Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Race report: The 2013 Run for the Toad 50k relay

Way back in the summer, when Kim and Sam asked if I wanted to join a relay team for the Run for the Toad 50k trail race, I thought it sounded like a great way to run a fun race without all the time pressure I tend to put on myself when I run road races. Plus, I'd never run a relay race before and was interested in trying that out. And I'd always heard that the Toad is one of the best organized races around, so I figured what the hell, let's give it a shot.

I still have no idea why it's called the Run for the Toad.
The weather was a bit iffy; that weird humid but also kind of cold thing we've had going on here lately. It's hard to dress for because you are freezing before you run but 10 minutes in start overheating. I decided to grab one of everything, essentially, to take with me to the race and figured I'd make a decision on an exact outfit once I was there - since I was running third I knew I'd get a chance to hear from Sam how the first leg went and how her outfit worked out for her.

Not even lying, I packed everything. Even towels in case it poured rain. Be prepared.
It was very strange arriving at a race after it had already started. I couldn't shake the feeling that was I late, even though I knew it would be quite a while before it was my turn to run. I managed to time my arrival exactly as the 25k runners were crossing the road into the parking lot. Smooth move.
Get off the road! I'm a motorist! Stupid runners.
After wedging my car into a tiny parking spot next to a tree (had to get out on the passenger side, d'oh), I made my way from the parking lot over to the Toad Tent City, and almost immediately ran into Kim - as I was pulling out my phone to text her! We had some time before we needed to head for the relay exchange area to wait for Sam. I checked out the vendors in the Tent, and was shocked to find a running store selling my particular shoe model for $50 cheaper than usual - and they had one pair left in my size! In a different colour than my current pair, which is awesome because it makes it easier to tell the pairs apart. I got them to hold the shoes for me because I'd left my credit card in the car - I hadn't expected to want to buy anything in the middle of a freaking forest.

Welcome to tent city! The huge tent with vendors and lots of seating is just one of the ways this is a top quality race.

Kim and I waited for Sam, cheering for other runners as they came through. The Toad is a 12.5k loop, so the 25k runners do it twice, the 50k runners do it 4 times, and the relay runners (teams of 4) each run one loop. We weren't waiting too long (Kim might dispute that, she was freeeezing) before Sam came through and Kim was off on her loop of the course.

Swapping the timing chip. I'm being helpful by taking pictures.
After yelling at Kim to run fast, Sam and I headed back to our cars (a bit of a trek, and when Sam says she has no sense of direction, she's not lying). Sam had my race kit in her car, and I needed my credit card to get my shoes. When we got back to the tent city who should we see but our fourth teammate Phil, who somehow managed to score a sweet parking spot right by all the action. Which was awfully convenient because I had not been looking forward to another walk back to the car to store my new shoes, so I stashed them in Phil's Jeep. And now you know way more than anyone needs to about the saga of my new shoes.

After all that blather, the least I can do is show a pic of the new kicks. That's what the kids these days call them, right? Oh god I'm old.

Very nice swag - I will make good use of the gym bag, and the little baggy of epsom salts for a post race soak is brilliant.

Sam recommended a tank top for the run, so I had changed back at the car and got myself organized to run my loop of the race. We hung out chatting at the exchange area and managed to completely miss Kim coming across the finish line (TEAM FAIL). Glad Mari, who we were chatting with, spotted her. I tossed my jacket at Sam, got the chip safely onto my ankle and headed out.

View of the lake by the start. Pretty!
It was very, very odd starting a race all by myself - no one else was coming through the finish area at the time and I found myself running a stupidly fast pace. I took a few deep breaths and told myself to settle down, then immediately started worrying about getting lost. Since many of the 25k runners were now finished, there were some stretches of the course where I was basically running solo, until I would come up on a slower runner or walker. The course marshals kept telling me I was looking strong, and I wanted to tell them, um, I've only been running for about 800 meters, I better look strong! Not like some of the people I passed who were obviously 50k runners now 25k+ in to their race.

