Last July (yes, this is a long overdue post) a handful of BRC runners ventured up to Collingwood to participate in the North Face Endurance challenge.
I would highly recommend this race to anyone looking to get out of the city, and attacking some challenging trails. You can choose 5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon, marathon relay, the marathon by yourself, 50k, or 50 mile (80k).
On a bright note, one of our teams finished 2nd in the Marathon Relay category!
This is how a few of the others found the race to be.
Before the North Face Endurance Challenge at Blue Mountain I had never raced on trail.
I have been an avid road racer since 1990, the last 10 years specializing in the marathon distance. Over the years many non-runners and some runners have asked what I aspire to do next. The triathalon or maybe an ultra marathon? My response has always been that I have no interest in these events, I want to run a fast marathon. This is a true statement. I look to excel in this one discipline. Of course this is a very subjective goal. I’m not sure what a personally fast marathon is, but I feel that when I run my peak marathon race I’ll know it. Although I am narrow in my athletic focus I’ve always had the idea that my ultimate future would be trail racing even though I’d never tried it.
This summer Dave, the leader of the Beaches Running Club messaged the group about possibly traveling to Blue Mountain to compete in the North Face Endurance Challenge events. Rachael, a member of our club and one of our few avid trail runners, promptly messaged that anyone going could crash at her cottage. I saw it as a great opportunity to try a trail race and entered with some fellow club members in the marathon relay.
Race day came and we arrived full of nervous energy. I got a lot of racing tips from Rachael so I had some confidence that I would get through it, but I really didn’t know how I would perform. I wore my ‘grippiest’ road shoes and lined up to race the first loop of the 4 loop relay.
Since it was my first race I lined up at the back of the back. After the gun sounded to start the race I quickly discovered that your race pace is dictated by the runner in front of you. The trail is narrow and there is no jockeying for position! Patience is forced on the runner at the start of the race and any passing is done either by the runner in front yielding or by waiting for the trail to widen to make your move. As the race continued I learned that patience is a close second to fitness level in skills required to succeed through the entire race. Reducing speed on hills and technical portions of the course are mandatory so that you will be safe and have the energy and speed and to tackle the areas of the course that allow you to make up time. I ran 2 loops of the course.
As this was my first trail race I have no point of reference so I’ll give my take-aways from the marathon relay:
- Trail racers are extremely friendly and helpful. There is a lot of attention paid to the safety and well being between competitors and from support staff.
- A 10km loop isn’t necessarily 10km. If you are a GPS watcher don’t bother! It makes me feel a little silly as a road racer fussing over a road course being 45 meters too long or short!
- The Blue Mountain course is very technical. A smart race is a fast race. ie. there is a good chance that the competitor that you passed who was walking will end up beating you to the finish!
- The race has friendly volunteers and the water/refreshment stations are great, but you may want to carry water it it is hot humid day like we had this year
- Post race support and events were second to none. Good food, good crowd.
- It is fun speak with the tourists staying at the resort after the race. They truly don’t know what is going on!
- I got by with my road shoes because the course was relatively dry but I will be investing in trail shoes before the next race. (yes, there will be a next race)
North Face, Goretex and all the sponsors along with the amazing volunteers combined to put on a great race weekend. I’ll definitely return to improve upon my performance and finally, I think that there may be a future for me in trail.
- Well supported in terms of aid stations. Who doesn’t like candy & chocolate?
- The course was well marked making it virtually impossible to get lost or confused
- The amenities before the race: Bagels, PB & J, water, electrolyte drink.
- Running (on in my case, walking) up a mountain.
- In all seriousness, this was one of the hardest races I’ve ever done. Even a marathon doesn’t feel as mentally tough as this was.
- I’m glad I did it, and I would do it again, but not anything more than 10km. Kudos to all those that ran further.
If you enjoy trails you will want to sign up for the North Face Challenge in Collingwood. The course has several very steep hills with mild elevation gain but plenty of space. Aid stations were well stocked and the expo and set up in the village was a great addition. I did the marathon relay and would absolutely do it again.