On Sunday November 13 I participated in my first proper trail race, the 6 hour BadAss run part of the Fat Ass Trail Race in Batawa, ON. This is a 6.5km course you run as many times as you can in 6 hours.
(I’m sorry this report is long I tried to trim it but failed, I like details okay!)
I first heard about the race from a Twitter friend (@erinmcdougall)when I was tweeting about wanting to find a 25k trail race to run in prep for a 50k next Spring. It wasn’t one I had heard of as it’s a small race located in a small town. I was instantly intrigued as it was the only local(ish) trail race that had a date that worked well for me. Also, since it was still a ways out in terms of training, the 6hour was looking mighty tempting.
I put out the word on the Burly Facebook group about this race to see if anyone was interested, quickly had a few people commit so I knew I’d run this, it was just a matter of picking between 25k and 6 hours. 25k seemed like a smarter choice but 6hours was real tempting. What finally pushed my decision was when the race organizers announced the first 30 to sign up for the 6hour would get a free hat. I needed the hat.
Flash forward to Saturday, myself and the 4 other Burlies who were registered to run carpooled out for the 2 hour drive to Quite West. Our first stop was Tri & Run Sports in Trenton where we picked up our race kits. Myself and two other Burlies would be running the 6hour run the next day. Our kit was a black BadAss scarf, a Fat Ass soup mug, a GU gel, travel Dove body wash, a piece of halloween chocolate and of course, the BadAss hat!
The two other Burlies who would be participating in the distance races had registered with the no-swag option (only 20 bucks!), otherwise they would have received the same soup mug we got.
Done at Tri & Run (after lingering to look at everything, and pet their dog!) we decided to make a stop at the ski hill before heading to our AirBnB. Two reasons, so we could check out the hill, and so we’d know our route the next morning.
We got to the ski hill and after consulting the Strava of runner from last year were relived to learn we would NOT be running up the actual ski portion of the hill. That thing was STEEP. We found the trail path up to the side of the ski runs which looked much less like we would die. Relief.
We then drove over to the AirBnB, checked the place out (bedrooms and bathrooms galour!), got our stuff inside and chatted for a bit before heading back to Trenton to get dinner. We had a reservation at Tomasos where we would be meeting up with Erin from Twitter along with his wife, and 2 neighbours one of whom would also be running the race the next day.
Tomasos is an Italian restaurant which worked perfectly for me as it meant I got to have my now traditional pre-race chicken parm. I then decided I also need apple crisp for dessert, yum.
After dinner we headed back to our AirBnB and got ready for the next morning before heading to bed.
I was a little worried heading into this race as I didn’t feel as rested as I should have on Saturday morning. I think it was lingering result of maybe pushing it a bit too hard up some hills on my run the Sunday before. I headed to the pool Saturday to see if I could shake that out, after 500m I felt like I needed to stop and headed into the hot tub to try to relax and stretch out the stiffness. It did the trick and I felt fine afterwards!
So Sunday I woke up just before 6 after a decent sleep, got ready, had my two slices of toast with peanut butter which I’d been eating through this cycle and then had a banana just before leaving.
A few minutes before race start we headed outside to the ‘start line’ which was a tent where the aid station was set up. The morning actually felt surprisingly nice, temperature was only at 4C I believe but it didn’t feel cold at all. I had my thin wind breaker on but decided I didn’t even need to bother starting with it which I was glad to do since it meant 1 less thing to worry about after a lap or two. I did decide to keep my gloves on though but those are easier to take off than a jacket under a pack.
At 7:30 we were off making our way across the base of the ski hill, almost immediately I noticed no other women were in front of me and only a few men. Well this is different, I’ll be getting passed a lot now. We quickly made it to the base of the hill, I started walking immediately, I had zero plans to run this hill (or any hill) at all. A few of the men made an attempt to run up some of it but soon everyone was hiking up the hill. We rounded the bend in the hill, yeah it kept going. Aand continued to go up a little bit as we rounded the next bend onto the single track.
Finally at the top, things got interesting. We had a pretty late fall here so the trees have only just lost their leaves (and some are still hanging on) this meant a lot of fresh leaves on the trail. A lot of fresh leaves on some technical trail. They were doing a fabulous job of covering all the rocks on the trail. Oh boy this isn’t going to be fun later. This section was a slow gentle downhill until we got to the major downhill. A treacherous path made all the more treacherous by knee deep leaves. Stumbling our way down that I was so shocked I didn’t completely eat it on the root ‘steps’. We’re then into an opened gravel/grass trail before heading back into the woods. Much less rocks through this section, yay! There was a slight incline through here but nothing much, I would later take that incline as a walk opportunity but didn’t really notice it the first go. We were then back out in the grass/gravel. sliiight incline I’m pretty sure I didn’t notice at all the first time or two (definitely did by lap 5 though!) then we round a bend and head down (yay!). Can see the aid station from this point, once down the little hill we round another bend and head straight towards it. I ignored this aid station until lap 5 when I decided I’d try some Coke and see what happens (nothing did so I kept at it!) but the volunteers were amazing and quickly learned who we all were, fun!
