Category Archives: Race Reports

Trail Running Triumph (2nd Place!)

Well, another weekend has passed by, and sadly, it’s starting to feel like the summer is waning! Damn! However, I can’t really complain, as I’ve had a great summer. Although I didn’t really take any vacation, I did find lots of time to get out there and do the things I love to do. This has been my most active summer to date, from a racing and training standpoint. I definitely think I’m well on my way to achieving some of my larger life goals now. I’ve never yet put them on any sort of list, and I don’t think I will. Dreams are personal, so until they will be realized, might as well keep them to myself, or at least keep them in until the ‘ole dark rum gets a hold on me, and I spill my guts! Ha ha. Of course, the obvious short-term goal is my trip to New Zealand for next year. In case you weren’t aware, I’m in the planning stages of my 6 month bike tour of New Zealand. The target dates for this are Oct 1, 2007 to March 31, 2008. That way, I get the tax break over two years; I get to spend the time in ‘summer’ NZ, while avoiding ‘winter’ Canada; and get to spend Christmas with Jody in Australia, visiting some of her relatives! While I’m down there, I’m also planning to do some racing. I’m not talking about little bitty races either. The short list of three dream NZ races are the Southern Traverse (5+ day adventure race, committed to this already); Speight’s Coast to Coast “Longest Day” Challenge (140km bike, 36km run, 67km kayaking, 1 day) from west coast to east coast of Southern Island, crossing the Southern Alps en route; and Ironman New Zealand (3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run, 1 day). Of those three, the Southern Traverse was my original reason for going next year. I’ve been dreaming about this race, and it’s time to shit or get off the pot! Anyway, back to the blog at hand. I was trying to talk about my last weekend, but got distracted by my dreams, silly things, aren’t they? Make them come true. The day you’re born, you start dying, make the most of life and have no regrets! Whew, where’d that come from? Now, onto my tales of Trail Running….

This past weekend I went ‘back to the races’ again. This time around, it was a 10km trail running race in Gatineau Park. Camp Fortune specifically, put on by 5 Peaks trail running series. Now, I know what you’re thinking. 10km? That’s nothing. Well, be that as it may, this was at a ski hill, not along the canal folks. Rest assured, I nearly killed myself running this thing. To give a couple examples, my exertion for the marathon had my heart rate at an average around 163 bpm. During this 10km race, it was more like 178 bpm. Also, my pace in the marathon was at about 4:40 min / km for the entire 42.2km , whereas over this ‘short’ 10km course, my pace was about 7:30 min / km! That might give you an idea of the difficulties here!

It was a great day for the race, and I got there about an hour before the gun. I got busy by helping set up the sound system and get some music playing. The race director is a friend of mine, so I decided I’d not only race, but volunteer! It made the time go by a little quicker while waiting, and made me feel like a better person πŸ˜‰ I also assisted a bit afterwards with the sound and cleaning up. So although I ran my hardest, I apparently still had energy to lug heavy speakers around! As I’m writing this, my legs are still sore, which isn’t usual unless I’ve really put it out there. Of course, that didn’t stop me from biking a couple hours Sunday, and swimming hard for an hour yesterday. After all, there’s still a few more races this season. Speaking of which, I’ve just realized that was my 11th race of the year! Crazy. To give you a rough breakdown, here are the races I’ve been in this year so far:

  • 3 x Snowshoe races in winter
  • 1 x Winterlude Triathlon
  • 1 x Winter Adventure Race
  • 1 x Short-course Adventure Race
  • 1 x Marathon
  • 2 x Triathlons
  • 1 x 48 Hour Adventure Race
  • 1 x Trail Running Race

Still to come this year is an off-road triathlon this weekend, my epic 1/2 Iron Distance Triathlon on labour day weekend (2km swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run), another trail running race, and my season-ending SAC Canadian Champs 14hour adventure race at the end of September. That’ll bring me to 15 races in 2006! Cool! I’m also looking at doing an 8 hour rogaine in my ‘free’ weekend in September. BTW, rogaine, isn’t for hair loss. It stands for Rugged Outdoor Group Activity Involving Navigation and Exploration. In short, an orienteering race with map, compass, and 2 feet. The idea is to pick up as many ‘controls’ as you can in the time limit. It’s great practice for AR navigation.

Anyway, to close off on this trail race… I came 2nd in my category, and 7th overall!! My time was 1 hr, 15 min, 35 sec. The funny part is that the post-race results say I was only 3rd in my category, but they gave me 2nd. I think the 1st place guy was given 1st in a roundabout way. Apparently, he took a wrong turn, running extra distance, and complained it impacted his time, and was therefore awarded a time bonus giving him 1st place (category and overall!). However, I was recognized as 2nd at the awards, since that was the finish line result. Either way, it was a sweet result for me. It’s got me all charged up about my upcoming off-road tri this weekend and my 1/2 ironman race in 2 weeks. Bring it on! I know I’ll never be the winner or fastest at these things, but man, does it feel nice to get a podium finish now and again, for all the work I put in. Just between you and me, my humble readers, I dare say I put more effort into racing and training than I do my job πŸ˜‰ ! Jody might also say I put less effort into our relationship, but rest assured, I love her, and always appreciate the support she’s given me over the years for all this craziness!

First Sub 2h30min Olympic Triathlon – New PB!

Well, I’m happy to report that I’m still improving a bit! This past weekend marked my return to racing, after taking a whole month off! It was not intentional, but that’s just the way things worked out. I was slated to race in a 36 hour Raid the North adventure race mid-July, but at the last minute, that race was cancelled, and I opted to not race in the shorter Salomon Adventure Challenge race on that same weekend. Instead, I decided to relax, enjoy summer a bit, and chill out at the Ottawa Bluesfest, as you have probably already read about. I’ve been slowly getting back into running regularly, and also been doing weekly rides in Gatineau Park with Grant and Kevin, generally doing about 70km each time. I’ve had to start kicking my own ass a bit in order to properly train for my upcoming 1/2 Iron Distance Triathlon. As of the date of this posting, I’m a mere 3.5 weeks away from that event, and not too prepared yet. For that event, I’ll be swimming 2km, biking 90km, and running 21km. In order to do a check-up as to where I was in my fitness level, I participated in the National Capital Triathlon, an Olympic-distance event. For that one, I had to swim 1.5km, bike 40km, and run 10km. I’m happy to say that in spite of perhaps not having trained quite hard enough, I did cough up a personal best for it! My first sub 2hr. 30min Olympic Triathlon! Huzzah. My most worrying event was the swim, since I’ve only gone out for a few open-water swims in the past few months. Luckily, I pulled it off strong, shaving several minutes from my time last year in the same event! If you’d like to check out a few pictures of the event, as usual, we’ve got a folder on flickr with all the pics. Now, for the detail-oriented, let’s have a look how the race broke down statistics-wise.

