Wilderness Traverse: adventure racing from a volunteer’s perspective

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a 24-hour adventure race, volunteer at race headquarters (HQ) all weekend and you’ll see the good, the bad, and the ugly, not to mention the hilarious, inspiring, and satisfying! I had the pleasure of doing just that at Wilderness Traverse in 2018, a race which saw teams of 3 or 4 cover 150k of terrain by trekking, biking, and canoeing. Some teams chose to swim on the trek section, and at least one racer in as little clothing as possible (he wore only the race bib – on the bottom!).

While I was at race HQ all weekend, I was able to follow along with the racers by “watching the dots” on the computer screen (each team had a GPS tracker), and by getting news from volunteers around the course (50 volunteers in total, and 48 teams racing), which included pictures of teams as they passed by.

Pre-race planning by an unknown team.

Along with a few other savvy ladies, we provided race assistance and play by play commentary and updates as the race progressed, keeping friends and loved ones at home (and in some cases around the race course) up to date on what was happening. It was exhausting but super fun. 

With Ashleigh and Barb.

It was fascinating to see the logistics of a race like this, which is described on the website as “one of the toughest team-based endurance challenges around and simply reaching the finish line is a massive achievement”. 

Race Director Bob Miller has a whole team of volunteers helping to make this race a reality.

I love volunteering at races (see my post on why you, too should volunteer), and I figured that spending time at Wilderness Traverse would be a great way to prepare for my own eventual attempt at racing it!

I decided to do it again in 2019, this time manning a remote checkpoint in the Haliburton Highlands Water Trails, which the teams would arrive at by foot.

My friend and future Wilderness Traverse teammate Heidi agreed to come with me. On the Friday night, we volunteered at race registration.

At race registration.

I took team photos, and Heidi gathered interesting tidbits from each team. We slept in our tent in a park across the road from the Dorset Recreation Centre (race HQ), and after breakfast on race morning, we watched the 8 AM start of the race.

Bumper boats at the race start!

Then we set out for our remote campsite (Checkpoint/CP 16) on Upper Crane Lake, with one little stop on the way to set out CP 15 (anyone remember CP 15?!).

Just one of the race maps.

We parked my van at an old logging road, took a compass bearing and headed south-east towards Three Brothers Lake. For some reason, it never occurred to me to pack trail running shoes for the weekend, so I bushwhacked in the only shoes I had with me – my sandals! It took us far longer than we expected it to, and we did it during broad daylight. Most teams would do this trekking section in the dark. We were hot, and despite having put bug repellent on, we were getting eating alive!!

We eventually found the blue ribbon that Bob had said would mark the spot where the checkpoint should go… but it was on the ground, not attached to a tree! Luckily, it hadn’t blown away. We hung the flag and SI reader and then headed back to the van.

We drove to the Bentshoe Lake access point, carried the canoe and all our gear across the road, loaded up the boat, and set out! This was Heidi’s very first backcountry canoe trip. We had 4 big packs with us, way more than I would normally take on a canoe trip – but we were carrying lots and lots of treats for the racers! We counted this as our first Wilderness Traverse training session together – Heidi portaged a canoe for the first time!

Based on Bob’s estimates, we knew that the lead team wouldn’t reach our checkpoint until at least 10 PM, and that teams would continue to arrive until 8 AM! Of course, this meant that we too would be staying up all night! We decided not to bring a tent with us – we wouldn’t have time to sleep! We did bring our sleeping bags in case we got cold.

We paddled to the portage into Lower Crane Lake, and then after a short portage, paddled through that lake into Upper Crane Lake and to our campsite. We had our lunch, swam, and gathered tons of wood so that we could keep a fire going all night long.

At some point, another volunteer paddled by in his canoe. I can’t remember now where he was stationed during the race.

Wood and treats ready to go!

We had great cell service at our campsite, so we were able to use the race apps to follow the progress of all the teams, and to communicate with race HQ. We had dinner, and were treated to the most gorgeous sunset!

