The Limberlost Trail Challenge – Race recap
Warning: this is going to be long, but you should expect that by now. If you want a short recap check out my review on bibrave.com
Well there’s no better place to start than the beginning. Josh and I were actually taking a summer vacation, which is rare because of his work schedule. We toyed around with traveling many places, as I do not care to get on an airplane. We landed on visiting Canada and the Toronto area. Of course, when you are us you also search for nearby races, which lead us to The Limberlost Challenge, north of Toronto.
After a busy Independence Day, we left the states on the afternoon of July 5th. Our first stop was in London, Ontario. We had no issues crossing the border between Detroit, MI and Windsor, ON. We crossed on the same bridge that is used in the Detroit Marathon.
July 6th – we left in a decent time to get to our next destination – Bracebridge, ON. The drive was uneventful, but there was A LOT of traffic. The scenery was similar to what you might see in Iowa, crops and strip malls.
Bracebridge is a charming little community. We stayed at a hotel along the river, where just outside a small riverboat does evening cruises. This river also has a cool little trail that allowed me to continue my run streak. We also did some exploring around the area and eventually found a “mom and pop” style restaurant to load up on the carbs, Bill’s Pizza was the perfect place.
Our race prep continued with a trip to the Wal-Mart where we purchased 2 bagels, peanut butter, a banana and the bag to put it in. We then made it back to the hotel as we needed to get some sleep. I am not gonna lie, I was nervous. I was going to attempt my longest distance race ever, a 56k, and I was kinda sorta worried I would get eaten by a bear.
Gear: Adidas boy shorts, Mission Athletic shirt, Orange Mud Endurance Pack, Trekz Titanium, Gatorade Endurance, Rudy Rydon sunglasses, Hawkeye Hat, Brooks Ghost 10, Zensah socks, Coros Pace watch, Moving Comfort bra
July 7th – RACE DAY!!! There was no expo, and only race day bib pick up. The race was on the Limberlost reserve, which was another 45 minute drive or so. We could have camped at the location, but no thanks.
We were encouraged to carpool as there was only so much area for parking. We arrived in time for a great parking spot. There were also port-o-potties set up in the area with a hand washing station.
We walked over to bib pickup. It was under a giant tent, that would serve as race day HQ. All we had to do was give them our names and then we received a bib with timing strip, and had to go pick up our shirts. They were a soft cotton, short sleeve, gender specific shirt, and while the design was the same on each, each distance was a different color.
We had a little time to get our things together before the mandatory pre-race meeting at 7:35. I was able to use the bathroom and spray myself down with deep woods Off. Yes, we were encouraged to bring bug spray.
I would be starting the 56k at 8 AM and Josh would be behind me in the 28k at 8:20. There was also a 14k race which would start in waves after that. Each loop was 14k.
It was time to line up and as luck would have it, I actually lined up next to someone I knew from twitter. We had been discussing the event the week before, and as I searched all morning to find her, we lined up right next to one another. After a few words with Kristi, it was time to start.
The beginning starts on the gravel road into the reserve, it’s not very long. Then the course takes a left and you are into the woods. This is where I became a little nervous. There were quite a few people at the start, and it was a little bunched up. I knew I wasn’t going to be fast, so I was near the back with a bunch of chatty people…but they were all interested in loudly telling their story among themselves. I just wanted to get into a groove.
I some how managed to just be running near people, which was better, but then some older men came behind me and a one asked “do you have back and knee pain?” Seriously, if I wanted a running gait analysis, I would go to a running store. Plus how can you judge a running gait on uneven trail surface?
Then the 28k front runners started to pass. While on unfamiliar trail this really caused some weird anxiety thing. I was just over it. I even went back to look at my heart rate monitor and while I was running more than my other loops, my heart rate was high during this time.
I was now in my head, I did not want to be running this event. Every footstep I heard approaching from behind stressed me out more, I didn’t want to ruin someone else’s race, as it was hard to pass in some of the single track.
Ok, I will talk about the course. It was in and around some lakes, the terrain was always changing. There was spongy forest ground, roots, giant rocks, boardwalks and even some grass sections. The elevation was always changing as well. My watch stats had over 3,500 ft when I was done. The views were beautiful!! The awesome weather and gorgeous scenery really helped get me through.
