When you last checked in on me, I had just successfully taken part in the inaugural Mad Trapper Backyard Ultra. Although that event is all about running until you can run no longer, my only goal was to run steady and healthy for 50km or so. I ended up doing 60+k, but pulled the plug in order to go into the follow weekends’ race strong. After all, I was set to tackle a tough 80k race, and wanted a strong finish to signal my return to form. Unfortunately, on a Tuesday night group training run, all that went to pot when I rolled my ankle and it swelled up to a grapefruit size! Things were looking rough now for the Quebec Mega Trail race, which I had been so looking forward to. Read on to find out how things ended up that weekend…
To be clear, I was bummed! I’d been looking forward to taking on the 80k for a few months now. Knowing I had come back from a tricky surgery, this was set to be a triumphant return. Add to the fact that I was covering the event for Get Out There Magazine, wanted the points for UTMB, and had a nice long weekend planned with friends around it, there was no way I was going to stay home and sulk. BUT, I had to decide whether to run or not. After putting it to a Facebook poll, I ended up opting to drop from the 80k down to the 25k race on Saturday. Then, by the time we actually got to the race site, I decided I even felt good enough to tack on the 15k race on Sunday for fun. This way, I figured I wouldn’t be stressing the ankle for more than a few hours each day. Seems reasonable, right?
As it turns out, it was very reasonable. Even though I was in a lot of pain earlier in the week, and even drove all the way to Mont Ste Anne with ice on my ankle, by the time race morning came around, I wasn’t feeling too bad. As a result, I decided to do a ‘proper’ warm up run before the 25k race, opting to head out in the early morning fog on the opening kilometer of the race. And wouldn’t you know it, in the opening 400m of my warmup, I rolled the damn ankle AGAIN!! Lucky for me (or unlucky?), I was actually wearing two ankle braces, so everything was kept together in my shoe, and I didn’t swell up too badly. And since I’m a sucker for punishment, I opted to pop a couple ibuprofen and grit it out. I know, I know, terrible plan, but as I saw it on the ground, it was too little too late to pull out. It’s just not my style.
As far as the actual race goes, it was heaps of fun. Even though 25k is a shorter distance than I would normally choose, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to push myself a little harder than I normally do, just to see how I might perform in a more ‘speedy’ race. The weather was overcast, and temperatures fairly comfortable. Being the July long weekend, it may have been a lot hotter, or indeed, as in other parts of Canada, much wetter. Ottawa apparently had some pretty major rain showers, but for the most part, during our race, we were dry. The rain had passed the day before. Of course, that meant trails were a bit wet, but that just added to the fun. You’ll be able to see more of what I’m talking about once you check out my video at the end of this post, which covers both the 25k and 15k races.
For me, one of the highlights of being done earlier in the day is the fact that I get to watch a lot of other people enjoying their day and achieving their goals. When I’m in a long (80k+) event, there are usually shorter races happening, but they are long done by the time I limp over the finish line. However, in this case, I was able to witness things like the leaders in the 100k event coming through at the 80k point of their race, and see the ultimate winners of that race, which is also inspirational! I also got to sit by the finish and cheer in other friends racing, including the lovely Deanna, who had also signed up for the 25k race. While she may be apprehensive before a race, she never fails to finish with a big smile on her face and tell me all about the fun she had and people she got to run with. By having a group of friends with us, and our accommodations not far away, it also meant we had great downtime over the weekend.
All things considered, I was personally quite happy with my performance and finish time in the 25k race. So much so that I was very much looking forward to a second day of racing the next morning after a good meal and some relaxing. While my goal was not to win at all during the 25k, I did nonetheless push hard. On the other hand, my strategy for the 15k truly was to just have fun and go with the flow. After all, this was a holiday weekend! To those ends, even though I knew Dave McMahon and others might want to turn up the steam in the 15k, I opted to drop a little off the hard pace and lock in with someone who was at just the right pace for me to feel fast, but not red-lining. And who was this mystery person? None other than one of my mentors, Lise! I had a blast hopping on her heels and/or leading certain sections throughout much of the 15k . However, given that there are no ‘pacers’ allowed on the race, we did have to tread carefully, and I did eventually pull away to let her do her thing and cross the line to nab the ladies’ 3rd place position overall!
For those unfamiliar with the trails around MSA, they are pretty perfect in my view. There is a good mix of mountain bike trails as well as pure singletrack running trails. Finding elevation is not difficult as you have the mountains on one side, and also gorges on the other side, so depending on the length of your race, you’ll see it all. If you’d like a little more insight into what the longer races are like, I invite you to check out my write-up from last year’s 110k race here. On the run heading up the mountain, we had a number of stream crossings due to the rain, and some roots and rocks, but nothing insane. I like a variety of terrain, but prefer not spending the entire race jumping rock to rock or tripping over roots, and this event offers just the right combination of challenges in my opinion. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.
After the second race was done and dusted, we still had another evening in town to relax, as well as do a little exploring. One of the highlights of the are is a giant waterfall, accessible by a long staircase right off the main road near Mont Ste Anne. Unfortunately, the winter was a bit difficult on the infrastructure, so there was no easy way to get there. Being the brave souls we are though, a little group of us made the trek the long way around in order to marvel at this beautiful sight. It was a nice wrap-up to the weekend of racing and relaxing.
Rather than going on at more length about this great event, I’d invite you to check out the video that I produced, since it’ll give you an even better sense of the race than my half-hearted words written months after the fact :-). While I was thinking of returning for a third year, I’ve got a new race plan bubbling, which may see me racing elsewhere on that same weekend. Similar terrain, but further and tougher in all senses. Stay tuned for that as I solidify my 2020 race plans (well, pandemic permitting that is….).