Living it Up Through Labour Day

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Welcome back to another installment of “What the heck has Steve been up to all summer”. In this post, I’ll cover off the remainder of the summer up to the first weekend after Labour Day. I had another pretty exciting race lined up, although the tale ends up as the dreaded story of the ‘double DNF’. You’ll have to read more of the post to get the full story, but rest assured, it’s another classic ActiveSteve race screw-up :-(. I’ll also fill you in on some Toronto fun at Dream in High Park as well as Buskerfest (pics here), and wrap it up with a little about the week that Deanna spent with me here in Ottawa/Gatineau on vacation (pics here). It was a great way to close out August, and help get over the disastrous result at Logs, Rocks and Steel. Read on my friends, and don’t forget to check out the pictures on facebook as I go through the stories!

Alrighty, so first up, some tales of summer fun. That’ll ease us into the disastrous race result. When you last checked in, we had just wrapped up a fun-filled weekend in Ottawa racing as well as catching the fireworks competition. So, the next weekend, it was my turn to head on over to Toronto for some fun in the sun. We had a pretty action-packed weekend planned from the get-go. On arrival on Friday, we headed off to High Park to catch some Shakespeare at night. We saw a unique take on Romeo and Juliet that we both found pretty good. The next day, it was off to Buskerfest to see what all the clowning around was about, as well as heading uptown for a barbecue with a couple of Deanna’s friends. It was a great day, and the pictures from Buskerfest can attest to what a beautiful day it was, but also the thickness of the crowds that awaited us. I’m not a fan of crowds on the best of days, but we managed. We wrapped up that weekend with a pretty lazy Sunday, opting to stay mostly around the apartment, and going for some nice rollerblading and not much else.

So, now onto the main event. The following weekend was a race weekend! Logs, Rocks and Steel to be specific. The subtitle for this blog post might as well have been “The Double DNF” for reasons that will become obvious as I tell you all the tale of this event. Yet again, I found myself heading into the Muskoka wilds for a race. For some reason, a lot of my races have been out that way. This event was organized by Bob Miller, the same race director who put on Wilderness traverse earlier this year (you know, the race where I had to DNF due to weather and hypothermia?). Well, it looked as though ma nature once again had nasty surprises in store for me. The forecast called for rain all Saturday.

This event was basically a mini-UXC. Meaning it was a trail run, an adventurous paddle, followed by challenging mountain biking, in that order. However, the distance were much saner, and the whole thing was hopefully going to be wrapped up in about 6hrs. The other fun part of this event? Well, there was the ‘championship’ course, which I was tackling, as well as the ‘Frost’ course (a mini-version of the race) which Deanna had decided at the last minute to enter. This would be her first-ever true off-road race, so I was pretty excited for her. However, not as excited as I was at the prospect of her spending the entire next week with me in Gatineau. As a result, the week leading up to the race I was more pre-occupied with getting the house organized than doing race prep!

The night before the race, Deanna and I camped on site, as all the other places were only taking long-weekend bookings, and we didn’t want to fork over that dough. We managed to get to sleep at a pretty good time, but upon awaking the next morning it still felt too early. Luckily, the rain was holding off (thus far). My race started 2 hours before Deanna’s, so she and Ashley (a friend of hers also racing with her) were at the start line to see me off.

The first part of the race was my strong suit. The run. I did my best to be positioned near the front of the pack, and was probably somewhere around 7th or 8th for most of it (and there were a lot of good runners). The terrain was pretty awesome. Lots of rollers, twists and turns, and just a little bit of mud. For whatever reason though, my left knee started bugging me. Yup, basically, I’ve had a re-lapse with the knee issue that was never really sorted out and took me out of racing for a year. So my pace did drop a bit towards the end. I was even caught up to by Pete Dobos, whom I usually stay ahead of when running. I yelled back “what are you doing here?”, to which he replied incredulously “what are YOU doing here?”. We were both surprised. The final stretch involved a river crossing which I ran straight into, knowing that the next section was the paddle anyway.

By the end of the run, the rain had started in earnest, and it was coming down increasingly hard. I had opted for no skirt, and no paddle top, as I had reasoned that the race was short enough that I could just power through it. Especially since I had borrowed an SRS Dart kayak, which is an uber-light racing kayak (read: extra-tippy). So tippy in fact, that in my rush to paddle off at the transition, I flipped it right away. Nothing quite like swamping a boat at the start of a long paddle. So I was now completely soaked, paddling a tippy kayak, in the pouring rain and plummeting temperatures. Can you see where I’m going with this yet?

Little by little I got my confidence in this boat. The many portages helped me get the hang of getting in and out of this tippy boat on the fly. So much so that some of the other racers that were more or less with me on the paddle eventually commented that I seemed to be getting the hang of it. Well, there were no shortage of opportunities to test the skill. Particularly with the myriad of really annoying sections where it was swampy, mucky, shallow water. You know, the kind where a rudder keeps getting caught on things or worse, forcing you to get out, but then you sink up to your hips in muck?!?! Yup, once segment sucked soooo bad, that there was a string of like 8 of us all working our way through. Pete, who had been far ahead on open water, was now a mere 80m or so ahead, but unbeknownst to me, it would take a good 15 mins to bridge that gap! Yes, it was that bad! Next year when I do this race again (and I will race it again, if only to declare a personal victory in a Bob Miller race), I’ll stick to my boat, which although a little slower and heavier, will glide over all that garbage!

