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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Vulture Bait - 50km Trail Race - Training


I signed up for this months ago in the excitement of following Gary Robbins and his Barkely Marathon attempt.

I don't know why his agony and pain would inspire me to want to do an Ultramarathon, but it did.  I figured 50km would be a good introduction.  It's not so crazy, right?  Just a touch longer than a marathon!

My Training

I have been trying to do a lot of hill running when I'm on the roads, and getting in the trail runs as much as I can.

Unfortunately the conditions just aren't similar enough to Vulture Bait.  It's been stinky hot and humid, which really shouldn't be even close to the race conditions in mid-October in Ontario Canada.  When I did the 25km version of this it was barely above zero.

Last night I ran 24km in Durham Forest.  At least I think I did... I don't have much confidence in GPS in the forest, it doesn't seem to capture all the curves and hills as distance!

It was hot, humid, and hilly.  Vulture Bait will likely be cool.  And the course is nowhere near as hilly as what I'm doing in training.

Vulture Bait 25km - Elevation Gain (per Garmin 305): 218m
Last night's 24km - Elevation Gain (per Garmin 910xt): 487m

I don't really have flatter trails around me, although I could make a more conscious effort to avoid some of the steeper stuff... but I figure training harder terrain than race day is probably of benefit, not detriment.

... but it's not helping my confidence so far!  I'm struggling with these 3 hour runs.  Yesterday I only managed 7:21/km pace - that is with walking some of the steeper hills and such.  And I'm still thinking the distance isn't right, so the speed probably isn't either...

Vulture Bait 25km in 2009 I did in 6:03/km.  So I think it's quite a bit easier.

I'm going to keep plugging away - running the trails, the hills, and just keep trying to find that "go all day" pacing.

Weight

When I signed up, I figured I'd be dropping weight through the season.  I haven't been - or at least not much.  I'm maybe down about 5 pounds, just a touch under 200.  I'd love to be in the 170's, but at LEAST I want to be in the 180's!!!  I won't be.  So that's an extra burden - like carrying around a few extra sacks of potatoes.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Race Report: Muskoka River X 80k (Canoe Race) 2017

We were back for our second year of Muskoka River X - the hilariously named "Sprint" distance of 80km.

This race is amazing - it's a true paddling adventure, with some remoteness and just stunning beauty throughout.
2017 start on Fairy Lake at sunrise

Revenge!

Our 2016 attempt was pretty much hell.  Awesome adventure hell, but still hell.  It poured rain, the lake was rockin' and rollin' from strong wind, and we screwed up pretty much every portage.  We spent a staggering 2h18m portaging.. oh and we flipped in the rapids... I don't use the term "shit show" lightly - it was a shit show.

The Start

This year we thought we did what we did last year - hang back a bit and avoid the chaos.

Except we didn't avoid the chaos - instead we found ourselves in the swirling wash that follows the lead boats when they all make wake at the same time... we kept our whits about us and managed to get to the bridge in one piece (and with the boat right-side-up!).

... and then someone smoked us from behind.  Completely spun our boat so we were now pointing across the river instead of up it... at which point we collided with another boat trying to shoot up the gut.

Fortunately neither of us went over, but the boat we hit had a little spazz (presumably assuming we had steered there incompetently!?).

So that was the start.  I don't know what to do differently last year other than hang on and hope we don't flip, again.  You can't win the race in the first 5 minutes but you sure can mess it up!

Fairy and Pen Lakes

These lakes we knew well, and just settled into our normal stroke rate.  Other than being beautiful there was nothing all that remarkable about our trip across the lake - passed a bunch of boats.

Portage #1

This one is long - 1.7km, the majority of which is uphill.

One of the things we messed up last year was we tried an experimental strap approach to carrying the boat.  Basically we had luggage straps on either end of the boat to carry it.

It was horrible, the boat kept smacking in, the strap didn't distribute the weight well, and we were both struggling the whole day with it (especially on the long portages).

This year we attached pads with bungee cords to the bottom of the boat and shouldered it.  It worked much, much better... we still got passed, though, by boats using the yoke (where the partner carried the contents).  But the top teams seem to carry it on their shoulder without removing anything from the boat... so I'm not 100% sure what the right way to go is.

It was definitely an improvement - we went from 24+ minutes to 19 minutes.

Lake of Bays

Last year this was a bubbling cauldron of frothy hell.  The wind was so strong, the waves were huge, we were fighting the boat and chop the entire lake (3h25m to cover the ~24km!).

This year - calm!  Perfect!  I think we even had a tailwind at the start.  We easily navigated in and out of the mandatory bay checkpoints, and could actually soak in the surroundings.  Remarkable.

We actually caught and passed the team in 3rd in our division - on track for a podium!  Yay us!

... except we eventually had to stop for our planned water replenishment break.  I don't think we saw them again the rest of the race (and they ended up beating us by 7 minutes - damn).
Leaving Baysville, feeling great!

2 hours and 43 minutes, we were in Baysville for the Portage #2 - we had shaved 42 minutes off of last year's Lake of Bays misadventure (and 53 minutes overall time quicker to this point).

Muskoka River - Portage-a-palooza

Portage #2 we did in 5 minutes rather than 9 minutes - and that was a straight-forward portage (that one was more about our confidence than route knowledge!).  Last year we were so dainty about getting our feet wet - this year we charged right in.

The portages are rough.  These aren't your provincial park marked take-outs and put-ins, all cleared and pretty.  There is the odd trail, but mostly it's just where people have trudged enough to make a path.  The put-ins are often rocky or muddy, sometimes in water still moving quick.

So our brilliant plan after the Disastrous Portaging of 2016 was to paddle the river beforehand to familiarize ourselves with the portages- really think them through and have a plan.

Route knowledge made a huge difference.
Muskoka River - Fall Colours Already!?

Now I wasn't religious enough about hitting my lap button on my Garmin, but I'll go back and check them all out at some point... I know for sure we shaved a massive amount of time off here.  No messing around, no choosing the wrong side of the river... I didn't slip and bash my shin on a rock.  We didn't flip the boat on the fast rapid section.

Everything we screwed up in 2016 we nailed in 2017.

Portaging Technique

We shouldered the boat, using home-made padding on longer portages.  This worked well - mostly because you don't have to empty it and flip it over.

But... we got passed.  A lot.  Some teams were using the yoke, some shouldering it (but managing to find speed we couldn't).  I still think we are carrying just too much weight - when we looked at the top 2 teams in the 130km, they were lean and mean with the water - one small bottle?  Or a 2L each.  We were carrying about 4L each - that's 8kg, or almost 20 pounds - in addition to all the other mandatory equipment (and non-mandatory).  It's too much, getting weight down is going to be a big thing for next year.

