When you last heard from me, I was gallivanting through the hills of Bear Mountain, NY, struggling through my first trail run of the season, which also happened to be my first race of the season. Fast forward 2 weeks, and I was back out there competing in another race. However, I opted to go back to one of my other passions, Adventure Racing! I figured that since my foot has been a problem, I should dive a bit back into multi-sport racing. So with that, I found myself at the start line of one of my favourites, the 8-hour Raid Pulse Adventure Race with many old friends. Although it was my first AR in 2 years, I had high hopes, and was racing solo. Whatever the course may hold, I knew either way, it would be fun. Did it all go to plan? Definitely not, so read on to learn more about his adventure!
Well, the race season is shaping up quite nicely so far this season. I’m staying busy, but trying hard not to over-commit to racing in order to give myself to properly train for a few key events. However, it’s hard to say no to fun adventure races when I get the chance. With that, I bring you my re-cap of the ever-awesome Raid Pulse adventure race close to home. This early May race is a nice 8 hour duration, and this time, was held and hosted at Mont Ste Marie, a mere 1 hour drive from home. As a bonus, that means sleeping in my own bed the night before and after the race! Bonus.
This was, in fact, the 14th year that Thierry and his crew have been putting on events. In the world of AR, that is something to brag about. What makes it work and keep people coming back? Simple. The race is both accessible, and challenging. Top racers can put it all out there and try to clear the course to get all the advanced checkpoints, and novice racers can choose to chase less checkpoints yet still have a great day. Thierry has done an excellent job of crafting courses that can take you pretty much to the full 8 hr mark, both for the top racers and the newcomers. To make things even more accessible this year, there was even a 2-hour event, but I didn’t see any of that, given that we started before, and ended after their entire event and awards were done!
Based on the fact that the course was hosted at VeloMSM, the mountain bike trail group out of Mont Ste Marie, we had an inkling that this race would feature a fair bit of biking on the amazing trails of the region. We were not disappointed. VeloMSM has been around for a few years, quietly building up the trails around the ski hill. They have done some amazing work. This was my 3rd time racing in the area, and each time, it seems they have added to the trails, including building amazing wood berms and structures and ensuring there is a good mix of easy, medium, and hard trails. But I digress, back to the race.
Leg 1 – Mountain Biking
As mentioned above, our race began with a pseudo-remote start. For the start, we were bused back to where we had dropped bikes off on our way to the race HQ. This was about 10-12km from the ski hill, along rolling roads. The intent was to give everyone a chance to sort themselves out and separate the pack before the technical trails. After the roads, the next equalizer was the fact that most people opted to bike straight up the access road winding its way up the ski hill. This meant a steep climb, and chance to further spread out. A theme of this particular race was that pretty much all the checkpoints of the race could be picked up in any order within each leg.
For this leg, there were 8 regular checkpoints and 2 advanced checkpoints that we could snag. I had sketched out a tentative route at the briefing, but on the bus ride to the start, basically decided on the fly to try a completely different approach after the first big climb. The trick was to minimize the amount of double-backs on this section. Certain trails were 1-way only, and were scattered around a lake, so it was hard to tell on paper the most ‘efficient’ route. All in all, I’d say I made pretty good time. I learned early on that there was a faster way to get to one CP right off the bat, but only a few teams had lucked out on that (it involved a non-marked ATV trail from the original road INTO the ski hill area, where most of us got there via conventional trails). For that reason, I knew I was about 5 teams back from the get-go.
Another good sign was that as I exited this area of the course, I linked up with Adam Mallory and James Galipeau, both of whom are strong competitors, and whose paths I’d crossed on the trails a couple times. We all took slightly different routes, but all started the next KILLER climb on a dirt road to the first transition. And by climb, I mean hard walk up a near-vertical road with our bikes!
Leg 2 – Trekking
The next leg of the race was what I consider my strong suit. Trekking and orienteering. This time, we had 4 regular checkpoints and 3 advanced checkpoints to go after. Once we had reached a the transition zone at the peak of one mountain, we dropped our bikes, and headed off into the bush. A quick study of the may showed that the first regular 4 checkpoints shouldn’t be much of a problem, as they were located on ATV trails criss-crossing the area. Not only that, but our maps seemed to be pretty accurate, improving the odds we could run between these CPs. However, the 3 advanced CPs were placed at much further distances, and also involved some considerable elevation gain and loss.
I grabbed the first four points, then struck out on a bearing through the bush to reach the first of the advanced CPs. In this little section, I came across a few other racers, including James and Adam once again. Once again, we had NOT taken the same route in this section, but were together in the search for this particular point. Upon reaching the first point, we agreed that the most efficient route to the next point was down a pretty steep re-entrant along a stream from our high point. While it was not necessarily advisable to go at this one alone due to cliffs, we decided that by heading down together, there was some safety in numbers.
Not long after grabbing the next CP, I realized there was a serious problem with my navigation. James and I agreed on the bearing for the next point, but for some reason, we were pointed in complete opposite directions. Shortly after, I realized my compass was completely borked! The needle wasn’t moving. At first, I thought maybe it was a magnet or something, but I came to realize that the fluid in the capsule had somehow drained, to the needle was not able to properly moved. I guess 10 or so years of compass abuse in races leads to damage. Even more surprising is the fact that I *ALWAYS* carry a spare compass in a race….. until this one! I had NO backup. I was shocked. Not only that, but I was in the bush in the most remote part of the course. I had to trust contours, instinct, and most importantly, James!
