Race report: The Beav 25k trail race 2019

The 2019 edition of The Beav 25k trail race put on by Happy Trails kicked off a big weekend of racing for me, with a 25-30k adventure race on the schedule for the next day (Don’t Get Lost Raid the Hammer).

To avoid my right knee acting up (which I’ve been doing physio for since the Falling Water marathon), I set a blanket down in the gravel parking lot and rolled my quad out, then used a massage ball on my IT band.

Pre-race with Rebecca.

This race starts and ends at Hilton Falls Conservation Area in Milton. It’s a mixture of Bruce Trail, Bruce Trail side trails, and other trails just outside the conservation area. There is single track trail, double track, mud, and very technical rocky terrain, with potentially lethal drop-offs (not quite as dramatic as that sounds)!

In fact, this year’s race occurred during the legal bow hunt and shotgun hunt, so pre-race we were warned that if we were wearing a hat with antlers on it, we might want to remove it!

Rebecca and I decided to run the race together. Neither of us wanted to go too hard knowing that we had another race the next day!

[Photo by Sue Sitki Photography]

After a bit of a conga line at the start of the race (climbing the biggest hill of the entire course), runners spread out quite quickly, and Rebecca and I were running alone at times. At 4.5k we hit the first aid station, and at 8k the second. There were lots of sweet and salty snacks, water, Skratch, and other drinks. From here we set out on a 9k loop on the Beaver Dam trail.

Such a pretty forest! The fallen leaves made rocks and roots hard to spot, but we managed to stay upright.

Somewhere around 10k, Rebecca began pulling away from me. It was getting harder and harder to keep up. I could see her ahead for quite a while, but eventually, I lost her.

One of my favourite parts of the course is the single track section in this loop, which looks like it would be super fun to ride!

When I returned to the aid station at the end of the 9k loop (and 17k into the race), Rebecca was there waiting for me.

At some point I accidentally kicked a rock and my calf very briefly cramped.

[Photo by Sue Sitki photography]

We ran the rest of the race together. At the final aid station (also the 4.5k aid station), volunteers were making s’mores on a campfire for runners, but at that point I just wanted to keep running. I would have loved one after the race though!

As one runner said near the end of the race, “hardest 3k ever”. It’s amazing how far one kilometre can seem when your legs are tired and you just want to be done! In this section, my right calf started cramping off and on.

In the last 500m of the race, we climbed a stile.

We were so close to the finish line! My left calf decided to start cramping too, but my right calf went crazy in the last 200-300m. I managed to continue running and hit the finish line in 3:13:55, a little more than a minute faster than the 2018 race.

Awesome race hoodie and race medal.

The post-race cup of noodle soup went down nicely!

Race course starting and ending at Hilton Falls Conservation Area.

I was relieved to not have knee issues during the race. I felt it briefly at 14k, and that was pretty much it!

Thank you Happy Trails for another great race!

Race stats:

  • Time: 3:13:55
  • Placing women 40-59: 17/66
  • Placing all women: 26/90
  • Placing all runners: 75/162

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Race report: Happy Trails Tally in the Valley Gong Show trail race

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!

The gong [Photo by Sue Sitki Photography]

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.

Pre-race with the gong

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!?

[Photo by Sue Sitki Photography]

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.

[Photo by Sue Sitki Photography]

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!!

Neat race. I’ll be back!

Race splits

  • 47:44
  • 48:42
  • 51:42
  • 55:06
Race swag! Awesome tiny whistle, buff, and t-shirt.

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Race report: Inaugural Rugged Raccoon 25k night trail race 2019

Before I started orienteering I never would have run through the forest at night in the dark by myself! But a couple of years of practice doing short weeknight races, and despite – or perhaps because of – the occasional scurrying sound or glowing eyes, I have become less frightened of things that go bump in the night (or maybe more tolerant). So when I saw that Happy Trails was putting on the inaugural Rugged Raccoon 25k night trail race, I didn’t hesitate before registering.

I arrived at Wildwood Conservation Area in St. Mary’s with plenty of time to pick up my race bib (and whistle!), very cool race top, change into running clothes (I had come from basketball spectating), and chat with other runners.

Just before 7:30 PM, we had a short pre-race meeting.

Last minute instructions. [Photo by Sue Sitki]
Putting my phone away for the last time. [Photo by Sue Sitki]

And then, the race began! I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to run before I needed my headlamp. This was a pretty small race, with only 92 runners in the 25k distance (there were also 5k and 10k races). Runners were given the option of starting an hour earlier if they didn’t think they could finish within the 3 1/2 hour time limit, so less than 92 people started at once.

