Race report: Turkey Trot orienteering double header

On a sunny fall day with the temperature forecasted to reach 31 degrees Celsius, feeling like 40+ with the humidity, who wouldn’t want to run their very first orienteering double header?! I set out for Cambridge, Ontario, where the Toronto Orienteering Club and Ukrainian Orienteering Club were jointly hosting the Turkey Trot, a long-running fall classic. This would be my first time participating.

Middle Distance – Dryden Tract (Toronto Orienteering Club)

The morning race was a middle distance race set at the Dryden Tract, a trail system popular with dog walkers, whose dogs were running wildly off leash before the race began. I wasn’t bothered.

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There were 4 courses to choose from: beginner, intermediate, short advanced, long advanced. The latter two had all trails removed from the map! Each increased in length and difficulty. I registered for the intermediate course, which would be approximately 3.3 km “as the crow flies” (in other words, if you travelled the most direct route from point to point), despite the map saying 3.5k.

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Before the race begins, you need to clear your SI timing chip so new data can be added to it. You then need to check it to make sure it worked.

This was a low key event, with a very short pre-race briefing just before the race was to begin. Runners were sent off in (approximately) 2 minute intervals. I very quickly caught up to the person in front of me before we found the first control, but it wasn’t long before we separated. I overshot the 3rd control, but got back on track for the 4th and 5th. And then… control 6 happened… the distance between control 5 and control 6 was the longest between any 2 controls on my map. I wasn’t sure whether I should bushwhack my way there (750 m?), with the potential to go way off course if my bearing wasn’t accurate, or to follow the many trails. I decided on the trail route, but quickly got confused as to which trail I was on. I even asked a random hiker if he knew where we were, but he had never seen an orienteering map before, and wasn’t very helpful. Of course, if he had been helpful, then I would have been cheating! After way too long, I started considering just walking north to the road, heading back to the start/finish, and giving up! But I didn’t, and I eventually found myself very near to where I thought control 6 should be. As another racer ran by, I asked him if I was where I thought I was, and he confirmed that I was. Yay!

The rest of the race was relatively uneventful, except for me kicking a root, and ending up prone on the ground with a cut knee and elbow. Thankfully, I was fine and able to continue! After the 12th control, it was a short run to the finish. In the end I ran 5.14 km (according to my phone) in 1:36:50, and finished in 4th place out of 6 competitors. The two behind me got an “MP” result – a mispunch, meaning they either missed a control or arrived at a control in the wrong order. All the results are posted on the event page.

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As one of the younger competitors helpfully pointed out after the race, “You have a little dirt on you.”

Lessons learned:

1) Looking back on the race, I realize now that when I didn’t know where I was on the map, I would have saved a lot of time had I just travelled to the north east corner of the map (either using trails or bushwhacking). From there, I could easily have gotten back onto a trail and found control 6. Instead, I was concerned about taking the wrong trail and ending up too far south – I should have just used my compass and gone north! It took me a full 30 minutes to find control 6 (in the list below, the time on the left shows how long it took me to find the control, and the time in brackets shows the elapsed race time)!

  • control 1 4:56 (4:56) 
  • control 2 3:36 (8:32)
  • control 3 9:25 (17:57)
  • control 4 4:00 (21:57)
  • control 5 7:57 (29:54)
  • control 6 30:00 (59:54) —- YIKES!
  • control 7 6:07 (1:06:01)
  • control 8 7:11 (1:13:12)
  • control 9 3:51 (1:17:03)
  • control 10 7:53 (1:24:56)
  • control 11 4:36 (1:29:32)
  • control 12 4:27 (1:33:59)
  • finish 2:51 (1:36:50)

2) The second thing that I learned is that I should not carry the piece of paper with control descriptions in my hand, unless it is in a plastic sleeve. It was hot out, I was sweating, and I managed to rub very important information off my sheet! Not only could I barely read the symbols describing what I was looking for, but I couldn’t see the control number so wouldn’t have known if I arrived at the correct one had there not been other people around me for the last few that I could ask. If I punched the wrong control, I too would have been a “mispunch”! I will be buying an arm sleeve for future races.

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3) The third thing I learned is that I need to study all the little symbols more!

I was thankful to have run with ice cold water in my camelbak – some did the race without any water. There was a selection of fruit and cookies at the finish, along with lots of water. I compared notes with others, and then headed by car to the 2nd race site.

Sprint Distance – Wellington County Forest Little Tract (Ukrainian Orienteering Club)

The afternoon race was called a sprint race, but it was actually longer than the morning race and should have been categorized as a middle distance race (the organizers said this, not me!). People were surprised and confused that the afternoon races were longer than the morning ones. I didn’t mind. Once again, there were 4 courses to choose from, and I went with the intermediate course.

We were started in 2 minute intervals. I was one of the last to start. Right away, I found this course more runnable, and the trails more dependable! I overshot a few of the controls, and found myself arriving at controls at the same time as a woman who was walking (while I was running and walking) – she clearly had superior navigation skills! I enjoyed this race more, because I was never too far off where I thought I was on the map. If you look at the map, you’ll see that the area of the map really was a “little tract” – long and narrow.

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Despite the heat and humidity, I wasn’t too uncomfortable. I kept drinking my water, and all was good! I didn’t even face plant. In the end I found all the controls and finished in 1:14:04, running 5.3 km, a little more than the 3.5 km “as the crow flies” estimate (despite the map saying 3.8k). I finished 4th out of 5, with a mispunch behind me. Again, there was fruit and cookies at the finish.

The results for the 2 races were combined for overall results, putting me 3/5 (the 4th and 5th were mispunches). I’m not sure why more people didn’t participate in the two events. They were super fun! The trails were great, and the garter snake population healthy (I saw 5 between the two races, including a big one).

My only complaint was the lack of a toilet at the trailheads, but there were bushes…

I’m looking forward to racing again and putting some of what I learned into practice!

 

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Race report: Rev3 Niagara Falls Barrelman Swim/Bike 2017

2017 was to be my 4th time participating in the Barrelman half ironman (the only point to point triathlon in Ontario), until a tender foot forced me to switch into the swim/bike at the last minute. Too many fun things going on this fall to injure myself any more!

Saturday

Alasdair and I went to the Welland International Flatwater Centre for the pre-race briefing, picked up our race kits (quick and efficient process as always), checked our bikes into transition (where they would spend the night under the watchful eyes of the Welland Police), did a short practice swim, and watched one of the event staff (Malcolm) rescue a wayward buoy and bring it to shore. Good thing he used to be a varsity swimmer – Alasdair and I would never have caught it blowing down the recreational waterway!

We had a delicious dinner at Bravo Pizzeria and Grill in Niagara Falls, and went for a short walk to see both the American Falls (left picture) and Canadian Falls (right picture). We prepped and organized our race gear, and hoped for a good night’s sleep!

Not so much.

Sunday

Our alarm went off at 5:30 AM, and after a quick breakfast (a banana, oatmeal and yogurt for me), we left the hotel and headed for the Upper Rapids parking lot, where we would leave our car for the day. Having done this race before, we parked as close to the race site as possible to avoid a longer walk at the end of a long day, but as far as possible from the shuttle buses we were about to board.

