I would have liked to have written a summary of this run earlier, but let’s face it, running 160km is exhausting. Which, I suppose, is another way of saying that I successfully finished. 25 hours and 44 minutes. I even beat all my friends.
It was not nearly as hilly as many other ultras I’ve run. There were a great many long, flat portions that I could just run for a long period of time. Of course, near the end, I was not so much running, as walking.
This is also the smallest ultra I’ve been in. Looking at the results, there were only fifteen people attempting the 160km route. And two of them decided to bail and only do 100km. Another two just failed to finish. Of the eleven finishers, I was sixth. So, middle of the pack.
This meant that all of the runners were hardcore. This wasn’t an “event” race that is known outside the ultra community. This was a race for people who just wanted to do an ultra. Most people were wearing at least one article of clothing from another ultra.
The organizers were also new at this, and it showed. There were a number of areas that were done poorly, but might have been better handled with more volunteers. For instance, directing runner traffic.
The day before the race it was raining or snowing all day. The day of the race, it didn’t rain at all, but the ground was still a little mucky. Especially once we got on the Iron Horse trail. The mud was the nice consistency that likes to stick to your shoes and build up.
It started at night in the cold and the fog. We had a police escort us to begin with, which caused an interesting halo effect with the red and blue lights in the fog. But eventually, the sun rose and the fog lifted. The clouds didn’t go away, so I’m only inferring that the sun rose.
The biggest complaint I have is that the trail was poorly marked. About an hour in, I took a wrong turn. Well, more exactly, I didn’t take a turn. I was supposed to go off the large trail and clamber up a hill. I was just following the people in front of me. Thankfully, I didn’t go too far before we started getting suspicious and turned back. I probably added less than a kilometre to my distance. What bothers me though, is that if I had stayed on the trail, I would have found myself back on the race route, having travelled a shorter distance and with less hill. That is the kind of thing they really need to mark, or just not do. You shouldn’t be able to take a shortcut by accident.
The second leg, after the hill, had us trying to run across a ploughed field. Honestly, I didn’t run that much over that. At least we had a warning about the electric fence that was going to be in our way. They gave us a method to get past that.
But on the fourth leg, there was no way past the barbed wire fences that were continually in the way. And there was no doubt that you had to get past them. In the end, you had to climb over them. And I wouldn’t recommend that if you didn’t have to.
The organizers were also sparse with the flags. I think they were too close to the course to properly mark it. It doesn’t matter if the road is straight and correct, you still need to mark it. Otherwise, there is no way to tell the difference between being on the right route, and being on the wrong route. They may not be strictly necessary, but they help make you feel confident about the route. Especially if you have already lost trust in the course markers.
On the fifth leg, in the middle of the night, after running close enough to the North Saskatchewan river that you could fall in, the course markers disappeared. I kept on a trail, that turned into a road, but I had taken out my iPhone to try and see if I could get a map to where I needed to go.
It didn’t help that in the cold night, the fog came back. This seemed to cause my iPhone trouble and it kept turning itself off. Thankfully, another runner called her support team to confirm the route once I had used a map program to name the road we were on.
Yeah. Better marking was needed.
Other than that, it was fine. The aid stations had Gatorade bottles, and occasional chicken soup. I grabbed a sandwich at one, and tried to eat it on the road. Unfortunately, it had seeds in the bread. If you aren’t drinking enough, those seeds can really scratch your throat.
I really have to ask myself if I would do it again. It might be better marked next year. But it seems to only be useful to complete the Alberta triple. It doesn’t give me any points for the Mont Blanc, which means I’m still one point short for next year.