Well, the summer is almost over, I guess I should break the radio silence. I had previously recapped the 2 Kids’ Triathlons we did this summer, now it’s time to tackle our favourite trail races.
The season started at the Terra Cotta Conservation Area. This April race tends to have cooler weather, but on this particular day, I think we’d had some of the nicer weather of the Spring season. It was also my first race as an official Trail Crew Leader, so while I was nervous about fulfilling duties, it was exciting to deepen my connections with the 5 Peaks community, especially those excellent people who help make these races so fun.
Shark Boy did very well for himself and got himself all the way to the podium for the 3 km Kids Timed event; I think the concepts of pacing yourself and racing strategy (which at his age is mostly not looking behind yourself too much) might be getting through to him.
The Lightning Kid participated in the 1 km fun run, which he might think is some kind of parade considering how much he likes to ham it up for the crowds.
I hadn’t gotten a lot of running training in during the winter months so I limited myself to the Sport Course (5.4 km). Not only did I have a lot of fun (with a back of the pack finish time) but I got the sweet convertible running gloves to take home.
The Rattlesnake Point race took place in June, and I have to say the highly technical clambering involved on that course makes it one of my favourites. Of course, I did commit to the difficulty of the Enduro Course – at 12.7 km it is well over double the distance of the Sport Course on the same day (and most other races) – so I had plenty of time to rethink my decision on the trail…
But first, let me talk about the kids’ races. I volunteered to ‘sweep’ the kids’ races to make sure no one was left behind… and I got to witness the sweetest little girl (who was no bigger than the Lightning Kid) and was tackling the timed Kids’ 3 km. She was accompanied by her mom so my presence was mostly superfluous, but you know, safety first! Anyway, she completed that course with nothing but smiles, and I heard her chirp “I love this because of the challenge!”, or something along those lines. My heart nearly burst.
My own kids were no slouches either, of course.
We had hot weather and plenty of exhausting climbs, but the scenery is gorgeous along the Niagara Escapement – don’t mind the Turkey Vultures… they won’t feed on you unless you run really slow. I slowed down enough to take in (and photograph) some beautiful wood sculptures.
If some of this (fun for kids, beautiful scenery, hustling your butt along a trail…) looks like fun, the next race is at the Heart Lake Conservation Area in Brampton, ON on September 16th. Please consider joining me by clicking on this link and using the code IRONROGUE for a 10% discount. There’s even a free water bottle as take home swag!
And if you can’t make that one, the Kortright Centre Race is on October 28th. Register here with the same IRONROGUE discount code.
While the Terra Cotta event is already sold out, you can still get a jump on the second race at Rattlesnake Point. See my recap for my first time here, and some stories from last year here.
If you want to sign up (and you do), be sure to use the code “Iron Rogue” at checkout to save 10% on all race entries (and if you’re in another part of Canada where 5Peaks races occur, you can still use that code. My top 5 list of reasons to sign up for this race apply to every one of their events anyway.
Low(ish) Impact: Running is bad for your knees! NOPE. However, if you are worried about impact on your joints, natural ground like wood chips, dirt, grass, etc. is much softer and springier and easier on all those joints, so trail running is an excellent way to have the cardio and movement components of running without pounding the pavement.
Higher Intensity: The biggest trend in fitness over the past 2-3 years is High Intensity Interval Training. The idea being to go super hard and intense for short bursts with slower recovery periods in between. With its up- and downhills, trail running naturally fits into this kind of profile. Most people compare a trail race with a road race of at least 10% (though I’m used to hearing more like 25-30%)longer distance, and you only have to do one big hill before you realize managing your heart rate is going to be fundamental to finishing your race strong. Rattlesnake Point fits this profile especially well, as stepping up some of the big rocks is like a lunge or split-squat.