River Continued

The only bummer this year was the current.  We had been out the weekend before as I said, but the current had dropped significantly since then.  Where last weekend we'd averaged 10+km/h without any effort, now we were averaging 8.5 even with trying... and near the end the headwind definitely made a difference, it mostly canceled out the current on the longer stretches.

Early River Portages

These are mostly short, quickly in and out.  We made pretty quick work of them (unlike last year!).

After the first river portage there's a swift river section - last year we hit a rock and flipped, then were carried downstream... so this year we stayed closer to the center/center-right, and no trouble at all.

Portage #8

This is where things went really bad last year... it's longer and around a waterfall - and last year I slipped, dropped the boat, and crashed my shin into a rock opening a huge gash.  Oh and before that we went too far down a trail, missed the put-in.

It took us over 15 minutes last year - this year it took us just 7m30.  No calamities, we had the right route down to the put-in, yay!

Portage #9

This one is on an island and it's remarkably straightforward... for some reason last year we took out on the right bank instead last year (stupidly following another team) - and screwing around there cost us 16+ minutes.

This year - closer to 8 minutes (and that included several minutes to make some extra water!).

Portage #10

2016 - 9m42s
2017 - 6m30s

This improvement was mostly technique... I remember we had trouble getting out at the take-out last time, this time we didn't - and our carrying technique was great.  Oh and I stopped to pee, otherwise we'd have been even faster.

Portage #11 - Matthiasville Dam

2016 - 9m45s
2017 - 7m

The put-in here is rocky and to get down to it requires a crazy back and forth twisty motion - which 18 foot canoes don't exactly excel at.  It would have saved us a minute or two if it were on our head, but not sure that's the best overall strategy for all the portages... gah.

Portage #12 - Threthewey Dam

Last year we got out too early and had to bushwack!  This year we went right up to the bridge (which is where the sign actually is).

(I think in general last year we were too tentative around the dams - they're actually very well marked as far as where the danger lies, this year we knew where to get out so no tentativeness)

2016 - 9m08s
2017 - 6m20s

Portage #13 - Muskoka Falls

This is a big one - 1.4km

2016 - 20:14
2017 - 17:30

I'm surprised we didn't make up more time on this one... we were fast, efficient, didn't have to put the boat down.  But last year we were fighting for position right through this portage - we lost a place and made one up!  So I think we had the bit between our teeth more and pushed, this year we strolled along purposefully but not race-fully.  We knew everyone was too far ahead to catch, or too far behind to catch up.

The Finish!

Fast final half hour downstream (in great current and no headwind!) and we were done!

10h27, compared to last year's 12h14!  7th fastest overall for the 80k (out of 29).  Our team of 2 male stock category we finished 4th (again).

Wow.

Most of our time saving was NOT conditioning... we're not any faster at paddling (and we paddled less this year).  It was the weather on the lake, and the awesome improvement in our portaging skill.  We were just smarter and better prepared this year.

Reflections

Cramping - I had some problems with cramping wrists/fingers - at points it was so bad I could barely unclench my fist... it passed, though.  I have to focus more (and sooner) on keeping a lighter grip on the paddle.  I tend to really clench it, especially when we're paddling harder - this isn't the right thing to do!

My abs also cramped up at one point quite badly, just being in that paddling position (sitting) for so long seems to eventually catch up with me.  That's mostly conditioning I figure, just need to paddle more.

Nutrition - I drank a lot of Gatorade (8L!) and ate some Cliff Gel block things.  I felt flush with energy, even when my muscles started to fatigue I felt good.  So that was spot on.

Weight - we need to get the boat lean and mean.  The boat is fine - it's light!  All the stuff in it though needs to be trimmed right down.

Water - related to weight - I want to get the water carrying down, which means figuring out a better way to quickly purify water.  I'm thinking using just regular water bottles might be the way to go... quickly refill one with a purification tablet / Gatorade that's ready to go while drinking from another, then switch.  I'm just not sure how to get this quick, or how to drink without taking too long of a break from paddling.  Currently we use 2L jugs with straws all hooked up- it's easy to drink from, but so very heavy.

The right technique???  Where's your partner, bro?
Portaging Technique - I really want to figure out what's fastest - we saw everything.  Top teams were shouldering the boat, but some flipped it over and put it on their heads (the winning team did this - with both carrying it, not using a yoke!!!).

To flip it over everything in the boat has to be completely firmly fastened, no tolerance for things to fall out at all.

Other teams had one person carrying gear, the other with the boat on the head.  Again - everything has to be fastened or carried... I'm just not sure which is the best, could be some trial and error (and most of all, practice!).

2018

I was trying to figure out what we could do to challenge ourselves in 2018 - I wouldn't say we've mastered it, but doing the 80km tandem again would be a bit same-old same-old.

My first thought was to do the "Classice" 130km, but somewhere around 50km I realized that was crazy.  At 80km I definitely wasn't thinking "boy I wish there were 6 or 7 more hours of this!".  I'm sure we could do it, but there's a certain level of suffering/exhaustion that seems one portage too far.

My second thought was solo.  It would take longer and introduce some paddling in the dark by the end - something we haven't had to deal with.  More of a challenge, and a different kind of challenge.  Exciting idea.

Then they solved my problem at the closing banquet... they're running the race in the opposite direction next year!

They didn't have full details - but this would mean we would be on the North Branch of the Muskoka River instead of the South Branch for most of the race!  As 80k paddlers we've never seen that part - totally intriguing.  Not only that, it would take out almost all the lake paddling (which can be horrible in the wrong conditions, ie. 2016).  And we'd have to paddle up-river most likely, portaging UP past Muskoka Falls, and the other dams.

Finishing where?  Who knows?  I trust the organizers will come up with something brilliantly exciting and diabolical.

See you next year!










Sunday, September 10, 2017

Paddling the Muskoka River (South Branch)


We're doing the Muskoka River X race on this river next week, so we took the day and did some recon (so as not to have a repeat of 2016's fiasco of portage hell).

DAAAAAMMMMM!!! (Matthiasville)
Safety Notes

(1) This is not  a quiet gentle river paddle.  There are several waterfalls, there are rapids, and there are dams.  All of these things are life-threateningly dangerous if you don't know what you are doing or where you are going!!!

So while I'm giving a few notes here and some high level musings, get real maps and real guide of some sort before you set off.

(2) Parts of this river are pretty remote... we're not talking Alonquin remote, but long stretches have to cottages or visible civilization.  We followed the Muskoka River X gear list just to make sure we had what we needed - but that's for a race where people are looking out for you (to some degree).  So do whatever you need to to make sure you have what you need and people know to look for you if you go missing (and where to look).

