Going into a race for the first time, I like to be prepared. The best option is to run the route ahead of time, second best option is to track down a course map with an elevation chart, if that fails, I start scouring the web for someone's race report or Strava activity from one of the previous years. There's one Get Our There Magazine video recap, and a few other bits and pieces of intel, but The Seaton Soaker kept all of its best secrets hidden until race day. The start/finish location at Pine Ridge Secondary School was great. Easy to get to from downtown Toronto, plenty of parking next to the start, and race registration was quick and easy inside the school. The 50km and 25km races got started right at 8:00 am, which is a super civilised time to start a trail race. I've gotten accustomed to arriving at the trailhead for 6 am. When it was go-time, I had a mini-heart attack when I realised my Garmin had gone back into sleep mode and it had to reconnect to GPS while I was crossing the start line. Thankfully it connected 10 feet later. Phew. No runner should ever have to deal with the accurate panic caused by running watch issues during a race.
The race starts with a quick, paved downhill section, where you can slot in with others running your pace. Somewhere in the first 1-2km, there was a beaver damn crossing that spoiled the fantasy of keeping my feet dry for as much of the race as possible. I was happily surprised by the first 4km of the race being mostly flat - it's trails, so "mostly flat" means little undulating hills that don't slow you down, but just get you into a good rhythm. The terrain gets a bit more technical and hilly the further you get from the start, and there are two serious climbs on the way out to the 12.5km turn around point. Aid stations pop up around 3km, 7km, and 12.5km. All of them were well equipped and super friendly. The 7km station was rockin' a good psychedelic theme, complete with tie-dye and long blonde wigs.
The course is 90% kick ass single track. I loved it. Keeps you focused on what's right in front of you and your mind never wanders and starts thinking about that hot burning sensation that's happening around your big toes. Yup, blisters. Two big ones that covered the entire bottom of each big toe had formed from the increased friction from having wet muddy feet. I started feeling them around 14km, then REALLY felt them at 20km, enough to change up my stride a bit. But after the 20-foot badass river crossing that happens somewhere around 22km-23km my feet were totally numbed from the chilly water and the pain was gone.
My Garmin had under-tracked by roughly a kilometre, so I was surprised to pop out of the woods and see the last climb to the finish. Not so fast, that finish line that's 100m away, yeah you're not there yet. The course loops you around a grass field for an additional 300-400m (which might be the hardest part of the whole race) before you can get that sweet relief that only a finish line can deliver.
Racing with the 50km runners made it hard to determine if I was doing well in terms of the rankings. I knew there were only a handful of ladies and gents in front of me, but some of those had to be heading out for a second 25km loop. Turns out, I did REALLY well. I was 20th across the line, and 2nd female overall in the 25km! Very happy with that result.
Refuelled and chatted with a few other finishers, before calling it a day with the Seaton Soaker. It's a damn fine race, great course, amazing support and as always, the trail running community in Southern Ontario is just so loveable. I highly recommend this race.