May 24th, 2014 in Ancaster Ontario: the perfect morning for the Sulphur Springs Trail Run where runners had the option to register and run one a 10km, 25km, 50km, 50mile, 100mile or a 100mile relay race. As this was my third trail race in under a year, I opted for the 25km. Further than any trail race I had complete before, but significantly less than the marathon that kicked off my 2013 running season.
Despite a hard training winter that included multiple polar vortices, I was confident that I had done the work and that my training would keep my afloat over 25km, but Sulphur Springs proved to be quite the challenge. Divided into two 10km loops with a 5km out and back to start and hills a plenty this was no walk in the woods. This course had everything that makes trail running great and at the same time totally brutal.
1) Gravel is an energy vampire. The larger the pieces of gravel, the harder it was on the ankles and knees. After doing the 5km out and back, and into the first 10km loop there were long sections of double track gravel that just zapped my energy. Quick glances at the ol' Nike+ GPS watch happen frequently when I'm uncomfortable and at this point on the course I found myself lifting my wrist every 100 meters. Not a good sign, especially since the deep valleys of the Dundas Conservation Area were playing havoc with the GPS signal and only partially registering the distance. My only saving grace was a man in a cowboy hat sitting at trail junction that told me I was about to start the second 10km section (according to my watch I was 3km short of completing the first 10km). At that point, the ground went back to a softer packed dirt trail and my energy and enjoyment levels shot right back up.
2) Mother nature doesn't mess around when it comes to hills. Long after you've had enough, there will always be more hills. I like hills. I like wind. I like running in adverse conditions. When the run is tough, I remind myself that its making me a stronger runner. But on this course, I had my fill of hills. By the time I reached the "Three Sisters" somewhere near kilometre 20, I was angry. My fun was done. There were no more mantras left in my self-coaching brain. I was sore, tired and frustrated that I still had a few more kilometres ahead of me. The last of the big climbs in this section felt almost vertical. I definitely grabbed some roots in front of me to help with the ascent.
3) Finishing grouchy. I'm a happy runner that always has something left in the tank for a big kick to the finish and a toothy smile for the photographers. This was the first race I finished cranky. My darling partner Ian came running up to me moments after I crossed the finish, I love this dude, but in those moments all I wanted was to sit on a big boulder that was tucked away behind the broo-ha-ha of the finish and be left alone. I was pretty miserable, or rather ugly miserable. It took me 5-10mins until I could break the fog of misery. I'd like to thank Gatorade and Ian's presence for getting me out of that deep dark funk.
4) I must be a glutton for punishment. I'm already planning a return to the Dundas Valley Conversation area for the 2015 edition of this race to take another stab at the same 25km.