Parenting

The challenge of the Creemore Vertical course

Lightning, mud, hills and waist-deep river crossings: Jennifer has a new favourite Ontario trail race.

At the finish line with my son (after the waist-deep river crossing washed off most of the mud).

Remember last Christmas when I opened a gift from my husband — to find that he’d registered me for the 25K Creemore Vertical Challenge? Time flies and I ran Creemore on Saturday (without any of the the hill, core or strength training I had planned on doing).
 
To say the Creemore course is legendary is an understatement. Just do a Google search for Creemore Vertical Challenge and you’ll have race reports talking about the hills and heat. And when the race director’s motto is “We’re not happy until you’re not happy”, you know you’re in for one heck of a race. Despite Creemore’s reputation (or in spite of it), the race reached its cap of 200 runners well before race day.
 
I woke up in our Collingwood hotel Saturday morning to pouring rain, thunder and lightning. Driving to the the race my husband and children made me promise to not get struck (I’m sure the kids especially freaked out after they dropped me off and two lightning bolts lit up the sky). It had rained so much that even the toilet paper in the honey buckets was wet. Thankfully the rain let up before our 9:00 a.m. start time, when myself and about 160 other soaked 25K runners took off after a literal shot gun start.
 
Being a complete klutz, I fell down less than 1K into the race — a full on somersault. The footing was very slippery and being a middle-of-the-pack runner, the trail was very greasy from all of the feet before me. And of course, I was wearing my favourite white running skirt — but I didn’t care because it was the most fun I’d ever had running. And for the rest of the race I had a blast — stopping to take pictures, talk to other runners and volunteers or jump into the mud at the bottom of a part of the course called The Valley (I threatened to do a cannonball). Of course the hills themselves were hard (there are four major climbs), but instead of beating myself up for not doing the hill repeats in training that I should have done, I walked and talked with other runners. In fact, my least favourite part of the course was a flat stretch in the middle and, lucky for me, there were very few flat sections. And when it came to a part of the course that I knew I was good at — rocky downhills and water crossings — I ran as fast as I could because it made me laugh and feel like a kid. 
 
And this is what I love most about trail running and racing — being surrounded by other adults who are just as silly as I am. Who love their health, their bodies and the challenge of going up against whatever race directors and Mother Nature throws against them. There was not a single frown on Saturday, even though we all sore, soaked and filthy — though I’m sure the free Creemore Springs Beer at the finish line helped. 
 
So this is my challenge to you: Go out and run like a kid. It doesn’t have to be a trail race with an epic reputation, but it needs to be fun. You need to laugh and, better yet, grab a friend and laugh together.