Baysville

We started at the dam in Baysville, at the south end of Lake of Bays.  There is a little parking lot there, very handy.

About 20 seconds after we started we almost flipped - it was very close.  Why?  Eddies!  I barely noticed them (not being a super-skilled river paddler) - and we had one on one side of the canoe... it was like the side dropped off, and there was no water under my paddle.  Crazy.  We encountered hundreds of them, but after that we were smarter about what to expect!

Waterfalls and Rapids

I'm not going to go through every single portage - suffice to say that between Baysville and Bracebridge we portaged 11 times.  You can usually hear the rushing water and it's time to start looking for the exit.

The added complexity is that some are listed as Private Property, or No Trespassing.  On race day they get special permission, so we had to get a little creative (sometimes with our interpretation of the law, for example).

One section about 3.5km from Baysville is really fast, and there are rocks lingering below the surface.  You could probably portage it, but we didn't look for a trail (since in the race we're allowed to run it!).  We flipped last year on a hidden rock (left side) - so this time we stuck to the middle/right and it was great.  But the water level was higher, so I'm not sure if that was just dumb luck or skill.

Dam!

The last few portages are at hydro dams - Matthiasville, Trethewey, and the two dams at Muskoka Falls.

They are all pretty impressive when the water is roaring through, as it was on Saturday!  Stay well clear of the buoys - the take-outs are pretty obvious and easy for all of them.  Matthiasville you want to take out on the left near the concrete structure (again, away from the yellow buoys), Trethewey before the bridge.  Muskoka Falls I think it's on the left - but if you don't take out there, you can also paddle into Spence Lake.  (Warning: it's a LONNNNNNG portage.)

The good thing about this section - more paddling between portages, especially before Matthiasville (almost 10km without having to portage), then almost 7km to Trethewey.

We ended at Matthiasville this time, knowing the rest are pretty easy (and we didn't need that long of a day).

Bracebridge

The South Branch of the Muskoka River ultimately joins the north branch in Bracebridge.  From there it's portage-free out to the lake if you continue downstream (west), or if you hang a right you can go upstream on the North Branch until you're right smack in the middle of the town.

Big East

One other paddling option worth mentioning - if you go downstream to the lake, you can then hook up with the Big East River.  It's portage-free all the way up for a ways - we paddled it in another area race all the way up past Highway 11.  Pretty and worth checking out!


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Paddling the Trent Severn (Beaverton area upstream toward Lake Balsam)


We were looking for a place to paddle on a windy day - wanted to avoid lakes, so we settled on this section of the Trent-Severn.

For those not familiar, the Trent Severn is almost 400km long and connects Lake Huron to Lake Ontario via a system of canals, lakes, and rivers.  It's a pretty incredible engineering feat, originally for industrial use - but it was almost instantly obsolete.  Now it's used by recreational boats, because it's amazingly cool.

Our Route
We started in the town of Gamebridge, then headed North-East (upstream) along the man-made canal.

There are three locks in quick succession - we portaged them all, trying a new technique out (which we are trying to master for Muskoka River X in a couple of weeks).  Basically it involves hoisting the boat onto your shoulder.  It worked reasonably well, certainly better than what we've tried before - and you don't have to empty the boat to flip it.

After this you enter the Talbot River, which is wider and has cottages along it.  Boat traffic was OK at this point...

... until we got to Canal Lake.  A cloudy/rainy/windy day at the end of summer, and by late afternoon it was still teeming with jetskis and motorboats.  We dealt with it, but takes a lot of the joy of paddling and being out in nature out of the equation!

The wind on Canal Lake had whipped it up into a lather - pretty sketchy, but we needed some rough water practice.  We did a loop around the island (bridges you can pass under in a canoe on either end of it).

Bridge to Island!
After this we went back the way we came.

At one of the big locks, we happened to get there at the same time as a motor boat - the staff welcomed us in, so we skipped a portage and went down the easy way...

In the lock, going down!
The water was within a foot of the top of those gates to start!  It was pretty freaky.  That's why my face is like that.
Hold on to the ropes! 

After that it was an easy paddle to the end.  We decided to try an extended portage around two locks instead of one, just to see if our technique was OK.  800m long, all worked well.

All in all an enjoyable paddle, and there were definitely options to keep sheltered from the wind.



Monday, September 4, 2017

Sulphur Mountain Loop (Banff, Alberta)


I was planning this as a run, but the 15-20% grades had other ideas.  I think I ran maybe 10-15% of the trail on the way up (and fast hiked the rest).

Very pretty, and a very tough challenge!

Going UP!

I parked at the Spray River Trailhead - basically you drive to Banff Springs Hotel, then keep going past the parkade.  There's a small parking lot for trail users there.

From there I took the trail up the mountain (not the Spray River Trail - this one goes UP from the other side of the parking lot).  I kind of meandered up, there were a few options, I took the ones that went up and eventually came out at Mountain Ave.

At the end of Mountain Ave is another parking lot - this is where folks park to take the gondola up.

We call those folks "wusses".

This is where the REAL work began... up to this point the trail was reasonably runnable and not crazy steep (although it was steep...).

But from the Sulphur Mountain parking lot up, that changed... at first it was reasonably OK, but the further up I went the less running I could do.  I don't think I ran at all for the top 50% of the trail.

Click here for the Strava Segment.  Strava says it's 4.6km, 14% average grade (seems low! ha!), and 658m of climbing total.  The peak is about 7350 feet above sea level... it's just an awesome adventure.  Whether you hike it or run it, it's worth doing.

This 4.6km took me just over an hour.  The course record is 32:42 - that's insanely impressive.

The Top
Waterfall on the way up (trickle this day)
The top!  There's town!  The people look like ants!
Looking out over the descent valley on the other side
Going DOWN!

There are two options - go back from whence you came, or go down the backside of the mountain.  I hate out-and-backs, so of course I went down the other side.

I was shocked at just how much this hurt.  My quads were absolutely exploding by the end - the grade is just so much.  I usually pride myself in my descending, I can up the cadence and fly down.  But that didn't work at all, it was just too long and steep...

Back to the Start

I followed the trail over to the Cave and Basin area - follows a little road.

From there there were a bunch of trail and road options to get back to the start.  The initial plan had been to follow the river then to come back up from Bow Falls to the parking lot - but I was so cooked I just followed the road back to Banff Springs.

Total run length was 18km - but it was so much harder than a normal 18km run.  The air was thin, the climbs were tough, it really killed me!  But I'm so glad I did it... such is the odd nature of running and stuff.  What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!

It was also my first crack at a "real" mountain run.  Respect to those who do this stuff often, it's really tough stuff.