The day was as perfect as one could hope for. Bright sunny day, with almost no humidity, and not too much heat, given that we were starting at 8:30am. The race lay-out was fairly typical, with a beach start for the swim, with a single-loop swim in Mooney’s Bay, followed by a beach exit and 200m run-up to the transition area near Terry Fox stadium. Then, off on the bikes for a 4-loop bike course, which took us along the canal on the parkway. Round and round we went. This is good training for the 1/2 Iron that I’ll be doing, since the bike course will also be on this parkway. After the bike, throw on the shoes, and do a double-loop 5km course along the pathway leading out along the Rideau River. Reasonable run course, apart from the rather steep hill close to the finish by Hog’s Back park. A lot of people struggled a bit on that one towards the end. Luckily with all my running back-ground, I demolished the run with a strong finishing kick. So, how did the day stack up for me? Well here are the official results:

  • Swim Leg (1500m): Place – 33rd, Time – 28:50, Pace – 1:56 / 100m
  • Bike Leg (40km): Place – 44th, Time – 1:14:13, Speed – 32.3 km/h
  • Run (10km): Place – 22nd, Time – 44:47, Pace – 4:29 / km
  • Overall: Place – 29th (25th male, 9th in category), Time – 2:27:49
  • Average Speed – 20.904 km/h

Now compare this to last year’s same race:

  • Swim Leg (1500m): Place – 32nd, Time – 32:06, Pace – 2:09 / 100m
  • Bike Leg (36km): Place – 48th, Time – 1:15:23, Speed – 28.7 km/h
  • Run (10km): Place – 35th, Time – 48:39, Pace – 4:52 / km
  • Overall: Place – 42nd (36th male, 7th in category), Time – 2:36:07
  • Average Speed – 18.256 km/h

Finally, compared to my previous personal best (1000 Islands Olympic Tri, August 2005):

  • Swim Leg (1500m): Place – 79th, Time – 25:23, Pace – 1:42 / 100m
  • Bike Leg (41.2km): Place – 73rd, Time – 1:15:29, Speed – 32.7 km/h
  • Run (10km): Place – 49th, Time – 49:44, Pace – 4:59 / km
  • Overall: Place – 65th (53rd male, 11th in category), Time – 2:30:34
  • Average Speed – 20.254 km/h

So, as compared to last year’s same event, my speed improved by 15% ! However, that is a bit mis-leading, as last year, I took particularly long in the transition zones, putting on sunscreen, tying shoes, etc. etc. I thought nothing of it till Jody made fun of me being so slow there. The last race of last year saw me fixing that problem, so in reality, the improvement over that race was a mere 3%. But it’s still better. Also, from the above, I’ve noted that my swim pace has dropped a touch, due to non-training, and my bike speed was a shade slower as well. These are hard to compare, since they are different race courses and different race conditions, so I would have to say that in all fairness, I think my biking and swimming are on par with where they were at the end of last year. However, if we check out my running, I’ve really picked it up. My pace has been upped by 30seconds per km. This is a solid 10% speed boost. I guess all the running training I’ve been doing is paying off. In spite of running being the last event, and therefore the one you have the least energy for, I’m still able to power through it with great form. Looks like I should shift my training focus to be a little more bike-heavy. I feel that’ll pay off more than extra swimming. Swimming is all about technique, not volume of training, so I’ll just concentrate on technique for that, and do more volume on the pedals.

By now, I’m sure you’re all pretty bored, since this was really more a chance for me to put some numbers down and analyze the results. This becomes important to a guy like me who is always seeking to improve in each race a little bit, and especially in the face of tackling my first half-iron distance event. I’ll state for the record that my goal in that race is 5hr. 30mins. I figure I can do the swim in about 38-40mins, the bike in about 3 hours, and the run in 1hr. 45min. add in 5 minutes for transition, and I’m at 5.5 hours. Between now and then, I’ve got a trail running race, Ultimate playoffs, and on off-road Triathlon. Looks like it’s game-on!

2nd Place in 48 Hour Quest for a Cure!!

Howdy all! Well, the Quest for a Cure is behind us now! I was the captain of my 2-member team (Hyper-Active / Camp de Base), and we raced in the 48-hour full race. The race was phenomenal, so I plan to write a nice full race report here. I’ve decided to split the race report into two sections. The first section will be for those with ADD, or those who don’t want to hear all the gory details. I’ll summarize the race and my results here. After that, I’ll get into a section by section break-down of the race. To kick things off, I now know that I’m capable of staying awake for 52 hours, 44 of those hours spent racing hard, on only 40 minutes of sleep! Crazy. I also had to be able to make critical decisions and keep us moving in the right direction all the time. If you’d like to view the full race results, head over to the Quest website For the record, they’re a bit confusing. Also, I’ve put up a bunch of pictures taken by our support crew on the Flickr site. I’m also hoping to augment those with pictures put up by the professional photographers that were on the race course, but I can’t guarantee that those will be up anytime soon! Now on with the story!