Happy runner!

I quickly realized that getting lost wasn't going to be an issue; probably the most well marked course I've ever run. There was never a moment where I had any doubt or hesitation about which direction I was supposed to go. Kudos to the race organizers for that.

No, I didn't take this during the race - had to walk on some of the race trail to get to the parking lot. They had a million of the little flags marking the route, you could always see the next flag, so it was very easy to tell where to go.

The actual run itself had a lot of hills - nothing particularly long, but definitely steeper than this road runner is used to dealing with. I quickly realized that running up some of those inclines wasn't going to get me to the top any faster than a brisk walk would, so settled for walking the steep uphills and then running again as soon I crested the top. That worked really well, and I settled into a nice rhythm. The kilometers seemed to fly by, and I was just loving it! Nothing particularly technical (one section had some tree roots, but they were easy to avoid), and nothing particularly muddy. There were some gorgeous views, too, where I really really really wanted to stop and take pictures, but figured my teammates might be a bit WTF if they realized I'd stopped for photo ops.

Of course I did double thumbs up. Like I ever do anything else. Sigh.
 About 3k from the finish I spotted a female relay runner in a tank top not far ahead of me, and decided to try and catch her. I'm pretty sure she had passed me a few km earlier, so I really wanted to catch back up to her. I was gradually closing the gap, feeling pretty good, when we arrived at Skeleton Hill, aka the hill everyone talks about because you practically need a sherpa to get up it.

Tank top runner is 3/4 of the way up. OK, so I stopped for ONE picture. I swear it only took a second, guys! I had to get a picture of that hill!

Tank top runner RAN up the hill. HA HA HA. At that point I let it go - no way was I going to attempt to run up that! So I said a silent farewell to her, climbed the hill, and headed for the finish.

Air! I need air! And my teammate to take this damn ankle chip off!
Turns out? Tank Top runner was the third runner on Mari's team, and we'd Sam had been trash talking Mari for weeks! I was pretty pleased I'd managed to come in so close behind her, giving Phil a chance to pull out the victory in the admittedly somewhat imaginary race between our teams. I also finished only a couple of minutes before the winner of the women's 50k - glad I wasn't slower, that might have been awkward ("Oh gosh, is this tape stretched across the finish for me? Oh, no. I suppose not.").

Phil headed out for his 12.5k, and I was STARVING (all caps totally warranted). I got my lunch, which was delicious. Another thing this race does completely right, excellent post race food.

It was too much food, in fact, I couldn't eat it all.

After some sitting and chatting, we all headed back to the finish to wait for Phil (figured it would be kind of rude to miss him finishing, especially since he would be getting all our medals). Phil flew through the course with our fastest time of the day, collected our medals, and we celebrated a great relay race and super fun experience!

Way to go team! Shamelessly stole this pic from Kim because she did a way better job at colour correcting than I did with mine, in that I didn't even bother to try.
Oh, and we TOTALLY beat Mari's team. Just for the record. I ran my 12.5k in 1:18:14, and our team finished with a final 50k time of 5:09:44; 28th out of 52 teams. Not bad especially since none of us is really a trail runner!

I look a bit suspicious of my new friend the toad there.

I find myself really really tempted by the idea of the 25k race next year. It was really fun and I felt like one loop just wasn't quite enough. Stay tuned, I may turn into a trail runner yet.

Plus how cute is this medal? So cute!


  1. Great job out there! You make me tempted to try this out next year, but I'm not one for trail running. However if its not technical, maybe I'll be okay! Congrats on another awesome race, score on shoes and great medal!

    1. The relay would be a great way to try out a 'trail' run on an overall pretty easy course. It's a really fantastic event, definitely a must do at least once I think.

  2. Congrats on a great race, you guys did great. Love this event so much and sorry I had to miss it this year. If you are back next year for the 25K (which is super fun) hope to see you then! Nice pics, love the one of the killer hill.