I told him my predicament, and given the fact we had the same CPs left, we stuck together until the end of this leg. At one point I remembered my watch has a compass on it, but it wasn’t quick enough to give readings, and they were only bearings, making it harder to use in a hurry.
Add all this to the fact that there was a 2pm cutoff back at the TA in order to be allowed to continue onto the next ‘advanced’ bike section, and you can understand my concern for our pace. We picked up the pace as best we could , but ended up over-shooting the TA by veering a little too far east. Luckily, we hooked back up with a trail and ran / jogged back as quick as we could. We showed up a couple minutes after 2. Normally, it would be game over, but the race organizers had decided to add 30 minutes to the cutoff. Sweet! Still in the hunt for a course clearing. No time to waste, it was time to grab a couple glasses of Nuun, plot the new advanced CPs onto my map, and head back out.
Leg 3 – Biking / Advanced Biking
Compass snafu aside, I was feeling that I was in a good position now. Not that many teams had made it to the cutoffs, and I was on track to finish and clear the full course. In other words, whatever position I was in at that point in the race should be the worst I’d end up in. With that in mind, I wanted to charge hard and see if I could pick up a spot or two. The rest of the race was bike / paddle / bike, and wouldn’t require the use of my compass, so I put that fear out of my mind. What I didn’t count on however, was how miserable the advanced biking leg would be. Ostensibly, it was on a ‘trail’, but this thing was horribly overgrown, and resulted in a lot of bike-whacking, and when riding, resulted in a lot of branches smacking me in the face. It was demoralizing. Eventually, I just closed my eyes and rode through the branches. Apparently, my wife does not approve of this technique.
There were only 2 CPs to grab, and both were super-easy to find once we were out of the really gnarly ghost biking trail. Having grabbed those, it was back onto backroads that were on the map, and the longish ride to the next transition. On the ride, I studied the maps a bit more to see if there might be a shortcut, and ended up devising a plan to cut back through the MTB trails at the ski hill and ultimately through a golf course rather than taking roads the long way around one spot. The jury is out on whether that was faster on the way TO the transition, but it would pay off later. There were a few delays as I had to consult maps and double check where I was.
Emerging as hoped by the golf course, it was a quick 800m bike to where the boats and transition bags were waiting.
Leg 4 – The Paddle
Considering I had only managed to go out once on my boat this season, 3 days before the race, and for a mere 45 minutes, I wasn’t expecting to break any records. However, I had the rush of being near the end of the race in my favour AND the sight of a lot of other racers around me. Keep in mind that these were racers that had skipped certain parts of the course, so there was the mental boost that I would likely keep up to, and/or pass them on the water. For this section, there were 3 main CPs and 1 advanced CP to grab. Looking at the distances and time, it looked pretty much a lock that I could grab them all and finish under the 8 hour mark, so off I went!
Not long into the paddle, I linked up with a few other solo racers in kayaks, and couple canoes. We were similar in speeds, so ended up paddling much of this section together. This lead to a few traffic jams near the CPs, and one spot where I tried hopping out of my boat only to discover that the ‘rocky shore’ was actually a dropoff. I dropped down to my belly button before propelling myself upwards again owing to the frigid water. Lesson learned. I decided to just wait my turn at the CPs and try to better position myself for the next ones.
James and Adam had started the paddle ahead of me (they got through the bike quicker), but I caught up to Adam on the water. James had gotten too far ahead, so we crossed paths with him on his way back to the transition. I’m guessing he had 10-15 minutes on us. I decided I had to at least stay ahead of Adam in this mini-battle we had set ourselves up for. After grabbing all the CPs, I gritted my teeth and focused on a smooth paddle stroke to get out of the water first. On the way, we also passed Deanna and Adam’s wife, who were racing as a team of two (ironic, no?).
I reached the shore at ramming speed, hopped out into the mud, and dragged my kayak up as fast as possible…
Leg 5 – Bike to Finish
It was down to the final 4-5k of biking. I knew that I would only be out for maybe 15-20 minutes from here. As a result, I made what I would arguably call my fastest AR transition ever. I left all my paddling gear on (well, mainly just PFD). Threw on my helmet, dropped paddle off in my bag (along with my map bag that I wouldn’t need) and hopped on my bike, all in one relatively smooth movement. I was back on the road probably within a minute or two of pulling off the water. It was time to put my shortcut theory to the test again.
Word on the street is that when Adam pulled off the water, he was gunning for me, and was fighting for an equally fast transition (although he took time to take off his PFD, which I think was a bad decision). I rode back up to the golf course, and turned in, now having memorized the exact route to get to the faint trail back to the ski hill. A few other racers watched me turn with some interest, as the conventional route was to stick to the road all the way. However, this was the time to gamble in my opinion. Adam might well have caught me on the road!
