A 1.86 k swim race and what over 40 km of self-powered travel over water in a weekend looks like

This weekend was a total convergence of awesome. B and S invited me up to B’s cottage in Honey Harbour for the long weekend. There was also a swim race at Kempenfest on Saturday that coach Ayesha told us about. I wanted to do both, but I didn’t want to bother B to have to boat me back to shore early on Saturday morning, only to pick me up again on Saturday afternoon. I considered borrowing their canoe, but without knowing the condition of everything I didn’t want to take a chance.

When B and S were driving up on Friday, I got a message from S about the kayak rental place along the way. I’ve been meaning to rent from them again for ages, so I gave them a call and reserved my fibreglass sea kayak for the weekend. Perfect.

Saturday morning I woke up super early and got my swim and cottage gear together, packing as light as possible. Unfortunately I had to include a MacBook Air so I could get some work done at the cottage [ugh]. The registration form said that marshal was at 9:00, and the race started at 10:00. I wasn’t sure what marshall was. I figured it was a pre-race meeting that we all had to be there for. Since I was worried about traffic (which there was a surprising amount of), I ended up getting to the race site at 8:30, even after making a few pit stops. It just gave me a lot of time to warm up, and make a half-dozen trips to the car to drop off whatever I wasn’t using. I had time to set my Garmin to auto-lap every 100m, so I could keep track on course, and when Ayesha showed up I got to see her warm-up routine. 

Soundtrack: Sam Roberts – Without a Map

The race its self was pretty fun. It was a diamond-shaped course, which was supposedly 500m between buoys. At the first buoy I realized that my sighting was actually pretty decent. My Garmin signalled 500m when I was just about 10m from the buoy. A lot of the swimmers seemed to be relatively unfamiliar with open water. There were a lot of swimmers who were zig zagging right in front of me. I’d draft one for a while, then they’d veer sharp the the right or left. I’d keep straight, then they’d pass right across from me in the other direction. I tried one of coach Kelvin’s rear-sighting techniques to make sure I hadn’t veered too far off-course, and I felt a lot more confident about where I was heading.

I passed the second buoy before my Garmin signalled 1000m. I was sure I must have missed a beep in some traffic, so I didn’t worry much about it. But when I rounded the third buoy I knew something was up. Around this point I felt like I was picking up the pace, but looking at the stats now, it looks like I actually slowed down a bit. The first quarter was fairly hard, the second and third were slower and more consistent, but the fourth… well I must have been fairly tired. Maybe sloppy. I was having trouble sighting, since I didn’t know exactly what I was aiming for on shore, so I think that had some to do with it. The last 150m were gold though. I actually picked up the pace and finished up strong.

On the map below you can see where the lap marker went off for me, and how the diamond shaped course was a bit truncated by the furthest buoy being too far toward the shore.


I wasn’t suprised that Ayesha finished third overall and first in her division, but I was very surprised that I got third in mine. I’m pretty sure it’s because there weren’t a whole lot of “seniors” (aged 25-39) there, because I don’t think a 2:03 pace is really worthy of a podium, but I’ll take it! It was pretty awesome to look at the plaques of past race winners to see Ayesha’s name there in 2008 too. It looks like to win I’ll have to shave about 10 minutes off my time, which might be a bit of a stretch, but I’ve got a long winter of training ahead of me, so you never know!



After a quick stop by MEC for a dry sack to make sure my MacBook didn’t drown, I picked up the kayak from Swift. Made it to the marina, dropped it off in the water, parked the car, and I was off to the cottage.

B’s family’s cottage is the perfect cottage in the perfect area. As always there was a great group of friends there, and what more can you say?After dropping off my gear I went for another swim, recovery drinks, waited a bit, had a couple Guinness (they’re technically light beers, so it’s totally fine), and passed out on the kitchen table. It was a long day.

The next morning I went for a 13k kayak trip around the area, including a stop at Beausoleil Island. It wasn’t too busy when I started, but by noon the boat traffic was in full force. There was one channel which had a lot of yachts going through. I wanted to avoid it the next day, but I got a little carried away.


When I got back I showed L’s son a bit about how to get around in the kayak, and I followed him swimming to the end of the bay. He picked it up quickly. At first I was swimming right beside him, but about 200m in he just left me behind. I thought I was supposed to be keeping an eye on him. After another homemade recovery drink (FTR, homo milk + sugar ≠ “white chocolate milk,” even if you plug your nose), I went out for another swim.

