This race is the only one on my schedule this year that is a trail race. I don’t remember why I picked it as one to do; likely because of where it falls in the training schedule. That, and trail races are hilly, and hills are speed work in disguise, as the saying goes. Also variety in training makes things a little less mundane. I like trail running, and I especially love the 5 Peaks series.
After the challenging race the weekend before, I was looking forward to vindicating myself here. A couple of things were working in my favour: the weather was cool but sunny (perfect!), the race is along the lake, flat and a bit breezy but better than super hot, or raining (also perfect), and I know this course like the back of my hand (I run it almost every Saturday morning with my group of friends).
On March 26th I ran my sixth Around The Bay Road Race in Hamilton, Ontario. The last time I ran it was 2011. It’s a fun race, and it fits well in the schedule when training for a spring marathon. Normally I’ve run it as a long run, but this time was different. This year it would be a test to see where I am in my training for my “A” race, which is the Mississauga Marathon.
I signed up for this race because it was local, about as local as a race could get. The community of West Rouge is where I live, the proceeds would be benefitting community projects, and the course is one I run practically every Saturday morning. The race also included a 10km run, but my coach said the 5km would fit in with the training better. She also said for me to do a warm up and cool down run, to get the mileage up to a total of 9km.
The sun was shining, the rain wasn’t scheduled to hit until the afternoon, and I felt good and ready for a nice run through the trails. Oh how looks and feelings can be deceiving. One of the nice things about the 5 Peaks series is that the races don’t start too early. For me, the race began at 10. I normally like to get there an hour before, and it takes an hour to drive there from my place.
My alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 4am. I groped blindly in the dark for it, then hit snooze. A few more minutes. I need just a few more minutes of rest, or sleep, or something. A delay, anything would do. Unfortunately, I needed to get up, have breakfast, and get out to the start line by 5:30am. The last stage of the ENDURrun, the marathon, officially starts at 7:30am.
This stage has never been my favourite. It’s another time trial, where the slowest runners get to start first, and each runner starts 1 minute apart. This time around it’s a 10km road run, with a net downhill, and fairly flat. Sounds easy, right? Especially after all we’ve run throughout the week. On paper, yes, it’s the easiest run of the week. Certainly the shortest, and the least hilly. But coming off running the Alpine run, having to push a bit harder on this stage is difficult.
Today’s stage is likely the most intimidating stage of all of them. It’s the one that everyone dreads, that we whisper and look at each other with wide eyes, full of worry. Chicopee. Multiple loops. Ski hill. Up and down. For those that don’t know, this stage involves 5 loops through a trail setting. What you may not know, is that it takes place at Chicopee Ski Centre. As part of each loop, we must climb up no less than 2 ski hills (one of them being the summit) and then run down them, with some very technical single track trails and boardwalk sections in between.
Stage 4 of the ENDURrun Ultimate may seem like a bit of a let down after yesterday’s epic 30km trail race, but don’t be fooled. It is full of it’s own challenges. First of all, it’s a hilly course. Not hilly like the last race, but HILLY. Here’s the topographical map of the course. Horror Hill. It's a doozy. The other thing about Stage 4 that makes it a bit difficult is the fact that it’s a night race, starting at 6pm.
It is said that the ENDURrun really doesn’t start until Stage 3. This is the stage that sets the men apart from the boys, so to speak. The stage where you can see the results of proper training, or the lack thereof. I have done the ENDURrun Ultimate 4 times, and yet this stage still makes me very nervous. It is the 30km Trail Race. This stage consists of six (yes six) 5km loops through Bechtel Park in Waterloo.