You need to address your nature deficiency. From Wikipedia: “Nature deficit disorder refers to the phrase coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems.” Though the legitimacy of this condition is in question, you will probably agree that you (and your family – see below) might not be getting enough fresh air. If you’re a runner, a lot the fresh air you might be getting is on sidewalks, below streetlights, etc. rather than a forest canopy. Hearing the birds and listening to the leaves rustle in the wind are things we don’t get to do enough of in our current lifestyle…
You don’t like crowds. If you’re used to running races like 10k’s, marathons (or half-marathons), you might recognize the following: slot yourself into a crowd of people of similar pace, according to posted signs you can hardly see through the masses, and wait several minutes after the gun goes off to cattle drive yourself through the start line. 5Peaks events are much smaller than road races since the condition of the trails has to be protected. Though there are starting waves (divided by expected speed/pace), and the single track can mean waiting behind someone slightly slower in the early stages of the race, it’s not long before it’s just you (and any pace buddy you might have invited to join you) and the trail. And if you consider yourself slow, or would even rather power-walk than run the course, use the last (and always least populated) wave as your start.
Family. Last but not least; in fact, probably the most important and the reason we keep coming back. My favourite photos of my sons are those of them running in the kids’ fun run. Before the adult races take place, they always have a 1km (approximately) fun run. Parents can run alongside (or even carry) their kids and cheer them on – it’s non-competitive and just a great way to introduce them to the joy of movement and physical outdoor exercise. It’s not uncommon to see toddlers who are barely walking give it a shot, and they love soaking up the admiration of cheering parents – you can see it on the smiles of their faces. I’ll admit, some kids don’t finish and have meltdowns, but I feel it’s important to keep introducing kids to new experiences; growth happens outside the comfort zone.
There is also a timed race (3 km or so) for older kids which is a little more serious. Shark Boy started competing in them last summer, and then this fall competed in cross country running for his school. After the kids’ events, there are snacks, meeting Buffy the Tiger, and generally having outdoor unstructured play in a wide area, the way kids should.
The Rattlesnake Point Race takes place June 10th. The Sport Course is 5.3 km and the Enduro Course is 12.7 km. Sign up using code ‘Iron Rogue’ for 10% off!
WARNING: Do not try this at home. Well actually, you couldn’t anyway, since it involves going outside. And if I really didn’t want anyone to do it, I’d probably keep it to myself instead of blogging about it. Still, as you’ll see, this sort of thing isn’t for everyone. I guess, what I’m saying, is attempt this sort of thing at your own risk.
In late November of last year, we had a stroke of luck in our scheduling I suppose. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law were attending her company’s Christmas party, and the company had rented out the Better Living Centre at the Canadian National Exhibition and filled it with rides and attractions for kids. They didn’t have kids of their own, so they invited our kids to take advantage and have fun that particular Sunday. Normally, my wife and I would take advantage of the time for a date of some kind, but she was otherwise engaged (I don’t remember what). What I ended up doing, is resolving to go for a run (or maybe rollerblade along the Martin Goodman trail) once I had dropped the kids off.
I found the trail to be a little wet and slippery, so I opted for a run. I knew I had hours to spend, but I wasn’t in the kind of shape to go far (or fast) so I figured I would do a long, slow distance with plenty of breaks and sight seeing.
I even wore a backpack with my laptop and a book in it. This is the first thing you might want to think twice before attempting. My pace was a slow jog, so the bouncing around was minimized. This backpack also has a nice laptop sleeve to keep the hardware still and stable, still the risk of falling and breaking it was there. The first stretch of the Martin Goodman trail offered some pleasant reminiscing to when I was training for the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon in 2006.
The weather got a little nastier and I felt like I needed my first break so I found a Starbucks and had an Eggnog Latte. This is risky item number 2. I’ve never been the fastest or the strongest in body, but I have pretty close to a cast-iron stomach. I sipped my holiday coffee treat, and started putting things in motion to move this blog from its old home on Blogger/blogspot to self-hosted. I read a little in a book called Sapiens: A Brief History or Humanity by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s a really interesting book, but I confess, I haven’t been keeping at it; I’m a very slow reader when it comes to non-fiction.
After I left Starbucks, I turned North away from the Lakeshore area toward the city. I passed by Old Fort York, which I’ve seen plenty of times, but I also saw something that puzzled me:
That is a canoe – sitting by some old railway tracks, with no water nearby, in the middle of the city. Stay weird, Toronto.