There were 2 aid stations on each loop, in addition to the start/finish area. The aid stations were stocked with many volunteers. They had water and Heed, which is not my favorite electrolyte drink. There were pretzels, cookies, potatoes, watermelon slices and bowls of salt. There were a few other snacks, but as the day went on, they did eventually run out of things. There were port-o-potties here too.
Ahh I finally came through on loop one. I checked my watch, it took me 2 hours and 15 minutes. I needed to make it 3 loops by 3:30pm, so that is 2:30 hours per loop. In my head I was thinking I now had 2:45 hours for my second loop, however I was also toying with just quitting after the second loop. That first loop didn’t sit well……
After a mile or so in another runner passed me and chatted some encouraging words, something to the affect of “the worst has passed.” I just kept moving forward and following the orange flags. I was also hoping for Josh to catch up to me and maybe he could finish his second loop with me.
The trail was easier to navigate the second time through, I knew what to expect, even though it did seem like a different trail each loop. I managed to get to the finish/start area of my second, but I lost time it took me just over 2:45 on that loop, I wasn’t gaining and would need to do my next loop in exactly 2:30 to continue to the fourth loop.
I did pause after that second loop after some water and a potato to look for Josh. He never passed me and I was worried about him. We did not have international data or phone service, there was no way to contact him. I also had a minute to chat with the RD about not finishing the 3rd loop in time, he was saying that 2 loops are the equivalent of a marathon. I was also losing time, so I didn’t quit and set out on my third loop.
I set in behind some women who were chatting. They were feeling optimistic they would be back in time for their fourth loop. On this loop I knew there would be no way I would make that fourth loop, so I changed my plan and took it all in. This change was when I began to enjoy it all.
I stopped to take photos, I walked A LOT! I ran when I wanted. The next thing I knew I was back behind the chatty women. At this point in the race it was nice to be near someone as people were very spread out and for safety reasons. However, they were annoying, carrying on a loud conversation about their job, even though I had my Aftershokz.
The beauty of the Limberlost reserve is awesome, I am glad I took the time to enjoy.
Eventually another man was behind us. He was on his last loop, but was moving just as slow. Somehow the man and I passed the chatty ladies, and we struck up a conversation. It was nice to take my mind off the climbing through the woods. He was telling me about these crazy Spartan races he does in a 24 hour time frame. It’s not just running but obstacles and what not… and here I am barely getting through 3 loops.
He stepped aside to take a dip in some water, so I pushed on to the end of the loop. The course was all marked in km, and I swear that last km was longer than a mile, it never seemed to end.
I came across the finish line 35 minutes too slow to head out on the 4th loop and I was happy with that. However, when I did cross that line, the volunteer who put a medal around my neck got to hear me say that I did not finish my race. They didn’t want to hear it and said I got a medal. I was mostly ok with this as those who ran 28k also received a medal.
I saw Josh… he had finished his race too and was there to see me run 42 plus km. YAY we had made it.
I wandered over to the post race food. There were a variety of home made salads, apples, grilled chicken, bread for the chicken and a bin of waters and sodas. I don’t care for chicken but loaded up on the salads, which were excellent!!
Josh and I chatted about our races. He sounded defeated, but it was the toughest race he had ever done. I told him that his 2 loops were like running a marathon, and that he did great. He also described the same feeling I had on my first loop, the uncertainty and anxiety.
It was getting late, so we said goodbye to the Limberlost Reserve. We hit up a Tim Horton’s for some celebratory Timbits, and arrived back to the hotel for some hot showers.
Before I carry on about the rest of the vacation, I would like to recommend the Limberlost Challenge to everyone!!! I don’t have trails like this around here, it really challenged me in a way that makes me feel like anything is possible. The price is right, especially since it’s Canadian dollars. The scenery is just awesome!! Also, there were no bears! I know that if it had rained, I might not have liked it as much, but it didn’t.
I also have thoughts about my DNF. Yes, I did not run 56k. I came to peace with that on my third loop. Was I in over my head, perhaps, but I am proud of what I did and even prouder that I did not quit. I also ran a marathon, which gives me 3 marathons in the last 4 weeks. I am sure I learned something along the way too. People rarely talk about slow times or failures, but I will always be honest and celebrate the non victories.
That night we loaded our stats to Strava, and I know I had an overall time of 8:05, but my stats on Strava say 6:31, which I think has something to do with moving time only.
