was swimming slowly when I got close to a lifeguard towards the end of the swim and she cheered for me, telling me that I was doing awesome and I was almost there! I told her I was having trouble seeing (my goggles kept fogging up). By the time I got to transition, Alasdair was long gone.

40k bike

Not only did the Olympic race double the length of the ride, but it also very likely doubled the number of hills! My legs were definitely more tired than for the sprint race, so I was biking more slowly.

10k run

However, my legs felt better than expected when I started the run. Once again, the extra distance on the run added a lot more hills! But like the day before, I ran the entire course except 2 times when I stopped to drink from a cup at an aid station. I find that if I give myself permission to walk, it’s the beginning of the end and I start walking more and more! At around the 3 1/2 k mark I spotted Alasdair running towards me. At the run turnaround one of the race crew, who clearly had seen me racing the day before, said “Two times?? Two times??” I was thankful to finally reach the last 1k of the run course, which meant the uphill sections were all done! Once again, Alasdair was waiting near the end of the run, ready to cheer me on. I was glad to be done! Overall, my pace was slightly slower than the day before, totally reasonable given that I didn’t start with fresh legs!

Race stats:

  • Time: 3:29:26.6
  • Swim: 45:24 (3:01 min/100m)
  • T1: 2:20
  • Bike: 1:30:39.2 (26.47 km/h)
  • T2: 2:00
  • Run: 1:09:05 (6:54 min/km)
  • Women 45-49: 5/6
  • All women: 51/62
  • All athletes: 220/269
Love the little person jumping off the boat!

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Race report: Barrie sprint triathlon 2021 (a return to racing after Covid-19 hiatus)

I’m not sure anyone was quite as excited to be back at a triathlon start line as one particular athlete in my wave at the Barrie triathlon – she whooped it up and let everyone know how much she loves the sport. I’ve never heard anything like it! She was pumped (and the rest of us couldn’t help but smile and laugh)!

It wasn’t too long ago that I was pretty resigned to the fact that there would be no race season at all for a second year in a row… and then Multisport Canada announced that races were on! Woot! We knew it wouldn’t be the usual triathlon racing experience, but we didn’t care – we were happy for the opportunity to get back out there. After a mountain bike crash in June (tire slipped on a wet root and I fell hard on my back) and a long recovery period, I was just relieved to be back swimming, biking and running 10 weeks later. Never mind I had only been swimming 2 times since the fall of 2019!

Our return to racing – and our first time doing the Barrie race (taken over by Multisport Canada this year) – would also be my friend Kris’ very first triathlon! Since we spent the night before the race at her place, she had 2 in-house triathlon coaches to ask for advice. And ask she did!

Pre-race in a time of Covid-19.

On race morning we didn’t arrive at the race site as early as we normally do, so by the time we set our stuff up in transition and got our wetsuits on, we had less than 15 minutes to go before we were to race! This added to the pre-race nerves. After a very quick warm up swim (just a few strokes!), I was ready to go.

Alasdair and I were lucky enough to be starting in the same swim wave, with Kris a couple of waves behind us.

Almost race time! [Photo by D]

I can’t tell you how great it was to hear familiar voices (like Steve Fleck at the microphone), see familiar faces, and to simply be back in the triathlon community again. I didn’t have any time goals for this race – getting to the start and finish lines would be enough for me this time!

750m SWIM

The horn sounded and off I went, wondering if my shoulder was going to give me any trouble (seems I upset it playing disc golf recently). Thankfully, my physiotherapist ensured that it didn’t! My swim started okay but it didn’t take long for me to have a mini panic attack after losing my breathing rhythm. I switched to the breaststroke, then front crawl with single-sided breathing on the left, then single-sided breathing on the right, then eventually I got my rhythm back, and by the time I hit the first turning buoy, it was all good. I figured I was swimming much slower than usual (since I hadn’t been practising!) and might see 30 minutes on my watch when I stood up, so I was pleasantly surprised to see 21 – still slower than usual, but not as slow as I expected. Then it was a long run into transition (I spotted Alasdair heading out with his bike as I was running in), peeling off the wetsuit, putting on my sunglasses, helmet, socks, shoes, and race bib, grabbing my bike and heading for the transition exit… but on the way there, I thought “Oh no! I forgot my race bib!” So I dropped my bike and ran back towards my stuff, but before I got there, I realized I was wearing it! So I ran back to my bike and off I went. Clearly this was a first race in nearly two years!