We decided to try to have a nap. We had set up our thermarests and sleeping bags and settled in! I set an alarm so that we weren’t asleep when the racers arrived! When my alarm went off (I hadn’t fallen asleep), I checked where the teams were, and re-set my alarm. At some point, I did fall asleep, because my alarm woke me up, and when I checked where the teams were, I thought, “Oh no!” I got up quickly and woke Heidi up. She had been out cold and started speaking to me in German (I don’t speak German!). I thought the first team would be there any minute, but it actually took quite a while. We lit our campfire, set out all the goodies (cookies, candies, and s’mores fixings!), and waited with baited breath! Well, we might have also eaten our fair share of the treats as a matter of quality control while we waited.

We heard many owls calling to one another while we waited for teams to arrive.

At one point, we freaked ourselves out when we saw a bright light through the woods in a direction that no team should be arriving at our checkpoint from. We wondered who was in the woods behind our campsite. We couldn’t hear anything. It was unnerving. Eventually, the light got bigger, and higher, and we realized it was… the moon!!!

Eventually (after midnight!), we heard voices and spotted headlamps coming down a hill across the lake from us. And then we made out French accents. As they got closer, we heard them discussing whether they were going to swim. They did. It was incredibly cool (and exciting!) to see them swimming across the lake, a distance of probably 25m or so. They made their way through the woods to us, inserted their SI stick into the SI reader, and took off! No idle chatter or food for them. We were a little disappointed but we understood. They were on a mission! The next team wouldn’t arrive for more than an hour.

Speaking of disappointment, when we learned that only the teams on the full course would reach our checkpoint, we wished that our checkpoint was earlier on in the race course. While there were 45 teams registered, we knew that the majority of teams would be pushed onto short courses (due to not making certain time cut-offs).

The next team arrived more than an hour later. And then, as the hours passed, the teams ate more and spent slightly more time at our checkpoint. It was really interesting to see their route choices. Some came to us from the south, and some from the north. Some chose to swim, but the majority didn’t. At least one team overshot our campsite, and then eventually returned.

We made sure that for each team’s approach, we had a good fire going, so that if they were wet and cold, they could warm up.

There were a few teams in particular that I hoped to see, because I knew people on them. Before the race started I had heard Kelly from Spinning out of Control say that she’d love a coffee on course. And then I found out that Heidi had packed a bit of instant coffee. When we discovered that Sunday was Kelly’s birthday (the race started on Saturday), I knew we had to have a coffee ready for her arrival! I had been watching their dot all day and night, with my friend John also on the team. And then we saw on the race Facebook page that they had been redirected to a short course (and wouldn’t reach our checkpoint after all). I was so disappointed! But then we saw their dot move… and it continued to come closer to us. And then, around 6 AM, they got close, and we could hear John’s laugh.

When they arrived at our site, not only did we get to wish Kelly a happy birthday, but we got to give her a mug of hot coffee! She was very appreciative.

The birthday girl and her cup of coffee.

After munching on some snacks, they headed out. We wished them well and hoped they would make it to the finish line (they did!).

The sun came up and teams were still arriving at CP 16. Over the course of the night we heard how much trouble some teams had finding CP 15, the one we set out (and the one they visited before coming to us). We weren’t surprised!

We had so much food that we encouraged teams to take some with them, more so as the last few teams came through. One was completely out of food, so they were very grateful.

We did make s’mores for some teams, and one racer even made one for himself. I hand fed another racer whose hands were too dirty (you’re welcome Chris L!).

In the end, I think we had 12 teams come through our checkpoint.

Planning how to get to CP 17.

When the last team left our campsite, we packed up our things, and waited until we were told by race HQ that we could leave. We set out for CP 15 to collect the flag and SI reader, this time by canoe. We had trouble finding the place we intended to leave the canoe, trouble finding the path we wanted, and after a while of seemingly getting nowhere (or getting nowhere fast!) , we wondered whether it would have been better to just park at the logging road and get to CP 15 the same way we had originally put it out. But it was too late by then. It seemed to take forever, with us having to add distance to avoid climbing and descending super steep hills. We made it there, eventually! And then we headed back to the canoe, paddled to the takeout, and loaded up the van.

