For the past four years, I’ve travelled back to my home town of Ottawa, Canada, with my now 5-year old daughter to spend the first half of August with my family. It’s precious time for me and Saskia – and for my parents, too, I like to think, even though we descend upon them like a two-week-long burden…
Last year, after Googling trail races in Ontario and Quebec, I quickly signed up for a 30km race in the nearby Gatineau Park, run by Canada’s favourite sports store, Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC). Other distances were also offered and it didn’t take long before my Dad, two aunts, two uncles and two cousins also signed up for the 11km, as well as two other family friends who ultimately had to withdraw for health reasons. We had a belated Christmas dinner (yes, in August…) the night before the race and another family meal following the race. It was an awesome day in the Gatineau hills and a very special moment to have my family there cheering me on as I crossed the finish line.
There was as such no doubt in my mind that, schedule permitting, I’d sign up for the 30km MEC race again. And I was thrilled when my Dad, aunt, uncle and the two family friends who were unable to race last year, all agreed to do the 11km event again too!
We skipped the pre-race indulgence this year but gathered once again post-race for a well-deserved extravaganza (thanks to my Mom and daughter who manned the home front while the rest of us raced up an appetite).
Into its third edition (I think…), the event was better attended and even better organized than last year. The course was altered somewhat at the last minute due to all the rain in Ontario this summer and ultimately clocked in at 27.5km on my Garmin. Race day offered perfect, not-too-hot weather and it was once again awesome to have family and friends at the start line to cheer me on as the 30km race departed at 7:45am.
I was even able to get a video of the start (thanks Aunt Linda!).
My legs were in good shape from the get-go and I had a lot of fun on the trail. The course only had about 600m of vertical, which meant that it was quite flat compared to the terrain I’m used to running – and therefore needed to be run at a faster pace. This was the first time I’d done a race with an out-and-back portion and I loved being able cheer on the leaders as we crossed paths and encourage participants behind me when it was my turn to head back.
Based on last year’s experience I was expecting a few more water stations than I found on the course, but one arrived just as I was starting to worry that I was going to run completely dry.
I was very pleased with my race and with my pace. Around the 24km mark I started to feel my muscles a bit and thought it might be a good idea to scale back my pace somewhat for the last few kilometres (since sometimes these things can be longer than announced). Had I known we ultimately weren’t going to go all the way to 30km, I would have dug a bit deeper (and managed a top-10 finish!), but that is part of the game and I was still very happy with my race.
I finished twelfth female in 2:55, which was substantially under my anticipated time of 3:30. Most remarkable of all, though, was the difference with last year when I finished in 4:15 (granted on a course that was 2.5km longer, but that’s still an hour faster when you factor in the change in distance)!
But, like last year, the best part of my race by far was crossing the finish line to cheers from my family who had finished the 11km race a few minutes earlier.
Special kudos go out to my Dad who realized on the way to the race that he had forgotten his running shoes, but decided to do the 11km in his sandals instead! He was only a couple of weeks away from departing on an 800km Camino trail walk and this was not the time to get blisters. Luckily, he didn’t (…and he came in first in the over 70 age group!).