The race: The Cuddly Coyote
Location: Black’s Point, Nova Scotia
Distance: Nine km or 27 km
Why do it: Because your idea of a perfect Saturday morning is stumbling through mud bogs and hauling yourself over really large hills
Swag: A ton of draw prizes are up for grabs, including shoes from Salomon
On the Maritime trail race circuit, the Cuddly Coyote is likely the most technical run of them all. Think about it: coyotes aren’t cuddly. They like to eat people. Starting to get the picture?
Despite the fact that this is a trail race that clearly likes to chew people up and spit them out, a record number signed up this year, turning the Cuddly Coyote into the largest trail race ever run in Atlantic Canada.
You also know you’re at a fine trail race when the volunteers include a Vermont ultra finisher and an individual who recently ran Prince Edward Island tip-to-tip in less than 48 hours.
On the first chill Autumn day, 112 people lined up beside the fire station at Black’s Point (about a 25 minute drive along Nova Scotia’s stunning South Shore from Halifax), ready to run into the Coyote’s maw.
The course is an out-and-back, gaining 2,661 feet of climbing from start to finish. Of course, the start headed uphill. A few rabbits took off, eager to grab the $100 cash prize for first place at the 2.5 km mark (the catch is, they still had to complete the 27 km course to claim it – ouch!). The rest of us gamely trudged up, immediately plunging our feet into the first of the freezing cold bogs.
As we ran the first section of rolling double-track, I watched in frustration as several people passed me. A recent bout of flu had left me with an inner-ear infection that gave me vertigo and already on the first couple of kilometres I kept feeling as if I was going to fall sideways and dash myself into the rocks. Yes, vertigo and trail running: a highly recommended combination – if you’re hoping to really hurt yourself.
Accordingly, I decided I’d have to modify my plan and I dialed back my pace and let the others go. As it turned out, that might not have hurt me as much as I thought.
We emerged onto a brief piece of logging road (which would seem so much easier going out than coming back; funny, I didn’t notice the downhill heading out), and then ran a short section of rails-to-trails before entering an absolutely splendid piece of single track.
Named for race organizers Jodi Isnor and Karine Comeau’s dog, Stella is a flowy section of single track, lush emerald green moss flanking the trail on either sides. If you were going roll, this was the piece of trail on which to do it.
Honestly, I’m not going to give you the blow-by-blow; I’m not sure I can remember the sequence properly given that I kept feeling like I would suddenly list to one side and bash my brains out on some rock or spear an errant root through my shoulder.
In no particular order came a stream crossing, then some climbing, then a long stumbling (at least for me) section of rooty, rocky single track along the Ingram River (the latter shining in the crisp fall air), then more climbing, then more climbing, then another downhill section and then more climbing. Then…the tunnel!
The tunnel is a culvert running beneath Highway 103. As we plunged into its echoing darkness (we all yelled “Whooooooooooo!” as we ran through), a skull and a large fake spider adorned its entrance. Nice touch.
Bursting out into the sunlight on the other side we met, of course, more climbing, this time up more double-track strewn with large rocks and left-over logging debris. That led to a logging road, which – thankfully – plunged downhill. In fact, that descent was alarmingly steep, given that we knew we’d have to climb back up. Here I started to see the first runners heading back.
I knew the turn-around must be close – but first I had to climb that long piece of fire road. It went up, and up, and up and climbed some more and went up and up and up. Runners kept coming down, uttering all the usual lies: “You’re nearly there!,” and “Looking good!” And the damn road kept climbing, up and up and…I felt like I was on the stairway to heaven.
I had endured the frigid bogs. In good humor, I’d scaled the ridiculously steep ascent to the rails-to-trails. I’d bumbled through the horrific Ingram River single track and gamely grinned my way through climb after climb. But this, this was just sick. “Good work,” another runner chirped at me.
Die, bastard, I thought.
In the end, it was worth it. A “euro-style” aid station awaited runners with sausage, salted cucumber, tomatoes, energy drinks and more. I took one of my gels and jammed some vegetables down along with a half bottle of an energy drink. And then turned around and started back.
Here’s the thing: starting out slower than I’d liked turned out okay in the end. Even with taking two wrong turns, I still managed to pass three runners on the way back. Returning on the fire road, I walked for the first time in the race; it offered one of the steepest grades yet. But later, as I slowly picked my way up what had been descents on the way down, I drew on my experience as former mountain bike racer and aimed for a consistent pace. Forward momentum is good, I told myself as I made my way back up Stella’s winding, glowing green path.
Before I knew it, I was racing down the final hill into the finish. It took me three hours and 22 minutes to run the 27 kilometres, but I had lots left upon completing the race. The coyote didn’t bite me – this time.
Full results for the race are here: http://trailbugracing.blogspot.ca/2012/10/cuddly-coyote-results.html