I hadn’t had lunch, and just the day before a friend had told me about Toma Burger Addiction. I already knew of the place, I think it had been in the papers even, but my friend was giving me a first hand account of how good it was. When it comes to gourmet burgers, we live in a golden age. I had the El Diablo, and it took a while to prepare, not that it bothered me – I was enjoying listening to the Australian accents of some exchange students (I think) at the next booth. I even had a beer – remember what I said about the cast-iron stomach? That was about to be tested, but first, let me show you the burger:
I honestly didn’t feel it to be that mind-blowingly good (I think Burger’s Priest still holds the championship in my opinion) but still it was a gourmet burger that I got to enjoy…. and then it was time to try to run back to the car.
Not to worry, I didn’t puke up my lunch on the way, but to say I didn’t notice any detrimental effect either would be a lie. My pace dragged, and my stomach felt like I was dragging a boulder along on the inside of me. Still I made it into the Exhibition grounds, and took what seems to be a ‘frustrated selfie’… I guess I was tired.
All in all, it was a fun way to spend the mid-day, and see a bit of the city. The kids were sweaty and exhausted and grinning when I picked them up, so they matched my mood exactly.
Have you ever gone against the recommended practice in your fitness endeavours and NOT regretted it?
Well, race season has started! It looks like this is not going to be a season of great personal accomplishments in endurance or fitness, but I’m happy to report we’re keeping active as a family. Our inaugural race for the warmer months was the 5 Peaks Trail Run at Terra Cotta.
Shark Boy was participating in his first timed event. He’s quite fixated on numbers and quantifying things; it’s always a big deal who’s older, who’s bigger, etc. I’m a little apprehensive about introducing him to more competitive events – he seems to be the fastest kid in his own schoolyard races, but I don’t want him to get upset if he’s not the biggest fish in a bigger pond, if you follow my meaning.
Luckily, 5 Peaks seemed to have no problem with parents running alongside their kids at this event; I guess there was plenty of space on the trail. Though plenty of kids took off in front of us, I tried to get him to reign in his pace and save the best for later on. I’m really glad he listened, because he got to trade in his disappointment at being in the back of the pack for the thrill of passing others on the uphill climbs, who had already blown up. He did give me a good scare when he tripped and landed practically on his face, but he got up again and kept running without any tears, so no blood, no foul, I guess. He ran the entire 3 km and ended up in 20th place overall.
The Lightning Kid did the 1 km ‘fun run’ with his mother. He’s picked up some speed from last year, and I think the concept of racing is starting to sink in, but he still does take his time to smell the roses on the course. I think he just loves all the attention he gets.
I participated in the Sport course race. Since the race was some time ago, I don’t really recall too many details, but Terra Cotta isn’t the hilliest course in the series, but it is still very pretty. I came in 22nd in my age group, which I was happy enough with, considering I wasn’t really training prior to the race.
I mostly wrote this recap to entice readers to come join us next time at Rattlesnake Point. You can use the discount code of MARK (courtesy of my friend Mark Sawh) or JESSICA (courtesy of lacesandlattes) for $5 off each registration. The 1 km fun run for kids is free. Hope to see you there on June 25th!
The Angus Glen Half-Marathon is one of my wife’s favourite races, largely because of the post race brunch. Last year I wasn’t feeling too well on race day, so I ended up with a DNS (Did Not Start). We had arranged for a sitter starting at 7:00 AM and the half-marathon start time was 8:00 – Google was predicting a 45 minute drive, so the scheduling wasn’t too smart on our part. Luckily we made better time than predicted (not having to pack kids in and out of the car certainly helps). After trudging across a frosty field (temperatures that morning were just above freezing) to the golf course clubhouse, I had a few minutes to grab my bib, and race kit, greet my friend John (who you might remember from my Huntsville Half-Marathon Recap) and his wife Tina (and ask her to keep my race kit bag), before being one of the last through the starting line as the race began. I was wearing a hat and gloves, yet I still felt cold for a good long while. The good news is the first few kilometres ticked by quickly. By 3 km my core was starting to feel warm but my hands weren’t, and I can’t imagine how cold people running in shorts (!) were. Those first few kilometres went through a residential area, and somewhere near kilometre 4, we came doubling back to see some of the 10 km racers who started 15 minutes after us. I hoped to see my wife but I think I got to that stretch too late, since the majority of the racers I observed were power walkers.
