Last weekend (Saturday, October 29th) I took a break from the bushwhacking and unfortunately missed the first two games of my senior hockey season with the Gander Flyers. This was because I commited to run a 23.5 kilometres trail race. It’s called the East Coast Trail Ultra Marathon. The event is in its third year and gathered about 90 participants this time around. It begins in Pouch Cove and finishes at the Inn of Olde which is located in the Quidi Vidi Gut. To finish the race you actually have to run in through the door of the pub and show them your bib number. It is quite the overwhelming, yet unique entrance to the tiny but cozy establishment. Especially after punishing yourself on the trails for at least a couple of hours. I felt disoriented and despite crisp brews and hot chilli awaiting, needed to step outside and cool down my gummy worm-like legs before I had a taste and a swally.
Your options for the race are to run the whole 50 k of the course solo or split up in a three person team and do it relay style. I chose the latter because I have not done much running over the last few years and typically just never run anyways. Long hard hikes through the wild with a 90 pound pack is painful at times, and I usually curse on myself, but this event was gruelling. I had done about 10 practice runs in the two months leading up to the event but they were all 8-12 k and a far cry from the near 24 I had to pull off on this fall day. I have to fire much respect towards the individuals who plugged in the whole 50 kilometres. That is an amazing feat and definitely something I would love to tackle in the future. They should all give themselves a solid pat on the back.
In total, there were 56 solo runners registered and 12 teams for the relay portion. This is quite a large number for only its third year of operation and obviously shows the continual gaining of interest for this race. I was signed up for the relay portion with Nancy Wadden and Tory Greey. We were team McMuffin and finished 5th out of 12 teams, it was a blast! I also completed my 23.5 k in a time of 2 hours and 19 minutes. This actually felt more like 30 or 40 kilometres given the terrain crossed. It was tough but so nice to be running our scenic coastlines on a crisp and clear Saturday. Being a huge lover of time spent in the woods, I felt this was just another reason to be in there and also get some SERIOUS exercise. For the relay the three portions go as follows:
Pouch Cove – Flatrock : ~15k (Nancy)
Flatrock – Middle Cove: ~12k (Tory)
Middle Cove – Quidi Vidi: ~24k (Me)
At the end of the day I highly recommend this race for anyone who wants to challenge themselves in the company of nature. As our locals know by now, these trails are beautiful and a great way to spend time in the outdoors. Most people I know have touched some part of the ECT system over the years. Hiking is the general way to experience their beauty and is very sufficient and relaxing. But running them brings a whole new feeling of adventure to their existence. It is much different than a road run. It is mentally and physically engaging. You cannot let your guard down. The trails are littered with drastic changes in elevation and dangerous footings such as roots, rocks, mud and rivers that you always have to be aware of. If you do decide to give it a try sometime, make sure you have proper footwear that provide plenty of traction. Another hint of advice would be to do it with a friend and also be familiar with the trails. Go to the ECT website www.eastcoasttrail.ca to scout out your route. Bring water and a snack as well if your are just easing into it. Make it enjoyable at first so you will go back for more. And if you are really feeling it, try signing up for the ECT Ultra Marathon for 2017, there is no better way to push yourself to your limits.