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Training Log Archive: OutdoorsMama

In the 1 days ending Jul 12, 2014:

activity # timemileskm+m
  Canoeing1 7:45:00 24.85(3.2/h) 40.0(5.2/h)
  Trekking1 6:15:00
  Total2 14:00:00 24.85 40.0

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Saturday Jul 12, 2014 #

8 AM

Canoeing race (Flat water and river) 7:45:00 [4] 40.0 km (5.2 kph)
shoes: Saucony Xodus trail

Made it to the starting line!

Objective for WT14: Get as far as we can, learn as much as we can, and get back safely. Along the way, ENJOY the adventure, ADMIRE the scenery and SHARE some good times with team mates.

At the starting area, JustMe went through the starting process with the tracker (she is our IT expert!), while coach ld, UltraBecky and I got the canoes. I need to learn how to pick a good canoe (more on that later). Coach ld just hoisted their canoe on her shoulders and headed down to the water, while JustMe and I did the suitcase carry.

When the teaser photos for WT were posted with the "scenic islands" listed as a part of the course, I took a deep breath. I have done a couple long weekend paddling camping trips on Georgian Bay, and the weather warnings (i.e. wind/waves) can be ominous. It is one thing to be in 1 metre swells in a sea kayak, but in a canoe? Yikes. However, the weather gods smiled on us and we had sunshine and quite calm water (for Georgian Bay).

We admired the scenery along the was like being in a panoramic Group of Seven painting. We lost sight of the pack ahead of us and paddled out around one island too far out in the Bay. UltraBecky mentioned that when she had heard this area was part of the Thirty Thousand Islands, she wondered how there could possibly be SO many islands (I remember thinking the same thing as a kid). But we can say we successfully relocated ourselves and found CP1 on our own, without simply following the masses. Then headed back through another approximately 200 islands to find the bay that lead to the river.

Again, without a pack to follow, we had to find our own way to the mouth of the river, and managed to find it exactly where we had headed. Whew. Navigating through the 30,000 Islands while trying to paddle at race speed was quite different than when cruising along in a sea kayak. A few zigs and zags later, and we had our first beaver dam. We had to get out and pull our canoes over this one (and shared a memorable moment).

Along with a 3 person co-ed team and a team of 3 women, we found ourselves at a dead end in the water system. After a bit of figuring and poking around, we found the place where the creek entered the river, and headed upstream (the co-ed team had found it while we were checking out whether or not a certain land mass was really an island or a point of land.....) So up the creek we went, with 4 paddles. Lily pad city, and cattail corrals. As it got less paddle-able, we got out and push/pulled our canoes through the "water", then across a bit of weedy land, then plunked down into the river.

After that, it was paddle paddle paddle. And drink. And have something to eat. And paddle paddle paddle some more. We tried out the SteriPen water purification system at one point, and some chemical water treatment. Without the wind pushing us around, it was easier to stay in a relatively straight line than it had been on the bay so more time/energy was spent keeping the boat actually moving forward. Coach ld pointed out the patch job on the gunwale on the canoe and how the boat didn't exactly have its factory alignment anymore, which may have been part of our problem. Live and learn...... We reached CP2 and then JustMe and I swapped places in the boat. We paddled up and over a couple beaver dams along the way (this was all upstream paddling) and got out to push/pull the boat over a small rapids section. Getting past the dam was another exercise in push/pull, and then gave me a chance to get the next map ready and estimate the time to the pull out point. Along Six Mile Lake, we saw some people camping (put that on my to-do list!). We had a general tail wind through here, and I wondered if it would be legal to use a sail through here. Or carry a big golf umbrella, um, just in case it, say, rained?

The wind swirled around and hit us in the face as we paddled across Wilson Lake. We finally reached terra firma (Lanterne Rouge!), but in less time than the conservative time we had projected the night before. Coach ld once more effortlessly hoisted a canoe on her shoulders and set off up the portage track. The other gals helped me get the other canoe on my shoulders and off we went up the trail. At the TA, I changed into compression socks and re-siliconed my feet (and put them back in my soaking wet shoes). Ate some boiled potatoes, grabbed my pack with the filled bladder in it, and a couple things to eat on the trail.

4 PM

Trekking race 6:15:00 [4]
shoes: Saucony Xodus trail

From our map studying session on Friday night, we had chosen what we thought was a conservative route, but turned out to be an unorthodox route, to get to CP4, via the Owl Lake area. The maps (plural) had logging roads/ATV trails marked on them that we thought we could use to get about 3/4 of the way to CP4, then use a lake as a hand rail and then it would be a relatively short shot to CP4, with that lake as a big catching feature. I wanted to be at CP4 before darkness set in, as after that, I felt the handrails and catching features (long lakes, power lines, the hiking trail) would provide an element of comfort in the navigation in the darkness.

