Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Creemore Snow Run Race Report

I am a big advocate of the expression "be careful what you wish for".  Although grammatically incorrect (you should never end a sentence in the preposterous tense), it does convey that wishing for more snow in Creemore in February is a tad reckless.  So, although it would have been fun to run through 1 foot of fresh snow, then pack the trail as the day progressed, wading through 3 feet of snow would have put a damper on the day.  As it turns out, although the snow was old (read hard, icy and at points leaning towards dangerous) the footing was better than worse and running the trails was quite easy and a bit relaxed.

Lee Anne asked me how many would be making the trek to Creemore to run the trails and, drawing on my vast experience (the 2010 CSR) I predicted 8 - 10 people.  Ken, Marylou, Scott and 2 others (please recall I have no memory) showed up at 07:15 to get a couple of loops in early.  By the unofficial 09:00 start, there were 13 cars.  25 - 30 people were on the trail at one point!

The weather was near ideal for a winter trail run, hovering at the freezing point, making it pleasantly warm, yet avoiding the adverse effects of softening snow.  For those who might hypothetically (hypothermically?) get too warm, the outdoor aid station had ice cream with maple syrup.  Many people commented on the humorous aspect of ice cream that was not melting, but I noticed there were not too many fueling up with ice cream, until after their last loop!

I run the 7.2K loop several times per week and enjoy the beauty of the Mad river (I always envision it as a "Rave Run" in Trail Runner - must email a photo one day), the challenge of crossing the beaver dam and the fascinating contours of a residual moraine, which gives the loop its name, the ridge run.  One of Creemore ancient legends has the ridge as an original wagon trail, to avoid climbing the Niagara escarpment (back then it was called a big hill) on the way west.  I do recall the wheel ruts where about 4' 5" (the width of a standard Roman chariot) back in the 1990's, before the ATV's overlayed the original ruts.  I consider "good" trail running years those in which I can run the ridge run at least once in every month of the year.  Until this year, "success" meant I could run it in early January and again in late February.  This is the first year EVER, that I have (so far) run the ridge run on a regular basis.  We had 16" of snow in January, but it melted soon thereafter and I was on the trail in one foot of snow about a week later.

Based on feedback from the CSR runners, others also found the loop to be a great run; varied in terrain, interesting topographic formations and beautiful vistas.  For those who were not fortunate enough to be invited to run the CSR (It is limited to runners in Ontario and areas no more, but no less, than 42.2 time zones in ONLY horizontal directions), the course follows the Ganaraska trail along the Mad river from my house to Avening, Airport road south to Conc. 3/4, west to 3rd line, north to the ridge run trail, then up and down some cliffs back to the house.  The country roads provide some recovery from the Ganaraska trail, before hitting the ridge run trail.  I did get into some difficulty (actually smacked upside the head!  Now we see the violence inherent in the system...) as I mentioned the small gradient (cannot in good conscience call it a hill) was the recovery portion.  I was almost more circumspect in my comments thereafter...

It was wonderful to talk to old friends, meet a few new people and talk about plans for the 2012 race season.  Kinga and Stephan (thanks for the soup!) gave some details about their most recent race, the HURT 100 miler (Hawaii Ultra Race Team) where they both placed in the top 30 of 109 starters.  Although the Miklos (they are married to, and deserve each other) are seasoned 100 milers, no one takes on HURT without serious training and logistic preparation.  I must confess that although I am not eager to undertake the training, they make the benefits of running a 100 miler considerable, such as seeing headless children (I fervently hope it was a hallucination) or simply the joy of being on your feet for 34+ hours without surcease!

Race Report

I had planned on running only 2 loops, so I "led" the 09:00 group for the first loop.  The trails were quite easy to run as the snow was hard enough to support most foot strikes.  There was some lateral movement, which meant paying some attention to the trail, but it was possible to look up at times and enjoy the scenery.  Since the trails were easy to run, the small gradient on the road required a relatively greater effort, which likely was the reason for my being abused physically.  Although the Ganaraska trail is beautiful, along the Mad river, it is the ridge run that offers more spectacular geological formations, with steep cliffs to either side.  Running on the first loop was relaxed and my knees gave me no problem.

The second loop showed my lack of training, as my back started to tense.  The pain was minor and manageable, but I was tired before the end.  Neither knee proved to be a problem, which is encouraging.  I am getting an MRI in March to determine if the ACL is torn. Strangely, my ankle acted up after the run and is still sore today.  This might be an indication that I continue to age...


After the run, I supported the aid station and chatted with the runners as they completed between 2 and 6 loops.  Each runner received a finishing medal and for fun, we had a draw for some of Lee Anne's pottery and 2 half litre jugs of maple syrup, the last of the 2011 vintage.

Overall, a great day for a winter trail run.  It was also very relaxing to stage a run as opposed to the stress of organising a race.  I look forward to holding the CSR in future years and at the risk of tempting fate, I also hope that one year, there is 2 feet of snow on the trails and the struggle is epic!

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