We arrived at the race site in Welland around 7 AM, with plenty of time to set up our stuff in transition before the 9 AM race start. Since this is a point to point race, you have to be careful to leave the right things in the right places. At registration you get different bags to organize your stuff:

  • black bag to put your swim stuff in after the swim leg (wetsuit, goggles, swim cap, sunblock, etc.);
  • red bag for the things you’ll need for the run (e.g. running shoes, a hat, sunblock, gels, etc.); and
  • clear bag for whatever you want access to right after the race (e.g. a change of clothes, sandals);

Since I was doing the swim/bike, I didn’t have to worry about a red bag, but those doing the triathlon or bike/run events gave their red bags to volunteers at T1 (or at the shuttle bus at Upper Rapids), who would drive the bags to T2 and put them at your spot in transition. Just before the race I handed my clear bag to volunteers, who would have it waiting for me after the race was done.

It was really foggy first thing in the morning at the race site, but the sun came up and the fog cleared before the race began.

Just before 9 AM the US and then Canadian national anthems were played, and then the pro wave took off. Alasdair started at 9:06 and me at 9:12.

2k Swim

I decided not to follow the underwater rope (wire?) that is used to keep rowing markers in place, knowing that while it would eliminate the need to sight while swimming, it would be much more congested!

My swim started well, though my left goggle was foggy right from the start. I had no issues all the way to the first turning buoy. I was even swimming pretty straight. I turned, crossed the waterway, and turned again to swim parallel to shore. It was here that I found myself accidentally right on top of the guide wire, so I decided to just go with it and follow it as long as I could. I’m a convert. I loved not having to sight, despite twice having someone try to push me off it. It was definitely more congested, but I’m confident in my (slow) swimming ability and wasn’t too bothered by it (just annoyed). Somewhere along this stretch I noticed my hair in front of my face – somehow it had escaped the swim cap. I made the final turn and headed for shore, hoping to see a sub 50 minute swim. It wasn’t to be, though my swim went really well. As I stood up and felt my head, I realized that the swim cap was barely on my head – the tight goggle strap is all that held it on.

When I reached the transition zone I headed straight for the portapotty nearest my bike (thank you for spreading them around the transition zone this year!). I took my wetsuit off, dashed in quickly, and headed for my bike. I had a very short conversation with a few women around me, one of whom said she never has a problem finding her bike after the swim (because she’s a slow swimmer and everyone else is out on their bikes). I said it was the same for me, and another athlete commented on how we turned a negative into a positive! I slathered sunscreen all over myself, ate a banana, and took off. It was quite a long run to the mount line, since I was way in the back corner of the transition zone.

86k Bike

Due to some freshly begun road work just before race day, the bike course had to be rerouted, resulting in an 86k route instead of the planned 89. It didn’t bother me. I was going to get a PB at this race no matter what!

We were warned at the pre-race briefing that some of the road sections were rough, but that the pavement would be spray painted to flag the worst of the hazards, like potholes and freshly cut out sections of pavement.

My ride started out great, with me averaging 30 km/h for the first 30 km or so. I was pleased! Since I wouldn’t be running afterwards, I knew that I wouldn’t need to take advantage of the bottle exchange, since drinking 1 bottle of gatorade and 1 of water would be enough for me. I also carried more food than I needed, but did end up having 4 small homemade chocolate coconut balls, and 1 Endurance Tap maple syrup energy gel from the 2nd bike aid station (I grabbed it as I rode through) – wow was that ever delicious!

2017-09-17 | 2017 Rev3 Barrelman Triathlon

I’m always surprised by the super speedy guys who zoom past me on the bike course – and not early on. I noticed a couple of guys in the 40-44 age group this time, who started 6 minutes ahead of me. Did they really swim that much slower than me? Did they get a flat and have to fix it? I’ll never know!

My favourite part of the bike course (other than the last 100 metres!) is the part along Feeder Road where I get to count turtles. This year, I counted 22 painted turtles, 1 duck, 1 cormorant and 1 heron. It helps to pass the time!

I also like the section along Lake Erie, and noted this year there weren’t any white caps as I rode by!

At some point I passed a woman who yelled to me that it was her that told me during the Wasaga Beach Olympic triathlon that she had read my blog, and that I had exchanged something with her husband. I was confused, and replied, “I exchanged what with your husband?” She yelled, “Yeah!” It was after the race that I ran into her again – Kim!  – and found out that her husband Dan and I had put medals around each other’s necks at Wasaga. Mystery solved.

Later, I experienced another racing first – I rode past 12 or 13 riders on horses walking down the road. Several of the riders cheered for us as we rode by.

The remainder of the ride was pretty unremarkable, except that I started to have pain in my wrists (I’ve been doing physio for sore wrists/forearms) and had to give them a rest – more and more frequently as the race progressed. I was disappointed, because as I rested them (I don’t have aero bars), I had to slow down.

I was relieved to finally arrive on the Niagara Parkway (another scenic part of the ride), knowing that I was nearing the end of the bike course.

As I approached the dismount line, I was not for a second feeling like going for a 21.1k run! I was no longer disappointed that I was “only” doing the swim/bike. I ran to my spot in transition, even though my race ended when I crossed the mat into transition. I racked my bike, took my helmet, shoes and socks off, hit the portapotty, then walked a big loop around to the finishing chute, where I ran (slowly) to the finish line.

2017-09-17 | 2017 Rev3 Barrelman Triathlon

I happened to run in just after the 4th male finisher, who was breaking the tape for his age group. John Salt (race director) shook my hand, and I received a finisher’s hat and medal from volunteers. As usual, the volunteers at this race were stellar!

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Alasdair and all the other runners had to contend with running in very hot/humid weather, while I sat in the shade near the finish line. I also stood for a while at the bike dismount line to cheer in the last few cyclists, including one who got a flat and bent rim at 68k and proceeded to run/walk the rest of the bike course – in his bare feet! There was also Joe, who “got lost twice!”, and earlier on, Jeff, who was pulling his father in a bike trailer (and also pulled him on the swim in an inflatable boat). Very inspiring athletes all around!

Once again, John Salt and his team did a fantastic job organizing and executing this race. I’ll be back.

Stats:

  • 2k Swim: 51:13.2 (2:33 min/100 metres) (27/33 women 40+, 35/43 women, 56/78 athletes)
  • 1st 54 km of the 86k ride: 1:48:19 (29.91 km/h)
  • Next 32 km of the 86k ride: 1:10:01 (27.43 km/h)
  • 90k Bike: 2:58:19.3 (28.94 km/h) (19/33 women 40+, 26/43 women, 45/78 athletes)
  • Time: 3:55:22.6 (19/33 women 40+, 26/43 women, 45/78 athletes)

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How to plan a menu for backcountry camping

Are you considering going on a backpacking trip or a canoe trip, but aren’t quite sure what you would eat?  There are lots of things to keep in mind when you’re designing your menu, but really, it’s not that hard! You can buy everything ready to eat from the grocery store, or do like I do and prepare, cook, and dehydrate everything myself. If you’re looking for sample menus, look here.