Pushing hard, I emerged right where I’d hoped, in the ski parking lot. I crossed the line, relieved to see no sign of Adam. James was already there, and let me know he’d only just gotten there a few minutes before! In the end the results show me as having arrived 5 minutes after James, and Adam arriving 4 minutes after me! Our standings were 3rd, 4th, and 4th in the solo category. I’ll take it. Sad to be a mere 1 step off the podium, but there was some heavy competition in this category in this race. 1st place had beaten us all by an hour, and 2nd had beaten James by about 15 minutes. I feel the main difference had to be speed in the advanced bike section, and time lost on the trek due to the compass issue. Oh, and for the record, my finishing time was 7 hours, 34 minutes.
Time to celebrate! We all made our way to the awards ceremony to await the warm meal awaiting us. It was a tasty spaghetti with salad and bread, followed by a desert. The obligatory awards presentation, then lots of random draws. Sadly, I won no prizes that night, nor did Deanna, but I was happy just having had the chance to run yet another fun race. Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention, I actually filmed the whole event with my array of cameras while racing ;-). If you haven’t done so yet, have a look at my re-cap video below. This should definitely give you a sense of the actual race. Enjoy! Next up, 44 hours of racing in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania!
Welcome to another edition of ‘Where the heck is Steve, and what is he racing in this time?’ Well, the briefest of answers to that question is that I was in Timmins, Ontario racing in the Great Canadian Kayak Challenge, and covering said event for Get Out There Magazine. I have to admit right off the bat that this event was not on my radar earlier this year, and I didn’t really have the intention of making that kind of trip. However, when a cancellation came up, and it was offered up to me, I decided: What the heck? Why not? I like paddling, and I like traveling, so why not combine them together? And so this trip was hatched. Sadly, it would be a solo trip for me this time around, as I was flying up, and Deanna had other plans. I didn’t have time to snap too many pictures, but I did put together a whiz-bang video review once again, so please check it out! The trip was also a pretty much in-and-out kinda trip, so I couldn’t play tourist as much as I’d hoped.
Right off the bat, I was faced with a few annoyances about my trip. I had booked the tickets months back, and even 12 hours before departure, my flight was confirmed AND I was checked in. Arriving at the airport at 6:40am, I learn my flight was cancelled from Ottawa to Toronto. Grrr. So, instead of arriving by 11:30am, I’d be touching down well after 6pm. Not only that, but due to work commitments, I was forced to stay in the airport all day and work over free wi-fi and take conference calls. Not ideal. I could have driven up quicker than the time it actually took me to get there. Oh well, I’d rather they ground a plane with mechanical issues than put me on it I suppose!
Pictures from the Trip
On arrival, I went straight to my hotel, the Cedar Meadows Resort, which had offered up special room rates and was only a couple kilometers from the event. I had opted to not rent a car, instead relying on the ‘sneaker express’. By Sunday, I walked the 4.6km round trip walk to the event grounds 4 times, including carrying all my paddling and filming gear with me. In the future, I’ll just spring for the rental. After all, just the taxi to and from the hotel cost me $50, while a car rental would have only been about $65 taxes in! Oh well, live and learn. Plus, I actually like the fresh air and walking around places to get a feel for them. The hotel itself was pretty nice for the price. My room even had its own fireplace for ambiance should I wish to get romantic with myself (no smart comments on that one!)
I wandered into town to see the race venue and grab a bite to eat at Boston Pizza (side note: BP is quickly going the East Side Mario route to me, meaning AVOID). Washed my meal down with a beer, and wandered back to hotel. The kayak race was more of a festival, and while paddling was a central theme, it was by far not the only thing going this weekend. There were events for the whole family all weekend, and the town is rapidly turning this into THE biggest yearly event in Timmins, and I must say, I think they are on the right track promoting healthy living in this way.
Next morning, I arrived on site pretty early, as I had to pick up a boat I was borrowing for the race. I had reached out to Shawn from Timmins Adventure Tours in the lead-up, and he had graciously offered up a craft for me to use. Shawn runs a number of businesses, including a paddling outfitter, tackle shop, and lots of other outdoor products. He is a really energetic guy, and also runs the local boxing club. It was great meeting him and chatting about life in Timmins. Plus, when he learned I was racing in the ‘elite’ division, he didn’t hesitate to pull down his very own racing boat to loan. Once he was convinced I wasn’t a total amateur, I was off. If you’re in Timmins, and need some gear for outdoor pursuits, make Shawn and his folks your first stop! He’ll go out of his way to help, and with a smile.
The Great Canadian Kayak Challenge is not one event, but a whole slew of events, starting with the Elite 35km Challenge starting at 9am Saturday, and ending with sprint events on Sunday afternoon, and all distances between. I was in the 2nd most competitive event, the ‘elite recreational’ 16km race departing at 10am. This one of the few races I’ve entered that actually has a healthy purse, with prize money awarded in pretty much every single race 5-deep for both men and women. It added an interesting dimension to the front of the race. Obviously, my eye was on victory, but it wasn’t long before I was humbled in the water, and realized that there are people that paddle more than 4 times in a season and actually focus on paddling. That being said, I did have a good race.
Although the raw numbers in each event were pretty low, the overall participation has been steadily going up every year in this events’ 5-year history, and should continue to grow. Especially given all the media exposure they are getting. While I was considered ‘media’ as well, there were tons of others there, including live-to-satellite coverage from Eastlink. There was also a HUGE production crew of professionals shooting for Ontario Tourism for the purpose of commercials. They had a really expensive drone in the air covering the race, as well as boat crews with fancy water-ready camera gear in the thick of it. I’m sure they’ll distill their hours of footage into 15 seconds as part of a bigger commercial, but WOW! Talk about a big crew. I was a small fish out there. On the plus side, there WAS a ‘media boat’ so I got to go out for a cruise on my own on a party boat to do some filming, which was fun. Right, how about the race? Let’s get back to that.
