To start my trip in Ontario, Canada, Sally signed us both up for a 5 Peaks trail race at Albion Hills Conservation Area, just to the north of Toronto and conveniently located on the way to Algonquin Provincial Park where we were heading for a few days of exploration and adventure by foot, bike and canoe.
The 11.4 km course consisted of two loops of a gorgeous narrow single track through the woods with enough wide areas to make overtaking or being overtaken easy enough. Registration was smooth and folks were sent off in waves depending on their target finish time so that the trails weren’t too congested at the start. I decided that setting off in the middle of the second wave would be prudent since the first was full of very fast looking runners. In contrast to most UK races, the course was marked with trailside flags almost every few metres such that it was almost impossible to wrong route and you could concentrate only on where your feet were landing and what was happening immediately around you. With a huge number of twists and turns linked by sweeping bends, it was easy to forget the distance and just enjoy the terrain.
By the time I had finished the first loop, folks had settled into their paces. Knowing what to expect on the second loop allowed me to know where to put in an effort and where to conserve a little to allow the short but sometimes steep hills to flow. With the temperature starting to reach “sair” level and sweat tipping off me, there was little option other than to strip to the waist. Not sure what the other runners thought of a bearded, kilted, half-naked Scotsman running through the woods but the only question I got was if there was chafing under the kilt! Despite my best efforts to maintain my position, another beardy nipped past me in the last 300m – turned out he was actually from Cambridge, England!
After finishing, I quickly went back to the van to grab the camera and was waiting for Sally to come through when a girl came up and asked if my name was Graham. It turned out to be Sally’s pal Barb who had kindly come out to the race to say hello. Nae idea how she recognised me!
As all races should be, the run was followed by pizza and beer before the drive up to Algonquin. My first Canadian trail race was an awesome experience to start my trip with. Special thanks to Sally for sorting entries and logistics and to Mike and Barb for coming out – it was braw to meet you both!