Sunday, May 11, 2014

I Lost My Virginity in Spruce Woods Provincial Park (and it was epic)

"We've got a motto here; you're tougher than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can." 

Christopher McDougall, Author Born to Run

"If you encounter any asphalt, you're lost."

Dwayne Sandall, Race Director, Spruce Woods Ultra

Spruce Woods Provincial Park Ultra-Marathon
(photo credit Tim McKay)

The Spruce Woods Ultra Marathon was my first official trail race and is now a must-do event.  MRA Hall of Fame recipient, Dwayne Sandall and his cheery crew of volunteers are to be congratulated for hosting this most groovy event.  It’s the independent spirit and off-the-grid thinking that makes this event stand a cut above the rest.  I lost my trail runner's virginity and it was epic.

Within minutes of arriving at the rag-tag race headquarters at the forest edge we were warmly welcomed.  The half marathon was the last of four events to depart. The 100 milers started 22 hours earlier, the 50 milers at 6:00AM, the 50 k’ers at 8:30 AM, and the sissy little boy/girl half marathon event at 10:00 AM. 

Dwayne walked the half marathoners to their start; a scrub bush on the trail. He scraped a start line in the sand with his boot heel and announced unceremoniously “There’s our line”.

I reflect on the symbolism of drawing a line in the sand.  George Carlin said we must all draw a line in the sand and take a giant leap beyond that line. And that’s what we did; we soared over the line.  The unknown lies beyond and that is why we run from one line to another; never truly satisfied, always searching for answers that lay just over yonder, beyond the line in the sand.

A runner darted out for a nervous pee two minutes before start time.  The catcalls from the race director and others were met with good natured guffaws.  Looking about, I sized up the motely crew of trail runners silhouetted by the gorgeous sun.  What a beautiful sight to behold… smiles and sun, laughter and good cheer. To participate in this epic journey is a blessing of blessings.

Truly friends, this was a beautiful day to be alive.  In the moment, alone and together, life itself smiles down upon us as we surge in perpetual forward motion.

I can’t say I saw ghosts of the Kalahari, but I sure sensed their presence. Passing several 100-mile runners I became overwhelmed with admiration.  Fatigued beyond imagination, placing one exhausted foot in front of one exhausted foot, they move forward with untold determination.  My heart choked as I witnessed Bert from Brandon cross over the line into his mother’s arms; the last 50 paces brutally slow as if struggling through quicksand. He stepped over the line, slowly, purposefully, and simply stopped and stared. I have witnessed human perfection on a grandiose scale and it sends shivers up my spine.

The course rolls gracefully through Spruce Woods Provincial Park.  The views are stunningly beautiful.  We gather steam on the few flats, and huff and puff on the endless ups and down.  The never-ending ups and downs are a test of our grit.  The sand is soft and bogs us down.  Tangents are impossible.  This is not road racing; this is something entirely different, entirely beautiful. Someone summarized the course as “It isn’t technical, but it sure is fun”.

Indeed, it sure is fun and it sure is a good day to be alive.  Thank you Dwayne and crew.  It was a most fantabulous day.