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!
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.
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!
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).
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.
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!
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.
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!!
After the race, it was time for some well deserved food! Yum!
Placing: Unranked, since we were a team of 2, but had we been a team of 3 females, we would have been 2nd! Woot!
When I first heard about the Gong Show at the Happy Trails Tally in the Valley trail races at Dundas Valley Conservation Area, I thought it was a pretty neat concept – run a 7k loop at the sound of the gong, and continue to run the same 7k loop every hour on the hour as long as you can complete the loop within the hour. The last one still running after 24 hours wins – or if there is more than 1 runner to start the final loop after 23 hours, the first runner to complete the final loop will be the winner. Essentially, run for 23 hours and then sprint the last loop – crazy!
My plan was to get a long training run in, and to hopefully run 4 loops within the time limit. This was also the goal of Rebecca and her friend Victoria.
I had never run this 7k loop before , so all I knew was that it was hilly, and that 2k would be a slight downhill along the Brantford to Hamilton rail trail. This made it a little hard to estimate a pace that I could comfortably run it, while having time to rest between loops and not tiring my legs out too quickly. I should also mention that it was a very hot and humid day!
At the same time as the Gong Show, other races would be going on – a 7k race, and 6, 12 and 24 hour races!
The race began, and about 40 people in the Gong Show and many others in the other races started running. There was congestion right away as we climbed a hill, but then runners spread out over the next kilometre or so.
I walked the steep hills, and ran the rest. It was definitely hilly and hot, but thankfully there weren’t any bugs biting. I finished that 1st loop with 12 minutes to spare. I had a freezie, water and electrolyte, used the portapotty, tried to wash salt out of my eyes and then waited in the tent where Gong Show runners had to be when the gong was struck – or you’re out!
The gong sounded, and we were off again! This time, it was obvious who was doing the Gong Show, since we all started running together. There was even a guy wearing a rhinoceros costume (raising money for conservation). Did I mention it was hot out!?
On the 2nd loop, I appreciated the few cooler areas of the forest much more, as the day’s temperature continued to climb. I finished the 2nd loop with 11 minutes to spare, spending my time as I had after the 1st loop, and eating some watermelon and energy balls from the aid tent. The freezies were the best!
During the race I met Chantal Demers, who I learned is the current record holder for the Fastest Known Time for covering the entire Bruce Trail (for women): 12 days, 15 hours and 14 minutes (which she did in 2017)!!! Amazing! She would go on to win the Gong Show.
On the 3rd loop, I slowed slightly, finishing with about 8 minutes to spare. I knew that I had just one more loop to go. I couldn’t imagine doing that for 24 hours! I enjoyed yet another freezie, downed water and electroyte, and relaxed for a couple of minutes before heading out again.
I started the 4th loop knowing that I could complete 7k, even if I had to walk! It had been several weeks since I had run more than 21k, but I knew I could run 28. The hills seemed steeper and longer on this last loop. In the end, I finished the 4th loop with just under 5 minutes to spare. Had I been running longer distances lately (and not been worried about hurting myself before some upcoming big races), I know I could have done another loop within the hour.
But 28k was enough for me that day! After the race I had my 4th freezie of the day (!), as well as a few salty treats from the aid station. I guzzled water and after sitting in the shade for a while to cool off, I headed out. Both Rebecca and Victoria completed 4 laps too.
Kudos to the runners who made it much further than me, and to those who won!!
Having cheered on riders of the Paris to Ancaster 70k bike race many times in the past, I was well aware of the potential variability of late April race day weather – from sunny skies to rain, snow, wind and mud – and lots of it. But I never quite appreciated the mud chute at Mineral Springs Road in Ancaster – my usual spot for watching – until I did the race myself!
According to the race website, “The 70km course consists of 24km of gravel and dirt roads, 5km of farm lanes, 19km of rail trail, 14km of single track (1-3km sections) and 8km of paved road.”
I paid $20 for the bus shuttle, so that I could get a bus to the start line (with my bike going by truck) and have my car waiting for me at the finish. On race morning I looked at the weather forecast (below zero at the start), and added layers to my original clothing plan. I scrapped the idea of wearing shorts and went with long pants. I also added a headband and my jacket, which I had hoped to do without.