20km BIKE

The bike course was 4 loops with a slight uphill on the way out and a slight downhill on the way back. Unlike someone I know, I already knew how many loops to do – I didn’t have to do math to figure it out. I actually liked the looped course, which I’ve only done once before (at Welland). It meant I got to see Alasdair on every loop, and Kris twice when I was on my 3rd and 4th loops. The road was a little rough in some places, but otherwise, the ride was unremarkable. I will say though that not enough people said “On your left!” as they passed.

5km RUN

I ran my bike into transition, racked it, took my helmet off, changed shoes, put my hat on, had a quick drink of water, and headed out for the run. Sadly I had to stop to pee (at the portapotty just outside the transition zone). Remember that slight uphill on the bike? It felt more than slight on the run. The run course was 2 loops along a waterfront trail. On my 2nd loop I got chatting with a guy who told me about a latin phrase he knew that essentially meant “One foot in front of the other, ferociously!” I’m sure it will continue to come in handy in future races!

[Photo by D]

And then I heard the voice of the athlete who was so excited to be back – turns out her name is Shannon. I spotted Alasdair on both loops, and heard Steve Fleck give him the most awesome welcome to the finish line: “Alasdaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaair Paterson!” I’m not sure where I was on the run course at that point, but think it was not long after the turnaround – clearly the sound travels at the waterfront! I spotted Alasdair again waiting for me as I neared the finish line.

I was glad to be done, and to be honest, found the race harder than a sprint would normally be. I’m out of race practice and still building back up from my MTB crash! It’s a short triathlon season this year, but it’s so good to be back!

There was none of the usual post race food, awards, or socializing with other athletes (except for the ones packing up their stuff when we were), which we really missed – that’s part of the fun! Instead, we were encouraged to get the heck out of transition as fast as possible. We did, but we stuck around to cheer for my friend Kris, and for other athletes still finishing.

[Photo by Nikki Cole at Barrie Today]

It was so fun to have a triathlon newbie with us! Who is next?!

Three happy finishers! [Photo by D]

Results

  • Time: 1:43:38.8 (10/11 women 45-49; 64/86 women; 199/245 athletes)
  • Swim: 22:25.9 (2:59 min/100m)
  • T1: 2:32
  • Bike: 41:52.9 (28.65 km/h)
  • T2: 2:01
  • Run: 34:47.6 (6:57 min/km)

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Waterfalls of Hamilton

I am incredibly lucky to live along the Niagara Escarpment in the Hamilton Area. As noted on the Bruce Trail website, “[t]he spectacular Niagara Escarpment encompasses farms, recreation areas, sweeping scenic views, 1675 foot cliffs, clear streams, wetlands, pebbled beaches, rolling hills, pristine waterfalls, wildlife habitats, historic sites, villages, towns and cities.”

The geography of the Hamilton area means that there are many gorgeous waterfalls, both in the City of Hamilton itself, and within four of the cities and towns that were amalgamated into Hamilton years ago: Waterdown, Dundas, Ancaster, and Stoney Creek.

All of the waterfalls are easily accessible without having to cover too much distance on foot. I’ve been exploring close to home lately, and in the last couple of months (February to April), I have run to all 12 of the waterfalls! Many are on the Bruce Trail main trail (Iroquoia section), others on Bruce Trail side trails or not far away.

The City of Hamilton’s Waterfalls Guide will give you all the information you need to plan your visit. Note that reservations are required during certain times of the year to visit Webster Falls and Tew Falls. In some places, you will need to pay for parking.

February 19: Borer’s Falls

I ran 7k from the Sydenham lookout in Dundas East along the Bruce Trail to Borer’s Falls and beyond (and back).

Borer’s Falls

March 12: Sherman Falls, Tiffany Falls, Canterbury Falls, Hermitage Cascade

I ran 12k from Artaban Road to Sherman Falls and Tiffany Falls along the Bruce Trail and a side trail, and then through Dundas Valley Conservation Area to pick up the Bruce Trail again to see Canterbury Falls and the Hermitage Cascade.

Sherman Falls
Tiffany Falls
Canterbury Falls
Hermitage Cascade

March 29: Webster Falls, Tew Falls, Dundas Peak

I ran 11k from Crook’s Hollow to Webster Falls along a trail beside Spencer Creek, then along the road to Tew Falls, and along the Tew Falls side trail to Dundas Peak (and back).