As is usual in events like this, racers were sort of sizing each other up by looking at the boats and gear of everyone. Seeing the camera on my head, I was asked if I was actually racing or just filming. I assured them I was racing, hence my fancy paddle and gear. There may have only been 7 men in my grouping, but they were all pretty well kitted and proficient. When the starting gun went off promptly at 10am, we took off in a hurry under a blazing hot sun. I’d taken 1L of hydration, but ran out about 2/3rds through the race. Not long after the start, the front 2 guys in Epic boats were already building a big lead on the rest of us. In the first 4k of the race, I was in a nice little grouping of 4 guys (including me) and 1 lady. We tried to do a little drafting and staying together. I secretly hoped they’d gone out too fast, but it turns out that might have been me! I found I had to push hard just to stay with them. Eventually 1 guy and the lady pulled away, leaving me in a group of 3 guys.
I started falling back a little bit and worried for my chances. I was now sitting in 6th place, which was off the podium, and in my mind, unacceptable. I wanted to bring honour to Shawn for lending me his nice Stratus to race in. Our first part of the race was downriver, with the wind at our backs. Once we hit the buoy turnaround, the refreshing wind hit our faces, and the real work began. Essentially, we paddled 2.5k downriver, then 9k upriver, only to turn another buoy and finish the race with a 5.5k downriver run. Anyway, now that the wind was in my face, I started feeling a bit more refreshed and energized. I slowly but surely starting eating into the lead the guy ahead of me had. Eventually, I overtook him. That put me in 5th place. I set my sights on 4th and stayed focused.
He seemed to always stay just out of reach. Another 5k or so of paddling, and I was surprised by a flash of yellow on my right. Dude I had passed got a fresh set of arms and passed me! Turns out, his shoulder had been hurt, but he popped it back in and found his mojo (or so I learned after the finish)! Filled with fire again, I charged after him to try and keep up. After all, I had already passed him, so why was I losing ground? The good news is that this effort actually caught us up to 4th place, which my guy then handily passed too! Of course, as you can imagine, this ignited the other dudes’ fires, and he pressed on hard. By this time, we had just made the final turn, and had the 5.5k downriver finish run to do. That worried me, as I seemed to lose ground downriver.
Not giving an inch though, I kept paddling hard, determined to get back to 5th place. The real challenge now was that I was over-heating and had run out of water. I’d have to dig deep and enter the pain cave to pull this off. It seems a little silly to have such a perceived battle for 5th, but that’s the way the competitive spirit works, right? Mustering what I could, I found a good cadence and kept at it. However, when I finally got broadside of this fellow, he also turned up the jets, pulling slightly ahead again. I wasn’t until the final bend in the river, with about 500m to go, that I found an opportunity again.
I took the inside corner, pulling up broadside once again. Only this time, I decided to go for broke. I put on the blinders and put everything I had into my final sprint. I’m not an adept paddler, and am not really sure how to execute a sprint, but I tried anyway. I hunched over, dug my paddle deep in the water, and went into the redzone, complete with audible grunting and breathlessness. It worked, and I pulled ahead and stayed ahead by a couple boatlengths, just to take that final podium place! My little group of 3 all congratulated each other on a well-fought race, and then essentially went our separate ways. There were no hard feelings, as we had all worked hard for that final part of the race. In fact, the guy did comment that it was fun pushing to keep up with me!
Although my race was over before noon, the overall awards wouldn’t be until 5pm that day, so I spent the rest of my day hanging around the festival grounds taking it all in. As mentioned, I also went out for a cruise to watch a 5k race in progress. Eventually, I walked back to the hotel to shower and change before heading back for the awards. Once back onsite, I helped myself to some BBQ grub as well as a couple celebratory malted beverages. Although clouds had started rolling in, the weather was still thankfully holding out. This was a good thing, as later that evening, the party was set to start up, with live bands, a big beer gardens, and fireworks! I collected my medal and award with a big smile, and stuck around a little longer for draw prizes. At one point, my name was called for a camp chair, but I decided to just pretend I wasn’t there. After all, checking the chair with my luggage would cost more than it was worth!
After the awards were over, I made an impulsive decision to pamper myself in the early evening. How so? Well, my hotel was called Cedar Meadows Resort and SPA for a reason. The spa portion was actually a Nordic baths kinda deal, like Le Nordik in Chelsea. For a mere $25+tax, I had full access to all the facilities. Seemed like a plan to me, seeing as I didn’t really know anyone, and the first few bands back at the festival were going to be country-oriented. Once back at the hotel, I spent the next 2.5 hours alternating between hot treatments, cold treatments, and relaxation. It was pretty awesome. When I finally dragged myself out and had a shower, I felt super relaxed and my skin was all squeaky clean. I should also mention that earlier in the day I had also opted for a free chiropractic treatment. A spine adjustment if you will. So all told, I was mellow and relaxed.