The saying goes that the most difficult part of an adventure race is just getting to the starting line. I will concur with that sentiment. Nevermind the challenges trying to line up a team, and support crew, and getting all the logistics sorted out, but I mean just getting there physically. I was awoken at 7:30am on Friday by Steeve. He called to say there was a problem. What now? He didn’t find gastrolyte? He couldn’t find a tarp? I wish. He was calling to tell me about his trip to Tim Horton’s first thing in the morning. He was really pumped about the race, and wanted a coffee. He had all his gear, and was heading to pick up one of our support crew. He opted for the drive-through. His bike was on his roof. The big steel beam limiting the height of vehicles didn’t like the bike. The beam? Yeah, it broke the fork on Steeve’s bike! So here we are, 8am, down a bike. Shit! To solve the problem, we waited till 9am, so that he could take his bike to the shop and get an assessment. Well, $400 and a couple hours later, he had a new fork (kindly sold to him at about cost), and we were on our way! Talk about an expensive coffee. As a result, I didn’t get quite as much time to prep the maps as I wanted, but I did manage to get it all marked the way I wanted with about 10 minutes to spare. Whew!

I’ve raced quite a few races now, and think I have a good idea what constitutes a good race and not so good race. Well, I can safely say this was an excellent race. Nearly perfect in every detail. Nearly. This year the weather was extremely co-operative, the course well designed and accurately estimated for time requirements. Check-in, gear checks, and skills checks were also all smoothly and efficiently carried out. Happily, my baseline vital stats only had to be checked at registration, and never again this year! The race itself also had an abundance of challenges and uniqueness to it, giving us racers a very memorable course. The decision to include an advanced section was also a bonus. The one thing I didn’t get was why everyone didn’t give the advanced section a shot. After all, there was plenty of time. Teams were arriving at the cut-off area with 12 to 18 hours left on the clock to complete a 5-8 hour leg, and still chose the shorter route! What gives, aren’t we out there to race hard? Well, I was, and I’m very glad we decided to do the advanced leg. Overall, Team Hyper-Active / Camp de Base was out on the course for a total of 44 hours exactly, taking a mere 40-minute cat-nap at the last major TA to fill up the tanks before doing the advanced leg. We may have been on the course the longest physical time, but managed to nab 2nd place in the duo category, and 5th overall, thanks to the advanced leg. Of course, most people won’t be able to glean that from the results posted nor the ceremony. For the duo category, there was only mention of the 1st place finisher. What? Did we not race just as hard as the 4-person teams? Do we not qualify for at least a mention of our accomplishment? Personally, this was my greatest race result to date, both in terms of race length and placement. I thought we’d at least get a mention at the banquet. Oh well, small gripe, but it did disappoint me. Also, the online posted results are a complete jumble. There is no discernible order to them, and no separation of 2 vs. 4 person teams. Makes it a little difficult to figure out the stats. Cutting and pasting isn’t working too well either.

As mentioned, the banquet was also an excellent event, with lots of pictures being shown throughout, and even an event video!! That’s right, there was a video crew out during the whole race getting footage to use in a promotional video about the race. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ll certainly pony up some cash for a copy of the final video, especially if some of that money is also funelled back into the Cancer Center. Which leads to the final point in my brief report section. This race is about more than a big race. It is about raising funds and awareness, and now also a tribute to Mark Johnston. As a result, this race is an emotional one for me, and many others, and the banquet usually has a misty-eye component to it as a result. Personally, when I hit the lows in the race, I think of why I’m out there. I’m there to feel a bit of suffering, so that I can better understand what cancer patients must go through. I’m also there in memory of my mother, who fought, and ultimately lost, a brave fight against cancer some years ago while I was away at university. Running on empty, racing 44 hours on 40 minutes of sleep is nothing compared to what others are going through. That’s why we’re there. To feel what being human is about. To see what there is to live for. To understand our own limitations and abilities better. I love this race, I love what it stands for, and I have the utmost respect and praise for Jim Andrews and the entire team that puts this race on year after year. I’m positive this race will only get bigger each year, and I hope to always be a part of it.

Now, on to the detailed race report (I’ll try not to drag it out too much though).

Stage 1: Swim, Bike, Run to Whitewater rafts – Moving Time: 1:31
To start out the race, and try to spread the crowd out a bit, they chose to make the entire field of competitors race out to the river, and swim around buoys, pop out on a dock, and run to our bikes. We were told not to worry, the water was chest deep the whole way. Steeve told me ‘I’m not a great swimmer’. He should’ve said, I can’t swim at all. We ran quickly to the beach, and I was the first one in behind the 1st place team from last year. I started my swim then looked for Steeve, he was not too far behind, but not moving much. I soon realized he couldn’t swim, and I actually had to physically go back and perform a water rescue tow, something I hadn’t done since my life-saving course days. I even saw the panic in the eyes. That was scary moment. One race guy had the cajones to yell out ‘You have to go around the buoys’. I was not impressed. I yelled back that I’ll gladly take a penalty, given that my team-mate can’t swim and might very well drown if we tried that. Once he was in shallow water walking to the put out, I turned around and sprint-swam around the remaining buoys to at least show we did it. That was a crazy start, and had me a little worried. Would this be the sign of things to come? Luckily, the next leg was a nice single-track bike leg on a trail to the rafting area. Nice trail, but almost everyone messed up one spot due to some industrious beavers that caused a big flood over the trail. There was a right turn that everyone assumed was the trail, but it turned out you just had to go about 100 feet through the flood to hook back up to the right trail. Oops. 30 mins. lost. We got out of that, and dumped bikes, and picked up our whitewater gear for a 2km run to the rafts.

Stage 2: Whitewater rafting and running to TA – Moving Time: 1:54
Since we were in the 2-person race, we had to do the rafting with another team. Luckily, the 1st place team had gotten there 20 minutes before us, so we didn’t have to wait, and were lucky to be in a raft with a couple of strong paddlers. From this point on, we stayed in 2nd place for the entire race. The rafting itself was amazing! The water was at a good safe level, and the rollers were great. We had only one near-dump on one section, with our guy hanging out the boat, being held on by one leg. It was cool. We popped out the other end, and started a 5k run to the transition area. Enter my only physical ailment. I had worn water shoes for this, with no socks. That was a mistake. I blistered and popped on the run, causing some mild foot trauma. Luckily, I chose to take good care of my feet later, using polysporin, moleskin, vaseline, double socks, etc. so the damage was minimized, but I learned a lesson. Always wear socks. At the end of the run was our loving support crew waiting with food and bikes for the next leg.

