Race Recap: 5 Peaks Terra Cotta Trail Race

Having skipped out on the Yonge Street 10K in favour of watching the kids and cheering on the runners, this last weekend was my chance to get a bib on and race.  It’s the first race of the 5 Peaks Ontario Trail Racing season and I was pumped – pumped to try my legs out (especially while carrying less weight) on a new trail and push them as fast as they could go, pumped to get the kids running around their fun run, pumped to see friends.


We arrived at Terra Cotta Conservation area around 9:30 AM with plenty of time to park, pick up and our race bibs.  I was pleasantly surprised to see we got some swag before the race, because I’ve missed out in the past when they’ve handed it out well afterwards, and I’ve already long since gone home.


I got to see Janice from Fitness Cheerleader finish the competitive 3 km kids race with her eldest daughter. I found Krysten from The Misadventures of a Darwinian Fail (and her husband) as well as Paul from Paul’s Inane Ramblings Then it was time for the 1 km (or 600 m in this case) fun run for kids of any age.  My wife wasn’t feeling too well that morning, so we opted to encourage Shark Boy to run it on his own, while I stuck with the Lightning Kid.  Shark Boy seemed a little upset at not being near the front of the starting crowd, but knowing how he dislikes standing around waiting, there was nothing for it except to encourage him to nudge his way forward before the official “1,2,3  GO!”


The Lightning Kid has been getting faster and faster and I’d already noticed in the past few months, so I was glad to see him put that to use now.  I’d experienced this phenomena with Shark Boy a few years ago, but when racing with a 3 year-old, the limit isn’t so much their fitness, but their attention span.  He’d stop to see who was coming up behind him, glad-hand with new-found fans (a repeat of last year at Albion Hills), and generally smell the roses.  I’d be cheering and chanting “Come on! Go, Go, Go! Faster” the entire way.  


Those are actually snow pants.  The morning was not warm.



We were well on our way to the turn-around point (a small loop around a pond) when we saw Shark Boy already on his way back.  He was smiling and really moving, so I knew he was managing the course fine, and having a good time doing it.

Then, a few minutes later, we saw him again! He had done an extra loop, and I don’t think it was exactly by accident, because I saw him try and avoid the final stretch back to the finish line only to be corrected by some marshals.  Apparently he asked “Is that all?”  when he crossed the finish line, so I think it might be time to enrol him in the competitive Kids’ 3k next time.  I got the Lightning Kid to run the final stretch with the promise of seeing Mama and there were smiles and high-fives aplenty.


After that nice little warm-up it was time for the main event.  I seeded myself at the back of the third wave and listened to the final instructions.  The course was going to be a muddy one thanks to the rain and cold temperatures we’ve been having, and they asked everyone to stick to the trail and not try to go around which would widen the existing trail and erode the very forest that the area is trying to conserve.  It was generally pitched as, “don’t be afraid to get dirty” and you shouldn’t if you’re trail running, but the thing is that deep mud can actually suck the shoes right off your feet (as nearly happened to a woman right behind me) and your shoes start to get really heavy as they get clogged up with mud. I still stuck to the trail, as instructed, but I found myself doing the Remo Williams run (see this video around 3:13, then watch what happens to the guy following Remo) whenever I encountered deeper mud.

Terra Cotta seems like it’s going to be a flat course, but there are definitely some hills, enough of them were wide enough to allow me to pass when other runners wanted to walk up the hills (and I didn’t, which wasn’t necessarily every time). There were a few boardwalks which the more clever runners used to scuff off the soles of their shoes as they went along and lose some of the mud weight (not to mention regain the traction provided by their treads that had been hidden by a layer of mud).


I finished the first lap of approximately 5 km feeling strong with a smile on my face. I took a gel and was determined to negative split the race. As it turns out, I did the second lap all of 3 seconds slower, and I know I really pushed myself on the last kilometre, so I’m not entirely sure what happened.



Shark Boy wouldn’t let me rest until I had seen the play area he’d discovered (which amounted to a dug out area of clay/earth), then I helped myself to snacks like Clif bars, chocolate chip cookies, potato chips and bananas. I also managed to catch up a little with Jessica from Laces and Lattes (who not only pulled a 3:15 Boston Marathon the Monday before this race, and did the Enduro course, but also did Paris to Ancaster the next day!) as well as my friend Mark Sawh, a great Toronto community runner.

My official finish time was 1:09:52 with an average pace of 6:29, which I think I’m happy with. The other runners seem to set the bar pretty high, as I was the 101st man to finish and ranked 34/47 in my age category.



As always, 5 Peaks put on a fun day of running for the whole family, and though I thought we wouldn’t necessarily be able to make it to another race, we are currently pushing things around our schedule to be able to make it to the Heart Lake race on May 30th. Hope to see you there!

5 Replies to “Race Recap: 5 Peaks Terra Cotta Trail Race”

  1. I loved seeing you and the whole family there! So cute!!

    Also, do you know if they have the results posted online somewhere? Jamie is dying to know his time. Me not so much ahha

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