We went back to race HQ, dropped off the flags and SI readers, had some post-race food, and drove home!

We had so much fun at CP 16.

In 2020, Heidi, Rebecca and I will be at the start line to take on Wilderness Traverse ourselves!

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Race report: Paris to Ancaster 70k (2019)

This was to be my 2nd time riding the Paris to Ancaster 70k race (2018 edition here), in weather that a few days beforehand promised a little bit of everything, from rain and snow to wind. But on race day the clouds cleared and the forecast was a high of 11C with not a lot of wind. Perfect for a spring bike race!

After parking my vehicle at Ancaster High School, I made a last minute decision to ditch my thicker gloves, then rode my bike across the street to the Morgan Firestone Arena, where I handed it over to volunteers loading bikes onto trucks for transportation to the start line. I walked away from the truck and immediately realized that I probably shouldn’t have left my race nutrition in the crossbar pouch, because it has a habit of opening up and emptying… but I optimistically decided that I would be fine, because even if I lost that food, I had more in my hand to eat before the race, and there would be food on course.

I found a seat on the school bus around 7:30 AM, then felt a tap on my shoulder – it was Erik, who I met last year at the Steaming Nostril 65k. He invited me to sit with him, which meant that I had someone to pass the time with before our 10:30 AM race start!

It was a little chilly at Green Lane Sports Complex in Paris while we passed the time, but once the clouds lifted, it warmed up a bit! I was dressed to ride, not stand around. I was relieved to find that my race nutrition stayed put during the drive to Paris.

We made a new friend – Kevin – who was riding the 70k for the first time (years ago he did the race when it was 60k).

Finally, it was time to head to the start line!

We were in the 4th and final wave, also affectionately known as the party wave. When the gun sounded, we took off! The actual race route varies slightly each year depending on weather, land permissions, and the condition of the roads, and the 70k distance is approximate!

What follows is a general description of my race, including the type of terrain ridden and very approximate distances (looking at my Garmin map data, which marks every 5k of distance). Some of the race course is on private land, so please do not ride this course without knowing which parts are which!

KM 0-10 – Green Lane Sports Complex to the Cambridge to Paris Trail

I’m not used to riding in packs, so I was careful at the beginning not to get caught up in tight traffic. There was a crash off to the left just 100-200m into the race, with several riders going down. Hopefully they were uninjured and able to continue!

A short ride on gravel roads led to the double track Cambridge to Paris Trail, which runs along the Grand River. Because it is so early in the race, it can be quite congested with lots of passing going on. I found that people were pretty good about signalling their intent to pass (with hand gestures or verbal cues), and even polite about letting others pass. I rode on the right hand side of the path, road or trail for the entire race except when I was passing. I found it quite frustrating at times when people rode on the left or side by side preventing passing. In any case, this was a pretty part of the course.

First farm lane after the first trail. [Photo by Apex Photography]

KM 10-24 – Road, with a short farm lane section (I think)

Leaving the trail was the first time I saw people getting off their bikes and walking. I rode up the loose gravel hill and continued along a farm laneway.

Around 15k I had an Endurance Tap gel.

KM 24-25 – Muddy farm

At this point we turned off the road into a farm, and through a farmer’s field. “You’re going to like this!” is what I heard. This was the first real section of mud, and my strategy was to follow the rider in front of me – she seemed to be handling the mud just fine, so I figured if she could do it, I could too. And then she unclipped and starting walking, but I continued. I got pretty hot in this section, thinking I was overdressed!

KM 25-27 – Road

I can’t remember anything remarkable about this section.