Stage 3: Mountain biking to bike ferry to Tyrollean Traverse and back to boats – Moving Time: 3:21
This next section was a mid-length biking leg, with a bike ferry at one spot (2 bikes in the canoe), bike out to a trail section to find the tyrollean traverse on foot, then return on bikes to canoes again. The first section was primary and secondary roads, where we could get some decent speed. Steeve showed off his legs for me, and I gratefully went on tow a few times on this section. That guy has strong bike legs. [Mental note: must spin even more this winter!]. I kept saying save your legs in case I need them later, but he just kept telling me to grab on. We made such good time that we almost beat our support to the bike ferry. The canoe was at the water, but no paddles, jackets, etc. Crap, turn around, go back to the car and pick up the other stuff. I’ll say this, two bikes in a canoe is a little precarious. Yokes and such didn’t allow us to set the bikes on the floor. Instead, they were balanced on yoke and gunwales. Luckily, it was only a few hundred feet across. We made it safe. On the other side, it was another mad bike to get to the ATV trails to the traverse. The trails were pretty easy to nav, and next thing we knew, we were hiking out to the traverse. Wow! Cool spot. By the time we arrived, it was night, so we were treated to the falls lit up by huge lights while we traversed! The only downside here was that the zip line was really no-zip! We had to wait on one end for people to clear, and when we got there, we realized why: you got about a thrid across, then had to drag your ass across. Turns out carabiners are high friction. Pulley’s would’ve been nice! Poor Steeve was dead by the time he got close to the other side. We threw him a tow line, and pulled him over the last 30 feet. We rested up a bit there, then returned to the bikes to get back to the canoes.

Stage 4: Beautiful long night paddle – Moving Time: 3:52
The next stage was the longest paddle leg. Luckily we were under the clearest skies imaginable, and really loved this leg. We were both wide awake, and had fun singing and paddling as we went. We tried our luck at using the bathrom on the move with reasonable success. As a result, we didn’t have to pull over at all during the whole paddle. For a while we were playing pass and chase with the Endurance Junkies, who are clearly better paddlers than us, but let us have our fun! At the far end, we got to try our luck at a lovely 1-2km portage. Not the easiest in the dead of night when you can’t tell which trail to take. We did pretty well at it though, and by the time we had made our way out, the sky was lightening up. We walked up, happy to see our support crew again, who had food, drinks, chairs, and all the comforts ready for us. At this point we definitely needed to fuel up. Next up was a 65km bike that would take us quite a while, so we wouldn’t see the support for a while.

Stage 5: Long bike leg – Moving Time: 5:13
Fed, watered and changed, we mounted our trusty steeds for another nice biking leg, much of it on dirt roads, until we biked through renfrew to hook up with the K&P trail, which was an old rail bed converted to a bike trail. This was generally a flat trail, which was nice, but had quite a bit of washboarding to it, so the bumps and rattles were starting to get on our nerves after a while. I couldn’t believe that I used to bike a hard tail on these sort of races. Thank goodness I saw the light last fall and finally bought a full-suspension bike for racing. Overall, the leg was fairly uneventful. We stopped a few times for some stretching, eating and drinking, but other than that, just pressed on. We saw our friends the Endurance Junkies again a couple times on this leg, and waved them on. We knew we’d see them down the road again. The crux of this stage came up only at the end. The instructions deceptively simple. Follow the ATV trail to the lake, may be hard to follow, but just go to south of lake, and pick up trail to get to TA. Ha! I think that was an understatement. This turned out to be a really fun bumpy, twisty double track, and I think some teams got messed up with all the different trails. I impressed myself though, correctly picking out the right trail every time. I was worried at one point, since it seemed to take a really long time, but we made it out, happy to see the sun, our shade tent, and the volunteers. I’d love to return there to bike again, but this time with more water. We were pretty well out of all supplies by the time we exited the woods there! Time to re-fuel again for what I estimated would be the crux of this race. The trek.

Stage 6: The LONG TREK – multi-part with Ascending, Rapelling mixed in – Moving Time: 10:42
Yup, as the name implied, the directions said it’d be 8 to 12 hours before we got out again. Most [mortal] teams took the higher end of that to get through. The first leg looked dead easy on the map. Head due east along the north end of a lake, follow a creek to the CP. Easy. NOT! This is where I think everyone discovered what I affectionately termed (re-used by others later) swamp-whacking. Steeve and I tried it all. First, straight bearing in the woods. Nope! Really thick bush. Thickest I’d ever tried to nav in a race. Waaaay too much deadfall. Second, try the shore. Nice, except that it was 90% swamp and bog. Very slow there too. Last try, straight down creek. Nope. Too soft on the bottom mostly. In the end, we chose a combination of both, and just kept going… and going… and going. I was sure we’d walked 10km. Generally, we get around 2km per hour on bush-whack legs, but here, I think we were closer to 1-1.25km per hour. Painful progress. However, we did find that little bridge (made of bacon and eggs, right Steeve :-)), checking in moments after our friends the Enduance Junkies! Finding the CP totally re-energized us, and we were ready to tackle the next trek. Simply follow ATV trails to an old road. Well, we followed one trail, and found it dead-ended. Rather than back-track, and get lost on different trails, I had the brilliant idea that we should just bush-whac the 2.5km out. Not the best idea. Although we did get out easily enough, we definitely took longer, and popped out on the wrong road, which lead to another mistake, where we walked right by the next access path to trek. That added about 1.5 to 2km to our walk, which wasn’t a huge deal, but it was hot, and we were tired, so it felt like 10km! The next part was a simple south bearing to another glorious swamp, which we crossed, and scrambled up a rock area to get to the ascending course. We were pretty pooped, but had to keep going. I ascended with both packs on, so that Steeve would have an easier go at ascending. After the Tyrollean line, I was worried he’d have problems again. My fears were unfounded, and he did great! He loved that part, in spite of his slight fear of heights. At the top, I chatted with race photographers and who else.. but the Endurance Junkies again. Man, won’t they leave us alone?!?! Also, we had a funny run-in with the next place duo team. They showed up at the ascending course at the top! Somehow, they had walked to the access trail, and I think were mis-informed by someone they could follow the trail to the ascending site. Needless to say, they weren’t too pleased. However, they were told they could rappel to the base, wait for a 15 minute penalty, then ascend. On the plus, this gave us the motivation to get hustling again. We now knew our next closest competitor was on our heels. So we dug in and marched over to the rappel site. Yeah, well, the trail to get around Calabogie seemed to take forever, and I started questioning if we’d taken the wrong trail. Finally I recognized some landmarks and knew we were good. I’d actually hiked this with Jody last year for fun! The ascending site was where we walked the dog! Too funny. Now we had to hike up to the top of Calabogie Peaks to get to the rappel. Ugh. I’m tired. But we made good time, mostly due to the damn bugs trying to carry us off course. We checked into the CP, and chatted lots with the guy running the rappel. He was a riot. This was a double-rope rappel, and apparently some people likened it to the zip line. A giant pain, because you had to keep feeding the rope to get any movement. Once at the bottom, the idea was to bushwhack, to the next TA. Because of our state, and my map reading, I chose the path of least resistance. Water. We followed a creek downhill to the road, then hiked the road to the TA. The other option would have been a lot of up and down, possibly through thick brush. Of course, our route meant a few more swamps, but by now, they were our friends. Judging by other teams’ comments, I think we made the right call. So ended our epic trek at 11 hours. Whew! Time for a break, eh?

