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Monday, May 25, 2015

Paddling Duffins Creek - Updated!

I originally wrote about Paddling Duffins Creek in Ajax, Ontario a while ago, but figured I'd post some updates.

New Boat Launch

They've added a canoe/kayak boat launch and dock at Rotary Park in Ajax.  Used to be a bit dicey to launch there, but now it's wonderful.


Shallow Water and Rapids...

No rain for a few weeks, so the creek was quite low.

I still made it up to the 401, but it was really shallow and not very fun for paddling up-stream from about Bailey up.  Downstream was mostly fine, but there were also a few small rapids sections that were quicker and trickier than I remembered.

South of Bailey, everything was still nice.  So if you're not the greatest paddler, dropping in at Rotary Park and going up to Bailey and back is a good day out (about 4km each way, 8km total).  Mostly away from civilization, other than fishermen.

The Lake

A few weeks ago we launched at Rotary Park, but then found the lake was completely placid... low wind, mostly from the north.

We were able to paddle all the way from there to Lynde Creek Conservation Area in Whitby.  Really nice paddle.

I'd just caution that the lake can bite you if you're not careful... so watch the wind forecast.  But lots of nice areas around Ajax.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Paddling the Pigeon River (Kawartha Lakes, Ontario)

First point of clarification: this is the Pigeon River in Kawartha Lakes (near Peterborough) not the one near Thunder Bay, or any of the other Pigeon Rivers out there!

Google Maps link

We parked where the Victoria Rail Trail crosses Mt Horeb Road.  There's a little path on the southeast side of the bridge that other people have used to launch boats - it got the job done.

First we tried going upstream.  It was passable but not by much, and got very shallow at spots.

Downstream was quite a bit better, especially once we passed the junction with the other arm of the river.  We saw a much better launching point on Hogsback Road - if we go back, that's the one to use.

Scenery was beautiful - lots of points where you are well away from most of civilization.  Nature, birds, the odd fisherman.

Then we got to the flooded area with old tree stumps and logs everywhere.  This goes on for quite some time, it's like a tree graveyard.  Shallow at times, loggy and stumpy other times, really hard to find a clear path through.  We figure this is the flooded area behind the dam at Omemee, but that was built so long ago it's hard to believe the stumps and logs have survived this long!

After passing under Ski Hill Road, it was a bit better - at least on the north side of the island.  South side, still shallow and not great.

All in all I wouldn't really recommend paddling here.  It was fun to check out, but in a few weeks the weeds will really take over, it was pretty shallow for paddling in a lot of places, and the logs/stumps were really annoying.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Race Report: Storm the Trent - Part 2 - Timing and Navel-Gazing

They posted the results, so I took it and being the Excel Wizard that I am parsed and chunked the data.

Most I was curious how the H-E-double-hockeystick we managed to finish 3rd overall among teams when it felt like such a bad day almost end to end!

Trek #1:  27th of 75 teams!

We knew this went terribly.  Getting lost really hurt us, when I compare us to the #1 team we spotted them over 10 minutes to the first checkpoint.  Note to self: next year follow those guys!!!

MTB #1:  3rd fastest, 18th overall by end

It's funny, because I didn't feel like we were all that fast... I really held us back, struggling up the first hill especially.  Yet this was our best leg on land... wild.

Trek #2: 6th fastest, 8th overall by end

Using the time from the checkpoint where we got off the bike to the last checkpoint on this trek (so it excludes a tiny bit).  I thought we had really rocked this, so 6th fastest is actually a tiny bit disappointing.  I don't think we could have gone much more directly through the checkpoints, just down to slower running I guess.  I was super cooked with the heat by this point.

MTB #2: 5th fastest, 6th overall by end

This includes the run from the last checkpoint of Trek #2 to the end of the mountain bike.

Nothing about this bike felt good.  I can't even remember passing people, but we must have at some point.  I'm so much better of a cyclist than this, but the heat and accumulated being-in-the-red just got to me, I definitely was the weak link on land for our team.

