I first participated at a Fat Ass race in 2011, running the 17.5 km course. At that time I was slowly converting my scrawny legs from road to trail, and my lungs were still used to running monotonous speedy miles with very limited undulation changes. As I write this report, I actually laugh out loud looking back into my own voyage and seeing an obvious evolution of perspective of what I would consider a “hill”.
Fast forward 8 years later and I’m towing the line at the Badass 6 hour. The course is 7.5 km. The premise of this race is very simple. Run as many loops as you possibly can in under 6 hours. Only full loops count.
2019 was a flux of curveballs, and I ended up peaking in November, haha! This sport has taught me some invaluable lessons of resiliency and easygoingness. It’s forced me to accept what is in my power to change, and moreover surrendering to all other uncontrollables. When I do this, I can hone in on what I have to work with in the given moment on the given task at hand… this has also taught me that success has absolutely nothing to do with finishing times or race paces or podium victories… it’s about knowing you dug as deep as you possibly could’ve in the moment, with all heart and mind, utilizing your current energy capacities, and executing your max effort.
So anyway, I strategically toyed with some paces, and zeroed in on a plan to run 9 loops. I knew it was a pace I could hold comfortably. I also knew it would take a lot of mindful restraint to hold a slower pace than usual for the first 30 km. I wanted to make certain that my fluids and fuel were in order so I could speed through feeding zones efficiently. Making this a priority paid dividends given the time between moving time and stoppage time was 6 minutes total. That’s under 45 seconds per loop. That also included 2 bathroom breaks!
Batawa skill hill is a beautiful place. Given its a ski resort, the main chalet can accommodate a lot of people, and it gives loved ones a place to hide from the unpredictable weather this time in November. Batawa got hammered with a snow storm days before the race weekend, and to make matters even more interesting was that the hill was already making snow for the season, and adding mounds that looked like individual mountains before the start. haha.
I always love the vibe of this race. It’s history is quite remarkable on what started the saga. It’s message is very simple. Inclusivity is the main purpose. In fact, rather than award ceremonies they give gifts to the runner that comes closest to guessing their finishing time. Furthermore, I won the event and received a Fastest Ass award which was a homemade decorated cookie… This race is all about people of all kinds of abilities sharing the beauty of nature and trails together. Now I have to be honest, yes I like to have fun out there, smiling is mandatory, cheering others on makes me feel good, however, my goal was truly to blast a result into the record books.
One of my favourite things about races are the moments before the start. I like observing people around me. The nervous ones, the adrenaline ones, the cool hand Lukes, the chatty Charlies, the quiet introverts, the calculators, the jokesters… there’s many other categories, haha, but these seem to be the most dominant. Aaaaaannnd we’re off…
The snow making machines blew just enough powder that nobody knew where the course was actually heading. “oh this is going to fun”. I ran around a few mounds, and headed straight up the west side of the ski hill. There’s nothing more challenging than a ski hill. Wait, yes there is. A ski hill that is glare ice. yup. Volunteers had some great seats to a Hollywood film watching people trip, crawl, hobble, scramble, scream, curse, fall, struggle to the top. After you got up this mound, you were treated with a moderate progressive incline for another 400 metres. Good thing is, after you’ve summited this ice beast, you really have no other major climbs for the entire 7 km. I found the loop was exceptionally zippy. After the summit of the ski hill, you run a massive descent on the backside of the hill, and it sweeps into a flat and flowy single track section; you move through a beautiful birch forest, and then the course takes you off the main ski trails and into its own out and back loop. This is so brilliant for a race to recognize how to avoid mass bottlenecks out on course at one time. The 10 km and 50 km race, for example, are on a separate course that does not even mesh one time with the 7.5 km, 17.5 km, 25 km, or the BadAss. This out and back is wildly speedy. There’s one hill descending down into a forested section, and then you hit the uphill on the way back out of the section and back on the main ski trail that takes you back to start finish area.
There are 2 aid stations perfectly spaced at 4 km and 6.5. ish. I always find I never use the zones because I’d rather have my own cooler packed with fuel and fluid precisely how I intend to use them after each 7.5 km loop. I have a few handhelds already filled, and later in the race when I’m hungry and lazier, I throw my Salomon vest on for storage and comfort.
I was pretty even keeled throughout the first 5 loops. Averaging around 37-38 mins. With ample cushion for the goal output. actually, I was feeling so fluid and economically agile, that I ran the first 50 km in around 4:15… after this mark, my body went through a massive lull in energy. I ate a sandwich with jam and banana that just didn’t sit right, and my energy plummeted. I felt flat for the entire 6th loop. But I got a second wind seeing Erin (race director) at the transit cheery as ever, and I always find that even a warm smile can turn the tide in a favourable direction. Although I was in a rut, my mindset was the elixir. I know if I maintain a happy go lucky attitude, the hiccups usually subside. I felt pretty good for the 7th loop. I was well ahead of goal pace. I had a solid 10 minute cushion. The 8th loop was by far the toughest, fatigue was setting in, I questioned my ability to maintain this pace, and my cadence dropped off its natural rhythm. I was psychologically fading. Then I’m pulling up with a generous 8 minute cushion looking up at that massive ski hill for a 9th time, saying to myself, this is what you signed up for, let’s go to war. yeeeeehaaaa. One more time over the top, lactate was definitely not flushing like it had previous loops, haha, as my body was on high alert for hitting the stress threshold ceiling. I smiled fiercely, and I grittily fought to focus on my form and running relaxed and repeating mantras of confidence. I was so happy to see that final aid zone, knowing I had a nice little transition from one side trail to the finish.
I was met by the race director as we high fived as he placed a delicious cookie in my hand. haha. 9 loops (67.5 km) in 5:55. Perhaps because I’ve never done an hourly timed race before, I absolutely treasured this result. Also sacred, it’s very rare for a race to actually go precisely as you predicted it. Ultras are as formulaic as the weather network. You can usually have a good gist on what to expect, how you’ve planned or prepped, your anaerobic base, etc. However, when the gun goes, hours later, your body can sometimes have other plans for you. Successful Ultra runners are ones that understand how to be pliable, flexible, adaptive, and adjust their pace or strategy to meet the reality of circumstances or their potential in the moment.
Some standouts from this years race. The amount of photos that were taken on course was unquantifiable. Sure you had to scan through hundreds of photos, but when someone is doing this free of charge, I just think the world of this photographer. Registration fees for anyone whom doesn’t know, are the best in the world. Yes it is a no frills race, you don’t get a medal or a race shirt with registration, but what you do get is a one of a kind experience in November for runners who refuse to conclude the season. Plus, racing in winter has so many benefits that the summer overshadows. For starters, you never overheat. Secondly, because of this factor, you don’t require near as much water. Thirdly, l always love the feeling in my lungs breathing in the winter air. It’s sometimes sharp, but majority of times simply invigorating. Winter makes me feel so alive. It also shows you how small you are. Humility is a virtue for gods. When you realize how utterly small and insignificant you truly are in comparison to mother earth’s power and magic; it sweeps your ego from the confines of your head and into the world of abundance. In this spaciousness, I am most grateful, happy, fulfilled, and at peace.
in closing, the volunteers are the staple to any organizational competence at a race. I always find the people that help out on this day to genuinely love and care for your goals, treating it like they are the actual ones running. Furthermore, Race Director Erin Mcdougall is an exceptional human being. I respect and admire his cheery disposition, his calming effect, and his good nature. If you are on the fence whether one more race for the season will make your life any richer… the answer is simply YES… it will… you must run this race… I bet you’ll return also… see you next year! Happy trails…jp.forest.runner