Saturday, September 2, 2017

Sugarloaf Loop (George S. Mickelson Trail) - South Dakota Rail Trail


I was vacationing near Lead, South Dakota, and headed out for a run on the Mickelson Trail.

Kirk Road Trail head!  
This particular part is a loop up and down a really big hill.  It's a rail trail so it's theoretically not too steep - but we later went on a 1880's steam train, and they explained these were some of the most severe rail grades around.


Rough Map - I started at the Kirk Road trailhead

The trail - near top of mountain

The George S. Mickelson Trail is 175km long!  So I barely scratched the surface here - and it was amazing.

The trail was really nice - gravel, firm surface, very suitable for trail running and biking.  I really wish I had my cyclocross bike with me!  Someday I'll come back and experience the rest of it.  The Black Hills area is just so beautiful - hills, wildlife, and a really cool sub-culture Wild West feel.

A trestle

View from the top of Lead, SD

Elevation (Counter-Clockwise, Starting @ Kirk)
One of about 20 deer I saw - most scurried off, this one was nice enough to pose
1880 Steam Train
1880s steam train you can take from Hill City to Keystone.
We did.  It was awesome.
If you're a rail buff... this is a must-do.  It's an 1880's steam train that runs on similar tracks to the one the rail trail follows.  2 hour journey, it's just an impressive piece of business.

I've always pictured in my head what it must have looked like when these trains occupied the rail trails - this brought that to life.  The train struggled up those same kinds of grades I did!  And screeched as it braked down the other side... all just awesome.

Book early though - it sells out!!!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Race Report: 2017 Rockstar Adventure Race (8 hour)


That was fun!  I think.

Me before the race, ready to rock!
The Race - Start

This year was a little bit different.  We were bused out to a starting point outside of the property, then had to do a trail run back to the start.

School Busing Like a Rockstar!
I was honestly a little disappointed!  When I heard we were starting somewhere remote, we thought for all that extra expense/effort we'd be doing something kick-ass cool.  Most of the trail we'd run before, so we only really did about 1.5-2km that we hadn't seen before.  But that's OK!

The run was good - rutted ATV trails, muddy sections, pretty hilly.  There were a couple of bridges out, so we had to bypass them by wading through the lake.  We were told "knee high water", then found ourselves emerged up to our belly buttons!

Good stuff.

We held back for the most part, I was in my "I can do this all day" pace (not sure about my partner but he kept saying he was OK so I kept it up!).  It's a long day, nobody gets a ribbon for winning the opening run!

Rogaine-Style Checkpoints

After the run we had about 7.5 hours left to get to as many checkpoints as we could.

If you're not familiar with this kind of race - you're basically given a map and an instruction sheet detailing the location of numerous checkpoints.  Each has a point value.  You can take any route you want, with the goal of getting the most points of any teams.  If there's a tie, the team that got to the finish first wins.

In past years we were allowed to canoe and run only (and the opening stage was mountain biking).

This year we were allowed to use the bike, canoe or run!  It was a fantastic change, the strategy was quite a bit different as you could bike to some far-flung places before running.

We split up the checkpoints into three sections - bike, canoe, bike.

Bike #1

We started by biking down this long road and picking up the checkpoints along it.

The first checkpoint was at the top of a giant rock hill/cliff.  We found it pretty easily.  The second one we had seen from the road - it was a tough slog to get to it, but still pretty easy.

The third one was problematic... it was listed as being near a creek, and when we got off the bike we were near a water thing and what looked like a creek... but no checkpoint.  A bunch of teams wandered around with us looking lost/confused, until finally we found a much larger creek quite far into the bush from where we'd started!  Ugh.  Took us about 15 minutes of screwing around in the bush to find it.

The next one was reasonably straightforward, although I made a small mistake and we came at it from the wrong end - I overshot it a little.  Maybe 5 minutes added.

We skipped the next one.  CP62.  We knew the "trail" it was on (no longer much of a trail) from previous years, and we figured it would be time consuming... this was under the assumption that clearing the course was impossible - we'd never been even close... more on this later, but we really made a mistake not going for it!!!

One other rule change for this year - we weren't allowed to do any of the "staffed" checkpoints until 2pm... we realized all of a sudden we were way ahead of schedule!  Our plan had assumed we would hit those checkpoints as part of getting other ones.  So we made a game-time decision to go for this one along an ATV trail (CP63).  We were able to bike all the way up to it - it was rough at times, but I remembered the trails from a previous time and I it really paid off.  There was one deep creek crossing, but other than that it was easy peasy.

Canoe

The next set of checkpoints were accessible from the boat.

The first one was in the middle of the lake - you could see it from shore, so easy 60 points!  We had to skip the staffed checkpoint as we were still too early... but other than that we went according to plan, hitting the checkpoints along the lake without much trouble.

There were two that were inland that we had to bush-wack to.  The first we had planned to get to - it was along a rocky creek and up to a marsh.  No trouble finding it.

The second one we hadn't planned, but we were now realizing that clearing the course was a distinct possibility!  This was on a beaver dam between two swamps.  We took a rough bearing, found the creek we needed to follow, and nailed that one off too.

Island checkpoint has been a staple of the race, easy one.  Then the first staffed checkpoint...

Inner tube.  You have to sit in it, paddle out to a buoy thing with the timing checkpoint punch about 100m out.  By "paddle" I really mean "flail your arms uncomfortably trying to move yourself in an inner tube"... I get to do this one every year, and I hate it every year - but I finally got positioned right and managed to do it pretty quickly.

Paddled back to the start/finish and that was the end of the canoe for the race!

Bike #2

This ended up being a bit of a mess.

First we nailed off a stand-up paddleboard stage.  My partner killed it, it was super impressive (but he's been practicing since we first did this one a few years ago!).

Then there were three checkpoints up in this marshy area... it was utter drudgery.  We biked as far as we could (which wasn't far) and then trudged through heavy heavy bush for the next hour and a half.

Devoured by deer flies (DEET is a scam!), scratched to hell by brush... trudging through all kinds of nasty marsh... this is what we hated last year, and this year we were back at it!

Our navigating was on point - looking at the map we were very direct for the most part, getting to the checkpoints.  But it was just very tough going.

One other rule we had to deal with - you had to visit the start/finish checkpoint between 4pm-6pm (5-7h into the race) and tell them what checkpoints you'd be attempting from then on.  We had hoped to complete our full bike loop then check in, but it was clear we wouldn't be able to get there by 6pm... so we had no choice but to abandon our loop and go back to the start.  This cost us more time, another 10-15mins of backtracking probably.

Unanticipated Bike #3

There were two major checkpoints left, both reachable by bike.

The first was a trail building checkpoint.  This, again, ended up being a mess!

