Friday, 18 May 2012

#67: Day Tripper

Prologue: One week to go.

It's "... a 173 mile/278.3 km, 17 stage relay race through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world... beginning in Baddeck, Cape Breton, over steep mountains in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, through many small communities around the famous Cabot Trail, to the gently rolling Margaree Valley" and back again...

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce the Cabot Trail Relay Race.

Forget road racing, trail ultras, or mega-city marathons; for the running experience of a lifetime, look no further than Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and the infamous Cabot Trail.

Relay events are a truly unique and special thing in a predominently individual sport such as running. And while you don't hold hands, pass batons and aren't tethered together or anything, a running team relay means you are directly responsible and accountable to your team and team mates which can provide additional motivation and inspiration for running at one's best. I love and really thrive on the supportive team atmosphere and environment of the relay. It's the perfect combination of individual effort contributing to collective success (like communism, but better!).

I have been extremely fortunate to take part in a number of team events over the past year such as the Pride 5k (won), Lindsay 10k (won), Yonge St. 10k team challenge (won), and the (now defunct) Simcoe Shores Relay (came second by seconds!). But none of this compares to the experience I had last year when I was especially privileged to run the Cabot Trail Relay for the first time. As far as relays go, Cabot is about the best there is around.

So imagine flying from Canada's ultimate urban landscape of downtown Toronto to the humble outskirts of Halifax, NS. Then drive 4+ hours north crossing the Canso Causeway onto Cape Breton Island and ending in the small village community of Baddeck (pop: ~2,100). After resting from a day of travel in a modest motel, wake early to see your first runner depart at precisely 7am Sat. Thus begins ~25hrs of exhilarating adventure, driving among the most beautiful countryside in all Canada, at all hours of the day, in a cramped car, with several other increasingly smelly, tired yet oddly elated runners, eating little more than Clif bars, bagels and bananas, napping for the occasional 30min, and then, at some point having to race ~10 miles yourself over sensationally scenic and ridiculously 'rolling' (a mass understatement) hills as your team mates and random others yell and scream support at you from passing vehicles and roadside stops. After traversing the 278k over 17 legs using several pairs of legs and lots of lung, having covered the majority of the majestic Cabot Trail (some of it sadly unseen due to darkness), you finish on Sunday morning back in Baddeck to cheering locals and fellow teams. After the briefest break for a quick nap, the celebrations continue with a lobster lunch followed by ample antics and alcohol at the nearby Yacht club. Somehow the endorphins and endurance keep you out most of the night before getting whatever sleep is available before departing early on the 4hr journey back to Halifax the following morning and finally on to Toronto and back to the reality which was ever so briefly evaded. An experience of a lifetime lasting little more than 72hrs!

The 2011 'Cardio Arrest' team shortly after the finish. 1st mixed team (+ course record) and 3rd overall.
Last year I ran with a mostly Longboat team called 'Cardio Arrest.' We brought 16 runners to cover the 17 leg course and set a mixed team course record (18:54:59; 4:06/k) and placed 3rd (out of 60 teams) overall. I ran leg 14, an ~20k leg that stretches along the west coast of the island before heading inland and follows the Margaree River. It began in pure darkness at 3:30am and finishes just as the sun is rising over the dew-covered valley. With limited light to guide me, I recall hearing the ocean waves crash against the shoreline and the gentle breeze whistling among the tall grass. Seeing a thousand stars twinkling above and hearing the combined chorus of many tiny musicians on this so called "cricket run." Running completely alone for the vast majority of the race, the imagination runs wild and for an hour or so, time is transcended, alternating between infinitely fast and painfully slow. It was an incredible (running) experience unlike any I've had.
A picture of me running Leg 14 in 2011.
This year, on the last weekend of May (25-27), we're flying back to Halifax, driving back to Baddeck, and returning back to run the captivating and challenging Cabot Trail Relay. This time, for the first time, we're running with a new team, a team to call our very own: 'The Black Lungs.' Again composed primarily of Longboat runners (9 of 11), and again, seeking speed, strength and endurance as we take on the hills and showcase our skills in the ultimate weekend of relay racing. We have high hopes and expectations to succeed even if it means we don't come close to the reining and 7-time champions the 'Maine-iacs.' We look forward to a fun-filled weekend of competition, camaraderie, challenge, and craziness to be concluded with much celebration and cheer. Bring on Cabot 2012...

1 comment:

Anthony said...

Cant wait myself! Tres happy to be part of The Black Lungs!