The thought of heading back to a rowdy beer gardens didn’t quite appeal, so I decided instead to stick around the resort, and just head out for a solo nature walk to check out the fireworks. I’ve gotta say, they were actually really good. Much bigger than I had expected from a relatively small town. Even from the resort, I could hear the bands raging on, and could only imagine the quantities of beer being consumed down there! I was quite happy to buy a bit of junk food, retreat back to my room and watch ‘The Dark Knight’ on TV. I’d had a good day, and didn’t want the end of my trip to involve elbowing my way through drunk locals!
The next morning, I got up at a reasonable hour, and headed down to the hotel gym for a nice treadmill run. Why treadmill? Well, it was pouring cats and dogs outside, and I didn’t feel like running in the cold and wet, only to pack my wet clothes into my bag for the flight home. I put in a good hour and a half, showered, then treated myself to a great brunch buffet in the restaurant before grabbing a cab and heading home. All in all, a great weekend experience, and frankly, if I was a paddler with a family, I think that this event would make a great destination race for the closing days of summer. The atmosphere was very family friendly, the river very forgiving for a paddler, and just the right distance away to make it feel like a worthy road trip! For me however, it wasn’t the last race of the summer. 2 weeks to go till my final event, a 65km trail running race with 2,000+m of climbing! Check back in a while for that report.
Video Review of the Event
Welcome to another race report from me in this glorious summer weather that we’re having. As is often the case during the summer months, it becomes a bit challenging to keep things current on my website. There are a number of reasons for that. Firstly, it’s summer! I’d rather be outside doing stuff than trying to write great prose on my keyboard. Second, being summer, I have a lot of races and ‘stuff’ going on. Again, this limits my time to get things documented. And finally, this year, some of my races also have me acting as a race reporter, which adds to my post-race duties by producing and editing videos of the events. Getting tons of footage down to a 2 minute clip is actually quite challenging I’ve found, and takes a fair bit of time! At any rate, enough whining. I’m trying to catch up by writing up my race report for this year’s National Capital Triathlon that I just competed in. It was my 6th time competing in this event, and 4th doing the Olympic Tri distance (the other two times I did the Kayak Tri). Looking back, it turns out I haven’t done a proper Tri in almost 2 years, and it sort of showed in my results. I’ve swam about 3 times in that time, so I didn’t have very high hopes. However, with a looming Iron-distance triathlon, I knew I needed a little tune-up, so this event, a month before the Iron, seemed a good idea! Read on for a bit more on my race, and don’t forget to check out some pictures Deanna snapped!
Going into this one, I really had no pre-determined goals or time ideas. In fact, I didn’t even look at my past results or anything. I had no clue how my swimming speed would be, or whether I’d be able to push super-hard in all the disciplines. What’s even more refreshing, I didn’t care! I wore no heart rate monitor, and just wanted to go out, race hard, and have a fun time. My current trend in racing now is more about realizing that I will not improve without a lot more training, and I simply don’t want to commit to that much training for the improvements. Life has a lot more to offer me than training and the sacrifices that go with it. I have a motorbike now! Ha ha. I also have a new kayak that I like to paddle. But more specifically, I’m helping someone else grow their abilities on the bike and in the boats. Yup, I’m just enjoying spending time doing those things with Deanna. As a result, something had to give, and for me, that was podium dreams in most races. I’ll still go for it, but the obsession is just a little less these days. As long as I’m keeping fit and staying healthy and having fun, that’s good enough for me. After all, the pro sponsorship opportunities just never seemed to materialize. Guess I’ll be a working sucker till retirement!
Anywho, on with the actual race report. Luck was with us all once again on the weather front. It was an absolutely stunningly gorgeous day for a race. I was glad that the gun was going off at 8:30am, as a later start would have just been painful in the heat and sun. So, as groggy as I was getting up (and slightly resentful), it was for the best. Also, the early start meant we had the rest of the day ahead of us, and plans had already shaped up insofar as after the race, we’d be loading up the kayaks and heading to Meech Lake for some awesome Kayaking. I got to the site a little late, and had to rush to get my T-zone set up, as well as get my timing chip and body marking done. Along the way, I bumped into my friends Nicholas and Christine Allen, who were doing the Olympic and Sprint Triathlon respectively. I seem to see them at all the events I do, like ARs, Spartan race, and now this! Too funny. Great to see them though, and Nicholas and I ended up sort of racing each other within the race, which was fun. After getting my final checks done, I headed to the beach to zip up the wetsuit and await the start of the race.
To refresh everyone’s memories, in an olympic tri, you first swim 1.5km, then hop on bikes for a 40km time trial, and cap it off with a 10km road run. Taken individually, those are all relatively straightforward races, but string them together in one race, and you can have a lot of fun and challenges on any single leg. For the swim, as mentioned, I haven’t swam in a long time. However, I always say swimming is more art than strength. If you have a good stroke, you’ll always finish strong. Although I’ve not swam much, the overall time wasn’t too bad. I finished the swim in 30:46, which is about 2 mins. slower than the last 2 times I raced, and 2 minutes faster than the first time ever I’ve swam it. In other words, it was average for me. I was 41st out of the water to head to the bikes. The actual swim? Well, boring I suppose. As usual, the excitement at the start is when all the people are clamouring to get their space, with arms and legs flailing, you unavoidably get hit. Nothing new there. I focused on keeping my pace and swimming straight. Had I done a better job, I would have been faster. However, I felt good at the exit, and was ready to tear it up on the bike course.