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Fresh banana, dehydrated strawberries, kiwi and mangoes, and fresh cooked chocolate chip pancakes.

Things to consider:

  • How many people will be on the trip?
    • Some meal ideas, like individual pizzas, might work for 2 or 3 people, but not for 5 or 6 because of the length of time it takes to cook each pizza (unless you’re bringing multiple stoves or are cooking on a grill over a campfire).  Pasta, on the other hand, scales up nicely.
  • Will you be bringing food just for yourself, or sharing meal prep and cooking?
    • Be prepared to compromise on the food you eat.
  • How many days is the trip?
    • For a 2-day, 1-night trip, you could bring frozen meat for your dinner (e.g. steaks or chicken breasts), but if your trip is longer than this, you’ll have to bring other sources of protein (such as beans), or bring freeze dried or dehydrated meat or eggs. Food safety is really important. Don’t let your frozen food get warmer than fridge temperature (at or below 4 degrees Celsius or 40 degrees Fahrenheit) before you cook it.
    • Consider how long that fresh pear will last in your bag before it’s a mushy mess! Some fruits and vegetables last longer than others, such as apples, carrots, and peppers.
  • What time of year are you camping?
    • If you’re camping in the snow, you don’t have to worry about food spoiling, but remember that everything will freeze – frozen peanut butter doesn’t spread very well!
    • Will you want a hot beverage to warm you up?

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      Warming up with a bag of rehydrating fruit.

  • How many main meals a day will you have?
    • Will you have main meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner, with snacks in between? A main meal at breakfast and dinner, eating frequent snacks in between? A quick snack at breakfast and bigger meals later? I have main meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a morning snack, afternoon snack, and evening snack.
  • Will your main meals be hot meals, or will some be “cold”?
    • I always have a hot breakfast and dinner, but a no-cook lunch, which means I can eat it wherever I happen to be when I’m out exploring.
    • If you want to get going quickly in the morning, you might want to consider having a no-cook breakfast.
  • Do you want to prepare food to eat while you’re out exploring?
    • Cooking is one thing, but do you want to have to assemble meals, chop vegetables etc., or would you prefer a ready made meal?
  • Do you want to be able to eat without stopping?
    • Will you be happy to sit down and take a break from hiking or paddling, or do you want to eat something without stopping, such as trail mix or an energy bar?

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      Sometimes I pre-make this at home, wrap it up, and on the trail all I need to do is eat!

  • How much variety in your menu do you want?
    • Are you happy eating the same thing for breakfast every day, or do you like to change things up? Are you sick of oatmeal by the third morning, or is it comfort food for you? For a multi-day trip I may bring the same snack for a couple of days, but otherwise, every meal is unique.
  • Are there special dietary needs or restrictions?
    • For example, is someone on a low salt diet? Celiac? Allergic to nuts? Can’t get through a camping trip without s’mores?
    • Some meals and snacks are easy to customize for individual tastes – for example, individual pizzas can be loaded with veggies – or not! Trail mix can be heavy on the nuts – or goldfish!
  • How can you incorporate healthy foods like fruits and vegetables into your menu?
    • Dehydrated fruits and vegetables can be snacked on as is, or rehydrated to go along with meals. For example, I love eating dehydrated bananas first thing in the morning, and having rehydrated strawberries and other fruits in my hot cereal.
    • Look for prepackaged meals that include vegetables, or buy them on the side.

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      Fresh cooked pasta with rehydrated green and red peppers and tomato sauce.

  • Consider favourite snacks as a pick-me-up when the going gets tough.
    • You’re likely expending a lot of calories on your backcountry trip! A bit of junk food may be just what you need to push through a tough afternoon – or day!
  • Are you backpacking or canoeing? How much food weight do you want to carry?
    • If you’re trying to lighten your food load, consider adding freeze dried or dehydrated foods to your menu.
  • How many calories do you need each day?
    • It’s a good idea to know how much food is enough to keep you happy and energized (it may take some trial and error)! I have learned that I burn far more calories hiking than canoeing, so I need to plan accordingly.
  • What cooking equipment will you bring with you?
    • Will you be cooking on a campfire with a grill, or using a portable stove?
    • Will you have a single pot, or are you bringing a frying pan or a 2nd pot?
  • Do you plan to simply boil water to rehydrate things (such as prepackaged dehydrated meals), or will you be baking fresh bannock?
    • If you’re just boiling water, you’ll use less fuel, but there’s something to be said for freshly baked bread on the trail!
  • How much food prep and cleanup do you want to do at your campsite?
    • After a long day of hiking or paddling, will you want to assemble a complicated meal? Do you want to deal with cleaning up messy pots or pans filled with bacon grease?

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      Shelf-stable pepperettes and cheese sticks.

  • What is your budget?
    • Can you afford to buy prepackaged dehydrated meals, or will you stick to basics like oatmeal, beans, pasta and rice dishes?
  • Are you able to dehydrate your own meals?
    • Not only can you control what goes into the food you eat, but you can lighten your load too!
  • Are there things you can’t bring into the backcountry?
    • For example, at Ontario Parks, you’re not allowed to bring cans or glass bottles.
  • Is there a fire ban?
    • If fires are prohibited due to a high forest fire risk, your menu will have to change radically!
  • What will you eat if your trip runs longer than expected?
    • Plan to bring an extra meal or two, just in case!

dsc05808Examples of the food you can easily find in a grocery store or bulk food store:

  • oatmeal
  • dehydrated eggs
  • dried fruit (e.g. raisins, cranberries)
  • dehydrated fruit (e.g. apples, mangoes)
  • nuts
  • shelf stable (unrefrigerated) pepperettes
  • hard cheese (lasts for days on the trail – wrap in cheesecloth or parchment)
  • tortillas
  • crackers
  • peanut butter and other nut or seed butters
  • granola bars
  • energy bars
  • pasta
  • rice side dishes (e.g. rice and beans, or rice and veggies)
  • instant mashed potatoes
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Energy square (with a view)!

Look for a post soon on how to organize and pack the food for your backcountry trip, so that you aren’t rifling though a big bag or barrel of food each time you go to eat something, don’t take up any more room in your pack than you need to, and reduce the weight as much as possible.

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Race Report: Wasaga Beach Olympic triathlon 2017

What a difference 6 days and a calm Lake Huron can make!

I arrived at Wasaga Beach the day before the race with my husband (also racing) and my kids. We spent the afternoon at the beach, but I didn’t last too long in the water – it was quite wavy and after surfing the waves on a boogie board for a few minutes, I was feeling seasick! I was hoping that the winds would die down for race day. We picked up our race kits and headed to Owen Sound to stay with friends. For the first time, we opted to save $5 each and not get a race shirt – we have so many!

On race morning, our drive along Georgian Bay had me hopeful that the water would still be calm for our 10:30 AM race start. When we arrived at Wasaga Beach, we set up our bikes and other stuff in transition, did body marking and picked up our timing chips.