With more than 2 hours to kill at Green Lane Sports Park in Paris before wave 4 was to start at 10:30 AM, I chatted with other riders, and made multiple trips to the portapotties. As the start time neared, I realized that I was overdressed.
With the bang of multiple guns shot by people in period costumes, the race began! When the announcer (Steve Fleck) became inaudible after the gunshot, people joked that the speakers had been shot.
After the first few of the 600 riders in our wave began (the biggest P2A wave ever), other riders had the inflatable starting arch fall onto them as they rode under it. It was quickly righted and I didn’t hear about any injuries (just one damaged bike – hopefully a minor issue and they were able to race!). After a short section of gravel road, the route followed the Grand River along the Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail.
From there, we rode a combination of gravel and paved roads, off-road sections including dry rail trail, wet and muddy trail, gravel farm laneway, single track dirt trails (some incredibly muddy), and wider dirt trails with varying degrees of mud. Overall, it was a less hilly route than I expected. Since I don’t have an odometer on my bike, I had no idea how far I had gone. My phone was tracking my progress, but it wasn’t accessible. I asked a few riders during the race, but I also knew that the aid station at the 35k mark would be the one sure sign of my progress.
There were several sections of the course that were memorable!
Ditch and then 1st real mountain biking off road section (at 15k)
Just after the 15k mark, I was riding along the edge of a road when I encountered congestion as everyone got off their bikes and walked. It was soon clear why. I needed to take 5-10 steps down into a ditch, and then up the other side. With wooden skids at the bottom and tons of mud, it was completely unrideable.
Then after getting on my way again, I entered the first real mountain biking off road section, a single track bit through the woods. I loved this section, but this is where I totally understood a conversation I had overheard before the race about “avoiding other riders”. In this section, which was a little less than a kilometre, I likely would have been able to ride through it completely (or nearly!) had there not been people all around me. Partly I was very conscious of not wanting to get in people’s way, and partly I didn’t want to end up falling. At times I had to unclip and walk, because it was very muddy and other riders would stop dead in front of me when their bikes got stuck. Granted I did the same thing at times. In any case, this was a fun section of curvy trail through the woods.
Muddy trail more like a rail trail (at 29k)
I’m not sure quite how to describe this trail, other than to say it was wide enough for at least 2 riders to travel side by side, but it was dirt, straight, and very very muddy. It presented me with the deepest, thickest mud I have ever biked through before. Many people were walking, but I decided to take full advantage of being clipped into my bike (still very new for me on my MTB!), and to push hard through this section. I was by no means going quickly, but I was pushing as hard as I could to stay upright! At times my tires would get sucked into ruts and I was sure I was going over, but somehow I managed to lean or push harder and continue. I had to announce my presence a few times to make sure the walkers knew I was coming through. I had one guy following right behind me, and when we emerged from the mud (which had to be close to reaching my pedals!) he said to me, “Nicely ridden!” That felt awesome.
Harrisburg aid station (35k)
I hit the Harrisburg aid station sooner than expected (1 hr 40 minutes on my watch). My legs were feeling good, my energy was good, and the race was so far easier than I expected it to be. I texted my husband and parents to give them a heads up that I might be coming through sooner than expected. Ha!
I had a quick pee break, then stopped to add water to my gatorade, but the container was empty and the next one looked like nuun, so I scrapped that plan (I still had lots) and headed off.
Stomach pain (40k)
Yet again, I suffered an unknown stomach pain that comes out of nowhere. It’s rare that I feel it on my rides, and it’s only ever when biking, but it hurts like crazy and makes bumps unbearable. It feels more like a muscle cramp than a GI issue, but it’s frustrating because not knowing what’s causing it makes it hard to prevent it! I sometimes wonder if it’s a posture thing, but I’m affected on both my road bike and MTB bike. I suffered until about the 65k mark, though it eased off gradually so it wasn’t super intense the whole time. It did make me slow down in this section though.
Heading West instead of East at the 403 (47k)
Just before the 47k mark, we started heading West instead of East – this was slightly hard psychologically because it made it feel as though I wasn’t as close to the finish as I thought I was. We crossed under Highway 403 and headed East again.
