On Saturday, I drove to Huntsville, Ont., to race the Limberlost Challenge 56K in beautiful Muskoka. Located on the privately owned Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve, it’s a fairly challenging course made even tougher with the oppressively hot July weather. Neil Jefferson and his team of volunteers did a great job at organizing the race.
Using this race as a training run for the Haliburton 100 Miler, my goals were to maintain even pacing and practice good hydration and fueling. The race route consisted of a 14K loop (which I would repeat four times) with lots of technical singletrack and some steep climbs.
Rather than go out hard in the beginning, I settled in behind the three other early race leaders and took things easy. About halfway through the first loop, Les Walc, the eventual race winner, broke away from the group and disappeared down the trail. At that point, I figured the best course of action would be to just stay with our group. However, after another few kilometres, I recognized that our pace kept getting slower and slower, so I finally decided to break away and go on my own. By that point, Les was long gone.
On my second loop, I had to navigate around the large number of racers on the trail (there were 14K, 28K, 42K and 56K races happening simultaneously). With the narrow singletrack, and lots of runners to pass, I found it hard at times to keep up momentum. For the most part, people were courteous enough to let me pass quickly, except for those who were listening to their iPods cranked up loud (one girl was even singing along). During this loop, I also took a hard fall and landed on both my knees. I wasn’t moving too fast after that.
As the temperature got hotter and hotter, and my knees got sorer and sorer, I became less interested in chasing the leader and instead just focused on preserving my second-place standing. A few minutes into my fourth and final loop, I discovered that an aid station volunteer had broken the nozzle on my water bottle, so I had to keep stopping and twisting open the bottle every time I needed to take a drink (which was often).
Although I didn’t run a strong race, I still managed to finish in second-place overall. I now have 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes this year, so maybe I’ll finish 1st at Haliburton … or 5th.
Throughout my race, and then after I finished and became a spectator, I was really impressed with all the runners who dug deep to finish such a challenging course in this hot weather. While there were a number of people who dropped out (and with valid reasons), many more found the strength to carry on and finish their respective races. It was very inspiring to see them cross the finish line. I’m sure that everyone took a bit longer than expected to finish due to the heat.