Hey out there. Thanks for joining me. I had my last trail race for 2016, called
I only found out about this race in the last 2-3 weeks when my running friend Lisa told me she was going to enter the 50km and had raced the 20km a few years ago. I picked her brains about it and it sounded fun so signed up and at $40 I thought it was great value.
After doing some of the Ontario Ultra Series (OUS) races multiple times it’s nice to go somewhere new and I’ll definitely do this race again. It was beautiful and I really hope someone reading this decides to try it. Ok, the weather was absolutely stunning which helped, but the course is lovely too. At this time of year expect the trails here to be covered in brightly hued Fall leaves which can make foot placement critical and while there were a few downhills which had some loose rocks and of course there were roots in a few places too, overall it was very runnable and I didn’t stub a toe, twist an ankle, or face plant at all.
The majority of the course is tree covered and is hilly, although there are certainly enough stretches that you can open up your stride and a number of the hills are runnable although like any longer races, those hills grow as you tire. The elevation profile is more than some of the OUS races with a total elevation gain of 2,500 feet up and 2,500 down for a total of 5,000 feet over the 50km. Just for comparison, the CN Tower is 1,800 feet tall.
|200 feet into the race - even though I saw the photographer shoot me multiple times I can't find any others|
The setup is really good. The parking lot is really big and there is a lodge called Stewart Lodge a short walk from the parking lot where you pick up your bib with integrated timing chip and pins. The three of us (Tina, Lia and I) then headed back to the car we shared. We left just before and arrived in two hours and even had time for a Tim Horton stop along the way. On the road coming into
proper we saw about 4 sets of
It was dark when we arrived. There were 4 port-a-potties at the corner of the parking lot and then a little hill up to a large covered structure open on all sides with many picnic benches where anybody who wanted could leave their drop bags. The course went through the timing mats with the Lodge right there. You hit the aid station set up on the other side of the lodge and then followed the trail another 150 feet to the covered structure and your drop bags and headed past the port-a-potties before a long grassy section on an incline, across the road and immediately into the trails. All very easy.
It wasn’t too cold. We carried our respective drop bags to the picnic benches. I visited the ‘facilities’, lubed up the butt so I didn’t start any ass fires, and, after settling for a bit we made our way to the lodge and sized up the competition. Ha ha. None of us saw anybody we knew but they seemed a friendly lot and the 50km runners were the usual assortment of whippets, grizzled veterans and newbies. The race Director made a short speech and indicated the starting line, which I happened to be standing right on. I made a tactical retreat in amongst the mid pack so I wouldn’t go off to quickly. Did it help? Hell no. I looked back and located Tina and Lisa who ran together and before the nerves could kick in we were off and the stampede began.
I ran with a handheld and a belt pack and simply filled the pouch with loose shot blocks, salt tablets and Advil for later. I wore shorts with two top layers, a short sleeve and over that a long sleeve technical shirt. Shoes were Salomon Speedcross 4 and taller socks with Salomon compression sleeves for the calves. Lap 1 I wore a cap and then dumped it.
There were the two aid stations. I mentioned the start/finish one and the other was 5km in. The volunteers were very helpful, asking what liquids I wanted refills on. I found what I did at every aid station was take two orange slices and one of the little cups of coke for settling my stomach and I virtually spent no time at all there. On offer as well as orange slices were banana slices, coke, ginger ale, Tailwind, M&M’s, pretzels and gummy bears.
Total people entered in 50km was 114. Total who started 100. Total who finished 79
Lap 1 – 0:58:16 (29th overall on this lap)Lap one there were quite a few people around me at various points. A few speedsters came past and we caught a few and then I settled in around a woman and two other guys. One guy had long hair and a blue hydro-pack and I’d catch him on the flats and keep pace on the ups even though he tended to try a running motion and I power hiked it and then he’d go flying by on the down-hills. The first 10km was a little of a blur but there were many hills of varying degrees and I’d say 2-4 more major hills although short, with one longer steady hill taking you up to a huge concrete water tower about 2.5km into the course.
We came down the final hill which has many loose pebbles and then across a road and run slightly downhill along the grass into the timing chute and the clock said 58 minutes. Oh wow! Er, maybe a bit fast. Hell, no question about it, too fast. I was pooped by 5km aid station actually and was surprised it was ONLY 5km. Anyway, the stampede carried me along that first lap and I hoped I’d gain some wisdom on lap two now we’d spread out a bit. There was some nice clapping as we crossed the mats as the other distances now had about 30 minutes before their race starts.
Lap 2 – 1:01:55 (30th place – dropped 1)Lap 2 is mostly a blur too with about 3-4 runners around me. It was weird though. About 4 that were in visual range ahead of me came to the 5km aid station and they all stopped. I decided to carry on and expected over the following 1-2km to be caught and passed again but it never happened. From that point on I don’t think I was passed by more than a very few 50km runners. Later it became difficult to know who was in what race as by Lap 3 you were in amongst the shorter races. I was running quickly for me and of course was feeling it but I loved the trails and the temperature and the colors of the trees and leaves. So amazing. I love cooler temps. Two of my summers racers were disastrous affairs in 35+ temps. I felt good about my 11:18 time at the Haliburton 50 mile in September and so felt I had some residual fitness from that and I had completed a 36km training run two weekends prior to this race. I was surprised that I had not dropped my pace too badly and came in at for this lap.
