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)
I 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.
The 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.
The 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.
At 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.
Shiphaven 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.
What a feeling! I did it! I 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!