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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!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Race Preview: Moraine Adventure Relay

Moraine Relay Again!

Hard to believe this will be my 7th year at this race - wow have we come a long way, baby!

I have organized teams, joined other teams, and filled in... every year it's a crap-shoot, but I always seem to end up racing.

This year a friend of mine needed a paddler, and I'm a paddler, so I'm back!  Then the team had a cancellation so I took on a run stage as well... in for a penny, in for a pound.

Stage 1 - Paddling

The last time I paddled was 2014 and it was crazy... ferocious waves crashing over the bow, other boats flipping, me bailing like a crazy SOB just to keep us afloat...

This year we have a new boat with much taller sides, so that shouldn't happen regardless of the weather.  It might be rough but I intend to stay dry!

I will be paddling with a buddy I haven't paddled with, other than a test run (which went fine!).  Should be pretty exciting/interesting.

Stage 3 - Running

I swear I've raced this stage before, but I can't really find any record of it... I've definitely pre-run it one year.  I remember it as one of the prettier stages - all in the Ganaraska Forest.  Lots of sand and hills make it challenging... and the odd dirt bike flying by makes it slightly terrifying at times!

Most important though is not getting lost - many have, there are a lot of turns and trails that shoot off in various directions.  Important to follow those blazes...

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Why a tandem canoe isn't twice as fast as a solo

This has always bugged me.  Solo I can paddle in the 6-7km/h range, tandem we're between 8-9km/h.

Why aren't we 12-14km/h?  We have twice as much power!

I figured it was due to the weight of two paddlers displacing more water, which was a good thought - but it's not the whole story.  In fact it only accounts for a small part of the story.

Then I found this article on the Science of Paddling.

The real answer is, in my opinion, far more disheartening.  In fact it's a bit of a drag.

From some kayaking site but basic principle is the same... 

Drag And the Law of Diminishing Returns

The main force on a canoe is water - you are punching a hole and sliding through it.  This creates drag.

Unfortunately the faster you go, the more the drag increases... but it's non-linear!  In other words, you need a bigger increase in force to go from 8km/h to 9km/h than you do to go from 2km/h to 3km/h.

Now if we were a motorboat we would eventually get to a sufficient speed to lift most of the boat out of the water and reduce the drag to near zero...


  ... but sadly that isn't going to happen at 9km/h in our canoe.  We are stuck forcing our way through the water, and every tenth of a kilometer per hour of speed is harder to obtain than the previous tenth.


The other factor I alluded to is weight.  More weight means more of the boat under the waterline, and more drag.  Two paddlers weigh more than one, thus more boat is under the waterline causing drag.

The article I referenced above does some serious math and comes up with a 5% gain in weight resulting in a 1% speed difference, 10% gain results in 2%.

So it's significant... to a point.  If you're in a C2/tandem and you have a combined weight of, say, 350lbs, you'd have to gain a combined 15lbs or so to cost yourself 1%...

What This All Means

The most important take-away is that because the power/speed relationship is non-linear, a steady pace is the most efficient strategy (all things being equal).

And weight is important - if you can drop it, either from your butt or your gear, then do it!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Race Report: Canoe the Nonquon 2016

A tale of muck and weeds.  And more weeds.  And more muck.

Navigation Note for Next Year

When trying to spot Port Perry - aim for the larger apartment buildings, not the brick building to the left (that's the grocery store).  And when you get to Port Perry the finish line is past the furthest dock where the boats are moored.

Sorry, that's for me so I don't forget (and I'm pretty sure I'll read this next year before I do this again!).

Shallow Narrow River

The water levels on the river were low... much lower than the previous years we've done this one.  Made for a very narrow at the start, and lots of paddles hitting muck in the bottom - this was more like a creek than a river!  No current to help us out, either...

Had some trouble overtaking slower boats - thankfully there weren't many as we started very early, but the ones we did encounter were tricky.  On one, we tried to go inside a corner to pass them - only to get completely beached in muck!  The narrowness and low water levels made this especially challenging.

Finally we got out of the narrowest winding part and into some clear water...

The Flip

And then it happened - we flipped.  This is such a sleepy no-current river, you'd think there was no chance... you'd be wrong!  Murky water, stump/branch looming below the surface, we caught it at full speed on the left side of the boat and it tossed us right over.  We were in the water before we knew what hit us - no chance.

Turns out the Nonquon is not a pleasant place to swim.  In fact it's downright disgusting... I could touch the bottom, but sunk into the disgusting muck... we managed to get the boat flipped over and generally free of water, chase down our belongings (which stayed close due to the lack of current!).

Everything stunk to hell but at least we were back going again!

Rest of The River

The rest was wider, but still gross - weeds and lilypads everywhere, it was pretty tough slogging at times.  I don't remember it being quite so bad, presumably low water levels just make it that much worse.

The Lake

Lake Scugog can be a beast - one year we had a killer headwind that knocked our speed by 30-40%.  This year it was still, even a slight tail-wind!  So that part went great, once we got out of the weeds at the mouth of the river.  Which again, went on forever.


Don't know the official time but we were definitely slower than previous years by about 5 minutes or so.  The lake part was faster than 2015 (which is surprising as we had a decent tailwind last year) but the river was much slower (not surprising at all given the lack of current and flip!).

Next Up... 

... Moraine Relay next weekend!  I'm doing the canoe stage with a buddy (not my usual paddling partner though), should be fun.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Race Preview: Canoe the Nonquon 2016

This is a small and long-running canoe race that we've done for a few years now.

2013... 2014... 2015... man, where does the time go!  I can't believe we've been at this for 4 years already.

Total distance is about 25km.  We'll be doing it in our new HCC Grand Huron, which so far has been fairly kind to us (I'll post more about it someday).

The race starts on the winding Nonquon River, which can be a bit of a chore in an 18 foot canoe... but we're better at it than we once were, that's for sure.

The winding eventually lets up and the end of the river is quite wide.

Finally there's a slog across Lake Scugog, which can be dicey as heck (big waves some years!).  How much fun this part is entirely depends on the wind - some years it's been pure hell, others not bad at all.  Being a large lake you get that sensation of barely moving, even when you're clipping along OK.

Anyway it should be fun, a good workout and test before the Big East River X in a few weeks time!