Whee! There I go! [Photo by Apex Photography]

KM 27-29 – Muddy lane

As soon as I turned onto this muddy lane I remembered it from last year, and was determined to ride straight through the inevitable mud again this year! Many people were walking, but I put my bike into the granny gear and pedalled as hard as I could. Slow down too much and I knew I would lose traction and topple over! I had a death grip on my handlebars, and I kept yelling again, “Coming through!” so those walking didn’t block me by stepping in front of me. A woman behind me started cheering for me, saying “spin! spin!” and “go! go! go!” and I don’t remember what else. At one point I asked her if I should spin as fast as possible and she said “yes!” and “as straight as possible!” It was exhausting pushing hard through that mud, but super rewarding to make it all the way through! Once we got onto the road I thanked her for cheering me on and she said that she was cheering as much for herself as for me!

KM 29-32 – Road to Harrisburg aid station

I pulled into the Harrisburg aid station after 1 hour 30 minutes, which was 10 minutes faster than last year. I quickly used a portapotty, topped up my water bottle, ran into Erik (who beat me there), ate a cookie and a banana, and got back on my bike.

KM 32 – 35 – A rail trail (including alternate route)

Erik reminded me that shortly after leaving the aid station, we would hit a backlog of riders on a rail trail type path, because the course leaves the trail and heads down a steep hill to the road. As I got close to this spot, sure enough, people were bunched up and walking. Another rider that I know from adventure racing (Anne) came up behind me and was clearly wanting to ride it (“I have a mountain bike” she said.). Then I saw a sign that said ALTERNATE ROUTE, and something about having to ride down the steep hill or walk down the hill on the other side of the bridge (I don’t think the sign actually said all that!). Anne went for the steep, muddy, curvy downhill ride and so did I! We got ahead of quite a few (walking) riders by doing that. I had to unclip at the very bottom when I reached a couple of huge boulders, but then I was on my way again!

KM 35 – 40 – Road

It was in this road section that another rider pointed out to me that my key was falling out of my back pocket! What a disaster that would have been! So thankful that he noticed it and told me!

Entire P2A 70k route.

KM 40 – 41 – Muddy lane

I found this next muddy lane more rideable this year, but I nearly took another rider down when a rut in the thick gooey mud swung me right and nearly into the path of another rider. I yelled “sorry! sorry! sorry!” but he was thankfully able to avoid me and we both stayed upright. PHEW! I also had to unclip quickly at one point when a rider fell right in front of me – I thought I too was going down!

KM 41 – 56 – Road (with a 1k section of rail trail)

The next section was quite boring, but I was still feeling good! I think it was in this section that I discovered I had lost two gels from my crossbar pouch. I had another one.

KM 56 – 64 – Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail

Once I turned onto the rail trail, I felt like I was in home territory. The majority of my pre-race training rides included this part of the rail trail.

At 58k I reached another aid station (on the trail), which I considered riding straight past but decided to stop for. I ate a cookie and some super yummy oranges slices, then headed out once again. I felt like I got a 2nd wind and felt strong heading into the last part of the race.

KM 64 – 65 – Road

Once I left the rail trail, there was a short road section until we reached Highway 52, where I had to wait with other riders for a couple of minutes (less than 5) before the police stopped the traffic for us. This was the only time during the race where I had to wait for traffic. At this point I heard someone say that there were 1.6 km to go, which I knew was wrong, so I told him and others that based on what the people at the last aid station said, we had about 8k to go!

KM 65 – 66 – Mineral Springs Mud Chute

I don’t think it’s quite possible to understand the two mud chutes in this race until you try to ride them. I’m sure the riders at the very front of the pack can make their way through them, but by the time 2,500 or more riders go through before me, they are quite unrideable! The vast majority of people around me walked down the mud chute, though some – like me – made a valiant attempt at the start. I managed to go for a short ways before I fell over onto my left side. And then I walked. Many people carried their bikes to keep them out of the worst of the mud, but my bike is far too heavy to do that. So I tried to keep it as far to the side of the mud chute as I could.

Through the Mineral Springs mud chute. [Photo by my dad]

I knew that my parents would be waiting for me at the bottom, and sure enough, they were! However, I came through so much earlier than expected that they nearly missed me.

There was no lineup at the power wash station, so a volunteer did a quick clean of my bike and I was on my way again.