We got there, and ended up having to run a lonnnng way off the main trail to get to the point where they were building.  Unbeknownst to us - we were running on trail that had been built that day, by people who did this checkpoint earlier than us!  If we had hit this one earlier we'd have saved ourselves a good kilometer of running... UGH!!!

Then more bad news - the 80 point "bonus" checkpoint you got for trailbuilding was back the way we'd already gone (Bike #1)... so we'd have to double back later.

Then even MORE bad news - on the way out, on a giant rocky ledge, I managed to stub my toe hard on a stump I didn't see at all... I went flying and hit the deck.  My toe is a very nice shade of purple now... it hurt like hell!!!

It hurts more than it looks like it should - that toenail is history!
After the trail build we went to the far bike checkpoint - it was easy to find, 80 points, we felt pretty good about that one.  By this point we were starting to fade pretty badly (my partner especially!) so our pace was pretty bad...

We doubled back on the road to the bonus checkpoint, then came back to the start/finish.

There were two last staffed checkpoints.  The first was one we have always avoided.... you have to find a CD on the bottom of the lake at a depth of about 8 feet.  I can't get down to the bottom - I don't know what it is, I get my head under water, but I just can't get down deep.  Fortunately a helper kid was there to do it for me.  Yay!  Still counts!

The last one was we had to drink a small amount of beer.  We drank the small amount of beer.  It was delicious.

FINISHED!

And that was all she wrote for us!  We finished with about half an hour to spare.  We had missed just one checkpoint... we were kicking ourselves, but there just wasn't time to go back and get it.  It wasn't completely impossible, but it would have been a risk, and we were pretty done.

On further reflection - when we went back to get that bonus checkpoint, we were pretty close to the one we'd missed... but in the moment it wasn't even a flicker in my mind.

We ended up finishing 8th in our division (team of 2 male) - the top 7 teams all ran the table, the top team actually got some bonus checkpoints available to those who got all the other checkpoints.  Amazing.

I'm reasonably sure we could have run the table... I'm not quite as sure we'd have improved on our result, we'd still have had to have finished sooner than the other teams that ran the table, and I think we'd have just squeaked in under 8 hours.  We would have had to have a few other things go right for us - like not having to double back for the mid-race check-in at the start/finish, or not having to go so far down the trail for the trail build, or after that not having to double back to get the bonus checkpoint... mostly just unlucky, though, you can't anticipate everything!

Next Year

This race is so well done, it's just awesome fun.

What isn't that fun is the bushwacking in some of the areas... there's some pretty passable brush in some areas, but others are marshy hell.  It becomes drudgery... I'm sure some folks like it, but neither of us do.  We didn't have to deal with that in the 4 hour version a couple of years ago - seems to only be a feature of the 8 hour!

So we'll likely go back down to the 4 hour next year.  Later start (get to sleep in!), less horrible bush-wacking, just as much fun (more fun?).  I think we can rock it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Race Preview: Rockstar Adventure Race (8 hour) 2017


We're back!

This race is so much fun.  Unlike a traditional race that follows a set course, this is a points race - you are given maps detailing the location of various checkpoints, each worth a certain amount of points.  Get as many points as you can in 8 hours!

Paddling, running, and mountain biking.

It's designed so that getting to all of them is not really feasible, so you have to strategize a lot - which checkpoints to go for, what route to take, etc.  That's part of the fun.  Oh and some navigation.

The Past

In 2015 we actually won our category in the 4 hour.  Managed to plan a pretty smart route and had a little luck while other teams faltered!

We did the 8 hour in 2016 thinking it would be a lot of the same, just at a slower overall pace... but we got lost in some really nasty brush areas and spent hours and hours bushwacking.  It was not fun.

So we have some revenge on our minds as we line up again.

Ch-ch-ch-chaaaaanges

Usually this race starts with a marked mountain bike course, then you have only the canoe and running in your toolbox for the rest of the race.

This year they will still start with a marked course - but they're not telling us the discipline until race day.  And then the rest of the race for the first time we can use our bikes!

This adds a whole new dimension to things.  Some of the trails in the area are very bikeable, some are very not bikeable... we don't know the whole system, so it's going to be a bit of guesswork at times.  We want to maximize the time in the boat or biking, as running for 8 hours is not something we're looking to do.

Should be a hoot trying to figure it all out!



Sunday, July 16, 2017

Race Report: Lindsay Milk Run (21.1k)

Most races need more cowbell... not this one!  Check out the cool finisher's medal.

Coolest Medal Ever?
Really great race - well organized, I was a little concerned the 21.1k wouldn't go off quite as planned but it was perfect.  As advertised there were aid stations every 2-3km, it was really awesome.  Only small quibble - not all had Gatorade...... some just had water.  But it was OK.

Course was mostly flat - there's elevation change but it's subtle, being about 80% on rail trail.  Rail trail was mostly hard packed gravel/sand, it was a decent surface for the most part.

Best of all - Kawartha Lakes Dairy provided FREE ICE CREAM (and milk!) at the finish!  Mmmmmm that hit the spot (especially in the heat and sun).  Highly recommend this race - 5k/10k/21.1k options.

My Race

For the half marathon, we had to be there at 6:15am for the bus to the start (it's point to point) - so from Whitby that meant a 4.30am wake up.  Ouch.  Extra coffee and some rockin' tunes to wake me up on the drive up and I showed up ready to rock.

I lined up with the pretty serious looking half marathon crowd.  Running Free had pacers there - which was great, except I had no idea what pace I wanted.

We started with a short downhill, which always messes me up a little with pacing.  I let it fly then tried to settle back into something near 5:00/km.

I was pretty unsure of how I'd feel today, so my pacing plan was "whatever my legs were telling me".  And at the start they were saying "we feel good, let's go!".  I held back a little but was managing pretty close to a 5:00/km pace at the start.

After a short climb we hit the rail trail.  The surface is gravel/sand and mostly pretty well packed - maybe a little slower than asphalt, but not by much.  Certainly it's softer and more forgiving.

At the halfway point my pace was 5:02/km - and it felt like we'd gained some elevation.  I was thinking 5:05/km would be a reasonable goal time.  Stupidly, though, I hadn't checked the elevation of the finish to compare... so we actually weren't going to be going downhill much after this point, and the overall course is slightly net uphill!

There's a bridge over the lake at 12k - this is the lowest point in the course, and from there my pace started to die as we went back up.  It's not steep (being a rail trail and all) but it's noticeable.  I tried to ignore my pace and just watch heart rate and go by feel.

By the time we joined the other races (5k/10k) I was really starting to suffer.  Dripping sweat, my shirt and shorts were soaked through.  Then we left the rail trail and the last vestiges of shade...