The race began on park roads, but we quickly hit the trail, and once there, the crowd had already dispersed and I was running with a very small pack of runners. The trail would go all the way around the lake! The course was very well marked. Only a few times during the race I wondered which way to go, but I quickly figured it out.

My approach to this race was to take it 5k at a time, or essentially 1 aid station at a time! The four aid stations would be fully stocked with all kinds of yummy goodies, but sadly, my stomach had been feeling “off” since the day before the race, so I wasn’t able to take advantage of any of it! Not the quesadillas, not the ramen noodles, not the pancakes! I decided to stick to my Endurance Tap (maple syrup). Given the paucity of food I ate the day of the race, it’s amazing I made it to the start line!

The clockwise route around Wildwood Lake.

I ran with my waist belt so I had my own water with me. I didn’t expect to drink a lot, but wanted to be able to drink whenever I wanted to. The first aid station was just before the 5k mark, but I had no need to stop there – I just threw out my Endurance Tap garbage as I went by.

The trail was quite pretty, with lots of ups and downs, and even more MUD! Wow was it ever muddy. We were encouraged to run right through it to avoid widening the trail or damaging it. I was glad to have tied my trail shoes tightly – the mud threatened to suck them right off my feet!

Just before I got to the 10k aid station, the sun was really beginning to set and the sky was looking very pretty. I debated getting my phone out to take a picture, but decided my legs wouldn’t be happy to have to start running again!

[Photo by Sue Sitki]

This aid station was fun – the volunteers were playing music and were very enthusiastic! Once again, I ran straight by it, just dropping my garbage. At this point, I crossed a bridge over the lake, and as I entered the forest again, I wondered how much longer I would be able to manage without my headlamp. It was in this section too that I caught the last glimpse of another runner for quite some time. Turns out just after 11k, I turned my light on, worried that I was going to trip on a root or a rock.

In the back of my mind I kept telling myself that the last 5k would be the easiest, or so we were told. I would believe it when I saw it. As it got darker out, I was able to see headlamps bobbing in the distance across the lake, from where I had come from – that was quite neat. I heard some noises in the woods around me in this section too, but never did see anything.

I could hear people at the 15k aid station before I could see it, but eventually I caught a glimpse of a headlamp in the distance. As the volunteers spotted mine, they cheered for me. Once again, I dropped my garbage there and kept going. At some point, someone in the woods having a campfire told me I was doing a great a job.

As my legs got more tired, it became harder and harder to run through the mud – it took more effort to pull my feet out of the sticky, deep mud! Thankfully though, I managed to stay upright! Even though it was pitch dark at this point, it was very easy to follow the race route, because there were glowing markers hanging from trees.

It was around 16k that I finally saw another runner when I overtook two women walking. I knew that my friend David would be at the 20k aid station, and I knew that when I hit that one, I would be on the home stretch! I walked a bit more in this section, sometimes on hills that at the beginning of the race I would have run! I reached the aid station, and had a small glass of Skratch (sport hydration). It was so good. David helped me safely cross the road, and I was on my way to the finish! I was relieved to discover that this last bit was indeed the easiest part of the course. There was less elevation gain, less roots and rocks, and flat park road at the end too. I passed another couple of runners here, but couldn’t quite catch one that I could see up ahead of me (let’s be honest – I didn’t even try!).

I was only slightly disappointed as I approached the finish line that the race course was only 24k – I was happy to be nearing the end! As I ran down the finishing chute, which was lined with lights, I had great cheers from other runners who had already finished, and from others who were volunteering or were there with other runners. It was a great way to finish!

There was mud.

After watching a few more runners finish, I changed into dry, warm clothes, grabbed my mug, and went in search of hot chocolate. It seems it was all gone, but I made myself a mug of chamomile tea, and thoroughly enjoyed it as I drove home. I also ate one plain pancake before I left, and then nothing until the next day (I was not hungry). So glad my stomach is finally back to normal!

This was a great race and I look forward to doing it again next year! Thank you Happy Trails!

