This is my first published race report so take it easy on me. I promise these will get better. Probably.
Run for the Toad 50k ultra has been runnin’ ultra style since 2002 and has grown into one of, if not THE largest trail race in Ontario with well over a thousand people participating. There is a 25km walk and run and 50k walk, relay and ultra.
The race can boast to hosting such runners as Reid Coolsaet, Gary Robbins and the amazing Elli Greenwood. It can also boast to being one of the richest Ultra races with 7,000.00 in total prize money handed out – 1,000.00 going to the 50k winner. That’s pretty rich for ultra.
At this running – the start was 9:30am – downright civilized by race standards. On this particular wet and dark morning, I was picked up by my friend Greg who was doing his first ultramarathon race. Our wives actually work together and it’s pretty much how we met.
(“Hey your husband runs? Mine too – let’s get them together to have a run-date”. At the time neither of us had even run our first full road marathon. I impatiently upped my race mileage to be able to clock a few ultras before this one while Greg was doing other things..(raising kids?#)..).and now he was finally getting to a big dance.
We eased out into the still dark morning and quickly slammed on the breaks in front of my neighbours cafe to grab some coffee before we hit the highway. Black gold on a morning like that.
Driving there was really easy as the folksy directions from the race website were accurate if not a little hilarious to read. It was like getting directions from some elderly, over caffeinated store greeter (interested click here).
There was loads of volunteers onsite and all were instantly helpful. We cruised to stop into our grassy parking spot and quickly met a couple from Ottawa/Gatineau who’s male half was the runner – a bearded gent by the name of Joe-who was doing his first trail race ever. This guy was lit up he was so excited to be there – shaking our hands and telling us how excited he was to meet a couple of “real ultra runners”. My man Joe had an infectious enthusiasm that got a smile from us both and I was glad he was running.
After getting the bearded good news from Joe we ran to the regi-Tent and got bibs and swag (Gym Bag Regi-Gift…pretty cool!). Straight back to the car to dump our swag and pin bibs and off we went to the start.
Gear Check! I almost forgot, going forward I will give a total breakdown of my gear worn in any race and try to review its performance in the race report.
Top: Nike Compression Sleeveless/North Face Sleeveless BTN top
Bottom: Salomon S-lab Exo M – Shorts Tights
Socks: CEP Compression Calf SLEEVES/Dry Max No Show
Shoes: Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra
Hydration Gear: None
We got to the start line and who do I see? The Bakers – Chris & Christa. These two are also in my run group “West Toronto Pacers” – they do an absolutely insane amount of races with a lot of them being ultras and they’re just animals, machines and very nice people:). Greg and I also bumped into a few other people we recognized (Kiska, Jen, etc) from other races. I love this about the ultra community – that you start to get to know faces and people and by most every account – people are really nice and laid back.
Now,finally, the line is toed.
A cannon goes off. Not a guy yelling “GO” on a ladder. Not an airhorn. A real honest to goodness CANNON goes off and we’re – off. As we start out easily the BAGPIPES start playing us through our first steps. Sorry but there are few things cooler for this part-Scottish kid than being played out by bagpipes. Cue feelings of being Braveheart heading out into the heathlands to beat the tar out of the filthy English….I digress into fantasy – let’s rejoin the race – shall we?
The bagpipes gave us goosebumps which I enjoyed very much until we almost instantly hit paved road. PAVED ROAD? WHAA??? Ok I train on paved road all the time b/c I live in the city and HAVE to. WHENEVER I can I’m on trails and this normally includes trail RACES I run:). More digression. The next 2K I didn’t enjoy very much. Paved road winding endlessly through essentially trailer-park. Not kidding – a trail park.
SIDEBAR: At the start/finish I spotted a guy in tights-shorts that was shirtless. This dude was a DEAD ringer for “Randy” – assistant Trailer Park Director on Trailer Park Boys the TV Show. This was all seen BEFORE we knew there was actual trailer park to run through. It was awesome and disturbing. End of story please see pic below for visual reference.
Eventually we are onto the soft stuff of the pine needle trail. This was a lovely bit of singletrack in the dark cozy wood that quickly saw us on a nice steep hill for our first incline of the day. The hill crested and we were off into singletrack woods which is really some of my fave racing landscape. Soon enough we were in store for another change when we were squeezed out of the forest into daylight atop what was a large group of rolling hills looking out onto the local grass and farmlands. This was seriously pretty landscape and there was also a nice breeze here which seemed to blow us into our 2nd aid station of the day at about 6.25k into the loop (grasshopper meadow). Aid stations were well stocked with all manner of salty and sweet and lovely volunteers that were all sweet. I didn’t stop at this station for the whole day at this point in the loop but did when you came back across it at around the 9k mark. Something I loved about this station was the crazy selection of music they were playing which ranged from classical to country depending on your timing. After this open air streaking we’re tucked back into the forest for some more single track and deep Sylvan breaths of piney air.
At this point I felt pretty great physically. No issues at all and my gear felt good. I chose to not carry any hydration on this course, for a few reasons:
a) It’s an ultra – yes – but it’s 50k via 4 x 12.5 loops
b) on these loops there are 4 aid station access points fully stocked with food and water – that’s basically an aid station every 3 or so k.
c) dragging around my own hydration would mean carting along a lot of extra weight for absolutely no good reason. For me, hydration packs are for when you’re out in the wilderness with no access to nutrition – not in a heavily supported race. IMO.
Back into the forest and we get our first really good downhill. This zigzagging slope is a total quad smasher but it felt good to grab some speed at this point in the loop I must admit.
After some more flat single track we are popped out yet again into a clearing at the 11k mark or so and BAM – a literal wall is hit. This wall is called skeleton hill – and its ridiculous. My guess is it’s only about 100m if that but total hands on knees climbing. The climbing is made more fun by jokes and jabs of the volunteers at the top (this race has amazing volunteers).
After the hill there’s a little limping and back up to speed and before you know it you are winding through the gravel roads and BAM – The start /finish.
At this point I’m not going to go on and on about each loop and leave the description where it is.
In the end – this is a very well attended and very well run race. There’s a huge tent city pavilion in the midst of it all with exhibitors and food and free coffee and cookies which is pretty darn awesome. I recommend this race for all it’s goodness and also reco it as a great first timer’s intro to ultra distance.
My friend Greg notched his first ultra that day and I do believe he’s hooked.
Next Report: Fire on the Mountain 50k Trail Ultra – Flintstone, Maryland.
Happy Trails Baby!