I went into the Sulphur Springs 10k with low expectations for my performance, given that it was my very first trail race, and I hadn’t exactly been training for it! I’ve been focussed on half ironman training, and other than one 3k trail run along the Bruce Trail in the middle of my weekly long run, my trail running has been limited to running through the woods looking for controls as part of my participation in a weekly orienteering program for adults that started in March (Don’t Get Lost Next).
Alasdair and I arrived at Morgan Firestone Arena in Ancaster in plenty of time to pick up our race kits and stand in long lineups for toilets quite a few times! The Sulphur Springs Trail Race had 10k, 25k, 50k, 50 mile, 100 mile, 100 mile relay and 200 mile races (yes, 200 miles!). All races were run on the pretty trails of the Dundas Valley Conservation Area.
With a broken thumb and potentially cracked rib, Alasdair would be running but not racing, being careful so that he didn’t fall.
Our race was the last to start – at 8:15 AM, the race began! I had looked at the course maps before the race, and was convinced that the 10k race was 2 loops of a 5k course. We would be spending the majority of the race running the Headwaters Trail.
The first bit was a fairly steep downhill on Martin Road, and then we turned onto a trail past 4 or 5 photographers with massive camouflaged lenses taking pictures of (or standing around waiting for) birds. The trails were fairly wide in most places, allowing multiple runners to run beside one another. In some places, runners were going in both directions. There was mud – and sometimes, lots of it! Some runners were stepping gingerly in the mud, but I just ran through it! I didn’t want to lose time on the downhill or flat bits. I figured I’d be walking some of the hills later.
My plan was to run at a pace that I thought I could maintain for the entire 10k, with the exception of the steepest hills. I thought I would run them on the first loop, and likely have to walk some on the second. I also decided not to look at my watch, mainly so that I didn’t get discouraged. And since there were no kilometre markers on the course, the time wouldn’t tell me anything anyway!
I decided to power walk the steepest of the hills, and to start running once I reached the top.
At some point, there was a woman just ahead of me with a cyclist to her left trying to pass. I told her to watch out, and after thanking me, she said, “You’re amazing!” “I’m amazing?!” I replied, “You’re 2 feet ahead of me!” From that point on, we ran together. I usually run alone, but it was really nice to have someone to pass the time and distance with. We chatted and running seemed easier! It turns out my new running friend is named Carolyn. I think I convinced her that there were 2 loops, and we kept running, wondering why we hadn’t reached the end of the first loop yet. We started to think that we had made a wrong turn and were on the 25k/50k course. We didn’t see any 10k bibs. We decided to just keep running. Carolyn had never run further than 10k, so she was in for an adventure if we were off course! A little later, I looked behind me and 2 women had 10k bibs on. I said that I couldn’t believe we hadn’t run 5k yet. I looked at my watch: 52 minutes! There’s no way we hadn’t run 5k – it didn’t feel like we were running slowly. One of the women told us that we had already run 8.2k and that there weren’t 2 loops! I wasn’t totally convinced, and I told Carolyn that if it is 2 loops (and we had somehow run further than we should have) that I wasn’t going out for a 2nd loop! There were spectators cheering as we kept going, telling us that we were almost there. It wasn’t until I saw Alasdair with his medal on that I believed we were nearing the finish line!
And then just like that, we were done!
I looked at my watch, and though I had forgotten to stop it, I knew that we had finished in under 62 minutes. I was shocked. I had figured that worst case scenario it would take me 90 minutes. I really thought that the hills would slow me down.
I chatted briefly with my friend Mauro, and then found Alasdair and grabbed some post-race food (a banana, some trail mix, and a very salty yummy vegan peanut butter cookie from the Johnny Blonde food truck). We chatted with Carolyn and her son Isaiah for a bit (he ran too), stayed for the awards, and then left. Alasdair’s goal for next year is to beat the 10 year old girl who beat him by less than a minute.
Time: 1:01:10 (6:07 min/km)
Women 40-49: 17/55
All women: 60/174
All runners: 116/275
I did way better than expected (17th in my age group is amazing for me), and still think that the course must have been a little short.
Here’s a pic of the race swag: t-shirt, race buff, medal and sticker.
I will definitely do this race again. It was well organized and in such a beautiful area. I really enjoyed running without a real time goal, and without paying attention to the time as I went. I’ll have to find some other trail races…
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