2017-08-26 | 2017 MultiSport Wasaga Beach Triathlon

Pre-race in the transition zone. [Photo credit: Irina Souiki/Zoom Photo]

I struggled into my wetsuit, careful not to make the crotch hole any bigger. The wetsuit needs to last just one more race this season before I replace it in the off-season. I will have gotten 8 years and more than 50 triathlons out of it – not bad!

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Before the triathlon even begins, the first workout is getting into an uncooperative piece of rubber. [Photo credit: Ailish]

1500m swim

I was so excited to see calm water.

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Before my warm-up swim [Photo credit: Ailish]

I was to be in the 5th and final wave, with Alasdair in the 3rd. I did a very short warm up swim, and then chatted with Alasdair and a man named Alex who was doing his very first triathlon.

Before long the first horn sounded, and soon enough, it was time for my wave to start. With higher water levels in Lake Huron this summer, there was less beach this year, but there were still the characteristic sand bars. You can be a long way out and yet still be able to stand.

I decided to start on the far right side to avoid some of the crazy congestion I have had to deal with in recent races. It worked. I swam fairly straight to the first turning buoy, drafting off another athlete for a while. I turned at the buoy, and while I felt the waves on that stretch a little bit, it was not an issue. I found the sun super bright as I breathed on the left side (next time, I would stick to right side only breathing through that section). As I made the final turn to shore, I thought I was heading for the swim exit, which in previous years I have aimed for by aiming towards yellow-roofed buildings, but I also seemed to be swimming alone. Finally, I noticed that everyone seemed to be on my left side, so I changed my angle slightly and headed their way. I suspect I wasn’t on the straight course I thought I was on and added distance. Not sure what happened. In any case, I didn’t feel seasick, so all was good!!! When I first stood up my watch said 38 something – slow, but not as slow as I expected. I actually did a few dolphin dives before standing up and walking to shore. Given that I was starting in the last wave, there weren’t many people finishing after me.

I ran up to transition, stopping at the portapotty before I reached my bike. I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see that only 3 bikes were left on the rack for women 40-44, other than my own. Two women were standing at their bikes, but I beat them out onto the bike course.

40k bike

This year the bike course changed a bit, from a looped course to an out and back. With an out and back, I would be guaranteed to see Alasdair, who had 6 minutes on me starting 2 waves before me.

My ride started well, and as I reached each 5k marker, I maintained a pace of 30 km/h. I was pretty happy with my pace! Only a couple of riders passed me (there weren’t many people starting their ride after me!), but I passed quite a few bikes. I had a gel early on in the bike, and one at 35k. I also had a bottle of gatorade. For a while I leapfrogged a woman named Lisa, who commented that we should just ride side by side (that’s “blocking” and not allowed, however, we would have made good riding partners!). There was a bit of wind but I didn’t find it too bad. At about 17.5 km (a guess based on the time elapsed so far), I spotted Alasdair, but he was passing someone at the time so he didn’t notice me. The one thing I didn’t like about the out and back was that at times there were cars passing riders in the middle of the road, with riders also passing other riders (on both sides of the road) at the same time. So 5 vehicles across and a little too congested. Right until the 25k marker I was maintaining the 30 km/h pace. From 25-35k it dropped slightly, but was over 30 km/h for the last 5k. I pushed hard until the end, and wondered what my legs would be like when I started running!

10k run

I racked my bike, removed my helmet, switched shoes, and had a quick pitstop at a portapotty before I left the transition zone. Amazingly, my legs felt good. I spotted my daughter as I started my run along the beach (at the finish line), and wondered how long it would be before I saw Alasdair. This course is 2-laps of a 5k course, and is almost entirely flat. There is 1 small hill on each loop. I had no idea what pace I was running until I hit the 1k marker. I was pleasantly surprised to see 5:45! It was around there that Alasdair passed me running the other way. I kept running, and at the 2k marker, I was feeling good and saw that my pace hadn’t changed much. I couldn’t believe my eyes when at the 3k marker I saw 5:20. I don’t remember running a 5:20 km in my life! I was careful not to go too hard, because I felt a side stitch coming on. I worked hard to change my breathing and prevented it from worsening. At one point on the run, a woman running towards me pointed at me and said, “I think I read your blog!” It helps to have our names on our bibs! On the first loop, I don’t think I took water or electrolytes from any of the aid stations, but my lips were getting really dry so on the 2nd loop I did. I spotted Alasdair around the 1k marker again, and as we approached each other (at an aid station), I heard him ask the volunteers to “hit me in the face” with water… so I finished my sip of water and hit him in the face! At that point I didn’t even know if he had seen me, but he told me after the race that the volunteers thought it was hilarious – of course they would have had no idea what we were married!

I felt great on this run and while I did spot 6:02 and 6:25 at 2 of the kilometre markers later on in the run, I managed to hold a good pace and finished with an average pace of 5:48. Not a PB, but probably a season best pace.

I spotted Alasdair and the kids as I approached the finish line, and for once felt that I could have kept running!

2017-08-26 | 2017 MultiSport Wasaga Beach Triathlon

[Photo credit: Zoom Photo]

In the end, I finished the race in 3:03:53.1. I was happy with my result. My swim was slower than I would have liked, but I had a great bike (29.59 km/h) and a super run.

Over at the table with water jugs (really cold water!) and cups, there was a pile of medals for athletes. I remembered then that this year, all finishers at Multisport Canada races get medals. However, there was no one there to give them out, so I assumed they were free for the taking. It felt rather odd to put one on myself, so instead I asked another athlete – Dan – who was standing beside me, if he’d like me to present him his medal. He said yes, so I put his on him, and he put mine on me. I then offered to put another athlete’s medal on.

Alasdair wasn’t going to take a medal, but Ailish put one on him, so he kept it!

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We packed up our stuff in transition, grabbed post race food, and then stayed for the awards.

2017-08-26 | 2017 MultiSport Wasaga Beach Triathlon

[Photo credit: Irina Souiki/Zoom Photo]

The draw prizes were at the end of the awards, and Alasdair’s name was called – he won an arm band cell phone holder. Then the watches were pulled out and I hoped that my name would be called. Nope. The last group of prizes were $150 credits for Rudy Project sunglasses. And my name was called! I am most definitely on a prize winning streak!

2017-08-26 | 2017 MultiSport Wasaga Beach Triathlon

And the prize-winning streak continues! [Photo credit: Irina Souiki/Zoom Photo]

Race Stats

  • Time: 3:03:53.1 (11/13 women 40-44, 58/104 women, 223/322 athletes)
  • 1500m swim: 38:57.2 (2:35 min/100m) (13/13 women 40-44)
  • Run up: 30 seconds
  • T1: 2:44 (includes pee break)
  • 40k bike: 1:21:06.5 (29.59 km/h) (5/13 women 40-44)
  • T2: 2:27 includes pee break)
  • 10k run: 58:08.9 (5:48 min/km) (8/13 women 40-44)

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Race report: Goderich Olympic triathlon 2017

Knowing from past experience what the waves in Lake Huron can be like, I was relieved to see that things seemed relatively calm on race morning! There were big waves at the shore, but it looked quieter further out…

Once again we decided to make the more than 2 hour drive on race morning, arriving at the race site at the Goderich main beach about 45 minutes before the race (too close for comfort in my opinion). Thankfully, it’s a small race and there weren’t big line-ups to register.