We found the first trail fine (used time as the measurement of when we should get there), then the cut-off to the south was right where we expected it to be. Then as we headed south on that trail, the next trail was not showing up, even though I was using the same timing methods that had worked on the first two legs of this trek. I did the "you probably haven't gone far enough" exercise and went further down the trail, but no trail to the east was showing up. So we backtracked to the last junction and headed roughly east, though a park-like forest (as opposed to the raspberry canes and hoards of mosquitoes we had just come through). We came to a slightly shady looking hunt camp. After that, the map and the lay-out of the lake did not jive, but we knew we needed to keep going roughly ENE. We pulled out our inflatable pool toys (and put some stuff in dry bags, which served as very good flotation devices) and swam across a channel. I am not much of a swimmer, but knew enough to take my shoes off for more efficiency in my kicking motions (learned that one at the Fury last summer). To my surprise, I actually didn't mind the swim and since I had done it once, I was ready to do it again, if needed ( I had left my clothes on so was soaked through, but was not at all chilled due the warm evening). On the other side, we continued on our bearing, and ran into water/marsh when we least expected it. Frig. Obviously we weren't where we thought we were, but knew that if we kept heading in that ENE direction, we'd eventually get to where we wanted. But we were an hour away from darkness, and at least 2 hours away from CP4, using a conservative bushwhack rate of travel. And we weren't sure how many more unexpected swims were going to show up.

Where I work, we have a very strong safety culture. Each meeting or conference call starts with a Safety Contact, where someone shares a learning experience around safety with the group, whether it is work related or from our personal lives. I did NOT want to be the one with a bad story at our Monday sales meeting. So while we still had a bit of daylight, we opted to swim back across the channel, re-trace our steps, and get to a road, and catch a ride back to HQ. Getting everyone home safely from this adventure was one of my main goals, and one that I was not going to screw up.
As much as I have studied the maps (and Google Earth) since we pulled out, I still believe it was the right decision, for safety reasons. Given some different variables, we could have forged onwards, tackling whatever swimming we needed to tackle. We were heading in the right direction..... Or we could've done a massive backtrack and gone back to TA1 and headed around to the north, possibly just staying on the hiking trail to the hydro lines, skipping CP4 (we found out later that the volunteer at CP4 had arrived in a float plane......uh huh, that's one remote CP...) All things to add to the mental file labelled "Adventure Race Learning Experiences".

Some other good "learnings" from WT 2014:
- learn how to pick a straight canoe
- switching seating positions in canoes part way along (if viable given different body weights) helps mix it up a bit (good mentally and physically)
- boiled potatoes are awesome, but need to keep some with me, not just in the gear bins at the TA
- have a small roll of tape in your pfd pocket so you can tape hot spots on your hands before they become blisters (that was more of a fluke that I had tape handy on Saturday, but wow, did it every help!)
- wearing capris rather than shorts when paddling means I don't need to keep applying sunblock to the tops of my legs
- mosquito bites start to really itch about 24-36 hour after I get them, and non-drowsy Reactine may have been a contributing factor to my drowsiness during the aforementioned Monday morning sales meeting
- silicone barrier cream from the baby section of the drug store keeps wet feet happy
-if navigating while paddling, figure out how to balance map reading/compass work/eating/drinking with paddling (the 2L hydration bladder attached to my PFD worked well, and the fig newtons were easy to eat)
- also if navigating while paddling, tell teammates approximately how much time to the next obvious feature (RR bridge, dam), and ask them to report back on the accuracy of the time estimate, so the navigator can fine tune their next estimate.
- portaging a canoe on my shoulders isn't as hard as I thought it would be, as long as I have some help getting it up there
- garden kneeling pads are awesome padding for canoe seats and for yokes on canoes while portaging.....and bugs can't bite through them!
- pool toys and dry bags are fine for water crossing, but in Canadian Shield country, I wonder if bringing my smaller life jacket would be more efficient (ready to jump in at any time, without spending time inflating dry bags etc.)
- team mates should freely discuss when they need their next pee break, so everyone can take a pee break at the same saves time overall. And if you aren't needing a pee break when everyone else is, you probably aren't hydrating enough
- plan on passing a MEC or REI on the way to the race so when that haunting feeling of "what did I forget?" becomes "oh crap, I left all 3 hydration bladders hanging up to dry at home". I felt better after dropping $50 on new bladders!

So my WT 2014 goals were accomplished: get as far as we could, learn as much as we could, and get home safely.

Here's to WT 2015!

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