This course has a lot of climbs.
Kilometre 5 was followed by an early turn-around point for the 10 km racers, who would do a U-turn, whereas the half-marathoners kept going for a stretch. I saw John on his way back from our turn-around and we trash talked each other; total strangers offer us encouragements, but we’re friends long enough to say things that are terrible, yet funny to us. At the 3 km mark I had seen a porta-potty, but in retrospect, I think it belonged to a construction site, since there were no others anywhere on the race course. At kilometre 7 or so, I was regretting not having enough time to an extra break before the start. Up ahead, I saw a woman break off the road and head to a farmhouse. I figured she was going to ask the homeowners if she could use their washroom – not a bad idea, I suppose. She returned to the road scant minutes later – not enough time to have made a polite request and a proper thank-you. I realized the farmhouse was abandoned and she had simply ducked behind it to do her business, so I did the same. It cost me a lot of time, but I’d rather run comfortably and I always tell myself that the comfortable pace is faster than the clenched one. I even saw a red-tailed hawk, and it screamed that scream that hawks do in the movies, but never real life. My initial goal of 2:06 meant running about 6 minutes/km, and I was holding under that for the most part. I had a Salted Caramel Gu Gel (soooo gooooood!) at the 10 km mark, and I was able to pump up the effort a little. The sun was doing its thing and I not only had my hat and gloves off, but my jacket open too. There would be another call of nature for me after 14 kilometres (effectively breaking the entire course up into thirds), but after that I really started hauling it, and I started to calculate that a 2:04 or even 2:02 finish was within reach. The final 3 kilometres or so went along the golf cart paths of the golf course itself. It was kind of fun, but the twists and turns and hills really did a number on my pace. I talked with other runners after the race and they all felt the same way about it. I climbed out of the golf course and sprinted down the road and into the car entrance of Angus Glen toward the finish line. Official time: 2:02:34 – I think if I could have had better bladder management (for lack of a better term), I could have cracked the 2 hour mark for this half-marathon. I still pleased, because I know the speed is there now – or more accurately, the pain threshold is higher since my half-iron training.
The post-race brunch consisted of a brown bag with a sandwich and a couple of other cold foods – which is a step down from the hot brunches that they used to provide. I really, really love the race shirt (which is a long sleeve – a very refreshing switch from the endless supply of short sleeve t-shirts I’ve accrued over the years). Have a look:
The Angus Glen Half-Marathon is a nice race for this time of year, where it’s harder to find a race of this length and calibre, but I’m not sure I’m really stoked to do it again next year – I think we’re still dealing with the Daylight Savings time change physiologically speaking. I’ve almost never had so much of a problem dragging myself out of bed on a race morning. Still, it was a day of running in the sunshine with friends and family, and that’s worth a smile. See?
I had vowed to do Band On the Run this year after missing out the year before due to a certain procedure being performed. In fact, at last year’s Angus Glen Half-Marathon, we hatched a plot for my friends John and Tina to visit us at the cottage and for John to do the race together. Though our schedule was crazy enough that the plan was touch and go for a while, I’m happy to say that we all did the Huntsville Half Marathon last Saturday.
We drove up to the cottage on the Friday night, and traffic was not kind so we got to bed much later than one likes to before a race. Fortunately, the kids slept well, and we didn’t feel too rough the next morning. Though we parked and got to the race site on time, somehow we dallied in saying goodbye to the kids (who would be watched by Tina and my mother – thanks again!) and we only put ourselves in the back of the very small corral a few seconds before the start of the race.
