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My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2017 Race Report

Ever since I first read about an Ironman, completing a triathlon has been on my bucket list.  As a natural swimmer, leisurely biker and a marathon runner, the idea of combining all three seemed like great fun!  While I wasn’t crazy enough to jump right into a full Ironman, I did register for a half Ironman distance race with only 6 weeks to fully train.  This blog is a doozy but I read a lot of race reports in preparation and found them incredibly helpful.  If you’re about to take on your first triathlon I hope you will find this useful as well.  I highly recommend this race for a 70.3 newbie!  So after completing my first triathlon, I present to you my first race report for the 2017 REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman. 

Before I knew it, race weekend was here.  I felt as ready as I would ever be.  Even though I had crammed in my training, I felt as though I had been training for ages.  For those weeks leading up to race day I had felt an anxious knot in the pit of my stomach but the more I read and the more I trained, the more confident I felt.  Now when I watched the promo video for Barrelman, I felt excited.  I will swim, I will bike and I will run my heart out!

Saturday morning I triple checked all my gear, in case a supernatural phenomenon occurred while I had slept causing everything to disappear from my bag.  We packed up my bike “DO NOT FORGET THE BIKE” and drove out to Welland, near Niagara Falls.  The atmosphere at the race expo was pretty relaxed and it was easy to find parking and pick up my race kit.  A handful of vendors were set up outside and I sampled the F2C electrolyte drink and Endurance Tap maple syrup gels that were going to be offered along the course. 

I dropped off my bike in T1 and checked out the transition area.  My bike spot was close to the exit from the canal, and was happy with my spot as I went over the route.  I would even be able to see my boyfriend during transition.  A wave of relief passed over me as I began to feel more comfortable in my surroundings.

We sat in the first athletic briefing and it was informative and full of positivity.  “We want to make sure everyone will finish so there will be no cut off time for the bike” the race director John Salt stated.  You could feel the sense of community in the air.  The race was a competition no doubt but even a newbie like me felt welcome.  The one thing that everyone was really concerned about though was the heat.  The briefing took 40 minutes and we were roasting in the sun, it felt like the middle of summer!  We were reassured that extra ice and water had been ordered for the run course.

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

Peeling on the wetsuit in the boiling hot sun

After the briefing, I wandered down to the canal and slithered into my wetsuit – now I was really starting to sweat!  I did my practice swim in the canal and loved the water conditions.  The water was calm and the temperature was heavenly.  Cool enough to beat the heat but I didn’t overheat in my suit. I heard many people say that they were opting out of their wetsuit, but I was excited to wear mine and the suit helped my speed quite a lot.  I didn’t swim for too long however, as I wanted to make sure we had enough time to scout the bike and run courses.

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

Time for my practice swim!

I gave my tires one last pump, said goodbye to my bike and we headed out for a stunning drive around Niagara.  We drove the whole bike course which was now down to 86 kilometres due to construction.  The roads were nice and flat and I was grateful for all the pretty scenery to admire along my long ride. 

The run course was a bit trickier to navigate through the crowds and traffic on Clifton Hill and we were unable to check out a few kilometres that were hidden away in a park.  I kept reading about how deceptively hilly the run was but I had examined the elevation.  Compared to other marathons I had run this race didn’t seem much steeper.  The route looked fun with a lot of variety.  At the 10km mark the races loops back to the start and then you run the whole route again.  I don’t mind loops because I like knowing what to expect and familiar landmarks make the time go by quicker.

My boyfriend and I scouted the post race area and picked out a meeting spot.  Then we headed back to Welland for an early dinner.  I had made a reservation at Don Marco’s in Welland, a cozy, comforting Italian restaurant.  A delicious way to carb load before a long race!  I stuck to my pre-race rule of no alcohol, and had made sure that I drank lots of water and Gatorade throughout the day.  Time was ticking by and I was determined to get to bed early so we paid our bill and checked into an Air BnB that I had booked, a convenient 5 minute drive from the race starting point.

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

All my gear, ready to go!