Quick power wash! [Photo by my dad]
Thought this was going to be Gatorade. Nope. Water! [Photo by my dad]

KM 66 – 67.5 – Road and jujube

On Powerline Road there were a few volunteers handing out jujubes, so I grabbed a couple and in trying to chew the first one cracked my jaw something fierce!

KM 67.5 – 68 – Powerline Road Mud Chute

And then it was time for the second of the mud chutes. This one I didn’t even attempt to ride. What a mess! Thick, goopy mud!

KM 68 – 70 – Trail and Mineral Springs Road

I cleaned some mud and debris off my bike, and as soon as I could, I got back on my bike and started to ride. I think this section was a little different this year, because I don’t remember riding Mineral Springs Road around the hairpin turns last year. I may be wrong!

KM 70 – 71.7 – Martin Road and the Martin Road hill

And then, I reached Martin Road, which would take me to the finish line. I was determined to make it up the steepest part of the hill just before the finish, but I did unclip near the beginning to avoid wiping out in a big puddle, and then again when going up a very steep short section – people were walking and I was afraid I wouldn’t have the speed or traction to get up it.

I hit the Martin Road hill, and while almost everyone around me was walking, there was one woman riding ahead of me, so I focussed on making it to the top without colliding with her!

Tackling the Martin Road hill! [Photo by Apex Photography]

We got lots of cheers (she had her own cheering section), and amazingly, I didn’t find it as hard as I expected (reaching it after more than 71k of cycling!), and when I hit that finish line, I felt like I could have kept going. Woot!

I finished the race a whopping 42 minutes faster than last year. Yes, I rode 73k last year versus 71.7 km this year, but I was still way faster!!

I’m really happy with how my race went!

After putting my super muddy bike back into my vehicle, I stood in the longest line ever for post-race food, but it moved surprisingly quickly! I took the food to my parents’ place, and after refueling, I soaked in their hot tub. Lucky me!

What a race!

Race stats:

  • Time: 3:54:20 (18.3 km/h)
  • Women 40-49: 22/36
  • Women: 108/150
  • All riders: 1299/1561

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Race report: Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race Suntrail Course 2018 (canoe/MTB/trail run)