Stage 7: The last paddle, at night again – Moving Time: 4:19
By now, Steeve was pretty tired, and was a bit cold at the TA. He bundled up while we ate and drank, and chatted with… you guessed it, the Junkies again. I thought Steeve would insist on a nap now, but when he saw me all ready to go with my gear, he found the energy to suit up and say ‘let’s go bowling’ one more time. Not sure whether we should’ve slept there or not, but the next leg was certainly interesting. To kick off, it was a killer portage. Killer mainly because we were mostly zombies now. It would have been very comedic to see us progressing I think. We finally got to the put in and dawdled around a bit before getting in the water. Our friends were also sneaking up behind us, so in no time on the water, they blew past us. Oh well, time to sing it out brothers and sisters. Steeve was spent. He was not really paddling at this point, and we had 15km to cover. He kept nodding off. I was yelling, singing, talking, but nothing worked. I even splashed him. These all woke him up temporarily, but he couldn’t get into the rhythm. Finally, I gave in, and said, okay, we’ll pull over for a 15 minute power nap. I waited 4 minutes till I heard him snoring, then started paddling alone. He was too scared to sleep while we moved, but I figured if he didn’t know, it wouldn’t matter. However, he woke up, and grudgingly tried to help again. I just wasn’t tired, so wanted to keep going. No telling where our other competitors were. Maybe right behind us? Steeve bottomed out again. He started hallucinating badly. Suddenly I was a big fat girl in front of him in the boat. He asked if it bothered me that I was a fat girl. I assured him it didn’t. Then, he was 100% certain we were moving backwards, and he almost had me convinced too. They, he got spooked by mysterious lights on the shoreline, that he thought were demons. At least that got him moving a bit. It was all a bit crazy. The worst was right at the end though, because I think my brain shut down too. All of a sudden, I was looking at my map, and the compass, and had no idea where I was or what to do. I totally blanked and panicked. A couple minutes ticked by while I tried to regain myself. Luckily I did, and realized that bam! we were exactly where we should be. What a relief. I was worried we had floated miles off course or something. Not really possible, given that we were following a river in one direction, but with our state of mind, things aren’t always clear. Now we were nice and awake, knowing we were at the put-out. Or were we? Where the hell was it? We saw the power lines, saw the roads, saw the dam, recognized the shore contours, but there was no strobe!! I went ashore for a pee break and found massive piles of deer bones that freaked me out. Luckily, I also noticed I was on an island! Hmm, turns out there was an island in front of the main shoreline, not visible at night, or on the map. After having wasted almost 30 minutes, we finally located the microscopic strobe light at the put out. A rocky shore with no visible path! Long story short, I was very unhappy with that canoe put-out, and said so to the volunteers, even though it wasn’t their fault. We made the final long trek to the top of what seemed like a mountain to re-unite with our support! Definitely time for a nap now! I knew we needed it.

Stage 8: Advanced course, MTB and final Canoe – Moving Time: 7:24
Steeve said he needed at least 1 hour of sleep. I said you’ll get 45 mins., then I told Dave to wake us at 40 mins. I was worried we’d lose our 2nd place position if we didn’t press on. We hadn’t agreed yet on regular vs. advanced yet, since Steeve at that exact moment said ‘I’d be happy with regular’. I wasn’t. But decided to wait till the nap was over. We crawled into the tent and crashed hard. Moments later, strange things were happening to me. Someone was talking to me. Where was I? Did I know what I was doing? Not a friggin clue. You’re in Quest for a Cure. What’s that? Who are you? Can you get up? Not until you tell me who you are and why you kidnapped me! Welcome to the surreal world of being woken up after 40 mins of sleep in the past 40+ hours of being awake, many of them spent racing hard. I was totally lost. I had to wake up in a hurry though, since I had still not even looked at the advanced course or mapped it out. At the start, I just didn’t have the time. Now I had to do it in a sleep-deprived, confused state. Great. Well, I did it. Looking back, it was a little off. The instruction said to follow the power line trail. Instead of highlighting the trail, I just high-lighted the power line. Oh well, the idea was close. Once Steeve was roused and up, I convinved him we should do the advanced. After all, we had tons of time to do it, and we’d rank higher than those who didn’t. Plus, we’d just had a full night of sleep ;-). He agreed, and off we went. Sort of. We had multiple false starts. I couldn’t for the life of me get my compass to work for me, or find the right trail. We passed back through the support area 3 times I think. Luckily it was getting light again, and that helped me, as I knew where roughly we wanted to be in relation to the water. Eventually we hooked up the right trail, and headed on our way. This last section was a great 54km bike leg, up and down, up and down. Lots of annoying hills, followed by hairy descents. On a good day this would’ve tired me out, luckily, I was already tired out, so I didn’t notice as much. Also, I was fighting severe pain in my posterior. Sadly another lesson I learned is that when wiping ones’ buttocks with leaves in the forest, be careful what you use. I think I got a nice rash from something, and it swelled me up quite a bit. Suffice it to say, sitting was EXTREMELY painful, but had to be done to get anywhere. Again, Steeve was great and helped out with a tow now and again, but that was a bit tough with all the hills. Also, the Deerflies were quite a pain, causing me to put a toque on under my helmet. By the time we were rolling out of the tricky sections onto the roads again, I was wearing the following: wool bike socks, insulated black tights, black long sleeved top, black toque covered by helmet, black gloves and sunglasses. Do you want to guess how the sun felt to me? Wrong! I felt nothing. Too tired, too sore, I just kept turning the circles. Sure, I was warm, but at least the bugs weren’t bothering me too much. We finally got to CP 11A, the last point before the paddle to the finish. What? We have to run to the finish after the paddle? Oh well, whatever, lets just go now. We both took a jump in the lake to cool off and wake up before hittng the boat. So here we were, 3km from the finish, 11am on Sunday. Wow! What a relief, we’ve basically made it. In 2nd place! Awesome. You’d think it would be an easy paddle on the calm lake. Unfortunately, Steeve was sleeping again! Curse him πŸ˜‰ He complained that the repetitive movements and boat motion were making him sleepy. Every 10th paddle stroke, I’d throw a full paddle of water at his face. He loved it. Anyway, it took us exactly 1 hour to paddle across, carry out the boat, then saunter to the finish. Our awesome support crew met us at the put out with cold drinks. Steeve had a 7-up, and I had a Barq’s root Beer. Man, Barqs has bite! It was delicious. We half-heartedly ran to the finish, with random people cheering for us from their team HQs, or in the case of the Adidas Divas, their restful slumber spot in the grass, 15ft. from the finish line.

