I finished running the La Cloche trail yesterday just before 5pm. For those of you who have hiked the trail, you know how rugged the terrain is. The trail measures 80km in length and just under 8000ft elevation gain/loss. It is one of the hardest trails I have ever done and is probably one of the hardest trails in Eastern Canada!
We drove up wednesday night making a stop in at to pick up a pair of new kicks to use on the trail. I was previously planning on running it in a pair of New Balance Minimus but after much pondering I decided I needed a last minute switch to something more substantial. I went to to see what they had. I was set on a pair of Salomon's as they fit me well and were the only shoe company that I would toss on strait out of the box and run 80 of the most gruelling km's in. I grabbed a pair of Salomon Crossmax in men's size 9.5... I wore them around the house for a few hours and decided that they were probably going to be to small, especially once my feet start to swell during the run. Size 10 it is.
We arrived in the park just after dark with a full belly of good old Swiss Chalet.. topped off with a pumpkin spice latte (skinny) from Starbucks. PS. There is now a Starbucks in Parry Sound! We set up camp, packed our packs, made a few last min changes to the set up and hit the hay. It was way too short of a sleep before we woke with sound of the dreaded alarm...5:45am and it was still pitch black out. Gah. We had a slow morning with a relaxed breakfast and two rounds of brew. We would be thankful of that slow, chill morning 8 hrs later.
We set out with a comfortable pace. We were going to be running the trail in a counterclockwise direction and it was going to be wise to get the most technical sections out of the way early on, when the body and mind are still fresh. We made it through the crack in 59mins and felt great! We stopped for about 5secs to check the views and with the next cairn in sight we ran on. We were deciding if we were going to run Silver Peak or not. Silver peak is technically a "side trail" and therefore not part of the trail proper. We hit the cut off for SP at around 2hrs 45min and opted to just put in a good time on the trail without a added difficult section to a already difficult technical trail. We made excellent time from SP through the La Cloche range. We hit the other side of the range at around 6hrs. It was a weird day for weather, as we had rain, sun, hot and cold temps. We were fortunate not to have rain while were running on the compact slippery section of quartzite rock.
With the biggest climbs and most technical sections behind us, we upped the pace a bit as a sub 10hr time was now in sight! We hit campsite H16 at around 7hrs24mins and filled the bottles with water and tossed in some aqua tabs. At this point in the run I was feeling better then I ever have and my running partner Ryan Atkins was feeling the effects of 60km's of one of toughest trails in Canada. We had discussed earlier in the run what to do in the last quarter of the trail if one of us was feeling better then the other. We concluded we would part ways and the one feeling better run ahead and put in the best time that they could. With that in mind, I was feeling good and handed him my cell phone (in case of emergency) and hammered the last 20-22km. I felt great running the last section of the trail. I kept on expecting my body to surprise me, but it just functioned as I had hoped. I had calculated in my head a finishing time of 9hr 33min, but I was very surprised to see the trailhead come so quickly! I had a time on my watch of 9hrs 25min 46sec.
It wasn't even 5pm and in what most peoples day's work timeframe would be, I hammered a 80km trail. So Cool! I then turned my butt around and started back to meet Ryan. There was no celebration at the finish, no banners or crowds of people. It was only a few campers who looked at me very strangely. On the way back to Ryan I decided I would walk and then pace with him back to the finish. I met him shortly after I had a little black bear bluff charge me! He was small and looked like last years cub. He walked out of the forest onto the trail and then ran ten steps towards me and stopped all puffed up. I got into my attack pose and ran at him yelling as loud as I could. He turned and bee lined it through the thick forest. I met up with Ryan and we ran back to the trailhead where we had clean water and towels waiting for us. Ryan crossed the bridge in a time of 10hrs 45mins! It was his first time on the trail and he did amazing! It was my third time running the 80km obstacle course and I knew what to expect. He didn't.
We then hopped in the car and hit the road home. A quick stop in at the restaurant in French River for a burger and fries and with our bellies full we relaxed as the sun dropped and we made our way back towards the suburbia concret jungle.