The 2021 Revised Salomon Summit 700. It Became the Challenge I Was After.


It was Friday September 24th, and the day before my Salomon Summit 700 trail race at Blue Mountain, Canada. The strangest words spilled out of my mouth as I shared with my wife. “I have no desire to run this”. Though I ran some relay sections for the Monarch Ultra in the fall of 2019, in Canada and Mexico, the last actual timed race was this very Salomon 700 event held in July 2019. That year (like any race) there was crowds of people, and a mass group start.

Mass start in my 2019 Summit 700 held at Blue Mountain

It was a great experience, so once again I signed up for it in 2020, taking advantage of the early bird pricing in January 2020. The race was to held only a week after the grueling 56km Limberlost Challenge, so I opted for just the 10k. Then COVID hit in March 2020, as we know shut everything down. Both Limberlost Challenge and the Summit 700 were deferred to July 2021. In July of this year, my Summit 700 was once again deferred to September 25th, and the Limberlost Challenge went virtual. I ended up running the 100 kilometer virtual distance that was offered.

Ready to run my 100 kilometer virtual for the Limberlost Challenge

The past 18 months, I just haven’t been around very many people. During that time, I had only run with another runner once. That was 11 months ago for a couple hours in Copeland Forest. The most I have driven in my little Prius in the past 18 months was 35km. That was only twice. I have become very mindful to avoid taking unnecessary trips. Both to help prevent the spread of COVID and to help our environment.

Have covered over 5,100 kilometers so far in 2021 on foot for a couple of long distance virtual races. The vast majority without getting in a car to drive somewhere to run or walk my distance.

Through email updates I learned the organizers of the Summit 700 put some quite stringent Covid-19 transmission mitigation measures in place. This put my mind at ease. Runners needed to show proof of full vaccination, plus fill out a pre-screening. Masks were required at the starting area. No food was to be offered at the aid stations or finish line, and it was bring your own hydration packs and bottles. No disposable cups given out (which is a big hooray for the environment). Right from my 1st race in 2013, I was appalled by the amount of disposable cup litter. More and more trail races are going “cup less”. Which is tremendous. Also at Summit 700 there was no mass start. Instead each runner was to book a 10 minute start interval. Within that 10 minute interval, a runner would start every 30 seconds. The 1st set of runners in the 10k were to start from 12:30-12:40. I chose 1:50-2:00. There were far more time slots available near the end. Which means a much less crowded race course. Besides, I’m a mid-pack runner anyways.

Image Source. Photo accompanying a 2019 article on the London Marathon, as it talks about the litter issue in races.

The afternoon before the race I received an email from the directors that there was going to be a change in the course because of the unprecedented rainfall from the precious few days. All big climbs and descents were removed. The elevation was what drew me to this race, so yes I was a bit disappointed. But I totally understood the decision. The three main reasons for the decision was the safety of the runners & volunteers, the inability to safely remove injured runners from the course, and the environmental damage inflicted by hundreds of runners on the less well-draining areas. The revised course was 11 kilometers and consisted of 2×5.5 kilometer loops at the top of the mountain along the escarpment edge on some better draining trails.

One of the big climbs from the 2019 Summit 700.

In 2017 I ran the 50 mile North Face Endurance Challenge held at this same venue of Blue Mountain. The night before the race, the course experienced torrential rainfall. With a 5am start the next morning for the 50 mile distance there was just no opportunity to change plans on the route. And the race went on. The course is tough in good conditions, but with all the mud it was brutal. Lots of injured runners, others didn’t make the cut offs, while others simply just gave up. In fact 35% of those who started the 50 mile distance did not finish. The logistics of getting injured runners off the course with all that mud would have been brutal. What I have heard however, was that organizers did do an incredible job under the circumstances. That was the last year the North Face ran the Endurance Challenge in the Blue Mountains. After 4 years of running it, they pulled it from Blue Mountain in 2017. I have often wondered if the headaches from such a muddy, injury filled race was what prompted their decision.

Mud filled course in my 2017 The North Face 50 miler at Blue Mountain

Have driven only 35 kilometers in the past 18 months, I really wasn’t up to driving 65 kilometers to run 11 kilometers on the escarpment edge. There would be some nice views though I’m sure. In the end I did decide to go. Bib pickup was extremely well organized and flawless. Then back in my Prius and up the mountain on the Scenic Caves Road. Very cautiously went by several cyclists grinding their way up the mountain. Also past a bike painted white 15 feet off the road. A sad visual reminder of a cyclist who lost his or her life at that very spot. I am very “old school”, with no media on my phone and still a road map kind of guy. But I found the parking lot where we were to meet with no problem.