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Alasdair’s bike is the blue one behind mine.

We picked up our race kits and found spots right behind one another on the awesome wooden homemade racks. After one last pre-race picture, I headed for the water and after having my wetsuit zipped up by another athlete (Carol, who went on to finish 1st female – woohoo!), I did a very short warm-up swim. There were only a couple of people in the water at that point, because the 7:45 AM pre-race briefing was happening momentarily back in the transition zone. I headed back to transition, ran into another reader of my blog (thanks Chris from Ottawa for introducing yourself, and congrats on a great race!!), and then listened to the briefing with Alasdair.

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We headed for the water and in no time the horn sounded and all Olympic triathlon athletes started their swims! I began by whacking Alasdair with my arm before we were even fully in the water.

1k Swim

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Alasdair is top middle with no sleeves, and I’m the one just below him with my left arm out of the water. Rare that we find a picture of both of us during the swim! [Photo credit: Brandon Roorda]

While I didn’t have any issues with congestion like I have had in other races, I had other issues: the waves were bigger than they seemed! Heading away from shore, they made it hard to see the buoys. Look up while in the trough of a wave, and all you see is the next wave coming at you! Once I turned around the first buoy, it was easier to sight, but by the time I reached the next turning buoy, I was feeling motion-sick. Heading for the last buoy, I was feeling like throwing up, but never did. Turning at the last buoy, I just wanted to make it to shore! Some people love having the waves pushing you from behind straight to shore, but my stomach hates it when I’m lifted without knowing it’s coming. I was so relieved to stand up at the end of that swim!

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Amazed that my face doesn’t look pale – or green!

As I ran from the beach to the transition area, I stepped in one of the big buckets (more like a small kiddie pool) to remove the sand from my feet. I removed my wetsuit at the portapotty in transition, made a quick pitstop, reached my bike and was disappointed – but not surprised – to see that most of the bikes were already gone. I have not been swimming well this year.

42.5k Bike

I headed out on my bike, straight up the steepest hill of the bike course. It was on this hill that I first encountered a rider that I would spend the entire bike course leapfrogging.

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My leapfrogging friend.

While this course is on the hillier side, I was so relieved to be out of the water that the hills didn’t bother me! I no longer felt sick, so all was good. There was some wind to deal with, but it wasn’t too bad. I ate a delicious piece of homemade blueberry banana bread (I’m so sick of gels!), and drank about half of my bottle of gatorade.

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[Photo credit: Brandon Roorda]

There were no kilometre markers on the bike course, so I really had no idea how I was doing. At one point I asked my leapfrogging friend if he knew how far we had gone. His guess was as good as mine.

I wasn’t passed by many people on the ride, but I was so far back after the swim, there weren’t many people who could have passed me!

After another pretty big uphill, the ride winds through a residential neighbourhood and then ends with the steep hill we climbed at the beginning of the race.

I returned my bike to transition, put on my running shoes and hat, made a quick pitstop at the portapotty, and took off.

10k Run

My legs felt better than I expected them to after that hilly ride.

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Heading out on the run. [Photo credit: Vicki Denunzio]

I headed up the steep hill, but didn’t have to go all the way up, as the run route turns onto a trail, and eventually joins the Goderich to Auburn Rail Trail. It’s a gentle uphill on the way out, and a gentle downhill on the way back. Crossing the big bridge over the Maitland River, I saw a photographer for at least the 3rd time on the course. I commented to him that wherever I look, there he is! He replied, “They let me out of the penitentiary on a day pass!” Once again, there were no distance markers on the run route, but I knew how far I’d gone when I hit the aid station at the 2.5k mark. Runners were pretty spread out, so it was almost like I was out for a training run on my own at times. I can’t remember where I was when I got a high five from my leapfrogging friend, as he headed for the finish line. When I encountered Alasdair, I asked how far it was to the turnaround, and he estimated 5 minutes, so I figured that meant about 1 km. I felt like I was running slowly, but after the aid station at the turnaround point, I was forced to slow down as I dealt with a side stitch. It was on the verge of forcing me to slow down the entire second half of the run, and at one point I did stop and walk for 10 steps or so. Thankfully, it didn’t get worse and I could keep running! No matter how many spectators I asked to take my place, no one was interested! “You’re doing good girl!” was one response I got. It was a hot day, but a good part of the run course was sheltered by trees, so it was quite tolerable running in the shade.

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Nearing the finish line. [Photo credit: Vicki Denunzio]

I heard Alasdair cheer for me within the last couple hundred metres of the run. I reached the finish line in 3:14:12, and was offered the best post race refreshment ever – a freezie! Thanks so much to the “Freezie Girls”. What a great idea!! Best freezie ever!

Alasdair and I packed up our stuff, took it back to the car, then grabbed some post-race food and sat down to watch the awards. It was then that I officially met my leapfrogging friend Julian! Turns out he finished 3rd in the men 20-29 category. Nicely done Julian (and thanks for the added motivation on the ride)!! After the awards Alasdair and I headed to the finish line to cheer on the very last racer, who looked so incredibly happy to finish! Then we headed to the beach for a post-race dip!

Goderich, we’ll be back!

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Race Stats

  • Time: 3:14:12 (5/8 women 40-49, 20/29 women, 63/79 athletes)
  • 1k Swim: 29:24 (2:57/100m) (74th)
  • T1: 2:23
  • 42.5k Bike: 1:33:41 (27.2 km/h) (57th)
  • T2: 2:05
  • 10k Run: 1:06:40 (6:40 min/km) (69th)

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Race report: Subaru Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race (paddle/bike/run)

It was this past winter at a snowshoe orienteering race that I first heard about the Subaru Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race. It sounded really fun – and more importantly, doable – even for a non-mountain biker like me. My friend Rebecca was interested too, so we signed up as a female team of two canoeists (team DEFINE “LOST”). The race was to take place in and around Wiarton, Ontario, where we would paddle 4k in Georgian Bay, mountain bike 16k and trail run 6k, all the while staying within 10m of one another. It would be our first time racing in a canoe (or any boat, for that matter), but the 7th year for this race, put on by the Peninsula Adventure Sports Association. This year, it was sold out for the first time. In addition to the paddle/bike/run course that we did (the “Suntrail” or short course), there were many other options, from a paddle/bike/paddle to run/bike/run, to the Buff long course race,  which in 2016 involved a 16k kayak/32k bike/16k run/30k bike/6k run.