Race results:

  • Time: 3:08:05 (7:32 min/km)
  • Placing women 40-49: 3/3
  • Placing all women: 15/45
  • Placing all runners: 50/92

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Race report: The Beav 25k trail race

As a friend said to me the other day, “Do too many trail and adventure races and you will never go back to the road”. I’m most definitely hooked. I did my very first pure trail race in the spring of 2017, the Sulphur Springs 10k (as opposed to an adventure race with a trail running component, or an orienteering race in the woods). Then this spring I stepped it up and did the 5 Peaks Kelso trail half marathon. So when I searched for a fall trail race, The Beav 25k trail race at Hilton Falls Conservation Area put on by Happy Trails Racing looked enticing! Good thing I registered when I did, because this brand new race sold out long before race day! I hadn’t been to Hilton Falls in years, so I did a couple of my training runs there. The rest were on the Bruce Trail in the Dundas to Burlington area – varied terrain, but lots of hills and challenging rocky uneven ground. I figured it would be great training for Hilton Falls.
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Pre-race. First snow this fall. [Photo by Zindine S, who also volunteered at the start/finish]
On race morning there was snow and ice on the ground, and a temperature of -13C with the windchill. I worried that if I had to stop and walk I would freeze dressed as I normally would for running at that temperature, so I added another layer. I knew 5-10 people running the race, so I was pretty sure I would see some friendly faces as I ran. At 9:30 AM the race began. It wasn’t too long before I was on a single track trail, going the pace of the person directly in front of me. It was a slow pace, no faster than a walk at times, and I heard one woman comment, “I could do this pace!” This big pack of runners continued pretty much until we climbed the steepest part of the course, and then things spread out. At this point, I was already overheating so I took my extra layer off. I should have dressed as I always do in that temperature! I ran for a couple of km’s with triathlon friends, then continued on my own. I was careful as I ran over rocks and bridges, because icy conditions had “wipe-out” written all over the place. Amazingly I stayed upright and only kicked one root or rock the entire race!
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One of the more rocky sections of the course. [Photo by Sue Sitki]
I hit the first aid station at 4.5k, and the second just before 8k. They were well stocked with cookies and salty goodies of all kinds. I loved the reusable cups for water, which I made use of to wash down my Endurance Tap. I grabbed a small handful of M&Ms and learned the hard way that they are a bit hard to get through without water – I felt like I had chocolate and candy coating stuck in my teeth for a while! At this point, runners headed off for 9k of trails before returning to the same aid station. Photos by Chris L, fan extraordinaire: During some parts of the race, there was 2-way traffic, so I got to see many of the people I knew in the race, and many other familiar faces that I have seen at other races. I’ve never been in a race where so many people said, “way to go!”, “great job!”, “nice work!” etc. Trail runners are very friendly and encouraging people! I even got a mid-race high five from a random runner. At times I was running completely alone – I couldn’t see a soul ahead of me, or hear anyone behind me. It was very peaceful and pretty in the forest.
IMG_7419
One of the easier parts of the course.
Just before I hit the aid station after the 9k loop (and after about 17k of running), I had another Endurance Tap, and washed it down with water. I decided to try my first ever mid-race pickle. I grabbed a few chips, chatted with a volunteer and Jeff one of the race directors, who told us that the “worst was behind us” (except for what was in front of us).  I headed out, running for a few km’s with a man whose name I didn’t get. I liked that the race felt like it was split into different segments. Mentally it was easier to deal with 25k this way. After I left the aid station, I knew I would reach another one in just a few more km’s. At 20k my stomach was very unhappy for a short time, so sadly when I reached the last aid station, I opted out of eating a s’more prepared by the awesome volunteers at a fire near the falls. I continued running after grabbing some water, and it wasn’t long before my stomach was fine again. My hamstrings and calves were starting to feel a little bit tight, but I wasn’t concerned.
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Somewhere in the last few km’s of the race – still smiling! [Photo by Sue Sitki]
At around 24k or so, I had to climb a stile (ladder over a fence). I played it safe by descending it backwards on the other side of the fence! Then I ran the final few hundred metres to the finish line, crossing in a time of 3:15:13.
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Done!
I had a great first 25k trail race experience. I even ran a little faster than I expected to. The race was super well organized, the course was very well marked, and the volunteers (standing around in the cold for us) were fantastic!
IMG_7427
Check out the race hoodie! So comfy!
Thank you Happy Trails Racing. I’ll be back! Race stats:
  • Time: 3:15:13 (7:48 min/km)
  • Placing women 40-59: 19/66
  • Placing all women: 33/88
  • Placing all runners: 85/156
  • Elevation gain: 322m
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