Race Review – 5 Peaks Round the Cape

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This was my second trail race. The first one took place 15 days earlier when I ran the Fundy Circuit 50k.  This one took place in Cape Chignecto  Provincial Park in Nova Scotia. Like Fundy Park, Cape Chignecto overlooks the Bay of Fundy.  As the matter of fact they are directly across the Bay from each other,  though they are about a 3 hour drive apart.

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I hadn’t planned to run two trail races so close together.  As the matter of fact I hadn’t planned to run two trail races at all. I expected my running season to come to an end after the Fundy Circuit.

My friend Paul is the race director of this inaugural 5 Peaks event.    His enthusiasm was contagious and before I knew it, I was registered for the 24k.   Too late, I realized that it was  a mere 2 weeks after my first Ultra Trail Run.  Oh well.. how hard can it be, right?

22366295_10155478274041140_4256752716183871479_nThere were approximately 70 people registered for the 24k distance.  In a quirky nod to the famed Barclay marathon, the start line was a gate.  Everyone lined up in front of the gate waiting for the cue to start.  I  waited for the ceremonial lighting of the cigarette to signal the race start, but it was merely a Ready, Set, Go! and we were off.

My friend Michelle was also running the same distance and we met up before the race began.  We planned to run individually, as a trail run is a very personal journey.   We did cover the first couple of kilometers together before she started picking it up a bit and pulled ahead.  She is a faster runner than me so I didn’t expect to see her again until after the turnaround point.

The elevation on this course is crazy.. an elevation gain of over 1200 meters.   By the 4k mark, the hills and humidity were playing havoc with Michelle’s asthma.  As I overtook her on a hill I could see that she was struggling and I stopped to ask if she was ok.   We crawled up the hill together and then opted for a slow pace to give her the opportunity to recover. By unspoken agreement we remained together for the rest of the race.

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At 6k was the first water station, located at Mill Brook Canyon. The descent into the canyon is very steep, and we knew it would be a challenge on the way back. I should mention that there are viewpoints along the way to look out over the scenic Minas Basin.  The tide was coming in and Hurricane Nate provided some strong winds and the waves crashing against the cliffs were incredible.  This portion of the trail was mostly single track, with bridges and stairs.  There was never any danger of going off course as the trail was very well marked.

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We paused briefly at the water station to top up our bottles and then we were on our way again. What goes down must go up and that is exactly where the trail went via a series of switchbacks that went on forever.  As we rounded each corner we thought we were at the top, only to be astonished to see even more hill!  Somehow we made our way to the top where we were greeted by superb volunteers at the Arch Gully Aid Station. (8k)

Two tables were laden with food for our refueling needs, including a large bowl of cubed cooked potatoes with a bowl of salt for dipping.  I snagged some potatoes and candy (jujubes, I think? ) refilled my water and Gatorade bottles and off we went.  We were about 4k from the turnaround point, and this part of the trail was a delight.  The wind was howling among the treetops but caressed us with only a slight breeze as we skipped over roots and rocks. This was my probably my favorite part of the trail.  We started meeting runners who were on the return trip and we stepped off the single track trail to allow them to pass.    Several of them spoke encouraging words to us, and  a few of them hinted at an “awesome view” that marked the turnaround point.

The  trail ended at an access road that took us down to Refugee Cove.  Never-ending hills seemed to be a recurring theme on this course, and this downslope was no exception.  Every time we rounded the corner we expected to see the beach but it continued to elude us.  Our Garmins were measuring 12k so we were mentally ready to reach the turnaround point. Finally.. we saw an opening though the trees and knew that we had made it to the bottom.  The view that greeted us was spectacular.  It was nearing High Tide and the waves crashing on the rocks was phenomenal. It is very exhilarating to experience nature so fully.

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A photographer was there taking race photos and she told us that the turnaround point was another 400 meters.  What..?  Weren’t we at the turn around point?  Wearily we trudged the remaining distance before turning around to head back up that hill.  By now we were both weary so we walked / speed hiked a lot during the return trip. My Garmin died somewhere along the way and I had no idea how far we had come, nor how far we had to go. The only thing on my mind at this point was reaching Arch Gully as I suddenly had an odd hankering for potatoes. Finally we caught sight of the red and white Gatorade dispenser through the foliage and gratefully stopped to refuel and rehydrate.  Potatoes and M&M`s might seem to be a weird flavor combination but they really hit the spot.

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Refreshed, we set off knowing that it was all downhill..  and then uphill … from there. The switchbacks were just as tricky going down as they were going up and we were glad to reach the bottom.  And then…. the highlight of the route… Mill Brook Hill. This is a beast of a hill and I can`t even find any words to adequately describe it.  We tackled it slowly and eventually reached the top, stopping several times to rest.  The remainder of the course was relatively easy but we were exhausted so we speed-walked for most of it.