Before the race, I had tried to do some analysis to come up with the right pace and thus a good goal for finishing time, or at least a rough estimate. The problem was I hadn’t run a half-marathon type distance this season, and my longest run was the 5 Peaks Heart Lake Conservation Area Trail Race. I figured that 16 km of trails was worth at least 18 km of road in terms of training, but I doubted it would give a good estimate of speed. I also tried looking at training runs and figuring out an average speed that would keep me in Zone 2 of my heart rate. That proved difficult visually; the graphs spike up and down in a way that’s difficult to simply eye-ball. I even tried exporting my data into a spreadsheet and doing some analysis that way, but the numbers didn’t work, or at least, I couldn’t make them work for the time I could afford on the effort. There’s probably another post in there – the raw data probably needs to be smoothed out by some algorithms to be usable. My final strategy before the race began was to simply set an alert on my Garmin to go off if my heart rate went into Zone 3. I had 3 gels on me, and I took the first before the start… it has a lot of caffeine.
The course starts climbing right away… and my heart rate alarm went off before I had gone 300m. I tried to slow my pace, but there didn’t seem to be a pace more than a crawl that was going to keep me in Zone 2, so I reset the alarm to go off if I crossed into Zone 4, and I tried to keep an eye on the absolute value of my heart rate, and simply be conservative for the first third to half of the race. Maybe it was the hill climbing, maybe it was the caffeine, but without much recent experience at the half-marathon distance, I knew I had to be conservative. The climbing continued. I was a little shocked to see so many people walking within the first 2 km of a half-marathon, but there was a great sense of community, and I joked with people at the appearance of each new incline as if the hills were a novelty, and not becoming tedious. The race had promised musicians at regular intervals, and they delivered for at least the first 7 km. The race course at one point crossed Highway 60, which they couldn’t close for the race completely, and a police officer stopped traffic so that runners could cross in batches. I was impressed, because some people in front of me must have had to wait a little, but I don’t think this contributed any significant delay.
Seen on my run: clowns on bikes, fire trucks, bagpipers.
Like I said, there was a great sense of community in this race, even though the number of runners was small – from the back of the pack, there was only 22 seconds difference between gun and chip time for me. I was impressed by how often spectators seemed to know runners by name, though Huntsville is a major hub of cottage country and population swells seasonally, I guess it’s really just a small town when it comes down to it. In the first third of the race course, I also found my new favourite race sign…
Yeah, that’s right… potty humour. I’m not even sorry.
I heard someone mention that we’d be visiting Arrowhead Provincial Park, and I could tell by the route we were taking that they were right. The park’s front gate had porta-potties, an aid station and a great musician; I can’t remember what he played when I was on my way in, but he played R.E.M.’s “The One I Love” on my way out, and it was awesome.
While the park’s road was more peaceful for traffic, and provided shade and some of the nicest scenery on the run, it was also the biggest climb. I saw John on the way in, he had already hit the turn-around at 10 km and was moving fast. He told me it was only 3 more hills then corrected himself to 2. He was actually right the first time.
The last musician I saw before the turn-around point was playing the Lumineers’ “Ho Hey”, and I joined in with my own “HO” and “HEY”s which probably only confused everyone else; I guess they don’t know that’s my jam…
As soon as I hit the turn-around I felt some relief. I knew I’d have lots of downhill to look forward to, and I congratulated myself for playing it safe and leaving plenty in the tank to try and get a really significant negative split. Up until that point, I’d been running at a pace that would have netted me 2:15 finish time, and that’s being optimistic. I saw my wife around the same spot that John had gone by me, and we shared a kiss for luck. She was smiling when we saw each other, which I took to be a good sign, as I knew the hills would be rough on her. That moment definitely gave me another little boost. I really picked up the pace for the last half; I took my gels, didn’t have any more bathroom breaks, and generally paid more attention to the pace than my heart rate. The route seemed a little deserted by that point, and I crossed the Main Street Bridge and ducked into the alleyway that led to the finish line. Shark Boy and the Lightning Kid (along with my mother, John and Tina) were all there to give me my finish line hugs.
The Lightning Kid with makeshift sun-protection as it had gotten quite sunny.