My teammate Rebecca and I had so much fun at last year‘s Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race that we knew we wanted to do it again. We signed up to tackle the Suntrail course for a 2nd time, which is a 4k paddle, 16k mountain bike leg, and 6k trail run. On Friday night we registered at the arena, filled out waivers, put stickers on our gear, and left our bikes and bags with bike gear (helmet, shoes, food) with volunteers. We stopped at the bike draw table to be sure we had a chance to win (even though I won last year!). The check-in process was well organized. This year, we decided to camp at race central, Bluewater Park in Wiarton, Ontario. We checked in at the office and headed for our campsite, one of just 10 or so tent sites in the park (the rest are for trailers or are for seasonal trailer campers). We were more than a little shocked to discover the size of our site – it was tiny! It was clearly marked as being between 2 trees that had to be about 8 feet apart (see picture). It was a rectangle, with enough room for my vehicle (parked over the fire pit), a picnic table, and tent. On the other side of the hedge was the road. A nice man named Dave from Winnipeg was camped to our right – he would be doing the Buff long course. Unfortunately, our neighbours to the left arrived around 10:30 PM, immediately started a fire (with a big POOF! and a “Did you see that?”), set up their tent, ordered pizza delivery, and then proceeded to keep me awake until 1:30 AM when they eventually called it a night. Lesson learned: ear cancelling headphones or super duper earplugs!
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Our tiny campsite at the Bluewater Park Campground – between the 2 trees from the hedge to the back of my vehicle.
Despite the rough night, it was awesome to be able to just pack up our sleeping stuff and tent and drive for 2 minutes to get to the race site. We brought the canoe and paddling gear to the water, and then had lots of time to relax before the race started. Having done the race before, I had almost no pre-race nerves (there’s always the worry of mechanical failure – especially on the bike!). I got to meet a woman named Kris and her race partner, who were racing for the first time, inspired by my blog post of last year’s race (how cool is that?!).
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Colpoy’s Bay was calm in the early morning.
After the pre-race briefing, where participants were told that it was never too late to decide that the race, or any part of it, was beyond their abilities, Rebecca and I got ready for our 10:20 AM start. We would begin after the solo kayak men and solo kayak women.
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Ready to race!
Because we were in the water 20 minutes or so before the race started, we were getting blown by the wind away from the starting area and had to keep correcting and paddling back. We were amazed that one man was doing the race in a row boat! One team jokingly asked us if we wanted to switch paddles (we had kayak paddles while theirs were canoe paddles). 4k Canoe The race began and off we went! We were hoping that the bow seat (and Rebecca!) stayed put this time. For Storm the Trent the tightening mechanism wasn’t working, and I forgot to do anything about it before RockstAR. My husband helped and we thought we had the problem solved… and, as it turns out, we did! There was quite a bit of congestion for the first section of the paddle, where we headed perpendicular to our main route of travel. One boat in particular kept coming quite close, as they seemed to be having trouble steering. Once we turned around the buoy near the marina we headed for a big white building in the distance, and things spread out. We counted only 6-8 boats in front of us, which was an improvement from last year! From that point on, no one passed us, and we eventually passed one canoe. My biggest problem was continually sliding off my seat. I was kneeling, with my butt just on the edge of my seat. But far too frequently I had to stop paddling to shift back onto my seat. Towards the end of the paddle I decided to sit, and had no more issues. Rebecca noted that I seemed to have more power while sitting too. At times the wind made it a bit hard to stay on course, but we never got off course too much. As we got closer to the end of the paddle, we passed a few of the solo kayak women who started 10 minutes before us. One poor woman thought I was telling her to move over when I was only telling Rebecca to paddle on one side – oops! We apologized! We jumped out of the canoe at the shore, and very quickly volunteers grabbed the canoe and carried it away for us. We left our lifejackets and all our gear in it, and started running for the transition zone where we would find our bikes. 16k Bike I popped into the portapotty, then met Rebecca at our bikes. They were really easy to find, because volunteers told each racer or team exactly which rack to go to. I had an energy bar, put my helmet and cycling shoes on, and we headed out.
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Rebecca doesn’t look too happy, but I promise we didn’t just have a fight. This is us starting the ride. [Official race photo]