Now on to the 4-lap, 40km individual time trial bike portion. When I hit the road, there weren’t too many other souls out there yet. I managed a pretty quick transition, and passed a couple folks while in the transition. Good start. Hopped on the bike, tucked into my aero position, and started mashing the pedals. As usual, the bike was super-comfortable, and I got into a nice groove. I expected to be able to maintain a pretty decent clip, and sort of hoped my time would compare to other tris I’ve done. Turns out my legs were a bit slower though. Perhaps it was the hard 50k I’d logged 2 days before with Kev in Gatineau Park, or perhaps I’m just too used to my leisurely commute riding rather than hard racing. Either way, my average speed was around 33km/h for the 40k course. That’s about 2km/h slower than my best, but faster than the other two attempts. However, it was good enough to have the 32nd fastest bike split of the race. So again, I’d call that a solid performance, perhaps slightly better than average for me. That only leaves the run course.
Ahhh running, how I love to hate thee :-). My transition from biking to running seemed even smoother than the swim to bike. I racked my bike, threw on my running gear, and was back out on the course with a very quick turnaround. Again, I noted that I passed a couple folks that had come off the bike at about the same time as me. I settled pretty quickly into a steady pace, once again paying no attention to what my watch might tell me about pacing, and rather, just focusing on my stride and how I felt. I got down to the business of picking people out ahead of me, targeting, and ultimately passing them. After a little bit I saw my friend Nick up ahead. We had been pretty close through the whole race, but he had said the run would be his undoing. I resisted the urge to sprint towards him, and instead just kept my pace. There was a woman with me keeping me at a pretty good pace. I found out at the finish that she was actually the 1st female overall (due to my help, stay tuned!). Working together, we got closer and closer to Nick. He glanced back a few times, seeming to be just waiting for the pass. He said he could hear my breath getting closer. I finally passed him on the first half of the 2nd 5k loop.
Once I had passed him, I kept my pace steady, running along with Michelle and chatting a little with her. At a few hundred meters to go, she said “We have to catch her”. This was in reference to a tall figure up ahead of us. Seeing as I liked targets, I said “sure thing” and gradually picked up my pace, dragging Michelle along with me. The gap was getting closed painfully slowly, and I finally caught up to the other woman on the final climb into the finishing chute. I picked up my pace slightly at the finish, crossing the line just ahead of them, unsure which of the two crossed first. If you look at the results, you’ll see all 3 of us had a time of 2:29:34, but Michelle was just after me, than the other woman. She credited me for the win, as I had paced her perfectly in order to get the pass at the finish. I felt a bit bad for the other woman, but was also kinda happy to be part of a rivalry out there :-). My time of 46:09 for the run was good enough for 14th overall in the run, and sewed up 22nd overall for me in the race. Best I can recall is that at the end of the bike, I had been sitting at 40th overall, so I made up 18 spots on the run. Very respectable. I’m pretty sure I’ll be counting on a strong run at the Iron distance tri to make up for shortcomings in the water and possibly on the bike!
All in all, it was a good day out on the race course, and I felt great for the whole event. So good in fact, that after eating and cleaning up a bit, we loaded up the kayaks and went paddling for over 3 hours on Meech Lake. Our reward for the day? Well, from our kayaks, we spent 20 minutes at one point watching a mama bear and her two cubs from about 10m from the shore. It was pretty incredible. They were foraging, playing and just generally wandering around near the water. At one point, mama let me know I was getting too close by standing up and snorting and huffing a bit. That was enough to convince me to back off a bit. She looked surprisingly large when standing up! Luckily, we were pretty sure we could out-paddle a swimming bear. Best I can tell is that a black bear can swim up to 8km/hr, whereas in my boat, I can easily manage 10+ km/hr (faster if being chased by a bear I’m sure!). So to summarize the whole day: perfect! Great race, great paddle with Deanna, and great relaxing once all was said and done. Next up: a short adventure race with Deanna, including a video review for Get Out There.
Canada’s birthday has come and gone once again, and I hope that you all had a great day off to celebrate the birth of this great nation that we live in. Deanna and I started the day off fairly lazily, with a nice breakfast and some chores around the house. A week later, we’d be leaving on our Atlantic Canada tour, where we’d actually be visiting the birthplace of Confederation. However, first up was a nice long weekend of relaxing fun in the Ottawa area. Rather than battling the big crowds downtown as we’d done last year, we had hatched a plan to take our kayaks out on the water and do some paddling, including some geocaching along the Ottawa river and a picnic out there, capped with fireworks. We managed to snap a few picures during the day, which you can check out here. After you had a look a those, pop on back for a bit more about our day. I promise that I won’t be too verbose with this post!
With the recent flooding in our basement, Deanna and I had to put any plans of hosting a party at our place that weekend on ice. We had been half expecting some company over the weekend, but a change of plans found us on our own instead, and we decided to just mkae it a relatively quiet weekend. Friday would be the big paddling day, and we’d decided Saturday would be a day spent putting the basement back into a liveabble form since it would be a while before the reconstruction work is done. To wrap things up, we also had a race lined up for Sunday, the Spartan Race. But of course, you’ll be able to read all about that in another post which should follow shortly.