That night was a bit earlier, then I got out for another kayak. I looked on google maps for a quieter route, and found one long channel that ended near the 400. I followed it down, and it kept getting quieter and quieter. Eventually there were just two fishing boats in a small bay with a small channel back at the end. It was a small path through a marsh, but it was unbelievably quiet. No one around, just dragonflies.

Soundtrack: Radiohead – Codex

Excuse the shaking and low quality of the video. I was trying not to lose my balance swatting flies. I wasn’t sure if I could perform a self-rescue if I did manage to roll, and with no one around I was a little nervous about having to dredge through the marsh.

After that kayak excursion I did a quick wetsuit swim. I was actually pretty surprised how much faster I was in the wetsuit, and how sore my shoulders had gotten by this point. I went from about a 2:03 100m time to a quite respectible 1:48. That’s about a 15% improvement, which means I’ve got a lot of form work to do. I think I’m going to try to make a couple pool sessions before Ironman Muskoka.

Final totals for the weekend: 6800 m swim and 34 km in the kayak. Wow.

Here are a map overlay of all the swimming in the bay, and one of all the kayaking in the area. Too much awesome for one weekend.



Soundtrack for the drive home: Washed Out – Amor Fati

Salvaging data from a bad race – Edge 305 GPS accuracy while swimming and accounting for navigation errors

The purpose of last Sunday’s race was to try and gauge whether I should register for the Muskoka half-ironman in September or not. Looks like I’m not going to be registering for this year. I could definitely finish it, but based on the Muskoka long course race on Sunday I don’t think I’d be able to compete at the level I want to for it to be worth it.

The swim went well, but on the bike I started running into mechanical issues, and the run walk was a complete waste. Here’s the full report and some pics.

On the bright side I’ve got some juicy GPS data from the swim.


The yellow line is the approximated actual course. My turns were actually fairly close to the buoys, so it should be fairly accurate. Google Earth shows this as being 2021 metres, which is pretty close to the reported distance of 2000 metres.

The red line is my actual GPS track. My Edge was in my swim cap (it’s pretty big), located on the back of my head. It was a cloudless day, so it looks like it actually got a pretty accurate reading. It reads as being 2170 metres. It’s always a bit high.

Inside the red line is a white line I drew in Google Earth that averages out my GPS path. Since the GPS goes slightly underwater every stroke it really messes up the  paths. The line I drew should be very close to my actual path. There are a couple parts where I remember making sharp navigation errors that even show up in there. That reads as 2044 metres.

The odd little line is the 22 metre green one. That’s the distance of the furthest point from where I diverged from the optimal line. I’m not sure if it makes sense after you look at the numbers.

2044m – (actual swam) subtract
2021m – (actual course) equals
23m extra swimming due to bad navigation

But if you look at my path, I went 22m off-course before the first turn, and then almost as much again by the second turn. Hrm. That doesn’t really seem to make sense.

I measured from the start point to the first buoy only. Actual distance is 512m, and my averaged swim path is 524m, for a difference of 12m. How could I go 22m off-course and still only have swam 12m more than someone who went straight? I actually had to draw this out and measure.

Oh jeez. Pythagorean Theorum. Grade nine math. a^2 + b^2 = c^2.


So if there was a 100m straight line course and you went 25m off-course, then you’re going to travel 111.8m. So I guess that all makes sense now.

If I would have had perfect navigation my time in the swim would have dropped from 48:18 to 47:45. That’s 33 seconds, or about a 1% improvement. Theoretically at least. In reality if I would have been navigating better I would have been closer to the pack and had a few more options for drafting.

At least now I know that going off course isn’t necessarily that bad, as long as you keep your lines straight. Zig zagging will just compound the problem. But if you’re a few metres out from where you want to be, don’t try to compensate for it and try to head toward the middle of the course because you’re probably going to overshoot.

Keep looking ahead!

Impulsively entered an olympic distance tri and actually finished!

I was completely unprepared for this. I wanted to do an open water swim and a quick training run so I just impulsively entered. After Saturday’s solo swim I figured it would be safer to have kayaks nearby anyway. I really like this race distance. It seemed like a far-fetched idea three weeks ago, but maybe it might actually be possible to do a half-iron this year! Wow.

The full detailed race report

The swim, T1, the bike, T2, and the run on garmin connect.

The results