Having ridden this course once before, we were much more confident this year. Not only were we riding our own bikes (last year we rode rentals), but we had more experience mountain biking. The course is a mixture of double track trails, single track trails, grassy field, and gravel road. We passed quite a few people at the beginning, with Rebecca in front and me in behind the entire way. Riding through a few sections of the course, we remembered walking them last year! There were only 2 spots that we briefly unclipped and walked, either around a tight corner or up a hill (where we had lost speed and the ground was very rocky). The ride definitely seemed easier. Last year, while riding on the single track section that has lots of tight twists, turns, ups and downs, a team passed us and we said that we couldn’t imagine being clipped in. One rider said, “I can’t imagine not being clipped in!” And this year? We were clipped in! My goal for the ride was to drink my entire bottle of gatorade, but I had to carefully time my sips – there was no way I was riding one-handed through rocky, hilly, twisty or turny sections! I managed to do it – it was a hot day and I didn’t want to get dehydrated. We noticed that no female teams passed us on the bike. 6k Run Back in the transition zone we left our bikes, helmets and bike shoes, and put on our running shoes and hats. I made a quick trip to the portapotty, and we headed out on the run. The run course is a mixture of pavement, Bruce Trail, and paved park path at the end. The Bruce Trail in this section includes dirt path, very rocky path, weedy field, stiles to climb over, and steep circular stairs to descend. I was fighting a side stitch for part of the run, but managed to keep it in check. I had a gel just after we started running, and one in the last 3km. We were wearing camelbaks so we had lots of water. Again, we noticed that no teams of females passed us on the run. We passed solo female racers and some solo males and male teams. At one point, a couple of guys were following us, and we took a wrong turn – we missed the trail going to the right, but didn’t get very far (10m?). After we got back on the trail, Rebecca said to me that the guys didn’t know the name of the team they were following (Define “Lost”)! There were a couple of aid stations on the run – at the last one, which was just before the descent down the steep stairs, I grabbed 2 cups of water and poured them on my head. Felt so good! Rebecca tried to get me to speed up once we hit the pavement, but I wasn’t having much success! We reached the park, passed our campsite, and 2:31:22 after starting, we crossed the finish line! We weren’t sure how we had placed, but we felt that the race had gone better than the year before (turns out we were about 11 minutes faster). We were pretty sure that we were faster on the canoe and biking sections (we were).
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Done!
I downed several cups of water, then heard someone call my name. I looked up and didn’t recognize the guy at all. Turns out he and his race partner (John and Amy from Ireland) had read my blog post about last year’s race 3 times on the way to the race, and learned everything they needed to know. Thanks for saying hi!! Rebecca and I went for a dip in the lake, changed into dry clothes, had a free massage courtesy of Bayshore Physical Therapy in Owen Sound, and had awesome lamb burgers from the farm providing post-race food for racers. We watched other racers finish (and while standing there had a non-fish sushi roll with wasabi and ginger offered by a friend of a friend – so yummy and my first ever post-race sushi!), then drove over to the arena a block or so away and loaded our bikes and paddling gear into my vehicle, and the canoe on top. We walked to Northern Confections for a drink – I had a deliciously sweet Chaisicle (iced drink). We headed back to the race site to watch more racers finish. We looked up the race stats, and found that we had finished in 3rd place out of 10 female teams. Woohoo! We chatted with other racers until the awards ceremony, including our new friend Dave from the campground. And we heard about the crazy waves in the long course race – a few people flipped their boats, some more than once! And one guy from the long course race apparently forgot to pack his running shoes into his bag to be transported to the transition zone. No worries – he ran 8k in socks along the Bruce Trail until volunteers could get him his shoes. And yes, he was on the podium! As 3rd place winners, Rebecca and I received a bag of coffee each from Northern Convections, and were able to choose a prize from the prize table. I chose a bottle of Nikwak (the wash-in fabric waterproofer), likely donated by Suntrail Source for Adventure. We had our picture taken on the podium, and then stuck around until the bike draw. IMG_6681 On the podium in 3rd place! [Photo by Dave] Winners for other prizes were called by team number and then name, so when the draw was made for the bike (courtesy of Bikeface Cycling in Owen Sound), they called 208 – our team number! And then, Rebecca! Yes! I won last year, and Rebecca this year. A Devinci Jackson mountain bike. Crazy! Our friend John said to me, “I want to be on YOUR team next year!” Once again, we had a super fun time participating in this race. We’ll be back next year!! Thank you Peninsula Adventure Sports Association! Stats (all times approximate except for total time – I was a little slow hitting my watch button sometimes!): Screen Shot 2018-08-14 at 7.13.13 PM Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego

