Well, my first barefoot trail race went even better than I’d expected. For one thing, I finished in 43:17, which was good enough for a third place finish (out of 25 total entrants). Better still, though, the TMTR turned out to be a perfect little jewel of a race.
Going into it, I had a feeling that the course would be a good one. It was at the Cold Creek Conservation Area, a small conservation area that’s tucked away in the hills of King Township, Ontario. It’s located on the Oak Ridges Moraine, a spectacular area of rolling hills and river valleys that was formed 12,000 years ago by advancing and retreating glaciers.
What that meant for the race was that its trails consisted of hard packed dirt, with lots of roots, a few wooden footbridges, and some stretches of grass. Lots of climbs and descents, some short, some long, but all of them steep. And mud – lots and lots of mud.
To say that it rained on the day of the race would be like saying that Pacific Ocean is kind of big. The rain started about midnight the night before, continued in the early morning, and then intensified as race start time drew near. It didn’t matter – once you accept the fact that you’re going to race in the rain, you stop worrying about it.
The race benefited the King Township Food Bank. There was no medal and no t-shirt, which suited me just fine, as I long ago got tired of that sort of thing. What it did feature was good organization, a great bunch of volunteers, and enthusiastic participants. The race organizer was Tom Marchese, a local realtor and Food Bank supporter.
Look at this course map, note the names of various trails, and you’ll get a sense of what kind of stuff we were running through. “Pine Plantation,” “Wetlands,” “Mixed Forest,” “Cedar Grove,” “Century Forest” – it was amazing how much variety was packed into a relatively small area. Hardly any straight stretches on the course and little or no flat land at all. Up, down, up, down, over and over again. Wet grass, wet leaves, and mud, mud, mud. There was one section about 100 meters long towards the end of the end where the ground was littered with ping pong-sized windfall apples. Try running through that in your bare feet!
Yes, I slid and slipped a lot. But I only fell once – on a very short, very steep downhill slope going to one of the little footbridges. (I’ve been told that you aren’t a trail runner unless you fall once in a while, so I now consider myself baptised.) I’ll confess, too, that I power-walked one or two of the very steep climbs, and skittered down more than a few of the muddy descents. Overall, I was amazed at how pleasant it was to run the race in my bare feet. I’ve learned, I guess, how to dance my way through, around, and sometimes over the obstacles that come up.
As I said, a 43:17 finish. That was only three minutes slower than the first-place finisher, and only two minutes behind the second-place finisher. I’m very happy with that. But I’m happier still to have been part of this particular race. It was so good, in so many ways, that I’m already looking forward to doing it again next year – especially if there’s a double loop 12K option!