Crossing Highway 52 (65k)
At all other intersections on the race route, police held up traffic and I just sailed through. But Highway 52 is a busy road, and so I waited for 5-10 minutes to be allowed to cross. There was a group of 20 or so riders by the time we crossed.
Mud chute at Mineral Springs Road (66k)
This section runs from Highway 52 to Slote Road, and while the beginning part is rideable (there are houses and it is driveable), the later part is not. This part of the road is blocked off with big cement blocks, and is overgrown with trees and bushes. I’m sure you could ride this section if you were one of the very first people passing through. But by the time I got there the mud was way too thick to ride. As I pushed my bike along, mostly downhill, it accumulated so much mud and vegetative matter that my front wheel wouldn’t even turn. My bike is not light, so carrying it was not an option, though I did have to keep lifting it slightly to change angles. It was tough slogging!! I heard my husband cheering for riders (walkers?) then saw him, my parents and my daughter. My mom had been waiting patiently for me with a little container of pure maple syrup – but I had no interest in it, despite having given it to her to bring to the race!
I spotted a lineup of riders waiting for their bikes to be hosed down – yes, during the race! We weren’t at the finish yet. I decided to wait, because I had no idea how I’d be able to ride my bike otherwise. While waiting 10 minutes or so for my turn, I picked out as much of the sticks and mud as I could. My dad said that next year, they will be there wearing gloves prepared to help people clean out their bikes! I’ve seen muddy bikes coming out of that section before, but this was crazy!
I said goodbye to my family and headed up the Slote Road hill. In my training I’d done all the gravel roads in this area quite a few times, so I knew what to expect until I reached the Powerline Road mud chute.
Powerline Road mud chute
The top part of this hill was rideable, but then… forget it! Another super thick muddy section that I walked down. I attempted to keep my bike out of the mud as much as possible. Didn’t I just get my bike washed 1-2k ago?!
My only fall in this race was on Martin Road before the final hill, on another very small hill that was super muddy. I fell – in slow motion – into a thick pile of very cushioning mud. As I started pushing my bike up to a more level spot, another rider fell in front of me, with his bike landing on top of him – he was still clipped in. I asked him if he needed any help extricating himself from his bike, which resulted in laughter around me. He was fine.
Martin Road hill to the finish line
I had 2 goals for this race: 1) to finish! and 2) to successfully climb up the Martin Road hill, which is how this race ends. Part of this dirt hill is a 17% grade. I rode the hill in training, after about 30k on area roads, and wondered how I would manage it after riding 70k. In fact, it went better than expected! I knew the hill, and knew that once I did the steepest part, the rest would be easy. I never felt that I was in danger of losing momentum and falling over or having to unclip. And since almost everyone around me was walking, I got great cheers from the crowd, and from one enthusiast spectator in particular – thank you random stranger! It helped get me up the hill!
From there it was a very short ride to the finish line (at the 73k mark!), which was rather anticlimactic. I asked a woman to take my picture, then I decided not to get a bike wash given that I had somewhere I had to be later that afternoon, and after getting into the food line-up, I scrapped that idea too because there had to be 100 people in front of me. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that they were handing out P2A medals inside, and I missed out. I’ve never been in a race where you had to go elsewhere for a medal.
I really enjoyed this race, except for the part when my stomach was hurting. Thankfully, the wind wasn’t too bad, and I wasn’t too warm despite being overdressed. Despite thinking at the half way point that I might possibly finish under 4 hours, this was most definitely not the case. Next year! Because yes, I’ll be back!
Thank you P2A for a great race, and to the landowners who allowed us to tear through their properties – I thanked every person I saw who looked like they might own the land I was riding on, including the farmer on his front porch!
This year was to be my second time participating in the Don’t Get Lost Raid the Hammer Adventure Run, again with my teammates Rebecca and Alasdair. We arrived at Ancaster High School for the “Half Raid” just before the “Full Raid” participants headed to the buses to be taken to the starting point. We registered, got our maps, t-shirts, and an SI stick, and grabbed a table in the cafeteria to read the course description and plan our route.