Biking at Algonquin Park: mountain, fat, and tandem (or, that time I became a movie star)

Ever star in a photo or video shoot? I hadn’t, until recently at Algonquin Provincial Park during a weekend of biking adventures.

Given that I will be participating in a canoe/mountain biking/trail running race on the Bruce Peninsula later this summer with my friend Rebecca, I figured that we should practice actually doing these activities together! Algonquin Outfitters graciously offered to let us borrow 2 mountain bikes for the weekend in exchange for a blog post on their website about my biking experience, and a photo shoot so that they could update their website content. A few days before our trip, we found out that in fact we could try any of their bikes, simply exchanging one kind for another over the weekend.

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Ready to hit the trails!

So Friday night we stopped at the Lake of Two Rivers Algonquin Outfitters store where we borrowed two Specialized mountain bikes. Because the Minnesing Mountain Biking Trail along Highway 60 was closed due to flooding, we had to drive 1 1/4 hours to the south end of the park, where we could try out the Byers Lake Mountain Bike Trail. We stopped quickly at the Pog Lake campground to register for our campsite, and then headed for the trail. When we got there, we were quickly discovered by the resident mosquitoes!! Bug spray and riding quickly were pretty effective, but if you’ve mountain biked before, you’ll know that you don’t always go quickly!! We got stuck in mud puddles at times that reduced our speed to zero and increased our bug swatting immensely! The trail wasn’t super well marked, so we weren’t totally sure that we were on it the whole time (there were lots of trail junctions), but we had fun and rode for just under an hour.

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At the end of the Byers Lake Mountain Bike Trail, on an old logging road.
On Saturday morning we met Randy from Algonquin Outfitters at the Lake of Two Rivers store for the photo shoot, which was actually a photo and video shoot. We spent a couple of hours pretending to go through the process of getting out of our vehicle, looking at the bikes, getting help from the bike rental shop, getting explanations of the various bike components, getting a helmet, and finally trying out the bikes. Chris the photographer/videographer had us reshoot some scenes multiple times because of the lighting, where we stood (or didn’t), what we did (or didn’t), etc. We had fun but we felt funny at times doing it over and over. After clear instructions from Chris to ignore stuff around us, we did just that and did not glance over when a vehicle honked its horn long and hard multiple times. It turns out we missed 2 moose crossing just in front of the store!! Randy asked us if we’d be willing to ride the trail-a-bike, which essentially is an adult bike with part of a kid’s bike trailing behind. I rode in the front, and Rebecca on the little kid’s seat! It was so hard to go straight, because our balance was way off – the back seat isn’t designed for an adult!! We were laughing though, and after 3 attempts we managed to smile and wave without falling off or crashing.

After the photo/video shoot was done at the bike shop, we exchanged our mountain bikes for fat bikes and hit the Old Railway Bike Trail. We met Randy and Chris at the old Mew Lake airfield for a few more shots.

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Map of the Old Railway Bike Trail.

The trail is pretty much flat, with just a slight uphill grade one way and a slight downhill grade the other! You can ride it on almost any bike (other than a road bike with a skinny tire – it wouldn’t be so fun on the loose gravel). We even saw a kid with training wheels on his bike. The trail is 16 km long, and quite scenic in places.

 

We decided to head West for Cache Lake, and stopped at the very end of the trail at a little bridge over a pretty creek for a snack. I had never been on a fat bike before, and thought it would be heavy and unwieldy. It wasn’t at all like that – it was light and maneouvreable. I loved it. While riding, we saw a painted turtle and tons of dragonflies. By the time we returned to the Lake of Two Rivers store, we had pedalled about 15 km. We had a delicious ice cream cone before trading our fat bikes in for a tandem bike.

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Yummy salted caramel.

The Algonquin Outfitters employee gave us some tips on riding the tandem before we tried it in the parking lot. We were pretty wobbly at first! Rebecca started in the front and me in the rear. There is a tandem bike challenge: ride all the way to Rock Lake and back (approximately 25k) and get 15% off the rental fee. We wondered if we could make it that far.

 

The hardest part was starting, and then slowing down or stopping – we took turns at the front, and had to remember to tell our passenger that we were going to slow down, because the pedals and chain are such that you pedal in sync! If one stops pedalling, the other has to as well. And when you decide to coast or brake, you need to tell your partner to stop pedalling. It didn’t take too long for us to get the hang of it. We actually rode through the Rock Lake campground all the way to the trailhead for the Booth’s Rock trail! By the time we returned to the Lake of Two Rivers store, we were pros!! The tandem was super fun!

You can also rent kids’ bikes, “cruisers” (you sit more upright, kind of old fashioned style, with more padded seats), and bikes for people with accessibility issues.

I can’t wait to go back to Algonquin this winter to try fat biking again!! While fat bikes were originally designed for winter riding, they are great for trails, mud, loose gravel etc.

I’m also looking forward to checking out Algonquin Outfitter’s new pictures and video! In particular the trail-a-bike bit…

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More photos, and eventually the videos, here.

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