Limberlost Challenge Trail Race

I meant to write about this sooner. I really did. But then I wrote about it in my weekly Globe And Mail Diary and I put it behind me.

[you can view that article here]

But there’s much more to tell about this great day and a what fabulous event it was. First off, it is not too far from our cottage so it just made sense to try to fit it in to our weekend. Anita and I were planning to do long training runs anyway so when we cleared it with the powers that be (our sons and their grandparents) to be away from them for a bit longer than usual on a training day, we drove there and registered on Race Day morning.

The location is just west of Algonquin Park in the Limberlost Forest. The start area is a nice open area with tents for sun protection and the start line heads from there out to about 500m of dirt road and then you dip into the tree covered forest. Check out the video below for a nice view of the whole shebang, start, trails, scenery. Just lovely.

Needy on the trailsThe race was a 14km loop though the forest, over roots, stumps, rocks, mud, wooden bridges, gravel roads, dirt trails, and anything else you may expect to find in a forest, including a deer, which ran right behind me apparently and I missed it. When I heard people yelling about it and turned around, it had darted back into the woods. The events were 1 loop of 14km, 2 for 28km, 3 for 42km and the Ultra Marathon of 4 loops and 56km which will have to wait until next year for me. I was intent on sticking to my training program and not burning myself out, which I nearly did anyway with the 2 loops! Anita did one loop as her program called for 16km that day and trust me when I say, 14km of this trail makes a 16km road workout seem like a stroll in the park.

We met up with ‘Bear’ and Diane, 2 of the Beaches Runners Club’s newer members. They had camped on the race grounds and were running the 42 km event. They are a lovely couple whom I’d be happy to meet up with again.

If you had a chance to read the article, which was heavily abbreviated, you’ll know I made a common mistake, for me anyway, of going too hard at the beginning. I wanted to place well and help onto a top 15 overall position for the first half. This was despite a nasty fall only a few km into the race. As I am not an overly experienced trail runner, and I am a ‘feet low to the ground ‘ type strider, I caught myself on many roots. I went down and escaped unharmed although shook up and bit. I gathered myself and pressed on. It was very challenging navigating the long uphills which were at times so steep you needed to walk and use trees to pull you up. But it was fun!

Despite running right into a fallen tree that was covered with the dangling leaves of another, I was thoroughly enjoying the run and the views (but not looking too long at the vistas so to avoid more falls!) and not realizing how hard I was going, I got to the 10k point thinking, oh god, still 4k to go to the end of the first loop! Yikes, I started to think about pacing but it was too late, I was already feeling tired and hot. Hot yes despite the canopy of trees. No breeze. Time to remove my shirt which I would drop off at the end of the first loop along with my water bottle and thus rely on the 2 aid stations. I finished the first loop in 1h 24m and was in 16th place. I stopped for a minute to take off my shoes, empty out the stones and dirt and lost a 3 places. I got going again and was not looking forward to trying to keep up with them. I was suddenly no longer interested so much in the pretty forest, but heavily concentrating on staying upright for 14 more kms of this.

I didn’t quite manage to stay upright much on the 2nd loop.

I must first interject, that my GPS watch, the Garmin 610 (the newest model) had another pin fall out and my watch went flying off right near the beginning of the 2nd loop. I was so pissed ads I had to carry it for the rest of the race. This is not good when you want your hands free to grab trees, break falss etc. I eventually forced it into a small pocket in my shorts where it remained AND kept tracking so that was good. It’s since been fixed (again) and with a little dab of crazy glue to hold it in, all seems fine now.

The first fall on the 2nd loop was the worst of the three in total. I was going downhill, fairly fast and caught a root, did my best Superman impression and landed on my shoulder hard and cut my knee. Within a minute of getting back up, I turned my ankle over, fully, and was positive I’d not be able to finish but miraculously I was able to carry on. By this time, these events had slowed me right down. I still had about 10 km to cover and it now felt like the final few kms of a marathon. I was shuffling along catching my feet on almost every protrusion. It was so frustrating not having the energy and ability to float along. I decided slower was safer and there was no reason to push hard any more. Several more runners in my event had now passed me and the icing on the cake was the final fall, with about 15 minutes to go, whereupon I ran into a mud pit, my foot sunk in and I fell into the pit. I looked like a wreck. However, the sweat had washed away most of the mud by the finish and I cruised in, as happy as ever to finish a race, promptly sat down and drank a heap of ice water, ice ginger ale, watermelon and Gatorade.The event included lunch of assorted salads, pastas, chicken souvlaki and pita but it took me a while to feel up to that stuff.

Anita on the other hand was feeling fantastic and did well in her event. She, smartly, paced it well and enjoyed every step. She even took a bunch of photos on her iPhone during her run and I can tell she is looking forward to more trail races.

Eventually, I was my old self again. We hung around a while, soaked up the sun and atmosphere and people watched. The mood was great and there were many smiles, even as the lead marathoners strolled in. We didn’t stick around long enough to see the 56 km winners finish nor did we see Bear and Diane finish the 42 km race. The cottage, and family were awaiting our return.

We grabbed some food to go and headed back to the cottage. No medals but tons of pride to have persevered. Great memories of a fantastic location and another taste of a different kind of racing. Smarter, more technical running is required. The trail events are less about speed, placing and PBs and more about the love of the run. The love of the outdoors and the camaraderie of fellow runners. I highly recommend a trail race for anyone.

The trail is open to the public, year round. Google it, get there if you’re ever planning to be near Huntsville, Ontario. Maybe we’ll see you there!


Beaches RunnerAbout Beaches Runner
Crazy mad runner, wanting to be fitter and faster but too busy to do it right. Still, I keep trying.

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