Webster Falls
Tew Falls

April 1: Smokey Hollow Falls

I ran through Waterdown to the falls.

Smokey Hollow Falls

April 5: Felker’s Falls, Devil’s Punchbowl, Albion Falls, Buttermilk Falls

I ran 18k, from Mud Street along the Mud Street side trail to the main Bruce Trail East to Felker’s Falls and the Devil’s Punchbowl, then West past where I parked to Albion Falls and Buttermilk Falls.

Felker’s Falls
Devil’s Punchbowl (upper)
Devil’s Punchbowl (lower)
Albion Falls
Buttermilk Falls

All of the waterfall pictures were taken with my iPhone – I was running, after all! I guarantee that each one is more spectacular in real life!

Looking for more waterfalls? Here’s an incredible map of the waterfalls and cascades of Hamilton (thanks Mary T for pointing it out!).

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Raid the Hammer 2020

In a year when most races were cancelled due to COVID-19, it was exciting that Don’t Get Lost was still able to go ahead with Raid the Hammer.

This year’s race shirt.

The weather even cooperated with a forecasted temperature of 20 degrees Celsius – in November! This meant that teams were able to comfortably sit outside (some brought lawn chairs, others blankets!) to plan their routes. Normally, there would be an indoor venue, but not this year. Instead, we got the great outdoors and some portapotties.

At race registration masks were required, and only one teammate picked up race maps and handed over “declaration of health” forms for each teammate.

There was map 1, map 2, map 3, race instructions and a map bag for each teammate. The race instructions provided more details for each control (e.g. stream junction, ruin, ditch, tunnel entrance, vegetation boundary, fence end, thicket), and whether we were looking for a traditional orienteering flag, a ribbon, a feature (e.g. a sign) or a virtual control.

Heidi, Rebecca and I would be racing together for the first time. We sat on a blanket wearing masks and planned our race route, slightly overwhelmed at the sheer number of controls to find (44)! For each control, we talked about options for going from one to the next – e.g. follow a trail, or take a bearing and bushwhack. Heidi is our chief navigator (and fitness “machine”, as Rebecca put it)!

The race started at Bernie Arbour Memorial Stadium in East Hamilton, on top of the escarpment. But looking at the race maps, we knew we would be climbing down, and up, and down, and up some more before returning to the finish.

This race featured staggered start times to reduce the number of people at the start, and the number of people teams would meet at controls (it worked!). In addition, instead of hand touching a flag or ribbon at a control, we used a free app called Map Run F, which based on GPS location knew that we had found a control.

We were ready to start our race around 9 AM, so with our watches and phones ready to go, we headed for the start control.

Map 1: controls 1 to 6

This part of the course had us descend the escarpment, run through King’s Forest Golf Course, and climb the escarpment again, at one point searching for a control in an area of the map that the trails had been removed from (for the added challenge). I had my first fall of the race early on (those darn tripping hazards hidden under leaves!). In this section we encountered a group of mountain bikers, who we then saw again a couple more times later in the race – as they noted, we went the “direct route”!

Map 2: controls 6 to 14

Moving onto map 2 we felt like we were making progress! In this section of the race, we ran on the Bruce Trail for a while towards Felker’s Falls. We left control 7 at around the same time as a team of 3 guys, and while they were running faster, we arrived at control 8 sooner – it’s not all about speed! We made the better route decision (which they acknowledged!). We didn’t change our planned route much during the race, but we did follow a different vegetation boundary from 9 to 10 (the northern one) and cut some distance off that way. We were looking in the wrong thicket for 10 but didn’t waste too much time before we figured that out. Just before control 14 I wiped out again, falling hard! After control 14 it was time to move to map 3!

Photo courtesy of Don’t Get Lost – control 11.