I placed all the mandatory stickers on my gear and bags and sorted everything out before heading to bed.  This is a point to point race so there are three bags that you need to prepare: your black wetsuit bag, your red bike to run bag and your clear post race bag.  All the gear you will need before your race and anything that you will not be bringing on your bike will go in your black wetsuit bag.  Here is my final packing list for the whole weekend:

Saturday:
-swimsuit & cap for warm up swim
-bike pump
-Lamond road bike with clipless pedals ($50 from MEC), cadence sensor ($50 from MEC) aerobars, 2 x waterbottle cages on the frame and portable bike pump

The morning of:
-Sugoi trisuit purchased from Enduro Sport – $119 (on sale)
-Moving Comfort sports bra purchased from Enduro Sport – $30 (on sale).  The best sports bra I’ve ever owned!
-Garmin Vivoactive sports watch – $200 from Amazon
-yoga mat, stretch bands
-KT tape
-Body Glide
-a light jacket
-sports scandals
-race number tattoo, race bracelet & tracker
-Coconut water
-Gluten free english muffin with peanut butter
-Ginger tea
-Naked Protein powder, a banana, almond milk and my Magic Bullet to make a smoothie

Black Wetsuit Bag:
-Gatorade and a Honey Stinger gel for pre-swim nutrition
-wetsuit – rented from Enduro Sports in Toronto (4 days @ $50)
-my pink swim cap indicating my swim wave
-tinted goggles – purchased on Amazon
-back up goggles 
-dry wick towel 
-old towel for transition area
-bike helmet – nothing fancy – from MEC
-Pearl Uzumi spd bike shoes – $100 from MEC (on sale)
-Sugoi bike gloves – $30 from Sweet Pete’s (on sale)
-my trusty compression socks – purchased about 5 years ago for $100 at a race expo
-waterproof sunscreen, face sunblock stick, kleenex 
-shitty old sunglasses
-race belt with BIB, salt tabs, kleenex, Blisteraid, hand wipes, lip balm
-two frozen Gatorade bottles – one filled with water, one with coconut water
-3 packs of Cliff Bar gummies, 2 with caffeine
-salt tabs
-scotch tape to tape my gummies to my bike frame
-1 Cliff Bar broken up into pieces in a ziplock bag
-in my small bike bag under my seat packed: a glueless patch, spare tube, 3 x tire levers, torque multitool and Monkey Grease wipes
-I will be placing my face sunblock stick and Body glide in the side pockets of my trisuit

Red bike to run bag:
-my trusty Nike Pegasus running shoes
-small coconut water and Honey Stinger Waffle for a quick snack
-gels for my race belt
-IT running bands
-dry wick hat

Post Race Bag:
-race shirt
-loose track pants
-clean underwear
-towel
-body wipes
-cooling gel

I was in bed by 10:00PM and thankfully fell asleep almost immediately, waking up in a panic a few times to check the time, and falling back into a dreamless slumber.

To read about my race day, continue on to part two of my report from my first triathlon! >>

Yurting In Prince Edward County

Yurt Camping in Prince Edward County

Is it too early to say, spring is here!  The weather has been particularly nutty this year, and Mother Nature could very well send another storm, but until then, yay SPRING!  I can’t really complain though, because we barely had any snow this year.  I went skiing twice and didn’t even touch my skates!  We tried to go snow shoeing in Prince Edward County, but as you will see, we were hard pressed to find snow.  Sand shoeing anyone?  Luckily, the County is a relaxing and fun little getaway no matter what the season and yurt camping in Prince Edward County made it even more of an adventure!

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County – Redley’s Retreat

So here I am in front of our Mongolian yurt.  How did we find said yurt?  Why Air BnB of course, haha!  I’ve gone winter camping before at McGregor Provincial Park, but provincial parks have limited availability and I missed the booking window this year.  We found Redley’s Retreat on Air BnB, a farm located in Milford, right smack in the middle of the County.  The retreat is run by a super nice, passionate fellow named Tom who is quite proud of his two Mongolian yurts. He even installed the concrete base himself!  

Our yurt had just enough space for two double beds, a small table, a few lounge chairs and a utilities drawer.  There were lots of blankets and a space heater to keep us warm and cozy, I loved it!  We shared a Port-O-Potty and an outdoor kitchen with the other yurt, which had all the basic utensils and a BBQ. Tom was awesome and brought us fresh coffee every morning, and on the first day we were treated to a huge breakfast, fit for a king!  He also dropped off some homemade wine, gave us some local tips and made sure we were well taken care of.  The showers were in his farmhouse, and I was very thankful for the clean, indoor shower.  Despite the warm weather an outdoor shower would have been chilly!