My finishing time was 2:06:05 which gives me an average pace of 6:00 per km. I’m pretty happy with that, even if the total time was well over 2 hours or even 2:05. What I’m proudest of is the negative split. I did the first 10 km with a 6:24/km pace, and the final 11 with a 5:29/km pace. Or, put another way, the first 10 km took me 1:04 and the next 11 km took me 0:54:45… now that’s a negative split!
We did have to wait a while for my wife. Apparently the last 3 km were the worst for her; like I said, it was a tough course. It was nice, however, being able to spot her crossing the bridge to alert the boys to her arrival – I cheered her on from under the bridge and she pulled out some last effort to break back into a run. Once she came down the alley, Shark Boy accompanied her on the last stretch, and the Lightning Kid let me know he did not want to be left out. The race announcer took note of the whole family coming into the finish line and it was a nice moment.
We slowly (painfully), made our way back to the car and headed home, with a stop at Kawartha Dairy for ice cream. We had beer and ribs for lunch and took a dip in the lake to cool off our inflamed joints and muscles. We did want to attend the music festival… all the runners were entitled to it, and the Lightning Kid got a kick out of dancing and making a spectacle of himself last year. We arrived a bit into the head-liner’s show. It was the Joel Plaskett Emergency, and they were a lot of fun. Joel Plaskett managed to put some fun word-play into his lyrics and even mash-up covers into his own songs. His son Shannon (less than 5 years old by my rough estimate) danced and took videos from up on stage which only added to the fun, family-oriented vibe. People were dancing and having fun with their kids in front of the stage, and the Lightning Kid was not to be left out; Joel Plaskett even called out to him as “the kid in the Spider-Man hat”.
Having live music to enhance the whole musical theme of the Band On The Run race really makes for a whole day of fun and fitness, and I already can’t wait till next year.
Sport Chek invited some of my favourite local bloggers, like Wildly Fit, Robyn Baldwin and Darwinian Fail (as I composed this sentence, I envisioned them as Charlie’s Angels, and I’m like Bosley or something) to participate in their #SweatForThis campaign.
Krysten (a.k.a. Darwinian Fail) is even on a TV commercial which you can see here.
I love this campaign, because everyone has their reasons to run, swim, bike, lift and generally break a sweat, so I decided to crash the party with my own reasons. I’ve compiled them into this video, I hope you like it.
“This race is the longest course in our series, so you guys are all bad-ass for finishing!”said Erin Dasher (I’m paraphrasing at best) during the awards presentation at the 5 Peaks Heart Lake Trail Run Race and she wasn’t kidding. When I put the Enduro race at this event on my race calendar, I was expecting a 14 km course. I didn’t sign up till the last minute, and we found out less than 24 hours before the race it was going to be… 16 km thanks to a detour. Oh boy. The pre-race bulletin said to get there early since there would be a line-up to pay the park entrance fee, but we were able to drive straight in. We were coming in from the parking lot when we ran into our friend Steve, who we last saw at the Lakeside Triathlon. We also ran into our friend Peter, and were glad to find out I might have some company at the Barrelman Triathlon in September. We grabbed our respective bibs (this would be Shark Boy’s first timed race) and posed for our obligatory pre-race pose.
The biggest prize in the pre-race swag was either a cool coffee mug that said “I eat mountains for breakfast” or this flexible cup good for insulating hot or cold beverages that is basically unbreakable. We have too many coffee cups at home, so I took it.
Shark Boy seemed cool with the idea of not only going long (3 km) but running on his own (the rule is for adults to stay off the course during the race, though some alongside running is expected), and I didn’t want to step on that with my own nervousness on his behalf, but I still thought it might be a good idea to scout out the first part of the course with him and show him the orange flags he’d have to follow as well as signs for direction. The timed kids’ races on the 5 Peaks series vary from 2 to 3 km, so at 3 km, Erin’s quote above applies to the kids too.
Shark Boy attentively listening to pre-race instructions.
