Haliburton Forest Trail 50M, Haliburton, ONT 3,3

Elevation Gain: 3391'; High Point: 1542'

September 11, 2010 - Doing Haliburton has been on my bucket list for a couple of years. After backpacking in Algonquin Provincial Park on the Western Uplands Trail a few years ago the idea of running between the lakes just south of the park was appealing. After a leisurely eight-hour drive across the border I arrived at Haliburton Forest headquarters for Friday evening check-in before setting up my tent in the group camping area. After a bit of society and chowing down on some fibrous victuals I brought along, in lieu of eating at the pre-race meal, I hit the sack early at about eight in the evening, glad to get plenty of rest as I watched the evening light disappear behind the yellow of my tent before falling off to a restful sleep.

The howling of a lone wolf at the Haliburton Wolf Centre awakened me in the early hours of the quiet morning. I forced myself to stay awake to enjoy the call of the wild. The clear sky and abundant stars foretold of a good day ahead. I looked for the aurora borealis, but found nothing before returning to a peaceful sleep. By the time five o'clock rolled around I was rested and ready to get up and race.

RD Helen Malmberg called all competitors to the start of the 50K. 50M and 100M events. After a thoughtful prayer and the music of a lone bagpiper we headed out in maybe 47 degree temps in the darkness at six o'clock on the road around McDonald Lake. With abundant head lamps I didn't need my flashlight much before dawn except on some single track in the shadows of the woods. As morning light emerged over the far shore of the lake I got into a comfortable, gentle pace, with no intention to compete and race on this day. This was the first time I would carry a camera during an ultra, which I used frequently during the day as the scenery inspired me. My plan was to enjoy the day... and finish the event without strain or injury.

Despite taking it easy I was still clipping along through the undulating hilly trails at a 5 mph rate, but feeling no strain. I took up with several interesting Canadians, including some hundred milers, and breezed through the first half of the course at the turn-around in less than five hours, falling only once - slipping and landing flat on my back in the leaves along the trail. By and large the trail was mucky, which is considerably more challenging than muddy. Black muck sometimes was half way up to my knee and I slowed to avoid losing my shoes in the abundant Canadian peat. There were plenty of rocks and roots in this mostly glacial terrain; hills were sometimes long, but not very steep. No bears, moose, or wolves - just some bear poop along the trail. Walking was held to a minimum, keeping the pace fairly consistent. Running deliberately with knees slightly bent and firm foot placements kept me from stumbling and getting hurt, but it was slowed down. My injured Achilles is not completely healed (and may never be), so the event was still mostly a rehab race.

My pace slowed from my average 5 mph pace after hitting 50K in a little over six hours. The last twenty miles were warm with temps up to 70 degrees, which slowed my pace to a 4 mph average with more walking to quiet a restless stomach. The final four miles on the road back to the finish were covered in about 45 minutes, so I was feeling good about my finish in 30th place in 10:45:10. Serious training and a healthy foot would have lowered my time for the day, but I was pleased overall with my progress in my return to racing, all things considered, and I had a great day meeting some nice Canadians with a varied ultra experience from my own.

After a shower and tasty chicken dinner I headed back on the eight hour drive back across the border and arrived home at 3 a.m. Having run at a slower pace I didn't have any significant soreness - just the usual fatigue that accompanies such effort.