The Finish and Wrap-up
We crossed the line at 11:59am, just shy of 44 hours. We’d been out on the course the longest, and probably had the least sleep of anyone for the time we spent out there, but we were on top of the world. It took us quite a while to finally get calmed down, fed and showered. We set up our site beside Moose and Panomedia, chatted for a while, enjoying a beer. Dave had been kind enough to have a bag of my favourite snacks on hand for the finish. A giant bag of Chester’s Cheese Corn. Awesome!!! Finally, at 2pm, I had enough, and decided to go for a rest. It was a glorious 1hr. 50 mins of sleep! Getting up was painful. I hurt more than when I went to sleep. I puttered around, helping get the gear put away and did a preliminary clean of the bike. Once we were packed up, we went to the awesome banquet that I spoke about. We had lots of time to chat with the other racers and shared in everyone’s personal accomplishments. It was fantastic. Now that I’ve bored everyone to tears with this story, I’ll say good-bye, until next I see you on the race courses.

Podium Finish in Kayak Triathlon!

Hello Friends! Well, as the title implies, I managed to pull off a podium finish in the Ottawa Riverkeeper Kayak Triathlon this past weekend. Now mind you, there weren’t thousands of racers in my category as there are in other races, but I still feel very happy about coming in 2nd place a mere 2min. 16sec. behind my friend Mike Caldwell. The kayak triathlon consisted of a 5km paddle, followed by a 20km bike, finished off with a 5km run. Now this is by no means as gruelling as the 240+km race I’m doing this weekend, but nonetheless I definitely had to push myself. I actually don’t like really short races. Generally speaking, the people that enter them are really friggin’ fast. I’m not. I prefer a race where you have to use your head, and pace yourself better. For that reason, I’m looking forward to the half ironman triathlon I’ll be doing later this year. 2.5km swim, 90km bike, and 21.1k run. At least there you have to pace yourself and not just go flat out! However, in this case, I did go flat out, and it paid off for me. My weakest part was unfortunately the paddling part. I was set up in my little red plastic kayak, which is definitely not known for its speed. Conversely, Mike was in a wooden kayak that had been raced in the 1976 Olympics! You just know that one is made to go fast. Not only that, but at the start line, a canoe paddled by an inexperienced team cut me off badly by accident, causing me to run into them. When I tried to push off them to get back on track, I managed to spin myself further off course. By the time I got clear, a lot of the kayak field was well ahead of me. So, had I been in a faster boat, and not had that snafu, I’m pretty confident I would have won first place! As it turned out, the records have me as the 6th kayak off the water, but then I was in 1st place for both the bike and the run! Pretty sweet. I think a lot of it had to do with my very quick transitions, where others may have dawdled. I’ve learned my lesson from other races.

For those of you interested, the complete statistics breakdown for the race are as follows:

  • Kayak Leg (5km): 6th Place, time of 33:27, average speed of 6:42min/km
  • Bike Leg (20km): 1st Place, time of 37:02, average speed of 32.4 km/hr
  • Run Leg (5km): 1st Place, time of 22.39, average speed of 4:32min/km
  • Overall Race: 2nd Place, time of 1:33:06

Not bad for an early Saturday morning training race. My goal was just to race hard and stay in shape for the upcoming Quest for a Cure 48Hr Adventure race this weekend. To those ends, I’ve been training hard, and feel much better equipped to deal with whatever happens this year. The last couple Sundays have been good intense 8 hour training days, including some good heat work, so hopefully dehydration won’t be such an issue for me. But I digress. The one thing that I was wondering about, in terms of my finish in this race, was how I would’ve stacked up in the Sprint Triathlon category, which is a 500m swim, 20km bike and 5km run. This is a very competitive category, and had similar distances as our race, although 5km of paddling is much more strenuous than a 500m swim. At any rate, had I been in that race, my biking time would’ve landed me in 26th out of 80 men, and the running time would’ve had me in 11th out of 80men. So I guess running is currently my star sport in this stuff! Guess I should focus more on biking before the half-ironman.

As always, I’d like to say a big thanks to Jody for being the course photographer for me, and for cheering me on at every opportunity. It’s always great to have a cheering section. Sadly, in adventure racing, you’re usually on your own, except for the few transition areas where you’ll get a bit of encouragement. [side note: Dave, another role of support crew is to cheer us on and tell us how ‘great’ we’re doing]. I was also glad to see Bonnie, Grant, Maya and Natasha along the course cheering me on. It always gives me that extra boost of energy to have people there. If you’d like to see the pictures from this one, check out the Flickr set.