One lady commented that she had "never seen someone sweat so much they left wet footprints" as I went by.  HAHAHA that gave me a chuckle.  But I was seriously dripping sweat, I'm bad for it at the best of times, but I probably lost several pounds of fluid.  Hard to make up with those little cups of Gatorade!

I managed to find some pace for the finish but even with the net downhill I was only managing 5:07/km at this point... for a final pace of 5:11/km (1:49:42 finishing time).

Considering I biked 200km just 36 hours before this race, I'm pretty happy with that.  It is what it is!

I was completely wiped at the finish - chugged down a couple of chocolate milks to try get some salt back in me, water, and of course two bowls of delicious Kawartha Dairy Ice Cream!  (I'm not affiliated with them, other than enjoying their ice cream).

Not a bad race for me, and as an event it was really excellent.  I'll be back for sure!





Saturday, July 15, 2017

Race Preview: Lindsay Milk Run (21.1k)


Race website

I've meant to do this race for awhile (heard great things), but this year they added a 21.1k so I figured it was the year.

The regular milk run is a 5k/10k up in Lindsay around town.

Half Marathon

This race is point-to-point, starting at Daytonia Beach (not to be confused with Daytona) and mostly following the Victoria Rail Trail.

Lots of gravel but very flat... should be interesting.

There is actually a bus that takes participants from the finish to the start, leaving 45 minutes before the race starts... this wasn't alllll that well communicated, and neither was the race kit pickup (leading to some confusion on whether there was race day pick-up or not).  It's their first year offering the distance so I'm anticipating some "growing pains"!  Hopefully not too bad, but I'll bet a carton of milk a bunch of folks miss the bus to the start.  Point to point races are always a little challenging for organizers, hope they're up to the challenge!

My Preparation

I biked 200km Friday, so I'm in ridiculously bad shape for this race.  It was always going to be "just for fun" so i'm not that worried, I'll just go out and do what I can.  I did a 21.1k long run on Monday (again, bad preparation!) not knowing I'd be doing this race at 5:23/km... I think 5:15/km is probably a reasonable goal pace.  I'll try it out and back off if it's not going well.



Friday, July 14, 2017

Ride Report: Tour de GTA


Description and route are here.

What a great day!  194km of riding from Whitby to Burlington.

Whitby to Musselman Lake (0km-50km)

Started off in my hometown of Whitby.  The route technically starts at the GO station, but I didn't want to go down there and back up so I just started at my house.  (I did the part from the GO station back home after, so I'm at peace with it).

From 0 to 37.5km it's net uphill, starting at about 300feet and climbing to 1200feet.  Two climbs of note - Country Lane from Columbus to Brawley is pretty tough, and Concession 7 going south out of Uxbridge is steep.

After that it got very zippy - rollers, and I might have even had a tailwind.

Musselman Lake to Yonge Street Aurora (50km-75km)

This was a really fast section, EXCEPT... St. John's Sideroad was closed at Highway 404!  This added 5km of detouring.  It would have only been 4km, but I thought it would be open west of Leslie and it wasn't... so had another detour to finally get back on it.

St. John's Sideroad got pretty busy through Aurora, but it wasn't too horrible.  Wide road.

Yonge Street Aurora to Schomberg (75km-95km)

Immediately after Yonge things got tough... some steep climbs along 18th Sideroad.  But there's a hell of a reward on the other side!  The descent from Dufferin to Keele was awesome!

Kettleby looked like a really pretty town - but a heck of a climb leaving, and it was under construction so got a dose of gravel.  Nothing too bad (and fortunately it wasn't raining badly so not a mud pit).

After Kettleby is a long exposed flat-ish section until Schomberg.  Several gas stations along this road if you need to refuel!

Hit the convenience store at Schomberg.

Schomberg to Mono Road (95km-119km)

Quite a few climbs here and there, and encountered a bit more construction (gravel again!).  Really pretty.

Mono Road to Hurontario (119km-128km)

Boring mostly flat exposed fields.  I was heard to retort "this is boring".  WHY DID I SAY THAT...?

Hurontario to Mississauga Rd (128km-132km)

HUGE hill.  Steep.  Long.  Oh and under construction.  I span and span but man, what a challenge... and I was starting to feel some fatigue at this point.

Mississauga Road to Glen Williams (via Terra Cotta) (132km-147km)

This section was fantastically pretty - beautiful road, lots of downhill.  Nice looking communities and the Credit River roiling below.  I'd like to go back and check it out sometime.

Refueled at the convenience store at Confederation & Wildwood Road... then.....

Glen Williams to Nassagaweya (147km-167km)

HILL.  Of course.  Steeeeep climb out of Glen Williams.  Just lots of climbing here, and I was really feeling it... sun was out (where was the rain I was promised!?).

15th Side Road was really pretty, enjoyable ride.  More hills.

Nassageway (6th Line) south to Appleby Line (167km-173km)

WEEEEEEEEEE!!!  Downhill!  I hit 80km/h - not a word of a lie.  Terrifying.  But WEEEEEEE!!!!

I really needed that.

Appleby Line to Burlington (173km-195km)

I had an inkling I wasn't out of the woods... I vaguely remembered a climb on this road, before the nice downhill.

And wow, what a climb.  So steep... it's not as long as going up the escarpment from the other side, but it's not short either!  I had a hard time just keeping the pedals going with 175km+ in my legs...

After that it's Rattlesnake Point, and the switchbacks down the escarpment.  That was a hoot.

The rest of Appleby Line is net downhill and pretty fast.  A few little climbs (which I really felt) but mostly fast.  In town there's a bike lane - it's a bit sketchy at times with cars blasting out of parking lots, and it was rush hour... I would avoid rush hour if possible!

Words of Wisdom

The climbs on the west end are way tougher than the east end... I think if you can find a day where the wind is blowing West to East, that's the way to go.  There's still a few climbs that will get you in the last ~50km, but nothing nearly as serious.

I don't know if I have any more wisdom than that really!  I'll try this ride again in the opposite direction next year.



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tour de GTA (Greater Toronto Area)


***Updated after I actually did it with some new notes!!!***

I want to do something epic and I have always had this one in mind, but haven't found a day to pull it off.

Friday is the day!

The Concept

Bike from Whitby to Burlington (or the reverse).
Use the GO train to get back (or to the start).

Note: after actually doing it - the hills west of Yonge are much, much harder than the hills east of Yonge!  I prefer having fresh legs to tackle the worst stuff and have a progressively easier ride as the miles add up - so next time I will find a day with favourable winds and go Burlington to Whitby.  It should be easier!


The Route

196km of awesomeness.

Gmap-pedometer.com link (warning: takes time to load)

Note: St. John's Sideroad is closed at Highway 404 until December 2017 - actually it's a longer stretch than that.  I added 5km messing with detours - check for construction updates before using this route!!!

