Random runner to me as I walked into Burlington Central High School, wearing my kilt with bare legs, at -8 degrees Celsius feeling like -17C with the windchill: “You are brave!” “Or crazy!” I replied. “Or something!” she said.
I was a little surprised that I didn’t see anyone else with a kilt and bare legs before the race. I only spotted two teenagers wearing shorts. I briefly questioned whether I was indeed crazy, but I quickly dismissed that idea. Or at least satisfied myself that while my legs were going to be cold, they would be fine!
After picking up my race bib and plaid pants, I had lots of time to join one bathroom lineup after another, listen to the bagpipers, and then head for the start line. Alasdair would be cheering me on from the sidelines this year.
With a bit of snow having fallen overnight, the ground was slushy and slippery in places. Given the footing, I wasn’t quite sure how long it would take me to run the 8k. I told Alasdair that I’d be somewhere between 45 and 50 minutes. I didn’t really have any specific time goals for this race.
The race began, and as expected, the ground was slushy in places. Until the crowd thinned out, it was hard to pass people without stepping off the beaten path and into the slush. I think I was 2k in before I had space to run wherever I wanted to, meaning that at times I weaved as I went where the better pavement was!
I know this course quite well, with the majority of it being flat.
There are a few slight inclines, but really only one hill, between 6k and 7k. Was it ever windy along Lakeshore Rd. when we reached the downtown businesses! There was blowing snow (and blowing kilts!). I like this section of the course the least – I’m not sure why, but it might be the hill!
I spotted Alasdair in the last 500m of the race, where I opted to run on the sidewalk part of the time, because it was clearer than the road (with the exception of the very snowy sideroads that I had to cross).
I rounded the last corner and pushed as hard as I could. In the end I crossed the finish line in 46:17.7, good for 24/87 women 40-44! I was super happy with my race.
Believe it or not, my legs were just fine!
We headed inside, where I had a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of hot chocolate, watched the awards, and then headed out.
Thank you Burlington Runners for another great race!
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:
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!
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.
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)
# 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
Hardest section to run: between Millen Road in Stoney Creek and Elm Street in Grimsby, because of the abundance of wet and loose rocks
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.)
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!
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
This year’s Robbie Burns 8k would be my third attempt at the distance. I wasn’t aiming for a PB – in fact, I was planning to just “run” it, not “race” it. But it’s hard not to get swept up in the enthusiasm and optimism of other runners at the starting line of a race!
Alasdair and I arrived at Burlington Central High School in plenty of time to get our race bibs, visit the washroom multiple times, and listen to the Halton Police pipe and drum band play some songs.
At this race, the band stands on either side of the hallway and runners walk through them to go outside to the start line.
Before going outside, I overheard two women talking about a dream one of them had had the night before: during the race her friend was driving her along the race route, and when she told him that she was cheating, he replied, “It’s not cheating if I’m driving your race pace!”
Once we got outside, Alasdair went for a short warm up run, and I stretched my calves. We lined up at the start line, but I decided to drop back so as not to get in the way of faster runners. Ed Whitlock‘s son Clive gave the countdown in his honour, and the race began! As soon as I heard that Canadian Olympic marathoner Krista Duchene would be racing, I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t win – but only because I would be racing in a kilt (I was pretty sure she wouldn’t be)!
As soon as I started running, I realized that my legs were already tired – from moving lots of boxes and doing far too many squats in the process the day before! Good thing I planned to treat this race as a training run.
I was expecting to run 7 minute kilometres, because I am still recovering from plantar fasciitis in my left foot, and was at the tail end of a cold. When – right off the bat – I felt like I was working hard, I decided I’d be happy to finish in 56 minutes.
And then I reached the 1 km marker, looked at my watch, and saw 5:41 – no wonder the effort felt high! I hadn’t run that pace since August or earlier. My foot felt fine, but my cardio and legs were feeling it.
According to RunKeeper on my phone, my pace continued as follows:
2nd kilometre: 5:33
3rd kilometre: 5:39
4th kilometre: 5:46
5th kilometre: 5:42
I wasn’t looking at my phone as I ran, but I did check my watch at every kilometre marker. I was surprised that I was managing to hold that pace. It was after 5k (which I reached around 28 minutes) that I started to slow down a bit. It was also in this section that there seemed to be some noticeable inclines (but really, the race is quite flat).
Near the end I was hoping that I could finish in under 46 minutes, but my “sprint” to the finish had me cross the line at 46:02 according to the race clock. I was slightly disappointed. Later when I saw my official time, I realized that of course I finished in less time than that, because that was the “gun” time, not the time I actually crossed the starting line. As expected, I did not win the race. Krista Duchene won my age category, while Victoria Coates, reigning Canadian 10,000m champion, was the first female finisher (in a time of 27:31).
