When I was growing up, my family lived in a very rural area, on Manitoulin Island. My dad spent much of his time “in the bush” (us Northern Ontarians call wooded areas “the bush”) either tracking deer to prepare for hunting season, or cutting wood for our furnace.
Our time on trails as a family was usually under the guise of piling and carrying wood, or checking the health of local tree stands.
One of the things I remember is greatly enjoying the feeling of rushing through the trail, hopping from rock to rock, or root to rock, making a game of the terrain.
The Limberlost Challenge
Last year, I was looking for a race to do near Huntsville during a family reunion. I discovered the Limberlost Challenge trail run, and signed up for the 14km.
I was surprised to show up at the start and see people meandering about socially, trusting to leave their bags under a small open tent.
The race started unceremoniously with a vague sense of a “start” line.The trail was everything – it had rained that night, so there were swaths of sole-sucking mud and slick, washed-out slopes. Some of the terrain was “technical” (a trail word I learned which roughly translates to “hard” – lots of roots, rocks, and steeps).
Once I hit stride, I was in the zone. I forgot about speed, soreness, cadence, and breathing. I leapt and ran and dodged and fell and tackled! I was forced into the present moment – not gaze longingly afield, wishing I was already 1km farther into the race.
It was an exhilarating experience when I finally crossed the finish line. I later realized I had come in first in my age group, and was 3rd woman over all. And this is when I realized the magic of running small, local races!
My trail running shoe post-race
Limberlost race photo
Heart Lake Stole my Heart
After Limberlost, I was so excited to race on trails again. I realized that trail running is a “thing” – there is a whole community of people doing it. I looked up local races, and found an 11km called the 5Peaks “Heart Lake” race in September. I went by myself, on a warm September day.
Instead of a t-shirt, I picked up my awesome branded water canteen. I learned that 5Peaks had a whole seriesof trail races, all conveniently nestled in pockets of hiking trails near the GTA, and also Guelph.
The race was a formidable one, as it was hot and hilly. There were some incredible runners on the course, who clearly had trained to dominate the small but steep inclines, and best navigate over obstacles.
Afterwards, I ended up meeting a now dear friend of mine, Kathryn. This girl is an incredibly talented and dedicated runner, with piles of energy. She also introduced me to her inspiring FKT (fasted-known-time) posse called the Wild Bruce Chase.
After volunteering for another beautiful, smoothly run 5Peaks race, Kathryn encouraged me to sign up as a race ambassador for the series. After such a great experience, I jumped at the chance!
This summer, 5Peaks has 5 races spread over the season, with sport (~5km), enduro (~10-14km), and half-marathon options. They add a great break to a monotonously hot summer road training season.
The best thing about 5Peaks is the variety of people who show up. Everyone is looking to challenge themselves, whether they want to take their usual 5km distance off the road, do some training for obstacle course racing, or push their speed as a trail expert. People are working hard, but a sense of camaraderie instead of competition dominates the environment.
Do you live in the GTA, Guelph, KW, Burlington, Brampton, Hamilton, Oakville, London, or anywhere close by? Join me and grab a 5Peaks 2018 Season’s Pass – a huge discount on all 5 races, plus extra swag (Seriously, no boring, ill-fitting t-shirts. Serious. Swag).
Is this shameless promo? Absolutely. I became an ambassador for a reason, and that is to alert the world about this thing I found out about that is SO FUN!
5Peaks Trail running friends
After Heart Lake