There are probably shorter routes, but would they be as cool?  I.  Think. Not.

I used a bunch of sources, mostly Strava Heatmaps to figure out where people ride a lot.  I'm hoping that has yielded a safe route without too much traffic!

Potential Rest Stops

0.1km - on the east side of Brock are a bunch of food options, McDonald's and some other stuff near the gas station.

~20km - Ashburn General Store at Ashburn and Myrtle (SW corner)

39km - turn north and go into Uxbridge, lots of stores etc to refuel (and a nice little town)

56km - turn south onto Ninth Line, just before Musselman Lake on the right side there is a little store where lots of cyclists congregate to refuel

58km - at the corner of Aurora Road and Highway 48 there's a convenience store right on the route (but I highly recommend Musselman Lake because it's pretty)

Pottageville - there's a gas station, presumably with stuff.

94km - right at the intersection of Main and Church in Schomberg is a little convenience store.  How convenient!  Edit: I stopped here, had everything I needed.

119km - Mono Road - I think there's a store here, but not 100% Edit: I noticed a gas station, but didn't stop.

147.5km - Confederation and Wildwood/Prince near Georgetown.  Edit: SW corner has a convenience store, fully stocked.

193km to the end - lots of stuff along Appleby Line.

Other Route Notes

If you go Burlington to Whitby - you get to go up the infamous Rattlenake Point climb.  It's steep and a good way to warm up the legs!  In the opposite direction it's a sketchy downhill instead.

There are actually quite a few climbs end to end, no matter which way you go.  I suspect East to West is easier (EDIT: NO IT ISN'T!!!), but it could be about the same?  Either way the start and end are at about the same elevation.

Pick a day when the wind is blowing the right direction, because 195km of headwind is a lonnnng day at the office.  I'm planning to go westward as that's the way things are shaping up for Friday.






Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Off The Hooch - Day 17


Time flies when you're not having fun!

Ha I'm being overdramatic.  Actually social life without alcohol has been pretty good - I've substituted my usual beer/wine with non-alcoholic beer or virgin girly drinks.

At the baseball game they have a "designated driver" program - if you agree not to consume alcohol, you get a coupon for a free Prohibition Brew by Budweiser.  It's not bad!  It's not good, but it's not bad!


The Benefits

I usually veg out after dinner - but without a beer or two (or wine or whatever) I find I have more energy to actually do stuff.

My training hours have increased for sure - over 10h the last couple of weeks.  Just have less inclination to put off the run or ride.  I'm already really active, but the extra couple of hours a week has helped.

I don't snack as much - but I still snack.  And I'm still hungry after dinner, that kind of surprised me.  I used to blame the alcohol for that.

My weight is down considerably - I was losing weight but very slowly, now it's coming off at about a pound a week.  Maybe more, it's too early to really know for sure.

My mood is improved.

Just in general it's for the best, I know it's healthier.  I do miss a good pint, though!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Haliburton County Rail Trail (Kinmount to Haliburton)

I've been trying to get out to do this section of the old Victoria Railway (aka CN Haliburton Subdivision) for years, and today was finally the day!

If you dig rail history, check out:
https://www.railwaypages.com/victoria-and-haliburton-counties

Victoria Rail Trail - Burnt River to Kinmount (15km)

Kinmount Railway Station (looking south)
We wanted to make the trip 50km each way, 100km out and back - so we actually started in Burnt River.  We parked at the community center (big public parking lot) and hit the trails.

The Victoria Rail Trail runs from Bethany to Kinmount (via Lindsay), we did the northernmost section from Burnt River to Kinmount.  

It was MUCH improved from the last time I used it - sandy sections had been replaced by a really beautiful wide well maintain path.  It was in excellent condition, one of the finest rail trails I've ever been on.

Haliburton Country Rail Trail - Kinmount to Haliburton (35km)

Switching house thing for IB&O
This section was the main focus of the ride - and it was a bit wild. Information on this trail here.

As we left Kinmount, it was immediately clear this was not going to be a picnic... the trail was bumpy, sandy, rocky, and just generally tough to ride.  We got a bit worried - if this is how bad it is close to town, how much worse is it going to get?

4km from Kinmount was this cool relic in a place called "Howland".  This is the former switching house between the Victoria Rail line and the IB&O railway (Irondale Bancroft & Ottawa).  Unfortunately IB&O is mostly long gone, no trail to speak of (at this end) - but neat to see some of the history there.

This guy stopped and found the old turntable that used to be there (for turning the engines around).

We noticed at the next bridge you could look down and see the old IB&O right of way, where it once crossed Kendrick's Creek.  Very neat as well!

Along the way there are a few bridge crossings, waterfalls, really nice forest, swamps... just generally a lot of natural beauty.  Rocky outcroppings.

The trail surface was rough, though, until about 10km out of Haliburton... we were on our cyclocross bikes, which without suspension was a pretty rough ride.  If you are trying this, prepare for a tough slog... and if you don't like a tough slog, do the sections south of Kinmount on the Victoria Rail Trail!

Haliburton At Last!

A few pics from Haliburton...


In the end it was almost exactly 50km.  After a quick Subway lunch, we doubled back to Burnt River for a 100km gravel and rail trail day!

A Few Cautionary Notes

ATVs are allowed to use these trails.  It wasn't a problem at all, though, we encountered about a dozen over the ride and every single one of them slowed down as we passed and was extraordinarily courteous.

Kinmount and Haliburton are well serviced, but there didn't seem to be anywhere in between to stop to refuel/etc.  Most of the towns along the way relied on the rail (and some terrible farmland) so they're really not towns anymore.... almost Ghost Towns?  So make sure you're self-sufficient - it's pretty remote at times, for some longer stretches.

We encountered a few off-leash dogs being walked, so I think that's just something the locals do.  At least one was fairly ill-behaved.  Your mileage may vary.

Did I mention it's bumpy/sandy/rocky?  

Enjoy!







Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Off The Hooch


This is a great article - I think it describes a lot of folks (including me).

Many of us think we are moderate drinkers because we aren't alcoholics, and we are under control of our alcohol consumption.  A couple a night, a little extra on the weekend...

... and before you know it you have boxes and boxes of empties in your garage, and you're trying to figure out who drank all that stuff???

It adds up.

Alcohol is bad for you.  The health benefits are extolled in a handful of studies, and those ones get trumpeted in the headlines because it's a message we all want to hear.  But any trivial benefits are more than offset by harm in other ways... especially as moderate drinking turns to more-than-moderate.

I've increasingly found alcohol just makes my life worse.  That great feeling after a beer fades to feeling lethargic and down an hour later.  When I over-indulge that feeling lasts for a day after, sometimes even more.

