Pick Your Poison 50k


I have heard so much about this race from others in the OUS that I had to see what it was all about.  I knew that the course was quite challenging and that it is a big accomplishment just to finish.  I decided to make it even more challenging for myself by squeezing it in to an already tightly packed weekend.

I had to work on the Friday night, and there was a going away party after work for a couple friends that I really didn’t want to miss.  I figured that if I already had to stay for work, I might as well stay for the party too, and just drive up through the night. 

I had the car packed before work, and just drank a couple Redbulls at the party.  After a fun night with my friends, I was on the highway, en route to Horseshoe Valley, near Orillia.  I stopped several times for coffee and fuel, and once to have a 20-minute power nap. 

By the time I was within a couple kilometers of the race venue, it was past 5 o’clock in the morning.  I parked my car in the Foodland parking lot and laid down in the back seat to try and get an hour or two of sleep.   I really am a marathon junkie!

I awoke to my wristwatch alarm, and a very sore body from sleeping in the car.  I felt like I barely slept, which I guess is probably true.  It only took me a couple minutes to drive down to where the race was taking place.  I changed into my race attire and picked up my race bib. 

For breakfast I munched down on a Clif bar, chasing it with a Rockstar.  As I went over my game plan back at my car, I couldn’t help but notice some boisterous runners gathering at the car beside mine.  I went over to introduce myself.  They were razzing each other and speculating on how the day would go.  These boys were definitely an interesting bunch. 

We all headed over to the start for a pretty low-key send-off.  The course was a 12.5k loop that we would run four times.  Right from the start, there were steep hills, lots of roots and rocks, and unsure footing.  Deeper into the route, there were fresh trails where the soil was still fairly loose.  We weaved in and out of the forest, between the ski hills. 

The aid stations were set up fairly well, which was nice to see when running such a challenging course.  I always enjoy chatting with the volunteers as I grab a snack.  At one of the last stations, out near the highway, I came running in, and one of the volunteers shouted out, “Where’s your skirt?!”  I was taken by surprise, since I didn’t recognize her.  Then I clued in that she had seen me the previous summer running the Dirty Girls Run in one of lulu’s run skirts.  I smiled sheepishly and explained it was a one-time deal, and then grabbed some PB & J to go. 

I caught up with one of the guys I met out in the parking lot.  He seemed like maybe the patriarch of the group and was moving along with a pretty good pace so I decided to stick with him for a while.  We started chatting, and I learned that they all were from the same running club, called the Frontrunners. 

Little did I know, but the Frontrunner club has chapters all over the world and is a running club for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals.  That helped to explain the guys’ flamboyant behaviour before the race. 

We ran together for almost a full loop, and he told me about some of his great accomplishments as a runner in his younger days.  He was highly competitive and nearly won some really big races. 

In the middle of the race, it started to rain.  Before long it was pouring down really hard.  I was completely soaked and the trail was getting really messy.  My head was having a hard time keeping motivated.  I just kept moving forward and by the end of the third loop, the rain had stopped.  I took a moment to dump the water and mud out of my shoes.  I only needed to do one more lap and I could have a nap!!! 

Part way through the final loop, I caught up with a girl named Shauna, who was doing not only her first ultra, but also first time doing a race over 30k.  She looked like she was doing quite well; but both of us were in need of a little boost to make it to the finish.  We chatted as we ran along, which made the time pass much faster.  We ran nearly the entire last lap together, finishing within half a minute of each other.  My finish time: just over 5-hours, 24-minutes.

The race provided a BBQ lunch, which was absolutely delicious.  The sun had actually started to come out during the awards.  Shauna came in second for the women, with only Laurie McGrath ahead of her.  One of the other frontrunners actually won the race. 

After all the fun, I grabbed my new socks (instead of a medal or a race shirt, Pick Your Poison gives you a pair of socks with a Skull-and-Crossbones on them to take home) into the car and started the long drive back home so I could work that evening.  I only had time to unpack the car once I got home and then head to the store. 

A couple people that heard I did a race earlier that day, almost couldn’t believe I would still be at work.  In hindsight, I don’t know how I did it.  The end of the shift couldn’t have come soon enough.  Once I got home that night, I was out like a light. 

© Brian Groot 2016