We arrived in La Malbaie around Friday at lunch, early enough to take a look around the town (which is spectacularly beautiful by the way- a charming little town on the St Lawrence River, with the mountains rising behind the town) and then head out to the campground to get set up and relax in the sun for the afternoon. I wanted to take it pretty easy, as it was going to be an early start on Saturday- I had to catch the bus at 3am to head to the start line.
When my alarm went off at 1:45am, it was a bit of a shock. I'd tossed and turned until after 11, so I really had about 2.5 hrs of sleep, and it was cold- hovering right around freezing. I got dressed, ate quickly, and then headed out. We got on the school buses at the finish line, and then headed out for an hour's drive to the start. We got there about 30 mins before the start, and hung out on the warm bus until about 5 mins before starting, and then we were off.
The race starts off on very easy crushed gravel paths, and then on to 4 wheeler trails for the first 8km, and then things got gnarly quickly- very rocky, rooty, muddy, slippery and twisty single track. I was regretting not going out just a touch more quickly as I was in a long conga line of runners, and there was no room to pass, so I had to hold my position as I could see the headlamps of the runners ahead of us disappearing into the forest. Not to worry though I figured- there was still a long way to go, and lots of room to make up that time. After about 2 hours on the trail, we came up to our first really spectacular view of the day- we were up high on a ridge just as the sun was coming up, and the mountains all around us were glowing pink in the sunrise.