This would be a point to point race, in which we were bussed to the start at Christie Lake Conservation Area, and had to make our way back to Ancaster High School, while finding a number of checkpoints along the way. The fastest team would win, since all checkpoints were of equal value, and there were no optional additional checkpoints to find. At one point in the race we would have to find 3 of 6 checkpoints in an area, and in another, 1 of 3. There was some strategizing involved here, but unlike some other orienteering races where checkpoints are worth different point values, and you might choose to go for the higher value checkpoints even if you will exceed the allotted race time and incur penalties (because you’ll gain more points than you’ll lose), that approach wasn’t an option for this race.
After the pre-race briefing, we took a short bus ride to Christie Lake Conservation Area.
And then, on Meghan’s shout of “GOOOOOOOOOOO!” we were off. In this first part of the race, the “Scramble”, we had to find 3 of the 6 checkpoints in any order we wanted. We headed for #3, along with the majority of the 50+ teams. Ditto for #4. We then went for #6, when the majority seemed to go for #5. That was our first mistake. We missed the trail for #6, turned around, and while running back looking for the trail, lots of people who had just found #5 passed us running the other way. We found the tiny trail, not very visible due to fallen leaves, and found #6.
Checkpoint #7 was the first one that all teams had to find. Then it was the “Gnarly Run I” trail run (2k?) to #8. I decided early on that this course would favour strong runners (as opposed to strong navigators), as the navigation was minimal. In the “Run DMC” section, after finding checkpoint #8 (at a trail junction), we had to go to either #9 or #10 or #11. Before the race, we planned to go to #9, the closest one to #8, but it would involve a bit of off trail navigation. However, when the time came to actually look for the checkpoint, we couldn’t decide where to leave the trail and start bushwhacking. A spectator said to us that in the time we spent discussing our approach to #9, we could have been to #10 and back! So we scrapped the plan for #9 and headed for #10, which involved no navigation and instead was a simple 800m trail run. Mistake #2 was the time lost in this section. We punched #8 again (as required), then started the “Gnarly Run II” section, a 1.5k run to Governor’s Road.
We passed a pond on the right side that I used to visit as a kid with my family – we called it the “Frog Pond”.
After checkpoint #12, we headed for #13, which was the aid station. We punched the control, but opted not to stop at the aid station, since we had all the water and snacks we needed. We did discuss quickly whether we should stop in, in case it was mandatory and there was a gear check, but we decided not to.
To reach #14, we could either run along a trail which would take us away from the checkpoint and then back to it, or bushwhack a much shorter distance across a creek and up a steep hill. During our pre-race planning, we opted for the trail run. When we reached the point at which we would bushwhack if we wanted to, we looked at the creek, agreed that we didn’t want wet feet and that the climb looked steep, and kept running! However, one of the junior teams did the bushwhack and beat us there.
We easily found checkpoint #15 at the top of a very steep hill, at which point we were passed by one of the “Full Raid” teams. Sigh. It was after leaving #15 that we somehow took the wrong trail, and before long, the terrain in front of us didn’t match what we were expecting on the map. Turns out we went the wrong way and had to backtrack. Mistake #3.
It was quite a distance to #16, the last checkpoint before the finish. And yet again, we ran past a small trail, likely invisible due to fallen leaves!
It meant that we climbed up the last steep hill – further along than we should have – up to the grass, ran along the grass to where we thought the checkpoint would be (at which point the photographer said to us, “Try to get along team!”), had to climb down the hill to the checkpoint, and then back up the same hill! Mistake #4.
From there it was an easy run along the grass to the high school, where we could see the finish line from far away. In the end we crossed the finish line at 2:23:02, and ended up 34/52 half raid teams (excluding the junior teams, who were in a separate category). We had covered 15km.
We enjoyed the post race snacks (smarties!) and free lunch from the food trucks (Johnny Blonde and 50 Pesos).
Such a great race! Next year, I’m hoping to do the Full Raid!
Remember that aid station that we didn’t stop at? Well, at Adventure Running Kids a couple of days later (where I volunteer as a group leader) I found out from Meghan that at some point during the race, the aid station volunteers were in contact with her to say that 2 teams had yet to check in at the aid station – including Kyra. Meghan said not to worry, that she was looking at me at that moment eating my lunch! Oops!!!
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…