Canoe:  1st fastest!  3rd overall by end

Fastest team!  Beat the winning team by only 30 seconds.  My partner was pretty gassed and we weren't being pressured from behind, nor did we have anyone to chase, so we actually had taken this pretty easy... it's funny how this went from our absolute weakest leg just a few years ago to far and away our strongest.

We finished 3rd best of the 75 teams, 2nd best of the teams of two men, and smiling like we'd stole something!

What Went Right?

When I look at other teams I can tell a bunch of them had navigational issues during Trek #2.  Also everyone was pretty slow in the canoe - most people don't put any kind of priority on it, show up with a rental boat and slog through it.

What Went Wrong?

Humidity, heat - that seems to have really effected everyone though.  We were perfect on navigation after the very first checkpoint, but unfortunately the first one had the biggest penalty for getting it wrong (having to stand in a very long line!).

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Race Report: Storm the Trent (Hike)

The Result

2nd place team of 2 men, 4th overall!  (Spoiler alert?)

The Race

The format is quite a bit different from anything we've done before.

Mostly we've done triathlon-style races, where you canoe, then mountain bike, then run, all on a marked course.

This race you knew there would be canoe'ing, mountain biking and running - but ahead of time we didn't know what order or what the course would be like.

The day of the race we headed up and received maps on check-in.  There was:
1)  A running section - this one you had to visit 4 checkpoints in a conservation area before heading to a bike transition (unmarked!)
2)  Biking on-road (marked course)
3)  A running section - 4 more checkpoints on a farm/wooded property (unmarked!)
4)  Biking on road and trails (marked)
5)  Canoe to visit 3 checkpoints

The surprise was that despite the race website suggesting there was very little orienteering... there was actually a fair bit in the running sections!  Probably nothing compared to "real" adventure racing (mostly there were trails that could be followed), but for us it was a whole new challenge.

Run #1

We had heard horror stories about people in long lines waiting to punch in at the first checkpoint, so we were really ready to let fly at the start to avoid that fate.

The map showed a small connector trail that would take us to the trail we wanted to be on, eventually leading to the checkpoint.

Great.  We found the small connector trail ... which lead nowhere.  It didn't go up the hill we needed to, and it wasn't much of a trail... so we bushwacked up a hill, which seemed to be great when we found a trail at the top of the hill.  I thought we were on our target trail... nope, we ended up back at the road  we'd started on!!!  Slightly closer to our destination.

We ran along the road, bush-wacked some more, and finally found the checkpoint... and a line of about 50 people waiting to check in.

Horrible.  Couldn't have been a worse start.  We were behind everyone (or at least it felt like it) - even the walkers.  Looking back it cost us over 5 minutes, which at the time felt like a lifetime.

The other 3 checkpoints went perfect - we took direct routes, not following others on wild goose chases... but we were too fast, by this time my heart rate was way way way up there.  Did I mention it was humid and about 30 degrees?  I was baking and in the red, big-time.

Bike #1

This was all road, starting with a huge hill.

I don't hate hills - but already being in the red and overheating this just cooked me that much further.  I had to ask for my team-mate to slow down (something I would repeat throughout the bike, sadly!).

After the hill life got better - finally some fast sections where I could get some air and cool down, find a steady pace.

Then we pulled off toward Run #2, but first we had a long rocky climb ... once again I was into the red and overheating!  This would be the story of most of my race.

Run #2

We nailed this one.  We weren't running as fast at this point, more of a light jog, but we purposefully went almost directly to every checkpoint.  I don't think we could have followed a more direct route - the exact plan we had cooked up before the race for this section is what we executed.

At this point we had no idea where we were in the race.  People were doing checkpoints in random order, you'd pass people but then they'd go another way, it was pandemonium!

Bike #2 

This one started out on the road, which was great.  Soon after it turned into a smaller private road, which eventually devolved into an ATV trail at best.  Really deep water/mud pits in a few small sections, but other than that very rideable.  Hilly and bumpy, but nothing technical or serious.

After that back on roads.  By this point we were both hurting.  It's hard to deal with searing heat in May - all the training you get in Ontario before May is in single-digit Celcius kind of temperatures!  Just not acclimated to this kind of heat, really took its toll.


We arrived at the bike drop to a total shock - there were almost no bikes there.  Somehow, despite our catastrophic start, we were one of the top teams out there.