Map 3: controls 14 to 25

We missed a small, leaf-covered trail to control 15, and once we saw how close we were getting to Albion Falls, we confirmed that we had indeed run too far. We had to backtrack a bit and climb up the escarpment, then down again. In fact the course planner suspected many people would make this exact error. Part of this map also involved a section called “run the line”, in which we had to follow the route outlined through a residential area to find controls that were not indicated on the map (“virtual controls”). Two involved sets of stairs (because, why not climb some more?!). We were getting close to being done with map 3 for good! We just had to find a couple of controls at Battlefield Park (including a monument at the top of – you guessed it – a set of stairs) and then a couple more along trails before we went back to map 2. My watch, which was running Map Run G – the app for Garmin watches that connects with the Map Run F phone app, went crazy when we passed control 14 again and then quickly reached 25. It started buzzing over and over again, registering that we kept finding 14 and 25. The app clearly thought I was running back and forth between the controls:

25, 25, 14, 14, 14, 25, 14, 25, 14, 25, 14, 25

Thankfully, as long as you visit the controls in the right order (13, 14, 15… 25…) it’s okay if you visit them again.

Map 2 (again): controls 25 to 37

We were relieved to be done with map 3, because it meant we were getting closer to the finish line! Control 27 was a manned checkpoint, where each team was checked off a list (it would help in the case of a team not being finished by the course cut-off time). In this section of the race, we had the option to travel through a tunnel, or climb up and over the road. We chose the tunnel route. Heidi slipped on wet concrete getting down to the tunnel (but did not fall), yelled, and the sound and echo in the tunnel was crazy!

Control 31.

Then after control 33, we had to climb a metal fence to get onto a sidewalk.

At control 35.

After a few more controls that we accessed via trails, we switched back to map 1 and left map 2 for good!

Map 1 (again): controls 37 to the 44 and the finish

After control 37, we were back at King’s Forest Golf Course. Part of this section involved a couple of controls in the section of the map that had the trails removed. Despite there being no trails on the map, we were partly able to use trails in real life to find the controls. From there we had to climb the escarpment again, do a little more compass work, and then from control 44, head to the finish line!

Another creek crossing.

It’s safe to say we were all relieved to be done! It was super fun, but exhausting. We covered 27.5 km in 5 hours and 9 minutes. The three of us worked well together, and our navigation was nearly spot on!

Another great race!

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Adventure racing: my perspective on training

Entering the world of orienteering and adventure racing from the sport of triathlon, I was very familiar with multi-sport racing and the need to practice all three disciplines (swim, bike, run) – sometimes in combination – leading up to race day. But adventure racing is a different beast, in particular once you throw navigation into the mix!

I’ve never been lost in a triathlon – though I have swum into the wrong bay during an Olympic-distance race in Gravenhurst!

I got my start in orienteering in the fall of 2016, adventure racing in 2017 and adventure racing with a navigation component in 2018, so I still consider myself a newbie! 

In advance of my first adventure race, the Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race, which involved a 4k paddle by canoe in Georgian Bay, a 16k mountain bike ride and a 6k trail run, my race partner and I went canoeing briefly once to try kayak paddles in a canoe for the first time (with a 2 year old who did not want to sit down or stay in the boat!), didn’t mountain bike because we didn’t own them, and didn’t run together once. However, we were both fit and confident that we could do the race. We ended up 2nd out of 8 teams of 2 females (and I won the mountain bike draw prize!).

Now, as I prepare for longer and more complex adventure races with my teammates, I have all kinds of ideas on how we can train together, and apart.

RockstAR with Rebecca. [Pic by Brad Jennings]

For example, recently I re-ran a Don’t Get Lost X-league orienteering course in the forest near my house, and instead of worrying about finding as many controls as I could within the 50 minute time limit for this particular map, I chose instead to focus on my navigation and find all the controls (“clear the course”), however long it took. To keep my navigation sharp (and to continue to improve!), I participate in the weekly X-league races, and look for every opportunity to challenge myself by racing as often as I can with Don’t Get Lost and other clubs. 

To work on training with my teammates, we have used old race maps and chosen our own features on the map to navigate to (for example, a hilltop, or a stream junction). Sometimes we just practice our compass bearings and don’t use trails at all. We’ve done this during daylight, in the dark in preparation for racing overnight, in the rain, and in the snow. We have practised using a provincial park map in the winter. Other maps could be used too, such as google maps, or local park or conservation area maps. It’s important to be mindful of park rules and the need to stay on trail in some places. More tips on how to orienteer when you don’t have a map can be found on the Orienteering Ontario “About Orienteering” page. 

While COVID-19 threw a wrench into our 2020 training and racing plans, my teammates and I will train together again with precautions when it’s safe to do so. We have plans to practice our mountain biking together (and do a race), canoe (and portage!) at night, and of course participate in orienteering races. We’ll also train together this winter, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. 

