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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Race Report: Rockstar Adventure Relay (8 hour)

Whew.  That was tough.

Run to the Start

This race started with a short run to the start line, presumably to separate the bikes out a little.  It was about 1.5km, got the juices flowing.  We held back pretty well, especially on the hills... 8 hours was going to be a long day, no use blowing up in the first 10 minutes!

The Bike

This year was interesting - there were three separate parts to the bike.  On each part you had to get a poker chip of a different colour, then present all 3 to prove you'd gotten them all.  You could get the chips in any order.

We realized early on that the singletrack trails would be a pain if they were crowded... but we decided to do that one first anyway, as it flowed nicely into the second trail for the next chip.  It wasn't too bad, but we did get held up for a few seconds here and there with traffic.

After that we took a little shortcut road into the next chip, and finally popped out and did the paved road section.  When we got back to the bike racks there weren't many bikes there - so we were feeling pretty good.

Trekking and Paddling

The next roughly 7 hours were completely freestyle - you had a map with a bunch of checkpoints, each having different point values, and you had to get to as many as possible using only your boat or your feet.

We decided to go for the big point value checkpoints, which looked like they were mostly near trails with a little bit of bushwacking.

But first we had to canoe to that area - which was no problem.  We snagged a high value island checkpoint along the way, they just for fun did this weird inner tube checkpoint (use an inner tube to go out to the checkpoint, about 150m or so, then return to shore).

Then it got less fun.

Day after - scratched up legs
We missed what on the map was supposed to be an intersection of several trails... we looked for it - but we didn't see a trail.  By the time we realized it, we had to figure out another plan - so we again trusted the map and tried to follow the "Maka Ina" trail.

Apparently "Maka Ina" translated to english means "not actually a trail".  We saw several signs suggesting we were on a trail - but each time there was absolutely no sign of a trail.  In some cases we were perched up on cliffs, where a trail couldn't have ever existed... but it insisted we were on a trail.

It ended up being pure drudgery.  Bushwacking and cliff scaling for about an hour, while confoundedly looking at our map trying to figure out where the hell we were...while getting eaten alive by deer flies... until finally, mercifully, we found a checkpoint.  It was supposed to be at a beaver dam - ended up being the 3rd beaver dam we found - ugh!

That one was worth 80 points, from there we knocked off the 90 and two 100 point checkpoints in relatively short order.  But again, this was all bushwacking, with about a kilometer between each one - so it was a long long slog.  My legs can attest to the conditions!  My eye is puffy from a deer fly bite, my hand too, it was really hellish.

We finally got the last of the big scores - a 100 point checkpoint - only to have the realization that we were very far from anything.  It was literally another hour before we managed to get back to the road and civilization... all told we had spent 3 hours hitting just 4 checkpoints.


Fortunately we popped out near an easy 40 pointer, which we snagged before starting the relatively long (but unimpeded) run back to our canoe!

Better Days

Once we got back to the canoe things got a bit better.  We hit a bunch of the lower value but easy scores on the lake - 60 in the middle of the lake, a 40 and 50 at the top of it, and the 40 point paddleboard challenge.

Somewhere in all of this, though, I managed to lose a bag with our medical kit in it.  I had it fastened with the bungee cords on my hydration kit - as I drank they must have loosened, because it had popped right out.

Gear Check...

There was a mandatory check-in back at the start/finish, which we knew would include a gear check - hopefully it wouldn't be something I had lost!  Unfortunately it was the flashlight, and that had been in my medical kit.

Crap.  20 minute penalty.

The only bright side was during the penalty we were able to rehydrate and refuel, and plan out what we'd do until the end.  After the penalty we'd have only about an hour to go.

Last Hour

We decided we were in for a penny, in for a pound - and went for the highest value checkpoint left, a 70 pointer near the main trails we'd used on the bike.  On the way we hit an easy 20, then a ridiculously tricky 30 pointer (we actually missed it at first, picked it up on the way back thanks to some help!).