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County - Sandbanks Provincial Park

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County – Sandbanks Provincial Park

We woke up bright and early the next day and headed out to Sandbanks Provincial Park, about a thirty minute drive from Milford.  The weather was absolutely perfect, clear blue skies, warm sunshine, it felt like spring!  We really wanted to go snow shoeing but there was barely any snow.  I was determined however, so I “sand shoed” along the trails.

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County, Sandbanks Provincial Park

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County, Sandbanks Provincial Park

The dunes in Sandbanks are otherworldly and are great fun to explore.  We hung out for awhile, snapping photos and munching on snacks while overlooking the icy Lake Ontario.

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County - Sandbanks Provincial Park

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County – Sandbanks Provincial Park

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County - Sandbanks Provincial Park

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County – Sandbanks Provincial Park

Sandbanks is one of the many things that I love about Prince Edward County.  Hiking along a peaceful trail and appreciating nature is so essential for my soul.  There’s nothing I love more than a day outdoors, taking photos and breathing in fresh air.

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County - Sandbanks Provincial Park

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County – Sandbanks Provincial Park

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County - Sandbanks Provincial Park

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County – Sandbanks Provincial Park

After working up an appetite we headed out to Wellington and had lunch at the new Drake Devonshire restaurant.  I was curious to try this sister restaurant to the The Drake Hotel in Toronto and was immediately impressed by the space.  Located along the lake with white wooden panelled walls and large airy windows, I felt like we had stepped into a little sea side town.  I want to say it reminded me of the Hamptons, but I’ve never actually been so my observation is entirely based on Sex And The City.  Contemporary lighting and funky art added to the decor but the space was inviting and homey. 

Then, I ate the best reuben of my life.

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County - The Drake Devonshire Reuben

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County – The Drake Devonshire – The Drake Reuben

A generous portion of smoked brisket packed between lightly toasted marble rye and oozing with sauerkraut, onions, Swiss cheese and local Cressy mustard, the Drake Reuben was outta-this-world.  The fries were fresh and crispy too.  But that reuben!  I must have you again!!

The service was also excellent and the view made for a lovely, relaxing lunch.  I noticed a patio and fire pit outside and thought how fun this place must be in the summer.  Two thumbs up!

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County - The Drake Devonshire

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County – The Drake Devonshire

After lunch it was time for some wine tasting!  We stayed close to Wellington and hit up Sandbanks, Norman Hardie and Hinterland.  I’ve been to Norman Hardie and Hinterland before, but our friends had never been and they are a must for a wine tour.  We would have gone to Rosehall Run as well but they closed at 5pm and we just missed them.  Sandbanks Winery was a new one for me and I have to say, was my favourite winery of the weekend.  I could have bought all the wines we tasted they were so good!  Their smooth-like-butter Chardonnay was a standout but we settled on a peppery Shiraz.  

While Norman Hardie is historically, an important winery to visit, I never end up buying anything from them.  Besides being quite pricey, all their wines have a very strong limestone taste that I just can’t get into.  Hinterland Wine Company on the other hand, is a small, unpretentious winery that specializes in delicious sparkling wines.  They also had a winter festival going on so we were treated to some oysters and beer tastings before picking up some tasty sparkling cider.

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County – Redley’s Retreat

That evening, we headed back to the yurt and made a big steak dinner on the BBQ.  Tom built us a little fire and we roasted marshmellows under a clear starlit sky.  We passed out pretty early that night, not surprising after a long day of hiking and sipping wine!

The following day I had planned to hit up my favourite antique stores but all of them were closed for the season except for Dead People’s Stuff .  So, we just set out to do some more wine tasting.

We headed out east in the afternoon to Exultet Estates Winery that specializes in pinot noir, apple wine and apple port.  The apple port blew my mind – so unique!  We all ended up buying a bottle.  

I always need to get my cheese fix when I visit PEC, so we stopped by Black River Cheese which has THE BEST cheese, and an array of many years to choose from.  I picked up some 6 year old cheddar because apparently anything over 5 years is lactose-free, so my boyfriend can enjoy as well!