We were particularly excited about heading out paddling because I have a shiny new kayak to play with, and Deanna is now the owner of my old kayak, and was anxious to give it a good try. Before setting off, we plotted a few possible routes to take, depending on water and weather conditions. We packed up some lunches inclding a couple single serving tetra paks of red wine. Yum! Slather on the sunscreen, pack up the car, and we were off! We had decided to put in at Lac Leamy and head to the Ottawa river from there. Our route was basically to head downstream to Kettle and the Duck Islands, then swing back upriver to be back around Parliament to enjoy the fireworks that evening.
The weather was absolutely stunning to be out on the water. Brilliant sun, and warm temperatures. The sky was also very clear, which would make for some excellent fireworks display later. Of course, the downside was that with the great weather, it meant there were a lot of other boaters out on the water. And I’m not talking about canoes and kayaks, I’m talking about lots of powerboats being piloted by people who were likely doing a bit of celebrating (if you know what I mean). Lucky for Deanna, my old boat is quite stable. However, since my new boat is more of a racing boat, it is a bit tippier, so all the cross-waves forced me to a bit more focussed on my paddling than I might have liked 🙂
The geocaching itself was also a bit of a challenge where we went. Once we arrived at Kettle Island, there were quite a few revellers at the place where we had planned to pull off to grab some caches. We were forced to go a little further away, and basically bushwhack to get to the cache we were targetting. In the end, it was mainly me doing the hacking as Deanna stood guard by the boats to make sure that they weren’t washed off by waves back into the river. This theme continued for several more caches, as it was much easier for me to hop off my sit-on-top boat and head into the jungles to find the caches. After a few of these stops, I decided that Kettle Island is really like the Lost World. The ferns there are huge, and it is quite wild inland. Not to mention the massive mosquitoes that were feasting on my blood. Oh well, such is the life of an adventurer, right?
We carried on in this manner for several hours, grabbing caches and paddling through cool spots. Our last downsrteam cache was particularly fun, and was a pretty tough find, but I perservered while Deanna paddled below the perch where I finally found it. Looking at our watch, we decided it was time to head back upstream, given that we’d have both wind and current against us for the return paddle. Plus, we were getting hungry and decided that supper would be closer to the fireworks. Two final caches were grabbed before we found a nice little island that we decided to call home for the rest of the evening. It was around 8:30, and fireworks would be around 10pm so we had a little time to kill.
I tried to dry off a little bit, as the waves and jumping in and out had resulted in me getting quite a bit wet, and the termperatures were now dropping a bit with the setting sun. We busted out the supper we’d packed, and casually chowed down while watching the growing armada of boats assemble in the water for the fireworks. The big show started right on time at 10pm, and as usual, this was a show not to be missed. This would have been perfect had it not been for all the mosquitoes that were attacking us! 15 minutes later, it was time to head back to the car. I put lights on the kayak, and we turned on headlights and flashing rear lights on our PFDs.
This is when the final fun started. It was now pitch black, and there were a ton of boats all speeding away from the area, causing all kinds of turbulent waters. When we reached the intersection of the Ottawa and Gatineau rivers, things got pretty hairy. There were massive cross-waves, and I couldn’t see any of them due to the dark. I was SURE I was going in. Especially when my entire boat was swamped by the waves twice in a row. I was basically sitting in a bathtub of water. However, I popped by little self-bailer and kept paddling as best I could. Remarkably, all the water drained out, and I stayed in the boat! I was actually quite surprised (and happy!).
The end of the paddle went fairly smoothly, and once out, we loaded the boats and all the gear back on the car and headed home wet but happy. It had been a great day on the water, and we’ll definitely be back there again next year for the July 1st celebrations. Time to rest up again, and get ready for the Spartan Race on Sunday. As another distraction on Saturday, we even went to the movies and saw X-Men First Class. Great movie! Here endeth my short story about paddling on Canada Day, and hope you all were able to enjoy the great weather with family and friends as well. Up next: Spartan Race Report.
Howdy friends! Have you been missing my posts? Well, I guess I’ve been too focused on living life, training, racing, settling into my digs, and getting a year older lately rather than sitting down at the keyboard and spending hours trying to chronicle all the afore-mentioned things. However, I’ve decided that it’s well overdo that I fill you in on some of my latest exploits, so what I’m going to attempt to do is polish off four blog posts in fairly short order, with various degrees of detail. The point of this post will be to fill you in on a crazy little training weekend that I spend a few weeks back up at Mont Tremblant in preparation for Ultimate XC. After spending the weekend previewing both the paddle and the bike, I can definitively say this will, by far, be the hardest solo endurance race I have ever undertaken. 60+km of kayaking including whitewater, 60+km of trail running with EXTREME altitude gain/loss, and 100km of intense mountain biking with more of the same altitude gain an loss. Honestly, I’m pretty daunted by the task, but also very much anxious to try it out. I’ve posted pictures from the weekend, as well as tried to throw together some custom maps of the bike and paddle (GPS died during day 2). Read on for a little more insight into the weekend.
