It all started at the end of my first season as an ultrarunner. September, 2015, I completed my first 50 mile trail ultramarathon at the Haliburton Forest. While I'd registered for a 50 k trail race in October, I didn't have any other plans for my running.
All I knew was I wanted to get faster and stronger. I wanted to continue to be an active participant in the simply awesome community of trail and ultrarunning. I wanted 50 miles to feel a lot less hellish than it did at Haliburton. And, I wanted to finish in a time that felt a lot more respectable. I had no idea how all that was going to happen.
Less than 2 weeks later, I found myself getting up before sunrise to pace Virginia Gingras in her quest for an FKT (Fastest Known Time) on the Bruce Trail. Until then, it hadn't occurred to me to run the entire trail. I knew I wasn't interested in the amount of organizing and rallying support to run it in one stretch like Virginia did, but the seed was planted.
October rolled around and I was happy to run a 50 K PB (Personal Best) in less than 6 hours at Run for the Toad near Paris, Ontario. Perhaps, I wasn't destined to be a back of the pack runner despite my less than stellar performance at Haliburton? Slightly encouraged, I continued to run and enjoy the community, meeting new running buddies and learning from Patty Scott that I could earn badges by completing sections of the Bruce Trail. That sounded cool. Motivation to run via badges like those I'd filled my sleeves with in Girl Guides? Sure, why not?
Thankfully, I had purchased a SUUNTO Ambit 3 Run (GPS watch) earlier in the year and had an online log of all the kms I'd run on the Bruce before I had any concept of running it 'end to end' or running for badges. Fortunately, my pal Steen, had logged a run we did on the Bruce near Collingwood with his Garmin about 4 years back. So, really, it all started then. As I had already run quite a few kms of the trail, I had a head start on my badges. All I had to do was compile the stats for each section and mail off my $5. Shortly after knowing they existed, I had the Toronto and Iroquoia Club badges.
Winter came and I kept running more purposely for badges on Saturday long run adventures with friends. No matter what the conditions were, we'd be on the trail for sunrise or shortly thereafter getting the distance in. That meant snow, ice, blizzards, freezing rain, etc.
Sadly, I'd misplaced my Kahtoola microspikes at the end of last season, not realizing they were a prized possession until I had to slide down several icy sections of the trail on my backside. I improvised by designating my Salomon SpeedCross 3 Gore Tex shoes as my "ice shoes" screwing Icespikes into the soles. Those worked pretty well, although I lost a spike or two along the way. Happily, I later found the Kahtoolas in a cupboard I'd searched about 3 times because I was sure I put them in there at the end of the last winter. Again, I had options.
As it happens, running in winter can be breathtakingly beautiful and post-holing through snow for 8 hours at a time cultivates a certain mental toughness that can really help in an ultrarunning race. Over the winter, I'd complete two more badges - Niagara and Caledon.
Spring rolled around and the trilliums were in bloom. I had a short 3 k section of the Dufferin Hi-Lands section I'd missed running somehow so tacked that on before a run in the Blue Mountains to get the Dufferin Hi-Lands Club badge. Yet, somehow as I ran further and further north, the motivation to run for badges was fading as my impetus to finish the entire trail grew.
Fortunately, running farther north meant friends that lived up that way could join in for long runs on the Bruce.
Now, the main aim was to enjoy the adventure of exploring and completing Canada's oldest and longest trail. When people asked me what I was training for, I told them I was running the Bruce to train for Finger Lakes 50s, my second 50 mile trail race and possibly 100 miler thereafter. That said, I am not sure I was running the Bruce to suit my training because running the entire Bruce, while not a race or FKT was a pretty big goal in itself.
That said, these runs made a big difference to my performance. I ended up placing in the top 10 female finishers at Pick Your Poison 50 k at the end of April and PB'ing Finger Lakes 50 by 2 hours and 40 mins over my Haliburton time at the beginning of July, also a top 10 female finish. I kept the hours of post-holing in the snow on the Bruce in mind when things got tough.
After finishing 80 k of the Beaver Valley Club section, a beautiful "U" that included some incredible waterfalls, it was time to get a multi-day adventure on the books as driving for more than 2 hours each way to get a long run in didn't feel like a very efficient way to complete the trail. Happily, my pal Steph had come on board running for badges during the winter and was also keen to tackle new sections of the trail. So, we decided to start doing long runs with overnight stays.
Our first multi-day running adventure turned into 3 days of running 123 k in total, including 49 k on the hottest day on record in the area since the 1930s. Steph and I completed the Beaver Valley Club section and the first half of Sydenham together and a number of friends joined in for part of the miles, adding to the joy and camaraderie of the experience.