Alright… back to the vacation. We found a little Irish pub in Bracebridge for some post race drink and eat. We were able to sit outside and enjoy the little community.
July 8th – Whoever thought a run streak was a good idea, should reconsider their sanity. The day started off with a mile… OUCH!
Before departing Bracebridge, we stopped at the cutest breakfast place, Nick’s. Even meeting fellow Iowans who vacation there. I also gave the peameal bacon a go.
With the help of google, we were back on the road and headed to Wasaga Beach. It was a touristy little beach town in the middle of nowhere. We were lucky and found a place to park, and even found a sliver of sand to take a break on.
The day was slipping away and we needed to be in Toronto to meet our Airbnb host. Back on the busy road we went, finding our way into a parking spot just before 5pm.
We had a room on the 37th floor of an apartment building with a view of the Sky Dome and CN Tower. After some chatter with the host, and a warning about the toilet alarm, we went to the waterfront for dinner.
While we didn’t have an international phone plan, every time we would log on to wifi, our twitter feeds would contain Canadian advertisements. Let’s just say they worked as we ventured to the grocery store that evening to grab a bag of Coffee Crisp candy.
July 9th – Tourists in Toronto! I also warned you this was going to be long, so thanks for still reading.
After a run along the waterfront, we ventured to the top of the CN Tower. We were able to get a 360 degree view of the city.
We made it back to the ground and needed some food, we thought we would check out the nearby brewery, but they only had pub pretzels and one beer, a pilsner. So, we decided we would find another place… World of Beer!
This began all the “schelpping” around the city. I made sure to keep my Garmin going all day. We had some trouble finding the location, so we stole the wife at a nearby Starbucks (pro tip) to check the map again. (also once your map loads on GPS, you can turn off your wife/ data and it still works)
We found the place and ordered some craft beers and lunch. It was nice to take a break. We stole more wifi and googled the nearest running store, which took us to our next stop and eventually a new pair of running shoes on clearance – Canadian priced!!
From there wer continued our walking, we saw the Hockey Hall of Fame, but it’s strip mall location made it appear less prestigious, so we skipped a tour and then walked to the Distillery district. After more walking around here, it was time to get back to our apartment. Traveler’s tip – find the place to purchase light rail cards, before boarding the light rail…oops, thanks for the short, free ride!
I was exhausted when we returned. Keep in mind, days before we had just run a tough trail race. My Garmin walking stats had 7 miles of walking through the city. That evening I had a meeting via google hangouts and we enjoyed some takeout. We also had to find out what the Kinder Surpise was all about.
July 10th – Niagara Falls!!
We were hitting all the spots on this vacation, we couldn’t go all this way and skip the Falls. We arrived mid morning, and the place was full of tourists even though it was hot and sunny.
We took all the pictures and ventured back into town where I made sure we went to Niagara Brewing. We were able to sit outdoors and have a view of the falls while we ate. We also had a view of the town which looked like the Vegas strip – lights and signs!
We had to go explore, and we ended up at an arcade collecting tickets on skee ball. After redeeming them for ridiculous prizes, we walked back towards our car, taking in more views of the Falls.
Another full day of being a tourist, it is hard work. Lots of walking!
The day ended back in London, ON. Vacation was coming to an end.
We googled places to eat, we were not satisfied with the chain places near the hotel, even though they were Canadian chains. I found a burger joint in some neighborhood. Josh was skeptical, however after he saw my scallop burger and devoured his buffalo burger, it was his favorite place ever!! Plus they had poutine.
July 11th – It was time to continue the journey back home. A day on the road. We stopped at a liquor store before we crossed the border to grab some Canadian beer. I was kinda nervous as the internet and people tell you different things of what you can bring back.
Minutes later we were at the border crossing, and after declaring the beer and my new shoes, which didn’t seem to be an issue, we were back in Michigan. Which meant back in cellphone coverage. It was nice being off the grid.
It was an uneventful ride home, switching drivers here and there, grabbing coffee and snacks, listening to bad radio. A typical road trip…
There is so much to see an do, whether you like to fly or drive, just get out there and explore. You never know what you will find.
Now… to find a new adventure.
OK… SO I need to pay to have more room for pictures on my blog, or delete old ones… so for now you get these broken photo links… IF you are FB friends with me you can see more vacation photos there. #sendmoney