Monday, 27 May 2013

Here's to the Bottom Top-10!

Saturday's chilly, albeit sunny, weather was perfect for a 5 Peaks trail run. 

And that's how you start off a blog post when you have nothing outstanding to report about your finish. But I am blogging about it anyway, because, who wants to always read about the winners, right? Bottom top-tenners unite! So here's my story:

There were 21 women in my age category (40-49) at the first of the 5 Peaks (Southern Ontario) 2013 trail run series. The good news is, initially I was pretty sure I came in last, but I didn't! I came in fourth from last. Checked my stats online this morning, and noticed that my trail running pace is at least two minutes per km slower than my road running pace. I simply am too afraid to add speed on a forest path riddled with tree roots and stumps and the odd narrow foot bridge with broken wood planks. I instinctively slow right down.

This must be rectified. Although I must admit I did love the feeling of being in a big forest all by myself, which is pretty much what it felt like after about 8 out of the 12 kilometres. But I would like to learn how to conquer that fear and master running trails. I am told all it takes is practise.

An article in the current edition of Running Room Magazine, entitled "Running Surfaces" by John Stanton suggests, "Natural surfaces such as grass, gravel, sand or dirt can be more demanding on your body than road running. The muscles in the lower leg have to work harder to maintain stability on uneven surfaces, and with each step you have to lift your foot higher to clear the trail. Your agility will improve on footpaths as you change and move laterally in order to avoid rocks, roots and puddles."

Yours truly, pre-race and pre-ponytail, sporting my arm warmer which reads:
"Dear God, please let there be someone behind me to read this." (
OK, so with that in mind, I need to work my lower legs harder and lift my feet higher. I told this to my friend Janate (who, BTW, placed 6th out of 21 women in our age category and who finished over half an hour before me), who warned that yes, this is true, but there is a fine balance between concentrating on lifting one's feet and running correctly and actually just getting into the "feel" of the trail as you're moving along. "Because you know what happens if you're concentrating too much on (your technique), that's when you end up crashing," she advised. Good point.

So I will try to run more trails. I will go to a special 5 Peaks trail running clinic our Thrive Team leader Ann is hosting at Thrive Fitness, Alliston next month (And BTW, Ann placed 3rd in our age category. I am surrounded by awesome female athletes! That's bound to rub off sooner or later, right??), and when I run trails, I will try to lift my feet higher but I won't try too hard lest I trip and fall flat on my face. Or something like that. Maybe I should just pretend I am my 10 year old son who really just gets out there and does it without thinking at all. Except about winning, of course.

So, because I like humour, I wanted to end with a list today, on the positive aspects of placing (almost) dead last in a 5 Peaks trail run. The list will be fused with possible reasons (read: excuses) for placing almost last.

Why I Am Proud of Placing Almost Last 
in a 5 Peaks Trail Run 

  1. I ran it, didn't I?
  2. I got the woods all to myself. (I planned it that way...)
  3. I ran it, despite having an "athletic injury" (rolled the ankle last July, now it's permanently sensitive aka wussy.)
  4. Hardwood Hills, I think, is considered the most technical of all the Southern Ontario 5 Peaks runs. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)
  5. Hardwood Hills attracts lots of serious trail athletes which means tougher competition. (That's also my story and I'm sticking to it.)
  6. I started on Saturday and finished on Saturday. (My answer to those friends who asked how I did after the race was this: "Is it still Saturday?" followed by a resounding, triumphant fist-punching-the-sky "YES!!" when they affirmed it was.)
  7. When I turn 50 next year, and place in the top 10 (there were only 7 women in that age category at this race) I can brag about how much I improved over the course of just one year: "Just last year, I was in the bottom 10! Imagine!!"
  8. I just run for the joy of the trails. I am not competitive. (I just wanted to type that. Ha ha.)
  9. Clearly I was wise in reserving my energy for this coming weekend's half marathon (on a road, thank god!)
  10. I showed my true blue Capricorn spirit. We are cautious by nature. (And also ambitious. So perhaps my ambition was not to break my ankle.)

One down, four to go! Looking forward to Rattlesnake Point in June. A breathtakingly beautiful course, that offers a bit of rock climbing and sheer cliff-face drop-offs! (not to climb, just to admire the view from, if you so choose.) This is my second year running the 5 Peaks series and I do enjoy it. It's a great way to challenge yourself and I think it may even be good cross-training for road running. 5 Peaks are offered all across Canada. Check out their web site at

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