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Friday (Race Kit Pick-Up)

Because Rebecca and I did not own mountain bikes, we arranged through the race to rent bikes from Jolleys Alternative Wheels in Owen Sound. The very cheap rental fee actually allowed us to use the bikes for the week leading up to the race as well. We weren’t in the area so we couldn’t take advantage of this offer, but the day before the race we stopped into Jolleys to see if we could get our bikes. We wanted to check out the shifting mechanisms and ride them briefly if possible before race day! They had already been loaded onto a truck to be brought to the race site, so we just left them (even though we could have taken them), but did buy spare tubes and cartridges in case of flats. We were warned that the course was quite rocky in places and that flats were not uncommon. We also noticed that our bikes didn’t have cages on them to put drinks, but the Jolleys guy offered to add them for us!

At the Wiarton arena we signed waivers and picked up our race kits, which included lots of numbered stickers to identify our gear, and a very cool looking head buff for each of us.

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We got our rental bikes, adjusted the seat heights, and tried them out for a spin up the street. We put stickers on them, I added a bottle of gatorade to mine, then we gave them to volunteers, who loaded them onto trucks for delivery to the bike start. Since the canoe segment takes you away from the start/finish line, and you mountain bike a loop after you paddle, we had to leave all of our bike gear (helmet, shoes, any food or drinks we wanted) and run gear (shoes, hats, food) with the volunteers in a bag, because it too would be transported to the bike start/finish. The run would be a point to point, from the end of the bike to Bluewater Park in Wiarton where the race began.

We had been pretty confused – even after reading the race website – as to where we would paddle, where the transition zones were etc., but we eventually figured it out.

Later we labelled the rest of our gear, including my Swift Keewaydin 17 foot canoe, 2 whitewater kayak paddles (we were told these would be faster than canoe paddles), spare canoe paddle, bailer, throw rope, PFDs and knee pads. The paddling stuff we would bring to the race start on race morning. We also planned to wear Camelbaks for easy water access. I tucked my spare tube and CO2 canister in it.

Saturday (Race Day!)

We arrived at Bluewater Park long before the 9:30 AM pre-race briefing, and brought the canoe and all our paddling gear to the little beach. I wondered how we would all start at the same time, given there were more boats than could fit on the shore at a time, but of course we wouldn’t be starting on shore and jumping into boats! Imagine the chaos that would ensue (and stressed people falling into the water).

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Rebecca and I pre-race, with my canoe in the background.

We chatted with other athletes, including one woman named Becky who introduced herself as a reader of my blog (thanks again for saying hi!). I also found my friend Lisa, who I met while orienteering last fall. She would be participating in the kayak/paddle/run event, also on a rented mountain bike.

We talked to a spectator from the area who watches every year, and who had binoculars that Rebecca borrowed to scope out the paddle course!

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Rebecca scoping out the course.

At the pre-race briefing, the risk of injury, snake bites, bear attacks, and DEATH was repeated multiple times. Someone asked if it was too late to get their money back! Actually, the entire briefing was pretty funny. It was explained to us that the kayak men would go first, then 5 minutes later the kayak women, then 5 minutes later all tandem boats (canoe or kayak). We were also told to get to shore if we saw lightning or heard thunder while paddling.

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Lisa and I pre-race.

The 4k Paddle

I gave Lisa a gentle push to get her into the water, and then Rebecca and I got into the canoe. I was wearing my sandals so that I could get wet feet. Rebecca was wearing her running shoes so we attempted to keep her feet dry.

A horn sounded and the race began! We watched the men leave from the pier, heading to an orange buoy by the marina, then turning and heading north, “within swimming distance of shore”. We lost sight of them but they then headed straight across the water toward a grassy farmer’s field. We didn’t know exactly what the take-out spot would look like.

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Waiting for the horn to sound. [Photo by Tammy Cruickshank]

Just after the 2 minute warning for our race, a canoe to the left of us tipped over and the occupants fell out! A rescue boat was called, but our race began. I’m not sure if they raced or not.

Rebecca was in the bow and me in the stern. The horn sounded and off we went, Rebecca using my whitewater paddle, and me using Kev’s!

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And we’re off! [Photo by Tammy Cruickshank]

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Heading for the marina. [Photo by Tammy Cruickshank]

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Heading for a small orange buoy. [Photo by Tammy Cruickshank]

Having never raced a canoe before, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. We practised once canoeing with kayak paddles, but not paddling quickly! In any case, it went well. The boats spread out after a short time, with just a little bit of congestion at the first (and only) turning point at the orange buoy. We both kept sliding off our seats while kneeling, having to adjust quickly to not lose too much power. I switched it up a bit and paddled while sitting, but went back to my knees for additional power. Sometimes I whacked the gunnel with my paddle. When Rebecca’s watch beeped that we’d reached the 1k mark, we were almost 15 minutes in. I wasn’t sure I could keep that pace up for another 45 minutes! We caught up to a few kayaks, and were only passed by one canoe once the main straightaway paddle was underway. I couldn’t imagine paddling 16k like the long course racers did earlier that morning!! At some point, it started to rain, but it didn’t last long. I was doubting Rebecca’s watch, because it seemed we had paddled more than 2k, but it hadn’t beeped again.

We knew to head for a white building, but didn’t know exactly where we were going. We just followed the boats in front of us, and eventually saw people on shore. Thankfully, the watch was wrong and we had gone further than it thought! As we got close, we saw that all we had to do was jump out of the boat, and volunteers would carry it away with all our gear in it! One of the volunteers was happy to be lifting a light canoe! We followed the boat and threw our PFDs into it, then put our race bibs and Camelbaks on and started the 300m run (uphill!) to the bike start. The paddle took us 39 minutes.

The 16k Mountain Bike Ride

As inexperienced mountain bikers, we weren’t quite sure what we were getting into on the bike course, but the people who originally told us about this race said that anyone could do it. Before we reached our bikes, I made a pitstop at a portapotty. Throughout the race volunteers recorded our times as we reached certain points. I was wearing a timing chip (for our team) but we didn’t cross any timing mats until the finish line. We were relieved to find our bikes and our gear bags waiting for us. I put on knee length socks (recommended by the race organizers), trail running shoes, and my helmet, and we headed out. I forgot to eat the blueberry banana bread I had in my gear bag!

The course started out in a grassy field, but quickly became rocky – very rocky! So rocky that you couldn’t avoid the rocks, though we tried our best. The path was wide enough to allow for passing of slower riders, but we had to be careful in the first section because the lead cyclists could be coming the other way (we never saw any). Over the course of the ride we also rode through farmer’s fields, along a gravel road (when I took the opportunity to have a really yummy salted caramel gel), over grass and dirt, and through a very neat section of single track small rolling hills (1 to 2 feet drops), which also curved tightly around trees and rocks. This was my favourite bit of the whole race. So fun, but we had to be careful not to hit rocks or trees with our pedals. A few times over the ride we had to get off our bikes and walk them, the first time when we encountered a log across the path (others could have jumped it, but I wasn’t willing to try it). I managed to drink most of my gatorade during the ride, but had to carefully time my drinking, so as not to crash while taking a hand off the handlebars!! The bike took us about an hour.