Making it a Three-peat

Hello all out there! Well, as the title and the picture to the left implies, I recently participated in, and successfully completed, my third marathon! As usual, it was Ottawa’s own ING National Capital Marathon that I ran. Apparently, this has become the largest marathon in Canada. Can you imagine that? Thousands upon thousands of flailing legs attempting to transport their owners over a distance of 42,200 meters. This is both quite a sight to see, as well as be a part of. Each year, I swear it will be my last marathon, as I don’t purport to be all that fond of running. However, each year, as the fall drags on, I get the post-racing season blues. My final racing events are usually in September or October, then I start worrying that I’ll stagnate, so I get it in my head that it would be a good idea to sign up for the marathon for the next year, thereby forcing myself to start actual training sometime in January. Well, this past year was no different, and I found myself starting the long journey to the start line in the cold, windy days of winter. Of course, I don’t have ready access to a treadmill, so virtually all my training runs are outdoors. This year, I bumped myself up to an ‘Intermediate II’ level in Hal Higdons’ marathon training programs. This meant a bump up in the distances as well as intensity that I ran. In the end, I ran 5 days a week for 18 weeks, and also sprinkled in some winter races, swim training, and spinning classes. This of course was all to aid my on-going quest to become a stronger adventure racer, but also to help me get my goal in this year’s marathon. 3 hours and 20 minutes (yes, I spoke of 3h 15min., but that was my ‘unofficial’ goal). As a result of my dedication to the program, I pulled off a 3 hr, 18min, 15 second run. This was of course a personal best for me. My first two results being 3:47 and 3:30 respectively. I certainly can’t say that I was disapointed with that πŸ™‚ !

Now, as far as the full results go, here is a list of the various splits that I had in my run, in case you care. I reached 10k at 45:18. I hit 21.1k (halfway) at 1:34:47 (another PB), and hit 30k at 2:16:58. Overall, if you look at the 1/2 marathon time, you can note that I unfortunately had a positive split (took longer for the 2nd half) of 8 minutes, even though they say Ottawa is a good course for a negative split. This is pretty consistent with my other results as well. I always seem to go out a little bit too fast, and it catches up to me by the finish. For interest’s sake, I also put together a graph showing my section paces and cumulative paces, which you can see here.

Note that the line going up is bad, the line going down is good. Apparently, I accelerated between 10k and 21.1k. Bad idea methinks πŸ˜‰ I will say though, the weather for my run was top notch, if not a slight bit warm towards the end (it got pretty toasty later on for the 1/2 marathon runners). As usual, I have to thank Jody for her never-ending support of my racing persona, as well as for being a great embedded photographer! Once again, she tried to hook up with me throughout the course to take some pictures. Unfortunately, I was a bit too quick for her in some cases, so she didn’t get all the shots of me :-). Nevertheless, there are a good crop of pictures from before, during, and after the race to share with you. Check them out.

This year also marked a new system that I devised for myself as far as hydration and salt replacement goes. I ran with salt caplets in my pockets. For the whole race, I religously drank mainly gatorade, and some waters, but also every 20 minutes I took a caplet of salt to keep my salt up high. Obviously, I didn’t really notice much, but when I crossed the finish line is where I think I realized the benefit. I didn’t collapse with spasmic muscle cramps like I usually do! It was great. I was exhausted, that’s for sure, but I wasn’t debilitated. I think my friend Sodium Chloride is to thank for that. After my hospital visit last year during the Quest for a Cure 48hr race, I vowed to work on my hydration and sodium intake strategy during races. This is of even more importance when you are doing ultra-endurance events like multi-day races and ironman-type triathlons. My goal is to go hard, fast and very long now, without dehydrating or suffering cramps. I’m pretty sure I’m on track for that now.

Okay, enough about me. I’d also like to shout out my kudos to everyone else who participated in the race weekend in various events, including Dave and Kev, who were brave enough to also tackle the full marathon. Their races, along with everyone else’s, are theirs to tell, not mine, so I will leave it to them. Congats to all. I’d like to think that in some way, I helped inspire them to get into this misery and try their hand at the marathon. After all, a few years back, I didn’t do a whole lot other than drink, party, and travel for work. I had Ultimate frisbee, but that was about it until I decided I wanted to be an Adventure Racer! Since then, I guess I’ve really gotten into this stuff with a certain zeal, although I still say I hate running. I just wanna be cool and race in something like Eco-Challenge (now defunct), or the newer races such as Primal Quest and Beast of the East. At the end of the day, it’s all about getting out of this damn cubicle once in a while, and experiencing something real and personal. Working is too much like being a Borg, part of the collective. Getting out there and doing this stuff makes me feel more human. Hmm, never thought about that till now, but I guess that’s as good a reason as any, isn’t it? Anywho, that’s it for now. Now turn off your computer and get outside and do something!

Racing Season Upon Us..

Well, it’s been a little bit since I popped a post online, so here we go. I’ve been pretty wrapped up with final preparations for the upcoming race season, which is actually well and truly upon us at this point. In the past couple weeks, I had my first adventure race of the summer, as well as my first ‘marquis’ event, which was the National Capital Marathon. I’ll leave that one for a post of its own, and stick to talking about my adventure race in this post. If you’d like to check out some pictures from this event, I’ve posted them over on flickr, as per usual. These were all pictures taken on the course by volunteers at various points, not me, so I’m not even in all of them, but they give you a bit of an idea of the race. The race took place on the May long weekend, specifically on the Saturday. This was slated to be a 5-8 hour race course, and unfortunately for me, we took the entire 8 hourse to complete it, due to some unfortunate errors, which I’ll get into soon. The entire weekend, as you may recall, was sort of miserable. There were frost warnings issued, and the temperatures stayed low, and the rain poured forth. The location of this race was in Quebec, in the Val de Monts region. Not far from Ottawa by any means, a mere 40 minute drive. The actual start and finish took place at Lafleche Aerial Parc. This is a real fun place which has all sorts of zip lines, aerial obstacle courses, as well as caves that can be explored. If you’re looking for an interesting way to spend an afternoon, this would be it!

