North Face EC Ontario 50 Miler

Wow, what a race! Incredible course, incredible scenery! I am still a bit awestruck.

On Saturday, I competed in and completed the North Face 50 miler Endurance Challenge in Collingwood. Knowing little about the course, but enough about the Blue Mountains, I have been spending A lot of time training in Gatineau and Frontenac. This race was my “A” race for the year and I knew it was not going to come easy . Running anything over 35K can have unique circumstances so running 80K up down a ski hill and on the Bruce Trail was going to be something else.  I learned that this is what North Face is famous for, tough vertical challenges. I love it.

For each serious race I do, there always seems to be a song that sticks with me. For this race it “Bleed it Out” by Linkin Park

Race Distance – 80K ( Garmin is reading 83.5)

Total Time – 10 hours 7 mins

Elevation Gain – 2233 meters

Total Calories Burned – 5876

Standings – 13th/95 overall, 3rd/6 age group and 11/61 men


….Yeah here we go for the hundredth time
Hand grenade pins in every line
Throw ’em up and let something shine…

Training and Strategy Going In

I won’t bore you with all the details of my training. Suffice to say, I feel my coach Neil and I prepared a solid plan and execution strategy.

Since April, I have been spending almost every weekend running in Gatineau or Frontenac. I knew the NFEC was going to be hilly, and since hills have been my weakness I was not taking any chances. Waking up at 4:00 am sucks on a weekend, but this was my “A” race. I was not going to screw it up with lack of training and then wonder what happened.  Our plan was to stay around a 6:00 – 6:30 pace, picking up speed on the flats, but not the point where my heart rate picked up and started kicking me out of aerobic. I wanted my body to burn as much as fat as possible and use the limited Glycogen stores sparingly. My issue in the past has been bad judgment on pacing early on in races, and I was not going to deviate off plan!!

Specific areas of training:

Wolfe Trail off P13 in Gatineau.

Slide Lake, Big Salmon and Arkon Trails in Frontenac.

The Race

Up at 3:00 am. The race starts at 5:00 am, so I need to eat and prepare everything. Drop bags must be dropped before 4:30, so this left me only 1 hour and 15 minutes to leave the hotel. In typical fashion, the night before was a write off for sleep. I prepared my drop bag. Extra shoes, Extra shorts, Extra socks, Extra shirt, Extra gels and food. I left the hotel at about 4:05 am and drove out to the mountain. It was humid with a nice gentle breeze coming off Georgian Bay.

…Truth is you can stop and stare
Run myself out and no one cares…


If you check the elevation profile above, you’ll see that this is a very hilly course with a lot of up and down. It’s also a hilly course with some pretty steep vertical sections. If you had not prepared, it was going to be tough. This meant periods of walking when I knew I could run and letting people go by me. This was perhaps the greatest challenge , but Ultra running, as I have learned is about patience.I followed the race strategy closely and it meant saying goodbye to some people on the first lap. I knew instinctively that I would see some of them again, and I did. The course kept coming back for more and as the heat of the day built, new challenges presented themselves to go along with the hills. The course itself, was a 2 loop x 40K. I paid very close attention to the entire 1st loop so I could guess where some of the trouble spots would be on the 2nd loop. Believe it or not, some of the toughest sections were the ones you had to descend. In particular for me,  the last 1.8K down to restart the 2nd loop or come home. It was close to torture. Hard packed, loose shale rock with uneven, steep and loose stairs. Each step sent your ankles, knees and hip flexors into a scream fest. Slowing down prolonged it, speeding up made the impact that much harder. I loved it because these are the moments that define us.

I was very happy that Lap 1 was executed perfectly, most of Lap 2 also saw the plan, but the last 7K were tough. I started leaking time because I was not able to take advantage of the downhill sections like I should have.

My Mantra for this race : “I’m tired, I hurt but I’m not quitting!”

…this hurts, I won’t lie
Doesn’t matter how hard I try
Half the words don’t mean a thing
And I know that I wont be satisfied
So why try ignoring him
Make it a dirt dance floor again…


There is a little bit of everything on this course. Single Path Trails, Stairs, Dirt Roads, Pavement, Ski Runs and bush hogged paths through a forest. It really is a quick run from a perception as terrain moves fast and KM’s do tend to roll by.



Energy and Nutrition

Some of my training, was not just running. It was training my body to reduce the need to constantly takes gels or sport drink. I purposely pushed myself during my running  and cycling with only water. It was rough early on, but I found that it got much easier to go longer without starting to feel that heavy, bonk like feeling. Regardless, you still need some nutrition and I made sure I stayed on top of this. The aid stations were well stocked and I had no problems finding whatever I needed. This ranged from ice, water, M&M’s, skittles…you name it. At my last 50 miler in Haliburton, I hit a bonking wall at 60K. I was very happy to push through without seeing that monster this time. I was tired, but I was always able to draw on energy.

…I bleed it out digging deeper
Just to throw it away…


Ouch. My body was tired and sore but I’d be more concerned if I was not hurting. In particular, my feet felt like hell. I wore my compression socks, and I think that friction was causing some of the issues as the foot slides around in the shoe. I wore my Trailroc 245’s and I’ll look for something with a little bit more cushion on the long events. Inov8 now has an Ultra shoe  (Trailroc 295 ) and it’s on my list to explore. Climbing the last few hills, I could feel my calf muscles threatening me..they were quivering with each step up the hill but I managed to hold hem off.


I am happy!

This was my A race and I came away with no questions on whether I could have done anything different. The course is excellent ad the race organization was great. My training got me exactly where I was hoping it would have. Icing on the cake was where I placed overall. This was only my second 50 miler ever.

But don’t ask me about a 100 miler…I’m not considering that beast yet.

Time for Tri!