In the last few hundred metres I heard a few people cheer for me by name, including Alasdair (what I heard was “Way to go bud!” but I’m certain that’s not what he said).
After the race, I found Alasdair, and we went inside to grab our things (there was a baggage check) and some post-race food, including a bowl of hot oatmeal. Yum. We stayed for the awards, and while we didn’t participate in the costume contest this year, we did participate in the “voting by applause” for those who got up on stage.
If you’re ever in need of fitness motivation, go watch a running race (or a triathlon), and stay for the awards. Watch the athletes in the oldest age groups be recognized for their accomplishments. At this year’s race, there were 2 incredible men in the 80+ category, one of whom beat me! They helped each other up the stairs and onto the stage!
Thank you Burlington Runners for another great race!
“What happened to your legs?” This is a common question I get after orienteering events! Sunday’s Don’t Get Lost Jungle Run at Mount Nemo Scout Camp in Burlington was no exception.
This was also the site of the Spring ARK Fest, marking the end of the Adventure Running Kids session in Hamilton, Stoney Creek, Burlington, Oakville, Milton, Kitchener-Waterloo and Niagara, so there were lots of people ready to have some fun in the woods!
The Jungle Run included 2 maps. You started with map 1, and 20 minutes into the 60 minute race you could pick up the optional map 2 with extra controls (of higher point value). In addition, there was a maze that you could find controls in, but only 4 people could be in the maze at a time. On map 1, there was an optional control called the “Killer K”. If you wanted to get this one, you had to do it first. It was a 1000m marked route (with bright tape). We planned to focus on map 1 (starting with the Killer K), and go into the maze if we had time at the end. We mapped out our route with highlighter, and then I measured it with string to see how far we would be running, and whether it seemed doable. It did. We wanted to find as many controls as possible, going for higher point value controls when we could, and not going over the 60 minute time limit (or we would lose 10 points/minute over).
We eventually made our way over to the starting point, where the pre-race instructions were just beginning. Then just before we were to begin, there was a change to the starting location (due to Scouts Canada rules), so the Killer K was made shorter.
The race began and we followed a big crowd to the Killer K. At times going uphill we walked, as the path was narrow and the people in front of us were walking. From there we had no trouble finding our next few controls. It didn’t take us long to realize that we had underestimated our abilities, and the “we’ll go for those if we have time” controls were added to our planned route. We mostly ran on trails, but did do some bushwhacking and running through fields or on gravel roads. We only had difficulty finding one control, and only because it took longer to get there than we anticipated. In the end we found 16 of 19 controls on map 1, including the finish line control. We realized during the race that we could have gone for 2 black diamond controls that we had originally thought were too far out of the way. We could have found them instead of other lower point controls.
Just before heading for the finish, we ran over to the maze to check it out. There was a line-up to get in, and with abut 7 minutes left in the race, we doubted that we would get our turn. I did get a turn – I was given a small map with controls marked on it (picture a 12 foot by 12 foot roped off area, with a maze inside). Controls were at certain points in the maze, and you had to find them in order: 1, 2, 3… up to 7. I went to where #1 was supposed to be, but found that the number on the control didn’t match. I went to another one and was very confused. None of the numbers seemed to match (confirmed by 2 other participants in the maze). Since there were only 3 minutes left and my partner wasn’t in the maze yet, I gave up! I handed my map back, and we ran to the finish line. Since there were 2 controls at the finish, we punched in at the exact same time, tying for 5th place out of 8 women in the open age category.
We ended up with 620 points in a time of 57:49, and had covered about 4.6 km.
After the race, we headed over to the Stoked Oats table, where Olympian Krista Duchene was manning the booth as one of the company’s ambassadors (the other ambassador was also a runner, Tyler Chacra). I chatted with both of them for a bit, sampled some oats, and took a bag home with me.
I had some gatorade, half a banana, and a few pretzel chips, then headed over to the Salomon Arc’teryx booth to check out the shoes and fill out a ballot for a draw.
Clearly my knowledge of Scottish history is lacking, as I had no idea that wearing a kilt could get you arrested in Scotland in 1746! According to the Robbie Burns 8k race website, “By decree of King George, Highland dress was outlawed by the passing of the Dress Act, with the intent of suppressing Highland culture. A first offence was a six-month in prison sentence; second offence was a seven-year exile to a work farm. The ban remained in effect for 35 years.” I have an excuse though – I married into a Scottish family.