Not everyone has that problem, but I do.

So it's time.

I've taken a month off before and felt great while doing it.

This time, 6 months.  Once it's out of my life I can decide whether to bring it back, and if so how to limit myself to less-than-moderate.

Sorry, alcohol.  It's for the best.  See you in 2018, maybe.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Converting my Triple Norco Nitro/Charger to 1x


I originally bought a 2012 Norco Nitro 9.3...

... but after a warranty frame replacement it turned into a Nitro9.3 with Charger components.

It came with a triple chainring (44/32/22) and a pretty standard 10 speed MTB cassette (12-36).

After an emergency repair last year that temporarily turned it into a single speed, I realized that I don't need all those gears.  With the 1x trend I figured it was time to make the plunge.

Nothing was wrong with my bike, so I made the decision to do it in place.

What is 1x?

A single chainring in the front, instead of a triple or double - and no front shifter or derailleur.  Basically your rear derailleur does all your gear changes.

Rear Cassette 

First thing you need is a big range cluster on the rear cassette.

You can take your existing cassette and mess around with it - add a big bail-out ring, drop some, etc.  But if you're like me, you're probably overdue for a new cassette anyway... so I went and bought a new Sunrace MX3 10 Speed Cassette.

$68USD.

This took my rear cassette from 12-36 to 11-42, with reasonable jumps across the whole range.

Front Crankset

Here there are a lot of options.  The "cheap and cheerful" option is to replace your big ring with a bash guard and dump your small ring... leaving just the middle.

There are all kinds of problems here, though.  Without a chain guide in place of the front derailleur, you will probably dump your chain.  You can get a different ring that has alternating teeth - but once you buy that and the bashguard, you're talking some good dough already.

I decided my old crankset was probably not worth saving, so I just replaced the whole thing with the  Race Face Ride Single Speed Crankset.

I found it online for $99USD, and it included an appropriately sized bashguard!  The teeth alternate to keep it firmly where it is meant to be.

Oh and it came with a new bottom bracket!  What a deal.

It's 32T - I don't know if it came in any other configurations, but that was perfect for me since it matched my existing middle ring.

Rear Derailleur and Chain Guide

There are people who say you need a special "clutch" mechanism on your rear derailleur.

There are other people who suggest you need a Chain Guide.

These are both to keep the chain from popping off your front ring.  So far I haven't had any problems, largely on the strength of the alternating teeth on the front ring.  If I start having trouble I'll address it, but I bounced off a lot of stuff without a drop yesterday.

Front Shifter and Front Derailleur

GONE!

It was a little weird not having it... I kept trying to use it instinctively!  That will change soon enough.

First Impressions

I love it.  MTB'ing throws a lot at you, and there are always those times you find the hill steeper than you thought too late and you're in the wrong front ring... no longer.  It's just a lot simpler.  Less things to go wrong.  Probably not massively lighter, but lighter.

One thing I hadn't even thought about is CLEARANCE!  I have more of it!  I'm on a 29-er so I already had a lot, but there is one log I was putting a lot of chainring marks in... this first ride, cleared it!  Yay.  And if I didn't, the bashguard is there to take the brunt, rather than bending teeth.

The jumps between gears were not noticeably larger than before.  For the road they probably would be - I like to find a pretty specific cadence and stick to it.  But MTB it's always pretty dynamic anyway.

Old largest ratio was 3.67:1, new is 2.91:1 - so my top speed should take a hit if I'm ever on roads, which really isn't the priority for this bike. Or my cadence will have to be more hamster-wheel-like.

Old smallest ratio was 0.61:1, new is 0.76:1 - a pretty modest loss of lowest gearing.  We went up some steep stuff, and it was fine.

Total Cost

$168USD+tax+shipping.  Pretty modest.  Being in Canada the exchange rate stings a bit, but still very reasonable.







Monday, May 29, 2017

Race Report: Big East River X 2017


What an amazing day.

Based on wateroffice data - we had 40cm (over a foot!) of extra water level on the river.  The flow was many times last year... so any trouble we had bottoming out on sandbars last year was gone!

It rained on the way up, but the entire race was dry and wonderful temperatures ... 15C or so?

And no wind!  The lake that was wild and hairy last year was placid and peaceful this year.  Fewer boats, too, being earlier in the season.

Our Race - The Start

we're the black boat in the foreground
We hung back a little at the start, choosing to start out behind some boats we knew would be faster than us... that worked well, we had a good clean start.

Last year we went out really hard trying to keep up with people we probably shouldn't have tried to keep up with... this year we were a bit more sensible, but our pace was about the same for the first part before the river.  Steady!

Up the River

The river was so high, and the current was noticeable right from the start.  We did our best to read the water and keep out of it, but watching the real pros as they went by gave us a lesson we needed... stay close to the shore, hug the inside of the turns (without getting TOO shallow though)... we did our best.

In one uninspired moment, we decided to go between a dead tree and the shore .. and a slight bobble with the steering put us into the dead tree!  My buddy got a little branch, I got nearly skewered.  Ooops.  I still have a chunk of dead branch that landed in the boat, guess I'll keep it as a keepsake.

Could have been worse, though, as the kayak behind us who followed our line flipped!  I yelled back asking if he needed help, but he was up and didn't respond (I later realized he couldn't hear us!).

A few corners we messed up, getting too close to the inside where the sandbars were shallow - but for the most part it was a really nice paddle without bottoming out all the way upstream.  Just slow with the current...

2016 upstream - 7.4km/h
2017 upstream - 6.6km/h

Down the River

Weeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

2016 downstream - 8.4km/h
2017 downstream - 9.6km/h

I don't know why we were so slow downstream last year??  But this year it was full gas, so easy, and we were paddling well and steady.  Kept it in the middle and took advantage of the current where we could, it went great.

We caught and passed the only boat we could (then promptly steered into a tree and had to do it again).  We seemed to have made up ground on one other boat, based on where they were when we came out into the lake (vs the turn-around gap) - but couldn't dream of catching them, several minutes ahead.

Across the Lake

Last year the wind had kicked this up into a lather, and then the boats made it that much worse...

This year?  Placid!  (Almost) no boats!  We were about 1m30s faster over this little hop over to the Muskoka River.

To the Finish!

We had a kayak behind us but nothing else in sight (and I stopped looking).  Maybe they could see us but we knew we were good.  The boats ahead were just in eyeshot, but it was a several minute gap late - so we muscled through to the finish steadily and feeling pretty darn good.

Despite my appearing passed out on the dock - I was actually just stretching out my abs (which had given me some mild cramps mid-race!).

All in all just an awesome day.  The patio in the background has beer, I like beer, great way to unwind and watch the later finishers...

Yay canoe racing!