Haliburton100 – Haliburton Forest Trail Race – 26K Race Recap

I’ll admit, before I started training this year for my fall marathon, I had no clue that the trail running community existed. After discovering and running my first 5 Peaks trail series,  I found myself down a google rabbit hole searching for some longer trail races and came across this insane concept you may all be familiar with: Ultra Running. Basically, for the Ultra Crazy.

After my first two 5 peaks races (Terracotta 10.8k and Heart Lake  11K) I was hooked. When I heard about the Limberlost Challenge which included a 14k in July, I immediately signed up as this race fit perfectly into my training plan and was held near enough to Alex’s family cottage that I could make it work. After running Limberlost (in the pouring rain and shin deep mud) I needed more. I heard rumblings during this race of the “Haliburton100” and registered for the 26k faster than it took for the mud to dry on my shoes.


The Haliburton100 Forest Trail Race  is part of the Ontario Ultra Series and boasts the 100 Miler as its signature event.  There is also a 50M, 50K, 26K and 12k race for us mere mortals.
On race day, my mum and I set off early for Haliburton Forest. It was about an hour and half drive from the cottage, around the twisty Muskoka roads, and probably 25k ‘as the crow flies.’

Not a crow, but a decorative goose

We made it to the Forest with about 25 mins to spare and I was able to park, pick up my bib, change and do a quick warm up with time to spare. The whole process was easy and well organized and an awesome buzz around the start line, as the 50k’rs, 50M’rs and 100M’rs had set off earlier that morning.

After a few quick instructions from Helen (the owner of the 80,000 acres of Haliburton Forest) there was a 10 second countdown to 9 a.m. (3 cheers for punctuality!!), and we were off!

The first 2k were along gravel road sloping and curving downhill. Within the first 400m, there was a beautiful doe watching us all from the side of the road, non-chalantly, as if she had planned her day around watching us all take off through her forest.

There was an aid station/checkpoint at the 2k mark and then we hit the forest for a short section before we came to a Y in the road. I was with the front of the pack at this point, when about 8 people went left, and the rest continued straight. I am terrible with directions but sure that we were to keep going straight, as were the two other girls I was trying to keep up with so we whooped and called to the wrong-way runners to turn around. Alas, no such luck.

I ended up sticking with a group of 3 others for most of the run: two inspiring ladies, Melanie and April, who were celebrating their birthday that day and a man named David rounded out our group. David shared that he was out enjoying his last trail race of the year, as he was heading in for surgery relating to cancer on Tuesday. What a trooper. Through the race we all got to chatting, and I learned that April was racing a 24 hour 2 mile loop the following weekend and Melanie had just completed the Fat Dog 120 mile race last month. David had done a bunch of 100M/50M and everything in between over the last year or so. I was in good company, but also a little freaked out as to what I had gotten myself into and that I had gone out way too fast if this was the company I was keeping.

We continued up some technical single track to the second aid station(AS4), had some E-load and continued on (thank you volunteers!). The trails were in great condition, with just a few muddy puddles and slick spots. My race ‘strategy’ is typically to hike the hills, as I usually end up keeping up with the runners this way and doesn’t seem to wear me out as much. There were a few steeper sections, both on trail and through a loose rocky portion and I think I used a tree at one point to pull myself up a particularly steeper part (thank you tree!).

Around the 8k I tried out one of the Endurance Tap energy gels for the first time (YES YES I know, nothing new on race day, but I’m fairly well versed in maple syrup.) OMG DELICIOUS and not as thick as the other gels I had  been using on my long runs which can be difficult to choke down . With the hint of ginger and sea salt, these are definitely my new favourite and  Ill be placing my bulk order immediately.

Can I have this in IV form please?
Can I have this in IV form please?

At around the 10k mark the trail widened to what looked like a grown in old road and we started passing some of the 50k’rs on their way to the finish. Along this section I ended up running through a few thorny sections and scratched my arms and legs. Blood!! I was so excited because I figured this was a real badge of honour and meant I was a Real Trail Runner now!