The 70 point checkpoint was out by a marsh, and through brambles and awful crap again.  But we were great with our navigation and found ourselves within about 50m of it when we emerged by the pond.

On the way out I lost my footing and hit the deck - leg right onto a branch.  I was lucky not to pierce myself entirely, got away with what will surely be a bad bruise.


We were about mid-pack, which was pretty satisfying for our first 8 hour attempt.  We learned a little more about these races, and the area it's run in... so we'll be ready to rock next year.

We also got some intel that the other areas weren't nearly as bad... the trails were rough ATV trails, but they were real trails.  So good to know for next year (and don't tip off anyone else!)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Race Preview: Rockstar Adventure Race (8 hour)

We did the 4 hour version last year.  It went well.  Very well, in fact!

How do you follow that up?  The 8 hour version of course!

The race starts like a normal race - you follow a marked mountain bike course.

But once that's done everything changes - there is no "course", just a map showing the location of a bunch of checkpoints.  You can get to them by canoe or foot, taking whatever route you choose.  Each one has a specified point value, and the team with the most points at the end wins.

It isn't always about being the fastest - last year we definitely weren't, but we won our category.  The strategy around what order you do things in to maximize the checkpoints you can get to is the real key.

Some are far and are worth a lot of points - but if they're too far and take too much time then it may be better to hit a bunch that are clustered together and worth less!  Some involve weird challenges - last year I had to go out into some swampy pond on an inner tube to get to the checkpoint, another my buddy had to use a stand-up paddle board around a course.

Should be a lot of fun - it was last year anyway!

Only downside.... the weather.  July in Ontario is just stinky hot, and this weekend will be worse than normal - well into the 30's.  8 hours is going to be tough.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Dog Days of Summer

This has been my worst summer for training in many many years.  We've just been so busy as a family, too much going on!  I've managed to squeeze in a ride a week and a spotty run, but that's about it.

At least I don't have any races coming.  Oh other than an 8 hour adventure race... whoooops!  That should be fun.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Race Report: Big East River X 2016

Interesting race.

Big East River X is a 40km canoe race.  This year we did it in the stock C2 category (two people canoe).

The start went well - we managed to tag on to the back of the biggest glut of boats.  Water was calm as we went through the "narrows" and into the lake.

There was some confusion - we were supposed to go around an orange buoy, but there was also an orange windsock... most people went around it, even though it was out of the way!  We didn't, and someone called us cheaters... but I assume they would retract that when they found the later actual buoy.

Up River

Then we got to the river.  It starts out wide and deep with minimal current.  At that point we were going neck and neck with another boat, we seemed to be able to match their pace pretty well.  First we were leading, then we were drafting.

But as the river became more complicated, it became clear their ability to control the boat far surpassed ours... we could muscle through things reasonably enough, but wildly off course while they held really nice lines.  Before long a small gap turned into a large gap turned into them being out of touch entirely.

Most of the difficulty was finding the channel in the river - there were a lot of sandbars, and it wasn't always obvious where the deep part was (if there was one at all!).  Really slowed us down.

Down River

We should have been able to make up time - but when I look at our speed, we didn't.  Again, our ability to read the river just wasn't good enough... we kept getting ourselves into places where you couldn't paddle, or taking bad lines. Traffic had a bit to do with that, lots of boats going up while we were going down, some of them doing some pretty wild things!

Overtaking people was a bit of a challenge too - the main channel is narrow, and people didn't seem to want to budge.  These were C1s that had a 10 minute head start, so we weren't really racing them - they should have been more generous in my opinion!  One lady parked her boat right in the middle and didn't acknowledge us at all... she was just fast enough that when we got out of the main channel it was hard to get ahead of her.  Finally I used a corner to throw it down the inside and give her no choice but to go wide to make the corner without contact.  Not ideal, but hey, that's racing.