View from the course in 2019. Much better visibility.

I arrived an hour early. The starting line wasn’t visible from the parking lot, but was said to be a 2-3 minute walk along a trail. I went and checked it out. Took a photo of a runner heading out on his 30 second interval. And another photo of the finish line chute, which was at the top of an extremely steep climb. Seeing that there were in fact hills involved made me very pleased. It was likely going to be a very fun course after all.

A new runner starts every 30 seconds. This runner starting 50 minutes before I started. He was on a very dry course.

In the email information prior to the race, runners are encouraged not to linger at the starting area until it is their time to run. So I headed back to the car. Drank some coffee I had brought with me. And ate a granola bar. Fifteen minutes before my start window there was a few drops of rain on the windshield. Five minutes later, as I started to make my way to the start line the rain got harder. I went back to my car and grabbed a rain jacket I always keep in the car. By then it was pouring. It was a cool 11 degrees Celsius.

Pouring rain and almost at my 1:50 start window.

At my 1:50 start window there was 8 runners ducked under a canopy, trying to keep out of the deluge for at least a couple of minutes. One guy was kind to take a picture of me using my 15 year old Blackberry. He was so fascinated by that ancient relic. I let the other 7 go on ahead for their 30 second intervals. Just hoping the rain would miraculously ease up. But that was not to be.

The marshal gave me the nod. And I was off. I soon caught up to a runner who had circled ahead of me for the start of her 2nd loop. She was running very cautiously. It was pouring rain, the trail was slippery with some deep puddles. Besides, there wasn’t anywhere safe to pass, so I stayed back. A bit further on it opened up to a dirt driveway type trail. I went by the runner, mentioned she was doing great.

Water streaming down a valley alongside the course.

The race course reentered some forest and started dropping down the mountain. It was very steep, and in the heavy rain was treacherously slippery. Even with my trail shoes I went sliding. When I came to a stop I pulled out my old Blackberry to take some pictures. I was having a hard time seeing in the rain, but I could make out this same lady really struggling getting down that steep trail.

Runner Karin hanging onto a tree while deciding her next move.

When she caught up to me we did some small talk, and I asked if she wanted to run together with me. And she said yes. The ladies name was Karin. She has only been running for 3 months. None of her training was anything like this. This was her 1st race. And what a race it was. What put Karin in a huge disadvantage as she did not have trail shoes. The course was so slippery for her. But she was doing incredibly amazing. I didn’t do a whole lot except just be there with her for support. She did this race all herself.

Image Source: Derek Carpenter. Running with a really nice lady named Karin. We took turns taking the lead.

It was raining so hard the trail in places turned into a stream. For a 6 year old child this would have been a dream. As a 63 year old, I made the most of it and splashed my way along. It didn’t really take long for that 1st 5.5 kilometer loop to finish. Karin finished her race. A job well done on an extremely challenging course. And I looped around for my 2nd loop.

During my second loop the rain changed from a torrential downpour rain to a heavy, steady rain. I stopped a few more times to take some more photos. Either I missed seeing it on the 1st loop, or it wasn’t there, but I noticed an ATV with a trailer with a stretcher on the back. No one was around. My concern was there was an injured runner out there. But I never saw anyone. It wasn’t long before I came up to that last steep climb, through the chute to my finish. The race ended up being just the challenge I was after. It was a fun race. And a bit of a pleasant surprise learning I finished 2nd place out of 4 male runners in my age group.

A big thank you to director, Bob Miller for his amazing leadership in organizing this race under challenging circumstances. And the volunteers who served at bib pickup, plus those who braved it out it the pouring rain were amazing. I’m so glad I chose the 1:50 time window. I got to run a race course I will never forget. The runners who started at 12:30 were the unfortunate ones. They never got to run the course in such a torrential downpour, and experience the extreme elements. Plus I got to run with another amazing human being. Only the 2nd runner I have run with since March 2020.

Image Source: Mae Pankhurst

As things continue to open up I have a feeling I’ll be running with more and more runners again as time goes on. Which I am very excited about. In fact 3 days after my Summit 700 race, another runner friend named Samantha and myself started a run get together for the 1st time. It has been something we have been casually talking about starting in our village for several months. We were not sure what kind of response we would get. There were 5 in total including Samantha and myself. Everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves running and connecting with the others. The emphasis is on social support, enthusiasm and camaraderie. The run will continue to meet every Tuesday at 6:00 at the church in my village of Hillsdale. Social distancing is required. Thank you for taking the time to read.πŸƒβ€β™€οΈ πŸƒ

First running group get together in my village turned out amazing.

