Cabot Trail Relay Recap. Spoiler Alert: We Shattered the Female Course Record

Last weekend was one for the record books – literally. My team had been preparing to run the Cabot Trail Relay in Nova Scotia which is a 276km race made up of 17 legs or mini-races varying from 12-20kms. From the very beginning my coach told us we were going with the goal to break the female course record. No if’s, and’s or but’s.

After the incident in Boston a month earlier I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to run Cabot but my physio (also our Cabot Trail Captain) promised me that I would be ready to go by then. At the very least, I was going to go to support my team, but I really wanted to run and be part of the experience.

Clearly I didn’t have much time to prep with the whole torn calf muscle thing, but Andrew and I spent the long weekend a week earlier at his parent’s place in Bracebridge, Muskoka. If anyone has been to Muskoka, you’ll know there is no shortage of hills. I had just gotten the OK from physio to start running again so my coach told me to do a couple easy runs there to test the calf with the hills. Good lord, they were hard. I swear the hills had gotten bigger since the last time I had run there.

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We arrived in Nova Scotia on Friday evening. The race started bright and early in Baddeck at 7:00am on Saturday and would finish about 30 hours later back in Baddeck after (literally) climbing mountains, mastering the rolling hills, bearing cold, icy rain and running through the pitch black night. Daunting? Yes, but the Angels are hardcore.

But mid morning on Saturday we were off to an amazing start. After finishing as the first place females in the first four legs of the race, the race director approached us and asked, “where the heck did you girls come from?”. He later told us that after race officials saw that the Angels were winning all the legs, they put someone on “Angel watch”.

My leg, lucky leg #12, was at 12:30am. Yikes. For those that know me, I am a morning runner through and through. 4am running – no problem. 12:30am running – problem. I even struggle with Monday night practice after work. Andrew told me to look at it like a new running challenge knowing I will accept any sort of challenge especially as it relates to running. While I wasn’t quite sure I was up for said challenge, one of the things I love about Andrew is how he pushes me to do things that are outside of my comfort zone. I would become a midnight runner for my team whether I enjoyed it or not.

All day I felt uneasy about my calf. It felt tight but I wasn’t sure if my mind was playing tricks on me. One of my teammates asked me what my goal was and I said I just wanted to finish without pain and with my calf in tact. Right before I jumped out of the van to head to the start my coach said, “Sarah, you are going to rock this”. Mind over matter.

At 12:20am I stood at the start line with all the other runners who were crazy enough to spend a weekend running along the highway for fun. It was cold and dark. I kept telling myself “calf please be ok”. I didn’t want to let my team down if something happened and I couldn’t finish the race. Disclaimer: I know I am going to drive myself nuts (and those around me) for the next year whenever I toe the start line over-thinking my calf.

The only way I can describe running along the Cabot Trail highway in the quiet darkness is “weird”. After passing people at the beginning and settling into my race pace, I was completely by myself. I couldn’t see anyone in front of me or anyone behind me at all. I was wearing a safety vest and had a headlamp on but I still wasn’t able to see a foot in front of me. It was such an odd feeling. At one point I felt myself starting to climb a hill and thought “huh, I wonder how big this hill is and when it will be over”. I just had to go with the flow.

I still don’t know if the quiet loneliness was peaceful or scary. What I do know is that I finished leg #12 pain free. Goal accomplished. The icing on the cake was that I finished as the first place female.

I could go on and on about this race. It was so inspiring to watch every girl on my team go out there and give it everything they had – at all hours of the day – climbing mountains, running through a downpour, off no sleep, with two Angels even running two legs. So incredible.

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Stewie, our fearless leader, finishing the last leg of the race, 30 hours after the start – as the first place female.

Well we won 14/17 legs. We beat the female course record by over 40 minutes. We caused quite the commotion at the awards ceremony -this mysterious all-female team that had never been a part of this race before shows up and wins nearly every leg and shatters a record that was held by a team from Maine for a number of years. We even got a standing ovation. It was very surreal. The race director told us he was happy the record was brought home by a Canadian team.

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Goal accomplished. Coach was happy.

Race aside, Cabot weekend will be one of the most memorable weekends of my life. The girls I run with are so inspiring. It was awesome to spend time getting to know everyone better. We get together at least twice a week for workouts but never really get the opportunity to have real-life conversations between the intervals, hills or tempos – because no one has time to catch their breath, let alone string together meaningful sentences.

Now what? This is the first time in what seems like years that I don’t have any runs scheduled on my race card. Nothing planned whatsoever from here on out. It makes me a bit anxious. My short term goals are to make it back to my group workouts while continuing with cross training and strength training. Slow and steady wins the race. My coach told me I can run up to 40kms next week spread out over four runs (5km, 10km, 10km, 15km). YIPPEEE! You’d better believe I will be smiling ear to ear for all 40kms. I am so happy to be running pain-free again.

I’ll think about my fall race card in a month or so, but for now I have more time to focus on a couple other activities I am trying to get better at – golf being one of them (which deserves a separate blog post on it’s own).

Sorry no recipes this week! I spent most of the week catching up on sleep so wasn’t very creative in the kitchen. Stay tuned for one of my all time favourite dinner recipes on the next post!

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