Reading the course description for the 5 Peaks Rattlesnake Point Enduro Course (12.7k), I had visions of non-stop rocks, roots and hills. Thankfully, it didn’t turn out quite like that!
After arriving at Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area in Milton and picking up my race kit, I sat in my van and read for a little bit. But I was so tired, I decided to nap in the back! I’ve never done that pre-race before. I was afraid that I would sleep through my 2 alarms, but thankfully I didn’t. However, when I woke up, there were no fewer than 40 people in line for the portapotties! In fact, by the time I got through the line-up (the 2nd time), I had missed the wave 4 start I was planning to join. It didn’t matter – the race organizers were trying to spread people out to avoid bottlenecks on the trail, so I just started in the next wave (we were supposed to choose a wave based on our 5k time).
The race began and we set out on the grass, then on a trail which turned into a rocky, root-covered disaster waiting to happen. You definitely had to pay attention to every step. Runners were clumped up for a while, but eventually everyone spread out.
Having given blood 5 days prior to the race, I wasn’t expecting too much of my cardio. My plan was to just “run” rather than “race”. I was tempted a few times to stop and take pictures of the pretty views, but opted not to.
I enjoyed the variety of the route, which included boardwalk, single-track, hills, and of course plenty of rocks and roots. I only kicked one, so I fared well. There were sections that were quite steep, and some that were too rocky to run up (in my opinion!).
At one point, after power-walking my way up a steep, very rocky section, I caught another runner and passed him, at which point he said, “What, did you take an escalator up or something?!”
For a while I ran and chatted with another runner, but eventually passed her. There were a couple of aid stations on the course, but I was carrying my own water so I didn’t need to stop. The 5 Peaks series is now cup free, so you have to carry something if you want water at the aid stations. Some runners carried very small reusable cups.
In the end, I finished the 12.4k course (according to my Garmin) in a time of 1:34:37, or 7:27 min/km.
In the line-up for food, I heard a runner ask the volunteers if they had any mustard. “For your orange?” one asked? Nope – he said it was good for lactic acid build-up and he just eats it on his own! That was a new one for me!
Time: 1:34:37 (7:27 min/km)
Women 40-49: 29/64
All women: 64/165
All runners: 196/324
This was a really well organized and run race – I’ll be back!
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
The night before the 5 Peaks Kelso trail 1/2 marathon, a wicked wind storm blew through the area with winds over 100 km/h, making me wonder whether we would be racing at all! Halton Parks had closed all of their parks during the storm, including Kelso, and I wasn’t sure they would be open in time for the race. But on race morning, it seemed that it was all systems go!
I arrived at Kelso with lots of time to pick up my race kit (including very nice 5 Peaks winter toque) and get myself organized.
There was a short pre-race briefing, where we found out that the course had been changed slightly due to downed trees, and that others had been removed, while still more may require us to climb over them.
There were just over 100 runners in the 1/2 marathon, and when the race began, we all started at once (no waves). This was my first trail 1/2, and just my second trail race (I did the Sulphur Springs 10k last May). With my legs still tired from the Paris to Ancaster 73k race just 6 days prior to the Kelso race, I wasn’t quite sure how they would do!
The race starts with a climb up a ski hill, which also included the most mud we’d see on the course. I ran the beginning, but on the steepest parts, many of us walked.
Once at the top, the route followed many of the mountain biking trails through the woods, dirt covered, with some more technical rock and root covered sections. While the pre-race briefing included the statement that the trails are “mostly flat” on top, my legs would disagree!
The course was quite pretty, and well marked with tiny flags. At one point, I very briefly went off course, but quickly realized my error – I hadn’t been watching the flags! At the beginning of the race, I was in a small pack of runners, but as time went on, I lost the pack and ran near just a few runners. This was a “no waste event”, so runners needed to carry their own cups or water bottles. Aid stations had water to fill them up, as well as some cookies and gummy-type chews.
Near the 4k mark I kicked something and went flying, falling on my butt, but thankfully I wasn’t injured. Because of downed trees, there were sections where we really did have to climb over big tree trunks.