I was racing with Steeve Lavoie, a fellow I’d met at a few other races where he was racing in the solo category. I’ve been trying to hook up with more racers so that I have a group of people I can count on to do longer races with me. This was our first time racing together, and in preparation we’ve been doing quite a bit of paddle training, so we knew we had a pretty good dynamic heading into the race. However, anything can happen in a race, and this was a chance for us to see how we dealt with things as a team. To save anyone the suspense, we got along great! There is no doubt in my mind that we’ll do a couple more races this summer, hopefully longer ones, and with other people as well (3 and 4 person teams). He dealt with adversity well, and had a great attitude and enjoyment during the entire race. The same can not be said for everyone out there! So that was a big relief. Anyway, on to the race coverage.

We arrived nice and early around 6:45am to the race site, since we had to go through registration, gear check, and a certification course for the aerial parc. We breezed through that, got our stuff together, and I went to the race briefing, where we recieved our maps and instructions. This was relatively uneventful, the only point I’ll make here is that I chose to take the instructions in french, not english, in consideration of Steeve, who is mainly a francophone. After that, we lined up in the rain on our bikes to get set for the start. The first leg of the race was a pretty simple bike leg, which was half on the road, and half on cross-country ski trails at Nakkertok. There was one checkpoint on the way to the canoe put-in, and it was at the intersection of two ski trails. We over-shot a little, and I had to make a quick course correction, but we still found it pretty quickly, and were on our way to the boat transition. We arrived at the transition zone in a great 4th place, and a time of 35 minutes. Awesome! We were pumped.

The next leg was a seemingly easy paddle section of about 12km in a lake. Flat water only, with 3 different checkpoints. The first was an overpass on a narrow, water-swollen creek, the second on a little island, and the third was a paddle-by quiz question where we had to identify the color of paint on a sign. First CP, not a big problem. We opted to avoid the creek, and Steeve went on foot to punch our passport, while I relieved myself and had a snack. He returned soaking wet, as he ended up swimming across the ‘creek’ after getting the control. Ha ha. Sign of things to come I guess. The next CP was supposed to be a relatively easy CP, located in the woods at the top of a hilly island. I chose to get that one, hopping out, and running blindly up the hill to get the CP. I found it pretty quickly, but after turning around and attempting to sprint back to the boat, I got turned around in the woods and missed the spot. Hmmm. I first went along the shore in one direction, then the other, with no success. After doing probably 2 complete circumnavigations of this small island, I finally found the canoe! Not until wasting almost 40 minutes though!! D’oh! Also, by then, Steeve thought I was injured and had headed up the hill looking for me. Double d’oh! We finally hooked back up, with me supremely mad at my flub. I can’t believe to this day how I screwed that up. There are more details, but I can’t bring myself to type it all up. If you want the details, just ask me some day. We got back in the boat, and paddled like two men possessed, trying to make up time. We probably passed 5-6 teams in this next leg. We found the next control with no problems, and made it back to the transition to find we’d dropped down to 11th place! This leg had taken us 2 hours and 7 minutes, and cost us 7 places. Oh well, no time to dwell on that, we had time to grab a quick snack, then hop back on our bikes to press on.

The next section was the crux of the race. A very tricky bike leg that had us all over the ski trails at Nakkertok. If you’ve ever been there, you might understand how easy it is to get turned around. And yes, we managed to do just that. We started by overshooting the trail entrance we wanted to take on the road, and instead started on a ski trail further along. Not a big deal with thought, but by the time we doubled-back to the place we wanted to start at, we’d probably lost another 30 minutes. These minutes add up real quick in a short race, so we knew we were essentially cooked from here on out. That made the race a little easier for us. We just decided to have a great ride on the trails, and have fun with it. This was definitely the place for a fun bike ride. The trails were some of the gnarliest we’d ever ridden, with foot-deep mud in parts, perilous descents down rock-strewn and flooded trails. We smiled the whole way. The Gods even treated us to free energy gels. At one point, we came across two muddy energy gels on the ground. I rinsed them off, and we each had one. One man’s loss, another’s gain I guess :-). Towards the end, we missed another critical branch, and lost probably a final 20 minutes as a result. The trouble is that time was running short, since the course was supposed to be shut down at the 8 hour mark.

We finally rolled into the second transition stage after 3 hours and 40 minutes, to find we’d dropped another two spots to 13 :-(. Not only that, but we were told to skip CP8 and go straight to CP9, skipping the only true nav / trekking section. That’s too bad, as I’m confident we would’ve nailed that one! The final section was hiking up a nice hill to get a couple controls, then heading to the aerial park for the zip lines and obstacles. Luckily, the clock stopped once you got there. Unfortunately, that also meant standing in the pouring rain, soaked, and freezing while we waited for our turn to do the zip lines along with all the ‘clients’ at Lafleche. We hit a nice roadblock there, and we were getting pretty cold. After completing the zip lines and obstacles, the clock was turned on again, while we entered the caving section to retrieve another couple checkpoints. This is where my size played nicely. I squeezed myself into all the little crevasses quikly, and managed to find the three CPs in no time. We emerged the caverns to pick up the two final CPs, which were in the hills surrounding the park. Once those were done, it was a quick jog to the finish. Our final time was 7 hours and 35 minutes, putting us in 13th place (out of 17 in our category). I felt like I could race easily for another 8 hours, which is good to know, but I was disappointed at the mistakes that had cost us so dearly. Of course, this is the chance you risk in every race. Some work out, some don’t, but I take something away from every race, and it only makes me stronger for the next challenge.

Thierry at Raid Pulse put on yet another great little race, and the event was wrapped up by a nice hot chicked meal from Au Coq, along with a prize ceremony where almost everyone walked away with something. I scored some great socks for sharing my story about getting lost on the world’s smallest island, as well as a bag of beef jerky that we passed around with new friends made at the race. All in all a great day in spite of any efforts by Ma Nature to make it worse.