Lap 3 – 1:04:10 (24th place – gained 6 places)By lap three I was feeling it. I was alone and would occasionally pick up some of the tail end of the 10-30km runners. The day was still fantastic out. My pace was still not bad although I was starting to have to walk some of the hills sooner than in previous laps. I think after crossing the finish line this loop I went to my drop box and just sat for about 1 minute to get my wind back.
Lap 4 – 1:13:38 (24th place – no change)I was really pooped now and plodded up hills and came across more racers from other distances and tried to encourage them along. People were good about moving over for me and when I heard pounding footfalls behind me I stepped aside. If I could improve both my fitness over all on the longer runs and improve on my hill training I’d see big improvements in my finish times I believe. The hills on this course were doable for some of the fit finishers. I threw up on this lap twice but not much came up but right after it I was back to running. I also found that my posture was likely the cause of my really tight shoulders and upper back as I was walking the steeper hills stooped over.
Lap 5 – 1:10:11 (21st place – gained 3 places)Total Finishing Time – 21st of 100
After getting to the end of loop 4 I knew I was flagging but really wanted a negative split for my final loop and actually felt that my first 5km was quite a bit quicker overall. It was really nice being familiar by now with what was coming up. The first 5km had some particular features which I recalled. A long slope up to the water tower and on the other side down and some good flats.
The second 5km I was doing my best to keep the pace up but there were a few slogs. You pop out to the side of the road and then head back into the trail twice. After the final road sighting you know you are almost there and there are only 2-3 steeper climbs. I caught sight of my two friends Lisa and Tina at this point as they crested a hill and every time I got to the top they seemed to be closing but not fast enough. I really wanted to lap them. That’s what friends do! We got out and crossed the final road and were on the grassy section and I passed one and had a few meters to catch the other but just missed her. She was NOT going to let me catch her. What a cow! I mean friend.
|Lisa in the front and Tina just behind|
|Looking good Tina|
After crossing the line I was offered the finishers reward. Tina looked back and gave me a ha ha for not catching her and I smiled good naturedly as they carried on their final loop. The finished prize was a nice glass for beer or whatever which was a change from a medal. I sat on a picnic table outside for about 10 minutes, massaged the legs and gave them a break and then headed into the lodge which had a lovely fire going.
You helped yourself to two kinds of soup and a bagel with different toppings, a banana or apple, some cookies. Oh, they had some yummy apple cider too. I relaxed in there until I warmed up and really felt good with the way the race went. I got my drop bag, headed to the car and changed and then walked to the finish line to clap people in. My two friends came down the final hill and I cheered them in, let them do my routine with food and a rest and then we headed home.
|We all finished top 3 in our age groups. Here we are, back home in a car park about to go our separate ways.|
It was a stunning day start to finish. My finish of placed me 21st overall and 3rd in my age group of 23 competitors between 40-49.
So what comes next? 2017. I am considering a few BIG races and will let you know when I figure out what they might be.
Again, I can’t say enough good things about this race. It is stunning scenery, beautiful trails. It is runnable but hilly so a good challenge. It is well run and has been around for 20+ years. Make it one for your calendar for 2017.
I hope all of you have had an enjoyable running year and look forward to meeting you out on the trails.
Alex Campbell (aka The Ultra Dude)
PS. It's been a few days since the race and as I post this blog of Mendon Park experiences, I have signed up for two future races in 2017 with one more event left to sign up for. One is a special 'first' for Canada. It is the first 200 mile race, being held in Ontario at the end of May and is the 25th Anniversary of the Sulphur Springs race. I've run the 50km and 50mile races here in past years and it will entail 16 loops of a 20km course. The race has a 72 hour (3 day) cut-off and no doubt will be epic in all ways. I had envisaged doing the 100 mile at some point and as I turned 50 last week I thought I'd do something 'big' for my 50th. Big and stupid and wonderful. So if you fancy joining me and 25-50 other nutjobs, please feel free to go to Race Register and sign up. It's $500 for the next several weeks and will climb quickly in the new year up to over $1,000 so sign up quickly.
The second event (but first in the calendar) for 2017 will be a training run for Sulphur Springs which will be the O24 (Outrun) 24 hour run in Ohio which takes place the last week of April. It is a certified 1 mile looped course.
The final big race I'm going to aim for is the Fatdog 120; a 120+ mile race in British Colombia in August nicknamed the 'Hardrock of the North', i.e. it's bloody hard. I have a training friend called Wayne Pinel who has completed it twice and as we are both doing the SS200 I'll have lots of time to grill him over how to prepare.