After a summer of training my first fall race was this past weekend with the UT Harricana 65K in La Malbaie Quebec. I had decided back in January I finally wanted to travel out of province for an Ultra and run on some super unfamiliar trails and conditions. Break out of my comfort zone. I came across Harricana after a bottle of wine (oops) and convinced my friend from Ottawa to join me for the adventure and registered. Soon after a couple more friends from my Trail Club also registered and it became a road trip party!
The race itself was expensive as far as other Ultra’s I have done. At around $150 and you get zero swag, I was slightly disappointed. However the route was well marked, the course beautiful, it was a point to point race and the aid stations were fully stocked so I gave them a pass for not giving me a t-shirt I would never wear again. They did have the option to purchase Buffs and T-shirts at the expo but I wasn’t interested.
The Drive from Toronto to the La Malbaie Area was close to 14 hours with stops for food and bathrooms. It was much further than we anticipated when we registered (lack of research on our part) but in a caravan of 2 cars and 6 of us we made the best of it. We had rented an Airbnb just outside of town that overlooked the St Lawrence river and were so happy we did. We were able to make our own meals and the place we rented was comfortable , had beautiful views and was cheaper than a hotel. It was only a 10 minute drive to downtown la Malbaie which was where our shuttle to the race start was picking us up.
The race had an early start as our Shuttle was picking us up from downtown La Malbaie at 5:45am. We had a carb loading feast the night before the race and our friend Mel was in bed super early for her Midnight wakeup call (she ran the 125k with a 2am start!) This was great as it forced all of us to bed nice and early and come 4:30am I felt rested and ready to roll. Breakfast was my usual Oatmeal and banana and I packed a bagel with PB in my finish line drop bag for the bus ride (which I did not eat). As usual nerves settled in and I had a hard time eating. I never do well with the super early starts. I did choke down most of my oatmeal and ate the banana on the bus.
The bus ride to the start was about 40 minutes long. The sun started to rise and we were greeted with a perfect day for running. Slightly cool temps and overcast skies. It did rain overnight so we were expecting some mud on the trails. After some pre-race announcements in French that lasted quite a bit they gave us the 2 sentence version in English (I will never know what was really said during that 5 minute speech) and we lined up to get things rolling at 7am sharp!
My friends Jaime and Liam were also running the 65k and our plan was to stick together as much as we could but if anyone felt good they were to run their own race. We ended up staying mostly together until about 55k so it was great to have the company through most of the Race!
The race began with a downhill 7K road section with spectacular views that was so tempting to pick up speed on. We really wanted to save our legs and kept it quite conservative, however after that 7k of road came 15k of technical single track to the next aid station. It was slow going as many runners took that road section too quick and slowed down a lot on the single track. It felt like a death march at times. The immediate stop after a 7k warmup sucked the life out of my legs and it took quite a bit of time and convincing people to let us pass. Eventually we did get ahead of a number of these runners and were able to pick up some speed to the 18.5k aid station.
We managed to pass a huge group of runners grazing at this station and I headed out ahead of my buddies, taking care to hike the big climbs and take the technical sections slower. This wasn’t a goal race for me and I wanted to enjoy the scenery as it was really beautiful. At around 30k I started feeling some pain in my right hip. It was super stiff (maybe from the 14hours in a car??) And made my downhills way slower than I wanted them to be. At around 40k, after running funny for 10k I rolled my ankle hard. I walked it off for a bit and continued on my painful path to the finish. I did swallow back an advil at this point (I know…BAD) but I knew this wasn’t a major injury and that with some days off and a visit to my chiro post race I would be back to normal.
The race speed was mostly slow going. I was hoping for an 8 hour finish but the MUD…oh god was there ever so much mud. A few times it even went as far up as my knees! But the greenery and forest made up for it. I have never traversed over so many different types of terrain all in one race. Road, gravel road, dirt road, dirt single track, dirt double track, Bouldery single track, mud pits, grassy skill hills, water crossings…this race had it all!
After the 3rd aid station at around 40k the stations were every 7k apart. And at the very last station we lost Liam behind us and i told Jaime to go ahead. I knew we had a huge downhill back to the finish at the Mont grand finds ski resort and with my bum hip and ankle it would be slow. I chatted with other runners on the course (Hello Jacques!!) And made sure to keep smiling even though I wasn’t having my best race.
Eventually I started seeing other race bibs from the 25k and 10k races and knew I was getting close to finishing. I made myself pick up some speed for the last 2k and finished looking strong but barely holding it together.
FINISH TIME : 8HOURS 57MINS, 15/67FEMALES, 11/29AGE GROUP, 92/247Overall
Jaime ended up finishing a few minutes ahead and it was great getting a big finish line hug from her! It was her first Ultra and she did amazing!! My Ottawa friend Celia was also there for hugs after finishing her first ever trail race!!!
We got our medals from the race directors and were led out of the finishers chute straight to the beer tent where we received a free local craft beer and then a post race hot meal that was actually quite delicious. We recounted tales of our race to other runners then changed and bundled up to wait for Mel to finish her 125k (she finished 4th female!!! Woot!).
Despite my body woes I really did enjoy this race. The scenery was beautiful and the atmosphere was great. The finish area at a ski resort was a great touch as it gave a place for us to keep warm post race especially since we were hanging around for a bit. There was a post race party later on in the evening but we were all too toast to attend. Would I run the UT Harricana again? Not if i have to drive 14hours. The Drive killed my hips and was awful to do again the day after the race. I would recommend flying to Quebec City and renting a car though. A much more enjoyable experience then!
What I wore:
Mizuno Wave Hayate Trail Shoes, Mizuno Active tee & Shorts, Ambler Wolf hat.
Ultimate direction hydration vest
Suunto Ambit Peak Watch
What I ate:
kettle brand dill pickle chips (thanks Gemma!), Endurance Tap x 5, welches fruit snacks, at the aid stations: flat Coke, gnocchi, salted potatoes, orange slices, 2 banana halves.