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When: Jun 10, 2017            Where: Edmonton, AB

This is not a race, it’s an adventure! The opening remarks at the start of the race were telling you the truth. The course is not well marked, you may get lost, and that is all part of the fun. If you go off course on a typical road race, you are furious. If you only go off course twice here, you are doing pretty good. It adds to the charm. Finisher’s get to tell tales of where they wandered and compare finishing distances.

This race is put on by Todd and the phenomenal Edmonton Trail Runners. The event features 25km, 50km, 50mile, 100km, and 100mile distances! They also had a 5km course for beginners. The 100 milers started on Jun 9 and had a 30 hour time limit. The super competitive 100km race had a tight time limit of only 18 hours and started at midnight. The 50 milers started at 3:00AM and the 50km started at 8:00AM. I ran the 25km which started at noon and saw many of the 50km runners just starting their second loop when I got to the Savage Centre. The course was set to close at 6:00PM.

The course for the 25km was mostly the same as the winter edition with a few welcome exceptions. The ridge type hill around the 3km mark that I slid down in the winter was now closed off for repairs after spring flooding. This did not however take away from the event. We started the race with a steep climb up a tall hill and then made our way through the weaving trails. It was overcast and had rained through the night so the air was humid, the bush was wet, and the sun was not beating down on us. In short, the conditions were great.

I started with one pack of runners and then fell back into another group. I stuck near these runners through the first part of the course which ran south through the Whitemud Creek Ravine. I had a goal of 4 hours for the course, after finishing in 4 and a half in the winter edition. I set a decent pace for my goal and was maintaining well. I brought my water bottle with electrolyte mix in it and a few gels and GU chews. We ran past the University of Alberta farm and continued south past Rainbow Valley Park and underneath Whitemud Drive. I had now been left by the group that I was following and ran alone in the wilderness. Some may think that Edmonton is mostly a concrete and glass city, but once you are alone in the woods, it felt to me much more like a rain forest than a large urban city. I enjoyed myself and took some pictures along the way.

A group of about 8 runners caught up with me, just in time to lead me off course somewhere around Westbrook Estates. We all did a quick flag check, doubled back and got back on course in no time. Around the 9km mark we hit the aid station. My water bottle was still not empty yet, and knowing that we were just doing a 2k loop and then coming back here, I ran straight past the aid station and kept my pace.

The group caught back up to me on the south small loop that causes much confusion for many runners. I knew this going in, after going for a partial extra loop here in the winter, so I was careful at studying the entrance to the loop so that I would know which way to go on the way out. What I did not account for, was that our group would get lost somewhere on the south loop. We ran down a hill and through some mud and then the bush get real thick and we noticed that there were no foot prints in the mud. “STOP!, when did we last see a flag?”. Back up the hill we went, say some flags and got back on track. When we hit the start of the loop I shouted, “right, right”, and we stayed on track. To this point I thought, 2 misdirects, that’s not bad, don’t make it a third.

I stopped at the aid station on the way back north and the group fractured here. Some went ahead, some rested longer. I grabbed a cup of ginger ale and filled my water bottle with water. I skipped the jelly beans, chips, and other goodies but it was well stocked and the volunteers were very enthusiastic.

With the group fractured, I was on my own for a while. We hit a concrete path behind some residential homes and I saw some markers headed back south so I stood and stared for awhile. Then 2 runners showed up and said “flags”, and headed down the path. I told them that think they are going back to the aid station again. They continued on and I headed down the path for a bit before stopping again. I checked my GPS and determined that it was the wrong way, so I headed back to the path. I ran around a bend and saw the way back. I was right! I felt sorry for those 2 runners, but I was glad that my 3rd off course excursion was corrected before I went too far. Then I caught up with one of the runners from the larger group and we took turns passing each other before we determined that we were pushing each other and keeping a similar pace. So, we ran the rest of the race together. We passed the Snow Valley Ski Club and headed back to the Alfred Savage Centre to refuel.

It is a little distracting seeing the finish line and knowing that you can’t run through it yet, but we went inside, checked in, and had a few pieces of watermelon; topped up my water bottle, had a cup of coke and headed back out. The north loop was in the opposite direction from the winter edition. My new partner and I headed out passed Fort Edmonton Park and down along the North Saskatchewan River to the large pedestrian bridge. We walked up the bridge and looked in the distance at the 2 large stair cases to come. After crossing the peak of the bridge we ran a few km until we reached the stairs. Slow and steady up more than 200 stairs, then a short path before taking on the next set.

We checked in at the top and were told that the Two Truck Trail was closed due to poor conditions. We headed back through the residential, my trail shoes were not loving all the paved roads so I ran on the grass whenever I could. It seemed like this was the longest part of the run. After all the scenery of running in the woods, this neighbourhood felt like a let down. I would have preferred to take on the mud along Two Truck. But, I felt good on pacing and figured we would finish close to my 4 hour goal. We went across the pedestrian bridge over the Whitemud, which was a little scary if you are afraid of heights, and then made a straight line down to the finish. My running partner and I got to talking and found out that we actually work at the same company and that we have communicated by email several times. Small world!

We finished strong and crossed the finish line together at 4:02:25. This is the type of course where you are not looking to set personal bests. You come here when you want to see what you are made of. At the finish we were presented with our finisher medals and a hat that they wrote your finish time on when you crossed.

Wow. Such a great day. Maybe next year, knees willing, I will do the course twice and try the 50km!

Big thanks to the race co-ordinators, all the volunteers and to JSakowsky Photography and Mark Jason Lacson Photography for the free photos!

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