This was more than a race, this was an experience! I am so lucky to be part of a team of hardworking and determined women in Toronto. The weekend of May 23/24 really put us to the test as we took on the Cabot Trail Relay (CTR). The CTR is a 24 hour, 276km, 17 leg race that goes around the cabot trail in Cape Breton NS. If you have never been there it is beautiful but much colder than it is here and HILLY. …By hilly I mean mountainous. There are 70 teams that compete in this race every year.
As a runner it is so nice to get a chance to be able to compete as a team. We train as a team but with running for the most part you compete as an individual. Which do not get me wrong I love because I love competing against myself and always trying to improve but there is truly something special about competing for someone aside from yourself.
The angels got the idea to compete in CTR last summer after hearing of a different Toronto women’s team who had won and come close to the 5 year standing record set by the Road Hags from Maine, USA. A few of our angels were on the winning team and highly recommended the race to us. So it was decided in May 2015 we would head to the east coast as a team and compete to win and try to break the female course record.
I met the angels at the Halifax airport on Friday morning as I had flown in early to visit my chiro friend who lives there. Once we finally got our 3 rental vehicles it was time to head to Baddeck the town we would be staying in. Along the way we stop and grabbed all the essential food and hydration to keep us going for the 24 hour relay race.
We arrived in Baddeck in the late afternoon and checked into our hotel room. We had a team dinner that evening at one of the local restaurants aside from being a little slow (I think the volume of people was a little increased) the meal was great! We had a quick team meeting and then it was off to bed to get as much sleep as we could to prepare for the night without sleep that was to follow. We made a game time decision to get a hotel at the half way mark of the race so the runners running the night leg could get some rest before they ran. This proved to be a great idea!
The morning started early with a 7am start time. Our first two runners were the ones that were set to double so they did the first two legs and the last two legs. It did not take long to notice there was no such thing as an ‘easy’ leg in this race Cape Breton is very hilly so we were all going to have to work hard. The angels won the first 3 legs and then I was set to run the fourth leg.
The 4th leg was the longest leg at 20km and had cape smokey aka a mountain (2km uphill climb) at 9km right in the middle of the leg. I started out at a good pace and had a couple women challenge me but I pulled ahead and kept running. I kept a few of the men in my sight knowing that on the hill they would likely gap me a bit further. Sure enough we came up to 9km and we started the crazy uphill climb. My team was awesome and was there to help cheer me up the hill. All I was thinking is “just don’t stop running”. If you stopped I really do not think you would be able to start running again. Finally the mountain ended but man was it a tough one! I had the leg record in the back of my head (cause how cool would it be to beat the record on this tough leg) at 1:17:43. So I knew on the second half of this leg I was going to have to PUSH it! So I kept pushing, luckily what goes up must come down in the case of this leg so it was a lot of downhill in the second half which I definitely used to my advantage. In the end I was the first female but I was off the record by about 90s. That is one tough record to break! But I had so much fun running for my team!! The support was absolutely amazing.
By this time in the race the race organizers were starting to question who this women’s team was. We told them we were from Toronto and we were here to break the record. They assured us that if we kept this up we were on our way. Little did they know we still had plenty of strong runners to come! The race directors decided to put someone on ‘angel watch’ at each of the legs.
We won the next two legs. The sixth one was our TSN highlight AZ was following behind another women for the majority of the race at one point there was a gap of about 30s. But in the last 2.5km AZ stepped it up and past the other women giving her self a gap of about 30s… just amazing!!
Legs 7 and 8 were run strong with great finishes. Leg 9 our coach Nicole Stevenson was up and this was not going to be an easy leg… it had a SIX KM up mountain climb. But Nic was the one to do it she lead by example and showed her toughness. She also tried to chase down the record for this leg but ended up a little short. But came out as the first female.
Now it was time to get out the night vest and headlamps as it was dark at this point and safety comes first when it comes to night running. At this point we also had one teammate feeling quite ill which just threw a curve ball into everything, luckily she had already ran.
Leg 10 was a very tough leg that went up for most of the run and never came back down. To add to this it also started POURING rain for this leg and it was not warm out. Our angel from out west showed her true angel spirit and ran this leg hard and came out on top.
Through the night the girls ran so hard and I think every one of them won their leg! It was truly an awesome thing to see these women running so hard in the pitch black (no street lights out there). Through the night we had a second angel become quite ill. The two women that ended up ill did everything they could to stay strong and continue to cheer thought they were not feeling well.
By the 15th leg the sun was up again and the angels were getting tired but staying strong. We decided it was time to rally again and get our cheering faces on!
The last two legs were run by two amazing women who both already ran a leg! They did so awesome!
The last leg finished in the town of Baddeck and all the participants lined the streets and the last runner got to run through and high five everyone along the way it was a pretty cool experience!!!
At the awards ceremony we were congratulated by a standing ovation from the other participants it was a priceless moment that I will never forget!!
In the end 15 of the Angels ran 276km in 17 legs in a time of 19hrs 22mins. We were the first women’s team and even beat the first place mix time and were 7th overall! A truly amazing experience that I will not soon forget and I look forward to running more relays with the angels!!!
If you would like to see another review of the race from my coach check out our facebook page Stevenson Performance Running or our website at http://www.runwithspr.com.
Always trying to spread the word about The Runner’s Academy. Here is me in Cape Breton representing! If you have not checked us out yet you should do so @therunnersacademy http://www.therunnersacademy.com.
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