Cross-country skiing at Arrowhead with Heidi – that day we skied every single trail in the park!

I’ve been tackling increasingly longer races since that first one, from less than 3 hours to nearly 14! In addition to sport specific training, as the race distance and complexity increases, we need to continue to work on nutrition strategies to keep ourselves properly fuelled, and team dynamics to make sure we can lift each other up when the going gets tough, the bugs are nasty, we hurt all over, we get lost, or we start to lose hope! Bring on the races!

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What it’s like to orienteer during COVID-19

Thankfully, orienteering is a sport that lends itself to COVID-19 restrictions. It’s outdoors, and really easy to stay away from other people – in particular when you can run a course any day or time you chose!

Join me for a 60 second overview of orienteering during these crazy times: https://vm.tiktok.com/ZSXwFM1V/

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Running the Bruce Trail End to End: Beaver Valley Section

I’ve now completed 7 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.”

Such pretty creeks and waterfalls in this section.

BEAVER VALLEY SECTION

Started the Beaver Valley section: September 14, 2019

Finished the Beaver Valley section: October 31, 2020

Run details

September 14, 2019 – Beaver Valley Ski Club to Beaver Valley Ski Club as part of the Happy Trails Falling Water marathon – covered Wodehouse Karst to Grey County Road 13 – 42k (with Kris)

September 19, 2020 – Maple Lane in Ravenna to Kolapore Grey County Road 2 – 24k (with Kris)

October 3, 2020 – Kolapore Grey County Road 2 to Grey County Road 13 – 30k (with Kris)

October 17, 2020 – Wodehouse Karst Management Area to Webwood Falls Nature Reserve – 25k (with Kris)

October 31, 2020 – Webwood Falls Nature Reserve to Walter’s Falls side trail – 24k (with Kris)

Unique “stepped” creek.

Run stats

  • # runs: 5
  • # solo runs: 0
  • # runs with my husband Alasdair: 0
  • # runs with friends: 5 (Kris!)
  • shortest run: 24k
  • longest run: 42k
  • average length of run: 29k

Run highlights

Most difficult day: The most difficult day was definitely the day my friend Kris and I covered 42k of road and trail as part of the Happy Trails Falling Water marathon. We ran (and walked!) about 31k of the main trail that day, with the rest of the race being on side trails. It was our first time racing together, and a first trail marathon for each of us. Read all about it and see pictures here.

Wildlife encounters: Other than cows, horses, birds, squirrels and dogs, we spotted a grouse in this section. And speaking of cows, we climbed a stile into a farmer’s field and were immediately approached by a very vocal cow who didn’t seem too happy to see us walking through the field. We had the cows approaching from the left and an electric fence on the right. Some kind words and a steady pace got us to the stile at the other end of the field!

One annoyed cow!

Coolest plant matter: fungi galore!

Favourite part of this section (which is one of my favourite sections so far): the waterfalls! I loved stumbling across so many unexpected cute little waterfalls, almost all of which we got to enjoy completely on our own.

Fall splendour: I covered this section entirely in the fall, with some of the lookouts providing amazing views of changing tree colours.

Some tiny flowers were still holding on for dear life…in the frost.

Best trail snack: a pear on the forest floor!

Yum.

Something I’ll remember this section for: the elevation changes! Up, down, up, down, and repeat.

Thank you volunteers for keeping us safe!

Progress so far: I was surprised to discover that I am now about 3/4 of the way along the trail!

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The one piece of gear every snap happy runner needs

If you know me at all, you know that I love to take pictures! But when I run, I don’t have quick access to my camera (read: phone) – in particular when I’m running with a small backpack and the phone is in it (as opposed to in a waist belt).

Since I’m going to be resuming my end to end runs of the very scenic Bruce Trail very soon, I needed a solution. I didn’t want an arm band holder. The other night while sewing yet another face mask, it occurred to me that I could sew a phone holder, so that’s what I did.

This is version 2.

Loops on the back mean that the chest strap just feeds through it. I wondered if it would bounce as I ran, but it wasn’t a problem at all. After testing it out, I decided to make a new, slightly wider one, so that it would be easier to put the phone into it.

Version 2 on the left, version 1 on the right.

It’s done and ready to go. Bring on the Bruce Trail!

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