I spent the last week in North Bay, concentrating on running trails, since they were right outside the backyard at my parents' place and the 5 Peaks race was on Saturday (today).
I had a lot of fun, but even though the trails at my parents' place were technical, they were no match for the trails at Camp Fortune. The hills! J said when racing at a ski hill, expect hills and no doubt, there they were staring you in the face when you got there. I knew this was going to be an incredibly difficult race right off the bat. And looking up that ski hill, that wasn't even the worse of it.
The first hill looked more difficult than it was. It was a steady climb at a doable angle. I was surprised I didn't burn myself out at the beginning, but I kept it slow and steady and ended up dragging up the back of the pack by the top with a few fellow stragglers (more about them later). I walked across the first bridge, as it was only a one person bridge and we were warned about bridges before the race being moss-covered. After that, you ended up under tree cover, but the climb did not end. The climb continued, on and on and on. I did walk a couple of steeper parts for only a small section, but kept on running the rest. Slow and steady was the key. Finally, a downhill stretch and I still stuck with my BOP gang and we became a team. We ran along a flat stretch of a stone road and turned what we found out was the wrong way. One girl stayed at the bottom, one climbed halfway up and came back down, and I continued up to the top of the long, long climb. When someone yelled (it ended up being the sweepers) up at us that we had made a wrong turn, I rolled my eyes and headed back down. The group ended up staying together up the switchbacks through the forest. There were endless switchbacks up and up and up. We all ended up walking most of it. The two sweepers behind us were great. Encouraging, offering advice about the trail, talking, a pair that were a lot of fun. The climb up was endless. I had started to make the decision that the halfway mark at the top of the ski hill, I was going to bail. I just couldn't see myself climbing this much over another 4 km. When we finally got to the top of the ski hill, I sat down on a rock at the water station and got a glass of water and said that I was done. No more climbing. The volunteers asked if I needed a ride down to the bottom and I said that I would walk. The sweepers said that if I was going to walk, they would walk down with me, but they were following the race trail. Then I decided, WTF, I'll finish. It became flat and downhill for a bit, and I gained a second wind, and started to run again. Awesome.
The trail was amazing. The trail was really, really technical. Probably too technical for me but did I have fun. There were more climbs after that and it was beautiful to look down from the top of the hills into the valley below. I wish I had brought a camera. When there became more downhill and flat stretches than uphill switchbacks (of which there were a lot), I started to run with more of a faster pace. It was in this area the enduro leaders were starting to lap me. They were amazing! Leaping, flying over rocks and roots. You could hear them yelling, whooping, singing through the forest (_E_, you were one of the loudest!) They were all so fun and encouraging. I fell around that area into a big lump of mud. Awesome! I was now very dirty! Trail running is so much fun! Finally I got to the downhill towards the finish line and got high-5s from people and I leaped over the finish line with flourish.
I don't know what happened to one of my BOP'ers. The one girl I saw at the end of the race didn't finish and stayed up at the water station. She didn't know what happened to the other girl either. She did say that she said she was continuing on. I didn't see her at the end, but I know from the list of finishers that I wasn't last, so hopefully, she was the one who finished behind me. She said her goal was just to finish because it was a big accomplishment for her. I agreed with her along the way but I wish we could have stayed together. The sweepers were great company and were asking about my epilepsy and the weird sounds the VNS made along the way. They started asking when my breathing started sounding horrible, and that's when they learnt about me being epileptic.
The whole atmosphere was great. I much prefer this kind of race over a big road race anyday. I will be back at this race and I plan on being at the 5 Peaks ARK race in the fall.
Dad came with me, as we drove down from North Bay the night before. He couldn't get over how much fun this race looked. He was busy telling me when so-and-so came in, or who needed first aid, etc. I have to thank him for driving me there today for sure.