This race has been on Judy’s ‘to-do’ list for some time, though we are often out of the country this time of year. This race was also cancelled in 2021 due to ‘you-know-what’, but was a ‘go’ in 2022! The race size was reasonably smallish this year to meet C19 guidelines, with 100 5K and 40 10K slots made available – and these quickly sold out in December. There was also a last minute C19 safety assessment made, and the green light given to hold the event – so off we went on a chilly Saturday evening to Upper Canada Village – YAHOO!
Carpooling with Sue, we arrived at Upper Canada Village by 5:00ish. Driving the scenic route along Hwy-31: the clear skies shone brightly with a glowing red & purple sunset as we passed through rural settings on the way to our venue. Upper Canada Village was totally lit up one last time for the season when we arrived – an impressive series of lights that I have not seen before! We had a few minutes for a short stroll through the Magical Village – and it truly is a site to see: worth the trip itself!
Grabbing our chip-enabled bibs & a bonus DION Neck Warmer at the colorful Harvest Barn check-in center, we quickly headed back to our vehicle and prepped ourselves for the run: gaiters, headlamps, light vests and appropriate layers. We grabbed our masks and snowshoes – and headed off to ‘the big red tree’ to get ready to start the run. Looks like reduced participation kept numbers thin, but this did not dampen the spirits of the organizers and runners on this beautiful, clear colorful evening. The crunching of our snowshoes on the packed road to keep warm at the starting area was impressive – and everyone stopped moving to hear the final marshalling instructions before the starting horn was sounded, and we were off.
Through the Heritage Village we ran – amongst the buildings and fields, past lit up barns, displays, the impressive church and colorful lit trees all around us. Great tour of Upper Canada Village for the first km, mostly on firm roadway, and then we were lead out of the village into the darkness to the St. Lawrence shoreline and up through to the climb to the Chrysler Hill Monument. Skirting along the top, we quickly descended and kept following the well placed markers though the light single track snow, illuminated only by our headlamps.
Wait a sec, it’s getting dark for me – and now I realize my headlamp is actually failing – ugh! With a few other runners around me with high power headlamps (working), I needed to shadow & pace with some friendly runners to gleam some light from their lights to stay inside the track. It was easy to do, and managed through the darkest section like this – though my pace was varied along with the tempo of my colleagues! Lessons learned for me on this – and I was excited to see the distant glow of Upper Canada Village after a few dark KMs along the very well marked trail. Arriving back at the light up parking area, I was able to run freely once again, weave though the excellent heritage buildings – with warmth from the cheering volunteers and spectators along the side of the roadways.
Turning into the 5K finishing chute, I crossed the timing mat setup by The Running Goat, and checked off my inaugural snowshoe race. . WHOO-HOO! Judy and Susan both signed up for the two-loop 10K version, and this gave me some time to relax, snag a hot-chocolate, and head to the car for a wardrobe change before I cooled down too much. With the casual venue, I was able to head back out into the finishing area, and cheer on some of the runners, as well as greet both Judy and Susan as they appeared on the 10K finish. We did see a few familiar faces: mostly with the Natural Fitness Lab gang: Dave, Lisa & others.
I have to say kudo’s to the race organizers here for organizing and executing this activity in a safe and compliant manner. There was no indoor ‘hanging out’ venue permitted, though we did receive snacks, chili , and hot chocolate for outside consumption in a lit up covered area. There was still a happy and joyful mood from all participants – great to be out, and enjoying ourselves again.
Would I do this again?! You bet! And it was an impressive low $35 early bird registration fee to boot! Tons of fun, and the lights in Upper Canada Village are truly impressive. One thing I will be doing next time is ensuring my headlamp is in better shape, so I can see the single-track trail a bit better. Thanks to Randy for lending me his running snowshoes. I might even practice running on snowshoes at least once before I participate again! Good thing I have Judy’s experience to draw upon. I’m looking forward to a 2023 version already – and would be eager to participate when we’re permitted to stick around inside The Heritage Barn for a more casual hot chocolate fix in a warm and inviting setting.
The overall Race description is provided HERE, and the Race results reported HERE. We did not realize Judy won overall 3rd place in the competitive women’s 10K section until the next day when I was drafting this article. Finished my first ever snowshoe race, so have completed item #3 for the RunK2J award.
It would be awesome to bring a RunK2J crew out on a small road trip for this unusual race experience! Watch for this event in 2023.