2015 - My Year In Review (Part 1 of 3)

2015 - My Year In Review

2015 was truly an amazing year for me.   It's hard to believe just how much I was able cram into 365 days.  Some rough math shows that I spent approximately 56 days on Quick Escapes.  I feel that I really made the most of 2015.  Join me as I review some of the highlights.

Ice Fishing Trip Callander Bay - January 2015  
In hindsight it's very tough to call this a 'fishing trip'.  Sure John, Mark, Mike and I loaded up the truck with all the latest and greatest fishing gear and made our way north to an ice fishing hut on Callander Bay on Lake Nipissing.  It's also worth mentioning that it was -39 degrees Celsius when we arrived (remember when we actually had winter).  72 hours later we were on our way home, humbled and without a single fish landed for the entire trip.  Regardless of the outcome we were away from work, together with great friends and we enjoyed plenty of cold beverages.  The cold weather couldn't keep us in the hut and we have some spectacular star trail images to show for the trip.  We'll just leave those fish for the next guys that come along.  You're welcome. 

La Cloche Silhouette Trail - Killarney Provincial Park - April 2015
What started out as idle talk about a possible trip turned into my marquee trip of the year.  I lightly proposed a Killarney trip to Mark Highfield in the fall of 2014.  Mark was quick to jump at the chance to see the Jewel of the Ontario Park's system and we planned to complete the 80km La Cloche hiking trail in the spring of 2015.  Unfortunately our schedules forced us into a late April trip which had the potential to cause challenges with weather and tough hiking conditions. 

This trip proved to be one of my highlights of the year.  Our 6 day / 5 night trip took us clockwise around this famed trail and I can say with certainty that we had the trail to ourselves.  After day 1, we didn't see any other people until the last hour of our trip on day 6.  Mark and I learned a lot about ourselves on this trip.  Hiking the rugged Killarney terrain pushed us physically and mentally further than we have ever been and our reward was something that can't be written about, it can only be experienced.  My biggest take away from this trip was that I want to go back and do it again.  We will see what 2016 brings.       

See Mark's account of our trip: http://quickescapes.ca/trips/la-cloche-silhouette-trail-april-2015

Storm The Trent - May 2015
In 2011 I was convinced by a friend to compete with him in an adventure race; Logs, Rocks and Steel (http://www.logsrocksandsteel.com/).  I had competed in mountain biking events previous and completed a few 10k run but this race offered an entirely new format for me.  The race consisted of a 35km marked course and offered canoeing, mountain biking and trail running.  We held our own and completed the course in a respectable time.  I have been hooked on adventure racing ever since. 

Over the next 2 years I competed in the same race with a different partner, Pete Koller.  Pete and I worked well as race partners and we seemed to be able to feed off each other's strengths (Pete was a runner and I was a biker) and each other's energy. 

In January of 2015 Pete and I committed ourselves to the Storm The Trent race to be held in May in the small hamlet of Tweed, Ontario.  This race would be our longest yet, measuring in at 40+km.  The other challenge set before us was the trekking/orienteering element.  Although familiar with a map and compass we were by no means experts with them.  Our previous races had all been marked courses and we were both a little nervous about this aspect of the race. 

Race day came and after a rather poor night's sleep (Pete, next time bring a F$%*#$@ sleeping bag), we set out.  The race started with a trek portion of about 3km.  After that we hit the bikes for a short ride to our second trekking section.  A poorly calculated direction caused some frustration but we were back on track before too long.  Back to the bikes and we started gaining ground on a number of riders and we were in solid position as we transitioned into the canoe section of the race. 

When it was all said and done, 1 poor navigational mistake in the canoe section increased our race by about 2km and nearly 15 minutes.  The end result was a respectable 6th place. 

Watch out STT, we'll be back next year.      

24 Hours of Summer Solstice - June 2015
I take great  joy in telling people that I'm competing in a 24 hour mountain bike race.  When you mention it, there is usually an awkward pause and after they collect their thoughts the next sentence out of their mouth is generally 'are you crazy'.  In short, yes I am. 

The 24 Hours of Summer Solstice (http://chicoracing.com/events/24-hour-races/summer-solstice/overview-and-shedule.html) is the event that I look forward to the most each year.  Long sessions on the bike trainer during the winter season melt away when I think about 'the 24'.  It keeps me riding even when mother nature proves to be stubborn in the early spring and when she refuses to give up on winter.  When my motivation is low, I just think of some of the majestic laps that I have experienced in the past while exhausted and likely delirious at 3am.  There are few things in life that can compare to this experience.    

For those not familiar with this event, team(s) range from solo riders (the most prestigious group) up to 10 people.  Each team has a single rider on the course starting at 12pm on a Saturday and we ride until 12pm on Sunday.  Each rider completes a lap of approximately 16km and then switches out with another rider (except of course of the solo riders).  This continues for the next 24 hours and the teams with the highest number of laps in the shortest amount of time are declared the victors. 

In 2015 we competed in the 4 person category as the Little Lebowski Urban Achievers.  Our riders included '24' veteran (and former champion) Mark Highfield, and rookies Pete Koller and Michael O'Sullivan. 

By 11:50am on Saturday I was pretty tense.  I drew first lap this year and my nerves were on high alert.  The 10 minutes prior to the race always seem the worst and time moves at a snail's pace.  The race starts and hundreds of riders jockey for position.  There is a delicate balance between pushing the pace and burning yourself out in the first few kilometers or taking your time and getting stuck behind a slower pack.  I'm afraid that this year I was riding with the slower, less confident riders.  This was a major source of frustrations until about half way through the race when I was able to break free. 

An hour and 10 minute later I hand over the LLUA baton to Mark Highfield and retired to our campsite to rest up for the next lap. 

For us the 24 isn't about winning.  It's really about spending time with friends and pushing our personal limits as far as we can.  Getting out for a 6th lap at 10am after having already put in nearly 100km take incredible mental strength.  Deciding to do it and completing it before 12pm is one of the greatest feelings out there.      

Look for the Little Lebowski Urban Achievers at Albion Hills again in 2016.  

My 2015 Year In Review...To Be Continued....