My husband, Dave, has volunteered with the Run for the Toad 25k/50K trail race for a few years. It’s one of the biggest trail races in Ontario, and several runners from other parts of Canada and the USA fly in to participate. Dave has been wanting me to run it but the race always seems to conflict with my other running goals.
A few weeks ago, Dave asked me to participate in the training run weekend. Basically, the event organizers organize a day of running on the trail loop (12.5K) so that their volunteers can practise for race day in October. I ran the training event two years ago so running it again to measure where I am in my training made good sense. But this time, I decided that I wanted to cover 25K and use it as part of my marathon training.
“Are you crazy?” Dave asked. “It’s a tough course. It’s like running 30K on the roads.”
“I’ll be fine,” I told him. “I ran 22K last week and the week before. I have water stations and company to run with here. I’ll be okay.”
One of my training partners, Kelly-Lynne who eats trails for breakfast, decided to join me. She knows the course well as her cross-country team trained on it when she was at Western University. Her plan was to run 12.5K and, if she felt good, she would run more.
The run started at 9:00 and temperatures were going to climb to the mid-30’s. I am fine running in heat but not when the sun is high. We knew that we needed to slow the pace down, to run something comfortably so that we would finish and feel good. My marathon pace is around 5 minutes/kilometre we thought 5:00 to 5:30 on this course was reasonable. Like any other trail, though, you can’t really pace yourself other than by the “what feels right” pace. So that ended up being the plan: run, talk, run and have some fun.
The hills: they were the challenge. Within the first 3 kilometres, I told Kelly-Lynne that I didn’t remember the course being as hilly the last time that I ran it. Ture to the nature of hills, though, every hill that went up also went down. Some of them seemed to climb forever and others seemed to go up at a 90 degree angle (especially Skeleton Hill, towards the end, which was a complete calf-buster). But the hills were doable as they were hiding under a canopy of trees.
For me, the toughest part of the course was dealing with the sun. I was able to deal with the heat but when we came from out of the trails into the open, under the hot sun with no cloud coverage, I started to feel nauseous. As soon as we got back into the shade, though, the sickness went away.
Kelly-Lynne ended up running the entire 25K with me. We realized at the end how well we actually covered the course as our second loop was only 3 minutes slower than our first – not bad with the change in temperature. Also, quite a few runners around us dropped out during the second lap. I think that running an easier pace played a big factor in our finishing, and the smart pacing was confirmed when, in the last kilometre, we passed a few runners who were way ahead of us earlier in the run.
Even though it wasn’t a race, I often had to remind myself of that. I often wanted to pick up the pace but I kept turning the dial the other way, making sure that I slowed down and respected the heat. It worked.
And now I have one more thing to consider as part of my fall racing. After the weekend, I realize that I really do want to race this course one day. Which year? Only time will tell.