Past the aid station we head back into the woods, hill here, I walked this one from the start, then it immediately goes back down. On either lap 2 or 3 I almost had an epic fall. The down had some roots and my foot got caught on one and then my other food got caught on that foot. Panic. Race. Falling. Downhill. Luckily a foot got free and caught me before I face planted and rolled downhill. And even more luckily it was a safe catch and not one that resulted in more pain than a fall would have caused.
Down the hill out of the forest we hit some ATV trail which were dry but made from some careful footing as the ridges were deep. Ran along here for a little ways then hit some flat rocks which signalled that my favourite stretch was coming up (NOT). After rounding a bend you hit a long, straight gravel stretch of boring. Single row of small evergreens on each side line the trail. There was also these little tiny rolling waves for part of it I knew right form the start they would be damn annoying later (and also had me thinking they would be run to bike through). On and on and on it went and I can see the end of this stretch pretty much the whole time, NOT GETTING ANY CLOSER.
Finally out, round a bend and then we’re going up a little hill which I ran up the first loop and decided that was stupid and I was never running up it again. At this point we see the same aid station again and they direct us to a trail on the right instead of going straight which would be back the way we came from. This little trail leads back into the forest, yay! and back to more hidden rocks and roots, boo!
Here we hit one hill, then a section of very large roots that are VERY easy to trip over. Then it’s time to climb back up the other side of the ski hill. Oh boy. First time up this was actually the worst of them all. Everything hurt trying to hike it, even my back. And there was rocks under the leaves my feet would slip on. It’s long, its steep, it gets steeper, it flattens out and then nope it’s steep again. At the top there’s the chair lifts, run by them and then start heading down the hill. Woo downhill! Decent downhill here, a little steep and its got some small loose stones but I don’t feel like I might face-plant like on the other side. Once we’re down the hill we cross in front of the ski hill by the start line aid station and do it all again!
Something to be said for the small loops. It didn’t get boring, it was actually really nice. While the first lap felt terrifying through the rocky sections, after a couple laps you know where everything is and don’t really even think about it anymore. Oh yup stick to this side of the trail there’s no rocks and less leaves. Stick to the far left on that treacherous downhill you avoid most of the trouble there. Oh there’s the fallen over tree hole. Nope I’m good for water, thanks though! There’s a root here that’s what caught my foot that time. This is the straight flat part this still sucks, just keep running. Hill here remember we’re walking this from now on. Hi bearded man, nope still good on water-did you say chips? Up this hill okay now careful watch out for the roots. Okay up the ski hill, lets try the left side, yes the left side is way easier to get up. Yay top! Downhill and another lap done!
I was also really happy when I determined on my 3rd lap I would be into my 4th lap before the distance races started. This meant when they reached me they’d already be spread out. I did not enjoy the 4th lap though. Well I did the first 1/3 because I chatted with another runner a bit through here (found out he’s race buddies with a woman from the Monday MEC runs, guess this is a small community!). But once past the aid station for the first time I started to feel tired. And then all the passers. Also stressful because I knew no BadAss woman had gotten in front of me yet by this point and was pretty sure none had been ahead of me at the start (though I would doubt this through the whole race). So every time I hear someone behind me I worried it was another BadAss runner. So I was real happy to start lap 5 and have that be done with. Of course lap 5 was my worst lap time-wise as the fatigue set in good through here. This is when the desperate ‘sure I’ll have some coke’ came in. The chips I brought for this race weren’t very salty so my nutrition was a bit off as I was craving salt more than usual, luckily I had Nuun on me. I had to keep reminding myself to eat too. I think because I wanted salt I didn’t really care to eat my sweet waffle cookies.
Lap 6 and 7 were better as adrenaline started to kick in, being pretty sure I was in first kept me going and got me from walking too much. I think I probably should have walked a bit more in the first couple of laps. Minus the ski hills the rest of the course was a lot flatter than I’m use to training on and generally in training I only walked when there was a hill or I was eating (even then I tried to plan eating for the uphill walks). So less hills meant I ran the majority of the loops taking less walk breaks than normal, which is why in later laps I took the opportunity to walk even the smallest of inclines.
