So with Judy signing up for a fall event at the in-person Fat Ass Trail Run in Batawa, I took the opportunity to sign up for a shorter event at the same venue, as I was going to be there anyway when some additional slots became available with loosening C19 restrictions.
A month after signing up for this venue that describes itself as a low cost, low support event for those who love running, I realized the Batawa event is not only a trail run, but it’s also hosted on the grounds of a ski hill with the course winding through some fine hilly terrain. Hmmm, what did I really sign up for?
For starters, there are a broad range of distances over two primary loops: the 10K North Loop, and the 7.5K South Loop. Combining these two loops together, generated a wide range of race distances that day: 50K, 25K, 17.5K, 10K, 7.5K and 5.5K, so there was defiantly a distance there that would meet anyone’s desire!
As race day approached, we watched the weather, and the Fat Ass Facebook and emails – definitely looking like there was going to be water on the ground. Weather was looking cold, but not freezing. Also looks like we were going to get precipitation on race day. This made packing tough, and we both brought along lots of layers in our overstuffed bags, and a wide range of footwear. We headed down to Trenton on Saturday after attending to a few needs around the house. After a ~3hr drive, we arrived at our destination, and checked out the race venue. Lots of markers and flags at Batawa Ski Hill, though we could not really make out where the course was featured. No worries, we did a quick tour of the area to become familiar with where everything was (including the Dino Park), and headed off to do a bit more exploring, and then settle down for dinner and a restful sleep.
Up at 5:30am the next morning, I went to grab some breakfast for Judy who needed to be onsite by 7:00, and get her bib. Weather looking clear and cold, but some rain forecast around lunch. We watched the 7:30am start for the Fat Ass 6-hr ultra get underway on the South Loop, and then made our way to the ‘special start’ at 8:00am for the 50K event on the North Loop. With everyone off safely, I headed back to our nearby hotel room to clean up, score some breakfast myself, and return to the Batawa Ski Hill to pickup my race bib.
Heading onto the 10K loop at ‘Hot Corner’, I could see the 50K runners, 25K runners as well as the 17.5K runners running past, taking various turns and directions. This is the area as well where the 50K keeners left a gear-dump (food, cloths, and dry shoes). Definitely a bit confusing for a first timer like me, though the majority of the runners seemed to know where they were going. Also noticed “Shirtless Guy” for the first time – doing the 50K in near freezing weather! Eventually, I got an opportunity to cheer on Judy as she rolled by finishing her 3rd loop.
Heading back to the car in the now overflowing parking lot, I prepared some warm cloths and an umbrella to leave at the finishing area after the run – clouds were rolling in and the weather looked increasingly uncertain. Leaving my extra warm & dry gear in a plastic bag at the start/finish on the ski hill, I was ready to go!
The 10K I was registered for was underway at noon with a cheer, and we quickly make a 180 degree arch back onto some footpaths, and merged on the the 10K North Loop. Fortunately, there were lots of keeners in our group of 100 runners, so I only needed to follow the herd.
The trail stayed a double track for the first ~2 km as folks adjusted their pace and we ran through varied surfaces – grassy, mushy, and increasing muddy. This is also when the light rain started. At some points, there were ankle deep flooded sections for 5, 10 and then 20m, with small slippery trail diversions around them to keep your feet sort of dry. It became a testament to dedication – some ran straight through the middle of the mud, and others skirted around the edge to minimize the water.
Once we started climbing the hills, pretty well everyone slowed down to a walk at some stage, and then resumed near the crest. At that point, the rolling single track was super enjoyable, and everyone was friendly. A cheerful ‘on your left’ was all that was needed to get someone to yield the trail – often a 50K runner that was on lap 3 or 4 at this time! The trail was full of roots and rocks – so attention was needed at all times – muddy sections appeared everywhere, so you always needed to pay attention to the footing. While completing a secondary loop on a hilltop, the rainy drizzle started converting into tiny snow pellets. These bounced off my jacket, and the woods became alive with freezing rain hitting the fall leaves. Yep, chilly weather – but we were moving enough to stay warm.
At this time I was running with a loose group of others – passing each other on the ups, downs, wet or the flat sections depending on the running style. Every time we did cheer each other on, so definitely a friendly bunch!
With 1.5km to go, we got to some flatter sections, mercifully along the road as the trail was flooded out. This dipped into a fine double track route (The ‘Coyote trail’), that eventually passed back into Hot Corner. With the 10K mark on my Garmin already signaled, I was hoping for a somewhat direct course to the finish area that I knew that was close. The volunteers correctly routed me thought the numerous trail intersections here, and onto the finishing path. Climbing up a small grade one last time, we did a sharp dog-leg (watch those markers!), and onto the Batawa Ski Hill runs to bring us down to the finishing area. With one final grassy wet section, I crossed the timing mats and completed the run.
My official time was around 1:11:39, and my Garmin was showing around 10.6K, so was overall happy with my outing in this challenging day. Standing in the drizzling near zero rain, I walked over to retrieve my umbrella and warm jacket. Judy was only 30-40 minutes behind me, so I waited round for her to arrive, and also got to see the 1K Fat Bum Kids Race take off and finish as well! Hey, Shirtless Guy also finished and was doing selfies.
It was a great time when Judy finished. Tired, wet, and very muddy, we did a quick transition into some clean dry cloths – and headed back to the ski hill to pickup some Rally Beer samples. Great sponsor!
Overall, we had a super enjoyable day at the venue – Judy finished her first formal 50K Ultra trail run, and I had a bit of fun too! Would we do this again? For sure!
I also think it would be fantastic to bring out a larger group of folks, as there is something here for everyone – till next year.