Race Review

Run For The Toad 2019 Race Review: First Toad, Last Toad #2

Here’s part II of my Run For The Toad race review, which has been split into two parts like the last movie in any Dystopian YA franchise. (Just call me Katniss Everrun.)

You can get caught up on part I here. Let’s get bizzay.

Going Solo

• Second loop was much more empty. Less people on the course. It made it harder not to focus on the tension in my calves from the hills, or focus on the pain in the balls of me feet whenever I jogged down a hill… And there were lots of hills.

• On the other hand, running in the woods alone was much more relaxing.

• I stopped at an aid station and snagged some gummy bears. I was too overwhelmed by choices to know what to eat. Couldn’t even tell you what else was there besides potato chips and pretzels.

• Somewhere during this time I started cursing my love of running. Sometimes out loud into the air. I was going to have to take a break from running. I was insane. Why did I LIKE this?

• I stoped to re-tie my shoes tightly—like tenser bandages to alleviate some of the discomfort in my feet.

Strength In Numbers

They might be fast as h*ck but ultra runners are SO nice. Every single one who passed me had words of encouragement. “It’s tough, you’re doing a great job!” “Nice work!”

• Closing in on the last 6.25km, an ultra runner scared me when he said “great job!” coming up from behind me. I hadn’t heard him, he was SO quiet. I startled and yelled—he apologized…while running. and high-fived me, still while running. Then he took off into the trees, like a speedy forest spirit in compression socks.

 
RunForTheToad2019_UltraRunners
 

• Somewhere in the last 5k I converged on the trail with Michelle, a woman in her late 50s or early 60s. We started to run and walk together, talking about the race, our running history, anything and everything to keep us moving forward.

• Turns out people are the secret ingredient. Maybe everyone else knew this but I’ve avoided running with other people for years until now and it was… awesome. Encouraging. Distracting. I wasn’t feeling any pain or how tired my legs were.

• Even the agony of Skeleton Hill was less painful with someone else there.

• We hit the 12K sign. Only 500m to go.

• Finally. FINALLY, we rounded the bend to see the finish line waiting. Spotted my boyfriend waiting.

• Then the finish line worked its magic. I stopped hurting. I stopped thinking.

• I think I yelled “OH SHIT” and powered across the finish line as much as I could manage with the rest of the energy I had.

POST-RACE & 25KM PIE

• I thanked Michelle for helping me through the end of the race and we high-fived.

• We collected medals and bottles of water, I couldn’t even pay attention to the Halloween candy or other offerings at the finish. My heart was pounding, my head was spinning. I was soaring. I had been nervous about the run, I hadn’t trained as intensely as I usually do… and I had still finished.

 
RunForTheToad2019_FinishersMedal
 

• Boyfriend came over. I either threw myself or collapsed into his arms and started to cry, a half dozen emotions bursting at that moment.

• Proud. Exhausted. Overwhelmed. Drained. Invigorated. I was thriving with the intense life that only seems to overcome me on the heels of a race finish.

• While we were snapping finish line pics, someone yelled my name. The Mayors, Rachel and Nick, were on the far side of the finish line. They both gave me HUGE hugs. Pain once again disappeared.

• We talked about the race and I headed back to my car to change.

• Not before I laid on the grass and marvelled at all the things I was feeling in my body and also my feels.

• Went to get food (Shoutouts to Stone Crock in St. Jacob’s) and sat down in the sun at the picnic tables outside. I have never had a better bite of apple pie. Maybe it was the 25K or maybe it was just really good pie.

• I’m going to at least give some of it to the 25K.

Run For The Toad 2019 Race Review: First Toad, Last Toad #1

Run For The Toad 2019 is over for all the runners who ran it, for the volunteers who made it work and the spectators who watched it—it’s also over for good. This was the Toad’s last year, and I was lucky enough to take on the 25K distance as my first major trail race.

I only had a soft half-knowledge I was stepping onto the trails the likes of world record-breaking elite ultra runners and also Death himself but… We’ll get there. I just wanted a challenging Fall race, which is exactly what I got.

