I knew I had to write about the Wild Bruce Chase, but I needed to let it sink in for a while. It has been nearly 4 weeks since the most epic experience of my life! When my friend Erin asked me if I was interested in joining a relay team of 18 women, with the goal of tackling the entire 880km Bruce Trail, I did not even hesitate. How could I turn down an experience that sounded so unique and amazing?! When opportunities such as this arise, I believe you need to make it work. So even though I knew I would be in Vancouver racing the Scotiabank Vancouver half marathon only 6 days before, I would put off recovery and real life until after.
Only as the July long weekend came closer did I really start to think about what I had gotten myself into. I do not run or train on trails. I definitely do not run trails at night. I am terrified of bears, ticks, rattlesnakes, and the pressure of getting lost or messing it up for the team became crushing! I voiced my concerns with Erin, and she has a fabulous way of bringing me back down to earth. I decided that because it brought so much fear out of me, and the scary things are what enable growth, I had to push those fears aside and start having some faith in myself!
Because I had only just arrived home from Vancouver Wednesday June 29 around midnight, and I had to work on Saturday, it was not possible for me to start with the majority of the team in Tobermory on Friday July 1. I met them two exchanges ahead of where I was to begin my first leg of the relay, in Caledon Hills. I still had some daylight when I arrived and decided to check out one of the spots I enter the trail from the road.
Admittedly, I still could not believe I would be entering this in the middle of the night in only a few hours!
I went for an early warm up to calm my fears. My excitement was building!
I was partnered with Jon to run with me on my night leg. "A Bruce Trail expert" Erin had assured me! He arrived with about 20 minutes until go time. All nerves and excitement, I repeatedly told him I am not a trail runner, and was terrified. Oh, and did he know how crazy anxious I was?! Poor guy. Ha!
First run with a headlamp. I could not stand how it bounced around and ended up tossing it in Jon's bag. I carried a cheap one in my hand.
Around 1am, the tracker was tossed into my bag, and with all the excitement and my terror, I cannot for the life of me remember who passed off to me. Leg #1 was basically half road and half trail, the first portion of it being trail. I led the way and Jon schooled me on trail running basics that I made sure to remember. Picture something out of the Blair Witch Project movie. You are in the middle of the forest. It is pitch black, other than the head lamps. You can hear the coyotes in the distance somewhere. I was so focused on spotting and following the blazes (the white markings that led the way of the main trail), that I did not have any time to focus on my fear. Every time we were back on the road, I made sure to try and make up my time there, as my pace on the trails was slower than my recovery pace on the road. (5:30-6:30's).
My two main concerns about the night leg were wildlife, and falling. I only half tripped twice, both times saving myself. Phew! The only wildlife we saw was a group of bats we had disturbed as we ran through a tunnel. Or I could count the road kill racoon I nearly tripped on. It was on the side of the road and because there were no street lights, I did not see it until it was almost too late! Face planting a dead racoon would have made for a good story though.
Climbing one of the many stiles on the Bruce. Positioned so you can go over the fences without ruining them. Also guaranteed to get face fulls of spiders and webs as you go over. Note my compression shorts to keep the ticks out of my crotch and the compression socks to keep them off my legs. Have I mentioned I am terrified of ticks? I wore my Saucony Kinvara 5's instead of my trail shoes for this leg as it had a lot of road portions in it.
We ran through brush, forest, tall grass (ticks, ugh!), but the creepiest may have been the corn field. It had a bunch of random pockets of cold air throughout it, and as I ran I tried not to envision Children of the Corn. There was some barking in the distance that Jon assured me was domestic dogs. I was not concerned about them so much, the real question was WHAT DO THEY SEE?! What are they barking at?! Thankfully whatever it was had ran off by the time we passed. Phew.
Just don't think about it !
Back into the forest for the last time after a few km on the road. Adrenaline had stared to lead to fatigue as I am normally sleeping at 2:30am, not running. We were closing in on 17.50km so I knew we had to be close. The crew was waiting and spotted our headlamps in the darkness before we could see anything but blackness ahead. They began cheering, and there is NO BETTER SOUND than your team waiting for you. I exited the forest, the team grabbed the tracker and Momentum Wrap (our "baton") and Tanis was on her way into the darkness. First leg of the Wild Bruce Chase down. Could not have done it without Jon. Who runs with people they have never met before, through a forest in the middle of the night!? What a great guy, I am so thankful!
Tanis awaiting the start of her first leg. At least the headlamps somewhat reflected off the blazes!
Stay tuned for leg #2 recap!