Racing Under a Million Tiny Lights

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I know what you’ve probably all been thinking. ActiveSteve must have gone into hibernation due to the cold winter we’ve been having! Well, rest assured, that is most definitely not the case. In fact, quite the opposite. I’ve been so busy between training, traveling, racing, magazing obligations, and getting settled into the new house, that there just hasn’t been enough time in the days to bang out the requisite blog posts. As such, I’m taking some time while on a business trip to Edmonton to try and bang out a whole pile of posts to put up. I now present you with the first of these posts, a tale about my participation in a snowshoe race at night in Upper Canada Village in early January. I was taking part and covering the event for Get Out There, so you can view the video at the end of this post.

Now, obviously, over the holidays, I didn’t get a whole lot of run training in, and with this race early in the year, I wasn’t sure if wanted to go whole hog and sign up for the 10k version of the race (there was a 1 loop 5k race, and a 2 loop 10k race). I decided that it would be more fun to redline the 5k race and hopefully have a better chance at filming the beautiful surroundings. After all, this race was called ‘Ignite the Night’ and featured the amazingly well lit-up Upper Canada Village. To attract people to the village, which is open most of the year, they had decided to string up what I think may have literally been a million coloured lights throughout the property. The effect was absolutely breathtaking. Well, that and the cold temperatures (which will be a main theme of this year’s winter roster).

I convinced Deanna to join me for the evening, seeing as it should prove to be quite nice. There was also a pretty decent contingent of racers from the Ottawa area, given that Cornwall is not all that long a drive, and conditions for driving were pretty decent. Snow cover was not stellar yet at that point in the season, but definitely enough snow for a race. The course itself started in the heart of the village at the big barn, and saw us sprinting through the main areas of the village. However, after the first kilometer or so, we veered off into open fields and closer to the St. Lawrence River.

Due to a surge in race-day registrations, the event start time ended up getting pushed back around 30 minutes or so, and there was a fair bit of confusion leading to people going in and out of the heated barn a few times before the actual start. Temperatures were cold, but bearable. What was not quite expected was the arctic blasts when we actually did hit the aforementioned open fields.

At the start line, I seeded myself near the front, but not at the very lead pack. I wasn’t sure how fast things would go, given that this was a pretty flat course, which definitely doesn’t favour me. I knew the speedy road running dudes would destroy me out there. So, when the start gun did finally go off, I did my level best to kick into high gear right away. Unfortunately, so did the fellow behind me. To the point that he actually ran onto my snowshoe, causing me to fall down, 20m from the start!! I was a little annoyed, and got an instant adrenaline rush, causing me to surge ahead, and catch [briefly] up to the leaders. I stayed up there a bit until it was clear I’d fade fast. Sure enough, on the first little climb, with the howling arctic winds blowing, I had to dial it back.

In spite of the slight slow in my pace, I still had a good clip, and was near anaerobic levels. I had a string of racers sitting on my heels, and didn’t know if I could hold them off. All I could do was keep turning over the legs and hoping for the best. I also wasn’t sure whether people behind me were in the 5k or 10k race, so I had no idea whether I was truly ‘racing’ them or not. Of course, none of that really matters. Your best bet is to simply give it your all and hope its enough. Sure enough, as the course made it’s way over the hills and through the fields, I was passed a few times.

I decided to basically coast in and try to get footage. Sadly, with the cold wind and gloved hands, I was having problems getting my camera gear to work properly, so I didn’t get too much actual race footage. What’s worse, is that with he fiddling with camera to get shots at the finish line, I ended up letting 2 other racers basically pass me for free within 300m of the finish, when I could have stayed ahead. Ultimately, I think that’s what kept me off the podium in the 5k race, where I think I finished in 5th when all was said and done. Regardless, I had registered just for the heck of it anyway, so there were no tears shed.

Deanna and a few other were at the finish cheering everyone on. I got right back into the race, now just following other racers and getting clips of runners in the lit-up village. I also back-tracked into the final 200m of the course, to make sure I caught and cheered on the winners of the 10k event. Several of the talented folks I train with managed to take the podium slots in both the male and female categories of the 10k. In fact, they crushed it! It was great to watch the winners come across the line. I don’t often get to see that on account of being out there myself.

After the race was done, it was back into the warm awaiting barn for a post race meal, the camaraderie with fellow competitors, and the awards ceremony. Spafford Health and Adventure puts on this race, and they always dig up some great sponsors and price swag. There were prizes for the top finishers as well as a good number of door prizes. We stayed around till the very end, enjoying the evening, before finally piling back into the car and making the journey home. All in all it was a great race put on by great folks. It was  little unfortunate that we had the late start, but the rest went smoothly. Personally, I prefer more varied terrain when racing, but the twinkling lights did make for a unique way to enjoy what would have otherwise just been a mental slog for me!

Now, if you haven’t done so yet, take the time to check out the race video I put together below! See you in the next report.

 The Video

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