So without further ado, here’s my Run For The Toad race recap for the first—and last—time ever. P.S. It’s in two parts because Hollywood is doing it, so I am too. Part II is here!

The Scottish Play

The volunteer waiting at the drive into Pinehurst Conservation Area smiled at me.
“Good morning! You ready to run?” Lol probably not. “Well I guess I better be by now eh?”

• By that token, everyone was SO nice. Every volunteer. Every racer. The trail running community is a tougher, wilder, gentler more welcoming place. When people say trail running is fun, you can actually believe them.

• The sky was blue and I hate to say it, but the air was downright crisp. Also, there were bagpipes.

• Someone sang the American AND Canadian national anthem. There was something moving about hearing the entire crowd softly joining in with O Canada under their breath, misting in the cold.

 
RunForTheToad2019_OpeningCeremonies
 

• George and Peggy said some words. I don’t remember what they were exactly—brief and sweet and grateful.

• Then George helped to fire a cannon to kick off the kid’s 1k Toad Pal race. Yep. A cannon.

• Pre-race nerves (or 1.5 Tim Hortons coffees) started to kick in, so I started looking for people I know. And I found them—the mayors of Trail Running (@_the_vikings_) and my friend Sarah. They gave me hugs and pep talks and also introduced me to a bunch of people whose names I instantly forgot because my mind was bees.

• I also spotted the Grim Reaper from Around The Bay. I guess he felt responsible to show up since the End of the Toad was near.

The Race Begins

• The view from the start line:

 
RunForTheToad2019_StartLine
 

• We set off trotting in a pack. As the trail wove through the woods, the hills rolled and the path wove its way through the landscape.

• The forest was gorgeous with broad streaks of sun slipping through tree branches, pooling on a ground blanketed with soft pine needles. The course had its share of running through open fields and even parking lots, but I loved the bits in the forest best.

• We kept passing the Reaper on the course, listening to his words of encouragement—“Come on, I don’t have all day!” Occasionally he would dart past us in a flurry of black robes only to torment us further on down the trail.

• …I actually really love the Grim Reaper.

The Achilles Dilemma

• By 6.25km, the first half of the first loop, my left foot was starting to ache. (Context: felt this discomfort during marathon training last year. It’s not an actual injury…. yet.)

• I had to complete the loop before I could make any choice to stop or keep going. Was it stubborn to go on? Was it stupid to continue? The constant runner’s dilemma.

• The only way to stay calm was positive self talk. Focus on the first loop, don’t think too hard, just move. Keep moving at any cost.

Is That The Hill You’re Gonna Die On?

• We finally hit the infamous Skeleton Hill, which is close to the end of the loop on the course.

• I say infamous because oh yes I had NO IDEA THAT IT WAS A THING.

• I was so shocked I lost composure to not talk shit about absolutely anything. “What the hell is THAT?”

• The Grim Reaper was beside me. “Want to carry me up that?” he asked. I glanced at Death to my left. “You might have to take me this time.”

I glanced at Death to my left. “You might have to take me this time.”

 
RunForTheRoad2019-SkeletonHill
 

• We power-hiked up the hill, my calves cursing in all caps while a volunteer watched us, offering idle encouragement.

• There was a plastic Halloween skeleton at the top, crawling like I’m sure some of us wanted to. It’s the little touches, you know? #runnershumour

Double Or Nothing

• Close to the end of the first loop was when the first ultra runners started lapping us.

• They looked like they were barely sweating, gunning without hydration packs, powerful like the running equivalent of Monstars from Space Jam.

• Finally finished first loop and headed for the bathroom, trying to assess my left foot as I went.

• My foot felt okay so I headed out again to take on my second loop. I was going to cover my 25K even if it meant limping back into finish line at tent city.

• Tried to fuel with half an Endurance Tap packet and some beef jerky. I chewed and moved at the same time. There wasn’t time to stop now—I headed back out into the woods, carrying my hopes of finish (or just surviving) with me.

Check out Part II here!