When deciding to submit my credentials for this race (you had to be ‘invited’ to race), I quickly realized this would be no easy task. However, in my quest to do more off-road races this year, this seemed like the ideal fit, plus I knew a lot of other people challenging the course, and decided I might as well throw my hat in the ring. In all honesty, my only goal truly is to finish the race in this case! No time goals, no podium hopes, just hoping to keep my body in one piece and cross the finish line with a big smile on my face. That’s how tough this race will be on my body. I know several people that are hoping to podium, and I tip my cap to them, but I’m a realist on this front. I’ve never done an ultra yet, so even the 60 or so km trail run on day 2 is daunting by itself, ignoring the fact that it is sandwiched between 2 other mega days of racing hard!
Others had been keen to try out some of the course, and the race director himself decided to offer up a ‘mountain bike preview’ day, where all participants would be invited to ride about half of the mountain bike course in advance of the actual race. I had nothing else really planned for that weekend, so signed up for it. I knew a few others doing the bike, but I had hoped to do a bit more training while up there. Well, as luck would have it, Sophia also wanted to try more training, and we hatched a plan to paddle the Rouge River, the crux of the paddle stage. This is the 32km stretch of river, including whitewater, that we would be racing in UXC. Basically, we have two big lake stretches, joined by this section of river paddling and portaging. I was keen to see this section, to get a feel for the water and the boat selection. Our plan was to drive up Friday night, camp out, then bike all day Saturday, re-locate to a little Inn closer to the paddle, then spend all day Sunday paddling, before loading back up and heading to Ottawa.
What can I say about the bike? Well, in a word, GREAT! I wasn’t sure whether we’d have trails, bike-whacking, logging roads, or what. In the end, we had probably 70% singletrack, and then a mix of connector roads and secondary dirt roads to get between sections. The singletrack ranged from flowy downhill to intense climbs deep in the woods. Apparently, the hardest climbs were even tackled by us, instead being kept as a secret for race day. Yikes! All in all, I am satisfied that the biking leg won’t be that bad. Just a long slog of a day, which is going to be wholly dependent on how the legs feel after the first two days of racing. I think I’ll just be focused on technique, and riding easy that day. Risk will be tempered with caution. Our ride lasted most of the day, with intermittent periods of rain on and off. Enough to make things interesting, but not make them too annoying. We were all thoroughly soaked at the end, but happy, and left wanting just a bit more (which we’ll get on race day!).
Having finished the bike, Sophia and I next geared up again and drove over to the Railway Station Inn at Labelle, QC. Charming little converted railway station with basic rooms for the weary traveller, which is basically what we were. We wasted little time in taking nice hot showers, eating a bit, then crashing. Next morning, we’d made arrangements for a local fellow to shuttle us and our boats to the put-in, from where we’d paddle our way back to Labelle and our waiting cars. He thought we were being a bit ambitious, and graciously offered to be on standby should we need to bail out early, or run into problems. Very nice of him, but hopefully wouldn’t be needed.
The paddle? In a different word, challenging! That is, challenging for those of us not blessed with much river-running experience, nor boats that are made for said river-running. I’d chosen to use my relatively lightweight Airalite 14ft Perception Cadence boat. It’s a bit more fragile than a regular plastic boat, but more durable than fiberglass or kevlar. In the end, it was a pretty good choice, provided I take some caution on the Class 1 and 2 rapids that I’ll be running in it. I managed to get a fair number of nice scratches and gashes, but no punctures, which would definitely not have been good. Couple of good things I learned from this run: First, a nice rope tied to the stern of the kayak to ‘guide’ it down some section while I walked around was a great idea. Second, when in doubt, walk it out. shallow, fast water can quickly turn a happy paddle to a pinned boat and/or racer. Sophia unfortunately got a little jammed up in one section, and I had to perform a bit of a boat and paddler rescue (first the boat, then the paddler). It’s amazing how hard it is to dis-lodge a boat that is pinned in whitewater where the water has rushed into the cockpit! Took a mighty effort to get it our and drained, but I pulled it off!
For my own part, I gained some great experience and confidence out on the water, running a fair bit of the rapids. At one point, there was a pretty substantial funnel and drop, that I was trying to paddle to the shore before hitting. Unfortunately, due to timing and current, all I pulled off was getting pulled into it BACKWARDS! I panicked only slightly, then reminded my self to just use my body and paddle to keep control and POP! I made it out the back side and eddy’d out below. Whew. Big relief, as I was basically all alone, as Sophia was off in the woods somewhere portaging around them. Rule 1, always respect the river, right?
When not in whitewater, the paddle was actually quite nice. The water was flowing pretty quick, and the speed was often around 10-11km/hr. Let’s hope it stays like that for race day. Unfortunately, I think the water is continuing to drop, which will mean a lot more rocks along the way. Boo! Fingers crossed that I finish with my boat intact. By the time we finally got back to Labelle, the time had totally gotten away from us. It was almost 6pm I think. We’d been out there for about 8 hours! Mind you, we weren’t ‘racing’, and spent a fair bit of time making decisions, but man, what a day of paddling!
We more or less scrambled to load back up, and off we went, driving back to the Ottawa area to finish off our weekend. All in all, a great training opportunity spent with good friends, and a great confidence booster for what is sure to be a great physical challenge coming up in just a few weeks. Of course, there were still 2 other races up before that. The 5-8 hour Raid Pulse race, and the 24-hour Wilderness Traverse! Both adventure races, so both more great opportunities to get in some quality training before UXC. Up next, the story of Raid Pulse. Till then, have fun out there!