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As we approached the Finish Line we made a pact to stay together and touch the gate at the same time so we could share the coveted  DFL status.   Somehow I messed up and touched the gate a half a second after Michelle so I get sole possession of Dead Fucking Last. Yay, me!

There was only a smattering of people around when we dragged our asses to the Finish Line, but they offered genuine congratulations and made us feel like rockstars before ushering us inside to eat, drink and be merry.  And we received cool Master of Hills Diplomas. Sweet!

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Kudos to the organizers and volunteers who made this event so successful.  I would recommend this event to top level athletes who are looking for a challenging run.  It is also a great run for average people ( like me) who like to push their limits, are prepared to work hard to get to Start Line and are too stubborn to quit.  The cut off time is very generous ( 6 hours to reach 16k) so it is very doable.  It’s not easy, but it is achievable.

Will I do it again?  Six days ago I would have said.. not a chance!  But now I would say..  Absolutely.

Next year there is a 50k option.. Hmmmmm…..

Credit to Race Photographer Elita Rahn who  gave me permission to use her photos. You can see the rest of her race photos here

 

 

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Word of the Day – Legerity

Legerity- Alert facile quickness of mind or body

Trail running is not for the faint of heart, nor the clumsy of foot.  One must be constantly aware of the ever changing terrain and be able to react quickly to avoid obstacles such as rocks and roots.

Today I had the opportunity to check out a small section of the Cape Chignecto trail, where I will be running the Round the Cape 24k Event next weekend.  What a ruggedly beautiful trail.  Today I chose to do a 5k Loop, which begins at the Red Rock beach area near the Visitor Center.   You gotta love a route that begins on a beach, especially a Bay of Fundy beach. I should mention that this section of the trail is accessible only at low tide.

At the 1.5 km mark there are stairs that take you up to the main trail. Another 500 meters of vertical climb over roots and rocks requires a certain amount of Legerity if you wish to remain upright.  This technical trail loops through pristine forests, eventually descending back down to the Visitor center.

It is truly a spectacular place and I am looking forward to running here next weekend.

 

Monticule – Word of the Day

Monticule – a small mountain, hill or mound.

Hubby spoils me. He does the laundry most of the time so I seldom have the opportunity to do it. With one runner in the family, there is always laundry to do but I have been fortunate to have one of those Magic laundry hampers. You know the kind I mean.. you toss your dirty clothes in it and within a few days those clothes are laundered, folded and stacked in a neat pile on the bed. Magic!

Hubby is away this week and that hamper has lost it’s magic.  This morning I went to grab a pair of shorts for my daily run, and there were no clean pants to be found.  I checked the laundry hamper and was horrified to see a monticule of dirty clothes inside.  There is only one person in the household this week. How can one person generate so much laundry?

I considered my options…. do laundry or go shopping..? Laundry won.  But first.. I dug out my cleanest pair of dirty shorts and went for a run while the washing machine agitated my clothes.

Laundry done and hubby coming home tonight with a week’s worth of his own dirty clothes. I hope the magic returns to that laundry hamper.

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Race Review / Fundy Circuit Ultra Trail

This race takes place in the stunning Fundy National Park, with challenging elevation changes and very technical trails.  It is a series of 7 connecting trails which form a huge looped trail through rugged wilderness.   I registered for this in February on a whim because it was filling up quickly and I thought it would be a nice challenge.  Keep in mind that I had never run on technical trails before, and at the time of registration I had only run one marathon but was training for a second one. ( Ottawa Marathon, May 2017)

21993049_892230574285582_7234999678026912458_oI naively thought that I could do a lot of training on the bike trails at Centennial Park in Moncton, with a few training runs on the actual course.  On my first training session at Fundy I realized that the bike trails at Centennial were child’s play in comparison.  I decided that it would be wise to spend as much time on the Fundy Circuit trails as I could.  The Park is about an hour’s drive from my house, but several excursions during July and August allowed me to check out the entire trail except the Tracy Lake and Bennett Brook portions.  The rest of my training was done on nearby Dobson Trail which is very flat but there are lots of tree roots to skip over.   I also began a love/hate relationship with the Stair Climber at the gym to prepare for the steep climbs on the course.

Training did not go as planned.  It took me longer to recover from the Ottawa marathon than I expected. Then I had food poisoning which left me weak for days, followed by an outbreak of shingles.  A sprained toe slowed me down for another week.   June mileage was only 113km.   July was slightly better with 177km.  By August I was finally able to achieve some quality runs but still the monthly total was only 217km.   A hip flexor injury in September forced me to cancel my last couple of scheduled long runs and focus on Rest and Recovery prior to race day.  I toed the Start Line knowing how unprepared I was, with my longest training run being only 25km, but hoping that pure determination would get me to the Finish Line.