Eventually, I got ‘out of the weeds’ so to speak, and came back out on open water, where it should have been a straight paddle to the transition. Well, this is where trouble came knocking. I was now on wide open water. The waves were forcing me to really focus on staying upright. My map? In my backpack, under my PFD. I didn’t think I’d need it, as this isn’t a ‘navigating’ course, it was a ‘marked’ course. Well, that was a serious lapse of judgement on my part. Another kayak in front of me was yelling back asking where to go (I could barely here her over the wind). I told her I wasn’t sure, but that I seemed to recall needing to turn right after the big island on our left. Trouble was, I thought it was right *after* the next inlet. Also, we spotted a canoe to our left, a duo racing together. They were consulting their map, and seemed to know what they were doing, and also decided to keep going ahead. So on we paddled. Oddly, I thought I heard noise coming from the inlet to the right. Later on, I found out it was Bob and a lot of people yelling to us that we had to turn 🙁 Unfortunately, in the rain, wind and waves, we just didn’t pick up on it.

So on we paddled. Two kayaks, and a canoe. I was buoyed by the idea of getting out of that damn tippy boat, and paddled hard. However, it was getting colder, and my lack of rain gear was chipping away at my energy. Some time passed, and we all finally turned to an inlet. It didn’t look right. At all. And you know why? Because it wasn’t!!! We’d basically paddled 3.5-4km too far. It was a big blow. I was now very cold, and very de-motivated. I saw a dock and pulled over to [finally] consult my map (and put on a rain jacket – albeit too late). I’d also been suffering from stomach cramps, and really needed some relief.

Well, as luck would have it, the house I pulled up at had some kind occupants. I first asked where I was on the map, which is when I saw just how far we’d gone. I then kindly asked to use their facilities. Luckily, they were in the midst of renovations, so the house wasn’t too neat and tidy, which is a good thing. I was in there a while, and suspected they were wondering what had happened. When I emerged, there was a glass of liquid waiting on the kitchen table. I was told to drink it. What was it? Vermouth! It was going to make me feel better and warm me up. I couldn’t say no, and downed it in one motion. I thanked them, and tried to motivate myself to head back out. Once outside again, I started shivering again as I looked at the map. I was not looking forward to paddling the tippy boat across open rough water again. That’s when I pulled the plug. I decided I’d leave the kayak there, and jog the 4km back up the road to HQ and pull out of the race.

My hope was that the run would at least warm me back up. The home owner was actually quite concerned, and wanted to drive me, as, in his words, he “didn’t want me to die on the way”. Did I look that bad? I didn’t feel that bad. On my jog, I had time to reflect on my decision. While I may have made it back by boat, I certainly no longer felt like hopping on the bike for what would have been a very long, wet, muddy, cold ride. Also, I wanted to perhaps see Deanna in action, and now I’d be able to see her finish her race, which would be rewarding in itself. The other thing I noticed as I ran was a distinctive line in the dirt all the way. I knew exactly what that meant. The girl in the other kayak had DRAGGED her boat all the way back in order to start the bike! Amazing (and slightly crazy!).

Once back at HQ, I jogged down to the transition area. There were a few confused looks at the fellow running in full paddle gear from the road, but with no boat. Some assumed I was just transitioning, and I suppose I might have gotten away with that. However, I instead reported I was pulling out, and had to go get my boat back from the kind strangers far away. First job though, check on where Deanna and Ashley were. There was some confusion, but eventually, it was agreed that they were still out on the bike course. Yikes! They’d been out there a long time too! I then rushed off to put on dry clothes in the hopes of not shivering any more. Gradually it worked. I then set up near the bike end to snap some shots of Deanna on her way to the run portion. I waited.

I waited some more. I was getting a little worried. Finally, I saw them at the top of the hill, and got in position to take pictures of smiling Deanna. Well, there were no smiles. I was told in no uncertain terms that I had better not take a picture. Also, she thought I had actually finished my entire race already, and was mad about that. I assured her that wasn’t the case. They rolled by pretty quick, and I ran down to the transition to clarify and talk to her. By the time I arrived, she’d decided to pull out as well. Turns out she didn’t really love the mud that much, and being in basically dead last was a downer for her. I tried to convince her (shyly) that she’d never forgive herself for DNFing in that way and that the 5k run would be a piece of cake now, but her mind was made up.

Ugh. So there you have it. A double DNF. Me with a terrible paddling over-shoot and borderline hypothermia (again!), and Deanna with a little frustration and being overwhelmed by her first race :-(. In truth, I think we just both really wanted to be spending our time together in comfort rather than both being in misery somewhere in the rain that day. Yeah, that’s it. Fer sure :-). We still stuck around for a bit, but I was pretty annoyed about the way my race ended, and didn’t want to explain over and over again about my stupid novice mistake. I’d been having a great race up to that point, so I decided just to remember it for what it was, and learn from it. We packed up the tent and the rest of our soggy things, and turned the page so to speak. Heck, at least we got the t-shirts, right? We now had a week of good times spent together to look forward to, so we did our best to not speak of the event. Of course, that was impossible for the 4.5 hour drive back to Gatineau. We both had to let it out. We vowed the next race would be different, and I’m happy to say it was, and you can read all about it in the next post!

So ends the tale of the dreaded double DNF, and yes, you can poke fun at me a little. But just a little. Personally, I’m still mad, as I assumed that ‘marked course’ and ‘no navigation required’ would mean just that. When will I learn? Well, next time I guess. Ha ha! In spite of it all, I give a thumbs up to this race in general, and will DEFINITELY be back next year for revenge. It’s a great length, and well-organized. Mark my words, I *will* finish a Bob Miller course in 2011. I was 0 for 2 this year 🙁

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