Pre-race instructions were given (including a check to see if everyone knew their right from left, which is why he has his hand up in the picture). I positioned myself at a fence about 25 m from the starting line to cheer him on. Ready, set, go! He took off with the other kids at a good clip, and it didn’t seem to chaotic as all the racers gave each other safe space. I took a short-cut path down the shore of Heart Lake to see him go by.
The little guy toward the back is Shark Boy
Then there was nothing left but to go back to the starting line and wait nervously for a while. The Lightning Kid had been eagerly chanting “GO! GO! GO!… FASSSST!” for probably the last 24 hours, and was taking practice runs from the starting line. Of course, no 5 Peaks race is complete without saying hi to Buffy the Tiger.
When I saw the first of the 3 km racers cross the finish line, I figured I’d head back to the shore and see how Shark Boy was coming along. I had to wait a bit, but sure enough, I saw him, completely red-faced, huffing and puffing and giving it his all.
He’s nearly spent
I cheered him on, and got him to give what we call in German an Endspurt; that burst of energy and speed you get when you’re nearly finished. I ran ahead to let my wife know he was closing in for extra photo opportunities, and he finished the race strong – probably one of the youngest racers in the timed race.
In spite of all that effort, Shark Boy wanted to join in on the 1 km ‘Fun Run’ for younger ones that he’d done at the other 5 Peaks races; he said he wanted to help his younger brother. As much as I’m proud of Shark Boy’s grit, determination, athleticism and sense of adventure, his generous heart is his best quality. I’ve seen these Kids’ Fun Runs vary from 600 to 800 m; today, of course, it was going to be a whole kilometre. Again, every racer on that day was a bad-ass, even the little Lightning Kid. I managed to get this great video of him running in the beginning.
He did start to flag after a bit; I’ve found with both boys that they start to lose interest in going as fast as they can without a reward – keeping up the distance running is more of a question of mental focus than physical fitness. All it took though, was a reminder to “GO! GO! GO!… FASSSST!” and he’d break into a run again. It definitely helped having Shark Boy there for encouragement.
Toward the end, I had Shark Boy take the same short-cut that I had used in his race to get back to the finish line and warn his mother that we were on final approach. We crossed the finish line to loud cheers; in fact, they cheered loudly for Shark Boy on his finish too. It’s always a super-supportive vibe at the 5 Peaks races.
If the splash pad had been open, my wife might have kept the kids at the park while I raced, but we had made a last minute plan that would let Shark Boy attend his dance lesson (for those keeping score at home, that’s a 3 km race, a 1 km race and a dance lesson on those little 5 year-old legs!), and I could pace myself without worrying. To try to force myself to take it easy in the beginning, I seeded myself in the fourth wave, but I couldn’t help but try to get to the front.
The race starts downhill, and though I knew it was going to be a long run, I couldn’t contain my excitement and went a little fast; the first kilometre was my fastest. I tried to watch my heart rate the entire race and keep it in Zone 2 (with exceptions for some hills and stuff). As we went by the shoreline of Heart Lake, I noticed how chummy and chatty my little pack of runners was; we talked about how beautiful (yet hot) the weather was, and when the guy behind me saw me jump a log (rather than go around it) he joked it was “the scenic route”. I answered that you have to have some fun on these things.
Shark Boy had told me that his race involved a “forest tunnel”, and I chalked it up to his overactive imagination, but they did make a few features with logs and fallen trees that put a ceiling over your head. The “maze” he also mentioned did prove to be part of his imagination though. The nice part about an Enduro race is when I see things I want to take pictures of, but I’m not sure whether I want to sacrifice the time to stop, I know I’ll probably be begging for a rest on the second loop, so all I do is take a mental note on the first loop.
The 4 km mark had an aid station in a sunny clearing. I didn’t need water since I had it in my pack, but I sipped some (what they were calling) Gatorade for the calories, and prepared to be on my way. I saw a woman dump water on her head, and remembered that was something you could do. A relief, but not one that lasted.
