Vacation training in Canada

I may have mentioned this before, but when I first started distance running and triathlon, I would always hear my fellow athletes and friends describe the training they were going to do on vacation. “While we are in Italy we thought it’d be the perfect time to do a 70-mile ride through the countryside.” OR “We’re going to Florida for the week and plan to do a lot of open water swimming and beach running. Sand running really strengthens the ankles!”

Ugh! I wondered why these people couldn’t just go somewhere and enjoy it for a few days without busting their butts all around the destination. I decided I would never be one of “those” people. Evidently I was lying to myself. I’ll share two stories from my own vacation training.

My dad arranged a trip for me and my brothers to do some serious fishing for a week on Eagle Lake in Ontario, Canada. I immediately decided that this was the perfect opportunity to use downtime to log some running miles in another country. I also brought along my wet suit in the off-hand chance I had an opportunity to do some open water swimming.

I did quite a bit of running along hilly, dirt roads and trails near the camp. It was very pleasant overall and my routes frequently took me past gorgeous horses, bald eagles, and sweeping views of the surrounding forests and lake. I even had a running companion at one point–the camp dog, Bosco. Bosco wandered camp and hung out with me on more than one occasion. He would walk down to the docks and lay dutifully by while I fished. He would bring logs over (not sticks) to play fetch. And one day as I was running out of camp he came bounding after. I didn’t mind at first since I had never seen him stray far out of camp. This day he just kept going. I made it around .75 miles, or 1.2 km for my Canadian readers out of camp and he was still following me, albeit at a slowing pace. I had planned a 10-mile total out and back run and REALLY did not want to have to carry an exhausted, 90-pound dog on my shoulders for the second half of my run, so I sent him home. Or I tried to.

Bosco the black lab

Bosco was a great dog, but I figured I shoudn’t be the one to test the limits to his endurance.

He wouldn’t go. I commanded. I coaxed. I pleaded. I even tried to sprint off without him, and he still kept trying to follow. Finally I turned around and ran him back into camp. He ran off to find his water dish and a nice fetch log when we arrived. I used the opportunity to make my escape without him. A little part of me was sad he didn’t end up following me again. But most of me was happy I didn’t have to haul a lab over hills in Canada.

I’ve got to say though that my favorite training day was when I got to do some

Steven Barcus at Eagle Lake

I pull on my wet suit and get ready to plunge into Eagle Lake.

open water swimming. My dad took me in our boat from the docks late one afternoon. As we were leaving the dock hand asked if we were going to fish. My dad responded that he was taking me out a mile and dumping me off the shore of one of the many little islands, after which I would swim back. The dock hand laughed good naturedly at my dad’s “joke.” My dad told him he was not joking. The dock hand gave a surprised look and we took off.

pelicans, seagulls, and Steve Barcus

I swim by the treacherous birds of Bird Rock. Who knew there could be pelicans and seagulls so far north?!

Eagle Lake is really big. It is home to bald eagles, ravens, deer, loons, ducks, seagulls, pelicans, supposedly moose and bear (never saw any), and fish including northern pike, walleye, and musky.

I was dropped precisely 1.2 miles from camp and began the swim back. The route had some opportunity for sighting. First to the edge of Strawberry Island (really wish it had a more badass name), then to a small group of rocks we referred to as

pelicans and seagulls in Ontario

A closer view of Bird Rock.

Bird Rock due to the land being packed with seagulls and pelicans (very clever naming, I know), and finally past an outcropping of land and into Waldhoff Bay where our camp, Birch Dale Lodge, was nestled.

The waters were pristine, but brisk, so I was glad I had my wet suit. There were no big problems for the most part. My dad did a great job of spotting me between landmarks and drove off the seagulls and pelicans from Bird Rock that were taking dives at me. He also had a sea plane come in really low. Thankfully this did not land on me due to the presence of his boat!

Steven Barcus at Eagle Lake

I make the approach to camp unbeknownst the groups of unsuspecting campers.

When I arrived at our dock and heaved myself onto the wooden planks, I was surprised to hear applause and cheering. I looked over and saw that a dozen or so people had watched me finish. It doesn’t get any better than having your personal cheering section. I took questions, accepted compliments (including one boy telling me I looked so fast he thought I was a musky), and made my way back for a hot shower.

I may be one of “those” people, but I see it as being fortunate to have the privilege to train in places others will never go. Big thanks to my dad and my little fan club for making it possible.

Steve Barcus on  a dock in Eagle Lake

I stand up on the dock and greet my public! Hooray for me!

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2 Responses to Vacation training in Canada

  1. Kecia says:

    I LOVE vacation training!! It is so awesome that you had your own cheering section when you finished your swim. I always find it funny when people have no idea of what we do and how far we go during training and racing 😉

  2. Steve B. says:

    Thanks Kecia! It is great to train in new places, plus we have to keep up our effort. Races are always around the corner.

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