I’ve raced this venue a few times.
The first time in 2015 was for the 14.4km Challenge Course. I loved it. I was reasonable trained for it and loved the experience. My review is here.
The second time was last year. I had been injured in July and was under-trained for the race. I had signed up for the 14.4km Challenge Course again but was in no shape to run it so I checked down to the 5.7km Short Course. I was glad I did. My review is here.
This year the wonderful organizers Norm and Jodi changed up the distances. Now they are 12km, 25km and the dreaded 50km. Obviously a big push to get this race into the ‘Ultra’ class. The 2 longer distances are either one or two laps of a new 25km loop.
The Race Stuff
Once again very well organized. Information available and email communication was great. The exhibitors/sponsors at the race were friendly, helpful and had interesting products to talk about.
Before the race things were well run, had a great feel and having a bag drop which was great as I like to recheck and pack-up my nutrition, etc. just before the race.
During the race the volunteers were awesome once again. Tons of Team Running Free support! Signage and course routing was clear even under the duress of race conditions.
After the race I will say I was disappointed not to have a barbecue like in previous years. A wrap and fruit is nice but a hot burger is AWESOME! I understand logistics of cooking for 200-300 people must be a pain but it was something I missed.
Age group prizes, access to timing sheets, draw prizes and all the other post-race stuff was well executed.
Like last year I came into the race under prepared. I starting training again in July and getting back to any long distance has been tough in the heat. I had managed a few 8km+ plus runs but certainly not what I needed to truly ‘compete’ on a personal level where I wanted to.
With the changes in distances there wasn’t anything lower than 12km to check down to. I knew it was going to be a pain train so I set my expectations to not killing myself and enjoying what I could.
The weather this year was in the midst of the popular sequel “Summer 2 – This Time We Mean It”. With temps in the low 30’s and humidex purported to hitting around 41 degrees I knew the distance wasn’t my only challenge.
I prepared for the heat by taking a carry bottle to ensure I never was out of water. There is a gap between water stations between 2.5km and about 6.5km which concerned me.
Water is amazing in the heat to both quench and soak yourself down. I also packed gels to make sure I was replacing electrolytes. If I am anticipating a lot of sweating, which I was, I also take and carry salt pills. I took one before start and another about 45 minutes in.
I started three quarters of the way back in the pack. I try to guess where I might finish and do my best to get out of the way of faster runners before the race even starts. It’s the nice thing to do.
The start here is uphill out of the gate. The first 2km is a combo of some up hills and flats on well-worn wide open trails that see a lot of feet through the year. It felt early on that I was in for the hell I thought I was. It was hot, humid and it felt like hard work immediately.
At 2km ‘Cardiac Hill’ starts. I had no illusions of running ANY of this. I put my head down and marched up as best I could. Regardless of distance or fitness, this is an early test that you need to avoid torching your legs and lungs at.
Mid-way to the highest point of the park “Look Out Point” there was a water/electrolyte table where I filled what I had used of my bottle.
“Look Out Point” offers a great view of the whole park and many of the competitors took the time for a selfie. I took a second and soaked it up. At its heart trail running is a struggle balanced with the beauty of nature.
The middle portion of the race consisted of me and a few different racers running alone or in pairs that passed each other a number of times as each of us took breaks at different times or felt up for some brisk running at different times.
My trail running sorta-mantra is ‘get what you can get when you can get it’. Feel like sprinting as far up that hill as you can? Do it. Feel like walking? Do it. The terrain takes and gives away so when you feel good use it, when you feel rough just slug it out the best you can.
At the 6.5k water break I took a bit of a 30 second break and immediately regretted it. Refilling water and immediately walking/shuffling would have been better as I felt like crap as soon as I tried to run again.
Next up is “68 Steps To Ruin”. This one never disappoints. The illusion the map gives first time runners is that the steps are the only challenge when you get there. But they are not. There is a significantly steep slope leading to the steps … then the steps … then two more climbs before cresting the ‘the top must be here … no crap it’s still going’ peak.
Much of the race after this point is downhill. Working through trails coming slowly down off the escarpment is a pleasure with slight ups and mostly some downs to keep you rolling. I had a bit of gas left in the tank so enjoyed this portion.
At 9km the final water table appeared. They had lots of stuff for the longer distance runners as this is a station shared by all three distances. Water, electrolyte drink, Coca-cola, pringles, gels, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, etc. I stuck to my plan and refilled water and popped a few gummy gels.
The last 2-3 km is flat or downhill. This is a portion 2 years ago when I hammered it stretching my legs and cranking the pace. I had saved some energy and slowly poured it all out spreading it to the finish line.
This year gutted out a run/walk and was passed by a number of runners. It’s all I had left.
Crossing a finish line immediately erases a lot of tough memories. Someone asked me how my race went and I said “It looks great looking back on it”.
Once again a wonderful event, a memorable well-run race and some wonderful nature sitting there waiting to challenge you. No coyote again this year … I will need to go back again!