Last weekend I had the pleasure of participating in the Conquer the Canuck Race series. The series was revived this year and the planning for next year has already begun! Fortunately for me, I declined the urge to practice some self torture and chose to run the short 8.3km course, but there were other day races to choose from; for those who felt up to the challenge. These included a 25km run, an off road marathon, and a 50km ultra marathon. All of these races paled in comparison to the 2 day ultra marathon, consisting of a 50km run one day, followed by a marathon the next. Not for the faint of heart!
When I arrived at the beautiful Shade`s Mills conservation area; which was less than 45 minutes away from my Mississauga home, I was immediately impressed with the location. I pulled into the large parking area, set aside for us and walked into a well organized race headquarters. It was hard to tell that this was the first year back for this race! Right on time, Tony the race director started his pre race briefing which consisted of the usual information about trail markings and what to watch out for, and introduced his guest speakers. The two waves of racers started right on schedule. Tony knew his course well and thoughtfully had a guide take us through the first mile of the short race which took us through a the day use area That probably would have been a nightmare to mark off properly. Once we got on the trails, the race was everything that the web site hyped it up to be. Lots of undulating heavily forested terrain with a few steep hills, switch backs, and rocky trails thrown in there to keep things interesting. I found myself running alone for the majority of the course and the trail was marked well enough to confidently keep me on course for the entire run. They also had two well stocked aid stations on the route, strategically placed so that the long course runners would see an aid station every 3 kms. By the time I finished my run I could not be sure if I felt sorry for the poor souls who had signed up to run another 4 laps of that loop or jealous that my race had ended and that they were able to enjoy another 3 hours of that trail network. Once I crossed the finish line itself, my longing to continue running was quickly forgotten when they handed me my medal, goodie bag, and complementary bottle of raspberry merlot! I hope they had a cork screw on hand for those hardy runners who gutted out the two day 90k ultra. If I was one of them, I probably would want to open the bottle and drink it right there! Fortunately; for my wife, I brought my bottle home and shared it with her that night. Great wine!
All in all; a well run race, with ample volunteers, a great location, a wide variety of race distances to choose from, a good course which was not too intimidating for a beginner but with enough tough spots which would prove challenging on the 5th or 6th loop, and only a short trip from the GTA. Looking forward to next year!