We had been warned at the beginning that just before the 12k’ ish aid station (AS5) we’d be taken up a long, slow hill, before going down another long windy slope. All true. When we hit the 12k aid station David and I came in together and Melanie and April very close behind. The volunteers told us that only 2 people had come in before us. Talk about a motivation boost. Back up the slow steep grown in hill and a quick downhill. There was a fairly flat section for a few hundred meters where I was able to speed up a little bit each way and gain some ground. About the 16 or 17k mark, I started passing familiar faces from the start of the race – the poor souls that had gone off route. I lost David, he had darted off.  Melanie and April joined me back on the single track as we started up a few of the steeper gnarly sections together.

I was able to gain some speed on the last few downhills, and sucked back another Endurance Tap. Just as delish as the first one. All of a sudden I was back through AS4, meaning 6k to go. I gulped another E-load andpowered on. I ran the last 6kish on my own, except for when a ZOMBIE jumped out of the woods and scared the  #^*>{?!! out of me.  It was terrifying and he just kind of stood there for a minute without saying anything.  I swear I thought it was some sick freak from a nearby campsite not affiliated with the race at all and was about to hack me up. Turns out, he was advertising for an upcoming zombie race in Waterloo which for the record I will definitely NOT be attending.

At the aid station about 2 kms from the end line I gulped back another E-Load for good measure, remembering  the gentle sloping gravel road up to the finish was not going to feel so gentle. My legs were starting to feel it since I had picked up the pace down a lot of the downhills and my quads had started to burn. A road section during a trail race is always the most gruelling stretch (for me anyway) but with no one passing me, I thought I had a pretty good chance at that point of placing in the top 3 women, since I figured the ultra-inspiring and hard-core duo, Melanie and April, would for sure pass me on the last stretch. Up the gravel road, around corner, up a hill, little break, back up another hill and then I started to see the finish line tents.

That last stretch was great, and I could see my mum cheering in the runner ahead of me and then whooping and yelling like the wild woman that she is until I crossed the finish line where she gave me my medal.  Rumour has it that she had stood at the finish line for the last 3 hours cheering in all the 12k’ers and 50k’ers as if she knew each one personally. What a mum.

Post-run hugs and cheers! She deserved her own medal!
Post-run hugs and cheers! She deserved her own medal!

Turns out I had a finishing time of 3:06, and placed 1st female and 4th overall. About 10 minutes after that, the heavens opened up and the RAIN. POURED. DOWN. I felt for those 100M’rs who still had 20 hours to go. Mum and I stuck around the finish line and cheered in the rest of the 12/26k runners, and also the 50k’ers that were coming in, munching on the usual fareof  juices and bagels at the finish line.

I ended up having an issue with my chip timer, and the timing guys finally found my score after for some reason not showing up on their screens. They ended up finding me in their records (after much convincing that i hadn’t gone off course and some vouching from David that I had been running with him most of the way.) For my efforts, I received a beautiful book about the Haliburton Forest, a very fitting and thoughtful prize, and a hug from Helen, the race organizer and owner of the Haliburton Forest. She’s a gem.

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Overall, this was a great event and I will definitely be setting my sights on it again for next year (maybe the 50k?!). There was a great vibe despite the rain, the volunteers were awesome and super encouraging, and as always (and my favourite part), I met fascinating people out on the trail who I otherwise wouldn’t have come across in my real life. Thanks for having me Haliburton100, and see you next year for your 25th anniversary!

If you’re not completely filthy, did your trail run even happen?

Gear:

Asics Gel Fuji Trabuco Neutral – in the market for new shoes as they rub on my big toe and balls of my feet

Gregory Pace 2 hydration pack – LOVE this bag, although the hose part could be a bit shorter

Endurance Tap gels x2- I might start eating these at my desk I love them so much.

Vega Energizer pre-race, accelerator post-race

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