Sunday, 12 April 2015

The Avon Trail- St Mary's to Conestogo

This latest weekend adventure was inspired by a truly amazing and inspiring friend and athlete, Rhonda Marie Avery.  Rhonda is an "other abled" athlete that is legally blind and has 8% vision.  Last year she completed an amazing challenge,  thru running the Bruce trail.  If you want to learn more about it check out this great documentary that Lisa Lightbourn-Lay did called 8% No Limit  This year Rhonda has created Envisions 

"We are the bridge, the connection, the linkage between the here and there.  We are the support system, the belief, the drive, the focus.  Come to us with a dream and we will work to make it real.  We are here to piece together the puzzle of how you can Hike the Grand Canyon,  Climb your Everest, Complete your First Ironman, Take Part in an Adventure Race and a million more quests. "

Envisions first project was thru running the 110 km Avon trail that goes from St Mary's to Consestogo in Ontario.  The event was meant to create awareness of Envisions and other abled atheletes.   Rhonda  ran the entire trail and there were other runners who are legally blind participating for different sections.   I was able to switch some shifts at work and come out to participate.

It was really amazing to see how many people became involved.  I headed to Waterloo on Friday night and met up with Rhonda and some of the other thru runners/guides,  We left some of the cars in Waterloo close to where the thru runners would be finishing up and then took my car and the crew van and headed towards the start.  Some lovely volunteers of the Avon Trail volunteered and open their home to house Friday night and let us billet there.  It was a beautiful old farmhouse.  Not only did the 7 of us crash there for the night, they also fed us supper and got up at 3 am and prepared breakfast for us, including BACON!  We left the house by 430 and met up with a few other runners and volunteers at the start in St. Mary's.  Karen (the owner of the farmhouse) also volunteered to drive my car to the 40km mark and drop off my keys to one of the aid stations.

We gathered at the start of the trail, it was dry but a little cool and thankfully made the decision to wear my tights and puffy coat.  We assembled at the start, it was quite dark and we all had our headlamps on.  After a few words from Rhonda we were wasn't a sprint start.  One of the first other abled runners that joined the event was actually a trail running virgin.  She had done some hiking before, that morning Rhonda and some other runners donated some clothing and gear and got this runner outfitted.  So the group took it nice and easy to start.  The first section of trail leaving St. Marys was more bike path/road and it was a little chilly as we weren't moving that fast.  It was nice beginning though because I got to meet and chat to some of the other runners participating.  That is always my favorite thing, it is so great to meet other passionate people and hear about their adventures and goals.  Passion is contagious!

Once the trail turned to more single track and muddy field sections the first other abled athlete met up with the crew van.  We started the first trail section at a nice pace.  I don't think any of us participating had run this part of the trail before,  we had a few times where we weren't sure where the blazes were and had turn around 1 or 2 times, adding to the adventure.  In my typical fashion I did no research before hand and suck at navigating, so I was more than happy to help guide or look for blazes and leave the real navigating to other group members.

Around the 10 km mark we met for our first stop.  The mobile aid stations..... this was really impressive.  Jennifer Anne drove a van full of all of bags and extra water and snacks for the participants.  Around every 10 km she would meet us at a set point.  She would set up tables and put out food, water etc for us.  It was really appreciated and she must have had a really long day herself with this travelling aid station.

After the first aid-station we picked another other abled athlete.  She had experience trail running and completing ultra events before.  Between the 20-30 km section I had the opportunity to guide.  I had done really minimal guiding for Rhonda before, (we had run in the winter so there wasn't as many obstacles).  Guiding is challenging, especially in more technical and muddy trails and when we had water crossings.  It was fun though and it was really amazing to see how keen and fearless these runners are and I can't believe they let an inexperienced stranger take them through a new trail.  I definitely made some mistakes, but it was taken in stride.  At one point we crossed a pasture with horses and electrical fence, as we were trying to exit the gate and not let the horses out the runner I was guiding touched the electric fence, I had my hand on her back so both got a bit of a jolt (guide FAIL!)

I stayed out on the trail for about 8 hours or so and I think at that point we had covered 32-34 km or so give or take a few turn arounds.  I had commitments at home and so I wanted to be home for dinner.  I am really grateful that I was able to participate at least in some small way, it was a great experience.

Also good news!  I woke up this morning (I drove home, had dinner, watched a movie, slept 10 hours, had breakfast) and in all that time Rhonda and others were still awake and moving forward on the trail, but she completed the 110 km Avon trail !!!!  (I think in 28.5 hours)  AMAZING!!

This first Envisions project was a success and I look forward to learning of future projects and helping out where I can.

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