Have you ever been in a race where you were not at all psyched up for? But it turned out amazing.

Do you prefer running alone or in a group?

Off with the rain jacket for a photo with the medal! Another kind person took my photo. πŸ˜€πŸ“ΈπŸ…

Categories: RunningTags: , , , , ,

27 comments

  1. Wow, the conditions looked very challenging. Sounds like you had a blast though!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Angie. Yeah for a race I wasn’t all that keen on going to, I sure did have a blast! πŸ˜€πŸƒπŸ»β€β™‚οΈ

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      • Always look forward to read you Carl. Congratulations my friend on a great race and being such a concerned runner out there.. love runs on my own and love running with others great to see the group you all have there. Hope to run with you again maybe this winter

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much for reading, and for your kind words, Michael. It was such a fun race. You are a lot like me. I love to run alone and also love to run with others!

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  2. Sounds like an adventure! I love your attitude & how you turned the rain into a challenge to enjoy.

    Nice to hear races are starting to go cup less!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Courtney. Running in that heavy rain was amazing. I can’t remember if the race was cup less 2 years ago, but going that route this year was certainly a way of reducing COVID risk. I had enough water with me for the distance. But if a runner needed some, the runner would hold the container, and the volunteer would refill it. Much less contact. Plus a big bonus for the environment. πŸŒŽπŸ˜€

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  3. Wow, Carl, running a race in torrential rain is hard, never mind muddy trails that turn into rivers! You did an amazing job! I don’t think I’ve ever run a race under those conditions. Congratulations on placing 2nd in your age group!

    I bet Karin appreciated your support for her race. I feel so sorry for her – I hope she isn’t too discouraged by her muddy experience and signs up for another race.

    Your photo when you cross the finish line says it all. You look so happy! How was your drive back home? Did you have dry clothes to change into?

    You make a very good point about those cupless races, Carl. One day we will look back in horror at how we used to waste so many disposable cups during races. I’m happy to see that Swiss trail races are also changing to β€œbring your own cup”. It makes sense!

    I love running in groups – I’m so happy you have started your Tuesday group runs! It’s a great opportunity to socialize.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Catrina, thank you so much for taking to read and share such and thoughtful engaging comment. I have only been running for 8 years. Definitely the heaviest rain I have had a race in.

      With runners starting the race every 30 seconds over a period of 2 hours, you would never know where you placed until the final results came in. The guy who finished 1st in my age group was 15 minutes ahead. The 3rd place was 1 minute after me, and 4th place was 3 minutes after me. Even if I hadn’t of stopped to take lots of photos along the course (and my phone kept freezing having gotten wet, I’d have to shut it off & restart it), I probably would have been closer, but not that fast to be 1st in my age group. Was 114th of 148 overall.

      I still remember that 1st race in Toronto, Catrina. It was a half marathon and the cup litter was just staggering. Also they handed out gels at the 13k mark. I had never heard of them, so I didn’t take one. Runners would just use a quarter or a third of one and throw the rest on the street. There were so many you couldn’t dodge them. They were so sticky.

      I knew you were a group running person. A Twitter friend who I have never met before @cdntrichick is coming out tonight from Barrie to join us! Am really looking forward to this! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a race, Carl. It sounded like a really challenging one with the torrential rain. Your years of experience running, along with your trail shoes, sounded like it helped. It was very lovely of you to offer to run alongside Karin and wow it was certainly a fun first race for her. Job well done. Always a first time for anything and really any competition or race is a first given that there are so many factors you got to face from start to finish.

    Loved looking at the photos and thanks for taking us along on the race. The photos really do show how challenging of a race it was. So many puddles everywhere from the torrential rain, it must have been so slippery with any kind of footwear on.

    I am like Carina and was also wondering: did you have dry clothes to change after?

    It’s good that plastic cups are being phased out at some races. I guess in a competitive race quite a few people consider sustainability and the environment as an after-thought, which is a pity. Hopefully more people see the impacts of plastic waste disposal no matter where they are.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading, Mabel. And for such generous words. It was so wonderful to run with Karin. I have really missed running with others, and was so happy for her that she finished so strong on her 1st race.

      I didn’t have a change of clothes with me. But I did have a large towel which I dried myself off. Once in the car I turned the heat on full for my drive home, which really helped me from getting chilled.

