This was the first year for a new trail race. The Albion Grind is an add-on to the Saturday 5 Peaks race at Albion Hills Conservation Area. The Saturday race was a big event with about 700 runners competing in 7k and 14k distances. The Sunday event was a much smaller, more relaxed affair with just over a hundred runners competing in half marathon, 3 hour and 6 hour events (plus some relays).
We chose to run the 3 hour event that gave us a chance to run as many laps as possible within three hours. It was a 7 km course, but only an integer number of laps could count toward your finish. In some ways, it was a bit of a strange setup because the half and the 3 hr are virtually the same race since most people in the 3 hr will complete three laps anyways.
Last Sunday we actually went to Albion to try our hand at navigating the course. Diane managed to get lost and her Garmin trace looked like an ant colony with paths going out in every possible direction (see below)
Today was much better and they had the course well-marked with flags and directional arrows. In spite of the course being marked with orange flags, I did see at least three people having to backtrack onto the course. I think the problem was that there were big white permanent arrows marking the various trails that at some points conflicted with the Albion Grind route. As long as you followed the instructions to keep the orange flags on your left, navigation was a breeze.
At the start, there were lot of people who sprinted to get ahead because the single track started within the first 400m. The first single track portion was not terribly steep, but it was a long, gradual climb. The first aid station was at the 2km mark, but there was no need to stop there on the first loop. After crossing the bridge into the North trails, it was a steep climb with more sections of windy single track. A long wide trail led back down the hill to the aid station. The aid station was well-stocked with water, Gatorade, Coke, cookies, PB&J sandwiches, boiled potatoes, gummies and M&M’s. I soon named it the Mandarin of the Bush.
After the aid station, there was a long, steep uphill, followed by a steady descent past the splash pad and to the finish. I usually stopped at the 2nd aid station (pictured above) and fueled up with Coke and boiled potatoes.
Diane signed up for this race for fun because she wanted to get back into some races and to try a timed course for the first time. We’d been trying out various trails every weekend so far this summer, but it was nice to get out in the company of some like-minded people and enjoy the sense of competition. She went in with a relaxed attitude to have fun and to get in a longer training run, but it was a bonus that things held together and she ran a strong race. Diane and her coach had discussed running the first lap at a ‘comfortable’ pace, but she made an instinctual decision to start out a bit faster and take a bit of a risk. By the time the second and third lap came around she was pushing hard and running by feel, but not really knowing how well she was doing. She finished the first three laps in about 2:26 and decided to continue on with a fourth lap since it was too early to stop the training run. As she got within earshot of the finish line on the fourth lap, she could hear that the award ceremonies were starting. It was a good thing that she made it to the finish before the ceremonies concluded because she ended up getting the third place award for females. As it turns out, all of the top three finishers completed three laps and Diane was the only one to continue for a fourth lap.
Memories from the race:
- getting compliments on my Creemore Vertical Challenge shirt that is now a collector’s item
- Diane rounding a sharp corner and almost colliding with the photographer
- encouragement from the aid station volunteers
- nice race swag, but what are we going to do with these growlers?