4 Canadian Races to Sign Up for this Summer
Looking for an interesting (and pretty) way to boost your fitness? Signing up for a race, especially a destination one, may provide just the motivation you need to get moving. Here are 4 Canadian races we recommend
Gatineau River Games, July 10
The Place: Wakefield, QC. About half an hour from Ottawa, this bilingual village is known for its access to nature, quaint inns and pretty red-covered bridge.
The Race: Now in its second year, this family-friendly fitness event is all about the water. Sign up for swimming races in 500-metre, 1K or 2K distances or 2K or 5K stand-up paddleboarding events. The aquathlon encompasses a 1K swim and a 5K run, half of which is on a trail and half on the road. Racers in the Gatineau River Games will receive a custom bathing cap and recovery food and have the chance to win prizes.
Training Tips: While pool swimming helps you build endurance, it’s a good idea to practise in open water, too. Wetsuits are allowed, for floatation and warmth, so consider picking one up and testing it out before the race. If you’re aspiring to the aquathlon, get in at least a few workouts where you train in both sports sequentially – it can be harder than you think to run after swimming for a kilometre!
While You’re There: Wakefield is surrounded by Gatineau Park, whose 361 square kilometres of terrain include hiking and biking trails, boating, fishing, swimming and even rock climbing. Save at least half a day to soothe tired muscles in the waters of Nordik Spa-Nature, the largest spa in North America. Its seven outdoor baths, eight different saunas and saltwater floating pool are separated into silent, whispering and social areas, so you can pick the mood that suits you that day.
The Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race, August 13
The Place: Bruce Peninsula, ON. This area, which juts northward between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, is about a three-hour drive northwest of Toronto and home to Bruce Peninsula National Park.
The Race: Paddling, mountain biking and trail running are the three sports on offer at The Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race, whether you complete them solo, alongside a teammate or as a relay. Experienced racers can aim for the 100K relay course, while the 25K course, which you complete alongside a teammate, is more accessible for newbies: It starts with a 4K paddle (with the option for a 5K shoreline run instead), followed by a 15K mountain bike ride and 5K trail run. Two short kids’ courses for children ages five to 10 have them traversing obstacles on their bikes and on foot.
Training Tips: “No matter which course you sign up for, it’s all about getting used to the equipment you’re using and then focusing on endurance after that,” says race director Leigh Grigg. Brick workouts (training for multiple sports back to back to simulate race conditions) are essential to get your body used to transitioning. If you’re new to any of these sports, lessons and courses can help you become more efficient with the equipment.
While You’re There: The Bruce Peninsula contains some of southern Ontario’s most accessible wilderness, including a beach with Caribbean-like waters (in colour, that is, not temperature). Highlights include kayaking above (or diving among) historic shipwrecks in Georgian Bay and exploring some of the region’s limestone caves.
Not Since Moses Run, August 21
The Place: Five Islands, NS. Here, only a few times a year, the famous Bay of Fundy tides reveal the sea floor long enough for runners to get a lobster’s-eye views of the oceanside cliffs.
The Race: At the Not Since Moses Run, choose between 5K and 10K options (with only the former open to walkers due to the soon-to-return tide). There’s also a 500-metre course for kids 12 and under and a 100-metre route for the three-and-under set. You’ll be running along the sea floor, with water stations on boats that are brought out to key points when the tide is up and allowed to settle down as the waters recede. Last year, geologist and naturalist John Calder attended the race and gave a talk about the region to participants.
Training Tips: Whether you’re going couch-to-5K or building speed work into your 10K prep routine, any good running program will help you get ready for this natural twist on the mud run. Just don’t expect to get a personal record: Thanks to the mucky, often rocky sea floor and a tidal river to cross, you’ll probably be going slower than normal. (Be sure to bring a sacrificial pair of shoes and double-knot those laces.)
While You’re There: Camping is available at Five Islands Provincial Park, where activities include hiking, beachcombing, rock collecting and clam digging. The nearby town of Parrsboro is the closest option for accommodations with a bed and is also home to the Fundy Geological Museum, with its mineral-themed exhibits and some of the oldest dinosaur bones in Canada.
Freak’n Farmer, September 24
The Place: Oliver, BC. Situated in the southern Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, this town is a 35-minute drive from Penticton. Penticton is easily accessible by air and is a 41/2-hour drive from Vancouver.
The Race: Covert Farms is the host of this farm-themed obstacle race, which has participants (mostly in teams, mostly in costumes) run around the property completing various tasks. Obstacles are revamped every year: The 2015 Freak’n Farmer had more than 20 obstacles, with racers hauling wine barrels across a field, traversing stacks of hay bales and running through tall rows of corn. Racers can choose between 5K, 10K and 20K distances, while “little farmers” can compete on 1.5K and 3K routes.
Training Tips: A well-rounded fitness routine is the key to success, says Shelly Covert, a certified holistic nutritionist with a background as a personal trainer who helps design each year’s obstacles at Covert Farms. Interval training is the best way to prepare for an obstacle race, she says, because even if you’re participating in a longer-distance run, you won’t be running for any long stretches without a break. Try interspersing pull-ups, mountain climbers, burpees and monkey bars (a playground is a great place to train) in between bouts of running.
While You’re There: You can’t visit the heart of British Columbia’s wine country without checking out some of its wineries, too. Make time for the fruit-forward, French-style vintages at the newish vinPerdu, or show up early at Platinum Bench to score a loaf of artisan sourdough starter bread (in flavours like gorgonzola and fig preserves or double cream brie and pear preserves) before tasting the vineyard’s award-winning wines. Burrowing Owl Estate Winery is a great place for dinner. The Sonora Room restaurant offers dishes that feature house-pickled beets with brûléed local goat cheese or mushroom ravioli with chili threads made in-house and cauliflower onion purée.
Got a Question?
Apprehension about racing? Experienced racers answer your questions.
How do I deal with being nervous?
Good mental preparation is essential when you’re pushing yourself physically further than ever before, says Laura Rapp from Pinantan Lake, BC, who was the first woman to compete solo in the six-stage multisport Elevator Race in Penticton, BC, which starts with a paddle on Okanagan Lake and ends with alpine skiing. “I like to do meditation techniques,” she adds. “I visualize myself going through the race and transitions and crossing the finish line.”
What if I can’t finish?
“I felt confident that I’d be able to finish until I started swimming,” says Dominik Mignault of La Pêche, QC, who competed in the 500-metre swimming race at the 2015 Gatineau River Games – it wasn’t just her first swimming competition but also her first real swim “in forever.” Once she got going, she says, she realized it was harder than she’d thought, but she persevered, confident that the nearby volunteers on stand-up paddleboards would be able to help if she needed it. “I finished last, but I managed to do the full 500 metres without stopping,” she says. “It was great, and people were on the beach cheering me on to help me finish the race.”
How should I prepare?
All races are equipped to find and assist participants who get stuck, whether due to injury or fatigue, but the best way to prevent this from happening is to sign up for the right event. In other words, aim for a realistic goal and train properly.
“In July, I put more than 500 kilometres on my body to prepare,” says Kathy James of Oakville, ON, who completed the 100K event at the 2015 Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race after having done the 25K duathlon and 25K multisport events in previous years. “Kayaking on a calm lake isn’t going to help you on the waves of Georgian Bay,” says James. “The most important thing is to build endurance, and you need the skills.”