There was one boat behind us pretty much the entire race - they would get closer, we'd hear their voices, increase the pace... only to have them catch up again.  This went on and on!  We just couldn't lose them.

The Lake

When we exited the river to the lake it was a shock - the wind had whipped up some rockin' and rollin' waves.  Pretty serious business - we had a hard time just keeping the boat moving forward!  At least it felt like that, in the end our pace was pretty OK... except the guys behind us caught up to us.

We tried to hold them off, but just couldn't close the gap.

Then the crazy happened - a motorboat passed us on the left, then immediately cut right in front of us, nearly swamping us in massive wake.  @#$%!!!  By law you are responsible for your wake!  Even just as a courtesy you'd think you'd be more aware of canoes, but NOPE.  We managed to collect ourselves and keep plowing ahead, but that was pretty damn scary.

We made one final push to the end but couldn't catch the boat in front - couldn't have been more than 15 or 20s gap.  Ah well.


We were 10/15 in C2 Stock all male.  4:47:33, about 32 minutes behind the winners.

From my GPS:
Start to mouth of river (5.4km): 8.8km/h
Upstream (13.9km): 7.4km/h
Downstream (13.7km): 8.4km/h
Mouth to finish (5.4km): 8.4km/h

Our overall average was only 8.0km/h, which isn't great - but our pace is pretty normal for us in all of the sections.  Except downstream... I would have expected that to have gone better.  But the river was tricky, and it seems to have cost us.  (Also I'm not sure how great the GPS is at capturing distance over all those twists and turns!).

So all in all a pretty good outing and a reminder that we still have a lot to learn in this sport!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Race Preview: Big East River X 2016

Lonely... I'm so lonely....
Ahhhh beautiful Muskoka!

40km canoe race, starting in Huntsville and eventually making it's way up the Big East River.

I did this race last year as a solo.  This was both a great and terrible idea... I'm glad I did it, but man that was a tough haul.

This year I'll be back but with my canoe partner in a tandem effort.

The Course

It's all really beautiful, really enjoyed it.

It's an out in back, starting on the very wide Muskoka River.

This is followed by Lake Vernon, which was pretty choppy last year (at least on the return leg).  Hopefully the winds cooperate.

Then you get to the star of the show - the Big East River.  You start off upstream, which at first seems pretty easy - but the current gets stronger as you go, and the river narrower and curvy!  By the top the current is really working against you.

Oh and you start to encounter boats coming the other way, first the boats that are beating you, then after the turn-around all the boats you are beating.  It was a bit chaotic and I had a few near misses last year - have to be really on it to predict what everyone is about to do!  Especially with the current and corners, not everyone is fully in control of their path...

The advantage of flying downstream gives way to slower current and eventually it feels like work again.  Then you have to tackle the lake (which was rough last year!) - it's only a few kilometers but by then I was ready for it to be over... and finally the Muskoka River.  Pretty sure it's downstream, but the current is slow, any advantage is minimal.

And that's the race!  Looking forward to it.  I think.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Paddling the Grand River: The Oxbow (Brantford)

Great day!  We had previously paddled the Grand River last year between Paris and Brantford, it was a windy day so we decided to hit it again and check out another section.

The neat thing about the Oxbow is you can do a 14km downstream paddle, and end up only about 1km from were you started!  See the map below.

If you only have one vehicle this helps with some of the logistics of paddling downstream and ending up dozens of kilometers from your start point!

Our Trip

We parked on the north east side of the Erie Avenue bridge over the Grand River in Brantford (see the map below).  There is a rocky but accessible put-in area.

The water starts out with a reasonably strong current, with a few pretty quick parts - but nothing compared to what the Grand River offers upstream.  This is a good route for paddling, not resting - the current slows right down shortly after that.

Most of the route was easy paddling, secluded and quiet.  Just a nice paddle, you don't have to think too much after the first few kilometers.

