Race report: Raid the Hammer 2019

This year’s Don’t Get Lost Raid the Hammer was to be my first time doing the “full” Raid – in previous years, I have always done the “half”. It was also the first time that Rebecca and I would race with Heidi (in preparation for Wilderness Traverse 2020). However, Rebecca was sick on race morning, so our team of 3 became a team of 2, which meant we weren’t able to do the full Raid and be included in the official results. We had two options: 1) full Raid (unranked), or 2) half Raid (ranked). We chose #1!

We picked up our race maps at St. Ann Catholic Elementary School in Hamilton (3 of 4 maps – one would be given out during the race), and planned our route. Given that I ran the Happy Trails The Beav 25k trail race the day before, we planned to run as smart a race as we could, nailing the navigation to make up for my tired legs!

Pre-race with Heidi.

Map 1

Matrix

When the race began, Heidi and I took off in different directions. In the Matrix, teammates could stick together or split up to find the 10 checkpoints (A to I). This section could be done at the beginning of the race, at the end of the race, or a mix of the two. We planned to do it at the beginning. We decided that Heidi would do the 4 controls north of Wilson Street, and I would do the 6 to the south, with slightly less running. At these checkpoints, we had to answer a question about the feature that was there (e.g. number on hydro pole, name of person on bench). With the exception of the first one, where I ended up on the wrong side of the creek to start with, I found all of these easily. No compass was required. I was hoping to beat Heidi to our meeting point so that I could rest briefly, but she beat me by less than a minute!

After running along the Bruce Trail over Highway 403, we were onto map 2.

Maps 1 and 2 (of 4).

Map 2

Game of Thorns (CP1 to CP2)

In this section, we needed our compass, and an ability to scour a forest for “a distinct tree”. We found the controls, but none of the trees jumped out at us!

Blackout (CP3 to CP8)

In this section, trails were removed from the map, but we were able to use some anyway to find the controls. Our navigation continued to be bang on!

Maps 3 and 4 (of 4).

Map 3

Gnarly Run and Photo Shoot (CP9)

It was a 3k run along the Bruce Trail to Sherman Falls, where we would be photographed with our teammates (instead of inserting our SI stick into an SI reader).

A very springy bridge, which felt super wonky when 2 people ran on it at the same time!
At Sherman Falls.

Dundas Valley Traverse I (CP10 to CP11)

From here we headed into the Dundas Valley Conservation Area, where we found CP10 and then CP11 (the aid station). We each had to show that we were carrying a whistle and an emergency blanket, and then we were given map 4. We grabbed some of the snacks at the aid station, and then studied the map briefly to decide which 5 of the 7 controls we wanted to get.

Map 4

Scramble (CP12 to CP 18)

We opted for 18 and then 15, which were just off a main trail down steep hills. From there we ran along trails for a short while before crossing a log over a creek. While we managed to stay dry, we found out after the race that at least one person went for an unintentional swim here!

We climbed yet another steep hill to find 14 – in fact, this entire map involved lots of ups and downs. My tired legs were slow on the uphills!

From the time we hit 17 until almost the end of the race, we kept running into the same team at the controls, though we would choose different routes and yet still arrive almost at the same time.

After control 12 we looked for the least steep part of the hill to climb down to the creek, and then climbed up the hills on the other side. We then followed a trail all the way back to the aid station. We handed in our hand-punched map, ate some more aid station goodies, and then went back to map 3.

Map 3 (continued)

Dundas Valley Traverse II (CP20 to 24)

To get to CP 20, we opted to run a longer distance along trails, because bushwhacking directly there would have involved significant ups and downs, and more potential to get lost. From there, we again set out on trails, but planned to bushwhack a couple of times on our way to CP 21, down a steep hill, through a creek, up the steep bank on the other side, and then later, following a contour line and keeping a creek in sight. It worked!

Then it was a trail run to the “brawn” or “brain” section, where we had to choose which CP22 to do (climb all the way up the hill for an easy to find control, or half way up for a harder to find one). We chose the latter.

At this point, we knew that we had just 2 more controls to find before a 2k run to the finish line.

After CP23, we spotted the race photographer at CP24, and then it was a final push to the finish line!

Heidi making sure I’m still with her!
At this point, I had covered 51k in about the last 28 hours.
Just a 2k run left!

Unfortunately, the 2k run back was a net uphill. My legs were pretty tired at this point, 26k into the race, so I had to take some walking breaks!

But after 5 hours, 2 minutes and 55 seconds, Heidi and I crossed the finish line! We had covered 28k, and 1400m of elevation gain.

Post-race!

We worked really well together, and our navigation was near perfect! It was super fun! I’m looking forward to racing with Heidi again. And look out Tree Huggers, we’re coming for you!!

Our race route – 28k through Ancaster.

After the race, it was time for some well deserved food! Yum!

Delicious post-race food from Johnny Blonde food truck.

Race results:

  • Time: 5:02:55
  • Placing: Unranked, since we were a team of 2, but had we been a team of 3 females, we would have been 2nd! Woot!

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Running the Bruce Trail End to End: Getting Started + Iroquoia Section

At some point last year, my husband Alasdair decided to run the entire Bruce Trail, so I thought it would be fun to take on the challenge too, knowing that it would take us several years, and that we would do some parts together, and some parts separately. We each downloaded the Bruce Trail app, and started tracking our runs.

