Pick your Poison in Horseshoe Valley, Ontario was my second race of the year. I signed up for the race at the last minute. This was actually the third time I've signed up for the race but the last two years I gave my bib to a friend and went to race in Ohio and last year in Indiana. I was sick of winter and didn't want to run on snow anymore. This year almost all of the snow is gone and I needed a long run with lots of hills and Pick Your Poison fit the bill.
It is a 12.5 km loop course behind the Heights of Horseshoe and in the Copeland Forest. There are four major climbs on each loop. Initially I was reluctant to run a loop course at a ski hill. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the course. Before the race started I was able to catch up with some running friends, I saw Steve and Oliver who were doing the 25 k and Kelly, Al and Helen who were doing the 50 km like me.
The race started at 9 am and it was sunny and perfect running temperature, all the 12.5 km, 25 km and 50 km started at the same time, this year there was almost 300 runners.
The first 3 km or so is very runnable and the group spread out, I tried to remind myself that I was here for training and tried to settle into a pace. However, merging onto single-track I found myself running faster or slower than I wanted to.
First Loop 0-12.5
The first loop I found the hardest because I wasn't sure where the climbs were, aid stations and what distance we were at. I knew a lot of people had gone out ahead of me, but my goal was to run the fourth loop the same as my first loop. Before aid station #1 we came to our first climb followed by a snowy section and then a long descent.
I ran the descent pretty well, but then I found running so hard downhill upset my stomach, so I spent the next couple of kilometres easing off trying to get my stomach to settle. The first loop felt challenging and I had the most negative thoughts on the loop like "I can just do the 25 km today", "I wasn't suppose to run a 50 km according to my training plan anyway" "I don't want to be out here all day" "why did I forget my i pod". I ended up finishing this loop in 1:26, I wasted the most time at the start finish area, I decided to run to my car and grab my i-pod and then my feet were bugging me so I took my shoes and socks off and adjusted reapplied trail toes (lubricant), and headed off.
Second Loop 12.5-25
On this loop I turned my i pod on to some podcasts and tuned out for a little bit (I know, not cool). On this loop it had started to thin out and I found that I was happier running alone for a bit and just running the pace I wanted. It was starting to get warmer out and I totally regretted not wearing a visor or sunscreen. I had only taken one gel on the first loop, so this loop I took some Coke and gummy worms from the aid stations and I ate some of the dates I brought and I loved the rice balls that the Dirty Girls tent had out (need to get the recipe).
My stomach was better on this loop and I just stayed consistent only walking the bigger climbs. I came thru in 1:32 and change and didn't waste time this time at the start/finish, I just re-lubed quickly and grabbed some dates and my feet felt great for once.
Third Loop 25-37.5
I anticipated this loop being the most challenging because at other looped courses the second last loop (no matter the distance) is where I struggle the most. Not this time though, my energy was pretty good the whole time, some of the steeper climbs I found harder but I was still running everything else and didn't have negative thoughts, it was on this loop I thought I might be able to break 6 hours for the first time. I met Chelsea on this loop and chatted with her on the last few steep climbs, which was a nice break, I had run most of the third loop without seeing anyone. I came thru again in 1:32 and change.
Fourth Loop 37.5-50
Started this loop happy it was the last one, I still had some running legs left and was running the first 3 km section, then I rolled my left ankle a little bit, but not too bad, just as I was chastising myself to pay attention, I then proceeded to trip and face-plant hard and knocked the wind right out of myself!! Nobody witnessed my embarrassment at least LOL. Luckily nothing hurt, so I kept going on. I felt like I was slower on the climbs but kept persisting. Later in the loop I saw someone up ahead with short hair and I was praying it was a guy but as I got closer I saw it was a girl, I was tired but I tried to catch her on the last climb, I thought I was doing ok, but when I got over the top I saw that she must have sprinted down hill and there was no time to catch her. I don't know why I cared, but it felt good to race a little again and to be pushing myself to chase after somebody, I haven't done that in a race in awhile. I ended up crossing the line about a minute after. I was super happy that I finished feeling really good,I finished the loop in 1:29, and later I learned I finished in 6:00:18, which was a PB by 19 minutes, but I was a little bummed I didn't break 6 hours, maybe I should wear a watch, or not care about running to my car for my i pod next time :).
Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised with the race, it was great course, great volunteers, loved the swag and a meal at the end, can't ask for more.
Next up: Seaton Soaker