My fuel for the event was an energy bar with protein made by Nick The Dutch Baker, a small local business.   I cut it in squares so I could consume some every 10k or so.  It kept me going.

20170818_121824.jpgThe event started at the Salt and Fir Center in Fundy Park proceeding counter clockwise around the Fundy Circuit, beginning with Upper Salmon River Trail.  I was familiar with this part of the course, having done a there-and-back training run in July.  On the training run my first impression was , ” you have got to fucking be kidding me.!” First of all the trail was not clearly marked in several spots and I had to retrace my steps a few times. Fortunately the race coordinators took care of that problem by marking the route with several pink flags prior to the event.  Secondly, the route was mostly a single track path with roots and rocks, meandering over rocky river beds and in one spot you actually had to clamber over a boulder.  Oh, and a couple of stream crossings with slippery rocks, but with guide ropes for balance.   It is a great trail and I love it, but  I think that I would have been mentally broken if I hadn’t done my research prior to race day. I have been working on a Granny Shuffle technique of running over technical trails and  I ended up finishing it 15 minutes faster than I expected.

At the end of Upper Salmon River Trail, the river forks and you have to cross there to continue to the next segment.  The Forks trail is only 3.5km long but it is all Uphill.  Thank goodness for Stair Climber training!  Along this part of the trail I was bombarded with pinecones from above from an angry squirrel high in the treetops, scolding me as I tried to evade the attack.  I figure the 70+ runners ahead of me had pissed him off and he was taking his revenge on me, the slowest runner.   I managed to escape unscathed.

20170828_124107The first water station was at the end of the Forks Trail, in the Laverty Parking Lot at the summit of this mountainous trail.  Loud cheers greeted me as I staggered from the woods.  The volunteers at this event were fabulous.  Fruit, water and electrolyte drink were in abundance.  Quickly topping up fluids and a gobbling a quick mandarin orange, I proceeded to Tracy Lake trail.  The first 3km or so is easy, a dirt road to the Trail Head and it is all downhill.

Tracy Lake Trail is listed as 7km but I swear it is a helluva lot longer than that.  On a training run I had done 3k, turned around and went back so I knew that it’s claim to fame was it’s bogginess and it’s rocks. I have trained on trails with tree roots and rocks, but this trail was littered with rocks the size of basketballs. On the day of the race I thought it was never going to end.  It just seemed to go on and on forever and my right hip was beginning to hurt from such  prolonged Granny Shuffling.  I was so glad to finally arrive at the second aid station at Bennett Lake, still about 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

20170923_122623.jpgAt Bennett Lake I topped up my water/ electrolyte bottles and grabbed a banana before proceeding to the Bennett  Brook portion of the trail.  This was the part of the trail that I was unfamiliar with, though I had heard that it was mostly an old access road which ended with a deep descent into Point Wolfe Gorge.  It was a pleasant surprise to realize that I could actually run this trail easily.  It was wide and flat with few obstacles.  No Granny Shuffling on this section.!  Arriving at the gorge I stopped momentarily for a chat with volunteers and a photo opportunity before crossing the river to begin the climb to Marvin Lake Trail.  Now I was on familiar ground, having approached from the opposite direction about a month earlier.

This is where I hit the Wall. !   I literally crawled up those switchbacks  because I did not have the energy to stand up.  Dragging myself up with my hands clutching trees and rocks, I was relieved to finally reach the top.   I managed to regain some energy to power hike the remainder of this trail before it connected with Marvin Brook Trail.

Marvin Brook Trail is very uninspiring but I was grateful for it’s flat easy terrain.  I ran/ power hiked the entire 7k to the next Aid Station at Point Wolfe, arriving there 30 minutes ahead of schedule.  Once again I topped up my fluids and then set off for the final leg of my journey.

20170807_103530Shiphaven Trail is only 500 meters long, featuring boardwalks and stairs.  It was easy peasy.  After running through a covered bridge there is a short section of paved road which leads to the Trailhead for West Coastal Trail. After climbing Bennett Brook and Forks trails, the switchbacks on the Coastal Trail were relatively easy.  Reaching the top I resumed my Granny Shuffling over the single track trail until I reached Herring Cove Beach.   With 4km to go , I was becoming very fatigued and ended up walking most that distance. What a wonderful sight to finally see the Trail head through the trees, knowing the Finish line was about 500 meters away.  The Coastal Trails took approx. 30 minutes longer than planned, but I had a 30 minute head start so I was still right on time.

But first there was that little matter of a hill to contend with. At this point I was receiving encouraging words of support from friends and strangers but I  just couldn’t do it.  With 200 meters to the Finish Line I managed to break into a run and then sprinted the final 100 meters.  Lol, it felt like a sprint but it probably didn’t look like a sprint.  I finished DFL ( Dead Fucking Last) with a time of 9:44:09 and I am just as pleased as the person who finished first.  Oh, and I might have cried a little at the end.

