The race: Wascally Wabbit III
Location: French Village, Nova Scotia
When: Early May
Distances: 11. 7, 23.4, 50 and 80 km
Why do it: Because you enjoy feeling like a kid and running through puddles and mud
Swag: Great draw prizes from Salomon, and handsome looking race shirts
This time it was personal.
I’d been psyched out and suckered and as I tore down the uneven fire road heading toward the turn into the woods, the animal that lives inside me emerged – and that’s never a good thing.
I was on a search and destroy mission. The target of my fury was none other than Frank.
You remember Frank: I believe the last time he made an appearance in this blog was in a post about a trail run. He and a couple of other runners got lost in the Bluff Trail and subsequently ran into an amorous bear, which had its way with them.
Now Frank is ordinarily a great guy. We run together a fair amount and help push each other through workouts. But obviously when it comes to competition, something evil in Frank emerges.
It all started at the third annual Wascally Wabbit Trail Race this past Saturday.
The Wascally Wabbit marks the first of the five race Maritime Trail Running Series that Jodi Isenor and Karine Comeau organize, along with Shawn McCardle on Prince Edward Island.
I was expecting more of the sheer brutality of last year’s Cuddly Coyote, with its long climbs and descents, but the Wabbit seemed fairly tame in comparison. The course consisted of rolling fire road leading to a “P” shaped loop of double-track.
Most of the usual suspects – and then some – showed up. Seventy-two people (up 56 from last year!) from three different provinces started the race at 7 a.m. in French Village. The latter’s name is a misnomer as there’s not even a scattering of homes in the hills there up above the Peggy’s Cove Road.
The race’s tone was set early on when Jodi told runners to not even bother trying to skip the puddles and mud. That was a signal for Mark Campbell to jump into a puddle, soaking Bernie Doucet next to him.
Yup. Not your typical road race, that’s for sure.
Next the assembled crowed broke into a heartfelt rendition of Happy Birthday as they serenaded Jodi’s father, Dwight, who on his 61st birthday would run the 11.7 km distance in a time of 1:45:35 for his longest run ever.
And with that, the race got underway.
In advance, I’d decided this would be a training run for my marathon and wanted to hold the pace down. Within the first kilometre, Frank pulled up beside me and as we rolled over the fire road toward the first large climb, we chatted easily.
Even before the race, Frank kept telling me he was only going to do the 11.7 km distance; the Bluenose Half Marathon was coming up next weekend, and he wasn’t even certain if he’d last the course. And as we ran together, Frank further sniveled that he’d only do the one loop and then call it quits for the day.
So I let him go and stuck to my pace.
A sharp right turn immediately took us into a long, muddy climb where everyone switched to a quick walk. After the first initial ascent, we rolled through silent, tree-lined double-track lined with trees and often with a moss footing beneath. You could have easily mistaken the setting for the West Coast.
Without a doubt, the toughest hill was the “short cut,” a small but steep climb. For the most part, though, the Wabbit made for a fast run: a couple of long climbs, a couple of great descents, some rock sections and the scenic fire road out and back.
It was on the latter heading back that I saw Frank setting out on his second lap. My eyes bulged in disbelief. I’d been had!
Frank saw the look on my face and a shroud of fear descended upon him. Later, runners would say how “strong” he looked and how he tore up the course…because terror throbbed through his veins.
At the half-way mark, I stripped off my Salomon back pack, shoved a gel into my maw, and unleashed the inner animal. On the dirt road back toward the double-track I overtook three runners, none of them Frank, now my sworn enemy for life – well, at least for the next 11.7 km.
I lunged into the double track like a hyena on amphetamines and set off in pursuit of my prey.
I’d never felt better.
It all came to nothing. As I raged through the forest, a sudden stabbing pain in my left foot caught me short. I had a stone in my shoe. I ran a bit further and then stopped to unlace my shoe and dump out the stone, knowing Frank had eluded my wrath.
Nonetheless, I pushed on. But when I hit the dirt road, I knew it was all over. Frank was no where in sight. He’d faked me out. And had a good run to boot.
When I left, the 50 km and 50-miler runners were still on the course, smiles on their faces as they ran yet another lap of a course gentle enough to entice you in for another lap and rough enough to spit you out on the other end.
I guess that’s why it’s called the Wascally Wabbit.