Near 12k, I was passed by the leaders, who were just 2k from the finish line. The course wasn’t a 2-loop course, but we did run some sections twice. I continued to get passed as I descended the “Snakes and Ladders” trail, stepping off the trail briefly to let the speedsters pass (the trail would be super fun on a mountain bike!). After descending the ski hill, I had to climb it again! My legs were most definitely tired! At times I wondered how I would run 21k.
Somewhere in the last 5k I stopped briefly at an aid station, really hoping they had oranges – they didn’t, but they did have an orange flavoured chew. I ate it, though I hate anything orange flavour other than oranges!
I passed an injured runner who had 2 other runners with him. I asked if someone had gone for help, and they replied that help was on the way.
In the last several kilometres I walked more of the uphills than I did earlier in the course. I hit the finish line and was very glad to be done! What a tough course. I’d like to try it again on rested legs.
Post-race I got the oranges I was craving! There were also bagels, bananas, cookies, and maybe more. This race was really well organized and run. I will definitely try another 5 Peaks race.
Milton is where it all began for me in 2010! It’s where I did my first triathlon, so the venue has special meaning for me. It has been a few years since I did the Subaru Triathlon Series Milton sprint distance at Kelso Conservation Area (other than as part of a relay), but with Multisport Canada’s elimination of some early season races (Woodstock, Belwood), I needed a race before Ironman Syracuse 70.3 in two weeks.
Alasdair would be cheering me on from the sidelines, with his thumb not quite ready for a return to racing.
It was clearly the first race of the season, as I forgot to pick up my timing chip and get body marking done after getting my race kit (swim cap, food band, t-shirt, product samples). Thankfully, I remembered while setting my stuff up in the transition zone.
We had to be in the park by 8:30 AM, despite my race not starting until 9:45, because the try-a-tri took place first and race organizers wanted to avoid cyclists and drivers on the same park road.
I was in the 4th of 5 waves, and was thankful for the in-water start (as opposed to running into the water when the race started). There were lots of rocks, making for some very ungraceful entries into the lake!
I lined up for the swim behind a couple of rows of people, and promptly got kicked in the head by a guy as the race began. It was pretty congested for a bit, but then things got better; however, there was still more contact than I would have liked. One swimmer in front of me was wearing shoes! I’m pretty sure that’s not allowed. In any case, my swim went okay – it was predictably slow, since I haven’t been swimming nearly as much as I should be. However, I did fairly well on the navigation side of things (clearly this orienteering business is paying off – ha!).
I struggled to get my wetsuit off, and then realized that I should have had a towel to stand on. The gravel parking lot meant for very messy feet, so I also struggled to get my socks on. As an added bonus, I was a bit lightheaded. I put on my helmet, race bib, and cycling shoes, grabbed my bike and headed for the mount line.
I set out on the bike course feeling pretty confident, knowing that after the one massive hill on 6th line the rest was pretty flat and fast. And then I encountered a whole bunch of rollers, and realized that the course was hillier than I remembered it to be! In any case my ride went pretty well. The roads were drying and the rain held off. I didn’t really have a time goal for the bike, but hoped I could maintain a pace in the high 20s. I knew early on that I wasn’t going to be able to reach a 30km/h average, but in the last 10k, which is more downhill than up, I decided to see how close to it I could get. Turns out I averaged 28.85 km/h in the end. Not bad.
I racked my bike, removed my helmet, changed my shoes, put on my hat, and headed out for the 7k run.
The last time I did this race, the run course was quite different. It left the park, crossed Campbelville Road and went through Hilton Falls Conservation Area. Now, the course stays entirely within Kelso, going first through (hilly!) campground areas, then along a path and finally along the main park road. We had heard from try-a-tri athletes who raced before us that the path was very muddy, but when I reached it, I realized that the people saying this hadn’t run the Sulphur Springs 10k last weekend like I did – now that was muddy. I was pleasantly surprised with my pace on the run. I kind of liked the course, with 3 out and back sections meaning that you got to see other athletes multiple times. I got to cheer for my friends Emma and Kristin who were both ahead of me.
The last 1+ km were pretty much downhill, so I tried to pick up the pace at the end. My average pace was 5:52 min/km, which for me is an awesome pace considering I didn’t feel that I was working that hard for it. Yay for progress.
I crossed the finish line in 2:06:40.2. I’m pretty happy with how it went, considering it was the first race of the season. Lots of room for improvement!