      I have been in a race before Covid that offered fully compostable cups. And I have heard another race that had edible cups. Though I don’t know how many runners would want to eat them while running. Bringing your own containers to me is far the best way to go. You brought up an excellent point about professionals and competitive racing. Where every second counts, runners will will not want to spend that 10-15 seconds to refill their containers. I don’t know how to go about that.

      Thanks again, Mabel. I hope you have a great rest of the week. πŸ˜€ πŸ™

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      • Always a pleasure to read your posts, Carl. You write with intention and you paint the picture of your side of the world and experiences vividly. Good to know you had a towel in the car and had the heater turned up after. Good you looked after yourself.

        I’ve never heard of edible cups and do wonder how much nutrition they are made out of. But it sounds like another way to create a more sustainable environment. Maybe you will encounter more sustainable measures in your future races and share them with us.

        You have a good week too πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much, Mabel. That is an excellent suggestion about sharing new sustainable measures at races! Thank you! πŸ™

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the memories of your runs Carl! My husband made a couple good friends throughout distance runs and half Iron man competitions over the years. You and Karin looked determined on that part of the trail. Making new friends along with memories is the best. Cheers to fall runs and great job! πŸ™‚ Rachel

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for connecting here, Rachel. And for your kind words. The memories and new friends along the way are so special. Meeting and running the last part of her race was worth it all. Thank you again! πŸ™πŸ˜€

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  6. Fabulous job running this event under the Covid conditions. Seems they had things under control to get back to not-quite-normal. A virtual run just doesn’t do it for me, Karl! Congrats and great shots!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Fabulous run report and I have always admired your positive attitude and tenacity! I’ve yet to get back into any kind of in-person racing but do miss it … especially when I get the opportunity to see you!

    Kudos also to the new running group – I’ve been out with Samantha before, and she’s a lovely person to have as a running buddy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so kind, Patrick. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and your wonderful comment. It was a really fun race. I have never been in an organized running group like MEC or Running Room. We did get out for a few small runs at Busch Systems, where everyone knew one another for a couple of years though.

      Samantha speaks very highly of you, as well as myself. You are such an encouraging, kind human being. Had a Twitter friend I mutually follow (whom I never met before) come out from Barrie to join us this past Tuesday. Which is really cool. It is a bit of a drive for you, but you are welcome anytime. πŸ˜€πŸƒβ€β™€οΈ πŸƒ

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  8. congratulations on that super result in arduous conditions Carl. I’m afraid I may have just walked back to my car and called it a day. It sounds like everything was very well organized. Enjoy running with others again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww, thank you so much, Sue. You are very kind. I was so impressed how well it was organized. It would have taken a lot of extra hours in organizing. Plus a much longer day for all the volunteers out on the course. It is so wonderful to be out running with others again. πŸ˜€πŸƒπŸ»β€β™€οΈ πŸƒπŸ»

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It not only looked challenging to run in all that rain, it looked a bit frightening for this girl that is afraid of falling! By the way, I did experience running for about 5 blissful years starting when I was 17. My life took other turns and I did not keep up with it. But I remember what it felt like.
    Also I like your stories because even if I will never run a marathon, I find them inspiring to not give up on my life marathons that I do have to finish. Thank you for your photos and transparency. Allbest and good health to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for taking the time to read, and for your wonderful comment. The course was a bit unnerving for myself with trail shoes on. I can’t imagine how Karin was feeling. Her 1st race on a very slippery course. Thank you for sharing about your past running. Sometimes life does get in the way. I am so blessed and fortunate to be able to run. Thanks again for stopping by, and for your kind words.❀️ ☺️

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  10. I enjoyed reading your experience on this race Carl – thanks for posting it. As soon as I saw the photo of all those plastic bottles I immediately thought of the London marathon, and then surprise surprise it turned out it was from an article about just that marathon. I’m all for events that are introducing changes in these areas. No t-shirts, and removal of plastic water bottles should be prioritized! Well done for completing this. The conditions looked terrible, but a fun achievement in hindsight I’m sure!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read, Sean. And for your wonderful comment. That is so funny you thought all that single use litter reminded you of London marathon. My 1st ever race was Toronto Half Marathon. The full marathon and half marathon were in a mass start. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been as many runners as London, but still 10’s of thousands. I always reminder one spot where they handed out gels. I had never heard of them before, so I didn’t try one. Runners would consume maybe a quarter to a half of one and through the rest on the pavement. You couldn’t avoid them. They were so sticky under the shoes. As you mention, even no t-shirts given out would be so wonderful. A lot of people don’t realize what kind of environmental impact they make. It was an amazing race to run after 26 months of no races, Sean. Tough conditions, but made me feel really alive. πŸ˜€

      Like

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