I had low expectations for myself going into this race, given that I hadn’t run “fast” (for me!) in months, and instead, have been rehabbing multiple aches and pains through physiotherapy rather than pushing the pace. Last year, my goal time was 44 minutes and I beat that by 12 seconds. This year, I would have been happy finishing in 50 minutes.
We arrived at Burlington Central High School at about 8:30 AM for a 9:30 AM race start, with plenty of time to pick up our race bibs and small backpacks. Alasdair hadn’t even decided yet whether he was going to run or spectate (he’s also rehabbing aches and pains), but eventually made the decision to join in the fun.
Here we are in our kilts, all the way from Aberdeen, Scotland!
Prior to the race start, a band played some tunes in the gym.
During one of my pre-race bathroom visits, another racer asked me if I was wearing anything under my kilt – and then proceeded to lift it up to see! I didn’t even know this woman.
Alasdair and I headed for the start line, arriving with less than 2 minutes to go before the race started. The amazing 85 year old Ed Whitlock, who holds an incredible number of running records, and continues to earn more, counted us down to the race start.
It was quite congested at the beginning, but it didn’t take too long for things to space out. I did have to run around a couple of people as I went. I had no idea what pace I was running, but I wasn’t feeling any aches or pains, so I ran as hard as I could, knowing that I wanted to hold the pace for 8k. It felt hard, but when I saw a distance marker for the first time at 2k, I knew why! I was running a sub 5:45 min/k pace, which is much faster than I have run recently! I used a young girl as my pacer for a while, and hoped that I could keep up. I guessed that she was running with her dad and maybe her sister. Later I passed them.
I do like this race course, because it’s mostly flat or slightly downhill! One spectator yelled to me, “Nice kilt!” A runner caught up to me and said I was crazy to run with bare legs. They were cool, but not cold.
From about the half way point, I started doing mental math, estimating my finishing time and recalculating as I went. I knew that I would beat the 50 minute mark for sure, and wondered if I might finish under 48 minutes.
Somehow, I was managing to hold the sub 5:45 min/k pace. At around the 7k mark, the young girl I had been following passed me, and I told her that I had been using her as a pacer, but that I was sure she was going to beat me now, because I was fading. Her dad said “almost there!” There was a hill in the last 300-400m along Lakeshore Boulevard, but it’s not too steep.
I continued to push as hard as I could, and heard my swim coach Mat and Alasdair cheering for me in the last 100m or so. In the end, I finished in 45:31.2, less than 2 minutes slower than last year. I was pleasantly surprised with how the race went! Alasdair took it easy, but had a good race too.
Afterwards, I enjoyed a bowl of oatmeal and a pita with jam, as well as a cup of hot chocolate! There were also cookies and bagels on offer. A big thank you to the awesome volunteers, from check in to those standing in the cold (around -2 degrees Celsius feeling like -8 with the windchill) to those doing food clean up! Two young girls were super star volunteers, pouring water before the race, setting out food afterwards, then sorting through the things that could go into the green bin. They were super friendly and cute! I asked Mikaelle’s mom for permission to post her picture here, and she said yes. (Hi Mikaelle and Avery! It’s so great that you are already volunteering! I try to volunteer at races too, because I know that races can’t happen without volunteers like you! I even wrote an article with 10 reasons to volunteer at a race. Thank you for spending your Sunday morning making our race experience great! And Mikaelle, I love your t-shirt: “I’m not strong for a girl. I’m just STRONG!”)
We stayed for the awards and once again, participated in the kilt contest. We didn’t win!
It was a fun, very well organized race. We’ll be back!!
This was to be my 1st time running the Good Friday Road Races 10-Miler, put on by the Burlington Runners Club, but I wondered whether my right hip flexor was going to hold up…
At 6:30 AM my alarm went off, and by 7:30 I’d eaten my oatmeal and banana and Alasdair and I were on our way to Aldershot High School. The forecast was for a sunny 7-9 degrees Celsius during the race, but first, the fog needed to clear! It was so nice to even think about racing in shorts!! After a very short drive (no race is closer to home than this one!), Alasdair dropped me off at the high school, then went to park at LaSalle Park not too far away – parking at the high school was reserved for race volunteers. There was also the option to park at the Aldershot GO station and take a shuttle bus to the race start. Because of a calf injury Alasdair wasn’t racing, but I waited for him to return to the high school so we could pick up our race kits together. In the meantime, I people watched. We got our race kits (bib with embedded timing chip, a GFRR-branded toque, leaflets advertising other races, and sample natural health products, which are illegal, but we don’t all know the ins and outs of the Food and Drugs Act!) and then had lots of time to people watch some more.