The 6k Trail Run

We racked our bikes, removed our helmets, put on hats, and took off. The run would take us partly on the Bruce Trail, and back to the finish line. Some of the trail was quite rocky, so we walked a few times. We also stepped carefully over the many gaps in between rocks (mini chasms), which could have been deadly if not seen! It was near the beginning of the run that I saw lightning in the distance and heard thunder (turns out the people doing the short course paddle/bike/paddle had to run back instead of do a 2nd paddle). The run was also quite muddy in places, but very peaceful. We didn’t see any other runners until the last couple of kilometres when we caught a few. At two different spots we had to climb up and over stiles between fields. And at one point, we had to descend a long, narrow, tight, circular steel staircase descending the Niagara Escarpment. This was followed immediately by a rocky/wet descent in which you had to hold a wet, steel railing and try not to fall! At this point we thought we had about 2k to go, but volunteers said we had 3k to go. We passed a few runners in the last couple of kilometres, and while Rebecca tried to get me to run faster, I wasn’t quite able to pick up the pace. The run took us 46 minutes. We crossed the finish line in 2:42:04.5.

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At the finish line! [Photo by Tammy Cruickshank]

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Rebecca, Lisa and I post-race.

After a quick dip in Georgian Bay to feel refreshed, we enjoyed a lamb burger and then a free massage! We headed to Tim’s for a drink, and then went to the arena to see if our stuff was back yet. It wasn’t, so we walked back to the finish area and watched as other athletes finished. Rebecca checked the results page and discovered that we had finished 2nd out of 8 teams of female canoeists! We had already planned to stay for the awards, but as Rebecca said, we really had to stay now! We also wanted to stay for the draw for the 2 mountain bikes – one for a male participant, and one for a female.

Race stats:

  • Total time: 2:42:04.5 (2nd/8)
  • 4k paddle: 39:27.2 (2nd/8)
  • Run to transition (including removing Camelbak, race bib, lifejacket, putting race bib and Camelbak back on): 5:00.2 (4th/8)
  • T1 (including pee break): 2:33.4 (4th)
  • 16k bike: 1:07:08.7 (3rd/8)
  • T2 (including pee break): 1:18.1 (1st/8)
  • 6k (closer to 7k) run: 46:36.6 (3rd/8)

Eventually all our stuff was back at the arena, so we loaded it into and onto our vehicle. I have to say that while we had a little trouble finding the information we needed on the website, the race was superbly well organized and the volunteers were fantastic!!

Finally the awards began. We were called up and stood on the tree stump podiums for a picture. In addition, we each received a prize from the prize table. I chose a $20 gift certificate for Suntrail Source for Adventure in Hepworth, an outdoors store that I’m looking forward to visiting soon!

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After the short course awards, it was time for the long course awards. We stayed, because in order to win the bike, you had to be there if your name was drawn. The first name was drawn, and the man said something along the lines of “I wonder how many Lauras are in the crowd.” He read the last name and no one claimed the bike. He drew another name and said, “Kyra. Is there a Kyra in the crowd?” I put my hand up. I was pretty sure I’d be the only one! He read my last name, and I headed up to claim my prize! Woohoo!! I was the proud new owner of a DeVinci Jack S WF mountain bike, donated by Bikeface Cycling in Owen Sound. What’s weird is that I really felt that I was going to win it!

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Rebecca and I had a blast doing this race! I will definitely be back!! Thank you Peninsula Adventure Sports Association for such a fun day!

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A first timer’s experience participating in the Canadian Orienteering Championships!

Ten months ago I attended my very first navigation clinic. This past weekend, I participated in the Canadian Orienteering Championships! Little secret here – you don’t need to qualify to participate! Regardless, I’ve gone from learning the absolute basics to competing in an event with doping control in a very short period of time!

This year’s Canadian Orienteering Championships were held in the Perth, Ontario area, and were hosted by Orienteering Ottawa. In fact, there were orienteering events from July 29 to August 7, from Montreal to Ottawa to Perth, as part of O-Fest 150. I was only able to participate in the middle and long distance races, held on Saturday August 5th and Sunday August 6th respectively. There was also a sprint distance race, a relay, a night race, and more!

The night before the middle distance race, I stayed with friends in the Ottawa area, and with all of them racing as well, we studied maps and map symbols, and I felt a little like I was cramming for an exam! How many more squiggly lines can I memorize and then recall under pressure while lost in the woods the next day?

For each race that I would be doing, I had to decide which course I would run when I registered a couple of months ago. Being relatively new to orienteering, I had no idea what “level” I was at, or which course I should choose. Each course had different controls printed on the same map, varying in difficulty. Did I want to race in my age category for awards, or in an open class where I could pick the level of difficulty likely better suited to my abilities? I consulted with a friend and with Meaghan from Don’t Get Lost, who also happens to have taught me most of my orienteering skills. They both suggested open 3, which was described as “intermediate difficulty and longer distance”. Compare this to open 1, which is entirely on trails (no off-trail bushwhacking/searching required).

The Canadian Orienteering Championships would also be my first time with a non-mass start (i.e. in this case, 3 athletes would start at a time, but they might all be running different courses, so you couldn’t just follow the person in front of you), and my first time using control descriptions in symbol format (I’m used to text descriptions like “re-entrant” or “valley”), and not little pictures (such as dots, triangles, and parallel lines). It would also be my first experience getting the map at the start line, with no ability to study it or plan a route beforehand.

Race Report: Middle Distance Race

We arrived at the Foley Mountain Conservation Area with plenty of time to park, catch a school bus to the “arena” (essentially “race central” – it was outdoors), get ourselves organized, chat with others (including other Don’t Get Lost athletes), and wait for our turn to start. I also had to sign a waiver and pick up my race packet and t-shirt. Everything was very well organized. I can only imagine the planning (and manpower!) required by Orienteering Canada and Orienteering Ottawa to host an event like this! My start times were listed on my race packet envelope, but also helpfully printed on my race bib. It was neat to be able to look at bibs and see which orienteering clubs people belonged to. There were competitors from across Canada, the US, England, Australia, Hungary, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Ukraine and more!

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My friend Kristi was starting 12 minutes before me, and since she has competed in these events before, she taught me the ropes! I had read tips for first timers at the Canadian Orienteering Championships, but never did wrap my head around the clock running 3 minutes ahead until Kristi explained it and I saw it for myself!

The middle distance race (open 3 class) would be 2.4 km if you were to run as the crow flies from the start to the first control, then second, etc. until you reached the finish line. The controls had to be found in order. But I rarely run directly from point A to point B, so the distance I covered would be longer – the more lost I got, the more distance I would cover!

Not only were there athletes of varying skill levels, but also of varying ages! There were age categories from 10 to 85+! In fact I sat on the bus with a man name Alex who has been orienteering for 42 years!

We headed to the start line very early, so that I could see how everything worked. While standing watching the action, a woman said to me, “I love your blog!” She was new to orienteering and had just discovered it a couple of weeks ago. That was neat!

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My friend Kristi and I at the start line.

