Southern Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula hosts perfect summer training camp
(August 14, 2014) — When Team Hardwood Head Coach Ron Howden chose Tobermory as the site of his August training camp, he knew the area – renowned for its rugged beauty and crystal clear waters – would offer plenty of scenic trails and quiet roads for training. It turned out that the location was just the start of everything good. With great food, welcoming hosts, sunny skies and 20 enthusiastic skiers, the camp turned out to be, well, pretty much perfect.
Pulling a trailer loaded with luggage, training gear and no fewer than eight coolers of homemade food, the group rolled into Tobermory on Thursday afternoon. While coaches and chaperones found their rooms, athletes set up tents on the spacious, tree-lined grounds of the motel. Comfort was important, especially so for the National Talent Squad athlete who brought along a futon to squeeze inside the tent he shared with a teammate.
A quiet loop of road nearby served as the site of the first rollerski workout and was followed by a BBQ dinner and a bonfire under the stars.
On Friday, the team hit the Bruce Trail, with athletes completing varying distances of running and/or ski-walking, depending on age and personal training plans. The rocky trail wound its way along the edge of Georgian Bay and each group finished at the Little Cove cobble beach for the first swim of the camp.
After lunch and a rest, the group donned fins and masks and explored the shipwrecks on the floor of the peaceful inlet of Big Tug Harbour. In the clear, calm water under the late-day sun, the scene below was hauntingly beautiful; it was almost two hours later before athletes, coaches and chaperones reluctantly got out of the water and headed back for dinner.
Saturday was an early start. The athletes headed to the Visitor Centre of the Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park where coaches Ron Howden and Andrew Kerr led them through a power workout. Groups of athletes repeatedly scaled the 112 steps of the fire tower three-and-four at a time, while others used ropes and various pieces of training equipment among the trees and rocks. By the time the tourist crowds started to arrive, the workout had concluded. Before leaving the area, the group toured the interpretive exhibits of the Visitor Centre. Reports of a less-than-pleasant odour during the visit to the centre cannot be confirmed.
In the afternoon, the group headed to Singing Sands Beach – part of the national park on the Lake Huron side. The huge, sandy beach was perfect for swimming or just splashing around. After a couple of hours, it was back to the motel and a roller ski technique session led by the senior athletes. After dinner, if one looked closely with a flashlight, the athletes and coaches could be seen running and playing games among the tents and campfire for several hours.
No trip to Tobermory is complete without visiting the Grotto. On Sunday, the coaches chose a route for the morning’s hike/run so it concluded there, allowing the group to swim and explore the deep waters of Georgian Bay and the huge rock formations of the Grotto.
The camp ended with good-byes and recollections of what made the camp so perfect – the location, the weather, the hospitality, and a mix of enthusiastic but easy-going athletes, coaches and helpers that together created a fun, rewarding weekend of training and team bonding.
Congratulations to Hardwood coach Ron Howden for pulling it all together, assisted by Hardwood coach Andrew Kerr. As athletes loaded into the vans for the return trip, Ron could be seen at the front desk making reservations for next summer’s camp.
Patricia MacDonell was a trip chaperone. She hopes her recently honed skill of driving a loaded 12 passenger van from Toronto to Tobermory while following Coach Howden gives her an edge on the competition expected for the role next year.
About Team Hardwood:
With its base at Hardwood Ski and Bike north of Toronto, Team Hardwood is one of Ontario’s most successful developmental cross country ski racing clubs. Its athletes regularly progress to Canada’s national development centres and university teams. It includes current NST member Lenny Valjas and several top Junior and National Talent Squad skiers on its roster for the 2014-2015 season