At the second pass of the aid station on lap 6, I’m not entirely sure how much is left of the course, 2k? (It’s less) and we’re closing in on 5 hours which means I’m telling myself I’m going to have the haul ass to get in lap 7 in time. My goal for the race was 7-8 laps so I’m of course laughing at myself during this moment because I must have been crazy to think 8 was an achievable goal (not really, would have depended on the course but, race brain). I cross by the start again with I think 57 minutes to go. I’d remembered checking my watch partway up the skill hill and having 4:11 at lap 6. This meant I’d done it in about 55 minutes (did it in 53 per race results). This had me stressed, so of course lap 7 went pretty well. Freaking out that I’d miss the 6 hour cut off, freaking out another woman would come up and pass me, take first place AND I’d miss the cut off. Freaking out because I’m a terrible judge on distance and didn’t make mental marks on anything throughout the course. How much is left from here, 5k? OMG I ONLY HAVE 30 MINUTES TO RUN 5K!? Wait no, that can’t be right… And then also excitement of, this is the last time I climb my way down this, THIS IS THE LAST TIME I HAVE TO RUN THIS STRAIGHT FLAT PART, KEEP RUNNING! This is the last time I’ll see bearded man, awww! Last hill climb! Last hill climb!
I’ve done it! I’ve done it! I’ve run over a marathon! I just have to run down and then I get to turn to the finish! And I’m under time!
I was a bit choked up coming down the hill for the last time – closest I’ve ever come to crying during a race. But all the Burlies are done their races by this time so they’re there cheering for me so I cross the finish with a jump! I’m all happy I just finished my longest run ever and have friends there cheering for me and then the RD comes over and hands me my plaque!
I had done it! Top Female BadAss!
I don’t think I’ll ever cherish a race item more. This one means a lot to me. First real trail race, first time over the marathon distance, first time winning overall. The thought of that plaque kept me going through the end. Leading up to the race Burly mates kept saying I’d take it and I was convinced they were dead wrong, I was convinced they were dead wrong even while in first throughout the race. I thought there was no way there had to be someone in front I’d missed and there would definitely be someone behind me who was much better as pacing themselves and would come up and pass me. I’m shocked and amazed I won it. I don’t care how small the race was, it’s still something I achieved. The second place woman came in 5 minutes behind me, she could have easily taken it if I hadn’t kept pushing in the last couple laps. While running the race I didn’t feel like I deserved a top overall at this point in my running career, but I was going to fight for it. You can’t spend an entire race holding first and then not fight to hold on to it until the end no matter what you feel. So I guess I did deserve it!
Now the race is done and I can confirm the trail marathon does hurt far less than a road marathon. I’m still stiff and feeling like I went up and down a ski hill 14 times but I can walk around and go up and down stairs almost as well as a normal person. I was both sad and relieved during the race that I wouldn’t have a chance of hitting 8 laps for 52km. I’m really proud of what I accomplished. My first trail race on unfamiliar trails I knew ahead of time 8 laps would be a stretch goal and after running the course once I knew there’d be no chance, not with those 2 giant climbs, hadn’t done quite enough hill hiking for that.
I’m looking forward to my winter training cycle and researching 50ks I can run in the Feb-April time frame, looking at USA races right now. There’s A LOT, it’ll probably take me awhile to pick one but that’s fine, plenty of time. I’m going to do some recovery this week and next then just maintain what I’ve built/do whatever I feel like for a little bit.
- 7×6.5km – 45.5kms in 05:52:15
- 1/14 women, 7/27 overall
- Lap 1: 00:45:53
- Lap 2: 00:48:32
- Lap 3: 00:48:16
- Lap 4: 00:50:56
- Lap 5: 00:55:10
- Lap 6: 00:53:04
- Lap 7: 00:50:24
- Shoes: Merrell All Out Crush
- Clothing: UA Heat Gear long sleeve, Burly Sugoi singlet, Old Navy capris, WrightSock Double Layer Coolmesh II, Chaos Tubular Headwear, Lululemon run gloves (for 2 laps)
- Pack: Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest
- ~750ml Nuun Lemon Lime
- ~1.75L of water
- 2.5 Honey Stinger Gingersnap Waffles
- 2 Apple Cinnamon Carbo Boom Gels
- 1/2 snack bag of kettle chips + few BBQ flavour
- 2 red Jube Jubes
- 4 Dixie cups of coke
Thanks to the race directors for putting on such a great race! And special shout-out to the aid-station volunteers I’m sorry I over-packed my pack and didn’t interact with you all more! And big thanks for the post-race massage!