After being in the shade for another 2 km, the 6 km mark came as we entered another stretch of sun-exposed terrain. I noticed my legs felt heavy; and promptly tried to un-notice that. 6 km is not long enough to have any real signs of fatigue yet; you are in better shape than that! I told myself. Despite being bad at meditation or any other kind of more passive mental activity, I did forget about my legs for a while. On the last kilometre of the first loop, I even picked up some speed for a bit and passed a slower runner. Before that loop was over, she passed me again while I took a walk break and encouraged me to pick up the pace as it was “almost over”. I didn’t correct her, but I did laugh about it with another Enduro course runner as we took the right-hand fork away from the finish line and onto the second loop.
“That’s the nice part about the Enduro,” he said, “On the second loop you can run your own race and not have anybody nipping at your heels.” He’s not wrong, but by the time I had cleared 9 km, I couldn’t help but notice how lonely and quiet things got. My mind wandered in the worst way, and I lost track of how long my walk breaks got, or what kind of pace I was really keeping. After neither catching anybody for a while nor being passed, I began to wonder if I was in last place, and all kinds of other negative self-talk. My entire lower body began to complain, checking in one muscle group at a time: hamstrings, glutes, calves, quads, even hips and lower back. The complaints went from screams to whines to whimpers as they competed for my attention and drowned each other out. Also, my hydration pack was empty; the first time that had ever happened, in fact, I used to wonder if I was wasting effort carrying so much on my back.
A few showers came and went which was a nice way to cool off, but they didn’t put any real fuel back in the engine, so the trudging continued.
When I reached the 4 km aid station from before (for a total of 12 km), the volunteer told me that the finish line could be reached just a few hundred meters away if I wanted. I hope he was just trying to light a fire under me (which he kind of did) because I’d hate to think anyone in my position would take him up on the offer and quit. I told him I knew, because I could hear the music and P.A. system, but I wasn’t ready to stop yet. I told myself I could simply watch the kilometers tick off as I went along… 13, 14, 15 and done. Of course, I also reminded myself that same distance had seemingly taken forever on the second loop already. Still, I saw my Garmin distance numbers go up (by half-kilometres in intervals that felt like they should be whole integer kilometres) all the same. I even picked up the pace to real running for the last 2 kilometres, and crossed the finish line to loud cheering (some of that might have been for the awards ceremony which had already started).
I had barely crossed the finish line when I saw my family, returned from the dance lesson and a trip to Tim Horton’s. With the kids crowding me, I barely got a chance to get any post-race treats. Not that I minded, I didn’t have that big an appetite somehow, I even turned down a cookie Shark Boy offered me. I found a shady spot on an embankment near the parking lot and collapse; they had to come find me because I hadn’t even said where I was going – I wasn’t feeling too talkative. I think everyone suffered in that heat, but Peter managed to come in at 1:43 (to my 1:54) and Steve killed it at 1:36 or so. I didn’t know then, but my friend Paul had an even worse race.
I tried to look at it as a net positive from a training perspective. I had put some real strength and staying power into my legs that day, and even more importantly, I got to visit the dark places where I’m sure I’ll be during the Half-Iron race, and learned a little bit about how to get myself out of them. And before I could wallow in it too much, I got an ambush hug from the Lightning Kid.
Shortly after that, the thunder rolled in, and we had a good laugh at our hurried retreat back to the car. I secretly suspect the Lightning Kid had something to do with it by living up to his namesake – he even took the time for one of his trademark wild hairstyles!
Though the race was a visit to the pain cave for me, the 5 Peaks events are always a great experience for the whole family, and I’ll always come back.
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!
They are friendly to beginners. There are two course lengths, Enduro and Sport which are 10.8 and 5.4 km respectively. If you feel you’re a slower runner, or are intimidated, you can simply seed yourself in one of the last waves, and then you don’t have to worry about being passed.
They have Clif Bars and Kicking Horse coffee on site.
Terra Cotta is a beautiful conservation area, but not as well known as some in the Greater Toronto Area. Running this race affords all kinds of ‘Terra Cotta Warrior’ puns/jokes.
Kids can run the competitive 3km race or the fun 1km race.
Trail running is the purest form of running; you’re closer to nature than when you’re on a sidewalk or road, and ditching the headphones means tuning into the experience of finding out what your body can do.