What’s the Bruce Trail? According to the Bruce Trail Conservancy website, the Bruce Trail is “Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath. Running along the Niagara Escarpment in southern Ontario from Niagara to Tobermory, the Bruce Trail spans more than 890 km of main Trail and over 400 km of associated side trails.”

There are 9 sections of the trail. I live in the Iroquoia section just 2 km from the trail – lucky me! You can learn more about all the sections here:

Niagara – Queenston to Grimsby (Maps 1-5) (read summary here)
Iroquoia – Grimsby to Milton (Maps 5-11)
Toronto – Milton to Cheltenham (Maps 11-14) (read summary here)
Caledon Hills – Cheltenham to Mono Centre (Maps 14-19) (read summary here)
Dufferin Hi-Land – Mono Centre to Lavender (Maps 19-21)
Blue Mountains – Lavender to Craigleith (Maps 21-24)
Beaver Valley – Craigleith to Blantyre (Maps 24-28)
Sydenham – Blantyre to Wiarton (Maps 28-35)
Peninsula – Wiarton to Tobermory (Maps 35-42)

I was strictly a road runner until a couple of years ago when I started orienteering, which got me running on and off trail looking for controls (checkpoints) in the woods. However, it wasn’t until I started this end to end goal that I became a regular trail runner! I love it. It is so much more peaceful than running on the road, and way more scenic. I’m hooked.

I had previously hiked many different short bits of the trail over the years, but I’ve been enjoying rediscovering sections that I’ve been on before, and running on sections that are completely new to me. So far, I love the waterfalls along the trail the most.

As the parts of the trail that I need to cover get further and further away from home, things will get more complicated, and will definitely require some overnight trips. For now though, I’ve started close to home!

IROQUOIA SECTION

Started the Iroquoia section: October 27, 2018

Finished the Iroquoia section: December 26, 2018

Note: While I completed the Iroquoia section, the part of the trail that runs through Kelso Conservation Area in Milton was closed, so I ran the rerouted section along Appleby Line instead. I’ll go back in the spring to do the Kelso section.

Run details

  • October 27, 2018 – Rockcliffe Road, Waterdown to Borer’s Falls, Dundas – 14.3k
  • October 28, 2018 – Rockcliffe Road, Waterdown to Grindstone Falls, Waterdown – 5.7k
  • November 2, 2018 – Borer’s Falls, Dundas to Davidson Boulevard, Dundas (with a side trip to Tews Falls) – 22k
  • November 4, 2018 – Mount Nemo/Walker’s Line, Burlington to No. 8 Sideroad, Burlington – 10.8k
  • November 14, 2018 – Grindstone Falls, Waterdown to Highway 5, Burlington – 12.4k
  • November 24, 2018 – Highway 5, Burlington to Mount Nemo/Walker’s Line, Burlington – 10.2k
  • December 1, 2018 – No. 8 Sideroad, Burlington to Crawford Lake, Milton – 11.8k
  • December 8, 2018 – Crawford Lake, Milton to Hilton Falls, Milton – 13k (northern end of the Iroquoia section)
  • December 14 – Davidson Boulevard, Dundas to Filman Road, Ancaster – 12k
  • December 16, 2018 – Filman Road, Ancaster to King’s Forest Golf Course, Hamilton – 16.2k
  • December 22, 2018 – King’s Forest Golf Course, Hamilton to Millen Road, Stoney Creek – 19.5k
  • December 26, 2018 – Millen Road, Stoney Creek to Elm Street, Grimsby – 19.7k (southern end of the Iroquoia section)

Run stats

  • # runs: 12
  • # solo runs: 5
  • # runs with my husband Alasdair: 6
  • # runs with friends: 1 (Laura – yay to having similar running paces!)
  • shortest run: 5.7k
  • longest run: 22k
  • average length of run: 14k

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With Laura at the Hermitage, Ancaster

Run highlights

Hardest section to run: between Millen Road in Stoney Creek and Elm Street in Grimsby, because of the abundance of wet and loose rocks

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Albion Falls, Hamilton

Most waterfalls: between King’s Forest Golf Course in Hamilton and Millen Road in Stoney Creek – Albion Falls, Buttermilk Falls, Felkers Falls, and the Devil’s Punchbowl

Most scenic: see most waterfalls!

Scariest moment: while running through the Royal Botanical Gardens in Dundas, I encountered an illegal hunter in full camouflage carrying a bow and arrow, standing just off the trail and looking down the hill into the woods – I said to him, “Whatever you do, please don’t shoot me!” to which he replied, “I won’t.” (I made a report to the police, the Ministry of Natural Resources, and through a friend, to the RBG.)

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After the hunter incident, on my next run I wore a reflective safety vest, a flashing light on my leg, and a bear bell on my foot! Since I ran through Dundas on this run, several people turned and wondered what all the jingling was about. One kid started singing Jingle Bells.

Wildlife sightings: 2 close-up raccoons (separate runs), and a salamander at Crawford Lake, which my husband nearly stepped on as he ran – we placed it gently in mud close to a log, covered it in leaves, and wished it well!

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At Crawford Lake, Milton

Favourite run: the waterfall run!

Most memorable encounter with other hikers/runners: a little girl hiking with her parents, who said as I passed, “She runs so FAST!”; a couple carrying pruning shears and a saw to do trail maintenance; the hunter

Neat finds: caves just East of Twiss Road in Burlington; Devil’s Punch Bowl Market & Bakery for post run treats!

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Cave off Twiss Road, Burlington

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