I actually asked the race organizer who was standing there "where are all the bikes?"... I was in a bit of disbelief.

Two theories:
1)  Navigation was harder than we expected, but after our first snafu we nailed it.  Maybe others didn't nail it
2)  The heat that made us feel like we weren't doing great impacted everyone ...

When full splits are posted it'll be a little more apparent where we made up time on other teams, but at the time it was just a really nice shot in the arm.


The canoe is really our strength.  I get the impression in general most teams don't focus on it, they just kind of wing it.  Lots of other quicker teams were using rental boats, which were stubby and not the right tool for the job.  Don't tell them, though, or they might find themselves a nice Jensen like we rock!

We hit all the checkpoints in very close to the straightest possible route, it went great.  Lake was perfectly calm.  In the process we passed two other teams, one all-male and the other a co-ed team.

Still. we didn't quite know for sure where we were in the standings...


By the last bit of the canoe, we were on our own - no teams we could see in front to catch, no teams behind that would catch us.  We pulled in, ran to the finish ... and wow was I glad to be done.

4th overall, 2nd two-person male... really exciting for sure, especially on our first crack at this style of race!

The Race - Reviewed

All in all this was just a really well run race, lots of fun.  There were people really racing it, there were others just out for the adventure, and I would say everyone left happy.  We will definitely be back (possibly/probably for one of the longer distances)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Race Preview: Storm the Trent (Hike)

Race Website

I will be doing the "hike" version with my buddy, which despite it's unassuming name features:
- 25km of mountain biking
- 6km of "trekking" (running?)
- 9km of paddling

This will be our first time at this race, so there's going to be a learning/discovery curve... and I don't have a lot to say just yet!  I know there will be more map-reading than we're normally used to (since we're used to none!) and we'll switch disciplines more often.

Other than that I'm just ready for anything, looking forward to getting out there.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Three Cheers for Sucralose (Splenda) ... Diet Pepsi in the U.S. Switches!

Aspartame (Nutrasweet) gets a lot of negative press.  There is a perception that "natural" is good, "artificial" is bad... although I would point out that "natural" arsenic is no picnic!  Most studies tend to back up the claims that it is harmless, but regardless, the perception is everything in marketing.

As a result, Pepsi recently announced they will be switching from Aspartame to Sucralose in their Diet Pepsi product.  (Bad news Canadians: not in Canada, despite this being the birthplace of Sucralose - boooo!)


The most interesting thing about sucralose is that it is made from sugar.  It is treated with tiny amounts of chlorine, which results in "sugar" that is 600 times sweeter.

Splenda you buy in the store actually has filler added so you can use it without needing micro-measurements to add it to your coffee...

There are very few brands of softdrink in Canada that already use Splenda:

  • Diet Crush (Orange, Grape, Cream Soda, etc)
  • Kirkland diet cola (Costco) - I haven't seen this in awhile, might be discontinued
There may be others, but those are the ones I've found.

They taste far more like actual sugar pop, and don't have that weird Aspartame bitter after-taste people talk about.

I personally hope the Diet Pepsi move is the thin edge of the wedge, and others follow their lead.  I'm not massively concerned about Aspartame, but Sucralose simply tastes better.

Is Sucralose Safe?

Every study to date has shown Sucralose to be very safe, no ill effects reported.

That probably won't satisfy the anti-artificial-sweetener crowd, but what would?

Do Diet Softdrinks Help Weight Loss?

Not on their own, obviously.  But if you're like me and count calories, they can help reduce the calories you take in from beverages, and create a caloric deficit.

Example: if I find myself at McDonald's (not often but it happens!) - a 1/4 pounder (520 calories) and medium fries (340 calories) only adds up to 860 calories.  With a Coke Zero, it stays 860 calories, which isn't atrocious for a cheat lunch or dinner.  A Medium Coke adds 200 calories, suddenly you're in for 1060 calories... 25% increase.  

Same applies for an 850 calorie burrito or sub, before someone lectures me about McDonald's! :)

So I find them useful.  Also with Intermittent Fasting, they help in the evenings to keep satisfied rather than snacking.