I didn't really see any points of interest worth calling out, just some turtles, herons, and quiet time.  If that sounds like your bag, check out the Oxbow!  If you want mild rapids, faster water, head further upstream on the Grand... (see my report about the Cambridge to Brantford via Paris section).


We had read other reports that said not to try paddle upstream due to the current - it probably depends when you go, and how good of a paddler you are.  Those first few kilometers of Oxbow would be really tough, if not impossible.  But the rest had a slow enough current it's possible.  If you're thinking of paddling up back to Erie Ave, you're probably out of luck.

We tested it before we committed to it, and found we could go up into a headwind in the current at about 5-6km/h - not fast, but we're just out for a workout.  So we went a little further downstream (4km) and back upstream (for a total of 8km of bonus).

Here is the map from our trip.  From green dot to checkered flag are the Oxbow part of it, about 14.5km.  The rest is our bonus down-and-up adventure we did just for fun.
Click to Enlarge!  It's worth it I promise.  

Finally, after all the paddling, our poor boat waited by the side of the road for my friend to take the "short walk" back to get the car.  He didn't think it was as "short", and muttered something about a hill.  I didn't catch it, was still a bit groggy from my short nap.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Race Report: Moraine Relay 2016

What a great day!  Actually it isn't over yet - but my stages are done and I'm in the comfort of home so why not a race report?

It's The People!

I've done a lot of races, but none warms my heart quite like the Moraine Relay.  It's not just about getting from point A to B the quickest, at every checkpoint there are smiling faces, war stories, wonderful volunteers.  Most other races we zip through, finish, and we're outta there... here you get to be absorbed for a day in the Moraine Family.

It's really special.

Beyond that you're always part of a team - and I've been lucky to have joined several, each time getting to know a few more people out there.  This time I joined a friend of mine on their Dracula's Shtafengers - one of the longest consistently running teams (7 years if I'm not mistaken!).

So enough with all my lovey dovey happy stuff - to the race report!

Stage #1 - The Canoe

4 a.m. I awake to the crack of thunder... uh-oh...

I decided to get up, just in case there wouldn't be many windows when I could put the canoe up on the roof!  Fortunately the rain stopped for about a half hour at 4:30am, manged to get the boat up and ready to go.

(Sorry neighbours)

The whole drive there, rain, right up until about 15 minutes before the race... then....... the clouds parted............. the sun came out........................ and what followed was the nicest weather you could have asked for!

Calm lake, minimal wind, it was wonderful.

My buddy and I cracked out a really good effort - he's not my usual canoe partner, but we got a rhythm down really well and kept it straight and fast.  We ended up being the 3rd canoe in... it's astonishing how fast the #1 team is, but someday, with age, wisdom, and paddling technique... we'll get them!  No we wont.

Stage #3 - Ganaraska Forest Run

I've pre-run this before, so I knew a bit about it... I actually feel like I've raced it once too, but I can't find any evidence of that, so maybe not.

I started too fast, and paid almost immediately - the hills on this one are tough.  But what really creamed me was the humidity... some people can deal with it, I can't.  I was pouring sweat and overheating from about 2km on.  It got especially bad during the long, long, long gradual ascent from about 2.5km to 4.5km... it is relentless, with the trees I wasn't getting any wind, and I just felt zapped.

I tried to keep up some kind of pace but after that it was really just keep it going zone.  My average heart rate was a staggering 178bpm... I mean that's nuts!

At the finish I was pouring sweat.  The humidity was so high I could see my breath... in +25C or whatever.  Crazy humidity.

Toughest Run?

It's a tough stage - tougher than I remembered.  My buddy and I were debating whether this one was tougher or stage 10... I think before they shortened it, stage 10 was still worse - really tough climbs and crazy swamp thing, and longest stage of the race.  But since it's been shortened to 8km, Stage 3 gets my vote.  Sandy, hilly, unforgiving.

The Team!

When I left we were in 3rd place, with about 5 stages to go.  Pretty decent result in the making, stay tuned...

Next Year?

Yes, definitely!