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County - Waupoos Winery

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County – Waupoos Winery

Waupoos Winery is also one of my favourites.  The cider tasting and restaurant were closed for the season, but there was still lots of delicious wine to taste and the beautiful property makes for a nice walk.  Should you visit in the summertime, be sure to make dinner reservations, the food is amazing and their cider is to die for.

We passed through the little town of Bloomfield which is much more lively in the summer.  Most of the cute shops were closed, including the popular ice cream parlour.  But we found a little cafe that was open for lunch, and we devoured some homemade soups and chilis at the Saylor House Cafe

We had just enough time to squeeze in some pinot noir wine tastings at Huff Estates Winery and some beer tastings at the newly opened Parsons Brewery Company.  My boyfriend picked up a bottle of their Devil’s Right Hand Barrel Aged Imperial Stout.  A rich, chocolatey brew that was balanced but also smooth and complex, I fully approved of his selection!

For our last meal in the County we had dinner at the Soup Opera in Wellington, another new addition.  An unassuming, quiet restaurant that offers up a small market during the day, we were really impressed with the generous portions and the mix of comfort food and higher end dishes.  We split some “mundoo” – homemade Korean pork dumplings – for an appetizer.  The ponzu and house kimchi made for a tasty bite.  For our mains, I had the duck leg confit with greens and fries that made my belly full and happy.  My boyfriend ordered the lamb shank with polenta and ratatouille and it was HUGE!  I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed my boyfriend being unable to finish a meal, but this lamb shank defeated him.  Fall-off-the-bone and swimming in rich ratatouille and polenta, he had the winning dish, hands down!

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County – Redley’s Retreat

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County - Redley's Retreat

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County – Redley’s Retreat

The next morning we packed up and said goodbye to Tom.  Before heading home we stopped by Lake On The Mountain Provincial Park.

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County - Lake On The Mountain Provincial Park

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County – Lake On The Mountain Provincial Park

Located just north of Milford, the park is surrounded by a freshwater lake that is 62 metres above the Bay of Quinte.  The park is a nice stop over and the lookout makes for some picturesque panoramas.

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County - Lake On The Mountain Provincial Park

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County – Lake On The Mountain Provincial Park

We hung out for a bit, goofing around on the ice and taking selfies.  A very pretty spot!  I’d love to come back in the summer with a picnic lunch.

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County - Lake On The Mountain Provincial Park

Yurt Camping In Prince Edward County – Lake On The Mountain Provincial Park

Before hitting the road we had lunch in Picton at the County Canteen.  They brew their own beer so I wanted to check them out, bonus that they were open for brunch on a holiday!

As our wonderful weekend came to an end, I’m left once again dreaming of the day I can move to Prince Edward County, leave city life behind and own a little piece of this heaven.

Have you been to the County?  What are your favourite wineries and restaurants?  If you have any questions about yurt camping in Prince Edward County, let me know!

Thanksgiving in Marmora

This year we spent a splendid Thanksgiving weekend in Marmora.  I’ve now witnessed Marmora throughout all the seasons, and every time I’m struck by the peace and tranquility in the air.  My boyfriend’s family is from this area, and his grandmother lives in a cozy cottage-turned-home along Crowe River.  I took my first panoramic photo of the back of their cottage, with all the fall colours popping.

Marmora in the fall

Marmora in the fall

I played around with some filters on this photo, not that autumn pictures really need a filter, but I personally love pushing the contrast for richer blacks, and upping the vibrancy of the hues to achieve a more dramatic effect.  I settled on the Hefe filter for this photo that I posted on my Instagram.

Marmora in the fall

Marmora in the fall

Growing up, I never had big family dinners or celebrations.  My father was an only child and my mother came from a large family that barely spoke to each other, so the extent of my family has only ever been two people.  My ex-husband and current partner have an extended family and though I consider myself very lucky that they’re all nice people, I still find I’m not entirely comfortable and sometimes it take me awhile to warm up for a group get together. 

I took some time to myself on this crisp fall day and tried to capture new angles of this location, which can be a challenge as I have taken so many photos throughout the years.  I liked this shot the best, with the trees and weeds framing the brilliant autumn shoreline in the background.

Marmora in the fall

Marmora in the fall