A 1k Bunny Hop (a run, not a hop!) was to start at 8:50 AM, so there were lots of little people around wearing bib #1, and quite a few kids and adults wearing bunny ears. We spotted our next door neighbour, who would be running with his dad, and one of my soccer teammates with her husband and 2 girls, who would also be running. They were also participating in the 5k, with him pacing her! We went out to watch the Bunny Hop, which had the kids starting in “waves”, the oldest ones first and parents pushing strollers last. There were even Easter bunnies handing out chocolate eggs before and during the race! I wish I could run as fast as the race’s unofficial winner – 3:15 or thereabouts. All the kids got medals at the finish line.
We went back inside so that I could use the bathroom again, but with only 3 toilets for all the women (and kids!) there, the line-up was long (this is my only complaint about the entire race experience – opening up a bathroom in another part of the school, or at the attached pool would help!). After my turn, I went back to the end of the line, knowing I’d have to go one more time! Thankfully, the timing worked well – after emptying a tiny pebble from my shoe (that would have been annoying for the race!), I headed right for the start line.
We watched the 5k race start at 9:30 AM, and then walked to the 10-miler start line (not too far away). It was here that I learned we’d be running 2 loops of a 5-mile (8k) route – if I knew that before this point, I had forgotten completely!
I was glad to have grabbed my sunglasses, because just before the race was to start, the clouds began to clear! Alasdair wished me well, moved off the road, and less than 3 minutes later the race was on!
The race started downhill, but it wasn’t long before we were on the rolling hills of Northshore Boulevard, which also make up part of the Around the Bay (30k) race route (which we couldn’t run this year because of basketball conflicts). I didn’t have a time goal for this race, because I knew the hills would be tough and I wasn’t sure what pace I could hold. I knew that finishing in 1:30 would be an excellent time for me.
As usual, I started off too fast, with my first km done in 5:19. There were not a lot of spectators out on the course cheering, but there were lots of enthusiastic volunteers. On the first loop, I dealt with some side stitches, but they were never too bad. Close to the Royal Botanical Gardens was this guy, who suggested it was so easy we might want to do 3 loops. (This picture appeared in the Hamilton Spectator after last weekend’s Around the Bay, which he ran in – apparently he makes his own costumes and wears a different one for each race he enters. I wonder why the word “costume” appears on the bottom of the picture… as if anyone wouldn’t know?!)
Near the end of the 1st loop, I decided to have some gatorade at an aid station, and wouldn’t you know it, it was the one artificial flavour I can’t stand – orange! I downed it anyway, as I walked for about 10 seconds or so. I finished the first loop in 46:39, or about 5:49/km. I was not looking forward to doing the hills again!
Because of the course layout, Alasdair was able to see me multiple times during the race, which was nice!
The 2nd loop was unremarkable, really. My pace was slowing, but as usual, my legs weren’t the limiting factor – it was my cardio. I forced a gel down, though really didn’t feel like having one – I knew the energy may come in handy towards the end of the race! I ran for a while beside a man and a woman, and chatted a bit with them. There was a heavily tattooed man ahead of me, who every once in a while was taking walking breaks. But he kept looking behind him, and every time I narrowed the gap and got close, he started running again! It was actually good motivation to try not to lose him. I grabbed another cup of gatorade at the same aid station as on the 1st loop, and walked for a few seconds while I drank it. This race had mile markers and km markers, but I mostly just listened to RunKeeper on my phone talking to me at every new km I reached.
In the last 100m of the race, I got a high five from a kid and an adult, and then ran down the hill to the finish line. In the end, I finished in 1:35:46, and my hip flexor didn’t bother me one bit (it had been giving me trouble in the last week or so). I was happy with my time. Because I’d never done this race before, it was an automatic PB for me! Just past the finish line, I received my medal and a bottle of water, and then I walked a bit while I waited for Alasdair to get back to the school.
We went inside, grabbed some food (including chocolate eggs – yum!, fruit, bagels and jam, cookies, bars of some sort, and awesome Oasis juice!), and were just in time for the awards ceremony.
The race winner finished in a blistering 58 minutes! The top woman finished in 63 minutes.
Later, when we were leaving the school, I looked for my results posted on a board, but not all results had been posted yet. I did find them on one of 3 iPads they had set up under a tent though. Neat!
I highly recommend this race – it’s got some challenging hills, and for the most part is along quiet side streets. Everything was well organized, from registration to email communication by the race organizers, to race kit pick-up. There were lots of volunteers on the course, and police where necessary to control traffic. I’ll be back!