Essentially, the race start goes like this:

  • 3 people have the same start time listed on their race bib. You may be running a different course than the athletes starting with you.
  • You should arrive at least 10 minutes before your start time, to make sure you are not late! We had to walk 500m to the start.
  • When you reach the small gathering of people near the start, “clear” and “check” your SportIdent card (SI card). The SI card is the electronic device you wear on your finger and place in each control as you find it so that the computer at the control registers you were there. Clearing and checking your SI card is to ensure all previous data is deleted (when the machine beeps, you know it worked). You can rent or buy SI cards.
  • When the clock matches the time on your race bib (for me, 12:48), present yourself to the race volunteers. They will confirm your name and the number on your SI card. They might also confirm that you have a whistle. They won’t ask if you have a compass, but if you don’t, you’re in trouble! Wait where you are. NOTE: When the clock says 12:48, it’s actually running 3 minutes early, because it takes 3 minutes for you to pass through the steps to get to the actual start line and the beginning of your race. So if I looked at my watch, it would have said 12:45.
  • One minute later – there is a 5 second beeping countdown, then a long beep on every minute (12:49 on the clock for me), move to the next “corral”, where you pick up the control descriptions for the course you are running. You need to know which course you are running. So for me, I took a little piece of paper from the “open 3” bag. At this point, you can look at it. Wait where you are.
  • One minute later (12:50 on the clock for me), move to the next corral, where you pick up your race map. There will be bins on the ground, possibly odd numbered courses on the left, even on the right like this weekend. Maps are face down in the bins, so you can’t see them. You have to write your name on the back of your map (making sure you grab the map from the right bin). Then you show the map to a volunteer and say, “Map 3?” and the volunteer  says, “Yes, map 3”. Wait where you are.
  • Finally, one minute later (12:51 on the clock for me), your race begins. You are able to turn the map over and look at it for the first time.

The volunteers told us that the start flag (marked by a triangle on the map) was 25m up the trail. You couldn’t see it from the start line. I had been warned to start slowly, to walk, to make sure I knew where I was on the map, and to begin cautiously so as not to get lost (and flustered!) right off the bat. My goal was to find all the controls within the allotted time (2 hours), and to hopefully not finish last!

Scan 17

Despite starting cautiously, I had trouble finding control 1, and wondered what I was in for! Things got better, but it was harder than I anticipated. There were hardly any trails to use to navigate, and the running was very difficult on the super rocky ground!! I was bushwhacking through poison ivy, raspberry bushes, big logs, little twigs, and all kinds of trees. I got a soaker crossing a creek, and gave up even attempting to keep my feet dry. It was the first time that I was using an arm band to hold control descriptions, and I was forgetting to look at my arm. Instead, I was unfolding my map to see where the next control was (e.g. on top of a hill, or in a depression, beside a cliff, etc.). Thankfully, I remembered to look at the number on each control as I found it, to make sure it was the one I was looking for! For example, control 1 for me was actually marked 123, which my list of control descriptions told me. If you punch the wrong control by accident, or miss one, you get a “mis-punch” and don’t get an official finish. It was when I started looking for control 5 that I got completely turned around – and then, I was stung on my neck at my hairline by a yellow jacket or something equally painful. I tried swatting it away with my map but it was too late! I asked another athlete generally where we were, and got myself back on track. At some point, I caught up to Kristi and we worked together for a little bit. I crossed the finish line 1:40:56 after starting the race, having found all 11 controls. There were just 8 people in the open 3 class, and only 3 of us finished. I ended up with the shortest time, so I was in first place (and Kristi third). It’s a non-competitive class though, so no medals for us! It was fun, but challenging!

After crossing the finish line (and punching the control), you have to put your SI card into another reader to download your results. Then you get a paper printout showing the controls you found, the length of time it took to find each one, and the time elapsed since your race began. After the race, athletes compare maps, printouts, and stories!

Just past the finish line there was water, iced tea, bananas and oranges for athletes, and other food for purchase (BBQ and baked goods). We stayed for the awards, and then headed out. It was after my shower that I discovered I had made a friend – my first ever tick friend, attached to my ankle. It was tiny. Kristi got rid of it with her tick remover. I vowed to wear longer socks the next day (there had been a gap between my pants and socks).

Race Report: Long Distance Race

The next morning we returned for the long distance race. I knew I was in for a longer race, but wasn’t sure what the terrain would be like. I was hoping for more runnable terrain, no yellow jackets, and no ticks!

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At the start, ready to go.

This time I would start before Kristi. In fact, my group of 3 was a Don’t Get Lost group, with the other 2 athletes (Starr and Christian – remember my Christian Pole Dancing?) also from Don’t Get Lost.

When it was time for me to turn over my map, I found the start triangle and started walking.

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It took me longer to find the first control, but overall, I did better on the navigation in this race compared to the middle distance race. However, one control took me 26 minutes to find! I could not for the life of me match what I was seeing to the map I was holding! I backtracked and eventually it all made sense. On another control, I set my compass to south instead of north, and headed 5 minutes in the wrong direction! Thankfully I realized my error and went back to the last control, starting over to find the next one! At one point (going to control 8), I crossed a very swampy marsh, which soaked my feet and was challenging to cross! The plants were super tall, and I didn’t have much of a path to follow – there was a bit of one, but then it disappeared. That was slow going! I came upon a boy at one point who asked me where we were. He told me that he was “scared to death”. We spent a few minutes running together and ended up at a road that we weren’t expecting – and didn’t want. Not all the trails were on the map, so this confused us! We studied our maps and figured out where we were, backtracked, followed the map features, and eventually knew where we were when he found the control he was looking for. Later, I helped a woman by showing her where I thought I was. Unsurprisingly (given the terrain), I rolled my ankle at some point, but it was fine and I plodded on!

This time, it was Kristi who caught up to me – at control 10. Number 9 is the one I spent 26 minutes finding, so it’s no surprise she gained those 6 minutes back (she started 6 minutes behind me). From that point on the controls were pretty easy to find. I crossed the finish in 2:03:56, and knew that Kristi was right behind me. Turns out she beat me by 37 seconds!

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The long distance race was definitely more runnable, and I was able to use trails quite a few times to find controls. I didn’t anger any yellow jackets, and didn’t make any tick friends! I enjoyed the race!

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Nice technical race shirt!

Overall Thoughts

  • The orienteering community is super welcoming. It was great to hear the different languages and accents of participants, and to talk to people from other countries who came here to compete.
  • You don’t have to be an orienteering superstar to participate in – and enjoy – the Canadian Orienteering Championships. Case in point – me.
  • If you’re super competitive, orienteering is a terrific sport to test both your mental and physical toughness.
  • If you love to learn, you’ll enjoy orienteering. I continue to learn something new each time I race. I noticed this weekend that I was not holding my compass straight (it was level, just not straight), so that the direction of travel arrow was pointing slightly to the right. This meant that I would not end up where I intended to! The more distance I covered between controls, the further I would potentially be from my planned destination! Next time I’ll be paying close attention, until I am consistently holding it properly.
  • You’re never too old to orienteer!

Orienteering Canada and Orienteering Ottawa, thanks for a great first experience at the Canadian Orienteering Championships. I’ll be back!!

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