22007711_10210499062455559_7344499634051432495_nWhat a feeling!  I did it! A am an Ultra Runner and no one can ever take that title away from me.

Thanks to the organizers, sponsors and volunteers who made this event possible.

Would I do this race again? Hell, yeah!

Crossing the Line

Everyone loves crossing the Finish Line.  It is the culmination of weeks (months) of committing to training and fueling for a specific event.  The Finish Line is our goal, and crossing it is all that matters. ‘

1000..jpgA few days ago I crossed the Finish Line at the Fundy Circuit Ultra Trail Run 50k.  The miracle wasn’t that I crossed the Finish Line; The miracle was that I was able to make it to the Start Line.   Training didn’t go according to plan because … Life.  It was a combination of things.. .. an outbreak of shingles, food poisoning, sprained toe, Dad’s health/surgery, and a dozen other little things.

By the time September rolled around, my longest run since the May marathon was 25km.  I figured I had one more opportunity for a long run before Tapering.  Wrong!  My Abs suddenly became very angry and I couldn’t even roll over in bed.  A trip to my PT revealed tight hip flexors.  PT is very supportive of my Running and she suggested several exercises (mostly variations of Kegals) and told me to keep running but to keep my runs Short and Flat for several days.  Short and Flat?  But how do you train for a trail ultra by running short and flat?  But I did as she recommended and by the time Race Day rolled around I was feeling good physically, though not very confidant about my ability to run a 50 trail run.

Surrounded my elite runners at the Start Line, I knew that I would never compete with them for Finish Time. Heck, I might not even Finish and I was ok with that.  I was happy just be there and have the opportunity to see how far I could go.  There were several registrants who didn’t even make it to the Start line. I can only assume that they were faced with obstacles that they just couldn’t overcome.

My race goals were

  1. Finish in less than 10 hours.
  2. Finish, uninjured
  3. Make it as far as I can before humbly bowing out
  4. No Ugly Crying in Public

I was thrilled to finish DFL.  ( Dead Fucking Last) with a time of slightly less than 9 hours, 45 minutes.  How cool is that?

It wasn’t so cool that I didn’t achieve my goal of No Ugly Crying. 22007711_10210499062455559_7344499634051432495_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vamoose – word of the day

Vamoose – to leave quickly or hurriedly

This word reminds me of an event that happened a year ago, almost to the day.  It was a couple of days before my Mom died. She was waging a losing battle against cancer and we were supportive of her desire to die at home.   At the time I was training for my first marathon, and I had that pesky little run streak to think about.  I questioned the necessity of leaving her bedside to do my Run every day, but concluded that I needed the respite.  I had to take care of ME so I could take care of HER.

Because I wasn’t home I had to find some new running routes.   There was a lovely logging road in the woods behind Dad’s house which leads to a marsh that borders the Hopewell Cape Rocks Provincial Park.  One evening I asked me Dad if it was safe to run there and he joking replied that I might see a bear but that I could outrun it.   With confidence I set off for my daily jaunt.

The thing about September is that dusk comes early and quickly.   By the time I reached the end of the logging road it was just beginning to get dark and I  turned around to go back when I heard a loud SNARL / GROWL.   I  couldn’t see anything but I didn’t stick around to investigate.   I decided to VAMOOSE across the marsh to the Hopewell Rocks, glancing back frequently to see if the GROWL had followed me.   It was a longer run than I had planned because  I had to loop around to the main road to get back to the house.  (faster, too! )

When I told Dad about the GROWL he said it might have been a coyote.  …. like that is going to make me feel better.  I never ran in those woods again.

Epilogue:  The next day my sister cleaned out the fridge / freezer of some food that had gone bad.  It was mostly vegetables and stale bread so she dumped it at the edge of the treeline for the animals.  Unknown to me, there was also a package of spoiled ground beef included in this buffet for the wildlife.   Imagine my surprise to look out the window to see a large cat about 200 meters from the house, obviously attracted by the meat.  (and I don’t mean a house cat. ) It was large and sleek and beautiful.   I think  that it was an Eastern Panther or cougar,  a rare sight in these parts and probably the owner of the previous night’s GROWL.

My brother keeps asking me if my alleged Panther sighting was of the Pink variety.

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Whoosis – Word of the Day

Whoosis –  an object or person whose name is not known or cannot be recalled

Yesterday I had the pleasure of running on some forested trails on the south side of Riverview.  It begins just behind the water tower on Trites Road extension. Normally when I reach the water tower I turn left towards the Dobson Trail, but today I explored the whoosis trail to my right.  It is actually a skidoo / ATV trail and I plan to explore this area further on another day.  It is very rough and rutted in places and I would rather be jumping over tree roots, but it was a nice change.    20170907_162002