Appears courtesy of Gillian’s Active Life.
My second trail race was on the Niagara Escarpment again, but on the other side from Rattlesnake Point (here’s my first race recap). The race was due to start at 10:00 a.m. so, being the keener I am, I was there by 8:00. After registering and watching the exhibitors put up their tents (yes, I was THAT early), my friend B and I decided to sit in the car for an hour to stay warm.
See, hardly any people around.
Once it warmed up a bit, we wandered around and checked out the start of the course. There were just under 300 competitors and what I like about the 5 Peaks series of races is how relaxed they are. Some may call them unprofessional but I think that adds to the cool vibe. You still have a timing chip, a bib, food afterwards, etc. but it’s more fun than serious.
Yes, this is the start / finish line! What else do you need?
I decided to start in wave 6 as my speed is still slow. Wave 1 was for runners who can run a 5K is less than 20 minutes! Um, yeah, I think it’ll be a while (like never!) before I start in that wave. The nice thing about a later wave is you get people who have never run a trail race before.
That’s me on the far left jumping and waving – acting the fool!
And then we were off.
I wish I was as cheerful as the couple in front of me!
We had a short little rise and then into the forest for a 1K single track loop. If you’re a mountain bike enthusiast, you’d have loved this! It was technical, narrow, twisty – all those things that make it tough for newbies! The only problem I had was friends running together who would block the whole path. I even had two women in front of me who, when one stopped to tighten her shoelace, the other stopped RIGHT BESIDE HER to wait. Did I mention that neither bothered to move off the path, roadblocking all the rest of us behind them?
Anyway, by the time that loop was done, we took a long downhill road out of the forest, where I was able to lengthen my stride and pass quite a few people.
Finally! I can speed up and pass the “groups” who absolutely MUST run together.
We took another road into a different section of the forest. Again, tons of single track that got narrower and narrower. It got so bad that you were literally weaving around trees and branches and having to slow down just to stay upright.
It was really interesting running these trails. I was trying my best to enjoy the moment, listen to the wind blowing through the trees, glory in the little bit of sun that was breaking through the canopy but I had a hard time doing that because all I could hear was my breathing! Seriously, my breathing rate was pretty steady but it was bloody loud!
I was quite comfortable with my pace but started catching up with racers. I think my training with Len has given me more confidence on the “technical” parts because a lot of these people are faster than me on the open roads but I was faster in the forest.
Eventually I was so close to the woman in front that I was probably breathing right down her neck (bad race etiquette to be so close behind, I know) but I didn’t want to ask her to stop completely so I could pass (the course was that narrow). However, she offered to let me pass, for which I thanked her profusely. Then, the other competitors in front of me started doing the same thing, letting me pass. One woman even said “You go, girl” which I thought was hilarious but strangely uplifting! I thanked every single person I ran by.
Then I had the race course to myself! That was weird because there were only little red flags along the course to guide you through this huge area but running alone made it easier for me to maintain my pace and monitor my breathing.
Eventually, the course came out of the forest. Running became much easier because we were now on really wide, mostly flat and gently curving roads. I was finally able to keep my head up! I’m a new trail runner so I have trouble running without constantly looking down to pick my footing. Now I could lift my head, bring my shoulders back and try to open my lungs more.
I was wearing my trusty Garmin 405cx so I was able to continually check my speed, pace, heart rate and distance, and I saw I was getting close to the 6K mark. The course was supposed to be 6.2K so I kept thinking that I’d see the finish line just around the next bend. Yeah, not so much!The course kept going, and going, and turning and then went back into the forest! I couldn’t believe it – more single track! At this point, I was really tiring and talking myself through it.
My feet had been a bit wobbly throughout the race but I was still able to maintain a fairly steady pace. But, pride goes before a fall! I was just feeling pretty confident when my left foot hit an edge and slid right out from under me – leaving me to fall with a solid thump! Luckily no one was around and it was a wide area so I didn’t feel injured, just shaken. Well, the weird thing is that I fell on the left side but look what I did to my right knee! I didn’t even realize I’d hit it until that evening.
Apologies for the grainy iPhone photo.
So, after getting back up and dusting off the leaves and debris, I kept going (yeah, I know, I’m a trooper. But I’m also in the middle of a forest, so I kinda have to keep going!).
At this point, some of the speedy racers starting passing me. Did I mention that in addition to my 6.2K Sport course, there was a 12K Enduro course that required the racers to run the course twice? Yeah, it was THOSE racers who were now passing me. I moved off the trail so they could keep their speed and cheered them on.
Finally, we came out of the forest and what did I see in front of me??? You guessed it – more roads! Come on! All I could hear around me were groans from my fellow racers who were also vastly disappointed. Finally, we came upon the race director who said the finish line was about 500 meters away. A woman behind me said, “You promise?” and he replied “Yeah, this time I promise. But you got a bonus – an extra 1.5K!” Argh!
Finally the sweet sight of the finish line came into view and I was able to pick up my pace and run down the hill to the finish.
I will wave to you, but I’m concentrating on not tripping.
I employed my normal downhill method of leaning forward and lengthening my stride but the gradient suddenly got a lot steeper. Oh, no, don’t let me fall 20 feet from the finish!
Look at the stride length! All the better to keep from falling!
Finally, I crossed the finish line and was able to check my Garmin. Instead of 6.2K, it turned out to be 7.5K! My finish time was 57.42 and I was really proud of that, considering how tough the course was!